Curating and Keeping it all Together: Evernote, Diigo, IFTTT and Learnist Oh My

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Photo by Mika Ueno

One of the hardest things about being a “connected” teacher these days  is keeping track of all the seemingly endless information bombarding you via twitter, facebook, RSS feeds, and blogs. Developing a system to organize and manage all of the useful information I come across daily is an ever evolving process. I think every connected teacher has their own system, and I thought it might be useful to outline my own and to discuss some of the cool discoveries I’ve made in the past six months.

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Of all of the tools I’ve adopted this year,Evernote is by far my favorite. I use Evernote to catalog and keep track of my lesson plans, readings, documents, as well as all of the useful articles and ideas I come across during regular twitter chats and via rss feeds. The ease with which I can save, organize, clip from the web, and search through documents and notes has made it my go to tool for all my teaching and many of my organizational needs. I really can’t say enough about how amazing Evernote is and I know I have just begun to scratch the surface of what this tool can do. Right now, I am enjoying using an IFTTT recipe  that allows me to move articles of interest from my feedly and flipboard accounts right into an Evernote notebook. IFTTT is a web based application that allows you to create recipes to make your applications and programs work for you. For example, you can create a recipe that allows you to send starred email directly to a special folder in your evernote. Again, this is an application I have just started playing with but the potential is limitless and it is definitely worth checking out if you are looking to save yourself a few steps.

The 23 Things course  and my desire to keep track of my favorites on twitter made me take a closer look Diigo this summer. I’ve had an account for a few years and frankly haven’t utilized it very much.  I know I am quite late to the diigo party as many of the members of my PLN already use it extensively much in the same way that I use the evernote webclipper . What I learned by going back to Diigo is that it has become so much more than just a social bookmarking tool. They have added the ability to annotate and highlight texts both from your computer and using the web highlighter for Ipads or the chrome extension both of which are great tools.  Diigo is a great tool, but for now I will just keep using it to catalog my twitter favorites before moving the best of them into my Evernote folders. I think Diigo is great, don’t get me wrong, but for me right now it is a place just to keep track of things to look back at later and then either pitch or save.

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Obviously finding great resources and information on the web is wonderful and truly has made me a better teacher and a far more informed human being, but sharing what you find is a vital part of being a connected educator hence this blog and my absolute love of twitter.  One of the coolest curating tools I’ve used this year is Learni.st which functions a bit like Pinterest for teachers. With an bookmarklet that allows you to put things right into vertical and visually appealing boards you create and Ipad/Iphone Apps, it is a very easy tool to use and one that I have come to rely on especially for curating for my PLN. Check out my learn.ist board on twitter for teachers for a good example.

So for now basically that is my system. I rely extensively on Evernote and use a variety of other tools to help me keep track of all the amazing things that come across my screens every day, and I use twitter, this blog, and learni.st to share my learning. I am always adapting and updating this system and would love to hear other ideas and learn what works best for you!

You Say You Want a Revolution: Edcamphome

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We took part in a revolution yesterday. There weren’t any protests, or weapons, or even any shouting although the exclamations of joy when certain technology worked were audible. No blood was spilled, no country changed hands, but  the landscape of my professional world, the world of education and professional development, shifted considerably. Yesterday was the earthquake, and I am looking forward to the aftershocks.

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At noon yesterday around 200 people took part in the first ever Edcamp Home organized by Shawn White, David Theriault, Karl Lindgren-Striecher, and Kelly Kermode who came up with the idea during a twitter chat last spring. They wanted to create an edcamp that people from disparate parts of the country and world could take part in online using google hangouts. So after what must have been a herculean task which included getting people to sign up, finding tech savvy moderators, and adapting bits of technology like lino which they used to create the edcamp board, we all signed on for what would be one of the most inspiring, exhilarating, and wonderful professional development experiences I have had the pleasure of participating in.

Our organizers live streamed their hangout to give the opening statement and provide us with information we would need for the day, and then they stayed online for the entire 3 hours:

Watching the organizers troubleshoot was perhaps the best part of the entire day. When the board creation and session voting took longer than expected, we all kept the energy going on twitter, stayed tuned and positive, and kept the can do attitude that made the day an incredible success. No, the technology did not work perfectly. For example the sign up was a bit difficult because google docs will only allow 50 people on the document at once without slowing down and making the board took a while because so many of us were on it creating as one participant said a “brainstorm” so large that the organizers asked us finally to stop, but it just didn’t matter. Being able to watch our four intrepid leaders figure out the problems and undo the kinks was incredible because it gave us the experience all educators want which is to bear witness to learning in action. Furthermore we also got to see our leaders “fail forward,” a term Karl coined and see the vital role failure, especially when dealing with technology, plays in the learning process and in ultimate success.

