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

Take Note

Education, journal, Organization, productivity, Technology, tips and tricks, to do list, writing

Having a good note taking app is a must. Three things I believe every successful person should have on their phones: a calendar app, notes, and an e-reader. Successful individuals show up on time and plan their schedules accordingly, pay attention, write things down, and read. I also think they dress to reflect current trends and styles to look the part, but that’s a whole other issue.

Finding the perfect notes app for me has been a journey, but I believe I finally have it down. For the longest time I was a devotee of Evernote. I’ve presented at many conferences on the benefits of Evernote. But in 2017 there was some ambiguity as to the privacy of your content. At first, Evernote employees could access your notes in an effort to improve functionality. Then, after a shockingly unforeseen outcry (seriously, they didn’t see that coming?) Evernote had to retract the policy and currently claims that notes will only be accessed by employees with your express permission. The whole thing left me cold. Will or won’t, they still CAN, and that bothers me. Privacy is an issue for me. Ever since a teacher reported me for a photo I had posted on Twitter (jealous) I’ve become more guarded. I have photos on my phone from my modeling days, nothing I would consider inappropriate, but that isn’t the point, someone else did, they reported it and even though I didn’t get in “trouble” it was enough to make me stop and think. I don’t want someone getting ahold of those photos and twisting something that was fun and exciting, something I’m proud of (because honestly, how many 5’2” models were out there before Instagram?) and turning into something dirty. So for this reason, the Apple ID for my personal devices and the Apple ID for my professional devices are two totally different things. I added my work computer to my family share account so that I don’t have to pay for apps twice but those apps don’t sync up. That means, in order to be considered a top contender in my eyes, notes have to be accessible across devices and platforms. This leaves me with three options: Evernote, OneNote, and Apple Notes. Bear Notes & Noteability are excellent apps, but I can’t sync them, at lest not with the methods I’m using.

Mar 14, 2020

And then…the world of education changed. All of a sudden, I’m working from home. And it became more about ME and less about my institution. I really just needed a place to dump my thoughts. And Bear notes all of a sudden came to the top of the list. Why?

• The interface is clean and free of distraction.

• I can add multiple tags such as agenda (for the week) and assignments. After all, this could be the new face of education for awhile.

• Interlinking Notes. HUGE. So easy for me to reference what my honors class was doing previously so I can build upon prior knowledge.

• Markdown. Period.

• Ability to use my Apple Pencil.

• Password protected notes.

And… basically, I just like it. In the end, it came down to what I like. THIS was my favorite note taking app.

Because I’m doing “distance learning” I’ll be posting a lot more blog posts and my YouTube channel will expand from bags (because honestly, my bag collection is super cute, check it out @CarolynNicole YouTube) to at home fitness, remote teaching, et al.

The iPad is on Life Support…

Education, Organization, productivity, Technology, writing

and the Apple Pencil is the only thing keeping it alive.

I’m one of the recent adopters of the iPhone xs Max. No, I don’t find the screen size sexist (how can you even suggest that with a straight face?) and I’m probably one of the smallest women you’ll ever meet. There’s nothing better than a tiny person with a giant phone. So the phone is larger than my face, that’s what AirPods are for. I love the screen size since I do the majority of my work on my phone.

The thing is, my employer provides me with an iPad Pro and, of course, I had to go out and get the Apple Pencil. I try to use my iPad at work and it is handy to grade papers on. Honestly, both Schoology and Turnitin have greater functionality on handheld devices than they do from the desktop because they know teachers live in a tumultuous world and not tethered to their desks as movies continually portray them (I also dress better than any fictional teacher, but I’ll save that rant for another time). The other day I was giving a presentation on the power of a good thesis statement when my iPad made the executive decision to stop playing keynote. It was my last class and I couldn’t break my stride so I unplugged the iPad and quickly plugged in the iPhone Max. Ironically, I created the presentation on my new phone because I find it more convenient to type on a phone than an iPad without a keyboard any day.

The Max worked perfectly. And, since it is smaller than the iPad I found it easier to walk around while holding the device (yes, a Bluetooth clicker would solve this). The thing is: I created the presentation on the phone, I ended up giving the presentation on the phone, I compose email on the phone, create YouTube videos, even write this. So what do I need an iPad for? The only functionality the iPad has over the device in my hands is the Apple Pencil. The ability to write on my slides as I speak, the ability to annotate texts and grade essays with handwritten comments. That’s it.

Therefore, is the Apple Pencil the only thing keeping the iPad alive? If Apple did release an update to allow for the use of the Apple Pencil on the iPhone Max, would anyone have a use for iPads anymore? How do you use your iPad? Perhaps there’s something I’m missing or should we prepare a eulogy and clear a space in the junk drawer next to our Palm Pilots?

5 Reasons to Write: How Journaling is Beneficial

Education, journal, productivity, writing

I made the argument last week for keeping a digital journal, today I’d like to give you 5 reasons to keep a journal. Why writing is important.

