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Four Tools Every Administrator Should Be Using

by Dr. Bruce Ellis

Being an administrator can be hectic at best and chaotic at worst. Whether you are an administrator on a campus or serve at the district level, there are tools that can help you be more organized and confident as you strive to juggle all the demands and tasks that come your way. Here are four I recommend, all of which I’ve used and found helpful.

Pomodoro Technique – If you are like me, multitasking usually means that I end the day with lots of things started, but few finished. This technique is the opposite of multitasking and helps keep me focused. The Pomodoro technique is a strategy in which you focus on a task for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break. After several 25-minute blocks (pomodoros), you get a 15-minute break. The goal is to work as focused as you can to accomplish the task in as few pomodoros as possible. That’s perfect for the busy administrator.

Lifehacker posted a tutorial on the Pomodoro technique that you might find handy if you’ve not investigated it before. When things move from hectic to chaotic, I usually pull up the app and work to move through it. There are many Pomodoro tools out there, but here is my recommendation for each platform: Android, iOS, Chrome app or extension, and web.

LiveScribe Pen – When I’m in meetings, I can take notes or I can listen and process what is being said, but I can’t do both well at the same time. In those cases, my LiveScribe pen has come in handy. Using special paper (which you can download and print for free), I can take notes while recording audio. The written notes and audio are synced, so tapping on a place in my notes will jump to that part of the audio. I can then download data from the pen to my computer and the handwritten notes and audio (which are still synced) are on my laptop for later review. There are several versions of LiveScribe pens available, but I’ve found the base model to be more than adequate. It’s such a good tool that my college children have confiscated it for their own class work.

Flipboard – My job requires that I stay up-to-date on many topics. I find that searching the Internet, using Pinterest, or visiting my trusty go-to sites is too time consuming. That’s where Flipboard comes into play. I can use the iOS, Android, or web version to create a customized ezine of topics and sites that I want to keep up with. It pulls a fresh list of updated information every time I open it. While I follow several specific sites using Flipboard, identifying topics that I’m interested in has been even more beneficial. Besides reading fresh content, I can easily share articles and posts from within the app. I can definitely say that I use Flipboard on a daily basis.

Chrome Browser – I use many great Chrome apps and extensions, but here is a short list of some especially for administrators to get you started. You can find more by searching the Chrome Web Store. You can also check out Diana Benner’s post, Chrome Apps You Can’t Live Without, for more specific tools you might want to try.

  • Goo.gl URL Shortener – With just a click, I get a shortened URL of the website I’m on copied to my clipboard so I can share it with my staff or others. If I’m logged in to Chrome, it will remember the shortened URLs and track how many clicks each receives, which is handy if you are sharing with parents, teachers, etc.
  • Send from Gmail – This handy extension creates an email with the name of the website as the subject line and a link to it in the body so that all I have to do is add the recipient’s email address. I usually tweak the body of the email so the recipient knows why I’m sharing the website. Many times, though, I’ve used this to send myself a link to a website that I want to come back to, but don’t have time for right then; it will be in my inbox when I am ready to look at it.
  • Print Friendly & PDF – This clever extension creates a distraction-free page of the website I’m on by stripping out the ads, background, etc. so that I get a cleaner page that I can print and/or save as a PDF. If you are one to print websites often, this will reduce your toner costs. You can also edit the page down so that you only print what you want.
  • Screencastify – This Chrome app is handy tool to use when I need to explain how to do something online or on the computer, but I need more than words to make it clear. Using just the free version, I can record screencast videos up to ten minutes in length. This tool is great for those just-in-time trainings that we do when someone asks a simple question, but the answer may be more cumbersome and not so straightforward.


Regardless of which tool you use, I think you’ll find these will help you be more efficient with your time and still be able to share important information with those you support. Do you have a tool to add to the list? I’d love to hear about it. Email me at bellis@tcea.org and let me know.

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