Looking Back at February 2011

February, Leandro BassanoImage via Wikipedia

It is hard to be believe that February is over today, but at the same time I am glad that it is over and done with.

February has been a tough month for me. It seemed as though just about the entire month I have been fighting some kind of a bug that finally, to be blunt kicked my butt.

However, I was able to get a few decent blog posts written this month in spite of how I felt and they made it to my monthly top 10, but my January blog posts still had 5 of the 10 top posts.
Below are the top ten posts for February based upon pageviews:

  1. NOOK COLOR – REVIEW JANUARY 2011 – Jan 9, 2011
  2. Evernote as a Task Manager – Feb 19, 2011
  3. Evernote Review – January 2011 – Jan 27, 2011
  4. Infinite Campus Review – February 2011 – Feb 5, 2011
  5. PAPER AIRPLANE LESSON PLAN 2010 – Sep 4, 2010
  6. Apple Text-to-Speech – Review January 2011 – Feb 2, 2011
  7. GRUML – RSS Feed Reader Review – January 2011 – Jan 29, 2011
  9. MarsEdit Blog Editor – Review January 2011 – Jan 21, 2011
  10. Mac App Store Review – January 2011 – Jan 30, 2011

The Evernote as a Task Manager came within 20 pages views of the top spot in less than half the time of my current number 1. It shows the level of interest that is out there about how people are using Evernote.

Even though stats aren’t the reason that I blog, I found some the Blogger Stats were rather interesting:

February Stats
For all the complaints about Internet Explorer that you hear on the internet, it still was the most used browser by people who read my blog. Another surprising nugget about the browsers was that just over 300 pageviews separated Internet Explorer from number four Chrome. It shows the browser wars might be a lot closer than many people think. Most surprising though was that Safari ended up ahead of Chrome, I don’t think it will stay there, but it was an interesting result.
The data also has Windows based systems as easily the most popular Operating System didn’t surprise me, but only having 58% did, I would have predicted around 70%, MacIntosh O/S being at 24% is much higher than percentages that you normally see publicized around the web for their market share. I guess it might be that a higher percentage of Educators use Macs than the general population. I wasn’t surprised the my blog is visited mainly by people from the U.S., but it was interesting to see what other countries visited One Foot In Reality during the last month.
As well as One Foot In Reality did during February, I am glad it is now over and done with. I am finally starting to feel like a human being again that has half a brain, who knows maybe I will even be able to write a few decent blog posts next month.
Here is to the rest of the school year and thank you to everyone who took the time to read my blog during February 2011.

Week in Review – February 27, 2011

Sunset at Rockaway Beach

Image via Wikipedia

This past week was what I call February break, it certainly was not a vacation. It started off being sick with a respiratory infection and feeling like crap pretty much until Wednesday, then two days of training learning about iWork and iLife ’09, which I enjoyed, but still I wasn’t completely recovered from being sick.

I would get home crash until supper, try to write my professional development reflection blogs and then be back asleep in my chair off and on, for the rest of the night. I did get the reflections done, but not always the same night.

Friday was a snow day, but I couldn’t focus, felt extremely tired and did a lot of napping in between Bennie walks. Saturday was cleaning up, raking snow off the roof and trying to get the snow blower after the belts blew up, on the back of the truck and to repair shop before it closed at noon.

Then I spent the rest of the afternoon napping with Bennie in my lap. So even though I wasn’t working, I was still doing a lot of recovering from the infection I had started this break with. Whatever it was kicked my butt and I am glad that I had the week to recover from it, it would have been a miserable week if there had been school last week.

What are my top five blog post from last week according to page views?

  1. Evernote as a Task Manager – Feb 19, 2011
  2. NOOK COLOR – REVIEW JANUARY 2011 – Jan 9, 2011
  3. Evernote Review – January 2011 – Jan 27, 2011
  4. iWork Professional Development February 2011 – Keynote – Feb 23, 2011
  5. iWork Professional Development February 2011 – Pages – Feb 23, 2011

This is one of the few weeks that my Paper AirplaneLesson Plan hasn’t made my top 5 for the week. It seems a lot of people are interested in how others are using Evernote (a tool that I am finding more and more uses for as I go along) and the Nook Color.

