Gotta Be An Easier Way

Using technology to make your life easier!

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I found this article on Robin Goods blog and found it immensely interesting. I debated as to wether I should post it or not because it really isn’t a tool for learning but I couldn’t resist. The author is Andrew Churches and the blog is “Robin Good Be Smart, Be Independent, Be Good”. There are a few ads at the top of the page so keep scrolling down to get to the meat of the content.

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  • Heap’n on the Search Results with Heapr

    Heapr is a great mashing of a couple big dog search engines: Google, Twitter, Wikipedia and Wolfram Alpha, Flickr for images, and for video searching it searches Youtube, Vimeo and Hulu. When you complete a search your main results are from Google featured on the left. On the right side of the page one of the other three contestants is showcased and you can easily switch between these remaining three, which are set up like tabs, with the click of a button while never loosing the ever accurate Google results.

    Heapr of course does loose some of the great functionality of Google search like the promote, similar, and comment buttons that add extra value to the original Google engine but the search results are the same because Heapr is powered by Google primarily.

    Of course on of the most important aspects of any search engine for me is that it can be integrated into the my Firefox search bar and Heapr does that admirably giving me instant access to their search engine without ever having to go to their site.

    I really like all the search engines that Heapr has mashed together and find each of them useful in their own way as they are all very different. Google is a mainstay search engine that always produces results. Wikipedia is a great starting point in researching a topic. Twitter is the best way to get a feel for what the masses are saying about certain topics , Wolfram Alpha is just creepy in how it just answers questions, Flickr is one of the most popular photo sharing sites, Youtube is a huge video sharing site that many people use as a search engine in and of itself, Vimeo is a great video website as is Hulu. The problem with each of those search engines is I forget about them or just don’t want to perform multiple searches on one topic, so I fall back on old Google and it always delivers. That is a problem that is solved with Heapr allowing me to search it all quickly and easily in one page, giving me a better cross section of answers.

    Heapr is officially at the top of my search engine toolbar and is likely to stay for a while.

    How can this be used for education?

    It can save time and paint a more accurate and holistic picture of most internet searches than any one search engine can give because of the search engines it uses. Google gives the most popular results, Twitter is the pulse of the people and can give insight into what the popular belief about certain subjects. Wolfram Alpha is a fact engine that will do it’s best to answer you question as best it can (see my article on W.A.) and Wikipedia as we all know is a great resource used as a starting point for research.

    Give Heapr to your students as an alternative to the search engines they are using, perhaps the additional information will spark some extra interest in a particular research paper. Check out the other articles on Search.

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  • RSS: How to get Started

    So I have talked about a variety of different services that hopefully cater to different types of people and how you like to learn and discover. In this final article I would like to take it one step further and walk you through how to set up an RSS feed. I mentioned it in my first article how important that I feel RSS feeds are for everyone to save time, continue learning and stay current but I just need to make it known how misunderstood I think they are. They are not suppose to help you read 1000 articles a day, they are meant to help you quickly filter out even 1 article out of a thousand that you find interesting. I go through 300-500 articles a day and only read about 10-20 each of which I find very valuable for myself and others.

    So without further ado here is a great tutorial on how to set up with a Google account and using Google Reader in less than 5 min.

    Remember to check out parts one and two in this series for important information about RSS feeds.

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  • Another take on Dropbox: Syncing Apps

    Dropbox is a great service that syncs files very easily across multiple computers via a folder that sits on all those computers. I wrote about this great service that allows for easy file collaboration and automated backups a few months back. You can read more about it here.

    I just wanted to pass on a great little trick that can help you sync applications across multiple computer by simply having your authoring file in the Dropbox folder. I have several applications on my work computer and on my home computer and I find it frustrating to always using my USB key to transfer similar files back and forth. For instance I have a recipe application called Organized Gourmet (great app by the way) and it helps you schedule meals, my home computer is the primary place where my wife and I plan our meals but when I am at work some days I would like to plan some meals to save us both time but the problem is my work computer only has a fraction of the recipes on it. Once I started using dropbox as the place to put the authoring file it automatically updates both applications with the same database of recipes and both are exactly the same within seconds. This concept is repeated for many more applications.

    Of course there are many tools that do this but nearly all come with a fee but Dropbox is free (2 GB). This is just another useful way that you can use free web 2.0 applications to make you life a bit easier.

    For more on this topic check out this article.

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  • Save the Ink, Save the World

    Ever get to a web page and you want to print it out but when you try it prints out an exact replica right down to the background used. You really only wanted the content and not all the images, banners and footers.

