Trello: Not your grandmother’s index cards

UPDATE: Several of my classmates have blogged about Trello (here, here, and here). Reading their reflections has helped me think through different user perspectives. I previously posted the following on the Technology & Curriculum (EDUC5303G) blog. Since that time, we’ve been using Trello extensively and have moved from the Basic version to the Business Class version. Before experimenting and making the expenditure, we investigated several comparable products. We use Trello primarily for our course development and revision projects at Horizon Education Network. Unlimited cards, lists, and boards allow us to track tasks for active projects, as well as to note tasks for future revisions. The range of Power-Ups, some of which add extra functionality such as Card Aging and Voting, others which extend functionality by linking to external services like Dropbox, Slack, Google Drive, Evernote, Github, etc., made the move from Basic to Business worth the cost. The card/list/board format is extremely flexible, so establishing a workflow among your colleagues is important. We use Kanban-style boards with four main lists, Incoming, In Progress, Done, and Resources.

Trello Overview

Coordinating group projects is a challenge at the best of times. In days gone by, I might have broken out a pack of multicoloured index cards. Now I turn to Trello, a collaborative visual project organizer.Trello is a digital tool that can bring together the various strands of any group project. Almost anything can be arranged using Trello’s boards, lists, and cards. While you can organize by yourself, Trello works best when you use it with a team. Basic Trello use is similar to using index cards, but these aren’t your grandmother’s index cards. Advanced features and integration with services like Google Apps for Education make Trello a powerful hub for organized collaboration.

Getting Started

Trello isn’t much harder to use than your grandmother’s paper index cards. In case, you need help getting started, watch the following video. When you are ready to go beyond the basics, check out the resources further on in this post.

Teaching Ideas

Trello is a great general purpose organizational and collaborative tool. Those attributes make it well-suited to educational applications. Here are some ideas on how you might use it. If you are looking for more, see the Trello Inspiration collection.

Idea 1 – Dynamic Collaborative Syllabus (Higher Ed.)

While a static, teacher-designed syllabus may be required by your academic overlords, Trello is well-suited for creating a dynamic, collaborative syllabus for a course. Not only can the syllabus be highly visual, but it can also be highly interactive by allowing students to comment and vote on cards. Attach required documents easily to cards, including that dreaded 2-dimensional syllabus (although, it could be an editable Google Doc).

Idea 2 – Parent Board (Grade K–12)

Keeping parents in the loop about their child’s education is essential for effective learning. Trello can help by providing a platform to inform parents of classroom events, homework assignments, and upcoming quizzes and tests. The Parent Board can be visible only to parents. A calendar view can display events with dates in a familiar format. Subscriptions to board updates can notify parents of changes by email.

Idea 3 – Bookmark and Organize Research (Grade 7+)

Trello can be effectively used by single users to bookmark and organize research. Utilizing the Trello bookmarklet or Chrome extension will make saving bookmarks, text selections, and images even easier. Organization is readily accomplished using Trello’s drag-and-drop list structure. Trello shines for group research projects. Collaboration is built into the Trello architecture with board members and card assignment. Trello can be used for different kinds of research, including research necessary for “genius hour.”

Bonus Idea – Collaborative Course Design (General)

Helpful Resources


Trello is free forever for unlimited boards and team members. The free version includes basic backgrounds and stickers and limits attachments to 10MB per card.

Trello also offers three paid versions: Gold, Business Class, and Enterprise.

  • Gold (US$45/year), designed for single users, adds premium features such as file attachments up to 250MB, customizable backgrounds, sticker packs, and emojis, as well as saved searches.
  • Business Class (US$9.99 per user/month) includes features useful for teams of less than 100 users, such as integrations, board collections, and granular administrative controls.
  • Enterprise (US$20.83 per user/month) offers teams of more than 100 users enterprise-level features including Single Sign On and 2-Factor Authentication.

Videos created with Trello using a custom background and Screencastify (review).