So here is getting to work today getting caught up on all the stuff on my list that didn’t get done this past week. Hopefully, it won’t take too long to finish up an IEP, correct student work, enter it into the gradebook, plan for next week and squeeze in a long Bennie walk. Looks like a busy day, hopefully I have the stamina to get it all done, otherwise I will do what I can, fall asleep and keep plugging away.

I really need another week just to finish recovering, but tomorrow, we are back at it again, so onward and upward we go! 🙂

MLTI iLife Training Reflection – February 2011

Yesterday I attended the MLTI workshop on Apple’s iLife ’09 Software (iPhoto, Garage Band and iMovie) at the Apple Training Center in New Gloucester, Maine. Tim and Ann Marie again did a great job of presenting a great deal of information in only 6 hours. This training was a basic and very quick overview of each one of these tools ability to help in the classroom.

Screen shot 2011 02 25 at 5 53 04 PM
We started off with iPhoto and while I have used this tool quite a bit since I moved to the Mac last year, it just never felt intuitive to me. We went through the basics of how to import photos, do some minor editing (removing blemishes, redeye, cropping, etc.), what are events, albums, how to find the photo information, where to add comments and how to change photo dates (single and bulk). I didn’t realize before this week how much software packages (Apple’s & other vendors) rely upon iPhoto as the basis for easily adding images to their product.
One thing that we learned about was the book creation tool and Tim showed us books that he had made using iPhoto. This ability intrigued me and might be something that I put together for our anniversary in April.
Screen shot 2011 02 25 at 5 54 30 PM
Garage Band
This is one of those products that I have never used or had any real inclination to use before yesterday. I am not very musically inclined (other than listening to it) and this program didn’t appear to be something that I needed to really learn. I used my MacBook Pro instead of the issued MLTI MacBook, so I had to wait to load the different loops which allowed me to watch how the instructors and other participants were constructing their music. When I finally was able to create my own music.
It was easy to do and I can see why a lot of people would use Garage Band to create their own music for use with their work, instead of worrying about copyrighted music and the hassles that go along with that ball of wax. We also created a basic podcast, which I think will be more useful to me in my classrooms than the creation of music. I found it very easy to do and can see me attempting a podcast for my students.
Screen shot 2011 02 25 at 5 58 00 PM
This is the tool that I was most interested in learning more about. I have done introductory iMovie training at other professional development on Digital Storytelling, so I understood some of the basics of this tool. We each created a book trailer iMovie, starting with a quick script writing session, recording us reading our script, adding images, titles and then different sharing/exporting options. Using iMovie is easy to use initially, but you can make your video as simple or as complex as you have time to do.
The iLife ’09 software that we reviewed yesterday was useful to me in that I learned several tips and tricks that I probably wouldn’t have found by myself or realized that I needed. That I had the time to use Garage Band was a good thing and found that it was easier than I thought it would be. However, in reality though Garage Band is not a tool that I will use all that much, but at least I can now say that I have tried it. iMovie is something that I will use if I can ever get my digital storytelling unit off the ground and into the curriculum.
I thought enough of what I learned during this professional development to go out and buy iPhoto ’11 and have access to some of the improvements that were talked about during the training, even though the focus of the training used ’09 version of iLife and I plan to write a post reviewing iPhoto ’11 after I have used it for a while.

The training itself was outstanding everyone that was there from MLTI or Apple was extremely knowledgeable and helpful to the participants. The only complaint I had was it was too much like a “blivet” 10 pounds of stuff, crammed into a 5 pound bag, by the end of the day my head was spinning and I needed some time to absorb the new things that I had learned. That is why I needed to wait a day to do this post.

Each one of these tools could be a full day training all by itself. I would love to see the MLTI project team look at offering single day trainings on individual tools that are part of the MLTI image. This would allow more in depth opportunities for participants to learn beyond the basic features of those tools, which is needed for most teachers to have confidence enough in their abilities to use them in their classroom and not go home at the end of the day with their head spinning and trying to figure out which tool does what and which command to use to do it.
I have a feeling that much of this kind of training would need to occur during school breaks, on weekends or during the summer, because the money for substitute teachers for us to attend professional development during school time will not be there in the future. I know that I would attend these sessions when school isn’t in session, because I really enjoy learning more about my Mac and finding out new things to help my students learn in my classroom. It would mean a change for the trainers to be available beyond the 8-4, M-F workweek.

