Sunday, November 28, 2010

10 Ways to De-clutter Your Digital Life: 2010 Edition

LifeHacker offers their latest blog on how to help clean up email, fix digital files and tidy up your digital life in 10 steps:

Click here to get to the original blog post and hyperlinks that LifeHacker offers:

10. Declutter and Streamline Google Reader Feeds
RSS feeds can start out as a convenient way of streamlining your news and site reading. After some time, and a few too many feed additions, it can feel like opening up a fire hydrant in front of your face. Read up on how the How-To Geek streamlines and declutters his Reader inbox, starting with some statistical work, stepping deep into folder organization, and then filtering the remaining feeds with a little Yahoo Pipes tweaking.

9. Clean Up Your Contacts
These people that show up when you start typing in a Gmail address—where did they come from? Google Contacts, where Gmail and other Google apps keep your peeps, can get real messy, real quick. We've offered a complete (for now) guide to fixing Google Contacts, along with some tools that help in Outlook, like the Outlook Duplicate Items Remover, and a date-sorting trick that works best for those who haven't made huge imports. (Original post: Outlook Duplicate Items Remover)

8. Compact and Manage Social Network Alerts
Facebook has a way of making you sorry you use it, at least if you regard your inbox as something more than just a junk pile. To trim down on the messages that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, and other services send you, we've suggested a two-part filtering and management scheme for social networks. The short version: use Nutshell Mail and a good RSS reader. Facebook has made email management a bit more convenient itself, offering in-email replies to comment mail, which we took as an opportunity to show off our Facebook-taming Gmail filter.

7. Build Yourself Serious Gmail Filters
We know, we know—nothing we haven't said before, right? There is, however, some new stuff under the sun. If you're not already keeping annoying stuff out of your inbox and making it easy to get at the real communication, do so by building advanced filters and persistent searches. Need some inspiration? Download ten of our own filters and install them in your own inbox. Maybe you've found a filter need that's not quite covered by Gmail's built-in tools? At least one editor (ahem) digs how Syphir adds a few key criteria, like timing and number of recipients, to the mix. (Original post: Syphir)

6. Pack a More Efficient Laptop/Go Bag
If you know what you need to get work done on the go, you spend less time wondering if you packed the necessities and more time remembering, for instance, to include a bathing suit. We can't offer the ultimate laptop bag, or non-computer "go" bag, for everyone. All we can do is point to our bags, the bags our readers have shown us (in Part I, Part II, and Part III of our show-and-tell series), the bag that NYT tech columnist David Pogue carries, and hope you get a sense of how the right kind of geeky gear can actually feel liberating, rather than just more stuff taking up bag space.

5. Clean Out Your Hard Drive
Dig your way through your hard drive, and you'll find all sorts of stuff. Most of it can be deleted to make room for more important stuff, like your complete collection of Herb Alpert import album tracks. Digging through his own drive, Adam found lots of room for cleaning, so he showed us how its done. He used the simple, pretty Disk Space Fan, the classic and open-source champion, WinDirStat, recommended Disk Inventory X and Grand Perspective for Macs, and some automated tasks, like setting up CCleaner to run on a schedule.

4. Free Up Space in Gmail
You never thought you'd use up all those free gigabytes in Gmail—seven, as of this writing—until you went and did. Need to clear up space to stop losing archives, or step a bit further back from the brink? Gina's previously provided a seven-step clean-out system, while the New York Times recommends a back-up-and-wipe-out solution, akin to how we've suggested backing up Gmail with Thunderbird. You get the added benefit of likely having access to Gmail when it's down, and an offline copy of all your data, which is never a bad thing.

3. Automate Your Folder and File Organization
Downloads go in the Download folder. Unless they're finished video downloads—then they should go in Videos. And anything older than 30 days? That should get stuffed in a folder marked for deletion. You could do this yourself and give your mouse hand a workout, or you could automatically clean up and organize your folders, using Belvedere for Windows, Hazel on Macs ($22, but with a 14-day trial), and some clever settings that Adam, the creator of Belvedere, details in his step-by-step explainer.

