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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):

Image

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:

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.

Going to try being a presenter

Well, I’ve finally done it.  I’ve put in an application to be a presenter at a conference.  I like the title of this one, hosted by my teacher’s union, OSSTF (Ontario Secondary Schools Teacher’s Federation):  Tools & Toys…Technology in Education

I plan on presenting how using a wiki in a classroom can help students collaborate on group projects.  Using a wiki properly can also help a teacher easily track 1) What student logged in 2) When the student logged in 3) What the student did in terms of edits to the wiki.  In this way, the teacher can easily verify that all group members are contributing their fair share to the group project.  I will use my grade 12 chemistry students wikis as an example.

I have no idea whether my proposal will be accepted or not.

If it is, I know EXACTLY where I will go to get advice on how to present and how to make my presentation materials easy to access: my PLN on Twitter!  Those people are amazing, and have never failed me whenever I have a question!

Did you know Google is a calculator?

I found out something completely new and surprising about Google.  Not only is it a really good search engine, RSS reader and document handler (just to name a few), but it’s a calculator and unit converter too!

I typed this is:

and received this as a result:

Then I typed this:

and received this as a result:

Goodbye Windows calculator!  🙂   (Did you guess it was cold today?)

BTW, I learned about this from a tweet from one of my twitter followers (have I mentionned before how much I love twitter?? <grin>).  He had posted an online presentation about interesting ways of using search engines.  You can find it here (and it’s a google presentation file!!).

If you can’t attend a conference, fire up twitter!

I recently leveraged the power of twitter to attend a conference vicariously through some of its attendees.

An organization called the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee held a conference in London, ON yesterday.  To my chagrin, I was not able to attend.  One of my colleagues, Doug Peterson was the main organizer.  Visit his blog, he has, as of the writing of this blog post, two (1 and 2) interesting posts about his experience at this conference as its organizer.

Knowing that Doug is one of the most connected people I know (he was my inspiration to start my journey into the world of web 2.o applications), I was pretty sure that he, and his attendees, would be using twitter [among other technologies] during the conference.

I know, I’ve spoken about Twitter many times before.  What I haven’t said about it before is how it is often used at conferences by its attendees.  Now that being connected to the net is so easy just about anywhere you are, conference attendees are staying connected during the sessions that they visit.  They will often ‘talk’ about the sessions they are attending using a variety of web 2.0 applications, Twitter being a common choice.  Talking like this is often called using a ‘backchannel’.

So, how do you find the ‘tweets’ of people that are attending a particular conference? In my particular case, I follow about 290 different people (twitter has several million users to date).  Since I follow many local educators, likely there are a few that are attending the conference.  How do I find the others?

Doug made it easy.  He knew in advance that many of his attendees would be using Twitter.  He used a twitter technique that more and more conference organizers are using.  He encouraged his attendees to add an identifying mark to their tweets called a hashtag, in particular, “#rcac09”.

This makes it easy to find tweets from those attending the conference, I simply search for tweets that have ‘#rcac09’ in them.

I use a webservice called tweetgrid to search all twitter tweets for particular content.  (There are dozens of websites and clients that you can use to interact with the twitter service.  I use a client called tweetdeck [instead of twitter’s own webpage] to follow the tweets of the people I follow.)  Here is a screen shot of a search for ‘#rcac09’ that I did yesterday using tweetgrid:

Screen capture of a tweetgrid search for '#rcac09'Following these tweets had two direct benefits for me: 1) I was able to follow along with some of the presentations and workshops of the conference through what the attendees were tweeting about. 2) I found many other fantastic educators to follow using twitter by reading tweets from those I hadn’t been following before.

So, the next time you can’t attend a conference, fire up twitter!  I know I will be doing so again in the future!

Back for another year

I know it’s been awhile since my last post.  My family has been having the time of our lives this past summer with all sorts of activities.  Now that school has started, I’ll be coming back here much more often.

This is my 19th year teaching, and I’ve had another great start.  I’m teaching exactly what I love to teach (grade 11 and grade 12 chemistry), I don’t seem to have any obviously serious discipline problems, the students seem to be getting used to my style fairly quickly and the staff that I work with is still top notch.

Although last year was a very good year, I felt that I had stretched myself a bit too thin with extra curricular activities.  It has caused me to rethink how I conduct my life at school and at home so that I have more time at home and for myself.

As a result, I have set a few new long term goals:

A) Streamline my involvement in extracurricular activities to those that mean the most to me.  As a result, I’ve dropped about 4 or 5 from my list (when I wrote them all down on paper, I found myself thinking “how did I find time to do all this??”).  In this particular year, the ones that I chose to keep are: (1) Student blood drives; (2) Chaperone the trip to France this coming March 2010; (3) Our School’s Forth Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life.  (This one is my favourite, and the activity I am most passionate about [and it doesn’t hurt that I have _the_ most awesome partner, and one of my best friends, to work with to plan and execute this monumental event].  If all goes well, we should pass the $100,000 mark for total pledges collected so far!); (4) Participate in my school’s PLC (professional learning community)

B) Include more interesting demonstrations in my chemistry classes and move a little bit further away from some traditional ‘chalk and talk’ lessons.

C) Do more experiments with the students that are just for fun.  I guess I want the students to come to like and appreciate science more than they do now, chemistry in particular (since I’m so passionate about it myself).  I’ve come to realize that it’s not necessary for every experiment to be followed by some written lab report or evaluation instrument.  Science just for the fun of it is important too.

D) Find some ways of incorporating Twitter into my classroom.

E) Expand on the use of a WIKI in my grade 12 chemistry class.

F) Get more of my staff interested in collaborating online with tools such as Twitter, a blog site or a wiki site.  In the process, I hope to get some new ideas for myself.

G) Read more blogs from other teachers to help stretch my mind and get me to think ‘outside of my little box’.

This is my third year participating in my school’s PLC.  This time around, we plan on focusing on increased staff collaboration and using ‘differentiated instruction’ techniques in the classroom.  I’m hoping to make some useful contributions on the ‘collaboration’ part, while the ‘differentiated instruction’ part is still an area of learning for me.