The other recommendation is that the MLTI project could design the trainings so that it would assist teachers who wanted to take the certification exams in iWork, iLife or other products that offer certification and are associated with the MLTI project. I believe that this would increase the level of interest and participation for some teachers, if the professional development could prepare them for something tangible beyond a few contact hours. These certifications I believe would document the level of professional competence that teachers actually have in using these products, that is not there today.

Overall, I believe that taking two days out of my school break one for iLife and one for iWork (my personal time, because I am not paid for the days we are on break), was well worth it. I learned a great deal, I got to met other educators who want to increase their knowledge of how to use the MLTI laptops and MLTI/Apple employees who are dedicated to seeing us being able to use the MLTI tools more effectively.

Overall, if I had it to do over again, I would, which is how I judge whether a training is any good or not,

iWork Professional Development February 2011 – Numbers

Numbers (software)

Image via Wikipedia

As I discussed in my iWork Professional Development February 2011 – Keynote and iWork Professional Development February 2011 – Pages blogs yesterday, I attended a MLTI professional development on the Apple iWork suite yesterday.
Below are the training Description and Learning Outcomes:
Participants gain fundamental skills with iWork applications (Keynote, Pages, Numbers) and use these tools in today’s learning experiences.
Learning Outcomes
•Understand the fundamentals of iWork applications: Keynote, Pages, and Numbers.
•Get experience with how to create and share iWork projects.
•Examine multiple resources for learning experiences: iTunes, iTunes U, and others.
•Explore how iWork can enhance today’s teaching and learning.
This is the final installment on my iWork Suite training reflections, I don’t know if they saved the best for last or not, but it was definitely the most interesting training of the day for me. I have used spreadsheets for several years and have developed some pretty heavy duty ones that utilize many advanced functions (no pivot tables though). I know that they are a powerful tool that are under-utilized in classrooms and home use.
Personally, I didn’t see the need for yet another spreadsheet program, I have Excel if I need to develop an intricate spreadsheet and Google Spreadsheet for general purpose use. As a teacher I have found that Google Spreadsheet met about 95% of my needs. So I was not super enthusiastic about the Numbers portion of the training session before it began.
As Tim and Ann Marie proceeded to show us the capabilities of Numbers, I became more interested. It is more intuitive than other spreadsheet programs that I have used and when I was asked what the biggest difference between Numbers and what I had used in the past I replied “The visual presentation of the information.” Below is the spreadsheet we developed on our M&M data capture.
Screen shot 2011 02 24 at 8 42 43 AM
The above chart is something that would have taken me a long while to create in Excel or gSpreadsheet. Yet it took us less than 45 minutes to create this. This is the biggest difference for me about Numbers compared to other spreadsheets is its ability to visually provide data quickly and easily. I liked the ability to be able to insert a chart into a Pages or Keynote file and then be able to update the data in Numbers and have it reflected in the embedded chart (after you save in Numbers).
This training session really piqued my interest in learning more about Numbers, I am very visually oriented and tend to get quickly turned off by columns and rows of numbers and formulas no matter how important they are. Numbers seems to be more what I am looking for in a spreadsheet than others that focus on manipulating data with numbers, while Numbers excels at manipulating data and presenting the information in a visual format, which is how I prefer to process information.
Overall, this day of professional development on the iWork suite was well worth taking a day out of my February break to attend. I learned several new things about Keynote, Pages and Numbers which will help me use these tools more effectively in the classroom. Tim and Ann Marie were both outstanding presenters and were able to answer questions appropriately. They are obviously very knowledgeable of the product and want to see us use them more effectively.
This was probably one of the better trainings I have been to this year.
The one thing I would love to see would be for an opportunity to learn some more advanced features and probably would mean a day-long training focused on using Keynote, Pages or Numbers. I know I would try to find time to attend all three sessions.
I have a feeling that my use of Numbers will now increase after this session.

iWork Professional Development February 2011 – Pages

PagesImage via Wikipedia

As I discussed in my iWork Professional Development February 2011 – Keynote post earlier today, I attended a MLTI professional development on Apple’s iWork suite today.

