Saturday, April 7, 2012

The 10 Web 2.0 Tools/Apps I Use Most As A Teacher, Learner & Leader

Awhile back Larry Ferlazzo wrote about the Web 2.0/Social Media tools that he uses every day. I read Larry’s blog all the time, but what struck me about this post was not the tools that he listed as being useful to him, (even though I use many of them myself), but rather the actual process of identifying the technology he uses each and every day. Not that this is hard work, mind you, it’s just that technology is such a ubiquitous part of my life; the tools/toys I use most often don’t feel like “tools” at all – rather they are almost an extension of who I am: a part of my daily routine so “normal” that I don’t think twice about the important role they play. Of course I start my day with a cup of coffee, my google reader and a personalized web curation app. Doesn’t everyone?

And that’s what’s so brilliant about Larry’s post. Often times I wait until some app or 2.0Toy has knocked my teacher socks off before posting about it here. But I don’t stop being a teacher, learner or leader when I leave my library each day, now do I? In fact, my professional and personal lives are so intertwined, that I sometimes struggle to know which is which. So much so, that I think I've overlooked the technology that has infiltrated my daily routine – taking for granted that other folks live and learn the exact same way that I do when, of course, I know this isn’t the case. So… I thought I’d follow Larry’s lead and share some of the technology that has become a part of my routine; these are tools that I don’t simply find useful, but that I’ve learned to depend on as part of my personal and professional journey.  (Note: these are in no particular order.  Nor are they the tools my students use most - that's a post of a different color).

http://bit.ly/I7THQd
#1 & #2 Google Reader + Feeddler Pro:
In Larry’s post, he says that “RSS is truly a magical service” and he is so right! Like so many things in life, RSS was first explained to me by the fine folks at Common Craft. And I can remember thinking – Whoa. This will change everything. And it kind of did. I subscribe to about 100 blogs via my google reader. Some are updated daily, others pretty infrequently, but Google Reader makes it possible for me to peruse their content anywhere and at my own pace without trolling through an onerous pile of bookmarks. Additionally, I use the app Feeddler Pro to access my google reader on my iDevices. There are many RSS apps out there, but I like Feeddler because it’s user friendly and I can easily share content via a number of services. (Note: there is a free version of Feeddler, but I use it enough to justify the $4.99 expense for the pro app).

#3 Zite: Personalized Magazine for iPad and iPhone:
Zite is an app that delivers exactly what it advertizes: up to the minute, personalized news and web content. 
http://bit.ly/I7TzA0

Essentially, new Zite users select from pre existing, or create their own, section headings (like in a newspaper) and Zite curates the web to populate those sections – creating a customized stream of information based on the topics the user WANTS to read about.  For example the sections in MY Zite magazine include (but are not limited to) Education, Literacy, Librarianship, Pedagogy, Professional Development, Gaming, Gadgets and iPhonegraphy    However, what’s really slick about Zite is that as you open links, share them, give them a thumbs up/thumbs down, etc., Zite uses that data to provide you with an even better experience. Of course, there are other iMagazines out there, the most popular of which might be Flipboard (which provides a really beautiful experience for the reader), but I just don’t think you can beat Zite for content discovery. While other services will create a cool, interactive magazine from your Google Reader or a specific Twitter hashtag, Zite searches the web for new content that you have yet to discover. Additionally, Zite then allows you to share that content via your other social networks with just a few taps. I love Zite. There are many days when I would list it as my very favorite app.

