Trello is a free internet tool to organize and manage projects of all kinds. It takes the form of a notice-board with various moveable post-its of reminders, lists, pictures, etc.
Features and how it works
Trello is very flexible on how you want to represent your work, in order to suit which kind of projects you are working on, what kind of processes it requires and with whom you want to work. First of all, you can create many different boards. The easiest way would be to create one board for every project you are working on. You can change the visibility of every board to private, available to members of your team, or public. You can create organizations (lists of members) so you do not have to write all of the names you want to add every time you create a new board. For instance, suppose you create a new project intended to be done with the same group of 8 person as the last time, in one click, you can add everyone from one organization and there you go! You just saved 16 clicks and a few minutes. You can also promote other members of your organization to be administrators of the board as well. Like that, they can add cards and lists to the board.
The most used way to organize your board is in 3 columns: “To do” “In progress” “Done”. You are also free to add a penultimate column which would be named “To revise” before switching it to the “Done” column.
You can add as many cards as you want and drag them from column to column, according to what you are working on at the moment, what is done and what still needs to be done. The cards are the moveable “post-its” if you want.
When you click on a card, it opens up and you can add further details to the task at hand. You can describe the task, attach pictures and files (For example the word document that is in progress for the task), hyperlinks, checklists, etc. You can also add a due date and a time, so it shows directly on the card when you have the full view of the board, as a reminder.
It is also possible to tag one or more members of your team onto a card to indicate that they are in charge of that part.
On the cards, there is always an activity log, where team members can add comments. It can be useful for questions regarding the task, or simply to indicate to your team what you have done. In the comments, you can identify a member by using @username. The person who is mentioned in a commentary will receive a notification by e-mail or pop-up on his portable device, depending of his/her settings.
There is a color-coded label system. You can pre-set your labels for the project with your teammates. Every time you add a new card, you assign the associated label. When you take a look at you board, you have an idea of what kind of tasks they are, without having to open every card. The color-coded labels is simply to help organize the labels, and it can be used in so many different ways. For instance, the colors could be associated with names of team members, or with priorities ranks, or types of tasks at hand, etc.
You also have the power-ups in the menu. The power-ups are the Calendar, the Voting and the Card Aging features. When you enable the Calendar feature, Trello reorganizes all of your cards into a calendar, according to the due dates you have. The Voting feature enables members to vote on cards, for example to decide which one should be the priority or else. The Card Aging gives you an idea on the activity done across time. When nobody works on a card for a long time, the card will visibly “age” (become transparent, or become yellow and cracked like old parchment).
What is really interesting with Trello, is that every activity on the board leaves traces so you keep track of who is working on the project, when, and where everything is going. When a team member drags the task he is working on to the “in progress column”, he is certain that the job will not be done twice, because his team members automatically see the notification in real time. The other team members will also notice that someone has been working on something, since every time you change something or drag a card from one place to another, everything appears in the activity log, naming the user and at what time it was done.
When you have questions about Trello, you can visit the Trello Resources page, which helps you with tips, forums and tutorials. Trello is in constant development to improve and add features for the users. You can actually see the web developers’ own public Trello Board to see what they are working on at the moment, and you can vote for different known issues you wish they ameliorate.
Trello is available on the web, or as applications for iOS, Android and windows 8. Essentially, you have access to it from anywhere, anytime.
Trello can be very useful in many different ways:
Personal task management
Trello is also used worldwide as a personal task management system. Forbes magazine is known for its reliable and solid publications related to the business world. Tim Maurer, a contributor wrote an article about Trello, saying that he personally uses it and believes that it is the best organisation tool.
Aside from business, Trello can be used for personal projects. For example, someone could use is for a house renovation project. Use different colored labels for tasks by the painter, the plumber, or else. Julie Matkin, a blogger on creativity and productivity says:
“I can’t help but think this could be the productivity tool that suits my visual brain best…”
Trello for teachers
Trello can be used for personal planning of course materials, activities to prepare, homework due dates, appointments, course plan, group progress report, etc. But it can also be used to share tasks and lists with colleagues for different events, collective tasks, in the case of substitute teachers, and many more.
Beth Holland, in a Teachers’ technology blog, talks about the benefits of Trello for teachers. For her, it is important:
- to access her to-do list from anywhere at any-time.
- Some of her items need due dates and some other don’t.
- She sometimes need to work off internet.
- She sometimes need to share tasks with other teachers.
All these reasons led her to exclusively use Trello as an agenda.
Teachers can keep track of students’ projects
When a teacher assigns a big team project over a long period of time, Trello is an effective way of keeping track of the students’ work. Students could be required to use Trello for the duration of their project, and be asked to share their board with the teacher. By visiting every team’s board, the teacher can make sure that the students are in the right direction, by looking at which kind of tasks and to do lists they have. The teacher can also keep track of their progress. For instance, if the due date is coming and the teacher notices that nothing is yet in the “done” column, it would be necessary to remind the students to get to work. It can be pertinent also to check the amount of work done by each student. Is the work divided equally? Is each student participating in an adequate fashion?
My personal opinion
I have never used Trello for school projects before. A friend from another BAC told me about how he uses it for team work and how great it is. I was seduced at the first glance. I created an account, and I used the Trello Resources section to understand how it works. It is easy to use, and well organised. You are free to choose how you want to organize your columns and lists, so you can customize everything. I believe it is a great tool, and I will probably use it for the rest of my studies, but I will probably even keep the tool when the time comes for me to manage my English classrooms as a teacher. Teachers need to be well organized and I believe Trello is a great solution. There is also the fact that English teachers are sometimes in charge of many different groups at many different levels. It must be hard sometimes to keep track of what has been done in the last classes, what is still in progress, and where you are going to do next. By creating a board for each group you have, you drag your tasks progressively and you easily keep track.