Friday, September 26, 2014

Zombies Inspire @evernote @postachio #writing #edtech

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Are you a new teacher looking for writing ideas to share with your students? Or, perhaps, an experienced teacher hoping to inspire students with a twist on traditional writing approaches? Be sure to check out Literacy Today, a site curated by school district literacy specialist, Jananne Healey. Jananne writes the following:

It's not always easy inspiring your students to write.  Some students simply push back and say, "Nothing ever happens to me..."  Here are some wonderful ideas that just might spark an idea and make them excited about writing.  Writing Ideas

You can find Writing Ideas online at Literacy Today. What you may not know is how easy it is to adapt writing ideas with technology to make them a must-do activity for your students!  John Spencer (Education Rethink) is one of the sources for writing ideas that Jananne points to; here’s one of his examples:

Follow this easy 3 step guide to adapt writing ideas, and/or lessons, with technology:
Step 1 - Explore the Writing Idea or Lesson!
“Is this something worth doing?” I don’t know about you, but getting students to underline adverbs and adjectives in a piece of writing isn’t worth the time and effort…doing it on a computer or mobile device (e.g. iPad, Chromebook, smartphone) is just throwing quality time and effort after bad. When I look for writing ideas to implement, I want ideas that would sink my hooks into me as a human being who writes to learn more deeply, that allows me a deeper level of expression.

Writing Idea Connection: With the instruction manual for zombie care, I would dearly love to prime the pump with students. For example, you might read from a copy of The Proper Care and Feeding of Zombies by Mac Montadon. And, there’s a lot to cover in this list of young adult zombie fiction.

Once you’re done getting them all excited, why not dig a little deeper? (get it? dig…). Many zombie tales involve destruction at the end of the world, but zombie care involves solution-finding. In fact, several books take the perspective of what to do AFTER a zombie apocalypse has been solved and everything is back to “normal.” What to do with rehabilitated zombies? The ideas are, while not endless, certainly worth getting into the guts of.

Step 2 - Connect and Collaborate or vice versa!
As exciting as writing a journal is, once you get past the daily excitement of finding out what you’re thinking, playing with words, the first thing most writers look for is an audience. And, that audience isn’t just their teacher or mentor. As a writer, I’m thrilled at the idea that someone is going to be reading my writing. That’s why it’s important to look for ideas that make it easy to connect and collaborate with others. No part of the writing process is sacred—all of it can become an opportunity to connect and collaborate with others at a distance.

Ask yourself then, if the writing idea has potential for sharing. One of my favorite approaches to writing tales was one Clay Burell took with Thousand and One Flat World Tales. He gave it a modern twist:

Tell the aliens a good tale from earth, or face your country’s annihilation….
[Read more]

Using his blog and social media (you could use Twitter, G+, or Facebook, of course), Clay was able to solicit participating classes from around the world to capture stories from around the world. Simply, his students were able to read stories from other groups of students because they posted their work online.

These days, it’s quite easy to connect with other educators. All you really need is a Twitter account and follow fellow Language Arts/Writing teachers. You may also want to build a “virtual space” that can serve as a hub for posting content. One of my favorite tools to use is increasingly Evernote and (a blogging platform based off of Evernote). You create a free account, then use that to capture student writing.

In the old days, students would have to be granted access to a wiki, GoogleDoc, or whatever. Now, using Evernote, you can share an email address that people can send content to and add #notebookname (replacing #notebookname with the notebook in Evernote). Then, the teacher can add the “published” tag to those entries that are ready to be worked on. With an Evernote Premium account, the teacher can invite other educators to have rights to assist with publishing, or better yet, invite students to do it. As Amy Stengel (NorthEast School of the Arts (NESA) in San Antonio, Texas, USA) put it, The more I do, the less my students will. That’s why I’ve learned to turn over responsibility for the student publication completely to them! (a poor paraphrase)

Writing Idea Connection: Connecting and collaborating with other writers around the world shouldn’t be an issue. For example, what are zombies like in India? Pakistan? Italy? New Zealand? Canada? Will taking care of zombies take on a cultural difference or significance in countries where caring for family members in your home is a priority?

