To App, to App, and Back?


A long time ago, I decided that I would diversify my email accounts.  One of the decisions that I made was to use my Gmail account for social media and Web 2.0 things.  Without a doubt, it’s the most active account that I have and there’s always a game of catch up on email to be played.

Being a web service, access is just gained by being another tab when my browser opens.  Quite frankly, it does get out of hand and it doesn’t bother me as much now as it used to.  I just get around to it when I can.  This mailbox is never empty.

When I got my iPad, I decided that this would be a lifesaver.  Rather than having to wait until I’m sitting at a keyboard, I could just grab the device and try to get caught up when I have a moment.  I’ve tried a number of different web browsers on the iPad – Safari, Dolphin, Diigo, Atomic, Chrome.  I tried them all with varying levels of satisfaction.

Then, Google decides to release a Gmail application.  Now, instead of just going in to email, another step is introduced to the process and that was “Download our App or …”.  Ever a sucker for suggestive purchases, I downloaded the free application and started to use it instead of the web interface.  It has a nice, annoying feature of letting me know just how many unread messages are sitting there waiting for me!  And, another really annoying functionality.

Then, I read about Mailbox.  It promises to revolutionize the way you think about email and promises to take you to mailbox zero quickly.  How can I lose?  Off I go to sign up and get a copy.  Not so fast, Doug.  There was actually a waiting list to get a copy.  So, I waited.  And waited.  And waited.

One evening, I’m watching #ecoo13 Keynote Amber MacArthur on AppCentral and she features the app, talking about its features.  I’m really excited, and without a word of a lie, I get an email indicating that my copy is ready.  I grab it.  I need this better way.

It was interesting.  I’ll admit that I’m not really a gesture person so I did have to do some work learning left and right swipes and long swipes.  It was a challenging paradigm for me to break.  Even with a device designed to be poked, prodded, and swiped, I’m still more comfortable clicking on icons to get the job done.  But, I stuck it out and the swiping does speed up the process.  I like the ability to delay mail until later.  This is good.  The good news for you is that the waiting list is no longer there.  Mailbox was acquired by Dropbox and you can get it right away.

I learned how to navigate and use the utility but quickly dropped it.  At the time, it was designed for the iPhone only.  These smaller applications, when multiplied 2x look really awful on the iPad.  I had actually forgotten about the application until I got a notification that there was an update this past week.  An update away and I was very pleased.  There’s now a native iPad format!  You have a list of emails on the left of the screen and the message content on the right.  The layout is landscape only at this time but it’s not bad.

But, the annoying functionality that the Gmail application has is still there.  It’s also there in the Apple native application.  Remember that I indicated that I use Gmail for Web 2.0 and social media?  What are these things but part of the web with links to take you here and there.  The applications don’t handle them internally.  Instead, they launch a browser, open yet another tab, and then you reach your destination.  I suppose it’s not a terrible problem to have if you’re just going to check out a link.  But, consider the scenario where you have all kinds of links to discover.  I’m always sticking them into my Diigo account, Instapaper, or just sharing to Twitter.  Even if you’re just checking out a link, you then have to leave the browser and go back to the email client to pick up where you left off.  I find this a real annoyance.

For the moment, this is my mail reading application for the iPad.  If the message that I wish to read contains links, I’ll leave it along and wait until I’m at a keyboard.  It’s a compromise, I know, but it works for me.

It’s no time to get comfortable.  From today’s reading – Do these screenshots reveal a heavily revamped Gmail for mobile and Web is on the way?  Oh, I love a good rumour.  And, if it’s going to make reading and processing email easier, I’m all over it.

Give a Little; Get Back a Lot


Recently, I had blogged about how to create Big Data Sets.

At the core of the post was reference to the website generatedata.com.  For Computer Science teachers, this can be a real timesavers.  Rather than create significant test data files, use the utility here to generate data for you … lots of data.

It comes back with big value for me!

It ended up being included in a Pearltree by drbazuk.  By following the link, it opened up a huge collection of resources about big data!

The point of this post is to pay it forward to my readers.