Below is the training Description and Learning Outcomes:

Participants gain fundamental skills with iWork applications (Keynote, Pages, Numbers) and use these tools in today’s learning experiences.

Learning Outcomes
•Understand the fundamentals of iWork applications: Keynote, Pages, and Numbers.
•Get experience with how to create and share iWork projects.
•Examine multiple resources for learning experiences: iTunes, iTunes U, and others.
•Explore how iWork can enhance today’s teaching and learning
As I stated in my iWork Professional Development February 2011 – Keynote blog earlier today I consider myself a mid-level user with this program, even though much of my knowledge of world processors comes from Microsoft Word or Google Documents product worlds, my knowledge carries over well to Pages, but it does not give me the “how to” use this program at a high level or where all the functions are “hidden”. I previously have tried to use Pages as my primary word processor and in my Office for Mac 2011 Review on 11/20/10 I stated that:
“My experiment with the iWork suite and Pages in particular showed that it works differently than I do, it just is not intuitive for me to use, yes I will keep it on the MacBook, but only for specific purposes (student work created in iWork).”

Part of my reason for attending this training today was to see how those with a lot more experience with Pages use it, because I when I have used it, Pages has not compared favorably to Word.
Pages was the second session and we worked on creating a brochure from a template, adding a chart to the brochure, learning what placeholders are, replacing text/photos; creating a newsletter and wrapping text, adding shadows, pulling an image from the web, and how to create a template. I didn’t save any of the work that I did using Pages this morning, so I have gone back and made a screen shot of the template that I used.
Screen shot 2011 02 23 at 9 25 51 PM

The big thing that was emphasized during this training section was how iWork and Apple products are designed to work easily together and we were reminded how easy it was to move images/audio into Keynote earlier. We were shown how easy it was to take images from iPhoto and Safari and put them into Pages. I have added audio and video previously and found it very easy.

I have used Pages in the classroom, but it seems that most of the students use it more when they want to add images, audio or videos to a document quickly and easily. However, when it is straight writing or for when they want to share documents they use Google Documents. Pages to me is more of a desktop publishing software than a word processor, I guess that is why I have some difficulty with it compared to Word or gDocs. It is powerful in a different way than I am used to and is more like Microsoft Publisher than Word.

Something that I had forgotten about before today was the ability to share Keynote, Pages and Numbers files using iWork.com-Beta. This is a part of Apple’s cloud solution, which I tend to forget about, because it is still in beta, the comparatively small amount of storage – 1GB and it is not heavily publicized, but that is a different post.

What did I learn about Pages. Some very good tricks that I didn’t know before, how to use placeholders and how to quickly copy a picture from Safari. I did learn that Pages is a powerful desktop publishing tool, that can quickly and easily create fantastic looking documents.

However, it still does not render Maine’s Special Education documents correctly or have the ability to easily create check boxes. When Pages is able to correctly render those documents and I can transfer them to the Secretary without any rendering issues, Pages will become a viable option as a full-time word processor for me. Until then I have to stay with Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 as my primary word processor to do Special Education paperwork and Google Documents when I want to easily share with student or have my students share their documents with me.

Again the only complaint I had about the session was that it was too short and could have easily been a whole day session by itself. The training staff was great and are very knowledgeable about the iWork suite.

Any Maine educators who are using a MLTI laptop, I strongly recommend that you attend these trainings when they are offered to help you improve your ability to use iWork products in your classroom. I know that I learned a lot today and can’t put some of what I have learned into practice in the classroom.

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iWork Professional Development February 2011 – Keynote

Keynote (presentation software)

Image via Wikipedia

Today I attended a MLTI professional development on Apple’siWork suite. Yes it is February break and no I didn’t have to go to this training on my own time, but I wanted to learn more about iWork programs (Keynote, Page and Numbers). So I took advantage of the opportunity when it was presented to me a few weeks ago.