Note: Find out more about Postachio and Evernote for Education online

Step 3 - Media-SIZE It!
While many would argue that the primary goal of writing isn’t to publish, but rather, to think through new ideas, bring order to chaos, whether that be in fiction or non-fiction, publishing is a lot of fun. But with the Web so easy to share content on with the world, many of us need to start thinking about how to take actions with traditional activities that go beyond the classroom.

Tip: Evernote makes it easy to include audio in your “notes” that can be saved into your notebook. Those MP3 audio files are automatically shared by, and appear beautifully embedded in a blog entry. Read more

You know what I mean, I’m sure. Walk into any school, you’ll see traditional posters and handwritten pieces of paper doomed to be thrown away in a month or so, buried beneath mounds of paper bodies. You can lengthen the life of student work by publishing it online in written format, but you can also take advantage of multimedia.

Whether you are using a computer, Chromebook or iPad, you can easily publish writing and add audio to it. You can extend that activity by having students script their writing, or even, creating animation, video and making that available. Instead of just a print instruction manual, you now have a multimedia manual of awesome ideas.

Writing Idea Connection: Now that you are featuring students manual on how to take care of zombies via your online site, why not do some interviews? Students can record audio interviews—as well as connect with other students outside of class, around the world using Skype or Google Hangouts—and share those, too. Read more about how to do this with Evernote and online.

Ham it up a little and have a conversation about how tough taking care of a zombie is. Maybe, two people can play “Ain’t it Awful?” about what’s involved in zombie care (e.g. missing digits, muddy footprints on the kitchen floor, lack of bodily fluid control) and share that interview. Of course, they would have to “script that interview out” and practice “quality interview techniques.”

Lots of possible ideas for enhancing writing in the classroom with technology, but tools like Evernote and make it easy to collect student writing and then quickly share it online with a world waiting for new writers to rise up.

Twitter: @mguhlin

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

3 Steps to Sharing Meeting Docs with Your Team @evernote @postachio

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There are a variety of ways to quickly share meeting documents with your team. For example, you could take advantage of one of the following:
  • If you have access to a digital version of the handouts, you can post it in GoogleDrive or a web site.
  • You can run the documents through a copier-scanner, email those to folks (or post them online anywhere).
Another approach, if you have an Evernote and account, is to follow a workflow similar to the one below. Again, you can always adapt it to your needs, budget and available equipment.
Step 1 - Digitize the Document
In my role as a school administrator, I often end up in meetings where people hand me thick packets of paper. My first act is to take those back to the office, give them to my secretary and ask her to scan them to PDF. That PDF then ends up in Evernote. As a premium Evernote user, the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files become searchable. This is a real benefit when trying to dig up content sent to me a year or so ago that has new relevance (e.g. personnel handbook).
My secretary was so efficient at scanning my documents, that I felt compelled to invest in a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i. There are other scanners and I would label this one as “middle of the road" in terms of cost (approximately $250). Consider the mobile USB-powered DoxieGo ($162) or Fujitsu ScanSnap ($250), or the WiFi-friendly Fujitsu ScanSnap Evernote Edition ($495). The Fujitsu ScanSnap is fabulous and I just it daily to digitize documents, essentially, going paperless…the papers go in the recycle bin.
Step 2 - Save the Digital Document to Evernote
One of the advantages of the Fujitsu, and other scanners of this type, is that they come with support to save content anywhere, whether it be to a folder on my computer or directly to Evernote as a JPG (picture/image format) or Adobe PDF file.
For example, I recently attended a local event. One of the many paper handouts available was the beautifully designed agenda. While most of the paper will end up in the trash, I wanted to keep a digital copy. So, I ran the document through the Fujitsu Scanner mentioned above and ended up with this document (notice how when you view this on the web, all you see is a tidy Download PDF link):
Step 3: Share Using
If you’re like me, you have several options for sharing documents with others. I like to find the workflow that is most efficient because once that path has been identified, I don’t have to spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel. Instead of clogging people’s inboxes with emailed attachments, I just auto post the digital file to Evernote and then share it for download as an Adobe PDF file.
Another way is to post these documents—provided they are not confidential—into a blog notebook in Evernote. This would allow documents, along with any notes you might have, to be available to folks with the web address to your blog.
Note that you can add a password to your blog to limit viewability.
While there are many tools available, some may find it easier to use Evernote and to quickly share meeting notes and documents with others. Give it a try!

