Introducing The Class Nerd Podcast

Though it was teased last week with a preview episode, Robby Burns and I are excited to officially launch The Class Nerd Podcast today.

Robby and I are both teachers who are passionate about our jobs, but also about not making our jobs our lives. We both work hard to make teaching as efficient and effective as possible so we have time to spend with our families and on other things we care about. A lot of this increased efficiency has come out of our love of Apple devices, and we have both tried to share our workflows with the greater education community through blogs, and in Robby’s case, a book. This podcast is meant to be another resource for teachers.

Semester 1 of The Class Nerd Podcast will be 10 weekly episodes around 25-30 minutes in length. Hopefully this is conducive to the busy lifestyles of teachers, and can be some easy summer PD.

If you’re not a teacher, but still want to get more out of your Apple Devices, we hope this is a useful resource as well.

Robby and I are really proud and excited, and hope you enjoy The Class Nerd Podcast.

Listen to Episode 1 now:

Semester 1, Episode 1: Email With Apple Mail

In the first official episode of The Class Nerd Podcast, Craig and Robby discuss Apple’s default mail app on iOS and macOS, and how they use it to manage their email.

The Class Nerd

Returning to Apple Mail on iOS — The Class Nerd

Mail Act-On

Mail Tags

Thoughts on SaneBox — The Class Nerd

This is a great tweet thread by Fraser Speirs on the shortcomings on the BYOD movement in edtech.

I’m pleasantly surprised by Apple’s iWork updates today for iOS. They didn’t wait until the new new OSes drop to add decent features that all seem like they will be helpful for students and teachers alike.

Episode 0: Tech Origin Stories

Summer Workflow Rethink

As an Enneagram 3, summer can be a weird time since I don’t sit still well. I need to keep working. Though I’m getting better at relaxing, I do have some important things on my summer to-do list.

First, instead of teaching in a self contained 2nd grade classroom, next year I’ll be teaching 3rd grade math and science. While this is will be great for planning purposes during the year, I have a lot of prep work to do this summer. Several of my workflows will need to change due to the decreased amount of subjects and increased number of students I’m teaching. I’ll also be teaching different material for the first time in my teaching career.

Here are the systems I’m going to be looking at over the summer:

  • Note taking
  • Parent Communication
  • Lesson Planning
  • Managing Student Data
  • Paperless Workflow
  • Task Management

As I spend time with each of these areas, I’ll be sharing here on the blog what my plan will be for the fall. Hopefully my plans will be useful for you as your prepare for a new school year.

Mac Power Users #434: PDF Workflows - Relay FM

This should be required listening for all educators.

Making The Grade: ARKit 2.0 may allow AR to take off in K-12 classrooms - 9to5Mac

The biggest deal about all of this is that it’s supported all the way back to the original iPad Air of which my school has quite a few.

Moving The Class Nerd

I have officially started the process of moving my blog, The Class Nerd, from Squarespace to I have struggled with squarespace for a long time as an iOS only user, and as has matured as a platform, it has become more and more powerful. That, combined with the ability for me to post content directly to from Drafts 5, has let me to moving.

I currently have @theclassnerd set up here on, and I have just moved the domain over.

If you are subscribed to The Class Nerd via RSS, you’ll need to use the new feed (or JSON feed). If you follow me on and want to continue to see my posts about education technology, you should follow @theclassnerd. All posts via The Class Nerd will also go to The Class Nerd twitter account. will continue as my personal blog covering everything from Apple to foster care to Star Wars. All posts about how I get my work done as a teacher using iOS will be on The Class Nerd. Follow along even if you’re not a teacher though. Hopefully it’s still useful.

I have a lot of stuff planned for The Class Nerd in the next few weeks, and having it hosted here on enables a lot of that. I’m excited for what the future holds.

Drafts 5 Workspaces

In David Allen's book, "Getting Things Done," his 5 steps to organizing your life are as follows:

We (1) capture what has our attention; (2) clarify what each item means and what to do about it; (3) organize the results, which presents the options we (4) reflect on, which we then choose to (5) engage with.

Since version 3, Drafts has been a primary workspace for steps 1-3. It has been a tried and true capture tool that has powerful tools to organize those captured thoughts after they have been clarified. Drafts's inbox was used to store text with a badge on the app icon declaring how many drafts I needed to process. I would always try to get that number down to 0 every day. Nothing stayed in Drafts or was worked on extensively there. It was where text started, but never where it was completed.

