Friday, November 16, 2012

Work Flow - or something useful !

People are always curious about other people's workflow - what apps , programs , and add ins they find useful. I 'm also of this ilk. On computers - what programs do they use? iPads - what apps do they find useful ? Photography - what camera, lenses, aperture do they use. I think it is an aspect of a certain persons curiosity - and I must admit I am one of them. I’m not sure what it says of our personality - but, hey- I’m being truthful. 
One conclusion I have come to over the last few years is the old “KISS” theory ! Keep it Simple Stupid ! If it is too complex 
  • you won’t spend the time getting to know it.
  • you won’t use it.
  • it doesn’t matter “how powerful” the program is - you will never use three quarters of it. 
  • you will move on to another program (therefore wasted and unproductive time).

So - What apps or programs do I use ? I suppose for background I had better explain what devices I use. I have an iMac for school administration, and MBP laptop which is my classroom machine (which also goes back & forth from home), an iPad and iPhone. Like everybody else now (regardless whether it is business or connected with Education) my “productivity “ time doesn’t operate just in work hours. The pros and cons of this is a debate for another time - but the reality is a lot of us are “producing “ at odd hours and across multiple devices. 
OK - to start. Probably the hinge for all my devices is Pages. It sounds cliche but I must admit it has become my favored  word processor. I do have Office for Mac as well as having to use Word in a Win environment but Pages is my firm favorite and I do 90% of my word processing in it. I use to be a Word and Publisher user but find Pages does nearly everything I want to do - quickly and simply. There are a number of “powerful” word processors out there - but whats the use of having a Ferrari to drive in School zones. Pages also goes across the apple platform - laptop, ipad, iphone. Calendar (or ical) I also prefer and use across the platforms. I tried Google cal, Outlook cal and a few others but came back to Apple Calendar. I just prefer it’s layout and what I can put in it. 
Another firm favorite for the Mac is Growly Notes. I have mentioned this one before. Unfortunately it is for Mac only (not ipad, iphone or PC). It’s a fantastic program (and free) that is probably closest to OneNote on a PC. You can include audio notes, pdf’s, lists, charts - the works. I use it a lot for planning, using as a day book, lessons etc.You can create tabbed books for topics or sections. I wish Growly Notes could carry across all platforms - but hey,  it’s free, so I can’t complain.
Next is Evernote. I use this extensively for web clipping, emailing web pages, articles etc to my Evernote account. I use it both for work and personal use. I am presently looking into how to effectively use it with a class. Evernote works on all platforms and devices. You can create notebooks that you can share or search. My main use - web clipping (without leaving the webpage), emailing an article (it has a built in email address that will save items directly to your notebooks). 

On my iPad I use many of the same programs ( for obvious reasons  - they sync). Pages, Keynote, Calendar, Evernote. Another one that I now find indispensable is Goodreader. I had thIs app for about 6 months before I saw the value in it. At first I just couldn't see what the fuss was. Now I use it for any document or PDF I need. I make folders for the different subjects or topics - save any related pdf’s, documents etc. It’s my first search for any “documents” I want on the ipad. 
Daily Notes is one I use for day to day brief notes of importance. I have set up a batch of tabs labeled “Week 1; Week 2” etc. I make notes about parent meetings, student behavior etc. Because it is related to a calendar - “week 1” can be used for Term 1; 2 ; 3 etc -. This way I have a record of brief important school related notes etc that can be accurate to dates etc. 
The trouble (advantage !) of ipads is the uses they have - school administration; record keeping; apps for students direct use; apps for making material for students; Professional reading; goofing off with a book or game. So when we start this debate - what exactly are the boundaries ? So the next few are for classroom use but not subject apps. More - what I  utilize in the classroom. The first one is Showme. If you like the Khan Academy approach - you will love this one. You can make little blackboard videos, with voice on how to do something (say like - how do I divide by tens ?). The little video can be replayed by the student on the ipad as many times as they like (until they get it). You can also embed these in a website or blog. The next Smart Notebook. Exactly like the Notebook software on the interactive whiteboards. Because the ipad doesn’t do flash - not everything will display exactly the same. But considering most teachers use the IWB as a whiteboard/overhead projector - this app has the advantage of you taking the board to the student. A similar one to this is Educreations.
Another handy one is Splashtop2  This one will mirror your computer (regardless which operating system is open). You can walk around the room with the ipad controlling what is appearing on your computer/smartboard etc. Works well - very handy. Edmodo is of course a firm favourite for my virtual classroom. Available on all formats but I tend to use the ipad app. The students of course use the computer based web interface.
When it comes to personal use the list becomes endless. But a few I will mention are; 
Zite: great for organizing your professional/ personal  reading. Make your own magazine type internet reading. I use it all the time.
iTunes U: It really is a great learning tool. 
National Geographic Today: Great if you like photography or a NG reader. Can be used with the students as well. 
There are heaps more I use and a lot more I experiment with (and don’t go back to - although they might be perfectly fine), but these basically constitute my daily list of useable apps and my workflow. Not very exotic - but I have found after experimenting with a lot - these are the ones I come back to.
One - I forgot to mention - which is a God send for printing from the iPad - HandyPrint (use to be called "AirPrint Activator"). You load this program on your computer - which allows your iPad to print to any printer associated to that computer (wireless or plugged in). I have used this for printers both at home and at work (same laptop). Works everytime - especially for those of us that don't have new airprint  printers.