Saturday, December 20, 2008

What's In Your Toolbox?

Let's consider the tools for a moment.

I know there is a seemingly endless sea of Web 2.0 tools but the ones listed below are the tools that I use pretty regularly, both personally and professionally. Honestly, I find myself getting lost in it all from time to time, but I am a work in progress. Here's the thing, I think once you learn how to use one tool really well your capacity to figure out others becomes much easier. The trick for me was to figure out authentic reasons for me to use them and then determine ways to leverage it as a way to learn or stay connected.

How can I make these tools work for me instead of against me?

Because I have several ADHD qualities many of these tools are a total distraction to me while I work. I am not speaking so much during the school day but after school when I begin grading papers or planning for the next UbD Unit. I might have YouTube videos playing, chatting with family and friends, or uploading photos to my Flickr account, and it forces me to be meta-cognitive so I can make effective decisions that will maximize my time on task.

How can I use some of these tools within my classroom?

I am to the point where I know there will be a different tool designed tomorrow that will out date the ones of today and I am o.k. with that. I think that if I am to keep up that I just need to jump in at some point, get comfortable with constant change, and enjoy the ride.

So, look out below...ahhhh...splash!

Google Reader ~This for me is the first place I go to after I triage my email. Honestly, I don't really have the time to go find all the really great work that is being done out in the edublogsphere so I try to subscribe to a variety of folks that keep me up to speed with what is going on.

Delicious ~ The tool of choice for me! If you do not have a Delicious account, stop reading and go get one today, right now...see ya. It's a way to save all your bookmarks online and organize them according to tags that you assign plus a great deal more.

Twitter ~ The micro-blog that keeps me in the circle of the know...I am more of an observer of what is going on than a contributor. I do contribute from time to time by sharing links to great resources or interesting articles.

Facebook ~ This is the one tool that connects me to just about everyone I know ~ family, old friends, colleagues from work, and friends I have made online all use Facebook.

Blogmeister ~ The blog interface I use for my fifth graders.

ePals ~ my students and I have used this as a great way to make email pen pals all around the world. I have also used this on an individual basis to speak with other educators around the world to gain a deeper perspective of the educational systems outside of America.

Technorati ~ I get a bit frustrated with this tool. I am pretty sure my blog is sync'ed up with technorati but I have had some technical difficulties with this. Basically, after you get a blog up and running you would claim it within Technorati and it then becomes part of this blog search engine. There are over 1.5 million blogs registered with this service and seems to be one of the first go to places for folks when searching blogs.

Friendfeed ~ another way to stay up to date with all those you want to keep up with.

StumbleUpon ~ a neat way to spend 5-10 minutes.

LinkedIn ~ I have setup an account but that is about as far I have gone with this. Perhaps this will come in handy if I ever need it for future contacts or future professional adventures.

PBwiki and Wikispaces ~ I have never really used a wiki with others but it has proven to be a nice way for me to organize a few class projects and other professional work that I have done.

Blackboard ~ the website of choice in our District.

Flickr ~ I have a Flickr account and upload many photos there but I need to spend more time with this to be able to take advantage of all that Flickr has to offer.

Flickr Storm ~ a nice place to search through photos that can be used through a Creative Commons License.

Video 2 and Video 3 produced by David Jakes

~ I find photobucket much easier to use than Flickr. There are many preloaded bells and whistles like remixes and slideshows that can be made very easily.

Last fm ~ A social network for music lovers...aren't we all lovers of music? I use it but again I am not taking full advantage of all it has to offer.

YouTube/TeacherTube ~ Love it ~ I have given up television for YouTube. Music videos, how to instruction, old comedy stand ups, inspirational videos...the list for me is endless. I have an account and have started adding videos to my "Favorites." I have recently discovered "Playlist" feature. Type in John Mayer then click Playlist and you will get preloaded lists of videos of John Mayer...too cool.

GMail ~ I know GMail is loaded with features but honestly I just haven't taken the time to play around with all that it can do to fully appreciate it. I do love the chat feature built in and sometimes it's the only way my wife can get ahold of me while at work.

Google Doc's ~ I no longer have Microsoft Word and completely use Doc's. Not having Word posses a problem when I try to open a link that is a Word Doc. but otherwise Google Doc's does just fine.

Google Notebook ~ recently been working on some research for a side job I have been working on and have absolutely fallen in love with Notebook and the share feature that makes all my notes into a link to share with others. Too cool.

Google Calendar ~ calendars frustrate me...I have way too many and I have tried to consolidate and go completely digital last year and it failed miserably. This year I have a little green calendar notebook I use, the calendar loaded on my Mac, and Google Calendar. Do you know what? They don't all match either...still working on this one.

Feedburner ~ it tells me I have 7 people subscribing to this blog. If you are one, "Hello there, thanks for subscribing."

Google Maps/Earth ~ I have a couple projects on the back burner that I would like to work out with our ePals but otherwise it's just a really cool tool that my son and I love to spend time on.

Upload ~ after I create a little song using GarageBand, upload allows me to "upload" that which in turn creates a weblink to the uploaded song so I can then share with others.

iTunes ~ Love it! I download podcasts, songs, and spend a a good deal of time on iTunesU poking around for teacher related material. I have recently discovered MIT and their OpenCourseWare program and will probably be spending more time there than iTunes.

Ning ~
I have recently been asked by our ELA Committee at school to find a tool that we could use in our small group where we could share our thinking online about the book that we are reading. The Ning has fit that purpose nicely.

Skype a video conferencing program that is free and allows you to chat, send files, or use a web cam to talk with folks. A nice way to stay connected with friends and family.

UStream ~ this for me has been a way for me to save and organize my guitar licks that I discover while playing. I will pick up my guitar for 1o minutes and come up with a really cool chord progression or lick that I don't want to forget and so I fire up Ustream and record myself so I won't forget it.

Jott ~ when I have an idea or something I don't want to forget I jott myself and an email is sent with my recorded voice to help me remember. I am all about writing down To Do lists, ideas, great words, phrases, or anything that catches my attention. When I write it down my mind is now free to think of other more creative ideas and solutions to problems. Jott helps me achieve this goal.

Ultimately, I consider myself a work in progress and I am just trying to keep up, or better yet simply stay in the "circle of those who know," which I guess we are calling our Personal Learning Network.

What tools do you use?

John ~
husband, dad, teacher, learner

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