With last month's release of Drafts 5, I have added steps 4 and 5 of Allen's system to Drafts's workload.

The two new features of version 5 that have added the most utility for me are tags and workspaces. While tags are self explanatory, workspaces are essentially saved searches allowing you to filter drafts by tags and search terms. This lets you see the drafts you need only when you need to see them.

Workspaces, along with Drafts 5's new, even more powerful scripting capabilities have allowed me to organize drafts, focus on only what I'm interested in focusing on at that moment, and still easily get the text out of Drafts for final publishing or usage.

Since workspaces are a new concept, I thought I would share what I have created so far:

  • Process
  • Micro Posts
  • The Class Nerd
  • Newsletter
  • Scripts


 My Drafts Workspaces

 My first workspace, Process, filters all untagged drafts. It is My first workspace, Process, filters all untagged drafts. It isessentially my Drafts 4 style inbox. Whether it’s an idea for a blog post, a task for Things, an email I need to send to a parents, or anything else, this workspace shouldn’t have drafts in it for very long.

I also have Drafts's badge settings correlate with this workspace with another new feature of Drafts 5. You can select what tags (if any) are included in the app's badge, and I currently have this set to "untagged." This helps me to remember to come back to this workspace and process my drafts.

Micro Posts and The Class Nerd are for all things blogging. Unfinished drafts or ideas stay in the inbox, but tagged so they don't show up as needing to be processed. If I have time to write, I sit down and open one of these workspaces, pick an idea, and start working.

Next, Newsletter is where I create my weekly newsletter for the parents of my students. I collect topics for the next newsletter throughout the week, then run a script to combine these individual drafts into one big newsletter every Monday, and finally convert the markdown to rich text and send the email to parents.

Finally, Scripts is where I work on my script actions for Drafts itself. Drafts is a great text editor for JavaScript, so I can write my scripts in it, then start using them. Any ideas I have for automation or unfinished scripts go in here.

The way I notate that blog posts, newsletters, or scripts are finished or posted is I simply archive the draft. They still maintain their tags, and I can view them in the archives of that workspace, but don't have to apply any more tags or anything different to them.

This has become a really convenient way to organize my work, and I'll hopefully be incorporating more down the road. Actually having organization is allowing me to use Drafts as my daily driver for all things text related instead of having separate apps for separate purposes.

Drafts 5 is available on the App Store as a free download with a $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year subscription to unlock pro features like workspaces.

Automation Orchard

If you're interested in learning more about automation and how to use technology to be more efficient, Rosemary Orchard has just launched Automation Orchard. While Automation Orchard does have a blog of its own, it is also an aggregation of links to posts around the internet about automation on Apple Technology.

This is a great idea, and I instantly subscribed to the site. I recommend you do the same.

Things Check In

Things helps me do my job while not making my job my life.

I wrote those words in December after just having switched to using Things 3 as my task manager from Todoist. It was also right before my school’s winter break, so I hadn’t fully put Things through the ringer of a lot of school work. So, 4 months later, I wanted to do a check-in on how Things is treating me.

First, let me say how much I have loved using Things. It’s easily the best task manager I’ve tried for how my brain works. While I’ve been tempted to sign up for the beta of Omnifocus 3, every time I look at it, I realize it would be a step in the wrong direction for my productivity. Things meets my needs well, and the new shiny isn’t going to

What I initially loved about Things still holds true. I love its design. I love the Today View and how it integrates with my calendar. I love how tasks marked for today simply roll over to the next day and don’t turn red and make you panic if you don’t complete them. Things helps me stay on top of everything I’m managing as a teacher without making me stressed.

I had some people ask me when I first started using Things how I had it set up. I was still in the process of figuring that out at the time, but after a few months I’ve settled into a workflow that I like, so I thought I would share that.


Things 3 has different levels of structure for your tasks. There are areas which can hold projects which can hold headings which can hold tasks. Almost all of these can also have tags as well.

I have 4 different areas in Things: Work, Personal, Worship and Arts (I help serve as a leader in my church’s Worship and Arts ministry), and The Class Nerd. Each of those can have projects, and some even have projects that are constantly updated with new tasks as old ones are checked off.

 My Projects List in Things 3 For example, in work I have an Admin project that is always active. This will have repeating tasks I need to complete in it as well as headings for grading and planning. Anything outside of Admin will have its own project created.

