Thing 22: Productivity Tools

First, I must apologize to you, Polly, for making you work right up until the last day of my June 30th deadline! This is my fourth “Thing” and tomorrow and Thursday I will work on my last.

There were so many wonderful choices in the Productivity Tools lesson, but I focused first on google-related items because teachers in our school are beginning to use google apps for education and I would like to deepen my awareness of ways to use the apps to improve learning and be able to share this with teachers and students. I began with Joyce Valenza’s SLJ article on google Voice Typing. I believe this will be a valuable tool for some of our special education students (including one blind student and several who have difficulty writing) it is also valuable for our technologically-deprived students who haven’t had the typing experience of their tech-savvy peers. Being able to dictate what they say rather than peck away at the keyboard will better hold their thoughts. I don’t see dictation spelling errors (by google voice) as a big problem for this group who, most often, are our students with poor literacy skills, such as spelling. Students can get their “voice” (words) on paper first without worrying about spelling and then be guided back to correct any errors google might have made. Chances are, google will do no worse than they might have done. I believe I will even use Voice myself. Though I’m a fast typer, I often lose my train of thought while typing. Unfortunately, the tool didn’t perform well for me when I tried to use it to write about it for this blog entry. I am hoping it’s only because my laptop is old and very slow right now. Currently, there is a lag-time between my keystroke and the letter’s appearance in my google doc, so my situation isn’t ideal. I look forward to trying it out on my school PC.

The 2nd article I explored actually had to do with Chrome extensions: 15 Can’t Miss Chrome Extensions for Productivity; I also explored the links withing the article. The following is what I found most valuable for usability now.

  • Save to Pocket – For reading things later, which  I will only use for articles that I want to read, not for any other kind of bookmarking. I frequently receive articles from a couple of ASCD publications in my work email. Rather than save promising articles in an email folder, I will use Save to Pocket which automatically syncs to all my devises.
  • Ghostery– I loved the video embedded in the 15 Can’t Miss… article. It was a humorous and efficient way to explain tracking to students. I will use this in my Privacy Unit that I hope to use with next year’s 9th graders. I was going to offer this to them as a tool as well, but noticed the following in the Comments section of the article:
    • “Ghostery is owned by the ad company Evidon which helps companies to improve their use of tracking code by selling them data collected from the Ghostery users who have enabled the data-sharing feature in the extension.”

A quick search of Ghostery reviews has warned me off of promoting this tool. However, safer alternatives were recommended. I didn’t take the time to follow up on them but will do so before I teach the unit. The experience reminded me of an important point I want to drive home to students: Nothing is ever really “free” on the Internet. So added to this lesson on Privacy will be an activity where they’ll have to research some free tools looking for the “catch”. Most likely I’ll “share” a google doc in the form of a chart, with links to tools they have to test and columns for their analysis. Actually, if I divide the class into groups, each group can have a set of tools according to a theme (productivity tools, privacy tools, etc) and, after the analysis phase, prepare a presentation to the class of one ‘most recommended’ and one ‘hazard’, something like that.

  • LastPass – Because the Ghostery recommendation left me skeptical, I explored LastPass and a related article on password-saving apps warily. That’s why I will teach the following idea (copied below), or similar, to students instead because it does not depend on any online tool. (The idea is taken from one of the reader Comments in a related article on the makeusof website.)
    • First character of the website, in caps: M

      A % sign: %

      6 fixed letters: iefotu

      2 fixed numbers: 69

      Which means my password for this site would be: M%iefotu69

      And my Facebook F%iefotu69


  • Dayboard: I added this extension to my toolbar for my own use. I have been using Google Keep to form To Do lists, but I haven’t developed the habit of checking it daily. In fact, I often let other tasks hijack my day before I’ve even thought to look at my Keep lists. Dayboard limits you to 5 daily tasks and, each time you open a new tab on your computer, the list appears. Such as my item #1: “Finish CoolToolsforSchools by Thursday eve!!!

The 3rd article I explored was 10 Creative Ways to Use Google Tools to Maximize Learning. One recommendation was for teachers to use Voice Comment (rather than a text comment) for reviewing student writing. One benefit is that it reveals a teacher’s tone and inflections, something that written comments can’t do. So rather than seeming critical, a comment meant to be encouraging will sound that way. In the article I also learned about Google Drive Templates. I found the “Students & Teachers” templates most valuable, such as a template for writing a syllabus, for lesson planning, for creating grading rubrics, and 2-column notetaking to use with students. Another tip in the article was to have the class collaborate (using a shared doc – maybe the notetaking template?)  on a notes page based on a lesson or assigned reading.

Lastly, I decided to learn more about Dropbox, which I ended up installing on my laptop. At first, because I store most docs in Drive, I didn’t think it would be useful. But not everyone uses Drive, such as my library assistant, and this will be a great way for us to share record-keeping and library management docs. Also, I still have many work-related Microsoft office docs stored in files on my laptop that I’m not yet ready to upload into my school Drive but may need to access at some time in the future. So I began uploading some of these into Dropbox earlier today.

I wish I could explore more of the recommended tools and articles for Thing 22, but will complete the lesson now and begin my last Thing tomorrow.





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