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 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?

Staying Organized in 2018

Organization, productivity, Technology

The holidays are over, 2018 is here, and it’s time to

get organized. Most of us are back to work trying to juggle our professional and personal lives while maintaining our sanity. It’s no wonder some form of productivity tops the list of New Year’s resolutions. The thing is, keeping your life together is more about finding a system as opposed to finding a one stop solution. Here are the five things I use daily (and in conjunction with one another) to stay organized.

I don’t believe in keeping my tasks for home vs. work separate, on a technicality I have three jobs, I don’t want to look at three calendars. I need to see the monstrosity of my day in its entirety. I also prefer a month view over a weekly or daily display, which is again a preference that can be augmented.

Step 1: The Calendars

Erin Condren Monthly View Planner

This is your basic spiral bound monthly planner with extra notebook pages added to the back. The thing I like most about Erin Condren’s line is it’s customizable. This one is large, so it stays parked in one place most of the time (usually my desk at school) but it comes home for the holidays or anytime I have to attend a district meeting. I like being able to come into work and getting that instant visual on what’s coming up. I have extra notebook pages added to the end so that I can take notes on a larger scale tablet and later digitize them if I feel they’re worth keeping. Erin Condren planners can be ordered with daily or weekly agendas as well, you can add stickers, or other accessories, they even have one specifically for teachers (which doesn’t work for me AT ALL, ironically). I have mine customized with my initials and my daughter’s photo. The Louis Vuitton stickers were added later 😜.

Awesome Calendar

This was one of the apps I mentioned in my best of 2017 post. Obviously you need a digital calendar (maybe I shouldn’t say obviously, my parents haven’t jumped on the digital bandwagon yet but they’re close to 80). Digital calendars are just so practical. I started with a Palm m100 (anyone remember those? Am I that old?) when I was doing the acting thing full time and working as an assistant to a producer over at Hollywood Center Studios. My life was crazy because my day never looked the same twice and things were constantly changing. The benefits of a digital calendar is the unlimited space for not just events but notes, directions, and photos as well. We’ve come a long way since those Palm days. I know every phone comes with a calendar app and Google makes a great (free) calendar alternative so why spend $10 on another calendar? Again, it’s about finding what works for you. I like being able to add personal photos as the background to my months. I feel that entering events is intuitive. You can look back on events 5 years in the past or look at your photo calendar (all the photos you’ve taken on a specific day). There’s even a Filofax mode in case you need a bit of nostalgia.

Step 2: My Note Takers

Again, I have a digital and paper version of notebooks to simplify my life. Most of the time I have a Field Notes notebook with me, they’re small, light, and fit in even the smallest of bags. Physical notebooks come in handy if your on the phone and need to write things down,as well as certain meeting situations. I hate carrying my laptop around & I don’t always have my iPad either. Some people don’t understand taking notes on a phone (they automatically think you’re texting) so having a tiny, lightweight notebook keeps you looking professional while capturing your ideas. And you can doodle, come on people, don’t act like you don’t love to draw. On a side note, a small notebook & a highlighter are a great way to entertain a fussy toddler in an emergency.

The final resting place for all my notes is Evernote, my digital notebook. Evernote has been my modern TrapperKeeper for almost a decade. Physical notebooks are great but once they’re full they’re relegated to a desk drawer never to be visited again. I avoid losing handwritten ideas by transferring them to Evernote along with news articles, business cards, photos, and import emails. Everything gets tagged and added to the appropriate notebook. I rarely use it, but voice notes can added as well.

Headphones:

The productivity tool everyone forgets about…until they forget them. 2017 was the year of the video call. Front facing cameras may have improved but microphones could still use some work. LHeadphones help you stay focused and in the conversation. Headphones also give you a hands free option for regular phone calls & voice memos.