June 23 – 3: Pixlr

At school, I use Photoshop for various projects with my students, and sometimes I’ll bring pictures from home and use the software there to edit them. But I’m not enough of a photographer to need it very often, so I’m not willing to buy Photoshop to use at home. So when I’ve needed to edit out crazy dog eyes from my photos for this blog, I’ve been using Pixlr – a free online photo editing site. It’s not as robust as Photoshop, but for my pretty simple purposes, it does the trick. And seriously, how amazing is it to have a site like this available for free on the Internet?

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June 21 – 2: Inoreader

I’ll admit it: I am a Google-o-phile. I use G-mail for my e-mail and chat needs, anytime I need to search for something I turn to Google, and Google maps is pretty much the only way I ever find my way anywhere. And, up until today, I used Google Reader to help me keep track of interesting things I want to read about on the Web.

But, sadly (and for the first time ever), Google has really let me down. They’re getting rid of Google Reader as a service.  I know, they’ve created services in the past that haven’t been so hot, and they’ve gotten rid of services before. But this is the first time that it’s really affected me. I rely on Google Reader – I use it almost every day, for both entertainment and for work. I use it to follow library blogs, and comics, and my friends’ blogs, and mommy blogs, and news sites, and all kinds of things. So ever since they announced that they weren’t going to be offering it past July 1st, I’ve been kind of in denial. I’ve continued to use Google Reader, and while I’ve kept an ear out for other services to replace it, I haven’t really looked for them. But July 1st is almost here.

Luckily, J has been less of a procrastinator than me about this, and he found another service to take its place – Inoreader. I just bit the bullet and tried it out, and so far it’s great – it’s almost exactly the same as Google Reader, which is exactly what I want. And transferring my subscriptions over was super easy. So if you’re in the same boat as me, check it out. I think it’s going to be okay – as long as it isn’t blocked by my school’s draconian Internet filters…

June 16 – 2: Hillary Clinton on Twitter

I kind of love the way that Hillary Clinton has joined Twitter. I’m not a twitter-er myself at this point – I’ve been avoiding joining because I don’t really think I need another social networking tool (or another Internet time-suck). But I think I might give it a go over the summer. Because, seriously, I kind of want to read more of her tweets and generally be a fangirl.

June 5 – 3: Ancient Domains Of Mystery (ADOM)

In case you hadn’t already noticed, I am a giant nerd. And one of my nerdy passions is playing intensely strategic and challenging computer games. Lately, I’ve been really enjoying ADOM, which is a dungeon crawling game with a lot of variety in the character class combinations you can choose, which suit themselves to vastly different strategies and classes. It’s a roguelike game, which makes it particularly challenging because when you die, that’s it for that character – so there’s no room for mistakes. And ADOM is extremely challenging on the early levels, so you die a lot. Which is actually kind of perfect for me, because I tend to like the challenge of early games anyway when it comes to computer games – I like figuring out how the strategy of making a character or plan work for me, and once I’ve leveled enough or gotten the right items or built the right things or whatever to have a strong character who kicks ass, I kind of get bored. But so far, I haven’t managed to make it to that point in ADOM. I always die first, and have to go back and try to figure out how to adjust my strategy to avoid that the next time. And from what I’ve read on the ADOM forums, it doesn’t seem like it gets any easier as the game goes on. Which I think is awesome.

May 29 – 3: Videos in the classroom

I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with baited breath to hear how my Prezi went today, so I won’t make you wait any longer:

I think it worked.

I won’t know for sure until next year, when I see how many of my students actually take part in the summer reading program I was promoting today. But with the music and the zooming effects and everything, it definitely got and held most of my students’ attention. And it seemed like they paid more attention to it than they usually pay to me when I stand and present information to them. And really, it wasn’t much more work than putting together a PowerPoint – the Prezi interface is pretty easy to use. The only extra work is setting up the frames that you want the camera to zoom to and from. I think next year I’m going to be leaning on Prezi a lot for things that I need to introduce to my kids.

May 28 – 2: Prezi

Tomorrow at work I’m going to start promoting the summer reading program that we’re trying to get our students to participate in, and also start introducing them to a broader reading incentive initiative that we’re planning to start next fall. One of the biggest challenges I face at my school is trying to get my students to participate in various programs – for whatever reason, they often just don’t get excited about things that I’m doing that I think are really cool. So as I started working on my presentation, I was looking for something more exciting than my typical PowerPoint-and-flyer combo, which hasn’t been as effective as I’ve wanted it to be.

What I ended up going with is a Prezi, which is a lot like a PowerPoint, only a little more dynamic because it zooms from one slide to the next. I had a lot of fun playing with setting it up – it really speaks to my design geek side, since you have a fair bit of control over the way that it looks, but it’s also super easy to use and has some of the basic design built for you when you start. On their end of the year survey, my students overwhelmingly said that I talk too much, so I’ve set this up so that it should be able to autoplay, and I’m planning to play some beach-y music behind it (maybe this? or this? or this?) and just let it go. Wish me luck!

May 27 – 2: WordPress

I am one of those people who has always loved to learn. And I’m really excited to learn how to use WordPress. It’s something I’ve been wanting to try since I took a class on using technology in the classroom when I was in grad school. In that class, we set up blogs using Blogger, but we were also briefly introduced to WordPress, and I could see that it was a much stronger tool.

It’s going to be a bit of an adventure, and probably a slow process. I like to jump in to ideas, but I’m not always that dedicated to putting the time and energy into following through on them. Eventually, I’d like to design my own WordPress theme that suits this blog and my style. But it make take a while for me to get there.

Right now, I’ve got two priorities with this blog. The first is to make it a routine to post a list of three good things every day. Some days (like today), I may write several paragraphs about each thing. Some days they may just be links with a brief description. But I’m going to try really hard to post them every day.

Learning WordPress is the second priority. I am really looking forward to it – which is why it’s one of my things for today – but realistically, it’s going to take me a while to get it figured out. So, for anyone who may be reading this from the beginning, be patient with me! I swear I have plans to make this site prettier and more functional and to eventually get my own domain! But it may take me a while to get it actually developed all the way and ready to roll out, and I wanted to start blogging now. So stick with me – it will only get better! Really!