What’s on the #onepage now? #ade2018 #appleEduChat

I returned to the classroom a few days ago (for a Scot this seems far too early!) and so have cleared out the clutter along with the fridge and grouped my most used iPad apps together on a single page. This isn’t anything new – I know that @mcoutts81 amongst others have been doing this for years – but I was surprised by the fact that most of the apps on the page have been stalwarts since I first used an iPad in 2013 and wanted to document this 4 1/2 years later.

What’s on the #onepage at the beginning of 2018?

Explain Everything

Since upgrading to an iPad Pro in October 2017 this has been by far my most used app. My YouTube channel is growing quickly as a result. As my current school do not have student iPad devices I don’t use the Explain Everything projects however it is fantastic for tutorial sessions, individual student queries and ad-hoc learning opportunities as well as the aforementioned planned ones.

Book Creator

I hadn’t made great use of Book Creator with my senior students in my previous schools, but found a perfect opportunity to get used to its features in my current workplace. The A Level course I teach doesn’t have a great textbook, especially for programming concepts, and I wanted to create something the students could refer to AND access the videos I created in Explain Everything to help them. One of my first projects with the iPad Pro was to create an introductory eBook for Python programming concepts (and the associated pseudocode). You can read the blog post about it here.

Pages, Keynote, Numbers

I’ve always kept these apps handy on the iPad but I find that the apps suffer from occasional errors when offline and as a result make more use of Google Suite to ensure I can edit the files I create while on the move. That said, Pages is fantastic for creating quick, great looking documents and Keynote is my go-to app for creating more professional looking graphics. These apps are much more useful if you have a class set as files can be sent via AirDrop and students can edit their own copies of Numbers spreadsheets very effectively, for example, but as a Teacher-only device at present I prefer to utilise other methods of updating shared assessment records.

Docs, Sheets, Slides

Google Suite is great on the desktop but a bit limited on the iPad however with each new release the mobile apps are improving. I share all my resources with students via Google Drive and create them in Google Docs, Sheets or Slides where possible. I like how you can create the documents while offline and it will sync when you next find a WiFi signal but unlike Pages, Keynote and Numbers you don’t get an iCloud ‘download error’ which prevents you from accessing a document you have just created offline.

Google Calendar

It is much better than it used to be (when I preferred Sunrise) however I still tend to use the web app on a desktop to set up meetings. The iPad app tends to simply remind me at present. I love the recent post by @alicekeeler on collaborative lesson planning using Google Calendar and recommend you read it if you want to see an example of the real power GCal can have when used thoughtfully.

Gmail and Outlook

Essential for my work, personal and GAFE domain email. Both suffer from a lack of ability to save offline drafts for sending when you next hit a WiFi signal, so these may change in the near future.

YouTube

Once my videos have been created in Explain Everything and saved to Camera Roll I can quickly upload them in bulk to my YouTube channel when I have internet access. I don’t usually use the app for content consumption and I hate the intrusion of the recommendations.

iBooks

I recently published my first Book Creator book to the iBooks Store. I would have done this sooner but I needed access to a Mac. The iBooks app is invaluable for storage of PDFs as well as eBooks and I have my digital textbooks, past paper collections and professional development reading. I’d love to work out some way of pushing web articles into iBooks though so if anyone knows how to do this please get in touch!

Photos

The crop and rotate feature of the Photos app are essential for my Explain Everything videos. All my Explain Everything videos are stored on the Camera Roll before upload to YouTube as well. This came in useful just before the end of term when a burst water main also took out the area’s Internet connection. My lesson was still able to go ahead as I shared the iPad with students who had yet to watch the video.

Camera

Laptops may have a front facing camera but tablets always win when it comes to documenting student learning. I remember watching students document S1 geography field trips, using the camera app on their iPad in waterproof bags while standing in the middle of a shallow burn. I use the camera daily to record images or videos of handwritten whiteboard notes, examples of student work, etc.

Chrome

Or Safari to be fair. I need to switch between them at times. I think that Chrome on the iPad is really missing features such as extensions however I find their Desktop Mode invaluable when navigating sites which reduce the functionality for mobile viewers.

Edmodo

Another app that is essential for my school at present (although Google Classroom is coming and I’ve sorely missed it). Very easy to set up classes and the messaging capability so students can ask questions about concepts or work missed is great. The main win for me is the homework and assignment setting which allows students the opportunity to plan their studies more effectively. Also the ability to create smaller groups within a class for differentiated work. There are lots of resources, apps and a thriving community for Edmodo educators (including a yearly virtual conference). If you don’t have a GAFE domain in your school or education establishment this should be your student system of choice in my opinion.

Trello

Everyone has their favourite to-do app and for a long time Trello was not mine. I just didn’t see the point of it. Then last year timetabling clashes as well as working across different school sites forced me to find a way to continue conversations and share out work across my department. Email was definitely not the way to do it and I had the intention of trialing Slack but then very quickly we all realised that Trello was awesome at tracking multiple conversations and assigning responsibility. @exappleboy and I even used it successfully within out Parent-School Technology Committee. The benefits definitely come into play when you use it with a group of people.

Drive

Google Apps for Education domains offer unlimited storage for each account (as does Microsoft, to keep this balanced) and I really need this app to allow me to keep working when out of WiFi range. My curriculum for each term is in a single linked Google Doc which students access resources from.

