Friday, August 27, 2010

Top 5 iPhone Apps

Many people at our schools are getting iPhones. I see them much more frequently among our students and out in the community. It was recently reported that in Korea, over 110,000 iPhone 4s had been pre-ordered. I would guess that number has continued to increase.I have gotten a many queries about all kinds of things on the iPhone. I thought I would make mention of my Top 5 apps in no particular order:

For me and my workflow, my t0-do list and scheduling items that need to be addressed is critical. I have found Things to be a fantastic tool to organize and prioritize my to-do list. It is very powerful and based on the Getting Things Done principles. I particularly like that I can create steps within projects and schedule certain items on certain days easily. I sync this app with Things on my laptop via the wireless. It is a little pricey compared to most apps $9.99 but well worth every penny for me.

WhatsApp uses wi-fi or your data plan to send text messages, photos, video, etc. to your contacts. Your phone number is your unique identifier so you have to have the right phone number in, inclusive of country code. It allows you to text anywhere in the world without international charges. It is now available on other smartphones besides just the iPhone which expands its use. It seems like several chat/texting apps are out there and probably work similarly. The trick is to get one and sell your friends on it so you don't have to pay for SMS messages. WhatsApp is a great bargain at .99.

Personal Finance by Pageonce
Personal Finance allows me to track all my credit cards, frequent flyer miles, and bills from a variety of sources in one place. It notifies me if too many credit card transactions occur in a day and notifies me of big charges. It consolidates utilities bills for a home in another location all in one place that is easy to view and keep abreast of what is going on. It saves me logging into many different sites. I really like being able to log in via the web on Pageonce and setup the accounts. Then I just view everything via the iPhone app. For this one, there is a premium version and a free one.

IM+: All in One Messenger
IM+ consolidates all my chats into 1 app. I can set it to stay logged in and receive push notifications for up to 18 hours. It is easy to use. Again, there are others out there but this is one I found that works well and meets my needs. There is a Lite version which is free. It has some limitations and I have found the normal paid version worth it although a little pricey at $9.99.

Dragon Dictation
Dragon Dictation is from the makers of Dragon Naturally Speaking, a popular software package. This app converts your voice into text. It's very accurate and great for recording longer emails that I don't want to type on the phone or text messages when I can't type and need to send a quick note. This app is free.

If you look at the pictures in this post, you can see screenshots of my first 2 pages of apps which are the ones I use the most. For the most part, I like free or very cheap apps. I've listed some of the pricier ones here which is probably good my most expensive apps are the best. It means I chose well. Be strategic on your apps and try to read user reviews. And there does seem to be an app for nearly everything.

What your favorite apps? Add them to the comments...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Taking Risks

In my first post of the year, I talked about newness. In a comment to that post, Chantal said, “Technology is a handy tool, but the effectiveness of the teacher instruction continues to be paramount to successful education.” For those that do read my blog regularly, I hope you have seen that theme amidst the gadgets and glitz. Effective instruction rests with the teacher.

In reflecting on Chantal’s comment further, I believe the 21st century presents a valuable opportunity for us to model learning. In an age of information overload, we spend a lot of our time teaching students how to learn...and we should. We are teaching students how to fish rather than just giving them a fish.

Some people are more willing to take risks than others...

Title: Shark Surfer

Source: Youtube via notorious415

I have observed and heard many stories regarding the difference between the younger and older generation. Young kids can program a VCR or make the computer do amazing things because they are willing to try stuff. They don’t worry about it breaking. How many adults say they didn’t want to try something on the computer because they didn’t want to mess it up. Kids are much more willing to take risks.

As we integrate technology into the classroom, we take risks. We risk our position as an expert. We risk control. We empower students without knowing how they are going to handle it. With the risk, we have a great opportunity. We can become a student and learn from the students that we teach. It may seem like a no-brainer, but the paradigm shift is difficult. It can make the technological shortcomings of the teacher apparent. At the same time, it brings the strengths of some students forward and engages them in amazing ways. Teachers that model “not knowing” and learning a new skill, allowing the students to teach them and their peers can create a phenomenal learning community in the classroom. It requires some humility. It requires a willingness to say “I don’t know...” That’s not an easy phrase for many teachers.

