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Mobile Free Range Learning (February 10 Tools Challenge, Part II)

One of the things I’m dealing with when it comes to blogging is the concept of writing things that people want to read. It seems simple enough, but it’s really more difficult than one would think. When the page views and the comments don’t roll in, it can really affect one’s confidence. I continue to remind myself, however, that this blog is still relatively new and that I have a lot to learn. So in the spirit of complete transparency, just know that if you’re blogging for your coalition and you’re not seeing the results you’d like, you’re not alone. But let’s keep pushing through the uncertain times and see what can happen.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…

Last week, I blogged about learning more about using the iPad as part of the 10 Tools Challenge. In Part I, I mostly focused on apps while promising to talk about training and learning in Parts II and III. In the spirit of writing things that people want to read, I’m going to skip the training part, as I think I’ll have more insight into that later on. Instead, I’d like to focus on the mobile Free Range Learning opportunities that the iPad enabled me to experience.

The first online course I’ve taken this year (accessing via the iPad) is the iPhone Video Hero course offered by Jules Watkins. I know just enough about traditional video and audio production to be dangerous, but I wasn’t familiar with iPhone/iPad production at all. When I found out that the youth attending my “Using Social Media for Good” training would have access to iPads, I knew I’d have to take what I knew about traditional media and modify it to mobile devices–and fast! Jules’ lessons not only taught me about the specifics of creating amazing audio and video footage using an iPhone/iPad, but it also provided tips about video and audio production in general that I didn’t know prior to taking the course. Priced at only $97, this course is affordable and would definitely benefit any youth or adult coalition. You may not be able to afford a membership for every coalition member, but I can’t stress the value it would bring to those who are interested in creating these kinds of products for your group. If you do decide to sign up, I would be grateful if you use the referral link in this paragraph and on my Recommended Products page.

Much of my Free Range Learning this year has come from a site that most people would consider less about learning and more about time-wasting, and that site would be Pinterest (by way of the iPad app). Yes, it’s easy to jump on Pinterest and get lost in the vegan cupcake recipes, DIY map projects, and sarcastic som(ee)cards, but it can also be used for learning and research. By doing a simple search, you can find pins related to almost any topic–my favorites being Social Media, Productivity/Apps/Resources, and Infographics. On Friday, we even created a specific Prevention Infographics board for those who wish to share and find infographics specifically related to substance abuse prevention topics.  (Contact me if you would like to be added as a contributor to the board.) The great thing about Pinterest, as with most other social media sites, is that you create the content that you want to see. Therefore, if you think Pinterest is all about cookie recipes and homeschooling ideas, it’s because you have chosen to follow people who pin that content. However, with a little bit of research, you can find contacts and boards that focus on your specific interests. Of course, be warned that many of us (ME!) are guilty of mixing personal and professional boards, so be sure to “Follow All” and then unfollow boards that don’t interest you. After all, not everyone wants his or her timeline filled with Doctor Who memes.

tights

“You are the superhero you’ve been waiting for.” ~Chris Brogan

The latest focus of my Free Range Learning project is working through the book It’s Not About the Tights: An Owners Manual for Bravery by Chris Brogan. This book is only available in Kindle format, but for $5, you can’t beat the price. I’ve been reading this on the Kindle app on my iPad. While I know there are those of you who shun e-books for various reasons, this is one of those books that is enhanced by the e-book format. First of all, I have enabled the “Popular Highlights” setting, which allows me to discover what other readers have highlighted in this book. Not only does it give me the opportunity to see what like-minded people find important, but it also directs my attention specifically to meaningful parts of the book. If that isn’t social learning, I don’t know what is! Also, although this book is in electronic format, the reader is encouraged to keep a pen-to-paper “Brave Journal” to track his or her own progress. This combination of the technological side and the traditional side of learning has created a very influential learning experience that I hope to utilize in my own work.

In the process of checking the first box in the 10 Tools Challenge, not only was I able to learn more about the tool, but I also found myself learning through the tool. The iPad, or any tablet for that matter, is a powerful resource that is underutilized and, in my opinion, misunderstood in today’s coalition work. We should proudly and confidently use our tablets to change the perception of it from a toy to a legitimate must-have for increased productivity and for tech-savvy coalition work.

I would love to hear more about how you use the iPad in your day-to-day work, for learning, for networking, or for other tasks. You can email me, leave a comment below, or take it to Twitter. As always, thank you for contributing to the conversation, and let’s go forth and do good things!