Below is the training Description and Learning Outcomes:
Participants gain fundamental skills with iWork applications (Keynote, Pages, Numbers) and use these tools in today’s learning experiences.
Learning Outcomes
•Understand the fundamentals of iWork applications: Keynote, Pages, and Numbers.
•Get experience with how to create and share iWork projects.
•Examine multiple resources for learning experiences: iTunes, iTunes U, and others.
•Explore how iWork can enhance today’s teaching and learning

I consider myself a mid-level user with these programs, even though much of my knowledge comes from Microsoft Office and Google Docs and carries over well, it does not give me the “how to” use these programs at a high level or where all the functions are “hidden”.

These sessions were at the beginner level and while at times it seemed really basic and covered things I already knew, it was an effective review and I learned a number of things and little tricks that will make it easier for me to use the iWork Suite more effectively.

In order to keep the blog post to a reasonable length, I have written three blog entries on the 3 sections from today’s training: Keynote, Pages and Numbers.

The first session was about using Keynote and we created a National Park slide show, we did a little editing and formatting of the slides, but focused on adding images from iPhoto or audio from iTunes to the presentation and how to use the Inspector to create your slides.

The trainers showed us the website pics4learning which allows educators/students to use the photos and how it provided citation information for each photo. We discussed how it was important to teach and model proper copyright use.

I have used Keynote quite a bit in the classroom, it is our (the student’s and mine) tool of choice that we have available when creating slideshows or ePosters (1 slide made into a poster). Even though I have access to PowerPoint for Mac 2011, Google Presentation or LibreOffice Presentation, I choose to use Keynote to create slideshows on my Mac and then convert them to .ppt files so I can upload them to Google and then embed or share them as I need to.

I liked that I learned that in the Inspector QuickTime tab, I can easily create snippets of songs or music, instead of having to use a full audio track and then try to stop the music on cue, this is so much easier.

We looked at how to export your presentation and the different options available.
Screen shot 2011 02 23 at 7 21 39 PM

Something that I had forgotten about was the ability to share Keynote and other iWork files to iWork.com-Beta. This is a part of Apple’s cloud solution, which I tend to forget about, because it is still in beta, the small amount of storage 1GB and it is not heavily publicized, but that is a different post. iWork.com recently began allowing you to embed presentations to your website or blog and below is the presentation I created this morning:

This presentation was created during a training session and is only a demonstration document. This slide show presentation wasn’t meant to be used for any other purpose than to learn how to use and demonstrate some of Keynote’s features. All the photos used in it were from pics4learning.com.

When I brought up being able to embed slideshows in iWork.com, we were told very explicitly that iWork.com is still a beta product and to be very careful about relying on it for embedding presentations on your blog, until it comes out of beta. I understand this, but from my perspective it seems like iWork.com has been in beta long enough and it is about time to either put iWork.com out there for general use or move on.

I did learn a few tricks today that will help me in the classroom when using Keynote. My only complaint about the session was that it was too short and it easily could have been a hole day session by itself, as any of today’s sessions could have been.

Any Maine educators who are using a MLTI laptop, I recommend that you attend these trainings to help you improve your ability to use these products in your classroom.

Google’s Blogger Review – February 2011

Google’s Blogger was my first blog host when I started blogging in October 2007 (not really all that long ago) and the one that I keep coming back to no matter what other ones I have tried.

Many of my fellow bloggers have pointed out to me that I have moved around way too much, trying out new or different blog hosts, blogs, themes, widgets, etc., to create what many would consider a successful blog and I have to agree with those observations. However, all of this what I call evaluating alternatives to Blogger has given me a unique view of what makes a good blogging platform for me.

Product Name: BloggerCompany Name: GoogleType: Web Application

Website: “Blogger makes it simple to instantly publish to the web. As the world’s largest blogging platform, Blogger enables millions of people across the globe to communicate with and engage their audience. With Blogger, you control who can read and write to your blog, whether you limit it to a few friends or let the entire world see what you have to say.” Google Press Center: Product Descriptions.