I can think of fewer ways to transform your classroom than truly modeling learning and creating a learning community that grows everyone--teacher included.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grace Amidst Transparency

We live in a transparent world. We know a lot about each other. Not only do the people I hang out with know me, but people that I email, Facebook, Skype, and readers of blog know many things about me. It is not just our interests that are transparent; it is also our emotional ups and downs. Technology is not the only culprit although it is one that definitely increases our openness to each other.

As we look at each other, the title of a popular book comes to mind: Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them. As we see more of each other, it is easy to make judgments and write people off for their shortcomings. In a transparent world, we need more grace. We need to forgive people for being themselves...for being imperfect. That’s all of us. We just see others' imperfections more easily than our own.

I fear that our grace has not grown proportionately to our transparency. We could use a substantial dose of humility. I've come to enjoy and embrace transparency. In the midst of transparency, may we extend more grace in a world that needs more kindness and forgiveness than judgment and critiques.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Container for your Classroom

What's your container for your classroom? Now, let me first say that I think Jeff Utecht writes articulately about this with examples in his Thinking Stick blog post titled What's your container? That being said, he has probably helped popularize this terminology and idea in the region more recently but the concept and term has been used for some time.

I've been in many conversations here at the beginning of the year with teachers trying to decide what they are going to use as a container for their classroom. The meaning of container is how they are going to contain or hold together the content for their classes. This idea of a container brings coherency to instruction that may point to links all over the web, Google App files, or digital interaction just to name a few. It becomes one place where important materials related to instruction can be located.

CC Sealand Florida by Louis Vest

For some people, I think the term hub is more fitting. A hub is a centerpiece where other things spiral out. For some, all they need is one place to get students and then they point them all over the web to other resources. They need a location to store and organize all their links. They have no "stuff" because everything is on the web somewhere else with various Web 2.0 sites. Containers can act as hubs but in some ways imply more substantial content being posted on them.

To give an example, Moodle could be a container. It can link to whatever you like on the web but it is extremely useful for interaction such as discussion forums, dividing the class into groups, and posting files. Google sites or one of the wiki services can act as a container to hold files and "stuff" in a similar way. At the same time, a wiki can just be a hub with links and embedded code from other sites. A diigo list or a Google doc with hyperlinks might just act as a hub. A blog may act as either one.

So why is it important to distinguish the difference between a hub and a container? It's probably not. It is important is to clearly know your purpose and what you want to accomplish before you select a tool. Doing a blog because "everybody's doing a blog" is hardly a good reason. How will your container enhance, support, and engage students in learning? Think through what you want to do with your container/hub and consider how it can interactively engage students in your content. Then, select the best tool for the job.

Do you have suggestions for a container that you'd like to share? Post them in the comments.

Monday, August 9, 2010


August brings with it a sense of newness in schools. We like new-ness. It is part of the reason people buy so much stuff. Used stuff just isn't nearly as much fun or enjoyable as something new. The newness of the school year brings excitement and anticipation. As educators, this cycle of newness and growth (both physically, spiritually, and academically) in our students is rewarding to watch.

As we enter the 2010-11 school year, I anticipate an exciting year at both our campuses. For TCIS, the future of the new DTV campus is getting closer as the buildings are beginning to take shape. We continue forward with great momentum in effectively integrating technology into our learning environment, although it will mostly be with our existing equipment this year. At GSIS, the school continues to complete the outfitting of teachers and students in a technology-rich environment that rivals the best in Korea. The growth of technology integration into classrooms is amazing to watch and shows in the digital media constantly being displayed on the web by both staff and students.

As we embrace the newness of the school year, may we also reflect on how we can invoke new strategies to improve learning. No matter how many technology gadgets, bells, or whistles we have, it is the learning in the classroom that is the focus. We have to keep the main thing the main thing. (Don't let the new look of my blog distract you from the journey we are on.)