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When collaborating in teams, creating solutions to real-world problems becomes an adventure and boundaries become limitless. It's no secret that today's students love working together. Teachers do as well, and as one you're in the perfect position to choose top-notch collaborative task managers to use in your classroom.
Collaboration with parents, students, colleagues, and administrators is a hallmark of the teacher of the future. So now is the time to excite and engage pupils in collaborative tasks. Here are 5 collaborative task managers that will get your students excited about working together. There are other alternatives listed afterward with links to each one.
Think of Trello as a virtual “idea board.” In Trello, you can create as many boards as you want with lists and cards. The boards can then be discussed, collaborated upon, and manipulated to create a visual workflow. You can monitor the development of a project as people move cards to different lists like “To-do” or “Working on” or “Completed.”
As you get to know how to use Trello, other possible uses become apparent. Students can check in with each other using discussions on a particular card. They can attach pictures and files, and then assemble all cards into one final project.
One thing to remember about Trello is how you keep everyone notified about changes to documents. Trello does not automatically notify everyone. You have to specifically “mention” team members in a comment preceded by an @. This sends an email to them to check Trello. The nice thing about Trello is that it’s organic, and you don’t have to use it in exactly one way. Your imagination guides how you use it.
- Email needed: Email is still used here. Initially you use it to invite new team members, and also to notify them of changes when you mention them in a comment. This simply allows people to still participate in Trello discussions without having to sign up.
- Price: Free. There is a paid version which has more features.
- Interface: It's mostly visual. You get to manipulate cards, lists, and boards like a real bulletin board.
When you first log in to Nozbe, you can immediately see what tasks are considered priority, and you can choose to take care of those. Your inbox is your message box that also contains other projects assigned to you. By clicking on Projects, you get a general overview of how your projects are coming along. You can then review your calendar and connect with your team.
Think of Nozbe as a day planner on steroids. You will recognize the system: listing tasks, prioritizing them, and checking them off when they are complete. You have the added bonus of collaboration so that others can complete the tasks along with you, bringing your projects to fruition. The interface is quick to understand with medium to little learning curve needed.
It's possible this tool is for your more experienced students who are already familiar with project organization methods. You can spend an entire unit on just the system alone. Nozbe also lets you manage up to 5 projects in their free version, and an unlimited number for paying customers.
- Email needed: Email is not needed if users are logged into Nozbe.
- Price: Nozbe is free for teachers at the moment. You must email them to request this.
- Interface: Text oriented.
We appreciate Basecamp’s user friendly interface. Basecamp is a checkpoint for all your collaborators to see and participate in the progress of your projects. This is not like Trello’s bulletin board, which is very simple and visual.
Basecamp lists your projects on the main screen like a launcher. You go into a project and you can see the progress that has been made. You can then delegate tasks to your team members. You can save files and your team can comment on topics, add files and pictures of their own, and create documents.
Basecamp communicates all changes via the users’ emails. Again, this allows for collaboration with team members who are not as tech-savvy and only wish to reply through simple email without joining.
- Email needed: Collaborators are not required to sign up to Basecamp. They can merely respond to email and stay somewhat connected.
- Price: Free for teachers! You have to email the developers and request this, and assure them that you will only use Basecamp for education purposes.
- Interface: Visual, like a launcher for your different projects.
What sets Wrike apart from Nozbe is that it seems to eschew the influence of “paper style” planners in favor of digital-age terms like “streams” and “dashboards.” It will take some exploring to make the connections, but it all comes together fast in this tool. Nevertheless, while collaborators can go through the tutorials at will, additional training might be needed to understand how the features can be used to their full potential.
The first picture you see on Wrike is one of business offices and sky rises, and the video also talks about the tool from a business perspective. Don't let this put you off. It would take some adapting to use in the classroom, but it can be done.
Wrike also provides a Gantt chart in the form of a dynamic timeline. This allows you to see the progress of your projects in bar graph format. You are able to edit your project deadlines within this window, giving you added control. However, this is part of the professional feature set and isn't included if you plan to use Wrike for free.
- Email needed: Email is not needed as long as people are logged into Wrike. All communication takes place within the app itself.
- Price: Free for 5 users, with 2 GB of storage and no professional features. Price goes up as you add storage and users.
- Interface: Text-oriented with icons.
Asana took a bit longer to load than other collaborative task managers, but this powerhouse is worth the wait. It automatically opens up into a “My Tasks" pane where a user can get to work immediately on things that are important to the team. You can also explore the other icons in the left pane which are Search, Inbox, Dashboards, Projects, Favorites, Recents, and Tags.
With Asana you'll immediately notice that the interface is largely text-based rather than image-driven like Trello and Basecamp. This means that Asana might possibly be more suited towards advanced students. However, once you learn the system, you’ll find that Asana has a highly organized and intuitive interface. It’s remarkably easy to navigate. A pop-up keyboard shortcut menu in the bottom toolbar makes it even easier.
You will need to go through some of the tutorials to figure out how to use Asana. The developers decided to eliminate confusing emails altogether by making sure that everyone signs up and logs in. All communications are done within the app. This eliminates unnecessary threads in people's emails which they might or might not read.
Think of Asana as your actual office, where you can communicate over the globe. With Asana, you’re right there with your team, even though they may be far away.
- Email needed: Email is virtually eliminated here. Your team members have to be keyed into the system, making this a one-stop place for your tasks.
- Price: Free to trial, with a premium membership starting at only $21/month for up to five members, and up to $750/month for 100 members. Adjust your price point using their price slider.
- Interface: Highly text-oriented, with a lot of information on the screen at once.
There are a lot of different collaborative task managers out there. It’s important to consider your students and their capacity to easily understand the system that you decide to use. If your school has a more limited bandwidth and processor speed, you’ll want to use something that is quickly accessible and doesn’t get in the way of your workflow.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Apr 30, 2017, updated Dec 10, 2021