Monday, July 28, 2008

7 Great Ways to Get Things Done!

If you are a fan of David Allen's book "Getting Things Done", you're sure to appreciate this list...

1] Get it out of your head! Write it down, either on paper; send yourself an email; or by use a productivity app like Do It or Easy Task Manager to manage your to do's.

2] Stop Wasting Time Organizing Email! Search tools can be used to find anything you really need. I followed Merlin Mann's advice a year ago, and it's made all the difference. Most email can probably be deleted, but for what you can make effective use of one big 'ARCHIVE' folder for email you think you may have to reference one day.

3] Organize your To Do lists by Context! If you know that specific tasks can be done from certain places; at specific times; or when specific tools are at hand, it makes sense to have your to do lists organized by such contexts. My contexts include 1] while running errands in the city; 2] at the computer; 3] on the telephone; 4] around the house...

4] Prevent Interuptions! Twitter is a great way to keep in contact with your PLN, but if you have this app set to chime or scroll with every new post; or if your email dings or otherwise alerts you to incoming mail, you are not getting as much accomplished as you otherwise might. Turn off such alerts, and 'check in' with your mail and your PLN at a few specific times each day.

5] Just Do It! Stop procrastinating and just get started... it's the hardest part. Once you are rolling, any task can generate a 'flow' experience.

6] Break down large projects into Action-able chunks! Planning a conference can be overwhelming, but you can select a date or book a venue. Preparing a meal is a bit vague, why not decide on a menu then go out and buy the food. Building a shed can be an onerous project, but to make progress, you can specify a location or decide on a design. Decide on specific doable actions to get the ball rolling.

7] Get up and Get On with it! If you find the busy-ness of the day a challenge, find a way to get a jump on your day and become an early riser. By leveraging the morning, I'm able to read, to blog, and even to create the occasional podcast... like this one on "Getting Things Done".

Photo Credit: mz_0x90

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

To Tweet or Not to Tweet...

Has Twitter resulted in the decline of 'serious' blogging. Will Richardson's recent post "What I Hate About Twitter" raises the issue:

" feels like the “conversation” is evolving (or would that be devlolving) into pieces instead of wholes, that the connections and the threads are unraveling, almost literally."

In reflection, here are Five personal thoughts about the evolving tool that is Twitter:

1] Twitter is not a blogging tool: It is a jumping off point. It is the easiest way for new educator to discover the wonders of the edublogsphere. By sharing a combination of resources, links and personal updates, I hope to provide potential avenues for learning. It is in the hope of finding similar nuggets that I continue to check in. The number of live feeds and back-channel chats I’ve engaged in this year would not have been possible otherwise.

2] Twitter is a tool for building and maintaining relationships. That is why social tweets are valuable. Knowing that we have lives outside of education, somehow makes each of us more ‘real’ to one another.

3] Twitter is close to LIVE. With the GPS and photo technologies built into current phone technologies, I believe that we are engaged in crude use of a tool that will continue to evolve into a richer reporting and sharing tool.

4] Twitter is not a conversation tool, but is an elevator chat room where you might be invited to dinner; nudged to attend a workshop; or asked a question. Never knowing who will be on the elevator, the traveler cannot predict where he or she will be engaged.

5] The openness of the content to other developers and aggregators is what gives Twitter a big advantage. The many competitors trying to leverage similar platforms, will have to add value in order for large networks to jump ship. Tip to developers: Develop GROUP tools, allowing me to send semi-private messages to chunks of followers (family; teachers; local; conference-goers; workshop attendees…), and you just might get my tweets.

The comments appended to Will Richardson's post, are well over 100, and model the type of rich discussion that just isn't possible in Twitter's 140 character posts. It seems that Twitter still touches a nerve in real blog readers... To help further the discussion, I've highlighted excerpts from a few of my favourite comments:

1] Mathieu Plourde
"I consider Twitter to be a gateway to becoming an active 21st century web citizen."

2] Gina Webster
"I realize that my interactions and experiences with Twitter really inspired me to set up this blog, to design a new, more interactive webspace for my students and to participate in numerous Web 2.0 discussions in forums I’ve never visited before."

