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My ‘Aha!’ moment with Evernote

I follow a lot of great educators on Twitter. They are particularly talented (among many other things) at sharing web2.0 applications they find on the web, as well as creating and collecting great resources to show how to use them in education.

One such application which kept popping up was Evernote. I’ve collected, in my delicious account, some of the evernote resources my twitter PLN has brought to my attention.

Evernote is a web2.0 service that allows you to ‘save everything’ in note form. It sounded like a cool idea to me. I quickly checked it out, I saved some of the resources about it and moved on to other things. I didn’t immediately see how Evernote would be helpful to me. There wasn’t a ‘hook’ to get me to dig deeper. In fact, I find that’s true about many of the new resources I’m pointed to. Unless I can see a reason to use it, I usually let it slide and spend my time doing other things.

I found my Evernote ‘hook’ recently. Here’s the short version: I have both an iPod touch and an iPad, both of which can take photos. (Incidentally, you can also take a ‘screen shot’ of your iDevice by pressing the power and home buttons simultaneously. The image ends up in the camera roll.) If I want to use those photos, I transfer them to the same computer that I sync my iDevices with, my desktop, which is AT HOME. This would make using the photos cumbersome, as it would require an extra day to make them usable. As a result, I don’t take photos at school with my iDevices very often.

Here comes Evernote to the rescue! I can transfer any iDevice photo, via the internet, to my Evernote account. Since Evernote has apps for most mobile devices and PCs (as well as web-clipping add-ons for most web browsers), any ‘note’ that I save in my Evernote account is then instantly available on any of my devices or PCs. Poof! I no longer have to get images from my iDevices through the normal synchronization process. (If you are a web2.0 enthusiast, you can probably tell me about 5 other ways that I can do this!)

Here’s a screen capture image of the Evernote App running on my iPad that I just took, posted to my Evernote account and saved on my laptop while I was at school (no wired-sync required):


Now that I’ve had my ‘Aha!’ moment with Evernote, I’m sure I’ll find lots of other uses for it.

Have you had any ‘Aha!’ moments lately?


Working with Colleagues is Fun!

I always enjoy working with colleagues.  It’s even more fun when they are not from my department in my high school (Science, Chemistry).

This time, I had the pleasure of working with some of the members of the English department.  I know most of them quite well, but rarely get the chance to work with them on a professional level.  I was asked to serve as a judge for the ‘Twitterary Contest’.  Every year, the English department encourages students to contribute works to the annual Literary Journal.  This time, a new category was created: creative tweets, tweeted to the Massey Literary Journal twitter account.

We were asked to rank them according to two criteria: creativity and content (there was a bit more to it than that, but not important for this blog post).

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Not only was it fun to read the tweets (and see what creative high school students can do with 140 characters), but the fun I had with my English department colleagues was, well, fun!

Here are the ten tweets that we judged to be the best of those submitted:

Did a Grade 12 Chem lab today, just for fun!

I tried something I’ve never tried before with my Grade 12 Chemistry classes today.  I had the students perform a laboratory experiment just for fun. The students had NO lab report to prepare, NO written observations to do, NO lists of questions to answers.  We made various esters [for you chem geeks, condensation of an alcohol with a carboxylic acid to make an ester].  Esters are organic chemicals that tend to have strong and pleasant odors.  We made them for the pure pleasure of sampling their odors.

The students’ first reaction were “What do you mean, for fun?  What will we have to hand in at the end?”  This made me laugh, and it didn’t take long to get the message across about what I mean by ‘for fun’.

I then noticed something surprising happen.  The students were entirely engaged in doing this experiment!  I’ve never seen them so focused and interested in a lab before.  I also noticed something that _didn’t_ happen that I usually see: they weren’t fussing over the littlest details, hoping they were doing everything perfectly right so that they get the ‘correct’ result from the experiment.  They weren’t asking me at every step questions like “Is this the right amount of chemical? Is this what I’m supposed to observe?  Do I mix the chemicals this way?”

We truly had a lot of fun.  And I’m totally convinced the students ‘learned’ a lot more from this ‘fun’ experiment than I was expecting.

Going digital with my library card, and lightening my wallet in a good way!

I like the way my public library system is moving more and more into the digital age.  I recently blogged about how I borrow most of my books in digital format now. Recently, my county’s public library system has adopted an iOS app called CardStar, that allows for the saving of the bar code of my library card on my iPod, generating an image like this (it’s not my real library card number):

The librarian can then scan this instead of my library card.  I thought that was pretty neat.

Further examination of the app revealed that I can add bar code images for many more of my membership and loyalty cards that I normally carry around with me everyday in my wallet, such as Airmiles, Best Buy Reward zone, and many more.  Thanks to another digital innovation, my wallet is now lighter and smaller than it was (and I didn’t have to take any money out of it to do so!!).  Check it out!

Back to twitter: easier and more rewarding than I thought

About a year ago, I had a very unpleasant experience at school which left a very bad taste in my mouth.  For reasons that aren’t really that important anymore, it made me change a lot of what I was doing at school and with my volunteer time.  My twitter account and this blog were among the temporary casualties (you may have noticed a long dry spell in my posts).

A few months ago, I felt ready to come back to twitter and this blog, but I hesitated, particularly with my twitter account.  I felt that I had missed so much from the people who I follow (mostly other educators who do a fantastic job at sharing about what they do) that I feared an ‘uphill battle’ at getting re-integrated into the ‘twitter stream’.  I also felt a bit ‘sheepish’, as if I were a member of the group who had left, then tried to ‘sneak’ back into the conversation.

