Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How I Organize this Vast World

Before going to TMC, the workshop that I was most looking forward to was on how other people organize the vast stream of information coming in.  And that was before I started to use Twitter.  Yikes!  Tina (@crstn85) and Anna (@Borschtwithanna) both had some great ideas with their DropBox and EverNote solutions.  I'm fortunate that I've used some of these tools already, so the learning curve isn't quite as steep as it is for some other folks.  My task now is to figure out HOW I will use these tools and incorporate them into a smooth work flow that helps to alleviate the overwhelm.  Even if I can't read everything and research everything and learn everything all at the same time, at least I can find ways to store some of the most interesting things so that I can find them when I'm ready to investigate them later.

There are so many options for organizing, which is amazing, but also overwhelming in its own right.  I think I've gotten it narrowed down to about eight apps/programs that I'm considering using/patching together in some way.  I want a system that flows for me, is not too complicated, and does not try to force an app or program to do something that it is not really designed for (like, you could use EverNote for everything, but it doesn't do everything well, sort of like trying to use inductive reasoning for every proof).

Here are the tools that are likely in my toolkit:
I have been using it for seven years, is super easy for me to just archive everything that comes through my box.  I work at a Google school, so my school e-mail has the same interface and I can toggle between them.  I have kept a "reading/watching" tag in gmail that I use to store things that I want to read or watch in the future.  I'm hoping to convert that to Pocket and not use Gmail for that purpose anymore.  Gmail is good at email and at storing correspondence in a searchable way; I want to use it for that

I have dabbled in Evernote over the past year or so.  I know that it's super powerful in its search capabilities and will work to store all different types of media.  I'm planning to use a web clipper to store things that I read that I want to access later (lesson ideas, really inspiring posts, etc).   I also plan to use Evernote to keep track of lists of future ideas that I have, not things that have active action items, but future ideas (like: explore formative assessment, read a book about symbolic logic, play with Blockly, etc), sort of like a list of things to play with when I have time.  Evernote is good at collecting web content and thoughts that I can access when I need them; I want to use it for that.

When I come across content that I want to read later (through Twitter or Feedly or e-mails or Facebook) I'll store it here.  Pocket can send full articles (with cabinets and tags selected) to Evernote, so items that I want to save after reading are easy to file. Pocket is good at saving things to read later; I want to use if for that.

I'm still learning about this medium as I've been using it for less than a week.  My sense is that I will use it to find content, to interact with people in real time in a public space, and I'll use it to participate more fully in the MTBoS.  So far I have starred tweets that seem clever to me.  I don't want to use the star system to store things that I want to read later as I want it all in one place (Pocket).  I don't know yet exactly what Twitter is good at, but I want to use it for that.  :-)
11/10/13 Update: I find that I use Twitter to crowdsource ideas and to share the small day to day things that happen in my classroom.

Remember the Milk
My boyfriend introduced me to this incredible task management software about a year ago.  I use it on my phone, iPad and on the computer.  I pay the $25/year to have automatic syncing; it's the only app that I pay for.  I loosely use David Allen's Getting Things Done philosophy to keep lists of things that I need/want to do.  I recently made a "Global Math Department" list to keep track of all of the ideas that I'm having of things that I want to explore.  Since many of these are not actionable yet (I don't know what the next thing that I'll do on them is), I think it would probably be better to store these lists of ideas in EverNote.  We'll see.  RTM is good at helping me remember to do things and to prioritize what I need to do; I want to use it for that.

Just signed up for an account.  After Tina presented her system, I think that this would be the best way for me to collect both my personal and my school files all in one place that's accessible from anywhere.  It will take a bit of work to organize everything, but I think it will be worth it.  Dropbox is good at storing files; I want to use it for that.

Started using when gReader quit on us.  I don't love it, but it seems to do the job alright.  I'm considering checking out the Newsify app as some folks seem to like that for other devices.  I hope to not use starring too much in Feedly as I'll feel fractured between different systems.  If I want to read something later, it should go in Pocket.  If I want to keep something because I think I'll use it later, I should clip it into EverNote.  Unfortunately you have to pay for Feedly to send directly to Evernote.  I send to Pocket and then to EverNote as a work-around.  Feedly is good at aggregating blog content; I want to use it for that.

