Without putting too fine a point on it, I’m not the most organised individual in the world. My working life as a teacher is punctuated by panicked running to half-forgotten meetings, surprise that quickly morphs into heartbreak when the kids turn up to what I could have sworn was a free period and the less I say about my failure to get my bus duty day right the better.
It’s no excuse but I’ve got a lot on my mind (although if you saw me gormlessly wandering the corridors, it may seem like the exact opposite). There’s so much that goes on in school on a daily basis that, for me at least, things can get a little crowded, brain-wise. The sheer volume of tasks that need carrying out and the information that has to be retained means that even as something deceptively easy as prioritisation becomes a chore in itself as I struggle with a to-do list that rolls away into the middle distance and over the horizon.
For a poor unfortunate like me, mobile apps offer the prospect of straightening the looping, meandering tributary of my workflow into something that more closely resembles efficiency. This is no mean feat, considering. Mobile apps can save me effort, time, let me communicate with a wide range of people easily and make me look vaguely competent and less sweaty from all the last-second, panicked corridor dashing to that very important meeting that I’d completely forgotten about until I saw the whole team walking in the opposite direction from me.
The first advantage of using a phone to complete a range of tasks during the day is that it’s always with me. It gives me a central hub where formerly I might have folders, notepads or a pc roughly the size and shape of a back-to-back terrace anchoring me to a certain geographical location. Mobile apps let me be…well…mobile and for someone who doesn’t have their own room (like my good self – I’m assuming they think I can’t be trusted and they’re probably right) travelling light, or at least lighter, is a huge advantage. Of course, I still carry the essential things I need for the class (I dream of one day working in a paperless school and ditching my trusty folding trolley) but it does mean that there is less of a burden to bear.
It’s not just the limiting of physical weight that is an advantage of using mobile apps. They also offer the opportunity to shift and automate some of the more menial tasks that you come across freeing up a bit of cognitive space. Calendar reminders with notifications, to do lists with alarms and other streamlining features act as a digital tap on my shoulder, guiding me to where it is I’m actually supposed to be at any given moment during the day and make my life slightly easier when I get there. It frees me up to concentrate on some of the more in-depth tasks and lessens the ever-constant worry that I may have missed something important.
With the right systems, mobile apps can also make communication in a school or across schools easier. With the current trend in chains and mergers, with institutions over a number of sites with staff in great numbers, making sure you can get in touch with who you need to quickly and easily (especially as there’s no guarantee that they might be within grabbing and shaking distance) is becoming more important. Messaging and mailout services mean there’s easy ways of getting in touch with people, saving time, travel and effort.
Because that’s what me using apps is all about. It saves me an amount of effort in doing certain things and allows me to redirect those efforts into different parts of the job. It makes the way that I work easier and more efficient and also has the added bonus of making me feel a little bit more competent with some of the things that formerly would have left me in a spin. It’s not a spectacular game-changer but in my case, it’s a way of working that really does help me be a little bit better (although with a little less corridor running, I have put on a bit of weight).
In the next post I’ll talk about how school culture can encourage or hinder the use of mobile apps.