SO IT BEGINS – MY NEW FOCUS

Caricature of Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur...

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When I decided to change the focus of my blog to reviewing more software and web applications that I use in my classroom and personally.  As part of this change in direction, I wanted to get a baseline of the software and web applications that I am using right now as I start down this new road and I have accomplished that project in my “What am I using Now” series:
1. Productivity suite (mail, calendar, contacts, todo):
2. Office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, slide show, notebook):
3. Social media
4. Internet browser
5. Blogging (blog host, blog writer)
I have also included a table that encompasses the other tools that I am using in addition to the five major categories above.
I added what I was using back in May 2008 from my

WEB 2.0 APPLICATION BUTTERFLY

post, so you can see what I was using back then.

TYPE
Software/Application
Software used May 2008
Productivity Suite
Combination of Google’s gMail, gCal, Contact and Apple’s Mail, iCal and Address Book.I have a new TODO or Task Manager that I will be blogging about next week.
Mail Manager/Calendar/Task Manager – I would prefer one synchs easily with gMail/gcal – prefer an integrated package than three separate one, but would consider 3 separate if what I am really looking for.
Ex. Outlook, Thunderbird, Spicebird, Zoho (if they ever get mail going)

Office Suite and Notebook
Combination of Google’s Google Docs and Microsoft’s Office for Mac 2011 and
NoteShare
Online office suite – requirement it must integrate intuitively and easily with Office 2007.
Ex:  Google Docs, Zoho Office,  Thinkfree
Note taking software:  I really, really like M/S OneNote, but the inability to share with others and lack of web application (so I can use different computers and still access my information) makes it just a little less than ideal.
Ex. Zoho Notes, Evernote, Google Notes
Social Media
Twitter (TweetDeck), Facebook, Diigo/Google Bookmarks
Twitter – Twitbin – integrates well with Flock as a sidebar
Browser
Google Chrome and Apple Safari
Web Browser – Flock – Love it – works for me.
Blogging
Blog Writer
Blogger
Still looking
Blog – Edublogs – Just changed from Blogger – love it so far
Blog Editor – Flock Blog Writer – gonna give it a try
Music
iTunes
Music – iTunes – don’t really like navigation, compatibility issues etc. but have an iPod
Photos
iPhoto with Picassa as a backup online, and Duplicate Annihilator
Photomanager:  Must be easy to use and able to re-size pictures.
Desktop Photomanager:  Win Photo Gallery, Picassa,
Web Photomanager:  Flikr, Photobucket, Picassa,
Video
Photo Booth and iMovie with a little from Jing and QuickTime with VLC available when nothing else works.
Video – VLC – Need to learn more about it, but it works pretty intuitively.
Maintenance
Clean My Mac
CC Cleaner
eReader
Stanza, Barnes & Noble
None
Online Backup
DropBox
None
Diary
Chronories
None
VOIP
Skype
Skype

and Infinite Campus as our school-wide data management system.
I wonder how this list will look at this time next year?
Some things that I will to look at when reviewing software or web applications:
  • Do my students have access the product?
  • Is it intuitive and easy to use or is there a steep learning curve?.
  • How much does it cost?
  • What are the other options that do the same function?
  • Whether it synchs well with my iPhone.
  • Does it actually get used in my classroom
  • On occasion what students think about a particular tool
I know that I plan to try a lot of new software/applications, but will also look at old reliables that might be overlooked in the present race to find something new and fantastic.  Just because something is new, it does not always mean that the new software or application is better than what we are presently using.
I am also approaching my one-year anniversary of changing from a die hard Windows based user to a Mac at the end of this month.  I love my Mac and how it just works!  I don’t have to mess with the settings or system – I just use it.  I don’t think that I would go back to using Windows based machine, unless it was forced on me for some reason or other.  Given that I am a convert to the Cult of Mac what am I using and what do I really miss from the Windows world will be something I look at also.
Why do I believe that I should add “yet another voice” to the number of people reviewing software or applications?  I have been using computers since back in the late 1970’s and have always had an interest in what software is useful or not and playing different games on them.  So I am an older guy who might offer a different perspective on how software is used and viewed.
The final reason is that playing around on the computer is what I am passionate about and spend much of my own time online looking at new software and applications.  I love the challenge of learning how to use them and figuring out if they are useful in my classroom or personally.
Yes I will still write about what is going on in my classroom on occasion and keep up with Special Education, but those will not be the focus of One Foot In Reality.
So here is to my blog’s new focus – reviewing software and applications on their applicability in the classroom.
What have you done to make a difference today?