If you’re looking for articles, resources, or discussion about big data, check out this Pearltree.  Make sure you tuck it away in your Diigo, Delicious, Pocket, or Evernote account for future reference.

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New Diigo Extension


During my morning reads today, I ran across this story about Google’s London Web Labs.  “With more than 5m visitors so far, Google’s London Web Lab experiments are still going strong“.  As per my normal habits, I thought the story was interesting for me, might be for others, and it’s something that I would want to keep around for later.  So, I shared it to Twitter with the share function on Zite.

Ever looking for automation, the story caught the attention of my Packrati.us account which tagged it as such and tucked it away into my Diigo account.  Normally, that’s where it would sit until I would get back to it later on.  However, it had captured the attention of @pbeens who read the story and added it to his fabulous collection of Google A-Z resources.

I’d become a little lazy lately allowing Packrati.us to take care of things for me.  While it does do a great job of capturing the links that I share to Twitter, the one area that it falls down is in the concept of tagging.  I have to have the sticktoitiveness to go back in and add my own tags so that resources that I’ve tucked away into Diigo are easily located after the fact.  I’ll blame it on the cold that never ends – I’ve been bad lately and haven’t been doing the retro-tagging thing.  I’ve got to get better and get back into the swing of things.

Oh well.

As it turns out, later in the day through other means, I had run across the announcement of Google Code Jam 2013.  I headed to the Diigo bookmark in the tool bar to do the deed and, as it turns out, spent some time doing something that I should have done about a week ago.  You see – Diigo had updated its extension (as shown by the NEW button on it) and I hadn’t explored it.

Hmmm….

“Bookmark & Annotate” was why I used Diigo in the first place.  “Read” later could be handy.  “Share” is pretty much taken care of with Twitter and posting to this blog and my Blogger Blog.

But, it was the “Screenshot” that really caught my interest.  It turns out that you can now send images to your Diigo account.  You appear to have two choices – just send the image or attach the image to the original link.  I gave that a shot and like what I see.

Why is this good?  It’s just a thumbnail, right?  Yes, but most resource sharing now includes images – check your Pinterests, Rebelmouses, etc.  It’s just that nicely added visual that will job your memory as to why you bookmarked it in the first place.  I’m liking that feature right off the bat!

I guess I’m going to have to get back into the swing of things and get serious about what I’m doing with my bookmarks.  This opens a whole new world of possibilities.  Particularly with students, if you’re using the teacher console, it gives an idea of what the resource is going to look like when they get there.

 

Business to Education


I have a favourite line in a Murray McLauchlin album – “We’re all in sales”.  I guess that it’s not always immediately obvious.

But nowhere in education is it more obvious than in blogging.  From the youngest blogger to the most experienced, we’re all selling something.  Usually, it’s ideas and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.  In fact, the more that we realize it, the more forceful our posts should be.

I had bookmarked this infographic quite a while ago but reference to it came across in a reading this morning.   Infographic: Your Blog Post Promotion Checklist

The checklist is written from a business blogging perspective but with a little change in the wording, could apply equally as well in education.  The original blog post appears here.  Thanks to DIVVYHQ for the post  Micaela Clarke for the original infographic.

I would suggest the following changes to make it work for education.

  1. Proofread your writing.  Is it powerful enough and are there tags and words that would allow people doing a Google search to find your blog post?
  2. Post a link to your blog on your class’ Facebook page and on the class Twitter account.
  3. Shorten your link using bit.ly or tinyurl so that it’s easy to type.
  4. Create a short summary of your post for easy reading and to encourage people to read the entire post.
  5. Make sure you have a great title to your post and display it on your class wiki with a link to your blog post so that people can easily find it.
  6. Do you have a Diigo or Delicious account to bookmark class things?  If so, post a link and short summary with tags so that you and others can easily find it later.
  7. Make comments on your classmate’s blogs or other blogs.  Usually, you’ll have to provide an email address and a link back to your blog.  Great advertising.
  8. Share on Twitter! Does your class collaborate with another one?  Get them to read your blog post.
  9. At the bottom of your email, put a link to your blog post so that everyone who gets an email from you can find it.  You can usually have this done automatically.
  10. Do you know another school in your town or city?  Let them know about your great post.
  11. Does your teacher send a newsletter home to your parents?  Make sure that the address to your blog is included in the newsletter.
  12. Get your teacher to share your blog with her/his Twitter account.  Make sure they include #comments4kids so that even more people can find you.

