There are a lot of geeks doing some great work in education. One such person is Mike Rogers (Twitter) (website), a school principal that started a blog about technology and education, Techedvance.com. Mike is in the trenches and has some interesting perspective. So Mike, show us your home screen.
I went through a few Twitter apps before shelling out for Tweetbot and haven’t looked back since. I like how well it syncs my timeline between devices and it is just very well designed and a pleasure to use. I maintain the Twitter account for my school (@pbvmschool) and a personal/professional account (@techedvance) and Tweetbot handles multiple accounts very well.
Lately I have been switching between this and Yahoo Weather. Both are very good and I like the design of each, even though they are very different. The simple animations that both of them have are nice little touches that add to the user experience.
I use Evernote for storage of reference materials. Usually these are things that I find online that pertain to my work. I also store notes for my graduate school studies here. I frequently link text in one note to another (explained here) which is helpful when studying and writing. The best part of Evernote is that everything is searchable. I am intrigued by the reminders that were just added to Evernote last week but haven’t used them much yet.
I tried Apple’s podcast app when it was released and again when it received a major update but wasn’t satisfied. Downcast is great and allows me to easily manage the large number of podcasts that I listen to. I keep audio podcasts on my phone and video podcasts on my iPad.
This has been my RSS reader of choice for several years now. I’ve tried others but always end up coming back. One thing that is frustrating is that the iPhone version seems to be in active development and utilizes some new UI elements that don’t exist on the iPad version yet. The iPad app also lacks some of the features of the iPhone version. For example, I would like to be able to subscribe to feeds on the iPad. I haven’t decided what I am going to do when Google Reader dies in a few weeks but it sounds like Reeder is planning to continue on with other RSS services.
I use Checkmark for location and time-based reminders. Apple’s reminders app is just too tedious for setting a time or location (I rarely use Siri for this type of thing). Checkmark is well designed and works flawlessly. It also has recurring reminders which I use to help me remember to do certain chores around the house weekly. I have tried to use OmniFocus for this but Checkmark does the job just fine. If it’s not in OmniFocus, it ends up here.
I used Byword for quite a while but encountered a few bugs and the app hasn’t been updated in over a year so I started looking for something new. I settled on Notesy because it has full text search and still has all of the features of Byword that I need. I usually have about two or three dozen text files going at any one time. I use them as scratchpads for things that I am actively working on like agendas and notes from meetings. Everything is synced through Dropbox. I trust that if something goes wrong, Dropbox has all the different versions of my text files and I can go back and restore them if necessary. I use a PC at school but can edit my text files with a great free utility called ResophNotes. It’s no nvALT but it works.
I started using OmniFocus in January and have written a bit about the experience on my blog. I do not use OmniFocus on the Mac, but might start once they release 2.0. This app has become essential for me because I wear many hats as the sole administrator at my school and there is a lot to keep track of – more than my brain alone can handle. OmniFocus allows me to look at everything quickly to determine what needs to be worked on next and helps me remember what I was doing before I was interrupted by all the things that come up during the school day. I’m getting to the point where I don’t remember what I did in previous years to keep track of things.
I moved Apple’s calendar app to the third page of my iPhone and put it in a folder along with all of the other apps I don’t use and never find myself opening. Fantastical is a more than adequate replacement. It’s a well designed app and just keeps getting better with each update. I wish it were available as a native iPad app.
Drafts is an app that I never thought I would need, but is now essential. It sits in my dock and I open it right away anytime I have anything I need to write down. It is so nice to not have to think about what app to open when something pops into my head. I just open Drafts and jot down the item and then send it where it needs to go. I am particularly fond of the feature that lets me append and prepend text to files in Dropbox. This is very helpful for adding to the lists and meeting agendas that I keep in Dropbox. I also use Drafts to write down quick notes when I am doing classroom walkthroughs or adding tasks to OmniFocus.
Which app is your guilty pleasure?
I don’t have any apps that I’m embarrassed or feel guilty about using. I will occasionally try a game but they usually don’t stay on my phone for more than a day or two. There are just too many other things I would rather be using my phone for and I’ve never been much of a gamer.
What is the app you are still missing?
That’s hard to say. I’m sure that there will be something that comes out someday tha
t I will wonder how I ever lived without. It will probably be an app like Drafts that I never even knew I needed until after it was on my phone.
How many times a day do you use your iPhone?
I would never even try to count this. It is always with me when I am at school, often in my hand as I’m walking through the hallways. No one even blinks an eye any more when I have it out at meetings, classrooms or while talking to a teacher in the hallway. I don’t have a very good memory but the iPhone makes people think that I remember everything.
What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?
This might seem obvious but I like that I can do so much with a device that fits in the palm of my hand. I’ve had an iPhone for nearly two years now and still marvel from time to time that I can do so much with it. It’s also helpful to have such a good camera with me all the time. I will frequently take quick photos of student activities, special events, or a burned out light that needs to be replaced. There are fewer and fewer occasions where I feel I need a “real” camera.
If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?
There are really only a few things that cross my mind on a regular basis. For instance, it would be nice if notifications would sync between devices. If I clear a notification on my phone I wish it would disappear from my iPad so that I don’t see it a second time. I would also add features to Mail for iOS. It would be great if it was more like Reeder and allowed the user to configure an action to take place with a left swipe, for example. Finally, I would fix some of the annoying aspects of Apple Configurator (the software used to configure large numbers of iPads at once) that Fraser Spiers and Bradley Chambers recently discussed on their podcast. I would also remove all skeuomorphism from iOS because it adds nothing to the experience. Hopefully we’ll see some of these changes unveiled on June 10th at WWDC.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks for asking me to share!