Learning, Reading, Refocusing

Christmas break is one of the few times (besides July) that I and some others of my friends TOTALLY disconnect. Just wanted to check in though and let you know what I'm really enjoying out of my Christmas Gadgets.

Fitness Gadgets
I had a great run today with my Nike+ipod sensor (around $20) in my shoelace adapter (around $10) so I don't have to use the Nike+ipod shoes by Nike. (Love my Saucony's anyway.)  It was wonderful because I could leave the track and run around the baseball field and all kinds of places - I had a very good time, which I think is largely because I could focus on the joy of running instead of counting my laps. (my short term memory issue has me counting on my fingers - I know those who watch me run must think I have some sort of hand deformity!)  The cold-weather UnderArmor shirt and gloves kept me oh so warm in the frigid 49 degree weather in Camilla Today.

Loving My Kindle
Oh, and this Amazon kindle has hardly left my hand since yesterday!  This time each year I either reread How to Win Friends and Influence People or How to Stop Worrying and Start Living -- this year, I need the one on Worry so it made it to my Amazon Kindle lickety split.

Also there is a new book by Brian Tracy Focal Point: A Proven system to Simplify Your Life and Double Your Productivity.  OK, so if it sounds too good to be true - Brian Tracy is one of those self made formerly homeless high school drop out, turn around kind of guy that so many of us love to read.  He always motivates me!  And the kindle -- well, I just love it.  More on that later.

Pulling Out My Paper Planner
Meanwhile, I went back and bought a Franklin Covey paper planner which allows for more contextual lists.  (They have some new styles definitely influenced by David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.)

Although I love and adore my itouch - a problem I had with Google Calendar and Timebridge this December (when a change to my Google Calendar password caused EVERYTHING to be thrown out of sync literally and I missed TWO important meetings!) has me remembering why I swore I'd always have a paper backup.  Although many roll their eyes, the actually process of WRITING things down forces me to plan and I just have to do this for myself because I'm so visual and have three kids, husband, and many global collaborations to keep rolling.

We're a 1:1 iTouch Family
Just finished setting up the itouch for my eight year old -- we are now a 1:1 itouch Family and I couldn't be happier - this tool is simply the best gadget/ pda/ life improver I've ever used (and trust me, I've been into technology since I was 7 with my first PDA address thing from radio shack when I was 12.)  It makes me cast a longing eye towards the future of this iSlate, Apple Tablet thing that many say will be  game changer.  (Well the iTouch has been for me, but time will tell - I usually let others spend the money as I don't have it to waste.)

One day schools are going to wish they encouraged this gadget for a multitude of reasons -- most of which is that when kids use them they are BEHIND your firewall and your filter -- if they are using their cellphones they can see anything on their phone -- even watch porn in the bathroom. iTouches are great for many reasons, but especially because they do give you some control though they may strain your network.

Take Advantage of the Time and Don't Whine
For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that much of our time has been spent putting in new flooring ourselves. My husband had to take furlough days (and subsequent paycut like many of you out there) and so we decided to make use of it.  The floor we priced 3 years a go is literally 1/3rd of the cost it was then and with the time of putting it in ourselves, we're saving even more than that - plus it is gorgeous. (My husband built houses before he sent himself to college - making him a very self-made man in more ways than one.)

So, it is kind of a matter of either whining about the tough luck and paycut or making the best use of our time and money to improve things before my speaking schedule goes crazy in January.

Looking at Location Based Gaming
Been also pondering the tools that I've been using this year and considering the location based/ gps things I need to add to the curriculum.  Think I might want to play with Scvngr.com which seems to have people who follow this sort of thing abuzz

Pondering Projects
Also pondering the projects of this last year and contemplating making them scalable while handing off even more of the day to day admin in some way.  We've been fighting to keep everything with Flat Classroom free by partnering with vendors, etc. but we're reaching a point that to grow and make it duplicable we're going to have to make some decisions.  We feel profoundly that we want to continue in the day to day creation and connecting work of linking classrooms, etc. but the day to day administration, etc. is quite a bit for us to handle.  For someone like me, who likes to be inventing and creating, it is draining in many ways as evidenced by the fact I haven't been able to blog as much.  With several book deals under negotiation, there also has to be time to make time for the writing and editing that needs to continue to bring those projects to fruition.

I keep coming back to how Garr Reynolds published Presentation Zen and have self publication as a very real option for me - particularly with my first book wihch is half laid out in camera ready form.  We'll see, these are things on my plate and I guess in the spirit of the season, I'm just sort of sharing with those of you who take time to read my blog here.

There are a lot of things to do and I've got so much grading to finish up next week - whew!

The spirit of the Season
Amidst all of this... I do hope that all of you are enjoying this season. For me as a Christian, this is a very real, important holiday during which I celebrate the birth of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  But as I shared on Twitter on Christmas Eve - I do so love all of you, no matter your faith or background or belief, after all, that is a core part of being a Christian - the inherent worth of each of you here.

Meanwhile, I wish I could tweet from this Amazon Kindle which I've now got synching with an app for my computer and itouch which is just so unbelievably cool, I cannot stand it.  I just love the fact that I can annotate my books and extract the text file -- even can put my Audible books on my kindle in case I get tired or my itouch is being crochety (which is like, never, but hey, the battery MIGHT run low... it could, I guess.)

Family Movie Memory Disks are a Favorite Gift
Hope you've taken time with your family and had lots of fun.  My family loved the new movie I cranked out for this year's memories with my favorite movie software Pinnacle Studio Ultimate 12 - the most expensive software on my home computer and worth every single dime -- the automovie feature is great. (Pinnacle Studio Ultimate V14 is now down below $100 so I may cough up the money to upgrade) I also cranked out a hilarious Charlie Chaplin style black and white from scenes I filmed at the pool in the mountains to "Freebird" (OK, I know, even the thought of such a mix gives me a lopsided grin.)

The Gift of Disconnection
But I think perhaps the best gift to myself this Christmas has been the gift of disconnection.  In today's overly connected world, we must have and keep our identity strong with personal connections with those in our family.

Sometimes I think we're altogether becoming too much like Pavlov's dog salivating for the next comment or retweet. Partial reinforcement is so powerful and those designing the apps, games, and networks that so surround us are getting very good at getting us hooked.  We have to have the self control and mental acuity to realize that sometimes we need a good old disconnection from our online world so that we can live a richer, more fulfilling life overall.

New Year Expectations
Looking forward to seeing many of you in the new year -- with four NECC workshops planned hard and fast for June and trips to Michigan, the Midwest, Arkansas, and a couple of virtual link ups with Superintendants and IT Directors from around the US - there will be plenty of time to share the really cool things we've been doing in my classroom and these projects that I just haven't had time to blog here.

Enjoy your evening, rest some in your holidays - refocus, read, and as always -- learn something, even if it is only about yourself and your family!

Merry Christmas!

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