BLOGGING TOOLS I AM USING – DECEMBER 2010

Image representing Blogger as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

This is the next in a series of blog posts that I wanted to do, since I decided to change the focus of my blog to reviewing more software and web applications that I use in my classroom and personally, versus primarily focusing on Special Education issues. I wanted to get a baseline of the software and web applications that I am using right now and some of the rationales I have for using them, as I start down this new road.
So to start this project I have decided to write about the tools I am using in the following order:

1. Productivity suite (mail, calendar, contacts, todo):
2. Office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, slide show, notebook):
3. Social media
4. Internet browser
5. Blogging (blog host, blog writer)

These are not in-depth reviews of each product discussed, but simply a quick hit of my thoughts about the Software/Web Applications and how I use them right now. I have been blogging fairly regularly since October 2007, during that time I have been what I call a blog butterfly.  I have gone from blog host to blog host and blog to blog far too often at least 12 different blogs.  But during that time period I have had the opportunity to try a variety of hosts and blogging tools, some that I really liked, others which were not for me.

BLOGGING – ANOTHER FORM OF SOCIAL MEDIA

After all the experimentation I have come pretty much full circle and back to where I started blogging with Google’s Blogger.

Blog Host: Blogger, it simply does everything that I want from a Blog host.  I can go into the HTML code to muck around and make tweaks to my theme if I want without having to pay extra.  Fortunately, most of that is now taken care of by the Template Designer function, so I don’t have to get into the HTML (which I really don’t know what I am doing) and can make most changes through an application.  Using that tool you can customize the look of your blog until it meets your requirements.

You can monetize and add advertisements, just in case your blog gets popular and makes enough to try to cover expenses.  Blogger is free unless you decide to get a custom domain and that cost is very affordable $10.00 annually.  There are no real limitations on what widgets you use and you control your blog.  Blogger does what I want, is stable and with the template design feature easy to make your own.

Here is my returning to Blogger from WordPress post that gives information on my leaving WordPress type blogs MORE THAN A LITTLE DISAPPOINTED WITH WORDPRESS. Many of those complaints are the same complaints that I have had with other Blog Hosts also.  I even have tried my own Self-Hosted blog site and found that the back end management was simply too much work and I didn’t want to deal with it.  In reality that is probably the way to go if you are willing to do the site management and I am not, so here I am at Blogger, where I initially started back in 2007.  I always seem to make it back to here.

Blog Writer: I have not found a blog writer that I truly like since I moved to the Mac.  I have tried Qumana, Mars Edit, Ecto and bunch of others.  To put it bluntly I just didn’t like the way they did things and wasn’t willing to pay money for something that I wasn’t 100% happy with.  I did pay for Blogo last January, but I do not like the way it does its image management and that it does not integrate Zemanta when writing the blog – otherwise I would use it.

I initially started writing this post with ScribeFire, but am having a heck of a time putting a picture in the post from a file on my computer (I have cleared the cache and double-checkED the cookie setting, but still no luck) otherwise it seems to be doing really well.  I gave up on ScribeFire for the night, I couldn’t get it to import pictures and didn’t feel like importing to Picassa to be able to use them on ScribeFire.  I have used ScribeFire in the past and it seems like it is on its way to being something to reconsider, but the image management system for the Mac has to be fixed.

Blogger’s blog writer is okay, but it just doesn’t do isn’t native to the Mac and I have to pull images out of iPhoto and put them on the desktop to use them which is inconvenient, but it does work and it incorporates Zemanta easily.  So I end up going back and editing my posts with Blogger’s blog writing software.  However, lately (the past 6 months) I have been having some issues with paragraph spacing where Blogger’s blog writer adds extra spaces where there shouldn’t be any which makes the posts look unfinished.

I still really like Microsoft’s Live Writer and have not found another application or software that does everything I want as much as it did.  When I use it on my wife’s laptop, I remember what I am missing and why I wish there was a similar product for the Mac.

The system that I have been using lately to write my blog is drafting the blog in Microsoft Word 2011 for Mac, then cutting and pasting the post to Blogger’s Blog Writer to add pictures or videos and finish it off with Zemanta.  These are two steps too many and I should be able to do everything easily in one program.