3] Ewan McIntosh
"Twitter’s not for conversation, it’s for shouting out. It’s for finding some friends in a foreign city who want to share a beer with you. It’s for being snarky so your blog, which for me is personal property, can remain snarkiless. That’s it for me: Twitter is transient (yet permanent) fun and intrigue, which belongs to the community who are there, at that minute or that day, and my blog belongs entirely to me, is more permanent and is where conversations *I* am part of belong."

4] Clay Burell
"Beyond that, I tend to jump in, swim around like a fish in a wine barrel, then flop out to dry up for a few days or weeks. Then jump back in again. I love the playfulness, the sharing, the relationships."

5] Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
"That said.. if an intelligent conversation spontaneously breaks out - anywhere- I say be in the Zen of the moment and go with it. I tend to have those kinds of conversations at the most unexpected places- cabs, waiting for a plane, etc. And the truth is that after having a conversation like that with Gary and those of you that also chimed in (thank you by the way)that I will go blog. It is those little bursts of informational inspiration about things that really matter that act as the catalyst toward helping me find the time to blog in my busy day."

6] Gary Stager
"One thing we learned more than a decade ago at Pepperdine is that you need a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous communication opportunities online in order to support a variety of teaching styles, learning styles AND a range of different activities."

7] Kerry J.
Ya’ know - sometimes it’s NOT about bringing about world peace or changing the lives and learning of your learners. Sometimes when you’re having seemingly innocuous conversations about the mundane, the divine breaks out.

Teacher 2.0 Podcast #100 reflects on Twitter as a way to expand the audience of learners.
Image Credits: Rodd Lucier (building on the work of Yiying Lu); Brian Solis

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

iPhone as External Thumb Drive

FileMagnet is the most intuitive little app I've discovered in the first week of owning an iPhone. When the program coexists on a Wi-Fi networed computer and your iPhone, you can seemlessly exchange and view files of a wide variety.

Once you've set up each application with matching logins. You can wait to be prompted to accept files from your machine, or if you trust yourself and your machines, you can automate the hook-up. As soon as you drop a file into FileMagnet from your networked Mac, you are notified that the file will be synchronized once you open the app on your iPhone.

You can add files or folders and can view most common files on your iPhone. I viewed DOC, JPG, PDF, PNG, TXT, (MOV and PPT files were transfered were not in viewable formats).

Managing files on your iPhone is consistent with other apps. Click 'EDIT' to have the option to delete files you no longer need on your remote.

is a simple application that will allow you to take your office with you in your pocket. The iPhone computer continues to make my notebook computer less and less relevant.

Quick tip: To take ScreenGrabs with your iPhone, simultaneously hold down the menu button and click the power button.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Top Sports Announcers

The voices of sports announcers and the richness they bring to live events colour the memories of spectators around the world.

For the record, here are my favourites...

Great Voices: Some voices are so distinctive that they can at times overshadow the play on the field. These are the most unique voices in the world of sport:

Auto racing: Jackie Stewart
Baseball: Vin Skully; Curt Gowdy
Basketball: Marv Albert
Boxing: Howard Cosell
Football: Keith Jackson
Golf: Peter Alliss
Hockey: Dick Irvin Jr.
Tennis: Dick Enberg

Most Information Savvy: When it comes to knowing the sport, and the athletes that play the games, these are the masters...

Auto racing: Jim McKay
Baseball: Joe Buck; Bob Costas
Basketball: Jim Nance
Boxing: Jim Lampley
Football: Phil Simms
Golf: Nick Faldo
Hockey: Ron MacLean
Tennis: John McEnroe

Creative Commentary: Regardless of whether or not you agree with them, these folks know how to say things that capture your attention!

Auto racing: Darrell Waltrip
Baseball: Ernie Harwell; Harry Caray
Basketball: Dick Vitale
Boxing: George Foreman
Football: John Madden
Golf: David Feherty
Hockey: Don Cherry
Tennis: Bud Collins

Care to nominate other voices?

Photo Credit: Tina

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Teaching Them to Teach Themselves

By now most people are very familiar with the way that metadata tags are "Teaching the Machine". What is less commonly understood, is how tags can be leveraged to engage students in "Teaching Themselves".

Assuming that a teacher can create a unique identifier for a class or course (i.e., Lucier_physics_2008 or LucierSPH08-unit5), there are many ways to engage your students in the gathering of teaching and learning resources.