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stump the Tech Director

The future is here now—check out these pictures of the future--but some times, it’s hard to move organizations along. And, some times, it’s not the organization that’s the obstacle but certain folks—like technology directors—who have trouble saying, “Yes, let’s do that!" That’s why my motto is to do something different, but making that motto REAL is another thing altogether.
I love this Dilbert cartoon that Doug “Blue Skunk" Johnson posted:
Dilbert comic strip's character Mordac, The Preventer of Information Services, is regrettably an all too recognizable figure in many schools...A major cause of this disconnect is that educators and technologists have valid but very different priorities when it comes to technology. As educators, we need simplicity, abundance, convenience, and ubiquity. As a technologists, we must provide security, reliability, and adequacy.
Source: Blue Skunk Blog
Recently, Ben Rimes (@techsavvyed) asked the following via Twitter:

What a great question! Troy Hicks (@hickstro) wrote back quickly with this reply:
So, for fun, I decided to compile my own top 10 fun list from questions heard across the years:
  1. Why do we block YouTube and Facebook, but allow Instagram, Vine and Twitter? Schools have accounts in all of those.
  2. Why can’t we use Todays Meet in classrooms?
  3. Why can’t we use mobile phones in classroom for learning?
  4. How come we’re still using MS Exchange and Outlook WebMail when GoogleApps for Education (GAFE) is available for free?
  5. How come we’re still requiring teachers to create and manage their own class rosters in a “bajillion" different tech-based instructional delivery systems? Let’s require increased automation.
  6. Why can’t you hook up all my classroom technology equipment so that it’s ready to go when I get back from summer vacation?
  7. Why can’t we adopt as our district “storage area network" instead of fancy, expensive servers?
  8. Why do I need to encrypt confidential data before I send it via email? How do I do that? Would you do that for me?
  9. Why can’t you setup a local area network (LAN) and provide internet access in someone else’s building for an event? Or, a field?
  10. Why can’t we just all get Chromebooks? Wait, how do you print something? Nevermind.
…as well as ask others like you for YOUR list.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

@Postachio Rolls Out New Interface?
Earlier tonight, as the rain poured down in Texas, I noticed that when I added a new note to my Evernote notebook ("pmg"), nothing happened. The note wasn't automatically published to my blog, ATC-Clips at and it appears, I wasn't the only person once this blog entry was shared via twitter:
@mguhlin thanks! I thought I was losing my mind when it wasn’t working.

Update, Next Day: All is now working! I had to rename the notebook in Evernote that housed my notes to mirror the notebook name (after I deleted the one made) and all my entries transferred over. I was also using a non-standard tag ("mg","pub") instead of the standard "published" so I quickly tagged all the entries "published" and everything started appearing.

I had a similar problem with my PostachioEd Series, a "page," so I decided to go check out and see what was going on.

I became aware that they are doing a whole series of upgrades and bug fixes! The new interface for connecting Evernote Notebooks to looks like this:

The biggest change--as far as I can see, and this may be temporary--is that you can't choose your notebook in this interface. Rather, creates a notebook in Evernote to house your "blog-centric" posts. I quickly moved my 186 notes from my "pmg" notebook to the "new" notebook,

Here's what it looks like when you are connecting a notebook in Evernote to In the screenshot below, it was my blog. Unfortunately, this connection didn't take, so I must be on the bleeding edge of some change and will need to wait patiently....