Below is a screenshot of my Blogger Dashboard:

Screen shot 2011 02 21 at 6 52 55 PM
How much does it cost? Free for a @blogspot.com blog and you can create a custom domain that will cost you $10.00 per year that includes Google Apps.
Is Blogger easy to use or is there a learning curve? Blogger is very easy to use for your basic blogging needs. You can immediately start using Blogger and have a post to your blog within a few minutes of creating an account. However, as you become more sophisticated about how you want your blog to look and interact to others, Blogger will grow with you and you will spend a lot of time learning how to use those more advanced functions.
What I like: Blogger has come a long way in the three plus years that I have used it.
The price is definitely right, the ability to earn income i.e. monetize your blog, by showing advertising on your blog you can. Google allows you to have control of how you use your blog and what widgets you can use as part of your blog without paying extra for those features or having them “blocked” by the blog host provider.
With the still relatively new Blogger Template Designer you can create a custom theme to satisfy how you want your blog to look.
Screen shot 2011 02 21 at 5 28 04 PM
If you do not like the results of the Template Designer you can find a theme that you can use from a vast library of Free Blogger templates and if you know a little about HTML coding you can adapt/modify those templates to meet your needs even more (I learned what little I know about HTML or CSS by doing this). You can create blog theme that meets just about any criteria and if you need/want to you can have one professionally designed at a reasonable cost.
Although my blog’s statistics don’t mean a lot to anyone but me and it really doesn’t mean that much to me, I do like to keep track of the number of page views a post gets and how many overall my blog has. I use this as a measure of how this blog compares to other blogs I have had and to do my week in review post.
Blogger Stats

What I don’t like:

I do not like Blogger’s blogwriter/editor, this has been an ongoing frustration for me since I started blogging with Blogger. Blogger’s newest blog editor, will work as your basic blog editor for your individual Blogger blogs, however, it doesn’t post to multiple blogs easily. I don’t use it much because I can’t get it to space correctly between paragraphs and I don’t trust it to format my post the way I want it to.
I guess I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to how my posts look and I think they look unprofessional if the spacing is screwed up. I guess that this is why there is a secondary market for blog editors and there is such a variety. I truly think that if Google simply put Google Docs as their blog editor software instead of what they presently use, it would work better, be one less thing to learn and be more accepted by those who use Blogger and probably use gDocs any way.
Screen shot 2011 02 21 at 6 55 37 PM
If you are attempting to import your old blogs from a different blog host, you “can’t get there from here” you have to do the import manually which is a pain in the butt, see my BLOGGER – MANUALLY IMPORTING BLOG POST PROJECT for further information on this issue.
Sometimes with Blogger there are so many choices and it is too easy to make changes, that you find yourself, constantly tweaking the appearance, what widgets you use, in attempting to get things just so. Or in my case if you find yourself bored, you go and tinker with your blog, which doesn’t help give the appearance of stability to your readers.
Do my students have easy access the product? Now that Blogger is available in our Google Applications, it becomes more attractive as a student blogging platform at my school.
Do I currently use Blogger in my classroom? Yes, I use it for my classroom blog and have a Blogging Lesson plan developed that I plan to use during the last quarter for my 7th grade students.
Screen shot 2011 02 21 at 6 50 24 PM
I also use One Foot in Reality as my professional blog to reach the Special Education community and other educators who I interact with online.
How does Blogger apply to Special Education? Blogger allows Special Education teachers to provide multimedia lessons to students very quickly and easily. It is an alternative to a Learning Management System such as Moodle.
Blogger provides a way to provide authentic feedback to students on how they are doing and can help teach civility in commenting or disagreeing appropriately with someone else when commenting or reviewing comments on a blog. There are many different things that blogging can teach a student and any medium that helps students to read or write more is worth attempting with students.
Special Educators are finding that there are a number of other Special Education teachers who blog. After reading these blogs and participating in the Twitter #chats (#spedchat) many what to add their experiences and insights about special education to the conversation and find that Blogger is one of the ways for them to add their thoughts to this community of educators.
The reality is that Google’s Blogger is the one blogging host that I keep returning to after seeing if the grass is greener on the other side. Google lets me “own” my blog and so far they have not attempted to say what I can or cannot have on it, limit what it looks like, let me earn money with it or charge me too much money for their services. Google does all of the back end management (which I found to be a pain in the butt with my self-hosted WordPress blog) and I can focus on how my blog looks and writing better blog posts. It took a long time for me to understand what I was looking for in a blog host and in my experience so far, Blogger has met or exceeded my expectations, if they would do something with the stock blog editor.
Blogger may not be everyone’s first choice and I know that there are some out there that swear at it as much as I swear by it. I guess sometimes the first choice you make is the right one, at least in this instance, starting with Blogger was a good choice, I just wished that I had stayed with it for the entire time. I wonder where “My Thoughts” would be today if I had.
Recommendation: Blogger in my opinion is a very good option as your blog host, it would be great if the blog editor was better. I have returned to Blogger after trying other blog hosts and finding that they do not do what Blogger allows me to do with my blog. I do recommend Blogger as a blog host based upon my experience with it so far. Personally, I have had good luck with it.
FTC Disclaimer: No one has paid me or provided me with services or products to write this blog post. I have written this post based upon my experience with using this product and they are simply my thoughts about it.

