Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Updating my PLN for the new year

It's that time--everyone is gearing up for the new school year! My older two kids are carrying their new backpacks and lunch bags wherever they go; my baby is getting used to his daycare a few hours at a time (sniff). My house is a mess of new supplies and instruments!

I'm also updating my PLN and checking out a bunch of new apps and websites. One website that's recently caught my attention is Common Sense Media's Graphite. Graphite is a site for teachers, featuring reviews of computer apps, mobile apps, games, and websites for use in education. Each listing is reviewed by Common Sense Media writers, but educators can also add their own "field notes," a combination of ratings and classroom suggestions, and detailed lesson plans. The selection of resources isn't huge at the moment, since it only includes things reviewed by Common Sense Media itself, but there is a form for teachers to suggest apps and sites for review, as well as a submission form for developers. I think this site has lots of potential and I look forward to seeing it grow!

The Graphite beta home page

Another PLN tool I've been enjoying this summer is a new-ish feature in the popular iOS app Flipboard, which allows you to "flip" articles into your own magazines. These magazines can be private or shared with the community. Though I'm in the habit of saving articles and lesson ideas with my all-time favorite Evernote, Flipboard offers a beautiful reading interface and the ability to view your Twitter feed (and RSS feeds, and many more) in a magazine format, with links and photos already pulled up for you into articles.
I've set up personal magazines on everything from music education to parenting to paleo recipes, which I can access from any device and share with friends, colleagues, or students. I can also subscribe to other "flippers'" magazines.

My Flipboard home page, with the menu pulled out
A page of my personal Music Education magazine

My Twitter feed. See the pictures and web links already turned into an article from a tweet? Cool.
I've also really been enjoying Flipboard's "Flip It!" bookmarklet that flips articles into my magazines from any web browser. Similarly, I've gotten in the habit of using Dolphin Browser on my iPad, which has built-in Evernote functionality--I can annotate, sort, and tag webpages and other selections straight into Evernote from the browser, a feature not supported in any other dedicated web browsers on iOS. It's also a popular browser on the Android platform. For desktop browsing, I've installed Evernote Clearly, which does a great job of ridding web pages of ads and clutter and just sends the meat of an article to Evernote. I tend to use Evernote over Flipboard for articles I will use directly in my teaching (lesson plans, activity ideas, etc.) because I keep most of my brain, er, curriculum planning, in Evernote. Evernote connects seamlessly with Curio, a gorgeous Mac app I use for all my curriculum ideas and overarching evil plans (muhahahaha!). From there, I pull my day-to-day plans into Planbook, a lovely app that is a fancified version of that familiar spiral planning notebook, complete with iOS and web syncing capabilities.

There's more, but that's my primary workflow for online professional development and planning. Besides, my brain hurts just proofreading that! One of my favorite things about all the tools I've listed above is that, with a little initial time investment, they quickly become invisible. They're so easy to use and seamlessly integrated with one another (except Planbook, but it's used for a bit of a different purpose) that I can spend 99% of my time leaning, not sorting or fiddling with settings.
I'm also reading some fascinating books on our increasingly tech-craving students. More on that soon! Please don't be shy--leave a comment if you have a PLN tool to share.

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