Month: February 2014

Remember eveything

This is Evernote’s motto, and this is what this tool is built for: to help you remember everything. There are endless content you can save with Evernote, and this is the beauty of this service. It might not be the fastest tool of its kind, it might not do everything perfectly, but when you judge it as a whole, it is an unmatched notes saving tool.

Here is what you can save with this Evernote: pretty much everything. You can obviously create, and write any notes you wish, but you can also save photos (you can also annotate them with skitch), full web pages with their web clipper, audio notes, PDFs, and then access all of your notes everywhere. You can even take a photo of a document and Evernote will digitize the text so you can modify it or copy and paste the passage you want to use as a reference later on. It is important to note that you can use all the main features of Evernote for free, so it is easy to implement it in your classrooms. Every devices support Evernote: Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, Blackberry, and any web browsers you may use. Evernote will sync everything across all of your devices where the app is installed and where your account is registered.

However, these are only the basics functionalities of Evernote and the experience truly begins when you learn to master the extra goodies that this tool has to offer. Because having notes all saved in on place is fine, but it is easy to get lost in all of them. Evernote shines in that department. You can share your notes, set reminders, and look for a specific note with an integrated search engine. This is why I want to talk about Evernote as a pedagogical tool. Evernote is so powerful, I think it would be an offence not to use it in classrooms.

Evernote is built around the concept of notebooks. You can create as much notebooks as you want, and within each notebooks you can add new notes about the subject related to the notebook. Notebooks are awesome. By the way, have you seen the movie?

Great movie. Anyhow.

You can share your notebooks with other Evernote users to collaborate, or you can share a note’s URL to non-Evernote users for them to consult. It is a simple yet efficient way to work with others. With this tool, you can create and share a notebook for assignments you want to give to your students. You can set reminders for homework ant exams, and you can always go back and edit information about what’s to come in your class. You can add new notes about new subjects you recently tackled in class so your students can review them. Ultimately, this tool is as much useful for you as it is for your students. 

Evernote can also be used to present school subjects with a new gorgeous feature called presentation mode. It works similarly to Microsoft PowerPoint. Each notes you have in a specific notebook become slides in a full screen mode. You can easily navigate through them, and your mouse pointer becomes a highlighter that fades with time (sold). It then becomes very convenient to present full webpages, photos, audio notes, and all the other content Evernote can handle. Unfortunately, this features is only available with a premium account, but at least you can get a 30 days trial to get an idea of how it works and what it can do. I believe it will become a popular option in the future.

As you may have guessed, I really appreciate Evernote. I strongly believe that if you give it a try, you will find it to be an indispensable tool in your everyday tasks.

 

Try Evernote today.

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Read it later

The title of my article is pretty self-explanatory. There is so much content on the web that sometimes it is hard to keep up with all that is happening, and read everything. Fortunately for us, in this day and age, and like Apple advertises, there is an app for that: Pocket.

This application was founded in 2007 and has since managed to attract more than 10 million users. With Pocket, you can save pretty much every content you find on the Internet and access it anytime when you log in with your free account. It is a super easy to use tool; you just have to install the pocket button on you web browser when you go on getpocket.com, and there is even an app version available on Max OS X, Android and iOS. So whenever you come across interesting content on the web, whether it is an article, a video or an animated gif, you just have to clic on the pocket button, and it will save everything for you. The syncing between devices is smooth, and works as advertised. You can even access saved content offline when you use the mobile application.

The main appeal of Pocket is to be able to save content you enjoy when you browse the web, but suddenly run out of time to explore them. However, this app has become more than just a content saving wonder, and is now very polished and focused on user experience with useful features like ”highlights”, and color-coded badges such as ”best of”, and ”trending”. Adding to that, there are now more than 300 applications compatible with Pocket.

Because of its refined user-interface, Pocket can become a useful tool to integrate in research projects or presentations. Consequently, the pedagogical possibilities become interesting. You can make your students discover this great application so they can save articles about homophones, synonyms, antonyms, nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. If they have a research project, it is now easy for them to save their sources, and use them as they complete their assignment. You can also ”send articles to other people by email, or -even better- straight to other Pocket users’‘. Most importantly, as a teacher, you can save any content you want to show to your classroom in an efficient way. You don’t have to create a word document with all the links you want to open during your class, or to send yourself an email with all these links. You just have to save your stuff on Pocket and wait for your class to start. No more hurdles. Pocket helps you save and share content in a more convenient way, and I look forward to use it in my future classrooms.

