Tag Archives: Workflow

We Do All Of It… Or Sometimes Not.

We Do All Of It… Or Sometimes Not.

by Richard White


Well, well, well… look who’s posting something on the HybridClassroom.com blog. It’s little old me!

I hope you’ll excuse my absence for these last 3.5 months. It turns out that that whole teaching thing requires a fair amount of time—who knew?!—and spring semester this year was a doozy. I hope to make up for lost time by slamming with you a series of posts that will leave you breathless, entertained, and elucidated.

I like to set my sights high.

We’ll start off with this one, which is actually a two-for-one deal. Here’s the first post-within-a-post:


by Richard White


On some days–often the more painful professional development days, it seems–I get a little frustrated. Either the subject matter, or the process, or the guest speaker, or sometimes even something my colleagues do will cause me to metaphorically throw up my hands and say, “Why can’t they just le me do my job? I’m here to teach the children!!!

On some other days–often at the end of a few hours banging my head against the wall with my students in the classroom–I’ll say, “You know, I could get SO much more work done if I didn’t have all these darn kids.”

I suppose it’s a “greener grass” question, but the reality is, it’s ALL part of our job. One of the challenging and exciting things about teaching is the wide variety things that are expected of us: lesson planning, teaching children, communicating with parents, participating in ongoing professional development, representing our school in the community, chaperoning dances, attending school sporting events… You can’t do it all, of course, and no one expects you to (although if you want to give it a try, ask your local administrator to swap places for a day)… but you are reasonably expected to do what you can, and not squawk too much about it in the process.

Rockclimbers have to be able to handle a wide range of different vertical terrain: smooth sloping faces, steeper faces with small holds, finger cracks, hand cracks, fist cracks, off-widths, chimneys. The really good climbers–those able to handle the widest variety of terrain–don’t practice what they’re already good at; they address their weakest areas of expertise, in order to improve in those areas in which they are most deficient. Although this ironically has the effect of making training more annoying, it’s toward the greater end of becoming a more capable climber overall.

In the same way, consider working on those areas of your profession at which you feel slightly deficient. Are you a lousy communicator? Resolve to get better at it, make a plan (any plan), start small, and start communicating today–NOW. Do you tend to get stuck in your own classroom? Get out, walk around, and visit a few other teachers, a few other classrooms. It’s a refreshing change of pace, and may have unforeseen benefits down the road.

And above all else, do you work late at night grading, at the expense of your family and friends? Burnt out and bitter is no way to survive teaching (although I’m amazed at how many people do just that). Stay balanced, and try to keep it all in perspective.

You get the irony, right? Those are my notes on an idea for a blog post from March, which was apparently just about the time that I completely dropped the ball on this blog, as well as a more personal blog that I maintain for my friends and family (although “maintain” might be a little optimistic).

Or perhaps (he said, sidling sideways), the bigger truth is that we can’t do it all, even as we struggle to maintain balance in our lives. The rockclimbing I spoke of above is almost non-existent in my life at this moment (although my training for a half-marathon is going quite nicely, thanks for asking), and my classroom teaching is on hiatus for the summer, but I have some online education projects that I’m working on.

I’m perfectly okay with making decisions like that—making mid-course corrections to one’s priorities—particularly when there are some cool things that happen as a result of that realignment.

And it’s those same “cool things” that I’ll be sharing with you over the next few posts.

Come on back and read all about it!

Setting up filters


by Richard White


Too many computers. Not the average teacher's desk.

Sounds like a pretty technical article here: “Setting up Filters.” That could refer to spam filters, or search result filters, or filtering content to restrict the types of webpages that are being delivered to students at your school’s network. All discussion worthy, but… today, I’m thinking about personal filters.

Let’s look at how you can set up filters in your personal/professional life, filters that allow you to focus on the good stuff coming through—the things that you want or need to focus on—without being distracted by the bad stuff:things that are only going to interfere with your job/life/effectiveness.

Because the reality—our reality—is that there are simply too many channels for input in our lives, and no one is able to manage that firehose unaided. No one. Not me, not you, not your multitasking, ADHD, twenty-something friend living on espressos and Monster drinks.

You’ve almost certainly already taken advantage of some of the coping strategies that have been made available to you: your email client (I use Apple’s Mail.app) or webmail provider (gmail) already has spam filters built in, lucky for us.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed lately, here are some options to consider:

  • Reduce your networks
    Social and professional networks allow us to be more connected than ever. Feature? Yup. Feature AND flaw. More connections are good up to a point, but you’ve got a limited amount of time and energy. If you can’t monitor what’s happening in Facebook, your Ning accounts, your LinkedIn account,… why belong to all of them?
  • Reduce your peripherals
    This could run the gamut, from that extra printer that needs to be recycled to the bluetooth mouse you hardly ever use, from the old cellphone (recycle it!) to the extra car that you no longer use. Get rid of all that extra crap that you keep moving from one corner of your desk to another, and free up some CPU cycles.
  • Reduce distractions
    There’s ample documentation on the web that getting any actual… you know, WORK… done while you’re AT work is a Herculean /Sisyphean/Greek hero-of-your-choice task. Phone calls (work & cell, emails, text messages, chat messages, colleagues stopping by to ask a question, friends stopping by to take a coffee together, all conspire to make it extraordinarily difficult to do what I love most, and what I’m actually paid to do: teaching. Don’t get me wrong. I love the people I work with and the fact that I can socialize with them. But when it’s time to work, you need to find a way to shut out the distractions.

