My top Apps for 2014

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Inspired by several lists of apps I’ve seen lately, like this one by Alex Brooks from World of Apple, I thought I’d share my own top apps for 2014.

I use an iPhone and a couple of iPads daily, along with my iMac, Mac Mini and Le Novo Yoga, my work laptop, but for this list I’m sticking to the iOS apps and not differentiating between the iPhone and the iPad.

The best indication of how important an app is for me is where I store it. My most used apps are on the home screen and page 2 is all folders. My most used, most used apps are on docked at the bottom of the home screen. So, here goes.

On the dock

Fantastical

My favourite calendar app, esp. as it works so well with Outlook, which is what I use at work, so that is my primary calendar. When I was on leave this year I went back to Google Calendar for a while, and at that time I used the Sunrise calendar app, which is also nice. But Fantastical looks great and has rep,aced Agenda as my default calendar app.

Mailbox

I use gmail for my personal email and, while their new Inbox is pretty good, Mailbox makes it super easy to process emails and move them into action, waiting for, archive or just trash. I can process my email really quickly and its replaced Airmail on my Mac as well.

Mail

Okay, the standard email app, which I use to look at the Outlook email from work. Nothing fancy, but it works.

Wunderlist

I paid big $$ for Things on the IPad, iPhone and Mac, but gee it was slow to update for iOS 7 and it never had a Windows version at all. So, I was using it for home tasks and Outlook tasks for work tasks, and splitting into separate systems isn’t wise (I read the Getting Things Done book a few years ago and it changed the way I work). Wu der list is free, works on anything and,while not quite as full featured as Things, works really well.

Safari

I use Chrome pretty much everywhere but on iOS Safari just seems better and smoother.

Settings

Not really an app, but I’m fiddling around with settings so much that I keep it in the dock.

Also, on the front page …

(Note: alphabetical!)

Daedalus

My favourite writing app on IOS, mainly because it syncs so nicely with Ulysses on the Mac. I use it for writing on the go, for poetry mainly. Apparently, a full-blown IOS version of Ulysses is in the works for 2015.

Day One

My favourite diary/journalling app. It adds weather, location, and you can add a photo (or use HTML to embed) It can publish to a web page, but I use it for my own private use. I even got my old MS Word journal out from years ago and added those entries to the appropriate dates.

Drafts

My second favourite writing app, especially for quick notes that are going to end up somewhere else. You open it and you get a blank screen to type on and it has an enormous range of export options.

Evernote

The old workhorse for remembering ‘stuff’. From the modem router setup notes to recipes, gardening notes, poetry ideas, travel ideas, teaching ideas, photo tips and tricks for Lightroom, all go in here. I started using this in 2007 I think! and I’m approaching 5000 notes that are available on all platforms

Flickr

My photo app of choice. Flickr has improved a lot in the last 12 months and the new (long-awaited) IOS apps look great.

InfinitGallery

Since Instagram still hasn’t got an iPad app, I use InfinitGallery to look at Instagram on the iPad and the original app on the iPhone.

Mr Reeder

Video killed the radio star, and Twitter has just about killed off RSS, but if you just want to get an update whenever a webpage or blog is updated, then RSS is great. I was worried when Google Reader died, but Feedly has done a great job of taking up that feed aggregation thing and Mr Reeder provides a nicer interface for reading them.

Newstand

I read The Age on the iPad in Newstand.

Pocket

Any web page, or article of interest that I want to read later, I sent to Pocket. They look great, and are available offline, so when you get on that plane trip your own interesting little magazine is there and ready to go. Replaced Delicious for me a couple of years ago now.

Simplenote

I’m a long time fan of this simple note taking syncing thing. It’s the ‘works on all platforms’ thing that always sways me.

Tweetbot

My favourite way to read Twitter.

WeatherAU

The best app for Australian weather by a long way

Yahoo Weather

Visually very nice. I put in places I want to go and travel to, like Kyoto and nice pictures come up.

Zite

Not sure how long this will last since Flipboard bought it (I think) but still works really well to find articles you’re interested in. Better than Flipboard, which is based on the provider or publisher model, this reverses that model and goes out and looks for the interests you’ve specified.

(I haven’t mentioned Photos, Reminders and Calendar, which are also on my home page)

Page 2

Here, I’ve just got folders, and they are …

Apple

All the standard Apple apps, most of which I don’t use.

Entertainment

Highlights here are TuneinRadio and some TV catchup apps. TuneinRadio has added silly features like the need to create an account,but it’s still the best radio app I know.

Google

Chrome, Docs, Drive, Gmail, Google+, Sheets, all work well. All somehow unlovely too!

Music

My Cleartune guitar tuner, Pandora and Spotify. Could this be the year I get into subscription music?