I only use one tag, “Important.” This only gets busted out if I have a lot of tasks that need doing in one day, but some are a higher priority than others. I’ll tag those tasks, and then filter my today view to only show those tasks. It can make me feel less stressed on busy days.

Apple Watch and Siri

One of my favorite features of Things 3 is its Siri and Apple Watch integration. Many other task managers only allow you to add tasks via Siri on the phone, but Things 3 allows you to do so on the watch as well. If I remember something I need to do today, I raise my wrist and say, “Hey Siri, in Things, remind me to do such and such today.” Done. This also works great on my HomePod.

The Apple Watch app is also really nice. I leave the complication on most of my watch faces, and will often check something off my list quickly after completing it.


The thing I missed most when I started using Things was the ability to easily send tasks from other apps. With version 3.4, which was released a couple months ago, powerful automation features were added. I can now write scripts to easily send tasks from Drafts 5, create whole projects immediately using Workflow, or open instantly to particular views from Launcher. This has made the usefulness of Things increase dramatically.

For example, I have an Add to Admin script that asks me for a heading and due date, then sends the task to my Admin project for work.

I’ve also made a Drafts action that will create a new Draft with a blog post idea here, then send a link to that Draft into Things so when I’m looking at the list of posts I want to write, I can open that draft with one tap. I’m hoping to think of more ways to string multiple steps and apps together for the classroom the way this action does.

Even with other task managers being released or new versions being updated regularly, I think it’s going to take a lot to get me out of Things 3 at this point. I’m still sold on the simplicity and elegant design that doesn’t stress me out, but the power features I need to make sure I don’t forget to get anything done that I need to.

If you’re looking for ways to keep up with all the tasks you have in the classroom, I highly recommend Things 3 (iPhone, iPad).

Drafts 5

Drafts 5 is out today. It's a killer update to an app I use every day to help me get work done in my classroom. I'll be sharing more of how I'm doing that in the coming days, but until then, you should read the MacStories review to get a taste of what Drafts 5 can do.

Froggipedia and AR Apps

At Apple’s education event last month, the company touted everything you can do on an iPad compared to other devices. They focused heavily on AR and their pencil and featured an app called Froggipedia which allowed students to examine an AR frog and dissect it using the Apple Pencil.

Honestly, while I see value of using iPads in the classroom, this seemed gimmicky. However, my 2nd grade class is currently studying life cycles and adaptations of animals, so I decided to buy the app and test its utility in a real classroom.

For some background, my school is not a 1-to-1 iPad school. We have 2-3 iPads per classroom, none newer than the original iPad Air, some as old as iPad 2. This plays a part in my experience with this app because students were not able to explore by themselves or in small groups. I projected it onto the board using my personal iPad Pro and Apple TV.

I should also note that this app is geared toward older students and more advanced curriculum than what my 2nd graders are working on. However, It did model the frog life cycle from egg to frog which I wanted my students to see.

First though, I wanted to get the reaction of my kids to placing a frog on my desk. As soon as the frog was placed, I started hearing shouts of “Coolest app ever!” and asking what it was called so they could get it at home.

Then I showed them what we actually came to see, the life cycle model.

I don’t show my class a ton of movies, but there are many things we can’t experience in the classroom that need to be seen, so I will occasionally show a quick video. For example, we did a science unit on states of matter, and I wanted them to see that all matter can change state, not just water. So we watched a video of a man melting metals, pouring them into molds, and letting them harden into different shapes.

That’s essentially what this was: a video I controlled. There’s value, but it’s not a game changer.

While I do work very hard to make sure my lessons are engaging for my active 7-8 year olds, engagement can’t be the only factor in teaching. In order to have true rigor, students need to be producers, not just consumers of content. Right now, AR in apps is a novel way to consume. But what will happen when the novelty wears off?

That’s not to say there is no place for AR in education. I can think of a lot of special education and accessibility uses. I just don’t think it will take over the general education classroom.

11 Tips for Working on the iPad – MacStories

On MacStories today, Federico Viticci has some great tips for getting work done from an iPad. Several of these are super helpful in a classroom setting. I highly recommend you check it out.

Time Tracking

One of the primary goals of this website is the help teachers be more efficient in their jobs by utilizing technology.

However, lately, I have felt pretty inefficient, and I wanted to know where my time was going. So I downloaded the app Timelogger and have been tracking how I spend my time at school. I’m hoping if I can see any less important areas where I’m spending too much time, I can find ways cut those back.