Any additional suggestions?

Having students create their own infographic with tips would make for great artwork around the classroom and to reinforce the concepts.

Searching it All


When I’m searching for things on the internet, I really don’t want to spend time wandering around aimlessly trying one strategy and then another.

I’ve had a lot of success by changing the way that I think about search. I like to frame my thoughts in the form of a question.  This helps me generate the expressions that feed my searching process.  Thank you Alex Trebek.

The way I figure it, at least currently, there are three types of things that might reasonably lead to answers to my question.  First, there’s a database of darn near everything put online.  That leads me, of course, to Google.

But, secondly, I do a great deal of reading and discovery.  I interact with a lot of smart people and that generates some great content.  I tuck the best of the best away in my Diigo account.  (It’s public; I figure if I found it, there might be someone somewhere that could use it as well.)

Finally, there are things that are happening right now.  This instant, in fact.  You can’t beat Twitter for that.  That can lead to an instant answer to a question and maybe Google doesn’t know about it or places a different relevancy to it.

How can one get the best of all of these?  Well, you could do it in three steps, or you could do it in three tabs.

There’s another way.  Combine them.

In the news today is the monkey found in the IKEA store.  Here’s what it looks like using my current search strategy…

Searching for “monkey”!

In my Chrome Browser, after doing the search, I’m seeing…

1)  Here are the standard results from a Google Search

2)  Here are the results from my Diigo library.  Apparently, I’ve never bookmarked anything about monkeys before!

3)  This is the live Twitter discussion including the term monkey.

—–

Making Google the default search is easy.  I chose the Encrypted Google option as default.

—–

I have the Diigo Chrome Extension installed so that I can easily bookmark resources on the web and send them to my Diigo account.  If you check the settings, there’s an option to select your Diigo account when doing a Google search.  I used to make Diigo my default search engine but this gives me the best of both worlds.

—–

Finally, the Twitter part is achieved with the HashPlug extension.  Install it and the current Twitter conversation surrounding your search appears and is refreshed live on the right side of the screen.  As you know, it’s also the preview area for Google results so if you mouse over the results, they do pop up as per normal.  It’s worth noting that HashPlug displays 3 or 4 results in the space allotted and when more are returned, you get a set of scrollbars to keep on looking.

—–

This is my current way of configuring things to give me the best results for my time spent searching.  For my purposes, it has made all three search strategies pretty efficient.

Got a better way?  I’d be interested in reading about it.  There’s room below.

What Does Learnist for PD Mean?


I’ve been keeping a lot of resources for a long time.  I felt the need to do so when I had a computer at home and a computer at work.  It was then that I realized that bookmarking a link on my computer was a pretty limiting activity.  Even more limiting was bookmarking different resources on different computers and then trying to remember where the heck I left it.  Surveying the online landscape, I realized that there were a number of better solutions.  I chose to use a service called Backflip.  It served me well.  I could bookmark things as I found them and then it didn’t matter at all what computer I used to access them.  This was good, very good.  The process was exceptionally good when I realized that I could share the resources with people who weren’t me!  All that I had to do was give them the public address to my resources.

Sadly, Backflip went out of business.  So, I went looking for a replacement and found Delicious.  This had the same good features as Backflip and continued to add more to it.  I think that it was Delicious that first impressed upon me the importance of tagging things so that they could be accessed later in a quick and meaning manner.  Before that, I would organize resources by subject.  That made cross-subject or them categorization difficult.

Delicious also allowed me to post links that I’d found automatically to this blog.  That was even better.  I’m really all about automation when I can swing it.  Not too long ago, Delicious was cut loose by Yahoo! and it looked like the end was near.  Fortunately, I’d been playing around with Diigo not only because of its bookmarking abilities but because of the classroom feature built into it.  Diigo posts nicely to my blog, it can post automatically to Delicious so that I have an automated backup.  This is very nice.

