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This has been in my draft post folder since October 2011 and I am finally getting around to finishing it
I’ve been using Evernote for a few years now, and I am not entirely sure how I coped without it. I would go so far as to say that it is the most useful computer application after email, calendar, and office software.
Evernote is a web-, software-, and app-based online product. It keeps track of all kinds of data, sorting it and making it searchable. It also syncs across devices (computers and smartphones). You can access it via a web browser if you are away from your own computer. I use it to keep track of class notes, financial information, letters, photographs, travel ideas, recipes, and pretty much anything that comes into my life.
If you are not using Evernote yet, please go and check it out. It’s free and it will improve your life.
I’ve also been using Evernote together with a Fujitsu Scansnap scanner, as described by Michael Hyatt on his blog. Now this is incredible. With my setup, I can scan an entire class’ homework in less than a minute. The data goes straight into Evernote where I can access it on my office PC, my laptop I take to class, and even my iPhone.
This means that I can return essays and homework to the students but still have access to it if I need to check something. Finding things in Evernote is pretty easy, so I can quickly go straight to a specific students homework from a specific day.
I have the big expensive fast scanner in my office (clickable picture below):
and the smaller one at home:
The small one is fine for scanning single documents, and the big one is great for scanning large numbers of documents quickly. I use it to process completed work from my university classes, and it goes through 40 papers in less than a minute.
The nice thing about the Scansnap range from Fujitsu is that you can set it up so scanned documents go straight into Evernote, saving huge amounts of time. Of course, you can also set it up so that documents are saved as pdf files on your computer, but sending them straight to Evernote works much better for me.
Anyone else using Evernote and Scansnap out there?
I just finished reading So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport. He also writes the extremely interesting Study Hacks blog. I really recommend both of these to anyone who is thinking about how to improve themselves or take their work to a new level.
In the book Cal trashes the ‘follow your passion’ school of career advice, introduces the idea of career capital, and offers examples of how to obtain control, find a mission, and enjoy your work. It’s extremely readable -I finished the book in just under 24 hours, even with breaks to sleep, take notes, attend an international conference in Osaka, and hobble around trying to find lunch
This joins Millionaire Teacher on my short list of books to re-read regularly in order to get back on track. Even if you’re not in the market for books at the moment, definitely check out his blog and let me know what you think in the comments below.
business reviews school management technology: irobot review roomba
A couple of months ago we made one of the best single decisions we have ever made at Cambridge English. It wasn’t a business decision or an educational decision, but rather, we decided to buy a robot vacuum cleaner for the classroom.
Our school consists of a single space divided into classroom and reception area. There are no stairs or different levels. The classroom area is carpeted. Students remove their shoes when they come into the reception and go into the classroom in their socks or bare feet (we don’t provide slippers).
We have 20-70 students per day coming into the school, so we found it was necessary to vacuum the room at least once a day, sometimes twice a day. This would take 10-15 minutes depending on how thoroughly it was done and how dirty the room was.
Eventually we decided to try the robot vacuum cleaner and whether it worked for us.
Looking at online reviews, the iRobot 770 and 780 models seem to be much better than previous generations.
The Roomba has been fantastic. It runs for 60-90 minutes a day (we set it to run at night when no-one is there), and although it is not as powerful as a regular vacuum cleaner it runs so much longer that it gets the room much cleaner once it has been running for a week or so. It is small enough that it can clean under the sofa and it manages to navigate our crowded classroom without too much trouble. It returns to its charging cradle automatically.
We don’t have to vacuum anymore. This was huge. It is so nice to leave the classroom in the evening and come back to a spotless classroom the next day.
It works on a timer so can be set to run when the school is empty.
The classroom is much cleaner. The automatic vacuum cleaner is much more thorough than we were.
It is very expensive compared to regular vacuum cleaners.
You have to empty the dust box every day and clean it (5 minutes or so) once a week -this isn’t particularly onerous.
The floor has to be clear, so things have to be tidied away and chairs put up on tables before running the machine.
It occasionally gets stuck (but this is rare).
*Not a problem for us, but the Roomba cannot navigate stairs or uneven surfaces.
This has been a godsend for us. It has eliminated vacuuming after lessons or before lessons, neither of which I enjoyed. At the end of the day the last thing I want to do is get the vacuum cleaner out, and I find it a terrible start to the day too. The classroom is really clean, which is especially important when you have young children coming in.
I wouldn’t recommend it for a home, unless you have pets, a lot of carpets, or a lot of people coming and going. The real benefit is the fact that it is doing a thorough cleaning every single day. We definitely don’t need one at home, but for the highly trafficked carpeted classroom it works very well.
Anyone else have a Roomba? How are you finding it?
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I’ve been using Udemy, an online content delivery platform, to learn more about Excel, mac OS, and Windows 8. I think the site has a lot of potential for both teachers and learners, so I am going to do a quick review here.
Right now the site has thousands of free and premium courses, ranging from software to business to self-defence to language learning to automobile maintenance. The cost of a course ranges from free to several thousand dollars, but most are priced between 50-100 US$. There are a lot of software courses at the moment, but it is possible to find other topics.
The delivery system is basically video based, with the instructor talking learners though their topic in a series of lessons. In the courses I have seen so far, each video lesson tends to be just a few minutes long, allowing you to study whenever you like and repeat lesson easily.
The interesting thing for teachers is that it seems to be fairly painless to upload courses to the system. I am very interested in creating some courses, both as a way to diversify my income (I am worried about my future employment due to the recent changes in labour law in Japan, but that is a topic for another day) and also as a way of getting content to my students (by setting the price to zero and telling them to access content through Udemy.
So that is Udemy so far for me: useful for learning things and filling in gaps in knowledge (the basic excel course didn’t have anything groundbreaking for me, but I have learned something in most of the lessons so far), great future potential, and a very interesting player in the field of online delivery.
Has anyone else tried Udemy? What did you think?
curriculum EFL eikaiwa extensive reading graded readers kids language courses Language learning materials Penguin Kids Readers readers reviews young learners: EFL graded readers Japan Penguin Kids Readers review teaching English
I first reviewed this series here.
Just to recap, this is a fantastic resource for young beginners who are just getting started with graded readers. The books are extremely attractive and have interesting content. The levels start very low at level 1 (200 headwords) and only go up in jumps of 200 from there up to level 6 (1200 headwords).
I received the new titles for this year last week. Unlike last year’s releases, which were all based on Disney titles, this year’s books are a mixture of new Disney material alongside non-fiction content.
I really like the non-fiction books. They have big, attractive photographs and are interesting. I tried them out with some students yesterday (just put them on the desk as they came into class and let them read before we started) and I had difficulty getting them to put the books down so we could start the class! Always a good sign.
If you have a reading library for children or teenagers this series is well worth a look, especially now that it has its full 12 books per level.