1. Journaling Helps You Work Through Emotion:

This past Friday the school where I am employed lost a student under tragic circumstances. Although I did not know the student personally, many of my students did and I had to observe their grief and devastation. In a world full of social media it’s good to have a place where you can write what you’re feeling.

2. Journaling Makes You Aware Of How Far You’ve Come:

I look back at some of my entries from years past and realize I’ve made it through some tough times. There have also been things which, although monumental at the moment, seem inconsequential now. When you’re able to reflect upon all you’ve been through you being to realize how strong you really are.

3. Giving Gratitude:

I’m a Christian, but even if you aren’t, it’s still healthy to stop and give thanks every once and awhile. Again, it’s all about perspective and recoding where you are at each stage of your life.

4. A Memory Keeper:

Goes without saying, right? Just having a stash of your memories. The ability to remember who you were at different times in your life. I was an outspoken teen, with an active social life, and defiant opinions. I’m a much calmer, more private, adult but I like remembering who I once was, the brashness at which I viewed the world in black and white before I ever really entered it. I’m able to revisit that girl and relive memories I’d otherwise forgotten. Even better, I have textual evidence for my own daughter when she becomes a teenager: yes, I was once your age and yes, I can understand how you feel.

5. Judgement Free Zone:

Your journal is a judgment free zone. Journaling is different than talking to a person. You can say whatever is on your mind (good, bad, politically incorrect, diabolically evil) and you won’t be judged for it, no one is going to give you unsolicited advice, and you don’t have to worry about “likes”. Journaling provides freedom in ways you may not appropriate until you make it a part of your life. It’s healthy to just let it all out every once in awhile.

A digital journal remains to be my favorite way to express myself, but writing in any form is beneficial. I make my students journal for 10 minuets at the start of every class period. Although I provide prompts, I prefer they choose their own topics. My hope is that I’m giving them a tool to help them deal with life long after they’ve forgotten Shakespeare.

The Argument for a Digital Diary

journal, Organization, productivity, Technology, writing

I’ve been an avid journal writer for most of my life. I think it’s the narcissist in me, the same one who thought it was a good idea to try my hand at Hollywood, this thought that someday someone would care enough to read what I had written. It started in the 5th grade with a Scholastic Book Fair “diary” blue with pink hearts which by high school was a legit Laura Palmer type with a real lock and tiny keys. The diaries of my formative years are an open letter of who wronged me, who talked about me (who I was talking about, secret crushes and who attended what party.

Writing took on a whole new meaning in college when I moved away from home and everything I knew. No longer was I writing for an imaginary audience. As I struggled to find myself I wrote solely to sort out my ideas and feelings. To figure out where my place was in this world.

I never stopped. My career, my marriage, the deaths of loved ones, the birth of my child, successes, and some really dark times have all be recorded.

In 2010 I began using a digital journal on my Blackberry. In 2011 I switched to the iPhone and started using the Day One App. At first I was skeptical about digital journaling (and I’ll admit there’s a less comprehensive, yet Louis Vuitton, journal on my bedside table). There is something about putting pen to paper and leaving something behind for the next generation. I have my grandmother’s diary from 1915 and it’s an exquisite piece of history. There’s something to be said about expressing yourself using your own unique handwriting. If there’s one thing I can say about myself it’s that I have beautiful handwriting probably from all those years of journal writing. So I understand the argument for keeping your memories in a book,but here are some reasons to consider for either switching to a digital platform or keeping a digital journal in conjunction with a handwritten diary.

1. A digital journal is always with you: Life is busy. We’re constantly on the go. It’s not reasonable nor plausible that you’d have your paper journal with you everywhere. If you’re in the habit of writing things down as a way of catharsis than it’s beneficial to have that means to express yourself with you at all times. I once lived in a hotel for a month and there was no way I was leaving a traditional paper journal in my room.

2. A digital journal is more secure: If you choose one of the many popular journaling apps such as Day One, Wonderful Days or even Evernote, you can add a passcode or fingerprint lock to secure your writing. Day One even offers encryption as an added safeguard. The chances of someone “finding” your journal and gaining access are minimal.

3. It is a lot easier to add photos to your writing: Do places even develop photos anymore? I love being able to add photos to my entries, especially as I watch my daughter grow.

4. Unlimited space: My journal currently encompasses almost 8 years of memories. I’m saving space by not having all those books cluttering up my closet AND it’s much easier to return to my writing and read past entries, something I rarely do with my previous journals.

5. Writing becomes more organized: I can have multiple journals and tag entries according to subjects or yearly events.

I understand that some people may be worried about trusting “the cloud”. What if the internet goes down? What if the company (app) goes out of business? Those are legitimate concerns. I regularly export my journal as a PDF and save it on a removable hard drive. I have a friend who chooses select entries monthly, prints them out, and adheres them to a scrapbook.

A journal is a personal thing and it isn’t my place to tell anyone how to record their memories but if you’ve never considered a digital journal I hope I’ve offered viable reasons to give it a try. Below are my top three picks to start your mobile writing journey.

Day One

My Wonderful Days

Evernote