Monday, July 30, 2012

There's an App for That

It seems like there is an app for everything. If there's not an app, then there's a download. If there's not a download, then there's a website.

Need an organization tool? Need a way to record audio? Need a way to hi-light web text? Need a way to record or video chat? Need a place to store and share files, pictures, and other info?

There's a frickin app for that.

Now, I know I sound a little pessimistic. It's actually kind of amazing how easy it is to find a technological tool to fit your needs. That being said, I'm still slightly overwhelmed.

Allow me to explain.

Recently I learned about the educational uses of Skype, Evernote, Diigo, and Dropbox.

Skype is pretty much the best way to get a guest speaker/expert to virtually drop in on your classroom and give a lecture. It can also be used for group work, especially if the students are unable to meet physically. And it's helpful for getting in touch with those parents who always miss their parent-teacher conferences.

Evernote is my own personal organizer. I use it everyday to organize my class schedule and keep track of all the things I have to do. I can plug dates and tasks into a table and check off each completed task with check boxes, which are my favorite feature. I can also toggle from doc to doc within a notebook so I don't have to have a million word windows open at once. It's also very easy to add pictures or audio recordings to a note (and there's a handy little Evernote icon built into my task bar that will download something directly from the internet into Evernote).

I was not as impressed with Diigo. Yes, it's really handy if you're doing research. It allows you to keep a meta list of bookmarks (online, not in your web browser so you can access them anywhere). It allows you to hi-light, but only html text. You still can't hi-light pdf's (a huge downfall in my opinion). And it allows you to make notes. All in all this is pretty cool. But, to me, it seems like a lot of extra work when I could just print the article and hi-light it, or copy and paste the content I need into another document. With Diigo I have to log into another website. I don't know, maybe it would suit me more if it was on my desktop.

The last piece of technology I learned about was dropbox. This is a site like Cloud or Carbonite that allows you to store data online. You can also share documents with other people etc. I think this is useful, but I don't know how often I will use it, especially since I use google to share docs and that's easier to access because it's connected to my email. Yes, I think it's important to back up all your files. But, if you're like me, I have a lot of files and I've already reached my limit on dropbox. I find myself less inclined to use it now that I have to pay for more storage space or refer 25 friends to get the space I need. 

Now, it's true, these last two pieces of technology are totally useful. But, for me at least, I find that I really only have room for a few tools in my toolbox. I like to have a hammer and screwdriver handy. These are tools I know and with which I'm familiar, but give me a full case of tools, drawers and drawers, and not only do I not know what to use, I just avoid the drawer completely because there are too many items from which to choose. My life is complicated enough without constantly worrying about what internet program I should use or wondering where I stored a particular piece of information. Figuring out where I put the info and accessing it sometimes takes longer than just putting the info in a word doc or in Evernote or just writing it down. Paper is still useful!

I think that's why I like Evernote so much. It's kind of a one-stop shop for all my organizational/educational/instructional needs. I can't handle all the other tools. There are just too many. I have so much going on that basic, non-complex technology is what I crave. I am a simple girl. I like paper and lists and technological tools that mimic such items. I'm just not adept at organizing all my organizational tools. 

Although, I'm sure there's an app for that.


  1. I too find evernote to be the most useful! How would you use it in a classroom thought? I was thinking of making it like a class website, where the students could get any assignments or see class notes if they missed that day.

    Would you ever consider having a class dropbox (much like what we have on Ctools) for students to turn in work instead of printing it out?

  2. Whoah, I just got excited about evernote. Organization is a skill I lack a bit (though I have improved greatly). I HATE having a billion word tabs open and it sounds like evernote can help me in this regard. I feel ashamed to admit this as I have a Y chromosome but this list checking off feature also intrigues me. I'm going to check evernote out . . . exactly now.

    P.S. I beat the internet. The end guy was hard.

  3. I like that you used the tool box as example to explain that we don't need to use all the apps. Apps are teaching tools for teacher to use and help students understand new knowledge better, but we must be selective. Different tools have different purposes, always choose a handy one! Do you think with all the online conference chatting tools like Skype that going to school everyday might become old fashion?