1] Invite students to post and tag Flickr images that match with concepts taught in class. Students might also add comments to existing photos.

2] Encourage students to share bookmarks on Delicious, Diigo or Furl. Link to videos, blog posts, photos, songs...

3] Promote the use of reflective journals in the form of blog entries that use the course identifier as a keyword or tag.

4] Add comments to blog posts that include your course identifier. While linking to rich thinking, you can model how learners might participate in educational dialogue within the blogosphere.

5] Demonstrate how comments can be added to YouTube or TeacherTube videos. "This video would be great for my LucierSPH08 course!"

6] Set up a Custom Search Engine to search specific sites for course-matching content. Tag the best of the best with your course/class code.

7] Add custom sections to a personalized news page. Consider simplifying the process by sending the RSS feed to Google Reader or another aggregator.

8] Demonstrate how to search blog entries for topical materials. Send custom searches to your feed aggregator for filtering.

9] Tag selected educational and current events podcasts. Many post-secondary institutions like Berkeley, Stanford, Yale, Penn State, Texas A&M, Duke, Queens, MIT offer access to lectures and other content. Consider subscribing to a few of the many terrific free podcasts available on iTunes. Shameless plug: Have you heard the Teacher 2.0 Podcast?

10] The advanced step: Set up live feeds to various content sources by aggregating tagged content to a community location by using a tool like PageFlakes or iGoogle.

Before launching such a social learning project with students, be sure to demonstrate the power of resource sharing by pre-tagging numerous resources specific to your course. A live demo using your course keyword should go a ways towards whetting the appetite of your students.

Who knows, by opening this conversation about sharing, you might even learn a few search tricks from your students! The video below by Jimmy Ruska, demonstrates what some students already know about effective searches for complimentary material, be it for music or university textbook content.

Photo Credit: Maureen Flynn-Burhoe

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Google Goes Social

Michael Arrington at TechCrunch has posted the video below that shows an early test of a Google Search that would allow and encourage searchers to validate search results and to evaluate content by adding comments. It amazes me that a search of this type has yet to be widely adopted even though the wisdom of crowds has been effectively managed by sites like and Diigo for some time.

As well as taking steps to engage users in refining search results, Google has also posted some fresh content. If you haven't visited Google Docs lately, this tool now includes a menu of polished templates for teachers and students. Thanks to Vicki Davis for sharing the link via Twitter.

Listen to the podcast version of this post.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

iPhone as Little Brother!

A funny thing happened to me at the little Rogers store at the mall yesterday... Empty store: iPhones in stock: Couldn't resist!

After spending 24 hours with this iconic tool, early indications are that I will be doing more mobile computing and less desktop computing in the coming year. So far, I've been impressed with the way the iphone integrates existing social networks and the embedded camera to allow anyone to play the part of 'Little Brother'. If you have an iPhone and either Twitterrific or Twittelator you can access Twitpic or AP's Mobile News Network to report on moment to moment goings on.

While you can burn your 3G airtime being mobile, the iPhone is able to access any open wireless network in order to browse the web and upload/download content. Additionally, the iTunes App Store provides access to free and low cost tools that will one day allow this communications device to do just about anything a computer can do.

Still in it's relative infancy, this powerful network-friendly computer will one day yield great influence on education. Communications technologies, organizational applications, web browsers, and networking tools, provide promise far beyond simple access to the world wide web. The iPhone and it's digital cousins, herald the potential of 1:1 computing, just as generations of educators begin to harness the read/write web.

More early reflections are available on today's Teacher 2.0 podcast.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Google Goes Lively

Will Lively rival Second Life? Thanks no doubt to effective use of the 20% creative project time, Google has launched a virtual world... at least for those on the PC platform (Vista/XP; Explorer/Firefox).

The room library appears to be a popularity contest akin to YouTube... and the catalogue shows there is the possibility for a functional economy in this space. What other wrinkles are hidden here?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

WALL•E's Mac-nificent!

The Disney/Pixar release of WALL•E is one of the most unique family films I've ever seen. Tapping into many human themes with minimal screen dialogue, the motion picture effectively tells the story of a garbage collecting robot (Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth class) turned action hero who helps to recover planet Earth.

The film is a love story, an environmental anti-consumerism parable, and a call to action, but rather than review this visually stunning story, I thought I'd share a few pop culture references that had me smiling during the film.