The truth be told is that I love to blog, maybe I am a bit of (lot of) a blog butterfly, but I have learned a lot about myself and learned so much from others by blogging, not to mention what I have learned about the different software used by bloggers.  I have been introduced to ideas, practices from people that I would never had met without blogging and been able to put my ideas out there for others to read if they chose to do so.  Is blogging a bit narcissistic – yes it is…but I don’t really care (what does that say about me for all you amateur psychologists out there).

Where else would a “nobody” like me have the opportunity to have my words heard by more than a handful of people around me and every once in a while a post reaches more people than I could imagine before blogging.

I believe that I have finally settled into a stable blog here at One Foot In Reality.  I have changed the theme a bit more than I wanted to, but lately the biggest thing that I have changed is the page background (which is a big improvement for me).  I have finally decided on Coast Guard blue as my background for some reason or other :-).

And yes I do have to admit it, I am a Blogger.   :-p

What have you done to make a difference today?

SOCIAL MEDIA I USE – December 2010

This is the next in a series of blog posts that I want to do, since I decided to change the focus of my blog to reviewing more software and web applications that I use in my classroom and personally versus focusing on Special Education issues. I wanted to get a baseline of the software and web applications that I am using right now and some of the rationales I have for using them, as I start down this new road.
So to start this project I have decided to write about the tools I am using in the following order:

1. Productivity suite (mail, calendar, contacts, todo):

2. Office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, slide show, notebook):

3. Social media

4. Internet browser

5. Blogging (blog host, blogwriter)

6. Image management (video and photo)

These are not in-depth reviews of each product discussed, but simply a quick hit of my thoughts about the Software/Web Applications and how I use them right now or if I do)

SOCIAL MEDIA:

I am going to cover Blogging in its own post.

I am not a huge user of social media compared to other people out there, but I do use it to keep up with what is going on with Friends and to keep in contact with my Personal Learning Network. I do notice that I use both quite a bit and when I looked at my usage stats they are among my leaders in time spent on them – maybe I leave them running in the background to much? So maybe I need to re-look at what I am actually doing with social media versus, what I think I am doing.

I am very conservative regarding who friend, what I say or show for pictures on my social media sites, because whatever is put on the web is there permanently. I have my Personal Friend/Following policy on my blog.

Facebook:I am not a huge fan of Facebook itself, but as more and more people are using it for more than just contacting family and friends, I know that I have to maintain a presence here. I don’t know what to make of its policies and I don’t like that it assumes that people want to automatically be public with everything and make you go in and manually change settings for more privacy. I know that most of my students have a Facebook account and I plan to teach a Digital Safety curriculum next year. As part of this I will be showing students how to change their privacy settings.

Twitter:It is my gateway to my Personal Learning Network and how I connect to other educators. I have been on since 2008 and have to keep pruning who I follow to keep it around 150 people who I follow during the school year (which is tough because there are so many interesting people out there that I really want to follow).

As you can see I am almost 100 above my supposed personal limit, but there so many people out there that I want to see what they have to say. Many of these I met through my participation in #edchat, #spedchat and all the other “chats” that go on in the Twitterverse for Educators.

TweetDeck is what I use for the most part to regularly follow my Twitter feeds

I use TweetGrid when I am participating in #edchat on Tuesday nights, because everything just goes by too fast and I just want to focus on #edchat.

Ning: I am also the member of several Ning networks, but haven’t been participating in them as much as I should, I have been using Twitter as my primary education connection. Maybe that will be one of my New Year’s resolutions, figure out which Ning I belong to, that will help me the most in the classroom and begin to participate in that one.

Social Bookmarking: With all the furor over Yahoo’s gaff over Delicious I figure I might as well add my two cents in here. I haven’t used Delicious in over a year, it just seemed to be lacking what I wanted from a social bookmarking site and ever since Microsoft attempted to purchase Yahoo a couple of years ago, I have tried to not use the service too much. Yahoo just seems to be going in the wrong direction with many things.

Diigo: I moved onto Diigo and have maintained a presence there for a couple of years. I wrote about it in my “Diigo – Yes I am Using It”post back in August. Diigo has only added more capabilities since that writing. If anything it does too many things, but you can pick and choose what you want to use.

Google Bookmarks: See Richard Byrne’s latest post, it explains Google’s bookmarking system very well. How to Prepare for the Delicious Shut Down

When I look at what is actually considered Social Media, I use it a lot more than I thought. Most people only think of Social Media as a Facebook/My Space type web application, when in fact Social Media is so much more than just those two services.

What have you done to make a difference today?