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iPad, uPad, We’re all mad for iPad! (February 10 Tools Challenge, Part I)

For the longest time, I didn’t see the need to own an iPad. After all, I had an iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy S3, an iPod, a Nook Color, so why would I need yet another gadget? Yes, that’s the old Raye… The Raye who allowed financial frugality to trump geeky gadgetry. And while that Raye still exists (mostly when app shopping), the PreventionGeek side of me finally bit the bullet and purchased the new iPad with Retina Display. My life will never be the same…

Back in January, I committed to Taking the 10 Tool Challenge, which was an idea put forth by Jane Hart. I dedicated the end of January and all of February to the iPad so I could have a reason to play with my new toy. Besides, it genuinely was the most relevant tool at the time.

10_Tool_Challenge

My month-long exploration into the device can easily be summed up in three categories: Apps, Training, and Learning. I’ll cover Part I today and Parts II and III later on in the week.

Apps

By far, shopping for apps has been the most fun part of owning an iPad. Like I said, I am a pretty frugal person, so I’m always hunting for the most economical yet useful version of an app. It’s like a digital treasure hunt for me. I think this frugality has a lot to do with the fact that I have always worked in the fields of education or prevention. There is never enough in the budget, yet we always find a way to make-do with what we have. That’s why most of the apps you’ll see on this list are either free or very low cost (all of the following apps are FREE unless otherwise noted).

Google Drive /Dropbox: Gone are the days when people emails files back and forth. It’s too easy to lose track of the most recent file and it’s too easy to lose people in the process. With both of these free apps, your coalition can share documents in one simple location without those worries. I’m a Google gal myself, mostly because of its desktop live editing capabilities, but I use Dropbox more for photo, video, and audio files.

Evernote /Penultimate: I have not used Evernote as much as I would like, but I do love the simplicity and the organization capabilities within this app. Admittedly, I mostly use it for “to do” lists, but I hope to take it farther in the future. Also, for those of you who like to write/draw notes, Penultimate is for you. It syncs with Evernote, so you can pull up your hand-written notes on any device that you wish. I hope to work with Penultimate and visual notes more in the future now that I’ve acquired a stylus, which allows me to feel more like I’m writing and less like I’m finger painting.

30/30 : Time and organize tasks (and breaks!) to increase productivity.

Trello: This app is what would happen if a flip chart and the Internet had a baby. You know how prevention people LOVE their flip charts. We’ve all been part of an brainstorm session when we write notes/suggestions on Post-Its, arrange the Post-Its on a piece of flip chart paper, and then we start the planning. This is the electronic version of that. Oh, and everyone has access to the flip chart, even after the meeting. Think of the possibilities!

Haiku Deck: This video from The Wall Street Journal explains what Haiku Deck can do far better than I can. While it doesn’t have the customization that Keynote ($9.99) and PowerPoint (desktop) have, it does allow the user to make quick, visually interesting presentations using Creative Commons images.

Calendar Tracker Lite: Tracker allows you to track progress on a goal, providing both motivation and incentive to keep going. Just like a gold star in elementary school, the red checkmarks allow the user to feel a sense of accomplishment for a job consistently well done. This is one free version of the Streaks ($1.99) iPhone app recommended by Chris Brogan (more on him in Part III).

I won’t go into social media much because I think most people are familiar with these apps. After all, Facebook is the most downloaded app, both on Apple and Android devices. The ones I found myself using most frequently were: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, LinkedIn, and Storify.

In a fantastic moment of crowd sourcing, the audience at our CADCA training “Social Media and Free Range Learning” workshop provided a huge number of learning and social media apps, resources, and tools that they use in their everyday work. I would like to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who contributed to this list!

In Part II of this blog series, I will talk more about the video and photography apps we used in a “Using Social Media For Good” training, including: Photoshop ExpressColor EffectsSnapseedInstagramFlickrAnimotoYouTube, and iMovie ($4.99).

In Part III, I will discuss more in-depth about my most-used learning apps, which include: Kindle, Newsstand, TEDPocket, and Lynda.com.

Finally, lest you think I am a boring nerd who spends ALL her time focused on work-related tasks, I’ll have you know that I used my iPad for serious slacking off time… I mean, recharging. The iPad allowed me to raise a community of endangered animals with Ice Age Village. I tracked fitness/diet goals with MyFitnessPal. I shopped for an imaginary dream home on Trulia and Realtor.com. I keep up-to-date on the latest alien and conspiracy theories via Coast to Coast AM. And most importantly, I fell in love with a doctor online… Yes, I watched the entire Doctor Who series on Amazon Instant Video.

