Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts!

I have a slight obsession with podcasts. Since I first discovered them back in the good ole iPod days, I have been a regular listener. The EdTech Crew was the first education podcast to grab my attention and I would often extend my drive (the measure of a podcast in my mind) to finish an episode. I caught up with Tony Richards (@itmadesimple) recently and was hounding him to get the band back together so here’s hoping! Since then my listening tastes have shifted. I still enjoy education podcasts but find my interests lie now in more diverse areas.

For education, I personally can’t go past the TIDE (Today in Digital Education) podcast by Doug Belshaw (@dajbelshaw) and Dai Barnes (@daibarnes) or The Education Review (TER) podcast by Corinne Campbell (@corisel) and Cameron Malcher (Capitan_Typo). Both provide tremendous perspective and depth to all things education.

Podcasts that align with my values in life have been growing in popularity on my podcast list. This all started with the Minimalists podcast, a podcast about two guys who gave up six figure jobs and a live of gathering wealth and possessions to live a life of value, joy and fulfillment. The reason I love this podcast is that it makes you question where your values lie and then challenges you to do something about it. This podcast led me to 10% Happier by Dan Harris and Waking up with Sam Harris. Dan Harris is an ABC news anchor that had a panic attack on national television, which led him to take up meditation. Dan claims that meditation makes him about 10% happier, hence the name and he regularly talks to inspiring people about their meditation habits on his show. Being a Weezer fan, I especially loved the Rivers Cuomo episode. Sam Harris (not related) is unbelievably intelligent and his podcast challenges contentious issues in the world as well as discussing the most interesting of topics.

My latest favs are the Unmistakable Creative by Srinivas Rao and The Tim Ferris Show by Tim Ferris. Both Srinivas and Tim look at business, learning, creativity and innovation through interesting perspectives and by interviewing amazing guests. Local representatives on my list are the Huddle Show by Huddle, a human centred design firm based in Melbourne and Future2 by Steve Glaveski (@steveglaveski). I have had the pleasure of getting to know Steve through his coworking space Collective Campus over the past year and his knowledge as well as the calibre of the guests on his show are second to none when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship expertise. Although this one was a once off podcast series, Seth Godin’s Startup school was also a great listen. I find Seth to be an amazing thinker who can take complex topics and make them accessible through clear narrative and anecdotes. He always blows my mind.

Other great podcasts to check out are Finding Mastery with Michael Gervais, IDEO Futures by IDEO, Office Hours by Dan Pink, Stanford Entrepreneurship videos, Stanford Innovation Lab and Freakonomics radio.

What’s on your podcast list?

Trello & Pomodoro

How do you keep on top of your workload?  When the emails and to-do tasks pile up, how do you manage to keep afloat?  I am always keen to hear how others manage the information of their day and their responsibilities.  The strategies they use, the workflows they choose.  Are they thriving or surviving?  For me, I have tried a range of strategies and bounced between them trying to find the flow that would allow me to get through a busy time.  This is the workflow that I keep coming back to.

Trello is the key to managing my workload.  Why?  It works on all devices.  You can set up the lists any way you like and the drag and drop functionality make it easy to move items around.  I have played around with a few list structures.  I used a priority matrix structure for a while.  With the priority matrix structure, I had six lists in Trello.  The first list was called To be categorised. This list is where I placed all tasks to begin with.  The next four lists made up the priority matrix – Do Now, Do Next, Do Later, Don’t Do.  The sixth list was titled Done.  This structure worked for me for a while but I found the six lists increased my categorisation time and not my productivity.  The standard set up for Trello is the Kanban system and this is for me the best out there.  It is made up of three lists.  A To Do list, a Doing list and a Done list.  I just love the simplicity of Kanban and find it really sharpens by focus.  Doug Belshaw writes extensively about Kanban and Trello and you really should check out his Kanban 101 Open badge.

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 10.08.16 PM

I still have a paper to do list that I use all the time but I find it more a place to scrawl and take quick notes then a way to organise.  Once I have written down my notes or tasks, I transfer them to Trello to hone my focus.  This helps when I spend extensive time away from my desk.

Through listening to the TIDE podcast (Today in Digital Education) by Doug Belshaw and Dai Barnes (an absolutely brilliant podcast), I was introduced the Pomodoro technique and this coupled with Trello has revolutionised my work habits.  The Pomodoro technique is a way of working with time as opposed to against it.  Basically you work on one task for a timed 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break.  You can repeat the Pomodoro for the previous task or change the task completely.  To assist me to stay on time, I downloaded an app and use that to manage my Pomodoros.  You can find out more about the Pomodoro technique here.


When I start my day, it starts with my Trello list.  I list the items that I am going to work on first.  I then input these into my Pomodoro app and then I get to work.  I have found that this has really improved my work output and also increased my time away from a screen. During my five minute break, I go for a walk, talk to a colleague, get a coffee whereas previously I would just try to work through.  This often would lead to distraction or just bouncing from task to task without actually getting stuck into any one.  I thoroughly recommend that you check out both Trello and Pomodoro.  What is your workflow like?  I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading.