During presentations, I can create a group to share with participants if I have a bunch of links to support my talk.  It’s also a great way to make documents available for the same sort of activity.

Recently, along comes a new service called Pinterest.  This is very intriguing.  Rather than just a link to a resource, you’re asked to select an image on the page being pinned.  Within Pinterest, there’s a huge activity of sharing pins and resources.  Couple that with following others and you have a rather dynamic and attractive environment.  Pinterest, in fact, has  exploded in popularity.  I have experimented with a number of ways of using it and really like what I’m finding.  On the other hand, Pinterest is so popular for way more than education.  By following pins, it’s easy to get very, very lost!

Then, recently a service called Learnist comes along.  It’s still in its infancy; you need to ask for an invitation or get invited to join.  You log in with your Facebook account once you’re granted access.  But, once in, it seems at this point to be the best of all the worlds for education.  Devoted strictly to education, there are far fewer random detractors in its operation.

While you’re waiting for your account, you can explore most of what Learnist has to offer.  Just select a category from the ribbon at the top of the page.  You can go directly to “Education” from here, for example.  Explore the results and you’ll see bookmarks, you’ll see the ability to “like” a resource, you’ll have the ability to follow people; and you’ll have the ability to add your own comments to the entry.  Once you have your own account, Learnist provides you with a bookmark button to easily tuck away a bookmark while you’re browsing the web.

learnist

From what I’m seeing, Learnist has “it all” – or at least whatever “all” means as of this writing.  The highly attractive and feature filled environment pack a great deal of educational potential.  One of the best professional learning activities that one can do for oneself is to read and reflect.  Reading is easy; reflecting when you’re reading on the web means revisiting resources when necessary.  By bookmarking it on Learnist, you have that functionality.  But, it goes further.  For professional learning, you can create your own “board” of selected resources to share with your audience.  And, if your audience is students, share it with students!

Learnist is the newest of all the resources I’ve look at in this genre.  In my world, it hasn’t replaced anything yet.  I still like my Delicious and Diigo accounts and all that they generate.  I see Learnist as another level for another application of bookmarking for professional learning.  It’s interesting to note that even the term “bookmarking” is starting to sound dated in favour of the newer term “curating”.

I think this service is one to keep your eye on.  It definitely has a smaller target audience that the whole computer using web – us!

8 Weeks to Web 2.0


Do you want to learn about Web 2.0 this summer?

Probably not, right?  You know all about it and that’s why you’re reading this blog.  You’ve got it nailed.

But, you probably know or work with someone who needs to be brought up to speed on what this is all about.  Maybe you’re tired of explaining once again the value of connections and publishing to the web.  Or, you’ve got a teaching partner that you’d like to prep for projects for the fall.

You know that it’s pretty tough to get up to speed with a one or two hour workshop over the summer.  A couple years back, I used to run a mini-course for educators called “An Introduction to Web 2.0”.

For a bigger reach, I took the various topics and put them together in an online, self-paced course.  Consisting of eight sessions, I took into the fact that most teachers have tonnes of things to do over the summer but could perhaps devote some time every week for a little online learning.  Hence the name “8 Weeks to Web 2.0”.

So, if you start the first of July and devote a little time each week, you should be good to go for September!

Now, we know this can’t possibly be all-inclusive, but I think it’s a darn good start towards learning, understanding, and hopefully applying some of the important tools available on today’s web.

Syllabus

  • Week 1 – Upgrade Your Web Browser
  • Week 2 – Get a New Email Account
  • Week 3  – Get a Delicious/Diigo Account
  • Week 4 – Get a Twitter Account
  • Week 5 – Read Some Blogs
  • Week 6 – Start Your Own Blog
  • Week 7 – Listen to Some Podcasts; Create Your Own
  • Week 8 – Exploration of Other Web 2.0 Functionality

The Cost?  – Free

Check it out and pass the link along to anyone you think might benefit from this resource.  It’s located on my Professional Development Wiki here.

