Tool Review #4: Esther’s Trello Board—List-Making for a Near-Digital Teacher

Aug 6, 2014

During a recent teacher workshop in Houston, I spotted Esther K. eagerly updating her To-Do lists in the back of my session. As you know, I’m always on the prowl for new systems to profile! While I’ve found many digital leaders, it’s rare to find a close-to-digital teacher, given the nature of the teaching role. Enter Esther, an 11th and 12th grade physics teacher. Esther uses the app Trello to digitally manage her To-Dos. Let’s dig in!

Below is the big picture of Esther’s To-Do’s. Moving from left to right, we have the following categories:

  1. General To-Do—must be done at some point
  2. Do This Month—must be completed this month
  3. Do Soon—must be done this week
  4. Doing Today (love the active verb here!)—must be done today
  5. Done—completed work. Esther says that digitally oriented folks often lose the prime satisfaction of crossing things off their lists, so this feeds that urge and keeps her motivated!

Click on image to enlarge.

Zooming in on Esther’s “Do Soon” list, you can she has created a To-Do titled “@setup another crate.” Esther has to set up a new instructional crate of materials for one of her classes.

Clicking on this To-Do expands it further. Now you can see the bite-sized actions required (predictably our favorite feature!) to get this To-Do done:

  • Turn in docs for class PDs
  • Pick up docs by group
  • Grades to be sorted
  • Answer keys
  • Extra topics by date/topic

Esther subscribes to David Allen’s Getting Things Done way of organizing her lists: by “context.” This means that To-Dos are organized by what needs to be done, such as for a Project, Home, or School. There are other ways to organize your Upcoming To-Do list, such as by Start Month (my personal favorite), by location, by energy level, and my new obsession—by the amount of time something will take.

I asked Esther what supported her quest for digital organization. The following conditions jumped out at me.

  • Your school has got to be technology friendly, or at least technology-neutral. In Esther’s case, her building’s administrators frequently use their phones.
  • You have to know what you want out of the product before you start using it. Sometimes it is best to build the habit on paper and add the technology later. Don’t just jump on the first thing you see.
  • Ensure your devices are all synchronized. In Esther’s case, her iPhone, Nexxus Galaxy and laptop all either have the app or widget version of Trello synched and ready to go.

Esther, thanks for inspiring so many of us to move toward the digital realm!