I made a GoodReads account years ago for personal use, but mostly have not used it.  Several TMC folks are talking about using it for math-y books.  I'm considering using it, but at the moment I use Remember the Milk to keep track of my "books to read" list.  GoodReads is good at helping to connect people who want to share what they're reading and find other interesting things to read.  I need to decide if the interactive quality is worth the hassle of adding another app/program to the list here.  If I decide to do it, GoodReads is good for tracking lists of books to read and finding out what others are reading; I want to use it for that.

I really love thinking about this stuff and talking about it, so please ask questions and make suggestions in the comments!

Twitter Math Joy

This past week I spent four days with the most inspiring, innovative, welcoming, joyful, intelligent, hard working group of teachers (well, people in general) ever.  I had the distinct privilege of attending Twitter Math Camp '13, a gathering of about 115 math teachers who use Twitter and blogs to connect, collaborate and support each other. 

I have been reading math teacher blogs for about four years.  I met a friend (Ben Blum Smith of a math teacher co-worker at a picnic who gave me his business card, with his blog listed.  I saw that many of his posts included links to other bloggers.  I read several of Sam Shah's posts and quickly thought, "wow, this world has some good stuff to offer!"  So, I set up a Google Reader and started some hard-core lurking. 

In recent years I keep hearing people say "the action is all on Twitter."  I'm a late adopter in general...I got my first smart phone less than a year ago, I waited until 2009 to get Facebook, etc.  I like to wait until an app has a ton of reviews before I consider trying it out.  I also have quite a few friends (and I often feel this way too) who try hard to have less technology in their life.  I have mostly stopped using Facebook recently as I don't want the time suck of browsing things without fully engaging and I don't like having so much screen time.

And then in walks this whole MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog 'o Sphere).  I arrived at Twitter Math Camp with a handle (the word for your name on Twitter) created, but having never tweeted and not yet following anyone.  I figured that if I enjoyed the gathering, then I would consider trying it out.  By Friday morning, I was tweeting and trying to find how to follow this glorious community. 

Much of what the general public dislikes about Twitter does not seem to be how people are using it in the MTBoS.  The medium and the community allows me to connect with several hundred like-minded, helpful, passionate, intelligent math teachers.  Wow!  I work at an incredibly small school (80 kids in grades 7-12, one full time math teacher, two part time math teachers), so finding this world where I can share ideas with a Global Math Department is so liberating and fascinating!

I would like to write more about all of the sessions that I participated in at TMC13, both so that I can remember what I learned, and also to share with other folks.  At the moment, that is feeling somewhat overwhelming, so I decided to just write about why I feel so much joy in joining this splendid community.

Throughout much of my adolescence, I was frustrated that I didn't have peers who wanted to talk about ideas, theories and connections (about everything, really) on the same level that I was excited and ready to converse at.  I went to a small rural high school, and there were only a few of us in each grade level who really cared about academics.  The summer between my sophomore and junior years, I attended a weekend-long women's leadership conference at Wells College.  I met all of these young women, and incredible counselors, who all wanted to talk about ideas with me.  Oh my gosh!  Oh my gosh!  These people were as excited as I was to geek out about so many things and to use a large vocabulary!  I had my first all-nighter, I couldn't sleep as my mind was expanding so quickly!  When I came home, I decided to get out of high school as quickly as possible and applied to attend college a year early and didn't do my senior year of high school.

I say all of this because I feel like that was the last time that I remember being this inspired and having my mind opened that radically, 14 years ago at age sixteen!  This is major!  One of the other attendees described it as entering puberty to come to TMC; it's appealing to get to finally be an adult, but gosh is it overwhelming to learn how everything works!

So, now I'm trying to integrate this amazing experience into my day to day life.  It's summer, so my schedule is somewhat more flexible, and I want to follow this passion and foster these incredible connections, but I also worry about how I will be able to maintain my participation once the school year starts.

I also have a notebook we're talking twenty-five pages of single spaced writing...of ideas and leads on things that I want to study, people I want to connect with, programs I want to try, puzzles to explore.  It's remarkably exciting and also cripplingly overwhelming.  So, today, I'm spending my time thinking about how I will process this influx of information and inspiration.  I know that when I have places to put things, I feel more comfortable and able to sink into newness; I like order.