23 January 2012

2011: Fave Tech Tools List

A short list of the technology I've gotten the most use/enjoyment from in the past year.  This was going to be a year-end list, then I sort of forgot about it.  Instead, I'll release it in honor of the upcoming, National Digital Learning Day (February 1).
For this list I am going to focus on non-hardware items, but let's be clear...I love the hardware I am working with.
  • My iPod has been the best money I've spent for a good 2.5 years.  It gets constant use and is holding up fine.  Hopefully it will last at least four years like my first one did.
  • After being a slow to warm to it initially, my iPad has become a vital sidekick in my job.  It is also probably my favorite training to give.
  • AppleTV.  Really this is a service and a hardware, but I like it!
  • MacBook Pro.  What is there to say, other than I love it?  I don't want to it ever slow down or grow old.  It handles multiple programs with ease, has massive amounts of storage and has helped me get a little more familiar with the day to day operations of Macs. 
So here is my list of some websites, iPad apps, programs that I love and think others might too:
  • Dropbox - It meets my three evaluative criteria:  free, works across platforms (PC, Mac, Mobile), and syncs automatically to the cloud.  Although I wish the free storage allotment was a little more generous (2GB), I have bumped mine up to 4.25GB through referrals (Thanks everybody!)  I save all my personal documents and projects here. 
  • Evernote - Again, the seemless syncing of changes and additions, whether on my work PC, my home Mac, or my iPad is fantastic.  I even have it on my iPod so I can pull up book lists, grocery lists, to-do's, etc, while I am out and about.  Create notebooks with typed info, pictures, audio recordings or hand-written items.  The only thing I'm still pining for is being able to add hand-written notes on top of pictures or typed notes. 
  • Flipboard - Visually, this app is a treat.  It takes all your personal social feeds (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Google Reader, Instagram, etc) and turns them into a magazine that contains exactly what you are interested it.  A publication curated just for you!  And the Flipboard-created feeds (FlipTech, FlipCool, FlipStyle, etc) are a great way to explore and find some new ideas.  Beautiful on the iPad and recently released for the iPhone, caboose has given it a thumbs up also.
  • ESPN3 - English, Spain, Italy, Germany, France soccer matches at your fingertips.  During the fall I was able to see college football games that I otherwise would have missed.  India vs Sri Lanka cricket match?  check.  I don't like that they check your internet provider to see if you ESPN is available in your area and, if not, you can't access it but overall it is pretty great.  And if your bandwidth can support it, the picture in picture option or the 4 games on 1 screen options are fun.  Pair this up with a projector and a blank wall and you have a massive big screen TV for the game!
  • Jing - Wonderfully simply little screencasting software.  I use it for work to make short (there is a 5 minute max) videos to send to people showing & telling them how to do something.  It records your screen and your voice and uploads it to a website so all you have to do is email someone a link.  Fantastic tool for teachers to provide verbal, personal feedback on papers, projects, etc. 
  • Twitter (and twitterfall) - Although I don't really tweet anything much, I do follow twitter and find a lot of useful resources and ideas for my job.  I like to think of it as my own customized professional development.  Twitterfall is a nice website that I like to have up on one half of my screen when I am in the office and using my dual monitors.  You can have searches going to follow a news item, pull tweets from a particular geographical area, or just have your twitter feed showing.  I feel like I am really just scratching the surface on twitter but I'm happy with what I'm getting from it so far.
  • Nike Training Club - The fact that this app is free still blows me away.  There is so much wrapped up in this app and it works so perfectly, I would totally have paid for it, and that is coming from someone who almost never pays for apps.  This is like having a personal trainer in your ear, coaching you through dynamic, intense workouts while your music plays in the background.  You can choose the type of workout your want, your experience level, or muscle group and there are 30 or 45 minute workouts to choose from, as well as short 15 minute focused sessions to add on to your cardio workout.  It tracks your minutes, gives you badges and rewards.  And these are tough workouts, so be ready to work.
  • Skype - The best technologies usually are not simple, but at least they seem that way.  They just work.  Skype has been such a fantastic tool.  Videochatting, nothing totally space-aged, but it works and works well.  It shrinks the distances between us.  I use it all the time personally and love helping teachers get going with it in their classrooms.  It's a great way to conference with that guest speaker who, logistically, would not ever be able to meet with them.  Or to "visit" classrooms around the world.
  • Open-source learning (iTunes U, Khan Academy, TEDtalks, podcasts, etc) - I know this is lumping a lot together but I just feel like this is a shift in the structure of education.  And add it in the possibilities with the new iTunes U app and iBooks Author and I think we could be seeing a fundamental shift.  It is a shift that makes accessability to computers and high-speed internet all the more important, especially as we work to shrink the gap between the haves and the have-not, at-risk demographics.  Exciting stuff.


  1. Can you explain to me the practical difference between Evernote, which I'm using a great deal now, and Drop Box?

  2. i get this question often when i am doing iPad trainings and, while they offer many similar benefits, there are a few differences.
    dropbox is designed for file storage (docs, spreadsheets, pix, music, movies). it's main go it to give you access to whatever you need, wherever you are. it does also allow for sharing of folders and public folders. Visually the interface looks like a folder of files.
    Evernote is designed as a note-taking & organizing management tool. While it is possible to put documents & pictures into it, its strength lies in creates notebooks for specific topics (notes from a conference, class, etc). it is great for recording notes in typed, handwritten, picture-taking, or audio-recorded media and then organizing and making them available on all your devices.

    So short version: Dropbox for file storage. Evernote for note-taking.