2. Use Dropbox—For Almost Everything
The file syncing service Dropbox does one thing very well, and that is give you access to a certain amount of file space (2 GB in free accounts) on any computer you use, as well as on smartphones. By doing so, geeky types have figured out many ways to use that hard drive in the sky. Make it your ultimate password syncer, as storage for any file on your system, and, as the How-To Geek explained, just about anything. Keep a copy of Firefox portable in your Dropbox, and your concerns about having a decent browser on any given computer are gone, and you don't have to think about whether you formatted that USB keychain drive or not. That's just one of many de-cluttering steps you can take when liberated by having 2 GB floating all around you.

1. Ban Cables and Clutter from Your Desktop
Your desk is where you use your computer most, and it's likely encroached on by many things, begging for your attention and personal space. Cables tend to multiply and tangle, unless you fight them back with a total cordless setup, or something simple like a $5 coat hanger or cable organizer, or something so simple as binder clips attached to a desk. There are lots of other transient things trying to take up residence on your space. But with the help of pegboards, flush-mounted gadget ports, and other anti-clutter tactics, you can keep the hounds of excess stuff at bay. (Original posts: transient stuff, power basket)

8 Ways Technology Is Improving Education

Don Knezek, the CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, compares education without technology to the medical profession without technology.

“If in 1970 you had knee surgery, you got a huge scar,” he says. “Now, if you have knee surgery you have two little dots.”

Technology is helping teachers to expand beyond linear, text-based learning and to engage students who learn best in other ways. Its role in schools has evolved from a contained “computer class” into a versatile learning tool that could change how we demonstrate concepts, assign projects and assess progress.

Despite these opportunities, adoption of technology by schools is still anything but ubiquitous. Knezek says that U.S. schools are still asking if they should incorporate more technology, while other countries are asking how. But in the following eight areas, technology has shown its potential for improving education.

CLICK HERE for interactive list of 8 Ways Technology is Improving Education

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New technology plan released for the nation's schools

Education Secretary Arne Duncan released the final version of the National Education Technology Plan. The plan, which emphasizes the role of the department as a facilitator, is focused on enhancing academic instruction through Internet-based learning, a decreased emphasis on "seat time" and a preference for more flexibility. The document also includes plans to fund the creation of open-source resources for schools and online professional learning communities for teachers, among other initiative

Transforming American Education
The National Education Technology Plan 2010 (NETP) calls for revolutionary transformation rather than evolutionary tinkering. It urges our education system at all levels to

• Be clear about the outcomes we seek.
• Collaborate to redesign structures and processes for effectiveness, efficiency, and flexibility.
• Continually monitor and measure our performance.
• Hold ourselves accountable for progress and results every step of the way.

The plan recognizes that technology is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work, and we must leverage it to provide engaging and powerful learning experiences and content, as well as resources and assessments that measure student achievement in more complete, authentic, and meaningful ways. Technology-based learning and assessment systems will be pivotal in improving student learning and generating data that can be used to continuously improve the education system at all levels. Technology will help us execute collaborative teaching strategies combined with professional learning that better prepare and enhance educators’ competencies and expertise over the course of their careers. To shorten our learning curve, we should look to other kinds of enterprises, such as business and entertainment, that have used technology to improve outcomes while increasing productivity.

We also should implement a new approach to research and development (R&D) in education that focuses on scaling innovative best practices in the use of technology in teaching and learning, transferring existing and emerging technology innovations into
education, sustaining the R&D for education work that is being done by such organizations as the National Science Foundation, and creating a new organization to address major R&D challenges at the intersection of learning sciences, technology, and education.

A Model of Learning Powered by Technology
The NETP presents a model of learning powered by technology, with goals and recommendations in five essential areas:learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity. The plan also identifies far-reaching “grand challenge” R&D problems that should be funded and coordinated at a national level. The challenging and rapidly changing demands of our global economy tell us what people need to know and who needs to learn. Advances in learning sciences show us how people
learn. Technology makes it possible for us to act on this knowledge and understanding.