    Print friendly is a fabulous free service that saves ink and paper by letting you take any web page and removing only the things that you want to remove from a web page. The resulting printer friendly page can either be emailed, saved as a PDF, Tweet it, or of course printed. It can take a 16 page printed website and turn it into a 4 page printed website or even less. It puts you in control of a printed page.

    The whole service is incredibly easy. Just go to the website and drag the bookmarklet onto your bookmark bar (FireFox, Chrome or Safari). Go to a website you want to “print” and click the bookmarklet and you are presented with a popup window that lets you customize the page the way you want. Alternatively just paste the url that you want to print into PrintFriendly website. Now don’t think you have to spend several minutes doing this, the service essentially does it all for you, gives you all the content with pictures included then all you need to do is click on the paragraphs or images that you don’t want and your done. All of this can be done in under a minute.

    Test it out right here with this button.

    How can this be used for education?

    • First off it could save a ton of paper and ink if you print out content regularly for yourself or students.
    • Instead of sending a link via email take an extra 15 seconds to send only the important information on a page so that the recipient doesn’t have to dig to find out what you are referencing.
    • Save a page with selected information to a PDF for reference later on so you don’t have to dig through a lengthy article later on.

    In what ways do you think it would benefit education or yourself?

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  • RSS: Keeping Track of the Web Your way

    I know that most everyone that is reading this has heard of RSS feeds. What I also know is that so many people either under use an RSS reader or don’t use it at all.

    There are a ton of RSS tools out there, some are extensions of like Sage for Firefox, Google Reader, and there are stand alone readers like Filterbox , Toluu, Hordit, Social Median, and Mac mail even has an integrated RSS feed reader. Many of these tools are also integrated into a much larger social community to help filter out the noise and make your experience even more rich. So why is RSS such an underused tool?

    First off we need to address who would benefit from using an RSS tool and to do this I am going to steal a schtick from Jeff Foxworthy:

    • If you spend any more than 30 min a day on the internet, ya might need RSS.
    • If you look at the same website more than 4 times a month, ya might need RSS.
    • If you feel like you miss world news, ya might need RSS
    • If you like to maintain currency with anything, ya might need RSS
    • If you ever feel bogged down going on the internet, ya might need RSS.

    In my opinion the reason RSS feeds are so underused is a lack of understanding and technical jargon. That coupled with the thought that they can be hard to setup and difficult to use. In 2 minutes you can have an RSS reader setup and be using it, when youfind a website you want to add you only have to click one or 2 buttons to have it added. It’s that easy.

    So what is RSS?

    Essentially RSS brings the web to your door and allows you to quickly scan the articles that you already find interesting and either fully read them or determine if you would rather not.

    I personally use Google Reader and I subscribe to 59 websites and get on average 200-250 new articles everyday, Now if I were to go to every website and look through those articles I would easily take up my entire workday but because of RSS I am able to scan all those articles, read the ones that I find most interesting and bookmark them if need be all in 45 min spread out the day. Essentially this increases my productivity by over 800 percent.

    Not only is my productivity up but I pair this up with other social networking tools such as twitter and even the built in sharing tools that most RSS feeds have now and I am able to share articles that my co-workers and colleagues find useful which keeps them current and up to date.

    If you are like me though there are tools that you can use to further filter a website that you have subscribed to. Pipes by Yahoo! will filter based on nearly whatever criteria you wish. I use it primarily for a website called Gizmodo which has nearly a hundred posts a day but I have it filtered to give me only 20-30 articles per day of things that I know I am going to be interested in instead of all the other articles that I know I won’t read.

    How can I use this for education?

    • Increase productivity
    • Stay up to date with current trends in education, technology or whatever
    • You won’t miss important articles
    • Waste less time on the internet
    • archive articles you like
    • develop relationships with colleagues and share important articles

    As usual I am open to know how you think it can be used in education and look forward to my RSS setup article coming soon. Also I will be posting my thoughts on the different RSS tools that I listed above.

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  • A Showcase of SingleFunction

    In the past few years there has been a trend towards very simple, single function websites like Google search. These pages do one thing and are very simplistic in design but offer great functionality. Here is a website that showcases some of these great single function tools and in a strange turn of events for web 2.0 tools the name actually describes its purpose, SingleFunction.

    How can this be used in education?

    SingleFunction is a great place to find tools that are the easiest to use because they only do one thing. It may take some searching and research and there may be some duds but there is gold to be found. Of course I will likely post some highlights from SingleFunction here in the future so stay tuned.

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