Save time with technology

It’s the end of the academic year. Time for summer holiday and time for evaluation and reflection. Have you used this precious commodity called TIME wisely? Let me talk about some strategies, tools and ideas that saved my time.

Go paperless

rawpixel / Pixabay

Going paperless – is it a dream or a real possibility? Paperless classroom saves not only paper and money but also time you spend on photocopying. It allows you to store materials and student evidence on online platforms and makes them more accessible for students. It gives students an opportunity for collaboration and peer-to-peer feedback.  A good “cloud” allows you to store and organise basically everything from the materials to student evidence in a range of formats. read this post and find out which cloud storage is the best .

How to start? 

1. Start using the cloud (Mahara, Dropbox, Google Drive) to store materials and share them with your students.
2. Use Virtual Learning Environment such as Moodle or Google Classroom to organise your classes.
3. Encourage your students to use their own devices – tablets or mobile phones. They will be able to access the materials, worksheets, homework etc.
4. Do not reinvent the wheel. Recycle, reuse. Adapt. There are tonnes of beautiful materials online but be careful with copyright. It doesn’t cost anything to ask the authors for permission.

Go digital

Free photobank

John Dewey said, that “if we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” 21st century is an “information age” and, whether we like it or not,  as teachers, we can’t ignore the rise of “new literacies” (or “digital literacies”) involving things like text-messaging, blogging, social networking, podcasting, and videomaking. Use three fantastic tools that not only will make your classes more interactive and engaging but will also save you a lot of time.

SCREENCASTIFY - an absolutely fantastic tool for short screen recordings.According to the Screencastify developers, the program saves teachers 24 minutes per day, on average, on tasks like grading, class prep, professional development and admin work. Very straightforward. No special skills required. No need for a desktop download - you can add it as an extension. What can you use it for? This year I used it mainly for short explanatory videos or quick audio feedback on the work submitted by a student electronically. However, there is much more the program offers. Since the basic program is free, students can record short speaking tasks (talks, speeches, presentations, descriptions of pictures etc). They can use it for providing peer-to-peer feedback or the Added Value Unit to explain the process/the research etc.
a very useful tool blending a range of media - audio, word documents, video etc., into a collection of frames covering a topic. It doesn’t require any skills. You just either upload resources from your device or via a link, or you use an in-built browser letting you search vimeo, google or youtube and place them in blendspace frames. You can use it as a flipped lesson or you can encourage your students to prepare presentations or demosntrate their research findings. If you decide to attach your students to blendspace, you can easily track their progress or just check if they did their homework. See the blendspace on plagiarism and copyright that I have been using for 4 years. I have been using Planbook since 2013. It is a paid platform ($15.00 a year) but it’s worth every penny spent on it. You can: create online plans for the whole year and transfer them to the following years; upload a class list and create gradebooks for students as well as notes and reports on their performance; export your plans and keep them as a live pdf; embed pictures, blogs or videos in your lesson plans; share it with other teachers. There is much more Planbook offers so, if you are interested, go through a range of
tutorials here.

Below, short clips showing Blendspace, Planbook and Screencastify.

Go mobile

M-learning or mobile learning, also known as learning-on-the-go,  refers to teaching and learning with mobile technologies using devices such as tablets or mobile phones. Learning can happen outside a classroom wherever the opportunity arises thanks to learner’s mobility and portability of the devices. BYOD approach (Bring Your Own Device) is not a novelty any more. Using their own device allows students to easily access materials, to do and/or submit homework while on the go, to collaborate with others, to research and benefit from a number of learning resources. They can easily make video and audio recordings and upload them to the cloud and/or share with others. All online platforms I use with my students (e.g. G-Drive, padlet, Planbook, Google Classroom) are available as apps. Asked, which apps are their favourite apart from the ones mentioned above that they use on a regular basis several times a day, they chose Camscanner, Notify and Kahoot.