News

ABC, Flipboard, Guardian and the surprisingly good MSN News

Office 365

Microsoft has been late to the party but they’re keen now. I’ve talked a lot about how much I like OneNote but I’ve got OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, PowerPoint and Word here too, as well as Lync for messaging within the work environment.

Photography

The highlights here are Lightroom, which syncs well with the desktop model (I’ve bough the annual subscription to that and Photoshop) and VSCO Cam, still the coolest photo filters of all.

Productivity

Workhorses, like Dropbox, Documents, GoodReader and a couple of mind-mapping tools in popplet and SimpleMind+

Reading

GoodReads for sharing my reading and the Kindle app of course.

Reference

The Shorter Oxford Dictionary and Wikipanion, for nicer reading of Wikipedia

Travel

The map apps, and Tripit and TripAdvisor

Utilities

Things that make other things work well. Like third-party keyboards Fleksy SwiftKey and Swype, Feedly, LastPass, and TextExpander

Writing

Okay, I’m a sucker for writing apps like 1Writer, Byword, Editorial and iA Writer, but I keep coming back to Daedalus.

Video

YouTube and Vimeo of course, abut also StreamToMe for streaming video in a range of formats to the iPad or IPhone, and Plex, which I use to stream movies to the Apple TV.

Finally, I’ve started using WunderStation for its great local weather options, which are crowd-sourced from thousands of private weather stations around the world. There’s one just down the road from me and I really appreciate being able to see the real local weather.

Here’s how it all looks:

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It will be interesting to see how different these look by the end of 2015. Late late year, I poste on The Tools I Use, about the tools I use on the desktop. Maybe I should alternate between the PC and IOS year by year. Let me know if there’s something great that I’ve missed.

Cool tools: Diigo

One of the quiet achievers in my online working is Diigo which, in its simplest form, is an online bookmarking tool, but has powerful features including tagging and ‘lists’ and even annotations, which allow you to keep track of web pages you want to remember for later in much more powerful ways than the traditional ‘bookmarks’.

I’ve been using Diigo for a few years now, ever since I gave up on ‘Delicious’, which was an earlier entry in this style of tool. I’ve now got nearly four thousand links added to Diigo and I never use the built in bookmarking tool that comes with Chrome or IE, which means I never lose my bookmarks or favorites when I change computers either. I can log into my Diigo account from any computer and see my ‘Library’ there, all ready to go.

I’ve used Diigo lists and tags in my teaching too. As I add things to my library (with the handy little browser tool) I tag them, or add them to a list. And it’s simple to email that list to my class. For example, when I was reading up and researching prior to teaching Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway to Year 12 a couple of years ago, I tagged anything I found ‘woolf’. Then, I could just search that tag, and send the class a handy URL with them all in a list, like this: WOOLF

Now, I see that Diigo is replacing lists with an ‘outliner’ tool, which I’m looking forward to exploring. (see introduction to that feature below)

Diigo is a free tool, but has a premium model too which allows you to work more with images and PDFs. One of the essential cool tools for me.

OneTastic

I’ve come to rely on the OneNote add-in OneTastic; a great little tool, with my favourite feature a OneCalendar which shows you what OneNote page you were working on for any day. Nice. It looks like this:

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Recently, it broke down and wouldn’t load, and I emailed the guy who programmed it (Omer Atay) and he replied, looked at some of my settings and sent me a fix! How’s that for service?

You can ​get OneTastic here: http://omeratay.com/onetastic/

The future is blended

Blender

I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a presentation I’m giving at two Oxford Conferences soon. The title of the presentation is The Future is Blended, and the descriptor for my session is:

In this workshop the focus will be on blended learning and approaches that extend and enhance the classroom experience. The latest research tells us what we have always felt: that good teaching is critical to student learning and that feedback to students is also critical. New technologies provide teachers with powerful tools to organise, collaborate and give feedback and to re-envision the classroom for the twenty-first-century learner. In this workshop participants will get a snapshot of the latest learning theory and get to play with some digital tools in a range of platforms that that can have immediate application in any classroom. The future is not digital, but it is blended.

The Education Changes Lives Conference is focused on Australian Curriculum but my session is more about technology and blending traditional approaches with new ideas. Last year I presented in the English teachers stream; this year it’s for general teaching audience.

The Melbourne conference is on May 16th

The Sydney Conference is on May 30th

Hope to see you there.

OneNote Unchained

I’ve always said in recent years that the only thing keeping me interested in the Windows platform was OneNote.

Over the past five years or so I’ve gradually re-invested in the Apple platform after abandoning it for the Windows machines of various 1-1 notebooks programs over the years including Toshibas, ACER, Fujitsu, IBMs and others. I bought an iPod, then an iPhone and an iPad and then a Mac Mini. Back to the Mac; since my first computer at work was an Apple 2, and the first computer I bought was an Apple 2C, so sleek and modern at the time. I had a Mac Classic all those years ago.

