5 tools to make your working day easier

A brief overview of my 5 favourites: Remember the Milk, Dropbox, Delicious, Evernote & Doodle.

After reading The research lab in your pocket: apps and the academy in this week’s THE I thought I’d highlight the 5 tools I make most use of, which includes two from the article.  My recommendations are focused on tools for everyone’s everyday working rather than as “essential academic tools”.

All of these tools have free versions.  Some also have paid for upgrades offering more features or removing usage limits.

1) Remember the Milk


Remember the Milk screenshot

A to do list.  It has many features, including shared lists but I use it quite simply.  I don’t set deadlines, I just use the 3 levels of priority and I use the Notes feature a lot to add information to tasks.  For example I regularly paste emails into Notes. My working day always starts with RTM.  I use both the website and the (Android) app.  You can also update your list via email, Twitter, your browser and probably in many other ways.  See Services. Some aspects, including the Apps require a Pro account (US$25 pa).

2) Dropbox

Dropbox screenshot“Your files, anywhere” is how Dropbox describes itself.  Dropbox replaces your need for USB memory sticks.  It allows you to access your files from any computer by storing them online while giving you access via the Folders on your computer.  There are Apps and access via their website too. It’s great for sharing files with others, as you can invite people to specific folders making it ideal for collaboration.

3) Delicious

Delicious screenshotA replacement for Internet Favourites / Bookmarks.  A place to store links to your favourite websites proving easy access to them from any computer and making them available to anyone. I like the simplicity of Delicious and have found myself returning to it after experimenting with a more fully featured social bookmarking service: Diigo. Delicious provides feeds which enables you to display your links elsewhere e.g. your website or Moodle.

4) Evernote

Evernote screenshotReplaces scraps of paper as a central place to make & keep notes.  It can also capture much more – including audio, links to websites, files & emails. You can organise you notes in notebooks and share them with others.  There are lots of ways to access it – desktop, web, Apps and some nice integrations, e.g. with Outlook.  I use this one on-and-off,  mainly for making notes in meeting, at events or on the tube. The premium version (US$45 pa) increases storage, allows collaborative editing and more file types.

5) Doodle

A Doodle iconReplaces headaches and roughly a thousand emails when trying to schedule meetings, particularly with those outside of your workplace. A must-use for fixing a date for your next meeting.  No account required, simply choose possible dates/times, email the participants who tick boxes in a simple form. It comes with other calendar integrations but I’ve never tried them.

Using mobile devices in the classroom

Presentation at LSE Teaching Day 2011 on the use of PollEverywhere by the Media & Communications department & the Careers Service.

At the LSE Teaching Day I contributed to a presentation Use of mobile devices in the classroom for student participation & feedback (PDF of slides) given by staff and students from the Media & Communications department & the LSE Careers Service.

Students Komal Parikh  & Ev Boyle explained how they had enhanced a class student debate on media imperialism using PollEverywhere (See audience voting tools review).  The students had used 15 questions to gauge interest, check understanding & elicit questions. Judith Baines, an LSE Careers Advisor, had used the same tool to collect feedback from multiple groups.

D is for Dongle

Vodafone PAYG Dongle
Vodafone PAYG Dongle

My mobile technology adventure continues.  Today was my first day using my new pay-as-you-go Vodafone Dongle, bought yesterday after extensive (ahem!) research.  I plumped for Vodafone over O2, as data usage rather than time seemed to be best suited to my occasional out-of-office-at-some-event use.

I paid £35 which includes 1GB (£15 worth) of data use.  According to Vodafone 1GB will give me 30-hours of browsing.  Today I was online for most of the Futurelab Research Day from 10am to 4pm.  I was mainly twittering, browsing,  making notes in a wiki and sending (web) emails so nothing too heavy.  However, it appears to have only cost me 84p which even allowing for lunch & coffee seems pretty good to me.  The time-based O2 PAYG would have cost me £2 (for 24-hours use).  One of the other things I like about the Vodafone deal is that there is no time limit on using up credit which seems to be common in other deals.

Today I was in London, so as I’d hoped the connection was reliable.  My next Dongle test will probably be on the move, bound for Sheffield,  in a couple of weeks.  As you can see my ‘mobile adventure’ is a slow burner.

Going Mobile

I’ve never been one for gadgets – the Franklin Rex-3 I bought back in 1997 being the only one I ever owned!  My mobile phones have always been bog standard (free)  models and I’ve never really made much use of the camera or web access:  the odd pic that rarely left the phone, the footy results when I’m out and about.

This year my habits seem to be changing and it is strongly connected to my ever increasing use of Twitter.  A few months ago I discovered that my mobile had  the Opera Mini web browser (it had never occurred to me to look!!).  Since then I’ve found myself reading & twittering more and more on the move which in turn has led to a lot more general browsing.

At the same time I’ve been enjoying an increase in the number of pictures appearing in my twitter stream from services such as twitpic.   And now I’ve joined in thanks to my discovery that I can update Twitter with photos via MMS (multimedia texts) from my phone.  I send the MMS to Mobypicture via an email address (I didn’t know this was possible!) and they automatically update Twitter.  Despite the name, Mobypicture can also be used for audio & video and there are many service integrations including facebook, youtube, flickr & wordpress.

Audio Boo LogoOf course I’m still a long way from being a gadget boy as I discovered at James Clay’s great Mobile Learning workshop at the Plymouth E-learning conference last month where there was a whole suitcase of gadgets!  One of the mobile applications James showed that I really liked was audioBoo  At the moment it’s restricted to the i-Phone but I’m sure they’ll be alternatives soon.  AudioBoo allows you to make & publish an audio recording, with a photo and an automatic Google map location.  Great potential for fieldtrips.   Here’s an example audioBoo James made with me at the conference dinner.