    Turn off email. Close your browser. Silence the cellphone. I still had one colleague who kept coming in to chat at inopportune times, so I got the clever idea of buying a pair of Sennheiser HD 202 headphones that I could pop over my head when I really needed to get work done. I was wearing them when the guy came in earlier this week when the guy came in and and cleared his throat a few times. I pretended I couldn’t hear him. After a few more tries, he poked me on the shoulder to get my attention, forcing me to look up and take off the headphones.

    “Wow, those things really do a good job of keeping out distractions, eh?” he said.

    “Not good enough, apparently…” I said.

    Was that too mean?

  • Reduce complexity
    Life’s a lot more complicated than it used to be, from the television shows we watch to the decisions we have to make as consumers. It makes sense to reduce complexity where possible, in order to save your processing power for the things that are truly important.

    Why carry 7 credit cards in your wallet? Why keep 37 files scattered over your computer’s desktop? Why pay for a landline? Why try to keep your complex schedule in your head, as opposed to on a decent calendar app in your smartphone?

    “You can have anything you want… but you can’t have everything you want.” Figure out what’s important to you, and ditch the rest.

  • Organize your news consumption
    This may seem silly, but I’ve stopped reading newspapers, or at least buying them. It’s hard to justify buying magazines, too. I don’t know how the whole “who’s going to support journalism” thing is going to settle out, but while they’re discussing it, I’ve taken to bookmarking RSS feeds on my laptop, syncing those feeds to my cellphone, and reading the news on the computer/cellphone at convenient times. Less waste, and I have enough different news sources now that I can easily scan the RSS headlines, just like I used to scan articles in the newspaper. It’s the new thing.

    Give it a try!

What strategies have you found to simplify your life, things that allow you to filter the distractions in your life so that you can focus on things that are more important to you? Keyboard shortcuts? Cutting your cable service? Ditching your smartphone?




by Richard White

So… yeah. I bought an iPad.

I pre-ordered, and got in line at 6am to hang out with some other really nice people, including Carlos, the youth minister to gang-bangers, and Abraham Peters, who graciously took a picture of all of us standing in line, and the German guy from London, who happened to find himself in the States at the right time and managed to buy a reservation from some guy on Craigslist.

I bought two iPads, actually: one for myself, because I’m an Ed Tech guy, and I have a feeling this is going to be a Very Big Deal. And one for my Dad, because this thing is so made for him.

Picture my Dad, hunched over in the cold, drafty office, reading the online New York Times every morning on an ancient computer screen. Eventually he gets up, rubs his lower back, and heads off into the kitchen where he’ll make some breakfast, sit down at the table, and settle in to read the local newsrag, a pitiful thing that barely qualifies as journalism.

The iPad was made for my Dad. Now, he’s eating his eggs and reading the New York Times online on the blazing bright LED screen, flipping through articles, and emailing me the ones that he especially likes. It’s business as usual… only infinitely better.

We sat on the couch and watched an episode of “Glee” together—he’d never seen it before, and absolutely loved it. We set up Netflix streaming for him. We looked at the books in the online bookstore. At the rate we were going, I’ll be surprised if he ever gets on the computer again, unless it’s to sync his most recent photos to the iPad. Then he’ll unplug, them pack up the little tablet, and take it to my Mom to give her a slide show on the thing.

As for me and my iPad? I’m not as much of a convert. You can read the excellent comments of David Pogue, or John Gruber, or Andy Ihnatko, or this excellent article at Ars Technica, and they say more or less what I say: it’s fast. It’s beautiful. It represents, for many people, the future of computing, where our devices are powerful, and simple, and seamlessly integrated into our lives to the point that we have a hard time remembering what life was like without them. I don’t doubt that that’s going to happen. In fact, I hope it happens—I have a little money invested in Apple, and my son is starting college next year.

But as of this writing, it doesn’t seem to be my thing. It’s a great machine for consuming content, there’s no denying; YouTube never looked so good. But for content creators like myself, or anyone who needs a little more control over their computer—anyone who wants to drive a stickshift—the iPad’s automatic transmission is probably going to be a frustrating experience.

  • Want to read a PDF document? You’ll have to email it to yourself, or use a third-party app to get it onto the iPhone’s hermetically-sealed file system.
  • Want to edit a Word document? You’ll have to buy the $9.99 neutered version of iWork’s Pages, open up the document in that, edit it, then “Save As…” a Word document, plug in your iPad to your main computer, use iTunes to Export a copy of the document, and then fix any fonts, formatting, or layout that got changed in the process.
  • Want to backup your files? Well, you sort of back them up every time you sync, although you can’t actually restore an individual file. You can make a copy of a file from the iPad (for a limited number of applications) by exporting, but you’ll have to go through and do that on a file by file basis. There’s no facility for backing up the entire machine and restoring individual files.

I don’t want to complain too loudly; any device manufacturer on the planet would KILL to have a product like this in their stable. And I totally get that this is going to be a hit.

Facebook’s a hit, too, though. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s something that fits my lifestyle, or my workflow.

The typing I do, the websites that I design, the video editing I do, the podcasts I record, the DVDs I rip, the music I record and mix, the presentations I deliver, the programming I do… none of those exist in the world of the iPad in any meaningful way.

And yet…

It’s a very import development, technologically, and I’m looking forward to seeing where we go from here.

It’s an exciting time to be a technologist.