Notability

Prior to the iPad Pro I got used to this with an inexpensive stylus and love the ability to move the individual elements around on the screen. Brilliant for note taking during meetings and quickly creating hand drawn visual elements for my resources (not that I’m particularly good at drawing).

Notes

I haven’t found this too useful in the past but I love the sync with iCloud and write all my blog posts using Notes first. I’ve only used the sketch feature to demonstrate the Apple Pencil to others to be honest, but then I love Notability and Explain Everything.

KeyPass

Too many accounts, therefore I need a lot of different passwords. It might be age (probably) but I think it’s the daft password policies of individual companies. I’ve tried lots of apps but keep coming back to KeyPass.

What am I really hoping to see this year?

EdPuzzle

It’s such an amazing service I am surprised that a Teacher app has yet to be developed to allow creation of EdPuzzles from a tablet. Perhaps 2018 will be the year?

What was the purpose of this blog post?

I feel that there are a number of apps which I haven’t yet fully investigated that can improve my colleague’s – as well as my own – work practices. I chair the next meeting of the College’s iPad user group is later this month and we intend to share the benefits of particular apps we use in our individual subject areas. This blog post is a record of my experiences with some of these apps but also a conversation starter for the group.

I know much better apps that you should be using!

Then please get in touch! I’d love to hear from you.

Brave or Stupid? Abandoning email #workflow #teacher5aday #wellbeing #productivity

https://pixabay.com/en/hustle-and-bustle-woman-face-arrows-1738072/
https://pixabay.com/en/hustle-and-bustle-woman-face-arrows-1738072/
There are plenty of articles out there about email productivity, labelling, filtering. Colour stars abound. Branching labels grow unchecked. I won’t link to them here.

My workflow – for years – has almost always been manually controlled: Interesting / useful email message? Forward to Evernote for archiving and tagging. An action from an email message? Add it to my To-Do list. An email bulletin from a website or solution provider with an interesting article to read? Forward to my Pocket address so I can read it on my Kobo later.

But the email pile grows ever bigger, even with archiving, and searching for an email is just as frustrating as it was before. Add to that the 24-7 nature of email and the “respond now” culture that has evolved over the past few years and you have very little chance of switching off. France are making headway with this issue (but not banning after work email) as they realise this seriously impacts staff wellbeing.

It has got to the point where I want to abandon email altogether and work with a system that helps organise and track tasks for me and others in my department. I have a feeling this is a simultaneously brave and incredibly stupid action but want to explain my reasons behind the decision:

Last weekend (yes, weekend – I’m such a hypocrite) I introduced Trello to my team. You may already know about it but for those who don’t it is a collaborative system where you can have discussions within a card. These cards can be organised on a board. Those boards can be private or public. After a week or use we have reduced our department email to a whimper of what it was previously. Within a week. The boards are evolving and we are communicating almost entirely within Trello cards. It has been so successful at channelling and tracking our asynchronous communication that I’ve put on hold the plan to introduce Slack (which I thought would be an essential component) for the time being.

However my non-department school email continued to pile in. I realised that most of these were being actioned then archived to Evernote. I use Evernote for its tagging and have been archiving web pages, resources and documents of interest since 2010. I have a nice labelling system set up and had previously attempted a productivity system within Evernote without much success. The main issue then was that I had to manually forward actions from email to Evernote, then manually tag them in Evernote appropriately, then remember to manually check the saved searches, etc. It was adding to my workload, not improving it. By removing my department email threads I realised that I had an opportunity to automate some of my workflow for the benefit of me, my team and perhaps the rest of the school.

dilbert-urgent

I looked again at email filters. I created two new ones: The first to file department mail into a “Computer Science Department” label, the other to file all other emails from within my school into a “Whole School” label. I’m working on the simple premise that, if I know who sent it, I know (roughly) what area of my school it relates to.

Then I used the IFTTT service to detect when unread emails with either label appear in my inbox and forward the email text (not attachment) to Evernote. The IFTTT applet files them in my Action Pending notebook and tags them as department or whole school.

At this point I have some manual intervention. I read the messages within Evernote and decide if they need actioning. If urgent I tag them as “1 – Now”. Other levels of urgency are available but none are automated as yet. I realise this is just moving an email to another system however Evernote does not notify me of new notes so removes the “respond now” demand and allows me to schedule a time to check messages every day.

I created another IFTTT applet that looks for a note in Evernote being tagged as “1 – Now”. When this happens it automatically creates a Trello card with the message text and puts it on a private board called “From Evernote”.

From Trello I can now move this from my board to public department boards if it requires action or input from my department.

Other emails from suppliers or subscriptions remain in my email for the moment but this now allows me to take time to purge what is spam (I’ll bet most of it) and what I can automate into Pocket articles in the future.

Potential issues:

I realise that the emails that have attachments will still have to be manually viewed in my email. If I need to forward emails to Evernote instead of using IFTTT in the future it is a minor change as I already have an automated workflow which archives scanned student work for marking within Notability. At present I can upload attachments up to 25MB into Trello cards if required.

There is a daily cover email which is important to read and action if necessary. This one cannot be delayed until a quiet moment of Evernote contemplation. At present I’m not sure how best to filter this – perhaps a separate private Trello board for cover is required (at least until I can convince the school that this is the way forward)….

So my questions are: Brave or stupid? Do you think this will work? Do you have any workflow suggestions to share?

And now I’m going to spend the rest of my day with my family…