#4 Read It Later:
Read It Later is a service that let’s you save what you find on the web so you can read/listen to or watch it later - from any device, anywhere. Once you sign up for a free Read It Later account, you can access your saved bookmarks from any computer or other device with web access. I’ve heard Read It Later called the “the DVR for the internet” and I think that’s a pretty apt description. I share lots of what I find on the internet, but some resources require additional analysis or reflection before I’m ready to move on from them. That said, rather than just bookmarking those links, Read It Later allows me the opportunity to access them anytime, anyplace. What’s more, all of the apps I listed above allow me to save information directly to Read It Later, making saving information seamless and easy. Note: I realize Diigo and other social bookmarking services do the same thing, but I’ve yet to fall in love with social bookmarking. Maybe someday. :)

#5 Twitter:
http://bit.ly/I7VfK2
 I am truly loathe to even mention Twitter here because the time it would take to describe the role Twitter plays in my life would require an entire, or even multiple, post(s). Twitter is truly my professional lifeblood. I use it throughout the day to connect with my PLN, learn, lead and share. It is, without question, the most important tech tool in my professional arsenal. That said, I access Twitter in multiple ways. Via the computer, I access it the old fashioned way: at http://twitter.com. On my iPad, I use the app Twittelator Pro – which I feel provides the best Twitter experience: allowing for multiple platform sharing and a very slick, integrated design. Again, I paid for the pro app here because I use it enough to justify the purchase - but there's a freebie available too for those who just want to try it out. However, I don’t love the iPhone version of Twittelator, so there I access Twitter via TweetBot – which is not perfect, but provides me with a clean, easy to manage experience. Too complicated, I know, but when you use a service as much as I use Twitter, you’ve got to find the tools that will help make the experience as easy and as enjoyable as possible. That said, I know there are lots of Tweetdeck lovers out there who swear by its multi column approach to tweeting, but I just can’t wrap my head around that much information at one time. For me, learning to love Twitter was about finding the best ways to customize and manage the huge and quickly moving stream of information that it provides. Otherwise, it can be very overwhelming .  Find me on Twitter:  @jenniferlagarde

#6 Google Apps:
Like a lot of people, I am addicted to Google - and there are countless ways that its collaborative tools make my life easier. Though I recently went back to a (wait for it…) paper/pencil calendar (I know! The horror!) as a way to coordinate my life (I’ve spent tons of money on calendar apps but have yet to find the perfect one), I use a Google Calendar for my library calendar as well as to coordinate district wide staff development, etc. I also use Google Forms almost obsessively for scheduling meetings, collecting data, soliciting feedback – you name it, there’s a Google Form for it. And Google Docs is, by far, my favorite collaborative tool. I use Google Docs to collaborate with people just down the hall and halfway around the world. Honestly, I sometimes wonder how I functioned before Google Docs.

#7 Wikispaces:
Again, the fine folks at Common Craft do a much better job of explaining wikis than I do, so I will let them do the heavy lifting. However, I will say that I use Wikispaces to coordinate and contribute to a number of wikis – the most important one in my professional life is probably the tech wiki that I manage for the staff at my school. I love Wikispaces as a way to compile and share information. I love it as a public space for shared resources and I use it A LOT! Of course, there are lots of other wiki platforms out there, but Wikispaces is my favorite. It’s fun, easy and very user friendly.  Find me on Wikispaces: @jenn.lagarde

#8 Wix.com:
Wix is my favorite quick, easy flash webpage designer. All of my professional webpages have wix pages embedded within them. Despite the cluttered nature of this blog, for me, web design is as much about aesthetic as it is content: a shameful admission, I know, but I need my stuff to look good! Wix has a drag and drop interface, its ads, (in the free version, which is what I use), are unobtrusive, they are incredibly easy to imbed into most webpage editors and they look fantabulous! Plus, because Wix is web-based, I can access my Wix pages from anywhere, update them with just a few clicks and they are automatically refreshed everywhere that I post them.

#9 Instagram:
http://bit.ly/I7Yv7W
iPhoneography is one of my favorite stress relievers. I don’t draw or paint or write poetry (at least not that I am willing to share!) but I love to take photos. And with the dawn of the smart phone and its mountain of photography apps, getting creative with your images is easier than ever. Last year, I decided to tackle a #365project – that is to say, I made the commitment to take, edit and share at least one photo per day. Naturally, there were some days when I regretted the decision, but despite a few stumbles, I completed the project so pleased by the results, that I decided to continue for a second year. That said, Instagram is a wonderful way to share images and connect with other photographers for inspiration and feedback. While I don’t love the filters instagram offers, I love it as a network of folks like me who use iPhoneography as a creative outlet and professional tool. As I said, photography is a great creative outlet and stress reliever, but it’s also brought with it some unexpected benefits: not only have I become a much better photographer as a result of taking more photos that I then edit and share, but I am also quickly building my own collection of stock images for presentations etc. Now, as I design presentations and other web creations, I troll my own images before heading out to the web to nick the work of others (with credit, of course). Eventually, I will create a page on this blog where I share these images for others to use, but for now, I am truly enjoying the process.   (Instagram is now available for android users too!)  Find me on Instagram:  @jennlagarde