Check Go digital section of the blog for ideas. If we add a range of educational apps, learning seems to have never been easier. See the links below:

8 Best Apps for English learners and ESL students

10 Popular Apps for English Language Learners and Teachers

Top 10 Apps for Learning English

Best 10  ESL Apps

Apps for learning English

There are three apps that my students found particularly useful:

Kahoot! is a tool used by teachers to administer quizzes, discussions or surveys. It is a game based classroom response system played by the whole class in real time. Multiple-choice questions are projected on the screen. Students answer the questions with their smartphone, tablet or computer.CamScanner turns your mobile into a portable scanner. Students can take photos of their class work, notes, whiteboards etc. and CamScanner will automatically crop and enhance the image, making text easily readable.Notability is one of the most versatile apps available for notes taking. You can type or write notes on notebooks and organize them into folders inside the app. It records audio and lets you take notes at the same time. Only on apple devices for the time being.

Flip & blend

Start blending. Take your teaching beyond the classroom and make the learning context more real and authentic. Encourage learner autonomy and help your students develop creativity and reflective thinking. Check the blog for more on blended learning.

If you look at the visual below presenting different models of blended learning, you will probably realise that you have been actually blending your teaching for years without necessarily labelling as as “blended”. Which model however saves you most time? No doubt, flipped classroom.

Check the links for more on flipped classroom:

Flipped learning with tonnes of resources including English and ELA with zones for classroom, homework and technology use
Edudemic – teacher’s guide to a flipped classroom

Are there any best tools for flipping your classroom? You can flip your classroom with any tool – screen recording of your presentation, a video recorded for example with PowToon, a wee podcast you prepared for your students; interactive google slides of prezi presentation or a padlet dedicated to the topic/lesson/issue. My number 1 is definitely blendspace an online platform blending the content you want your students to familiarise with in advance, in an interactive and engaging way. See the video above (in the video gallery). Another fantastic way to flip your classroom is blogs for students or blogging with students, something I would like to explore more in the future. My blog for NC4 and SCP Higher – here.

Feedback efficiently

geralt / Pixabay


I really don’t want to remember the days without SmartRubric. I would spend long hours on a lengthy feedback which, sorry to say , very often wasn’t reflected on at all. With SmartRubric, an app that uses custom, interactive rubrics, you can give each student a personalised feedback on every piece of their work – oral presentations, team work or piece of writing.

With just one click, you can highlight criteria in the table and add additional comments in a dedicated box. The rubrics can then be printed off or, even better, downloaded as a pdf and emailed to students. You can use or adapt the in-built rubrics or create your own. Creating a class list from a rooster (excell sheet for example) takes 30 seconds and enables you to see students’ progress in a table with results and a pie chart or a line graph. The softaware is secure (Microsoft Azure).

Google comments & add-ons 

Another way to make your assessing and marking process more efficient is using a range of tools for Google docs. With Google add-ons such as Higlight Tool, you are able to highlight words or longer text using colour coding (colour=types of mistake). If you use Google docs and want to try the tool, read and watch Eric Curts’ tutorial here.

With in-built Google docs you can add comments (in small speech bubbles) or make suggestions (the text you corrected will be scored out).

Feedback reaches the student instantly. All comments can be then resolved and suggestions analysed. If the 1st draft needs to be kept, it is very easy to go back to any previous options and save it as the 1st attempt. If you don’t use Google apps and your students submit their writing as a word document, nothing to worry about. You can add comments and then go to File, click Share either via instant message or email.

Other ideas

  • Recording feedback on Padlet with an in-built audio/video option)
  • Quick audio feedback recorded online with online tools such as Vocaroo or SpeakPipe. 
  • Audio feedback with software such as Audacity (absolutely fantastic but needs to be downloaded; for more sophisticated audio recordings such as podcast; great for recording assessments; I wouldn’t recommend for short hassle-free recordings)
  • Video feedback with tools such as Screencastify, Screencast-O-Matic or Camstudio (the latter needs to be downloaded on the desktop)

If you use G-drive and Google docs and you like voice comments, try Kaizena, the tool I will definitely explore more next session. Your student will need to install Kaizena in their G-drives to hear your comments. Have a look and decide if this tool might work for you.

PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay


Piece of advice
If you decide to give students audio or video feedback, you will probably be tempted to rehearse/re-record it. DON’T! Just be yourself, talk to them the way you normally do, as if they were sitting next to you. You want to SAVE TIME, not waste it!


So, happy time-saving:) !!!!

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Written by 

ESOL teacher at Edinburgh College