1] Consistent with other Pixar animations, John Ratzenberger makes a cameo, this time as a human.

2] When WALL•E powers up, he chimes in a tone indistinguishable from any rebooting reliable Macintosh computer.

3] Love Boat links include the Lido deck and a robot called Go-4, heard as 'Gopher'. I couldn't find Merrill Stubing, but many past captains of the Axiom appear on the wall of the Captain's deck.

4] The Autopiliot, "Auto", is a cyclops, who as well as looking like the Hall 9000, takes control of the Axiom.

5] One of the robots is called "Han-S" aluding to the Star Wars character Han Solo.

6] WALL•E's trailer is populated with a wide range of popular items including Big Mouth Billy Bass, a Rubic's Cube, and the ubiquitous iPod. The DVD will surely allow for the discovery of numerous other cultural icons.

I wonder how many buttered popcorn purchasers will see themselves in the passive techno-indulgent humans depicted in the film. Here's hoping that WALL•E DVDs, games, and toys, will not have us emulate the 'Buy 'n Large' wastefulness depicted in the film!

Photo Credit: Jorge Felipe

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Better than the Classroom

Are there better places to learn than the classroom? I've always felt that the best learning took place out in the real world, and while I regularly took my students on field trips to consolidate their learning, my twin brother has harnessed the natural environment as high impact teacher in ways few people can imagine.

Todd, entered the teaching profession at the same time that I did, but he found himself yearning to connect more deeply with learners than seemed possible in the classroom environment. Ten years after co-founding Northern Edge Algonquin with his wife Martha, my brother still has the spark for innovating in delivering unique learning experiences to clients from around the world.

With a vast national and international network, Todd has leveraged evolving read-write tools to collaborate with colleagues; to communicate with clients; and to share his expertise with others in the tourism industry. In seeming contradiction, he has uniquely and creatively connected the world of the web, with the web of the world.

While custom retreats at Northern Edge Algonquin might include kayaking; yoga; drumming; natural cooking; snowshoeing; or tracking, learning at 'the Edge' consists of unique and quintessentially Canadian experiences like "Morning Tea with Moose".

Although I have the opportunity to create unique learning opportunities for students and teachers alike, I suspect that I would enjoy it even more, were it possible for me to live, learn and teach in such close connection with the natural world.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Creative Dragon

There are few people I know with the drive to create like my brother Cary. From original artistic creations in the form of t-shirts or paintings, to furniture design and inventions, Cary had to wait until the restrictions of school ended before realizing his creative genius.

Also blessed with genes for promotion, you may have seen this little brother on CBC's Dragon's Den, promoting FanWare products: wearable photo-realistic sports equipment.

If you missed Cary there, you might have seen an educational toy he brought to market 10 years ago. Stak-Its are cards that allow builders to create a wide range of original structures. With both Canadian and American patents, he is guaranteed a historical footprint.

Will you have creative dragons in your classroom this fall? Maybe the better question is: "Will you find the creative dragons in your classroom this fall?" One way to find them, would be to leverage tools like Google Sketch-up, and Google's Patent Search, for original classroom work along the lines of an Invention Convention.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My 'Real' Little Brother!

I come from a family of five boys... including Todd (my identical twin); Cary (the same age as I am for one week each year); Mark (the youngest brother of my youth); and Tom (the last to join us and 16 years my junior). In the coming days, I think I'll share a few short stories, to give you some idea of what a creative gene pool I come from.

Tom's amazing conference t-shirt idea is the first sibling story that I'll share . Although he tried many times to get me to attend Podcasters Across Borders, I'm content in the knowledge that he had impact on the event. His idea to create t-shirts that can be photographed to capture details about tech-linked colleagues is brilliant, and I can't wait to see this idea become a reality at the next edu-conference I attend.

Find out more about this great 'little brother' by visiting him at one of Canada's greatest venues for independent Canadian music: Phog Lounge; or listen to his humourous and sometimes 'off-colour' ramblings along with his podcast partner by subscribing to Shane & Tom's podcast. Tom also does the occasional guest spot on CBC Radio's Spark, which is a great show even if Tom isn't involved; but I've recently discovered that the best way to see what Tom's all about, may well be to read the passionate stories he shares on Tom's Weblog.