Learning: Engage and Empower
The model of learning described in this plan calls for engaging and empowering learning experiences for all learners. The model asks that we focus what and how we teach to match what people need to know, how they learn, where and when they will learn, and who needs to learn. It brings state-of-the art technology into learning to enable, motivate, and inspire all students, regardless of background, languages, or disabilities, to achieve. It leverages the power of technology to provide personalized learning and to enable continuous and lifelong learning.

Many students’ lives today are filled with technology that gives them mobile access to information and resources 24/7, enables them to create multimedia content and share it with the world, and allows them to participate in online social networks where people from all over the world share ideas, collaborate, and learn new things. Outside school, students are free to pursue their passions in their own way and at their own pace. The opportunities are limitless, borderless, and instantaneous.

The challenge for our education system is to leverage the learning sciences and modern technology to create engaging, relevant, and personalized learning experiences for all learners that mirror students’ daily lives and the reality of their futures. In contrast to traditional classroom instruction, this requires that we put students at the center and empower them to take control of their own learning by providing flexibility on several dimensions.

To Continue on to full Technology Plan 2010 click here

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cameraphones: iPhone Tips

How to squeeze decent photos out of an iPhone

By Meg Pickard

I love camphones. I love “real” cameras, too – I own and regularly use a number of digital and analogue cameras including a Nikon D80, a Canon IXUS, a Holga 120N and a Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim. But the camera in my phone is always with me, and as a result, over the years I’ve found myself using it a lot to capture odd and interesting things spotted during my daily commute and everyday life.

Because some of the most interesting things which we come across in our daily lives aren’t pre-planned or anticipated, the camera in our phones is sometimes the only way of capturing an image, even though it can be very frustrating in terms of quality and available functionality. That makes it even more important to know how to get the best out of the tool which happens to be at your disposal.

To continue to read full article (and the author's tip sheet) click here

Monday, November 1, 2010

Teens Read for Pleasure, Even in the Digital Age.

By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 31, 2010; 10:44 PM

That's how it looks here in a Rockville library, where 14-year-old Olivia Smith is propped in a comfy chair, deep into a Japanese novel genre called manga. She has already been reading on the computer for an hour, and later, when she texts her friends, she will still be turning pages between messages. "I'm sort of a bookworm," she says.

Recreational reading has changed for teens in an era of ebooks and laptops and hours spent online, but experts and media specialists say there are signs of promise in spite of busy lives and research findings that show traditional book reading is down.

"It's not that they're reading less; they're reading in a different way," says Kim Patton, president of the Young Adult Library Services Association.

A detailed analysis into the trend on reading for fun - in books, newspapers and magazines - comes from researcher Sandra Hofferth, of University of Maryland, who analyzed the detailed daily time-use diaries of a nationally representative sample of children 12 to 18.

Pleasure reading dropped 23 percent in 2008, compared with 2003, from 65 minutes a week to 50 minutes a week - with the greatest falloff for those ages 12 to 14. Still, she says: "They could be reading on the cell phone, in games, on the Web, on the computer. It doesn't meant they're not reading, but they're not reading using the printed page."

Michael Kamil, an education researcher at Stanford, sees it much the same way, noting that teens "still read quite a bit but in different ways and for different reasons than the adults believe they should," he says.

The question of what really constitutes "reading" has been debated for decades, says Kamil, whose own definition is broad: It includes not just books, magazines, newspapers and blogs but text messages, multimedia documents, certain computer games, and many Web pages. "It's all important," he said.

Recreational book reading looked stronger in a January study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found more reading overall than the Maryland study. For kids 8 to 18, it reported a decline from 43 minutes a day to 38 a minutes a day, entirely related to magazines and newspapers. At the same time, students reported online reading of those publications - an average of two minutes a day.

"The data say to me that kids have a love of reading that is enduring and that is different than other things teens do," said co-author Victoria Rideout.

Clearly, books still can create a phenomenon.

Think "Harry Potter." The "Twilight" series. And lately, "The Hunger Games," a science-fiction trilogy that librarian Deborah Fry says has created "quite a waiting list" in her Loudoun library branch in Ashburn.

Click here for full article