Week in Review – February 20, 2011

The week that wasn’t for me. I was sick all week and have been fighting a nasty respiratory infection for the past couple of weeks, that to be honest kicked my butt.  I am back to about 50%, but I am still weak and don’t have a lot of stamina, I have been sleeping in my chair in between periods of lucidness (well almost lucid).  I have caught up on my sleep, now I need to get caught up on my work.
Below are my top 5 posts based on page views:
  1. Evernote as a Task Manager – Feb 19, 2011
  2. NOOK COLOR – REVIEW JANUARY 2011 – Jan 9, 2011
  3. Evernote Review – January 2011 – Jan 27, 2011
  5. PAPER AIRPLANE LESSON PLAN 2010 – Sep 4, 2010
The one I wrote yesterday on Evernote as a Task Manager, shows that there are a lot of people out there that use Evernote and are looking for ideas to help them use it differently or more effectively.  The old Paper Airplane Lesson Plan 2010 post from last Sep has been in the top 5 most of the time and just seems to hang in there.
Here is to a better week next week (it is after all February break) and I have to unbury myself from the mountain of work that I have to get caught up on.

Evernote as a Task Manager

Image representing Evernote as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Back on January 27, when I published my post reviewing Evernote, I didn’t realize then how much I would be using Evernote less than a month later. I now use Evernote so much now that I needed to go Pro, me one of the original cheapskates when it comes to “free” software/applications. It just shows how highly I think of this product. Evernote has become the first software that I generally open after I start my MBP whether it is in Apple or Windows mode.
When I started researching Evernote for that post, I learned a great deal about how other people are using it to do many different things. One of the biggest things that I wanted to know more about was how some people were using Evernote with Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, which I have always used in some modified form or another and as part of a task management system.
I have been searching for a task management system that works for me. I have tried paper solutions, software, web applications and none of those have been what I have been looking for. Hiveminder probably came the closest to what I wanted to do, but it was “only” a task manager and I finally realized that I was looking for something that did more than just that.
Evernote Todo
As I looked at how others were using Evernote to meet their task management and GTD needs, I began to put together my own system using Evernote as the hub. There have been a lot of changes, starts/stops and tweaks to get to the present system. I am still not completely done with tweaking what I am doing, but I believe that I have the major parts of my Evernote task management system in place.
Everything going to Evernote goes to the !nbox first, including clippings, @MyEN or email. Yes I can put new notes directly into a certain Notebook, but I have decided that this is more efficient for me have a single location to put everything and then decide later whether it is an action item, read it later or a resource that I want to save for later and then drop and drag it to the correct notebook. It does mean that you have to be pretty faithful about checking the !nbox regularly to make sure that you are on top of what is going on.
When something goes to my !nbox, and it is an action note, I give it a date due, rename appropriately, tag it (for additional search criteria) and move it to !TODO. This step gives me a powerful opportunity to really look at what the task is; what other tasks or projects it is related to, what kind of work needs to be done, if there are any appointments to make or what deadlines there are. I generally have iCal open in the background, so that I can see when I need/want to assign dates to a task, if it does not come with one and I can easily add it to my calendar when I need to.
I don’t have multiple action or pending files, I find that they confuse me too much and I loose track of what needs to get done after a while. The one !TODO file has all my actions whether it be do it now, follow-up, wait 30 days, call or all those other action files that many use to keep track of their work.
Ical and Evernote
This system requires me to be much more hands-on than other systems that I have used, but it also gives me control of where my data is, how it is displayed on my screen and I “know” what is there. I update this when I first get to school and at least once in the evening. When I receive action emails or written memos (I scan them into Evernote) they are added to Evernote’s !nbox.
At lunch or after school I assign the action date, update the title and add/de-identify other information as necessary. I have this open when I leave to go home to ensure that I do take home the stuff I will need that night to get done.
One of the best things about this system in my opinion at least, is what happens to the note after the action is done. Instead of having a huge !complete file, I put each note into the correct notebook, which allows me to find what I have done quickly and also puts a task or note into context of the overall project/case file, which I found was lacking in many task management systems I have used.
Something new that I started this week was the THINGS I WANT TO GET DONE TODAY note. There are things that we all do every day, but that don’t warrant a separate note to keep track of every time you want to do them i.e. clean the cat box. I haven’t figured this one out completely yet, but foresee using it as a quick checklist to keep track of those daily things like ensuring attendance was entered into Infinite Campus for each period that I have to or grade block 3’s work, etc. I have a feeling this will be almost like a daily repeating task checklist, but I am still working on this one.
Evernote allows me to use this task management system on my iPhone, when I am using Win7 on my Mac or any other computer that has Internet Access or that I have synced via Evernote. This flexibility has allowed me to try different things, yet still be able to know what is going on in my task management system and most importantly, not loose track of what needs to be done.
I guess the problem that I have had with task management or GTD systems is that they only do task management. Evernote can also be your project, research and file management system, that has keyword search, tags, notebooks and stacks to help you file and then find what you are looking for.
I just wish that it integrated better with Google Docs, which is my primary document creation tool. Evernote does an okay job and you can quickly share the link, but you have to go back to gDocs to read it. This way works, but it feels clunky and not as seamless as it could be.
Evernote is working as a great task management system for me. It does what I want and I can find things quickly and easily, whereas in the past that was not always the case with other products I have used. My task management system in Evernote wouldn’t work for some, but it is what I have been looking for, for a long time. I imagine that there are some tweaks and improvements coming down the road from Evernote that I will incorporate into my system that will make it even better in the future.
Now to figure out how to do a quick note, so I don’t forget those brilliant ideas that go away so fast.

