Trello A Fantastic Productivity Tool for Music Teachers

This is a guest post by one of our blog writers, Sarah Joncas.

Trello is an advanced list-making application which can be a very useful productivity tool for music teachers. It allows users to organize projects, to-do lists, and virtually anything else into visual boards. 

Trello is great for music teachers because it is so easy to use, yet it is powerful and flexible for various applications. There are so many things to use Trello for! Trello is portable across devices, allowing for lists to sync via the cloud when you sign in. There are apps available to allow you to use Trello on-the-go on a phone or tablet. 

Today I’ll share some tips for making the most of Trello’s features as a music teacher productivity tool. We all know music teachers are busy; Trello can make organizing all the many to-do lists and ideas easy and convenient.

Organization: Boards, Lists, Cards

Trello uses boards, lists, and cards as units of organization. Basically, there are three nested levels. Within Trello, Cards are housed on lists, and lists are each located on a board. Boards, the major organization unit, are intended to each have one project or concept. As an example, here are a few of my boards:

Trello Board examples

What is nice about Trello is that it can be handy for compartmentalizing. Not ready to face the tasks involved with an upcoming concert, but want to get something done on your prep time? Skip the Concerts and Performances board and open up School To Do or This week to find some other way to be productive during prep time!

I find that Trello helps me be intentional with what I spend my time on, and make sure that I am keeping track of all deadlines and projects that I need to be working on.

Within each board in Trello are lists. You can create as many or as few lists as you desire within a given board, and can name them any way you’d like. This is handy for different types of projects, and makes Trello more flexible and useful than simple to do list apps. Here are my list titles for School To Do:

Trello List Examples

It is very easy to drag cards (list items) between lists, which is especially useful for to-do list boards! Sometimes I’ll add a “done” list when I’m very busy so that I can see what I’ve accomplished in addition to what I still have left to tackle. I can move tasks that I complete to this list when I feel that I need the boost of seeing what I’ve done (otherwise I just archive them). 

Speaking of cards, each card or list item can hold a surprising amount of data or information within it! When I first started using Trello, most of my cards had just a title.

I might put “copy grade 1 assessment” on a card and leave it at that. Or even something as broad as “coordinate equipment for June concerts”, which is a multi-step process. Using Trello more, I’ve learned just how much can fit underneath that title within the same card:

Trello Card Example

Under “Add To Card” on the right, there are multiple items you can add to your task card. For example, adding labels makes it easy to search for that card later. A checklist can be used for a multi-step task to keep track of progress. I probably don’t need that when I’m just reminding myself to make copies, but it is very useful for bigger tasks or those that require information from other people. 

Adding Attachments makes it easy to find a relevant file needed to go with a card. For example, if I need to complete a form that is a PDF I will often attach the PDF to my to-do list card so that I can find it quickly and easily. 

If it’s just more text that you’d like to add to a card, the description box allows for that. I’ll often put a link in the description box if I have a related Google Doc or other web resource.

On this Copy Grade One Assessment task card, I would either attach the assessment I need to copy, or add a link to the assessment document, so that I could find it easily in Trello and print it right before I go to the copier. By making the resource easy to find, I save myself a step later so that I can get right to tackling more of my to-do list items in my limited prep time.

Getting Started

When I first started with Trello, I felt totally overwhelmed by all of the options! I made dozens of boards, and quickly found myself spending more time staring at the screen trying to find information than actually working on getting things done!

I decided to start over, and limit myself to 6 boards. Very big categories worked well for me, and I’ve edited the names of my boards over time. 

My biggest tip for Trello use is just start and try! Don’t worry about getting your board names perfect at first, or having permanent list names.

The more you use Trello, the more it will become clear what list names and boards work for you the more that you use it. There’s no right or wrong way to use Trello, and with time it’s easy to make Trello work for you.

Collaboration with Trello

Like many modern productivity tools, Trello has features for collaboration. The creator of a Trello board can add board members, and cards can be shared with each member. This allows teams, such as groups of music teachers or even a whole staff, to share a board in order to coordinate a project or share ideas. 

A few years ago I used Trello with a team to plan an Arts Night which involved many different people, projects and deadlines. By using a Trello board shared with all stakeholders, it was easy for us to see who was working on what tasks, what had been completed, and which deadlines were approaching.

Managing the project and keeping everyone in the loop was much easier because Trello was a tool that everyone could use and allowed for transparency amongst the different people working on the project without holding constant update meetings. While building a board for a big project can take some time, it pays dividends in the long run when the project is more organized and no details are missed.

Trello board updates can save many, many, long email threads, and the decrease in emails can certainly be a time-saver!

The Easiest Part of Trello: Drag and Drop

One of the most simple features of Trello is also its most powerful. Cards can be dragged and dropped between lists, or even into different positions on the same list. For example, let’s say I’m organizing my Winter Band concert repertoire. 

Trello Cards

Maybe I’ve decided that I want to use We Will Rock You as a closer. All I’ll do is drag and drop that card to the bottom of the list.

Trello Cards

And if a piece won’t work for the winter concert because it’s too difficult? I can drag and drop from one list to another.

Trello Cards

Drag and drop isn’t just useful for concert repertoire! It is also great for juggling to do list tasks, lesson ideas, and many more uses. Drag and drop is very intuitive, and I find myself using it more and more the more frequently I use Trello.

Possible Trello Boards

There are so many ways for Music Teachers to use Trello! Here are some ideas of different music teacher Trello boards that could be useful:

  • Kindergarten repertoire (with lists for past, current, and future repertoire, and cards holding titles and links/attachments containing the notation for each song)
  • Winter Concert (with lists for to-dos, repertoire, and communication)
  • Holiday songs (with lists for different holidays, and cards containing a song name and link to a relevant YouTube video)

Why Trello Over Other Tools

I use Trello because I find it easier to use the visual elements and details of cards rather than more linear note taking apps. Trello allows for a lot of information to be stored within one card, but makes for a visual experience with options like drag and drop to organize thoughts. I find it simple to come back to Trello in between other tasks without getting bogged down or distracted.

Trello also has advanced features which are easy to figure out with a few clicks, and can be used for a variety of tasks. I prefer to use a few tools rather than dozens of apps to stay organized, so Trello’s variety of features make it easy for me to use this one tool for many purposes. 

Conclusion

Trello is a great tool that music teachers can use to be more productive! Its organization makes it very easy to use for a variety of purposes, and it can store a lot of information and make it easier for busy music teachers to stay organized.

I’d highly recommend that music teachers try out Trello to stay organized and get things done more efficiently. I find Trello more useful the more that I use it.

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About the Writer

Sarah Joncas

Sarah Joncas is a music teacher from Massachusetts, USA. She teaches kindergarten through fifth grade general music, fifth grade chorus, fifth grade band, and percussion ensemble. Before becoming a teacher, she worked with technology and educational software.In 2014, she was named a TI:ME Technology in Music Education Leadership Fellow, which allowed her to attend a music education conference in Texas and explore cutting edge music teaching technology. She has earned degrees in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Boston University. You can connect with Sarah on Twitter or her blog Teaching Music Musings.

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Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.

I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.

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I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.

If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.

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