Coding and Swifty

I really enjoyed learning Italian at school, it just seemed to make sense to me.  I enjoyed the decoding and the challenge of getting the pronunciation right.  When my wife and I moved to Brasil a few years ago, the years of learning Italian really helped me during the complete immersion.  During this time I was also bought up a heap of Dummies books on website building, PHP coding and database building.  I had basic HTML knowledge prior to this and I really felt a common connection between my use of Italian to learn Portuguese and my HTML capacity with PHP.  Watching the young people at the school learn languages at ease and become bi & tri-lingual, I remember thinking to myself that all students should learn a language by immersion and that all students should learn a coding language and become fluent.  I still believe this.  I’d be impressed by a CV if the person was fluent in Spanish and Objective C.  For me I trudged through Dummies books and forums to learn but these days there are so many amazing tools, apps, websites and online courses to help someone learn a coding language.

For this particular post I am going to focus on Swifty.  Swift is the new programming language for iOS and OS X.  Xcode is the Apple developed platform for building iOs & Mac apps and has been on learning bucket list for some time.  Every time I start, I get lost and intimidated by the sheer volume of tools and options.  And then in swooped Swifty.  Swifty is an iOS app that works on both iPhone & iPad and it breaks down the language of Swift into small tutorials.  You progress through these short tutorials quickly and with a great deal of quick feedback.  It is hands on and the explanations are clear and concise.  I am working through the 200+ tutorials at the moment and working towards the goal of getting an app (that I have written) into the App store.  I enjoy that I can chip away at coding fluency in bite size steps at any point I have a spare minute.  I am then using this knowledge in Xcode to play around in the Playground and to work on my own (at the moment, very simple) app.  Life long learning all the way!!



Chrome extensions


As far as browsers go, Chrome is my browser of choice.  Fast, powerful and organised.  The power for me is not in the Apps available through the Web Store but the Extensions. This post will talk about a few of my favourite Chome extensions.

Snip20140930_17      Dropbox – a quick link to my virtual filing cabinet

Snip20140930_22          Hootsuite – my Twitter organiser of choice

Snip20140930_8          EverWebClipper – All rivers flow to Evernote, especially with this great tool

Snip20140930_24        Readability – declutter webpages and make them easier & cleaner to read

Snip20140930_26        Select & Speak – highlight text, hit the extension and have the web read to you

Snip20140930_16          Pocket – my Read Later of choice

Snip20140930_10           Flipboard – curate your links into an easy to read digital magazine

Snip20140930_23         QuickMark QR – create a QR code for any webpage easily with this extension

Snip20140930_14           OneTab – Collect your tabs into one easy to share tab. My absolute favourite!

Snip20140930_15          Drive – A no brainer

Snip20140930_11             LessonPaths – easily collect and create lesson paths for your students

Snip20140930_12           OneNote – Clip any resource into a OneNote notebook of your choice

Snip20140930_21             Hangouts – Hangout or instant message straight from Chrome

Snip20140930_20            GooglePlus – Spread the word to your Google community or +1

Snip20140930_19             Feedly – organise your feeds easily

Snip20140930_18                EMS ePub reader -read ePub books online.

If you have any other great extensions, please share them in the comments. I am always on the lookout for new tools. I do also hope that one day that iOS will come to the party and allow these extensions to work on the iPad/iPhone. Thanks for reading!

Learn to build games and apps using Touch Develop

Learning how to build an app or make a video game are interest areas for many students and as such I am always on the hunt for technology solutions that enable students to achieve these goals.  Previously I have used Sploder and GameStar Mechanic for game making, used AppMakr and iBuild App to make apps and even have used PowerPoint to make virtual board games. There are so many great, easy to use tools available online. The latest one that I have been using with my students is TouchDevelop.  TouchDevelop is a Microsoft Research website that allows you to build apps and games for iPad, Andriod, PC, Mac and Windows phone. Launching from the website is the web app which works on any device and it is completely free to use.

photo 1Students can learn how to make games such as Flappy bird or Mario Bros by following step by step tutorials. These step by step tutorials are easy to follow and expose students to the coding required by the video games and apps that they know and love. Students can also add their own flair to these games and change the sprites or background to suit their own tastes or interests. Once students become more comfortable with their coding, they can build original games or apps from scratch.  The great thing about web tools like TouchDevelop is that it puts the keys of creativity and learning in the hands of the learner and there is no better way to learn than by doing.

photo 2


An Amazing Race using Voxer

The Icons race is one of the feature components of our Year 9 Urban History program.  Students work in groups of three and navigate their way around Melbourne trying to locate key features and fixtures of the Melbourne CBD.  Traditionally students received cards with clues and needed to decipher the exact location that they needed to travel to. The group would then need to work out their travel route and collect a souvenir, usually in the form of a photo. Once the group had solved the clues on the card, they would race back to the one of three checkpoints where a staff member would provide them with the next set of clues.  The race worked well for the most part with the card system but there was a lot of time spent transitioning back to the same fixed location instead of exploring our great city.  Groups stayed in contact with teachers by random phone calls and of course the check ins at the checkpoints.  By in large most students engaged with the activity but there were definitely areas to improve. When we began a review of the program last year, I replaced the card system with a Geocaching race where students downloaded the Geocaching app and using the GPS on their phones tried to locate geocaches around Melbourne. The below instructions are an example of what I gave the students.