#10 Tumblr/Posterous:
Twitter and, to a lesser degree, education services like Edmodo have put “microblogging” on the map. Microblogging being the term used for sharing your thoughts in a minimized format (140 characters or less) as opposed to the blathering on and on like some of us do in traditional blogs. Recently, Technorati dubbed services such as Tumblr and Posterous as “miniblogging” platforms: services that “bridge the gap between the world of Twitter, and the world of blogs.” What I like most about these services as they provide an easy way to share and curate content via mobile devices. These are posts that require more space than Twitter or that I want to archive BUT that don’t require careful editing or the deeper reflection of a traditional blog. Plus, I love how these platforms allow me to post via email or by connecting to other services. I use Tumblr and Posterous for various personal/professional pursuits. For example, I archive/share my photos via Tumblr and compile book reviews via Posterous.

Bonus! #11 Pinterest:
Pinterest has YET to infiltrate my daily routine – which is due entirely to the fact that while I love the web interface, I hate the app and it hasn't been seamlessly integrated into my other curation/content discovery tools.  Once Zite or Feeddler integrate Pinterest as a way to share content, it will be game on!! Even so, I do find myself spending more and more time pinning stuff to my various boards –some personal and some professional. It’s a fun, visual way to curate the web! Find me on Pinterest:

So… what are your favorite web tools? What technology can you not live without? What apps make your life not just easier but, indeed, possible?? Please share in the comments so we can all benefit from one another’s web 2.0 addictions!

9 comments:

  1. "So… what are your favorite web tools? What technology can you not live without? What apps make your life not just easier but, indeed, possible??"


    Twitter
    Diigo
    Zite
    Dropbox
    Scoop.it
    Flickr
    WordPress
    YouTube
    PB Works
    My iPad
    LiveBinder
    Twitter
    Twitter
    Twitter

    Thanks for sharing. I can't wait to test drive wix.com

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    1. Girl, I cannot believe I forgot to mention Dropbox! That is why I need my PLN! Love your other suggestions too. I purposely left my beloved Blogger off the list because I hate some of their recent changes and am considering a move to edublogs. *sigh* Thanks again, lovey!

      j

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  2. Have to add Goodreads to my list. I use it to keep up with all the books I read, want to read and want to order for school. I also follow readers like Donalyn Miller which helps me keep up with new books.
    I've started using Scoop.it more than Diigo now and I love Fictfact.com to keep me up to date on book series.
    This is the order I check everything: email, Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, Pinterest. Repeat often:)

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    1. I can't keep up with Goodreads. I've tried, but go in spurts. Agree that it is a great resource for readers, though. When I retire, it will be my #1 toy! :) I love KDL What's Next - which is a public library website for series! Will have to check out Fictfact. Thanks!

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  3. You mentioned curating, tryPearltrees! A visual organization of sites

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    1. I've tried Pearltrees, but found it a bit clunky. Will have to give it another go! Thanks for the suggestion!

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  4. Good reader, Evernote and Pages!

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  5. I am really just beginning my journey. I am a little overwhelmed, but I have started reading Larry Ferlazzo and some others and now know that there is a lot I don't know. Our school uses Apple. I am using livebinders to jumpstart, because the organization of information is so logical to me. I also went to a TCEA Conference for elementary school teachers. Do you have any suggestions for me as I climb a steep learning curve. I am so excited, but I feel like I am having to learn even some of the simplest of tools. Thanks.

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