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Learning Together

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For a self-styled hermit, loner, and, according to personality profiles, an introvert (INTJ), I am amazed at the value I can get by reflecting on my own work. Often, this results in a "You're too tough on yourself" perspective but I find that to be helpful when focused on moving forward.

Some questions I try to ask myself regularly include the following:

  1. How could I have had handled that better?
  2. What could I do differently to move the organization forward in ways that it hasn't before?
  3. How can I motivate myself to build better relationships with others to achieve organizational goals?
The questions are hard ones to answer and easy to avoid during the busy, crazy lives we all lead with myriad priorities. These conversations, self-dialogues of a sort, often take the place of community learning. Community learning insights fuel these self-dialogues, the self-reflection, making me come up with new ideas to apply to my life and work. I have complete control over these, which I have found is necessary for me as a learner. Obviously, I don't like to have my cheese moved any more than the next person...that's why it's important to move my own cheese, so to speak, so that I can stay ahead of the change.

In the Catholic tradition, there are two insights that a member can have. I do not pretend to know this with any certainty, only repeating the words of a spiritual mentor many years past. If that mentor only knew how long I would hold onto these words. Yet, I find those ideas of personal salvation contrasted with community salvation, eisegesis and exegesis. In the former, we interpret our sacred learning as individuals, gaining insights into it and our interactions with it. In the latter, we make connections directly from the sacred learning (e.g. Bible). The call is to community, whether at work, at home or in church.

These concepts come to mind while reading Howard Rheingold's Reflection, Conversation, Co-Learning Communities, where he writes:
Reflecting on material is a path to understanding by an individual learner, but when a group of learners reflect in public, they provide a rich field for conversations about the material. Debates. Conjectures. Contrapositives. Analysis. Conversations can lead to co-learning when other elements — trust, shared purpose, lead learners, skilled facilitation, serendipity — combine to influence groups of learners to be co-responsible for each other’s learning. And co-learners over time can grow into learning communities. 
As a blogger, reflection on other's learning--what can be more sacred than that?--and how we introduce our own biases into the conversation are powerful. The saving place is community. As a hermit, my success as a learner is limited, but a blog also provides me with the opportunity to dig deeper and share my insights, foolish, profound, or garbage with a greater world. In a real way, an introvert can connect with others in safe ways.

The Call IS to Community....

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Opera Mail as a Simple eMail client

Having played around with my share of email clients (e.g. Thunderbird, IceDove, the horrible (IMHO) Evolution, on GNU/Linux distributions (e.g. PeppermintOS, Lubuntu/Ubuntu (I hate kubuntu), #! and others), I found myself looking for something new and lightweight.

Although I started with Opera browser's Mail component, I promptly discovered that OperaMail is its own standalone program available on Windows. While I avoid Windows OS like the plague, it's nice to know I could use OperaMail on that if I had to. In the meantime, OperaMail is integrated into its browser but I simply stick the Mail part of it, and don't really use the other features.

Opera Mail Setup

I hadn't considered OperaMail as a viable alternative, even though it is cross-platform, supports IMAP and POP.  After a weekend of playing around with it--running 3 email accounts of my handful through it--I am generally pleased with it.

My plan is to setup BitTorrent Sync and sync the hidden .Opera folder with all the settings to other machines and see how that works out. Of course, one could also just copy the .Opera folder to a USB flash drive (gasp, encrypt it first).

These days, with so much email being archived in the cloud, I just need something to shuttle email from one cloud account to a private cloud one. Opera Mail can certainly help out with that...and it doesn't hurt that it has a built-in web browser, although not as robust as Chrome or Firefox.