WEEK IN REVIEW – December 19, 2010

My weekly top 5 blog posts in review.  I usually do this on Saturday, but to be honest I forgot, while I was getting everything set back up in gMail.com as I described in my “Going Back to gMail.com” post.

Overall, it was a tough week, it is the week before December break and the students were in rare form all week. There are several reasons for it, but they are just about “done” with school for 2010 and know it.  We were able to finished up “The Lottery Rose” and I had the Tech Integrator introduce the students to NoteShare on Thursday.

On the tech front, I found a new task manager that I really like a lot and will be writing about after I use it more next week and become more comfortable with its features.  I really started to use Google Chrome’s new Web Store and found it to be pretty cool.  Otherwise I am still attempting to simplify and consolidate as much of my software as possible.

Below are my top 5 blog posts for the week based on pageviews in Blogger Stats

OFFICE SUITES I USE DEC 2010
Dec 14, 2010
IS BLOGGING THAT IMPORTANT?
Dec 18, 2010, 1 comment
GOING BACK TO GMAIL.COM
Dec 18, 2010
PRODUCTIVITY SUITES I USED DEC 2010
Dec 13, 2010
CHANGING MY BLOG FOCUS
Dec 12, 2010

It seems as though my more recent posts are being read more than my older ones now, which is a good thing.

What have you done to make a difference today?

INTERNET BROWSERS I USE – DECEMBER 2010

Google Chrome Icon

Image via Wikipedia

This is the third blog post, since I decided to change the focus of my blog to reviewing more software and web applications that I use in my classroom and personally.   I wanted to get a baseline of the software and web applications that I am using right now and some of the rationales I have for using them, as I start down this new road.
So to start this project I have decided to write about the tools I am using in the following order:
1. Productivity suite (mail, calendar, contacts, todo):

2. Office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, slide show, notebook):

3. Social media

4. Internet browser

5. Blogging (blog host, blogwriter)

These are not in-depth reviews of each product discussed, but simply a quick hit of my thoughts about the Software/Web Applications and how I use them right now or if I do).

INTERNET BROWSER

Currently I use a combination (yet again Apple/Google) of Safari and Chrome as my primary browser combination.  Important considerations that I have for any browser is its ability to render our Infinite Campus gradebook correctly, and be supported by Google Docs and be extensible.  If a browser can’t do those properly it has limited functionality for me.

Chrome:  Chrome as it become more and more stable is becoming my browser of choice, I am not getting the “ah snap” notifications nearly as often as in the past.  It is extensible, does everything I ask of it, is fast and integrates easily with all the other Google services that I use (as it should).  And yes I can change the theme, which while a minor thing, does make it more visually appealing to me.
Change to Google Chrome
Safari: The improvements made with 5.0+ have made this my secondary browser.  I like the extension gallery and the choices continue to grow rapidly.  Safari has really improved considerably over the past few years and I like using it.  I am not crazy how the spinning beach ball of death still appears too often and that I have to keep the gray look, but those are relatively minor things.  It integrates quickly and easily with the other Apple tools that are on my MacBook Pro.
Firefox:  I kept trying to use Firefox, I like its extensibility and how it is it is developed, but I never really stuck with it for more than a couple of months.  The last time that I tried it in September it couldn’t render my grade book properly and that was the final nail in the coffin for me.
Opera:  I keep going back to it because it does everything I want, but it is not supported by Google Docs and some things just don’t work right in it. Version 11 was another improvement and the people at Opera always seem on the cutting edge of new browser development.  But whenever I choose to use it, it just doesn’t seem to completely do what I want and I end up going back to a different browser.
Flock:  Just changed over to the Chrome style for Mac and when I tried it a couple of weeks ago, it couldn’t use Chrome’s extensions.  Of all the themes Flock’s is probably my favorite. The Mac version of Flock just didn’t seem ready for prime time right now.
RockMelt:  I got the invitation to try it and I did.  Unfortunately, RockMelt just didn’t do it for me, maybe if I was a bit more social it would be more interesting, but I am not and after I used it for a couple of hours, I could tell it was not what I am looking for right now in a browser.

There are many more browsers out there that I have tried (Camino, OmniWeb, etc.), but for various reasons I decided to just stay with the Chrome and Safari (IE not an option on the Mac) browsers which both have their quirks, but are vastly superior to their previous versions.

The browser someone chooses from today’s offerings are more a matter of personal preference than actual performance.  Almost all of today’s browsers let you browse the internet, view pages and most of the time do so reliably.