Geocache guide

Each group had to find ten geocaches from the designated list with each group starting at a different point.  Due to the challenging nature of some of the geocaches, students also used the photo taking capacity of the app to take “selfies” at the location coordinates.  All in all, the Icons race worked well but the Geocaching element just wasn’t the right fit. Students enjoyed the treasure hunt nature of the geocaching experience and especially enjoyed the ‘selfie’ element so when I was reviewing the Icons race, I looked for a solution that captured these elements.

Voxer was the choice that won out.  Voxer is basically a walkie talkie for your phone or mobile device and it allows a user to send/receive text, voice or pictures.  Another great feature that I wanted to explore was Voxer’s use of the mobile device’s GPS to capture where an image, voice recording or text was sent from.  This feature would allow the teachers running the Amazing race to verify a student’s location. Voxer is also so easy to use and deploy. To begin with, I collected 16 iconic Melbourne images which formed the trail of the Amazing race. Each group was given an address to start at.  To receive their first clue, students had to prove that they were at the address. This was usually a photo of the address or a selfie on location.  We used Voxer’s location settings to make sure that students were actually there.  Students were then sent an image of an iconic Melbourne landmark and they had to make their way there. Once they arrived, they had to respond with a selfie at the location (verified by the teacher) to receive their next clue.

Voxer 4

Voxer 2

The next clue was a text challenge that required the group to search the venue for the answer. Many students went searching for plaques or engaged with employees at venues to find the answer. Once they had submitted their response, the group was then given their next landmark to travel to. The aim of the Icons race is to give our students a better understanding of our city’s physical dynamics and to engage with the city. Students had to use their group smarts to track the quickest, most efficient route to their next clue and then they had to spend some time learning about each iconic landmark.  As the students are Year 9 students, there are afforded a greater deal of independence but Voxer enabled teachers to be aware of where each student group was at all times. Staff would sent groups a voice message and ask where they were and students would respond and their location could then be verified. The purse in Bourke street proved challenging for some students and a staff member was easily able to direct groups to this location by looking at the group’s current location.  I am wanting to add more engagement with the city and other Melbournians to the next Icons race and have already asked students to make this Icon race even more games based.

Voxer 3 Voxer 1

Listen and learn

I’ve always marvelled at how prolific some bloggers are. I’ve got the ideas but always spend ages trying to refine the post. So inspired by @AdrianCamm’s keynote from DLTV, I will not hide behind excuses anymore. I’ve set myself a mini challenge that is inspired by the amazing work that @ChrisBetcher does. He set himself a challenge to create something new every day and blog about it. My Daily Create is a fantastic example of getting better at something by continually applying yourself, reviewing and learning. My challenge is to write a new blog post every week for two months. This is my second week in and I’m two for two.I figured I would start with the greatest excuse that all learners throw up when quizzed about why they couldn’t do or complete something…”I don’t have time”. I have a new job, a three year old and a 6 week old so if I can rise to the challenge then so can you. This is an example of how I am trying to be smarter with my time.

I travel on average about 30-45 minutes twice a day to work via car. For me this is podcast time. EdTech Crew, RU Connected, TechEducator podcast and a myriad of others are my usual go to for inspired audio learning. I churn through podcasts each week and there are times when the podcast well is dry. To combat this, I have been using a few apps in combination with Bluetooth to continue the audio learning.

My Audio LearningThere are so many blog posts and articles that I curate from the web that I never get around to read. I curate them into Flipboard and Scoop.it and share them on Twitter but a large amount just slip on past me never to be seen or read again. I have started to use Pocket a lot more recently and used it in combination with Lisgo. By saving a post or article to Pocket, I can go to Lisgo and listen to the post or article being read out. I have also set up a bookmarklet for my iPad to easily save to Pocket and I have found that I am getting through so much reading as a result.  Both Pocket and Lisgo are available for free from the App store. There is a limit to the amount of articles that you can read per day so I have upgraded to Lisgo Plus which does cost $10.99. I know it is a little steep but I think it’s worth the spend.

Pocket has the web covered but it doesn’t read PDFs or Word documents. After a little research I came across Capti Narrator. Capti Narrator reads any type of content and syncs with Google Drive and Dropbox. This has changed my world.  I can now listen to anything from the latest Horizon report to a student’s typed essay. Presently I am listening to the Blended Synchronous Learning Handbook.  Capti Narrator costs $6.49 from the App store but is worth it if you are finding your reading hard to stay on top of.  Currently I am experimenting with an app called Talkler to help me keep on top of my emails. After popping in my Gmail, Exchange and Hotmail details in, I can catch up with all the email that comes my way in a much easier to digest format. How do you fold time to work for you?