So I was pretty interested to see Microsoft finally release a Mac version of OneNote this week. At last! And free! OneNote has been my favourite Microsoft Office component on Windows for a long time, (it’s my central teaching tool) and now it’s on the Mac, syncing via OneDrive.

The Mac version isn’t quite as full-featured; is pretty light on features: it lacks tight integration with Outlook, for example and I can’t see sub-sections or a way to move stuff around.  But it’s finally there and a worthy developing competitor of Evernote at last. It’s on the Mac App Store and went to No. 1 straight away.

Makes me want to go out and buy a Macbook, which I’m sure isn’t exactly what Microsoft intended!

If you haven’t heard about OneNote, check out some of the links below:

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External links:

5 Ways to make use of OneNote for Students

4 Tips for Students using OneNote

OneNote is a note-taking Power Tool (Lifehacker)

Teaching and Learning with OneNote

First look at Schoology

So, it’s one week into using Schoology and pretty impressed so far. It has all the essentials you’d want to see in an LMS including flexible resources and management, assignments, discussion forums, file submission, even badges.

I’d like to see a better looking update system that’s not so teacher-centric, like when a student posts a discussion post or not so m manual. Students shouldn’t have to dig down through the folder list to see if there’s something new, and I shouldn’t have to manually tell them either.

This is how the resources are organised;  there’s folders that can contain a range of resources.

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In this folder there’s some PDFs, a JPG and a homework assignment. Assignments get reminders on the front and I get an email when a student has submitted some work.

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Early days but the rubric section looks pretty powerful. I set up a homework assignment with four criteria and a simple rubric and you can see here that one student has already submitted it. It was easy to mark, but the in-house editing and annotating tools were pretty clunky. It wouldn’t highlight where I pointed, and a comment spread over the whole document . In the end I chose the option of downloading the file, annotating in in Word, saving it, then uploading it again. A bit of a disappointment as far as work-flow goes.

Also, I haven’t found yet whether I’m able to just tick that something has been submitted (like a bit of homework) without assigning a grade.  It wants a number of letter. I’ve tinkered around with a simple rubric that says Done/Not Done, but even that wants to assign some points or grades.

 

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I did have a quick go at a class quiz and that does seem to have some pretty powerful features with a range of question types available like multiple choice, true/false, short answer and match-up the answers like here:

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In the end, whether Schoology works will be in the workflow for me and my students.  It’s got to be better than email, or a shared Dropbox folder. So far, it’s promising, but the fact that new resources don’t automatically create an  update, and that the in-house annotating tools are so bad, it might not last for me or my students as a tool beyond our initial semester trial.

 

The Tools I Use

Inspired by Darcy Moore’s round-up of tools he used this year on a regular basis, I thought it’s been a while since I wrote about the software and hardware I’ve been getting the most value from this year. Lots of similarities with his list, and some differences and lots of changes since I last did a list like this.

OneNote and Evernote

I can never really finally decide between these two great note-taking tools. Evernote is friendlier but OneNote is so tightly integrated into the Microsoft Office ecosystem that you can’t ignore it. Basically I use OneNote as my main teaching tool and meeting notes tool and Evernote as my collection of random snippets, how to guides, instructions, manual and web links etc. The nicest thing about Evernote is how beautifully it works on my iPhone, my iPad, my iMac and my notebook PC

Ulysses and Scrivener

For writing articles, blog posts, poems and just notes I’ve moved to Ulysses on the MAC and to it’s IOS counterpart Daedalus Text Editor on the iPad and iPhone. It’s one of the nicest iterations of that minimalist writing interface that is so popular these days and I’ve moved from iWriter and WriteRoom this year, which I both like. Please note, the new version of Writer (Writer Pro) is terrible and a rip-off at $20. I also like SimpleNote a lot, for putting some text somewhere and being able to work with it in multiple places.

Twitter

As for many teachers Twitter is my de-facto personal learning network. It use TweetBot on the iPad and generally check Twitter twice a day and email useful links around; to Evernote or to …

Pocket

Pocket is a fantastic off-site reading app. I save interesting articles to Pocket to read later, on any platform.

WordPress

I moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress a while ago and haven’t regretted making that change. The ads can be a bit annoying, but you get what you pay for I guess.

Diigo

I’ve been putting my bookmarks in Diigo for years. When I get a new computer, or change computers, I just login and they’re there. The tags are the things that make it work. I often use tags or specific lists to share with students. Here’s an example of a list, for my Literature class.

Feedly

Though I use Mr Reeder on the iPad mostly, all my RSS feeds are now powered by Feedly. Some folk say that Twitter has replaced RSS, but I still find the ability to subscribe to blogs and pages invaluable. For example, I can’t imagine how I’d cope with keeping up to date with my students who are blogging if I had to go in and check all those blogs individually.