However, don’t let the recharge activities lessen the value of this tool when it comes to community work. If you see someone pecking away at their iPad in a meeting, yes, they could be using it to play Candy Crush. But why not let your employees and your coalition members know that you trust them to NOT do that. Instead, let’s change the perception and let it be known that we use them to take notes, tweet important parts of the meeting, brainstorm ideas, and connect with people in the community. THEN after all that is done, we watch Doctor Who

Getting (and staying) on track!

2013 schedule  so far:

Week 1

  • At-home second grader who wishes to share all the adventures that Christmas break holds.
  • Setting up all the logistics for PreventionGeek Consulting (which is a real thing now) including equipment, travel arrangements, supplies, etc.
  • Continue work on my and LaDonna‘s CADCA National Leadership Forum workshops, pushing myself to abandon old habits when it comes to PowerPoint and trainings.

Week 2

  • Assist husband during a week of convalescent leave due to having PRK (laser eye) surgery.
  • File every paper, electronic file, and scrap Post-it note to try to create order in the home office.
  • Continue work on CADCA workshop, still attempting to abandon old habits.

One of the challenges I have faced is maintaining that work/home balance, both timing and tasks. In the first two weeks, I found myself doing housework during the day and work-work in the evenings and on into the night. By nature, I feel more creative and productive after the sun goes down.

Original image source: Chris Paul Photography--Creative Commons; adapted using PicMonkey because I like creating my own memes

Original image source: Chris Paul PhotographyCreative Commons; adapted using PicMonkey because memes make me smile

However, as much as I like working in the evenings, the fact is I have a family that happens to be off-the-clock during those hours, so I need to adjust to their schedules.

Because I felt like I needed a little help organizing my day, I set out to look for tools that would make me more productive in the 8-5 hours. Some of my favorites so far are:

Tom’s Planner–This handy website allows one to map out long-term projects. So say you’re a coalition working on writing a new strategic plan, this tool could help you organize the timing of each step in the process and ultimately meet deadlines, which have a tendency to sneak up on a person. While the free version allows a single user a wide range of features, for only $9 a month (quarterly subscription), a coalition could collaborate on, personalize, print, and export these schedules. Right now, the free membership is enough for me and my smaller projects, though.

Evernote iconEvernote–I’m a list person, so this app makes me a very happy girl. You can use it to make notes to yourself  that can include check-able To-Do lists (my favorite!), pictures, audio messages, and other attachments that you may need. Then you can organize everything into notebooks for easier access and record-keeping. I think back to when I was working with 4 different coalitions and how this would have been helpful in keeping track of all the details for each group. I also think about how easy it is for me to get “squirrelled,” and this app definitely helps keep me on track.

Google Calendar–If it were up to me, I would stick with the pencil-and-paper calendar because I’m a visual/kinesthetic learner. Unfortunately, a paper calendar on my desktop doesn’t allow for much interaction and collaboration. Google Calendar allows me to create events and invite others, much like any standard calendar (like Outlook). You can also create and share entire calendars with others, which could come in handy to any group working collectively on a project. Most importantly, it allows me to integrate my home and work schedules. For example, because my husband makes quarterly trips to Alaska, I have to consider his schedule, making sure I don’t plan any travel for myself during those dates. When I worked in an office that used a networked Outlook system, I had a tendency to neglect adding personal events to my calendars since I viewed it as a “work,” tool. This led to a few scheduling mishaps, which hopefully will now be avoided.

A Post-It Flip Chart and Markers–Like I said, I’m a visual learner, so it helps me to have goals, deadlines, wish lists, etc. within eyesight. The good, old-fashioned flip-chart-sized Post-It allows me to do this. It also provides me with the satisfaction of posting a big red check mark when a task is completed. Everyone knows there’s nothing better than making a big red check mark!

Granted, most of these tools are pretty basic, and anyone who owns a smartphone has probably used them. However, my purpose in writing this blog (for now) is to chronicle the beginnings of learning to integrate technology into prevention. I’m sure as I get further along down the road, I’ll find more advanced tools to streamline life. But for now, as long as I can get a little help when it comes to balancing work/family time when I’m not punching a clock, then I’m one happy geek.