For me personally, watching the “hot mess of learning” take place gave me the confidence I needed as a hangout “virgin” to volunteer to facilitate a session on paperless classrooms and ended up doing two. Which again thanks to our fantastic moderator Rae Faering you can watch below:

Talking with other teachers from California and Missouri was spectacular, and I look forward to hanging out again in the not too distant future. There were many take aways from our conversation which I will blog about at a later time, but the most important thing I took away from the experience of the sessions was just how much better we all can be when we are able to share, learn, and engage with other passionate educators. As Karl said in his blog post, we are just all #bettertogether.

The format of  all edcamps is a democratic one and I think that is what I like best and what makes it revolutionary.  Edcamphome gave even more power to the participants because we could engage on so many different levels and in so many different places including twitter, today’s meet, and the website which acted like a hub .  Everyone had the ability to shape the experience of all through their participation. Everyone’s ideas were valued and voices heard either in the hangouts, on twitter, or through the backchannel. We were empowered by each other, by the event, by the ideas we heard, and by participating in a groundbreaking event that is sure to transform professional development opportunities for years to come.  I can’t wait for edcamphome 2, and I anxiously await the other aftershocks of this momentous event.

For Futher Reading:

A Post from Karl about the Day

Simon Miller’s Post About The Day

Kimberly Hurd Horst’s Post About the Day

You can see broadcasts of all the sessions here and here.

You can also visit the google+ page here 

This is it! Reflections on the Eve of Edcamphome

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It’s just before midnight the night before #edcamphome and I have just finished the tutorials and skill building with google hangout that will, hopefully fingers crossed, toes crossed, enable me to successfully participate tomorrow. For those of you who don’t know about Edcamphome, it is an online edcamp all can participate in from home.

What occured to me during this evening is that this event is a phenomenal example of why computer technology,despite the very real ethical and pedagogical dilemmas it poses, is such a great thing for the teaching profession. This summer I’ve been completing my 23things course and that has led me to think a great deal about edtech, its ramifications, and my personal educational philosophy with regards to technology. I have questioned

So here is the thing, while I definitely agreee  that it isn’t technology but teachers that are important, I do think that tech is incredibly important for the profession of teachers. It allows us to grow, learn, improve in ways that will make us better teachers and our students will benefit. That is after all the whole point. So I look forward to my online conference tomorrow which I am sure will be a terrific success because of the hardwork of its organizers, and even if I have technical glitches I do believe I’ve already gotten a great deal out of this experience.

Discovering the Wonderful World of Wiki’s: Part 1

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I consider myself pretty tech savvy, but I haven’t until now delved into the world of Wikis. Sure like the rest of the internet using world I have used Wikipedia, and  I have also seen them used to a great deal of success by my PLN on twitter and have visited various Wikis that archive twitter chats, but I haven’t ever created a Wiki or used one in a class. That is all about to change and I am so grateful to Shelley Paul @lottascales and her 23 things class for pushing me in the Wiki Direction.

So for those of you who are new to Wiki’s like myself I thought I would chart my learning process. I began by viewing this video: Intro to Wikis and by exploring some great Wiki’s Shelley had selected for us. I really appreciated Thousand and One Flat World Tales where I found the stories written by Korean students incredibly insightful and informative given my ESL teaching experience with our wonderful Korean students. What I most liked about Wiki’s is the ability for many people to collaborate in real time and to create something together. I plan on using a Wiki with my ESL History students this year and may even start one to help students find resources for their research papers.

A few other interesting Wikis for those teaching Social Studies:
Resources for History Teachers is an award Winning wiki with boatloads of great resources. I found the APUSH resources especially good.

Cool Tools For Schools is another award winning Wiki that is incredibly well organized and links to tools students can use to collaborate, create presentations, film and edit movies, record podcasts, organize projects, and stay on top of homework.

So what is your favorite Wiki and how do you use them in your classes? Leave a comment to start a conversation!

Want to do American Studies? Begin Here!


One of the best resources for educators on the Web is the Open Educational Resources Commons there you will find a plethora of curriculums for virtually every subject including American Studies. One of the best resources I’ve found for Our American Studies course is a series of lectures or MOOC by Michael Cohen at the University of Berkeley.  He begins the series with the question “What is Culture and why study it.” His opening exercise where he asks his students to go out and get culture is one we adopted at the beginning of our course to great success. You can see our students blog posts here. Cohen’s way of doing American studies very much jives with our own pedagogy and we used different segments at different times. For anyone looking into adopting an American Studies curriculum or exploring modern American history and culture from an American Studies perspective this is a must watch. You can also find podcasts of these lectures on Itunes U and Youtube. Highlights include a discussion of films Modern Times, Scarface and Birth of a Nation. For those interested in the history of public higher education, don’t miss the teach in broadcast lecture 14.