High in the sky

Cloud Storage

The subject I want to tackle here is online storage.  For the tech savvy, online storage, cloud storage or whatever we call it is common knowledge, but for many casual users this is still a nebulous service, and even some do not know it is a thing. The premise is simple: an online storage is a place (in the cloud not to say servers) where you save your important files and are then backed up automatically so if you spill coffee on your laptop or if your computer takes on fire, you will not lose your precious files. However, the power of cloud storage does not solely resolves around safely storing and backing up important files. This is the ultimate collaboration tool, thus a no brainer for pedagogical integration. You can create documents and share them publicly with a shared folder; you can even collaborate on the same file at the same time with multiple users, your files are always with you no matter where you are and what devices you have access to (no more USB keys), and pretty much every company who provide these kind of services offer all of this for free.

 

A plethora of companies provide this useful resource, but I will stick to the three cloud services that offer the best overall value and functionalities: Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive and Google Drive.

* Due to legal concerns, the name SkyDrive will be phased out, and soon become OneDrive so I will refer to the later as the article continues. * 

All of the three offer a desktop application that allows you to sync your files without having to open your web browser and upload your files via their website. Adding to that, the big three also created a mobile application so if you happen to possess a smartphone, a superphone or a tablet, you can access all of your backed up files from the tip of your fingers.

 

Ultimate showdown

dropbox

Dropbox is one of the oldest cloud storage companies, and it shows when you use it. dropbox logoI use the three services on a daily basis, and Dropbox always wins when it comes to seamless document syncing. Dropbox synchronizes your files faster than any other services (even if it is from its website or from its desktop and mobile application), you can share folders with many collaborators, you can even share a folder or a file with a URL link that you copy and paste, which is pretty cool, and you can upload any file of any size (I will get to that later). All in all, Dropbox is a robust tool that is reliable, and best in class for seamless file syncing and file sharing, and these aspects alone define what will make-or-break the user experience, and consequently, if someone decide to use the product or not.

 

However, unlike the competition, Dropbox offers just that; you do not get access to any other tools or services. With OneDrive and Google Drive, you get an email address with a trusted email client, and chances are that you already have a Hotmail, Outlook or Gmail account. Google and Microsoft allows you to edit your documents, spreadsheets, or presentations with their respective web apps, but Dropbox only lets you take a look at your files with a basic document viewer. Adding to that, a free Dropbox account only gives 2 gigabytes (gb) of storage when OneDrive and Google Drive give 7 gb, and 15 gb for free respectively. Yes it is true that through referrals (users that join the service through your invitation) you can reach up to 16 gb of additional storage, but it is a long process despite being a great idea.

 

OneDrive

OneDrive and Google Drive have an edge when it comes to collaboration because they offer free document creating tools integrated to their cloud storage services. OneDrive however, does not support files bigger than 2 gb. Mona Akmal said last July that the OneDrive team was looking to increase the file size limit, but to this day, nothing has been updated. For its part, Google Drive supports a 10 gb file size, which is still put to shame by the unlimited file size limit that Dropbox allows, but is currently more than enough since not a lot of files outside of video games exceed this number.

 

OneDrive has the upper hand with its upgrade plan since it is the cheapest, but other than that, Microsoft cloud storage is the least reliable service in terms of file synchronization, photo rendering, and flexibility. On one hand, the big appeal of OneDrive is its Windows and Microsoft Office integration, but unfortunately for Microsoft not everybody uses Windows centric devices. It is important to keep in mind in pedagogy that you need to reach the widest possible audience when integrating online tools.

 

Google DriveGoogle Drive on the other hand, works wonderfully no matter what device you use. It is easiest way to share work and it does a good job at syncing all of your files without conflicting with older versions, but is still not up to par with Dropbox. With its web apps, you can work on the same lesson plan at the same time with one or many students or colleagues from anywhere and give ongoing feedback. You can even share schedules with other users and overlay their shared calendars with yours. There are a lot of possibilities like creating spreadsheets to track student homework and share with parents. All in all, Google Drive is the ultimate tool to become more productive and efficient and it is possible to do all of this for free. It is the one I will use, and I greatly recommend it.

 

Here is a breakdown of the main features off all three online platforms:

 

Dropbox

  • Free space: 2GB (plus up to 16GB for referrals)
  • Premium space: US$99 per year for 100GB
  • File size limit: Unlimited (via desktop app)
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry
  • Best for: Seamless document syncing
  • Try Dropbox

 

Microsoft OneDrive

  • Free space: 7GB
  • Premium space: US$50 per year for 100GB
  • File size limit: 2GB
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone
  • Best for: Windows/MS Office integration
  • Try Microsoft SkyDrive

 

Google Drive

  • Free space: 15GB
  • Premium space: $59.88 per year for 100GB
  • File size limit: 10GB
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
  • Best for: Storage space and web apps
  • Try Google Drive

 

 

Somewhere down the line, schools and ministries could decide to get rid of local servers and instead subscribe to business storage plans to offer a certain amount of space to every teachers and students, and the possibilities would become infinite. Cloud storage is the future of online interaction.