An email client seems so boring in cloud mail and with tools like CloudMagic on mobile devices, but can be essential when you're moving emails from one account to another (e.g. GoogleApps for Education account to your personal Gmail or vice-versa).

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5 Leadership Lessons Fig Trees Can Teach Us

Fig Tree in the Desert

While I was having fun playing with the concepts behind 9 Ways to Become a Digital Nomad, I started to briefly explore the benefits of figs, "cultivated since ancient times," which I imagined are able to grow in extreme conditions given they are found in the Middle East.

Consider this excerpt from a Wikipedia entry:
The common fig tree has been cultivated since ancient times and grows wild in dry and sunny areas, with deep and fresh soil; also in rocky areas, from sea level to 1,700 meters. It prefers light and medium soils, requires well-drained soil, and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Like all fig trees, Ficus carica requires wasp pollination of a particular species of wasp (Blastophaga psenes) to produce seeds. The plant can tolerate seasonal drought, and the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean climate is especially suitable for the plant. Situated in a favorable habitat, old specimens when mature can reach a considerable size and form a large dense shade tree. Its aggressive root system precludes its use in many urban areas of cities, but in nature helps the plant to take root in the most inhospitable areas...The fig tree, with the water, cools the environment in hot places, creating a fresh and pleasant habitat for many animals that take shelter in its shade in the times of intense heat.
What could one learn from a fig tree? Quite a bit:

Fig #1 - Go Deep with Your Roots: If you are going to learn in arid spaces, which some characterize as inhospitable schools, you have to be aggressive and have a deep root system. Ever walk into a school system or organization that simply rejects your message or your approach to living? I've seen it often in colleagues who are depressed because their organization isn't supportive. Fortunately, they have already, or begin to build, an extensive network of fellow learners online that can support them.

This "deep root system" is diverse and doesn't rely on nourishment from their workplace, but rather, is able to sustain them and slake their thirst for personal reward and commitment in spite of drought. An added benefit is that the deeper and richer the roots you have, the more value you are to the organization, even when it may be doing its level best to slash and burn your initiatives.

Fig #2 - Learn to Spread Your Ideas In Spite of the Stings: Learn from those who might sting you a la fig's wasp pollination. In a similar vein as Fig #1, how do you share your ideas with others in a tough environment? Propagating your perspectives, seeds of ideas, to others in your environment can seem crazy when you have to rely on waspish partners. Yet, it is possible to adapt and find ways for people you wouldn't normally associate with to share ideas.

Fig #3 - Share Your Fruit: As you grow, don't be afraid to cast your shade and fruit to others in tough times. This one seems pretty obvious, but can be a tough one. In the midst of trouble, the desire is to isolate and withhold your goodies (e.g. figs, shade) from others. But then, we are all counselled to love our enemies, to do good to those who don't appreciate us. The reason for that is that being fruitful is a function of who we are, not something we choose to withhold or give. If you hold back, the only one you really hurt is yourself at first. Over the long run, leafy fig trees offer the promise of fruit to all who see them. Deliver on that promise to all who pass by.

Fig #4 - Be Cool: Cool the environment around you so you can improve the situation. In work, and in life, situations can become super-heated by those who generate heat (never happy whiners who prefer to complain, criticize without doing anything), reflect heat (gossipers), or those who sap your resources without giving back to the learning ecology (lurkers who don't blog or share what they're learning). Instead, as a fig tree, you are called to tap into deep sources of nourishment that others cannot, and use that as a way to bring shade to cool.

Fig #5 - Thrive on What Burns Others: Seek the sun so you won't wither and die, but rather, thrive in tough locales. If you're going to thrive in the desert, it makes sense that you can take advantage of the greatest resource available--the hot, burning sun who provides light and energy. If you can't, then you probably need to move on to a more hospitable environment. A fig tree prospers in the light of the sun.
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These are only a few, small figs of learning from the Leadership Fig Tree. What figs can you spot nestled amidst the branches?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure