Apps and Accessories for at Home Work & Play

Education, Fitness, how to, journal, Organization, productivity, Technology, tips and tricks, Uncategorized, writing

So…honestly, didn’t see this coming. Social distancing. Distance learning. I notice a theme here. And, as more people move to self quarantine status here are a few apps and accessories I’ve found to help.

Apps

Zoom: Video Conferencing

Looks like Zoom is going to take the top spot for online discourse. Zoom is offering free upgrades to teachers with their employee email address. I met with my students yesterday online for the first time and it went well. Easy to see everyone, the ability to show your screen (very helpful for my yearbook meeting), and record your session.

Libby by OverDrive

Libby is the official library app. Think of Netflix for books and audiobooks, only free. You use your library card to sign up and you have unlimited books at your fingertips. Read right within the app or send to your Kindle device.

Scribed

A little pricey (roughly $100 a year) but the books and audiobooks are new releases. Best sellers. Honestly, one of the best investments I’ve ever made. If you’re a book person, you need this service and, it’s less expensive than Kindle Unlimited which has a more limited number of contemporary texts. You can try the service out for, I believe 30 days, free of charge. It’s worth checking out.

Journal App: Day One or Dyrii

Both Day One and Dyrii offer on the go digital journaling. Why digital journals? I believe the biggest benefit to a digital journal during this time in history is the ability to add photos and link news reports. Also, they claim people won’t be able to read cursive handwriting in the future, although both offer handwritten pages using your iPad and an Apple Pencil. Day One backs up an encrypted version of your data on their own servers while Dyrii uses your Apple account to sync entrees (in case that makes a difference to you).

Workout App of Your Choice

Fitness is still important. Just because the pool is closed doesn’t mean I’m ok with losing my bikini body. Besides, cardiovascular health is important for everyone. Daily Burn and Beachbody have both opened their digital library and YouTube has some great options as well (I’d recommend anything from Tracy Anderson). I, personally, hate, hate, hate, Beachbody videos, they make me cringe, but they offer the most variety. Daily Burn isn’t quite so bad. If anyone is interested, I could put together a list of good videos for people who are looking to maintain their fitness (no beginner stuff) with videos which aren’t too cheesy (You can do this! You’re a superhero! 🤢 🤮 I just can’t. Clearly, I’m NOT a superhero).

Bear Notes

I know, I just wrote about them, but it’s worth another mention. Right now, I simply need a way to dump thoughts, write out the agenda for all my classes, etc. Calendar apps aren’t really working for that at the moment. I love the fact that I can add more than one tag to notes. I can find notes easily through the tagging system. I enjoy the multiple themes and different header options. Maybe I’ve just tweaked it into what I need it to be, but it’s still worth a look, especially since so many people are working from home.

ACCESSORIES

Otter + Pop

The Otterbox PopSockets duo. Normally, I’m not down with large phone cases, but since all the Apple Stores are closed I can’t exactly afford to have my phone damaged. Otterbox continues to be one of the (if not THE most) protective case on the market. And, to give them credit, they’ve slimmed down their cases over the years. It’s still my largest case, but not as bad as the Otterboxs of years ago. PopSockets, that’s a no brainer. With all the video chats, streaming workouts, and books you’ll be reading it’s nice to have a grip on your phone. One of the things I really like about the PopSocket on this case is that it’s slightly recessed, making it lay a bit more flush with the back of the case and it’s still an interchangeable pop grip. Right now I’m sporting an interesting combo of a case featuring lemons and a tortoise shell PopSocket. It works.

AirPods

Seriously, you need AirPods. I use them for workouts, video chats, regular phone calls. Everything. These things make life easier. I find myself recording my phone screen a lot for my students, they work with the MAC as well. I’m not a music person (and my Dad is a musician, personal rebellion, I guess) as in, I don’t walk around listening to music. I’m a story girl. I always have an audiobook or podcast ready to go. Pretty sure if you’re a music person, these are even more important. If, for no other reason, these allow me to walk around my house hands free. Meaning I can talk to my parents about their latest computer problem while getting my daughter her chocolate milk, banana, paper, marker, doll, dress, stuffed animal, hair tie…she’s four. I get a lot of things.

Ring Light

There’s a reason movie studios have so many lights, we just look better a little flushed out. I know some people are sporting pajamas all day and going without makeup, but that is not me. Getting dressed, wearing makeup, creating a sense of normalcy helps me, I do these things for myself. The ring light? Ok, that might be a vanity thing, but seriously, you don’t want to look a mess on all those Zoom chats. Again, I can not be one of those people who uses an avatar in place of a real person.

Apple Pencil

If you have an iPad, Apple Pencil is a must. Sometimes I feel the need to write things down. I can do that, within Bear Notes, with an Apple Pencil. The best native writing experience comes with the Noteshelf2 app. I have found myself writing in Noteshelf and then adding those notes to Bear. Again, it’s a weird walk around which works for me despite the fact those notes are editable once they’ve been deposited into my Bear note. I very rarely, if ever, edit a handwritten note.

UBeesize Tripod

Under $20 on Amazon, the UBeesize works with both cell phones and cameras. Not that anyone if vlogging during all of this. Please tell me no on is vlogging during all of this. The best thing about this tripod is that the feet bend. You an even wrap it around furniture so you’re finding at the perfect height. The only downside is that it doesn’t really work with the Otterbox case.

#blogpost

The Bag Has Been Found!!!! 

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The bag has been found! Hallelujah. What couldn’t be accomplished in three weeks was accomplished in three days when I started to use my voice and the power of the internet. Go social media. If social media is the bane of interpersonal relationships, it’s the champion of customer service. Here is what I’ve learned from my experience:1. Pay attention! It turns out they did have camera footage, they just hadn’t received it when they made their first offer. I’m lucky that they keep their footage for an extended period of time. I should’ve paid closer attention, checked on my bags more often and caught the problem sooner. This wasn’t anyone’s “fault” but I should have been more vigilant. 

2. Call always. Call often. As great as email is for leaving a paper trail, noting beats speaking with a real person. The customer service representatives were great. And somehow, even though it was written in the emails, it was still being miscommunicated that we were looking for a Speedy 30 and not a Speedy 35b. It was Stacey in customer care who caught the error. 

3. Skip the validation. This wouldn’t have happened if I had sent the bags directly to the realreal company warehouse. I sent the bags to a validation specialist FIRST to get a price quote. It was somewhere in the transfer between validation and warehouse where things got funky. What I think happened was that the bag in question was removed from the box and brought in separately. I can’t be sure. But it fits with what happened. 

4. The words “legal” and “freelance writer” get some attention. Don’t use them lightly and don’t lie about your intentions. When they initially offered me $200 based, of course, on the wrong bag I meant it. I’ve subsequently been given a very fair price. 

So, it all worked out. Thankfully. And I learned something. Which is good, right? And maybe you’ve learned something…or gained knowledge from my experience. 

This is becoming a trend…

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This is clearly turning into something with another belt bag sighting via Vogue. The thing is, I still can’t get the Gucci gg marmont matelassé leather belt bag to work into my rotation. Even if the strap were longer, it’s just a touch too tiny even for my minimalist daily essentials. Ironically, buying the bag has led me to appreciate my latest purchase, the Louis Vuitton six key holder, which I hadn’t been impressed with initially and my LV Eva clutch (out of my rotation for roughly a year). 

After being forced to keep my keys on a simple ring again, I concluded that I really did prefer the key holder. And it fits easily into that Eva clutch. I’m still using the key cles in place of my Chanel O case because of going to the beach, etc. but that darn belt bag. 

It’s About Time

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Wow, it’s been awhile. And, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things. Not to mention, it’s hard to find time to get back into the swing of things. There’s so much I want to write about it’s overwhelming which is exactly what has prevented me from posting anything at all. Do I even remember how to post? I’m not sure. I have apps I’m in love with (finally found a workflow solution), cases (do you know I own ALL of 12 South’s wallet cases? I can explain), I’ve found the perfect designer toddler mom bag…maybe two which brings me to my first unboxing video for YouTube which I’ll post as soon as I, you know, get the box. There’s so much banging and crashing along inside of my brain that in order to post anything I had to post *something*. My plans for the week: 
* Review of 12 South’s Relaxed Leather iPhone 7 Plus case. 