When you want more than tabs…


I’m a real collector — of web browsers.  Any computer that I own has a nice collection so that I can always test anything with a variety of browsers.  It lets you get to the end experience for any resource that you publish to the web so that I can make sure that no matter how somebody visits my site, they’re going to get a decent experience.  I’m also in search of the absolutely perfect, drop dead browsing experience.

The iPad is no different.  I’m in search of the perfect browser and so have an entire folder devoted to browsers that I’ve tried out looking for the perfect combination of features.

Here’s my current collection.

Photo 2012-02-26 6 19 27 PM

It all started with the desire to get something that suits me better than the Safari that comes with the iPad.  Long before the current incarnation, I was in search of a browser that would give me some tabbed browsing.  If you’re a user of different browsers on the iPad you may recognize the titles.

This past week, I took a different angle when I downloaded and played around with the Side by Side browser.  It takes the notion of accessing different websites at the same time via tabs into a different direction.  Instead of separate tabs for browsing windows, this browser splits the screen a number of different ways.  In the image below, I’ve split my screen into four to show off my Twitter, Facebook, Diigo, and Delicious accounts.

Photo 2012-02-26 6 11 25 PM

My original thought was that this was kind of small until I realized that each was roughly the same browsing real estate that one would have if you were using an iPod Touch.  But here, I’ve got four of them.  I took to this approach surprisingly easily.  This tabbed browsing dude liked seeing all the screens at once.  I also realized that when I use a tabbed browser, I have a habit of forgetting about an open tab.  I started using it and really liked what I’ve got.  Tapping in a window makes it active and you can scroll around.  A double tap expands the contents for easier reading – although you do need to scroll around a little more.  When you need a little more real estate, click on the little dot in the centre to reset the intersection point.  So, you aren’t necessarily locked into equal sized windows.  In fact, if you need the room, flip immediately to full screen!  You’ve got all the standard tools like browsing forth and back, reload, and a collection of favourites already seeded with some great starting points.

So, having the split windows was enough to make me consider this as a browser of choice.  A built in notebook and screen grab adds to the excitement but I’m over the top when I tap the “Open In…” button.

Photo 2012-02-26 6 12 17 PM

Access to these things on my iPad have me salivating thinking about the productivity this affords.  You can imagine how fickle I can be due to browsers given my collection.  For the time being at least, this one has me really excited.

When to Tweet?


I originally tried out SocialBro just to see what it’s all about.  After all, in a data driven world, you can’t have enough data, right?  <tongue in cheek>  I did have a purpose at first; I was looking for a utility that would let me know when someone unfollows me on Twitter.  At the time, it seemed important to know and I vindictively would return the action.

As it turns out, I still use SocialBro to tell me who has recently unfollowed me but now I take the time to look at the user and hypothesize why they did so.  I’ve come to the conclusion that there are a lot of people that are using services to follow in a block and then weed out those that post content of little interest to them.  Most of the unfollows make sense but it still hurts a bit when an educator unfollows.

But, as I started to use SocialBro, I started to poke around and find that there is so much more than just a list like that.  One of the realities of using a Social Network like Twitter is that you really live the moment.  It’s interesting to see that the interactions that I get tend to be shortly after I post.  I currently post to my blog at 1am to share the links of interest I’ve Diigoed/Delicioused the previously day and 5am for my hand created blog entry.  The logic that I used was that I didn’t want to be spamming others’ Twitter stream during prime time thinking that most people would be following new entries via RSS anyway.  And, if nothing else, it would be something to read while having your morning coffee.

Speaking of morning coffee, my routine is to wake up and proofread my own post from the previous evening and then to open Zite to do some morning reading.  If there’s something that I think others might enjoy, I post it to Twitter and also have started add them to a Pinterest pinboard.  Some of what I’m sharing is of interest to others and I’ll see folks favourite or retweet those messages.