I chose Timelogger because it’s native to iOS instead of being a web service like Toggl. Most importantly, it has an Apple Watch app where I can start and stop my timers. I like to leave my phone at my desk most of the day, so having controls on my watch is crucial.

I’ve only been doing this a few weeks, including one where I was out 3 days this past week for spring break. I don’t know that I have enough data yet to make any decisions, but hopefully by the end of the school year I can learn where my systems can be improved and then make the necessary adjustments over the summer.

If you’d like to join me in tracking your time, Timelogger can be downloaded for free on the App Store, but a $4.99 in-app purchase is required to unlock the full feature set.

Apple Education Event Reflection

I’ve spent the day reflecting on Apple’s education event, held this morning in Chicago. While there definitely are things to be excited about (the biggest company in the world holding an event about how they are trying to make my job/education as a whole better is a positive thing), I keep coming back to something I shared on my microblog this morning.

In order for me to be truly excited about what Apple announces today, they’re going to need a direction change in their education approach instead of just next steps on the current path.

I’m hoping since today is the first education event in 6 years, that’s what we see.

Today was a decent sized step down the same path. I wanted to see Apple take some risks and try new things. In the end, that’s not what we got, and that’s disappointing.

That being said, I am genuinely excited about a few things.

As a parent, my kids have one of my old iPad minis they use to watch movies and play games on when we travel. As they get older and need access to devices for homework and school, an iPad in this price range with Apple Pencil support looks amazing.

Also with the pencil, having iWork updated to work with the pencil and drawings is really nice. Microsoft announced support for this in Office back in 2015 when the original 12.9” iPad Pro and Apple Pencil were announced. I can’t believe it’s taken this long to add pencil support to iWork.

The addition of creating books in Pages looks promising as well. While it may not be an iBooks Author replacement, this looks like it could be a great way to share content with students and even a way to for them to create content.

Finally, the update to student iCloud accounts having 200GB of storage for free is fantastic. While we don’t currently use this at my school at all, it definitely helps schools who have large iPad deployments (especially using shared iPads).

Sadly, very little of this will be used in my classroom anytime soon. At a public school with a district going through major budget cuts, adding a fleet of iPads isn’t in the cards. That’s where the problem lies. I don’t blame Apple for the cost. I know Chromebooks often cost about the same. But state testing regulations still make those a more likely choice if we’re ever even given a choice.

So for the schools that can afford it, today was probably a good day. For many though, it was something we can only hope for.

Fraser Speirs on Apple’s Education Event

I started a draft of a blog post about what I hope to see at Tuesday’s Apple education event. Then Fraser Speirs went and said everything I wanted to in 5 tweets. Rather than making you read through my rambling, I am linking to his thread. It’s concise, and dead on.

Thoughts on SaneBox

Back in January, I shared I was beginning SaneBox’s free trial period to help get control over my email. As a teacher, I get urgent information from parents all day right next to needless spam. The signal to noise ratio was not where I needed it to be, and I was spending far too much time managing email instead of preparing lessons for my students.

I had heard about SaneBox for years on tech podcasts, but from the descriptions I heard, it sounded mostly like a server side way to snooze email which can be done in native clients such as Spark and Airmail for far cheaper. However, after I returned to using iOS’s default mail app which doesn’t have these features, something had to be done about email. Important things were being buried and forgotten as I was overwhelmed by junk. I decided to give SaneBox a try, and realized very quickly I would be purchasing a subscription.

The killer feature I had no idea about was the SaneLater folder. SaneBox intelligently sorts email for you and decides what should go immediately into your inbox, and what is less important, and can be read later. From day one, it was doing a great job of sorting for me. However, if something ends up in the wrong place, I simply move the email to the inbox, and all future emails from that sender will appear there.

I thought I would forget to check the SaneLater folder, but every day I get a SaneDigest email from SaneBox which tells me how many emails have been placed in my SaneLater folder that day. Generally, I go check it at that time (which I have set as the end of the school day), and spend 5 minutes dealing with it all. I can even wait a few days to manage my SaneLater folder because nothing in there is ever urgent. Meanwhile, important emails from parents of students or my principal go straight to my inbox.

I do have a few custom folders set up for receipts and TestFlight betas, and I use the SaneBlackHole to unsubscribe from emails as well. SaneLater is just the most useful feature for me.

If you’d like to give SaneBox a try, you can click here, which will give you $5 off your initial subscription.