Dropbox

I’ve used this for syncing my stuff between work and home for ages, but this year I set up a shared folder for my students to upload their essays and writing practice as they were mostly scanned and too big to email. It worked a treat.

Skydrive

This is Microsoft’s Dropbox, and getting better. I migrated all my PC files to Skydrive so I can access them from the Mac at home. It’s not failsafe yet, but has improved a lot.

GoogleDocs

Lots of teachers at my school are getting excited about Google Docs and I’ve used it for student and teacher surveys, for student group work annotating key passages and for collaborating with other teachers on joint presentations. It still feels a bit clunky to write in a Google Doc, but I can’t imagine where this will be in three years time.

Text Expander

This little text utility has saved me heaps of time. For example I type /lacg and out pops Learning and Curriculum Group. Multiply that saving a zillion times!

GoodReads

I keep my reading list on GoodReads and encourage my Literature students and writing students to do the same. I’ve vacillated between this and Shelfari over the years so I guess it mostly depends on where your friend are. I think they’re both owned by Amazon now.

Schoology

We don’t have an official LMS at school and use blogs and wikis extensively. Last year I had a look at Edmodo for a while but this year I’m going to try Schoology as the learning ‘hub’ for my class and see how that works. Will keep you updated.

Chrome

My favourite browser, especially with the number of great extensions like Evernote clipper, LastPass (password manager), Pocket, Readability,

Things

Things has replaced all my old to-do apps this year. It looks and works great on Macs and IOS but not on Windows. I used TaskPaper and liked it a lot but the lack of reminders finished that for me in the end.

Filemaker Pro

I’ve been using this database for years, sometimes for keeping track of student record keeping, my own writing or wine collection (!) or just a Christmas card list. It’s more powerful than any of those purposes but that’s okay; I’ve invested so much time in learning how to use it, I’m not going to stop now.

Day One

About eighteen months ago I started keeping a daily journal in Day One, available on Mac, iPad, and iPhone. It’s a great little app with photo, location and weather data built in and it’s helped me write and reflect every day.

What are your favourite tools? I wonder how different this list will look this time next year?

 

Networks of Practice

Last week I attended the fourth day of a year long network meeting called ‘Networks of Practice’. Apart from the growth coaching learning I did earlier (also four days interestingly) and blogged about HERE, this network has been my most powerful learning for the year.  So, what might made it so? I was thinking about the learning conditions that made this network work for me, and how I might replicate them for learners I’m taking on a journey too. Some of the qualities that made it work for me:

  • Extended, but not all at once. Four days is a significant time investment for anyone, but that investment was repaid. I liked the fact that it wasn’t jut four days in a row, that ideas were seeded, allowed to germinate and we’d come back and discuss them later. It felt more authentic to me and we looked forward to getting back to the network to test ideas.
  • Relevant to my needs. Linked to school needs. The network was spot-on one the big-ticket items we’ve been working on at school: staff learning and how to build self-generating learning cultures.
  • Great leadership. The sessions were run by Rob Stones, who was obviously an expert in change and staff development, but there was plenty of room in the conversations for ‘us’ too.
  • ‘Us’ matters. There was the ‘us’ from our school, two of us working closely together all year, and the ‘us’ of the broader group. Not too big either, less than twenty people. Good sharing, collaboration, but also
  • Time to talk among ourselves. Having shaped, expert-facilitated time to develop plans and strategies was so valuable.

And, on the more practical side too, it made me think about how I might best take the notes, ideas, picture and concepts from the program and capture them, using the iPad I bought to each session. In the end it was a mixture of apps and processes that worked for me, and might for you:

  • I used OneNote as the receptacle for all wisdom, the ‘one note to rule them all’, but I might as easily have used Evernote. Text formatting in OneNote on the iPad is currently better than in Evernote and it plays well with Office documents, which we still live on at work.
  • I took photographs using the iPhone or iPad especially snap-shots of the concepts and diagrams that were used extensively. If I had one criticism of the network it was the un-digital approach to the resources. You just had to snap them when you could. I could then drop them into the OneNote page.
  • I used the app Paper and a stylus to draw some of the diagrams.  I find drawing soothing, and it helps me to understand it to draw it sometimes. I’d then export the page as an image and stick it in OneNote.
  • I used the app SimpleMind to create mind maps (see below) I keep going back and forth between SimpleMind and Popplet for this purpose, but SimpleMind has a few more options.

Using these apps and this approach, I could arrive back at the end of the day with my notes fully formed, and just move the OneNote page from the mobile (smaller, streamlined) version into the full desktop equivalent.  Ten hours battery life, and who said that the iPad wasn’t a content-creation machine?

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