I thought that I had it made…..until I started to pay attention to another section of SocialBro.  There’s a whole section dedicated to suggesting when the best time to tweet might be.  SocialBro presents a very interesting representation of when YOU, my followers, are online.

The graph shows hourly when people are doing what they do.  The biggest dot, as you’ll see, is Wednesday at 1pm.  38% of my followers are active at that time.  Based on that statistical data, SocialBro makes the following recommendation as to when I should tweet if I want the maximum reach.

BTW, you folks who are online at midnight on Friday nights had better be checking in with FourSquare otherwise, get a life!

Back to the topic, it looks like my 1am and 5am theories are shot all to pieces if I’m a)  looking to reach people when they’re online and b)  I’m making the assumption that people are drawn to the blog by a Twitter notification.  On the other hand, maybe all my followers are scheduling their own tweets to create an alibi or something and aren’t really online when the graph says they are.  Time can be a great illusion – I still have people who think I’m up at 4am to blog.

At the end of the day, I do wonder if this isn’t over analyzing things but it has been fun to think about.  It might even be interesting to reschedule the automatic blog postings and then follow the analytics on WordPress to see if the theory holds. 

Thoughts?  When should messages be sent?  As they happen or should one try to be strategic about it?

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Getting More Comfortable with Pinterest


Today, I spent a little more time learning about how Pinterest works.  I think I’m starting to see the way that it might fit into my personal routine.  At present, I’m using:

  • This blog where I record my own original thoughts, share resources, or to comment on others;
  • Diigo to bookmark resources as I find them;
  • Posterous to tuck away interesting images and infographics;
  • Delicious to backup Diigo;
  • Amplify as a resource to save links that I want to comment on before sharing them and bookmarking them to Diigo.

Part of my reading routine is to take resources that I find, typically from my Zite reader, and send them to Twitter.  From there, I revisit the content and then tuck it away into one of the above locations.  It all has worked very well for me and I’m quite comfortable with that.  But, it’s something that works uniquely for me.

As I look at this routine, I see Pinterest as a way to organize and to extend what it is that I’m doing.  As for organizing, I’ve created a board on Pinterest called “Stories I’ve Zited“.  With this, I’m able to take the resources that I’ve found with Zite and put them in one spot.  What’s unique about the presentation from Pinterest is its ability to identify one graphic/media element from an article and make it part of the content that’s pinned.  It’s a very good visual but now becomes part of a collection.

I’m thinking that the visuals will allow me to more easily backtrack to an article from an image rather than the title or URL of an article.  I think that I’m really a visual learner.  I know that there are people who are interested in what I’m reading and so having them all aggregated into one board makes it easier to see them all in one spot.

So, I threw out all of the content that was created from the initial activation of my account.  I know what there are certain major topics that I focus on – Education, Programming, Macintosh, Windows, and Ubuntu – these became the new boards in my account.  (at least at the initial setup.  This might grow…)

Unlike the paradigm of Diigo or Delicious where you tag stories and articles with key words, I liken this as a collection of silos which are filled (pinned) with content.

Like most social networks, you have the ability to follow or be followed.  This extends the power of the curation.  Pinterest makes it very easy to take a resource that someone else has located and turn into a link on your own board.  Mousing over any item pinned lets you “like” it or “repin” it within your own collection.  If you’ve used any social network, you’ll immediately recognize the actions that are possible.  The key is to find good researchers on your topics of interest.

And, for new content, the “Pin it” bookmark lets you pin virtually any page onto one of your own boards.

The cool thing about Pinterest is that it appears to be flexible enough to turn it into any type of curation that you need/want.  It does have one restriction in that it requires at least one graphic or movie on a page being pinned so that you can pin it.  I see potential in this as an organizer.

I’m also seeing this as a presentation tool.  Unlike using a presentation package like Powerpoint or Prezi where you’re limited to a linear presentation of content, you could conceivably put an entire presentation onto a board as a collection or items pinned.  That would allow you the flexibility of jumping over a topic that you’ve elected not to use as the presentation happens.  More to that as my knowledge matures.  In the meantime, I’m having a great time learning new things and imagining just what is possible with this powerful tool.

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