A School Psychologist's resource for all things tech.

Archive for November, 2012

Black Friday App Shopping

Sometimes people think that I comb the iTunes store on a regular basis for new apps, not so. I do spend a lot of time on tech but I don’t have time to find new tech in the iTunes store.  I regularly get information about new apps via twitter and from the blogs I follow.  When I do find an app I want to try, I’m often hesitant to spend money on it if it isn’t free.  Unfortunately, as the iTunes stores has gotten bigger and bigger the quality of free apps have declined.  So you’re in a pickle trying to figure out if an app is worth the money or if you can get a decent app if it is free.  I rely on the wisdom of fellow educators that have already tried apps but often until you try the app yourself you will not know if it works for you.  So when you’re thinking about taking the leap you might want to know if the app every goes on sale? If it does go on sale, how often will it be on sale?

AppShopper AppAppShopper is a great free tool for so many reasons. When you search for apps on the AppShopper site or app it tells you if the app has ever gone on sale, for how long, etc.  If you’re not ready to buy an app because you noticed that it regularly goes on sale but you don’t have the time or patience to regularly check if it is on sale or not you can create an app wish list.  Getting alerts about apps that go on sale via AppShopper is how I was able to purchase 5 or 6 during the “Black Friday” sales.  I had been wanting to purchase those apps but just had not pulled the trigger yet.  It is easy to add apps to your wish list via their website and ipad/iphone app but receiving alerts on your ipad/iphone app is the best way to keep up to date about new sales and app updates.  In addition to keeping up to date about apps on your wish list you’re also able to have a list of apps you already own so you get alerts when there are updates.  I’m not sure how this is better than just using the app store updates list but it is an available feature.  Currently you can’t share lists with others or create multiple types of wish lists but there are few complaints I have about AppShopper and its the tool I always use when I’m shopping for new apps.  With the holiday seasons years, I predict more and more apps will be going on sale so create a wish list for apps you’ve been considering buying so you get the best deal possible.  We all love a good deal even if it is on a 99 cent app.

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Envious of my Evernote?

If you could see my evernote setup, I’m sure you would be! Evernote is awesome and while I think I use quite a few of its features I know there are many more that I have yet to discover. There is no way I could cover all of the features in Evernote because there are just too many so this is an introduction and I’ll go into more depth in future posts.

If you haven’t yet heard about Evernote or you’ve heard about but you’re not sure what it is, I’ll tell you or you can watch this video (its more entertaining).

Evernote is a service which allows you to take notes and organize those in to notebooks. Because it is a service you have to sign-up but its free so no worries there. Once you’re signed up and you’ve started creating notes then whenever you log-in to evernote.com or use an Evernote app all of your notes will be synched wirelessly! Previously before I started using my iPad every day I had a multisubject spiral bound notebook with each “subject” set aside for each of my buildings and now Evernote is the equivalent to my spiral bound notebook AND my resource binder.

Pros:

Evernote is an extension of my brain and it can be an extension of yours too. I keep notes from meetings, observations, consultation sessions, meetings, etc., all in one place. Since I have 4 buildings I have an Evernote “notebook” for each building and I have notes from conversation within the appropriate notebook. The notebooks are fully searchable and tags can be created to help organize your notes. An example may be to tag a note with “intervention plan” if you consulted with a teacher regarding a student’s intervention plan. Then all the times you meet with any teacher in any building regarding an intervention plan you can tag the note with “intervention plan” for increased searchability. More on tags in a future post. Another great feature of the app is the ability to take snapshots or voice memos and attach them to a note. I use this feature during classroom observations to take a picture of the work the student completed during the observation session or an audio memo while I’m doing a running record. The other great part of using it for a running record is that you can then take a picture and have the audio and visual all in one place! I recently utilized the photo attachment capabilities during a file review. Instead of writing down previous attendance, standardized test scores and other information that I summarize in my report, I took snapshots of the information and then I looked back at the note when I wrote my report. Did I mention that Evernote has text recognition for the photographs? So if you jot a note on a sticky note after talking to a teacher about behaviors Billy has been struggling with, when you search “Billy” your handwritten note will come up (as long as your handwriting is pretty legible)

I also use Evernote to organize resources I collect for a variety of job facets such as PBIS resources, RtI resources, academic intervention resources, assistive tech resources, etc. You can create as many notebooks as you want and as many notes as you want. On a day when you may have forgotten your mobile device you don’t have to worry about not being able to see a past note because everything is automatically synchronized to your Evernote web account, accessible from any computer with internet access (and of course your log-in information). Evernote synching has saved me on more than one occasion!