Sifting Through The Sea pt. 2: More Edtech that Works

images-1Here are some free web 2.0 tools I’ve discovered or just gotten more proficient with because of our 23 things class.

1.Bubbl.us– is a cool concept mapping tool that allows you to brainstorm, visually outline ideas, and has some easy to use shortcuts that make the processes simple. I have used Inspiration with visual students in the past, but you have to pay, and bubbl.us is free. I will definitely turn my kids onto this tool especially when we begin the research project this fall.
2. Haiku Deck– A wonderful presentation creation app that is free and visually beautiful. I have seen some really terrific presentations from ISTE and on twitter. This is a tool I will definitely use this year and teach my students.
3. Timetoast- Since xtimeline no longer seems to work well, perhaps we will use timetoast this year instead. Although you cannot create collaborative timelines, students can create individual timelines and then put them on our class blog. The interface is really easy to use and I can see the utility of this tool for group and individual projects in the upcoming year.
4. Voicethread– A great tool that allows you to record voice comments to videos, pictures or documents. There are so many possibilities for this tool. You could use it to give feedback to students, have them give feedback to each other, or create a narrative for a picture or video. The possibilities are endless and this is the tool I am probably most exited about using this year. I think my ESL students will love using it to practice their spoken English and interact with each other. I think we may use it this year with our WPA poster project in American Studies.
5. Weebly– Our school has used Weebly in several classes, and this year we will go back to having students create a website based on an artifact from Special Collections at the University of Virginia. We did this two years ago and it went really well, but we had to rely on google sites and they just aren’t as slick as what students can create with Weebly. I am also going to have my ESL History students creating sites based on famous Supreme Court cases as a way to introduce them to the constitution and the Judicial Branch of government.

Great Places to Find More Tools:

Dirt– “This wiki collects information about tools and resources that can help scholars (particularly in the humanities and social sciences) conduct research more efficiently or creatively.  Whether you need software to help you manage citations, author a multimedia work, or analyze texts, Digital Research Tools will help you find what you’re looking for. We provide a directory of tools organized by research activity, as well as reviews of select tools in which we not only describe the tool’s features, but also explore how it might be employed most effectively by researchers.”

Webtools4utouse Wiki – A great site with a terrific layout that provides you with great tools to do everything from screen casting to pod casting, web sharing, and curating. I will be spending a great deal of time exploring this site in the coming weeks.

Feedly and Flipboard: How I stopped worrying and learned to Love RSS feeds

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For our 4th/5th tasks in our 23 Things class we were tasked with signing up for Feedly and develop an RSS reading habit. I had a good deal of skepticism about this task. I consider myself well informed and I rely a good deal on twitter both for news and for shared resources and ideas from my PLN (see my previous posts on twitter here and here).  As I have said before I love twitter and I find it a near perfect professional and personal resource, so I really have not seen the need to add even more to my daily diet of articles, updates, and resources. Nevertheless, I signed up for Feedly, added the app to my iphone, and began the process.

I also began the process of asking my PLN on twitter and my cousins who were devotees of google reader why I needed an RSS feed. From my PLN I heard that mainly that they used rss feeds to keep up with their favorite websites and blogs, and from my cousins I heard their recommendations for following different sites and why they loved google reader. Still I wasn’t really convinced. I did turn to my feedly page daily and I found articles of interest, but frankly I didn’t find it more useful than twitter at least for me.

Then  on the recommendation of my cousin I tried out flipboard,and I became a believer. Although Feedly certainly offers similar  tools and the ability to follow great resources, what I like about Flipboard is the ability to create my own magazines from the articles that come up in my feed. The layout is better and especially on the webtool more visually interesting. I can also add my twitter feed to my flipboard and can easily save the articles and resources I find useful to an unlimited number of my own magazines. Since I mainly rely on my iphone to view my twitter feed, I have found it a bit clunky to save my favorites either to instapaper or diigo and then to Evernote.  With Flipboard, I can save them directly to a magazine to read later or share and that has saved me time and steps which I definitely appreciate.

I quickly found myself addicted to using this tool, and I can now say that I see the value of rss feeds although I still think twitter is a more important tool for me because it has the added advantage of helping me connect with other educators, but I am now likely to use flipboard as my conduit for following my twitter feed and tweetdeck for following and participating in twitterchats.  Here are a few magazines I’ve made already on race and gender and another one where I am saving articles that might be of use in our American Studies class.  I’ll post more as I gather them, but for now I can definitely recommend adding an RSS feed to your daily digital diet and checking out flipboard.