My Favorite Tools

Day 79/365: ToolboxIf you’re looking to try out some tools to make teaching, sharing, discussing ideas, and planning easier, you might want to check out some of these tools.

Twitter

I you want to ask a quick question or have a conversation, there’s nothing as efficient as Twitter. It’s also a quick way to get the word out about blog posts or other projects. Many people have it running in the background using a client such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Nambu, or Seesmic. I was skeptical about Twitter until I tried it. I think it’s one of those things you will have to try out for yourself in order to see its potential. It can be as useful as the people you follow. I have a great personal learning network on Twitter.

Diigo

I first started using Delicious a few years ago because Firefox kept losing my bookmarks. I became so aggravated by this bug that I decided at least with Delicious, I could have my bookmarks with added benefit that they are available on any computer. A couple of years ago, I switched to Diigo for two reasons: 1) it has the added capabilities of annotation, groups, and easy integration with my blog; and 2) I can integrate it with my Delicious account, so there’s no need to leave any of my Delicious subscribers high and dry.

Firefox

Though Firefox is perhaps not the fastest browser, its array of plugins enable me to customize my browsing.

WordPress

I use WordPress to manage the content on all of my blogs. Elegant theme designs and plugins add functionality. I’ve tried Blogger and Movable Type, and I found WordPress superior to both.

iPhone

As the commercials proclaim, if you can think of something you want to do, there’s an app for that. My iPhone helps me manage my to-do list, my Diigo bookmarks, and my Goodreads account. I also have the complete works of Shakespeare and a great many other books in my pocket. I can keep track of gas expenses and find the cheapest gas nearby. I can manage my grocery list or look up first aid information. I can check TV listings, listen to music, or take pictures. The two most recent apps I downloaded enable me to create packing lists and see what’s down the road at the next few exits.

Evernote

I haven’t used Evernote very long, but I recently planned my entire trip to Salem using it, and I found it incredibly handy. You can clip and save websites and take notes. I am only beginning to explore Evernote’s capabilities. Be sure to check out their blog post on the Evernote trunk and see how a former student of mine uses Evernote.

Google Reader

Google Reader helps me keep up with all the blogs I read. I would never be able to keep track of my favorite blogs without it.

Facebook

Despite some bad press from what I believe are some poor decisions about privacy on the part of Facebook, I still use it to stay connected to my family and friends. Most of my friends and family are not on Twitter, but they are all pretty much on Facebook. It’s an easy way to share news, photos, and videos.

Wikispaces

I haven’t found another wiki service that’s friendlier to educators or easier to use than Wikispaces. I use it for all the wikis I create now.

Ning

I won’t use Ning for my classes anymore because of the changes to their pricing scheme, but I very much enjoy the English Companion Ning and the Making Curriculum Pop Ning as tools to help me share and learn.

What are your favorite tools?

Creative Commons License photo credit: fran.pregernik

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Google Reader

I have been using Bloglines to keep up with my RSS feeds for as long as I can remember.  I decided to play around with Google Reader today to see if I liked it better, and I have to say I liked it a lot better.

I like the way Google Reader enables me to click on a feed and see all the posts in that feed, even if I have already read them.  In Bloglines, I had to go through an extra step (selecting from the drop-down menu next to “Display items with the last x”) to view feeds I had already read, and even then, I couldn’t figure out how to review just one feed instead of all the feeds in a folder, which I frankly didn’t want to do.

My feed subscriptions all imported properly in the folders where they were on Bloglines.  Navigating was a snap.  The look was pleasing to the eye — it seems like a small thing, but the display looked so much nicer.  For example, pictures, embedded audio, embedded video, and the like all seemed to “behave” better in Google Reader.  Subscribing to new feeds and organizing them into folders was easy.  If I click on a feed to read the post on its blog, it opens in a new tab in Firefox.  This is nice because in Bloglines I had to right-click (control-click) on the feed, select “Open in New Tab,” and then I could look at the feed.  If I didn’t take this step and opened feeds in same window, then hit the back button to go back to Bloglines, I became confused about which feeds I had read already and often missed some I hadn’t read yet.  I always found this very frustrating.

I like the shared and starred items features.  The discover feature is nice, too.  It’s fun to be able to keep up with how many subscribers follow a feed, and a new feature in Google Reader enables users to do this; however, in Bloglines, you can also see the names of the public subscribers, which was nice.

Check out this comparison of Bloglines Beta and Google Reader for more information.  I should point out I was not using Bloglines Beta, but rather the older version of Bloglines.  I think Bloglines Beta has more features.  I’m not sure Bloglines compares as well with Google Reader as Bloglines Beta does.

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