Cons:

An archive feature would be helpful when a student has moved away so you can archive past notes and not have them always readily available. To work around this I recently created a notebook titled “BuildingXArchive” and moved “archived” notes to that folder. I’ve also exported notes out of Evernote that I no longer of critical importance and saved them to my flash drive. Encryption of text is available on the desktop program so if you take a note you want to encrypt you have to log in to the website and then encrypt the portion of the note that needs to be encrypted. For a while the app could be password protect but currently you have to pay for their ” Premium” service to password project you Evernote App. I’m going to continue pestering encouraging them to turn that feature back on without the premium account.

As with everything else, use strong passwords and be thoughtful about how you use Evernote. Are there any Evernote features you’re wondering about or features you use that you want me to talk about? In future posts I’ll touch on how to create notes via email, tags for enhanced searchability and other great features!

End of the Month

Typically in the school setting the end of the month does not mean as much as it does in the business world.  In the special ed world dates like count days, school breaks, etc., are the most important days.  Even though the end of the month is not typically super important for us I do organize some of worked based on months and so the end of the month inspired me to share one of my favorite organization tools, MileTracker.

Since I have 4 buildings and as much as I try to stay put in my building each day, driving between buildings is inevitable. So I regularly log mileage and it is a pain to try to write everything down long-hand or go back through my calendar or notes and recreate a log.  MileTracker is my savior.  Not only does it “learn” the mileages between my regular buildings so I only have to enter it once, it easily exports logs via email so you can copy and paste your mileage in to your district’s required forms.

Pros:

Like I discussed above the biggest pro is that MileTracker saves locations and will remember the mileage between two locations and automatically apply it to the entry when you travel between those same places again.  Also your locations are easily saved in your “Frequent Locations” list so you don’t have to retype the name of the location in every time.  MileTracker exports logs easily at the end of the week, month or end of the year in a CSV format (comma separated value) file which is easily converted in to an Excel file.  If your district/employeer requires you to describe why you’re traveling from one building to another you’re also able to add a description to your entry.  These descriptions can also be saved as you add them in each time.  Activities such as meetings, assessments, consultations, etc. can be in your “Frequent List” and you’ll have them already set-up for quick and easy entry.

While my district has a mileage list for every possible combination of building to building commutes there are times I go to a building that is not listed in the mileage book. I’m easily able to gather mileage by starting from your current location before you leave and ending at your destination.  If you don’t have your mileage list setup or you’re going to a new location you haven’t entered in the past there is no need to look up the mileage when you make the entry.  The app alerts you if an entry does not have a mileage entered.   The number displayed in the red circle on the app icon shows how many entries have empty mileage entries.

The ability to backup your logs using services like Dropbox, SynchDocs, and iCloud is also a plus.  The amount of information you can gather for each entry can be as detailed or a streamlined as you’d like.  You have the ability to turn on and turn off different fields such as reimbursed, notes,files, etc.  Many of these fields are appropriate for business users but it is great to be able to turn off the fields you don’t need.

Cons:

The app does not sync between devices for free. You can purchase an add-on sync features that utilizes Dropbox if you need to be able to sync between devices.  I’ve found that because my iPhone is always with me that having MileTracker on my iPhone works the best and I rarely think, “Oh I need to log my mileage” and then reach for my iPad. I have not purchased the sync option and I don’t feel like I need it.

It’s pretty clear, based on the length of the “pro” section and the “con” section that I’m a fan of MileTracker.  I’m so much of a fan that I purchased one of the company’s other apps to keep track of my daily activities and such but that will be a future blog post.

Do you have any other mileage tracking apps that you like? Any features MileTracker has that yours does not have? Or features your preferred mileage app has that MileTracker doesn’t have?  I certainly did not provide an exhaustive list of all of the features so there may be parts I missed but are important to you.  Post any questions or comments about the app in the comments section below.

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