* What’s in my bag? And why I’m totally obsessed with my bag. 

* Finally the perfect calendar app…sorry Apple, I needed something more. 

* Overrated! Two high fashion accessories unworthy of all the hype. 
As you can see, I’m a list maker. So stick around. This blog is back. 

I Need to Explain Everything to my Dad

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My dad is a really smart guy. He’s a musician and an author. He can pick up any musical instrument and play basic songs by ear, he’s composed several piano arrangements, he can even tell you the exact key your car horn honks in (not that you need to know that information but he’ll tell you anyway). What he can’t do is use his cell phone. Part of the problem is that he has a phone with technology circa 2004…ok, maybe 2006. He assures me that, according to the AARP, his phone is the latest and greatest in mobile technology and therefore should be able to do all of the latest and greatest things that modern day technology can do. Unfortunately his latest and greatest is a flip phone with a 2 megapixel camera and what he wants to do with it is take photos and print them out (yes, print them) to share with all of his friends.
We talk about educational technology and the ways that new apps and programs can benefit our students in the classroom but what about the potential students who aren’t in our classrooms? My father actually said  “I guess there will be no more photo albums anymore.” because taking photos was just “too hard”. Too hard? Technology is supposed to make our lives easier and yet for the senior subsect of our society technology is a hinderance preventing them from enjoying the quality of life they once knew. All my dad wants is to take photos of his granddaughter when she’s born. It isn’t asking a lot.
The good news is, I can help my dad and help my students this summer by creating some simple how-to videos using an app called Explain Everything. How does this help my father? My father benefits because he’ll have a little library of tutorials he can watch whenever he needs a refresher on how to use my mother’s iPhone to take photos, print photos, edit photos (yeah, he’s probably never going to do that). Although the phone is my mother’s she can only use it to make phone calls and send texts. I can use Explain Everything to teach my mother how to scan documents and print them on her Bluetooth printer for her Bible study, add reminders, create a grocery list, and use GPS. Explain Everything allows me to use a combination of videos, photographs, documents, and natural writing to, you guessed it, Explain Everything. I can take screen shots directly from my parents’ phone, record voice overs, and draw on the screen to direct their attention or provide links to webpages. How will this benefit my students? Two words: Flipped. Classroom. I’ve tried the flipped classroom trend a few times throughout the year and I’m eager to experiment with it further. Explain Everything is the perfect app for creating flipped classroom videos, but there is a learning curve. I can experiment on my parents and hone my skills so that I’m ready when the school year begins because the app does have a learning curve and who wants to deal with that come September?
So don’t forget potential students who aren’t in your classroom. Think of the world as your classroom. As teachers you have a talent, the talent to disseminate information and make it understandable. If you’re a tech savvy teacher there is a whole population out there who needs you.

My Reads of the Week 

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1. If you teach middle or high school & have to deal with bullying, I found this informative Why online harassment is still ruining lives — and how we can stop it By: Fast Company

2. Another one bites the dust as more states drop testing companies who can’t deliver ANDREW UJIFUSA’S Missouri Drops Smarter Balanced Common-Core Exam

3. And this 3 #EdTech Questions You’re Afraid to Ask was really informative especially if you’re considering explanding your horizons and joining more social networks. 

Google Classroom 

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I, personally, am not a huge fan of Google Classroom. I know. How can that be? I love tech, I love teaching (not every day, I’ll admit, but most days). How can I not love Google Classroom? After having played around with the tools Google supplies I just feel as though the whole thing wasn’t ready for primetime. Crashes, formatting issues, bugs…it felt like shopping at Macy’s (kind of ok but you know they don’t sell designer) when you should be at Saks. But some people love Google Classroom (some people love Macy’s and that’s ok, too) and make good use of it and others have never tried Google Classroom. If you’re in the latter category I highly suggest you give it a try. You never know until you try, right? Here’s an article to help get you started: Teacher Tech by Alice Keeler