February Break or Is It?

The Month of February

Image via Wikipedia

Wow you don’t realize how sick you were until you start to get better! The past few weeks I have been fighting a loosing battle against an upper respiratory infection and this week it won some major battles. My plan had been to make it through last week and then rest of up during February break. Instead by Wednesday I was absolutely miserable and just barely able to function at school.
I actually called and went to the doctor’s and they put me on some pretty heavy duty antibiotics. The medication and the rest over the past two days (the Dr. said no school for me) are slowly turning the tide of this battle, but I didn’t realize how sick I had gotten.
Today is the official start to February break and I made it (mine started a few days earlier than most), just not the way I planned it. I am very weak and still feel like crap, but I made it, so now what have I got planned to do during this break?
  • Grade student work – that just didn’t get done over the past couple of weeks.
  • Special Education paperwork.
  • Contact a couple of parents that I couldn’t last week.
  • Prepare slight curriculum adjustment that needs to be done.
  • Do lesson planning on Cyberbullying/bullying lesson plan.
  • See the dentist.
  • Attend 2 days of training on Apple’s iLife and iWork (Wed/Thurs)
  • Edchat & Spedchat Tuesday night or Google’s training (which ever seems more interesting).
  • Write 2-3 product reviews or updates on how I am using something now – after going to Apple’s training this week should have some good ideas or updates.
  • Look at purchasing Parrallels or VM Fusion and learning how to use it.
  • Walk Bennie at least a couple of miles a day.
  • Play NeverWinter Nights 2.
  • Follow the Celtics and Red Sox.
  • Watch some of the History/Discovery/NatGeo etc channels.
  • Watch Avatar and the Last AirBender (movies I got for Christmas and haven’t had time to watch yet).
  • If there is any time left after that – Rest
There still seems to be far too much stuff related to school that I have to get done during February break for it to be called a vacation. But it is time away from the school building and I get to choose when I will do stuff, so it is going to be a nice break.
I just have to be careful to not overdue things as I get feeling better, which knowing me, I will anyways.
So what are your plans for February break? I hope that you have more fun things planned than I do.