We started a couple of EdTech groups on our campus last semester. One piece of guidance I gave at the start of almost every gathering was to not to try to implement every good idea that participants heard about, but rather to pick one thing at each meeting that would be of most benefit.
As I think back to our groups' collaboration last semester, here are five ideas that might be a good fit for the one thing to focus on for the Spring 2014:
USE iANNOTATE TO GRADE ON YOUR IPAD
Most of our group members have an iPad. The iAnnotate application comes highly recommended as a good tool for those people who like to “write” on students' papers when giving feedback. I prefer the TurnItIn iPad app, but with that comes the downside of not being able to “write” using a stylus, etc., in giving students input.
LEARN STUDENTS' NAMES AND MORE USING THE ATTENDANCE2 iPHONE APP
The Attendance2 iPhone app is a great way to track attendance, ensure you are engaging more of your students, and to learn students' names faster. It also allows you to import students' names, data, and photos, so you don't have to manually enter information that is already contained elsewhere. Finally, there are reports you can send to students, or to yourself, to keep up with how many times a student has missed and what specific days they were absent.
USE TEXT EXPANSION SOFTWARE TO AUTOMATE COMMON REPLIES
If you're on a Mac, TextExpander is a terrific tool to use to store commonly-used “snippets” of text that you can have automatically typed in, whenever you type a shortcut. When students ask me about how to get a recommendation from me, I just type in a shortcut (VU-rec) and a couple of sentences are entered into my reply to them, along with a link to my web page where I instruct students on how to request a recommendation from me. On a PC, the software that does a great job on text expansion is Breevy.
TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS
Sometimes, the best boost in productivity we can get is when we shut off the technology. I recently turned off all but a couple notifications that pop up on my iPad and iPhone and I really don't have anything that regularly notifies me of stuff (incoming email, messages, etc.) on my computer. I have a relative who has their phone set to make a noise and vibrate every single time he receives an email. I can only imagine the kinds of distracted thinking that practice leads to… Let's all agree to be less “alone together” this semester.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS TOWARD GOALS
There is a surge of interest in what is called the quantified self, tracking the small choices we make in our lives, in order to produce big results. My family uses technically-enhanced pedometers called FitBits, which allow us to track our steps and compare our results with each other. Even in my final month of pregnancy, I still find myself motivated to park a little bit further away, or to go for a short walk most days.
My husband has been benefitting from an iPhone app that tracks his daily habits called Lift. My husband, Dave, recently interviewed the founder of Life on his podcast, in case you would like some broader advice on how to create and track effective leadership habits.
Now… it's your turn…
What is your pick for the one thing you're going to implement this semester to make it better than last year?