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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?

 

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This year in blogging

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,500 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2010 in review

Good old WordPress sent me an email today, with my blog stats for the year, which I share below. I was surprised (and pleased) that I blogged on this blog about once a week, in a busy year of teaching and learning. That’s about as much as I can manage I think.  I was totally surprised at the Gilligan’s Island interest; I’ve got to blog more about 60s television shows I think!

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,600 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 66 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 428 posts. There were 59 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 11mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was August 21st with 122 views. The most popular post that day was Teach for Australia (revisited).

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were digg.com, annasnextadventure.blogspot.com, warrickwynne.wordpress.com, twitter.com, and google.com.au.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for gilligan’s island, teaching and learning with technology, gilligans island, gilligan island, and human ingenuity ib.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Teach for Australia (revisited) August 2010
4 comments

2

UbD meets improving student learning (one teacher at a time) March 2010
1 comment

3

Teaching Generation Z August 2006

4

Human Ingenuity: An Overview of IB Thinking April 2009

5

Creative Ingenuity – Core competencies of the 21st Century April 2009
1 comment

The end of Ning

One of the worrying things about ‘free’ online tools is that one day you may have to pay the price. Which is what is happening at the moment with NING, an online tool that educators have taken a lot of interest in,which announced last month it would be discontinuing its free service.

It took me a little while to understand the potential power of being able to create your own social networking site but once I ‘got it’, I saw the power. I’ve talked a bit here about some of the Nings I’ve joined and even some I’ve created. Some haven’t worked. For example, the Ning I created for me and my cycling mates was a total disaster with interest level petering along about the level of my puncture stories. I wont even link to it; it’s too embarrassing.

But, some have been great. I created a Ning for a network meeting that I attend twice a term and it’s worked really well. The Expanding Learning Horizon Conference Ning was very handy and the ASCD Conference ‘Edge’ website, modelled on the Ning ideas, was better and more useful than the official website. So, I understand now.

But some day you’ve got to pay the piper, and last month Ning announced it was discontinuing its free service in favour of a paid model. Bad. Bad for me and time I’ve put into my cycling site and the network site, but worse for large, well developed Nings like Classroom 2.0 which currently has over 42000 members. I guess you could say that with that many members the site should be paying (and maybe they are) but bad for those people who’ve invested time and energy and content into something that is now likely to disappear. The screenshots below from Classroom 2.0 show it as a lively and interesting place.

Ning’s latest blog posting ‘Mythbusters‘, sounded just a little defensive to me as they tried to claim that they would still have a model for educational and non-profit organisations. We’ll see next week.

Meanwhile, don’t start any new Nings until you see their new pricing plans and be aware that some of the tools we’ve all become pretty reliant on (Gmail, Wikispaces, Wetpaint etc.) might one day decide they want to update their business model or simply fold up the tent and slip into the night.

I’d be worried about Wetpaint next. Take a look at the most recent look of my Peninsula Creeks Wetpaint site. A giant, inappropriately contextualised ad for ‘Glee’ and Google Ads taking over the navigation space down the left hand side. Hmm. Maybe we’ll all go back to building our own web pages again. Now, where’s that book on HTML got to? And, WordPress and this blog is safe. Isn’t it?

Beginning of a great adventure

Or so said Lou Reed, in his (best) album, New York.

But, after seven years of blogging this doesn’t feel like much like a new adventure. Moving this blog from edublogs.org to wordpress.com isn’t an exciting thing to do, or particularly adventurous. It took me about an hour and a half to find a new blog name, export my posts from my old edublog and import them here. It didn’t work too well first time, it did the second.

And why? Well, Edublogs had gone ad-happy, and while I won’t labour the point, they were in-text style ads that appeared in your blog content, unless you upgraded. Edublogs has been my preferred platform and my recommendation of choice to other educators for the last three  years or so. But Edublogs had some performance issues earlier this year and I began to worry about being so reliant on one independent service in these increasingly economic times.  And them came the ads.

So, here I am world. I’m not excited. I’ve been blogging too long to think that anything I say here is going to change too many things out there. But I write because I think and feel. And that’s still an adventure.