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I wasn’t reading my timeline for more than about 15 minutes before I was already saving new bookmarks to my delicious account, retweeting some of the people who I follow and getting some inspiration for a couple of new posts to this blog.  It was so much easier to ‘jump back in’ than I had feared it was.  Even coming back to this blog was less onerous than I feared.

I also had another ‘aha’ moment…I don’t have to feel guilty if I can’t follow my twitter feed some days for fear of missing something.  The people who I follow, whom I call my online PLN (professional learning network) are so good at sharing what they do that there is more than enough material they provide on a day-to-day basis that I will ALWAYS have fantastic things to read about.

Now, I just have to find good ways of sharing things myself.

A change in my ‘reading for pleasure’ habits

Like so many other people, I enjoy reading for pleasure.  My favourite topic is science fiction.  I also ‘listen’ for pleasure, borrowing books on CD’s from the library and listening to them while I do my morning exercises.  I rarely buy books, I borrow them from my local public library.

Earlier this school year, I had an interesting experience in my classroom that changed how I borrow and read material from my library.  In my grade 12 chemistry class, we were going through the introduction to quantum mechanics section of the atomic structure unit.  I like to add information from one of my favourite science authors, Brian Greene.  He is a theoretical physicist who has a knack of explaining some of the more esoteric topics of quantum mechanics and string theory in a way that makes it accessible to us non theoretical physicists.  He has also helped create NOVA science episodes based on his first two books, ‘Elegant Universe‘ and ‘Fabric of the Cosmos‘. I enjoyed his first two books so much that I bought them (a rare occurence for me).

While scanning his website, I noticed that he recently published a new book, ‘Hidden Reality’.  I couldn’t wait to get a hold of that book.  As my students were working hard on problem questions at the time, I took out my trusty iPod touch and searched my local public library’s mobile website for the book.  I didn’t know that, by default, this site returned results for only their ‘digital’ library.  My library had an e-book version of Brian’s new book.  In about 4 clicks and less than 30 seconds, I had an electronic copy of the book on my iPod ready to read (I had it fully read in a week!).

Since then, I do almost all of my reading for pleasure digitally through my iPod touch (it also helps me get my money’s worth out of my new bifocals!!).

Clean Christmas Puns and Jokes

I LOVE puns and clean jokes!  They make me laugh out loud.  Hope you like some of these  Christmas-themed ones:


What did the Gingerbread Man put on his bed?
A cookie sheet!

How did Scrooge win the football game?
The ghost of Christmas passed.

What did Adam say the day before Christmas?
It’s Christmas, Eve!

What is the difference between the Christmas alphabet and the regular alphabet?
The Christmas alphabet has no L.

What is green, covered with tinsel and says, “Ribbit, ribbit?”
A mistle-toad.

What do monkeys sing at Christmas time?
Jungle Bells, Jungle bells.

What do Christmas trees and bad knitters have in common?
They both drop their needles.

What would you get if you ate the Christmas decorations?

What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?

Why did they ask the turkey to join the band?
He had the drum sticks.

What did the salt say to the pepper?
Season’s Greetings.

What did the bald man say when he got a comb for Christmas?
Thanks, I’ll never part with it!

Why wasn’t the turkey hungry at Christmas time?
Because he was stuffed.

If athletes get athletes foot, what do astronauts get?
Missle toe!

What do you get when you cross a Christmas tree with an Macintosh?
A pineapple.

How do sheep in Spain say Merry Christmas?
Fleece Navidad!

What do you call a letter that is sent up the chimney on Christmas eve?

What is a parent’s favorite Christmas carol?
Silent Night.

What song do Santa’s reindeer sing on his birthday?
Freeze a Jolly Good Fellow.

You better get spruced up if you’re going to sell Christmas trees.

What language does Santa Claus speak?
North Polish.

Where does Santa Claus go swimming?
The North Pool.

What kind of motorcycle would Santa ride?
A Holly Davidson

What is Santa Claus’ favorite cereal?
Frosted Flakes.

How do Santa and Mrs. Claus travel?
On an icicle built for two.

Some children call him Santa Caus since there is Noel.

Why will Santa go down your chimney on Christmas Eve?
Because it soots him.

If Santa and Mrs. Claus had a baby, what would he be?
A subordinate Claus.

Why does Santa have three gardens?
So he can ho, ho, ho.

When Santa has a barn dance, what does he call it?
A Ho Ho Ho Down.

What do you call an ELF who sings?
A Wrapper!

What is a typical elf greeting?
“Small world, isn’t it?”

What do elves have to learn before they can read?
The elfabet.

If Santa rides in a sleigh, what do elves ride in?
Mini vans.

How long are an elf’s legs?
Long enough to reach the ground.

Who makes toy guitars and sings, “Blue Christmas?”

What did the reindeer say before beginning his comedy routine? This will sleigh you.

“Why don’t we ever hear about ‘Olive,’ the 10th reindeer?” asked Bert.
“What 10th Reindeer?” asked Scott.
“You know. Olive, the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names.”

What does a reindeer do when he has an upset stomach?
He takes an elk-a-seltzer.

Which reindeer was known for his bad manners?

What do you call a reindeer who wears ear muffs?
Anything you want. He can’t hear you.

If a reindeer lost its tail, where could he get a new one?
At a retail store.

Why does Scrooge love reindeer?
Because every buck is deer to him.