Sunday, April 10, 2016

Goldilocks and the 3 Bears of Productivity

Everyone knows the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. Goldilocks eats, sits and sleeps through the bears' house seeking what is "just right".

As I attempt to stay organized with being a mom, wife, teacher, presenter, and coach, I feel as if I am Goldilocks. This planner is too big. That bullet journal system is too long. This app is too complex. From Pinterest to Amazon to Google, I've searched for just the right organizational system that meets the needs of my Type B (but many times Type A) personality.

Planners, bullet journals, and productivity apps... Oh my!

I like the idea of a planner, but not the actual item. I don't want one more thing to carry, and I guarantee I won't always have it with me. A paper-based planner is also less appealing since I use Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar for personal and professional purposes,  both of which are synched together. I don't want to run the risk of forgetting something because either the planner or the digital calendars were not up to date.  I have multiple calendars in Google: two for lesson plans  (one for each level of my classes), another for family, and another for my events and tasks. School events listed in Outlook appear on my Google Calendar. And all of my bazillion calendars are synched to my Android phone where I can quickly view events listed on the month-view widget.

Akin to scrapbooks, bullet journals are visually appealing and can be a robust way to track everything from appointments to daily water intake to long-term goals. I also like the idea of a bullet journal, but I know I do not have the time nor personal diligence to follow through with using it proficiently.  I did spend numerous hours on Pinterest pinning bullet journal resources, so if you are interested, feel free to check out my board:

I've been poking around on Google Play searching productivity apps, but nothing seems to fit my needs just right: I don't need a complex app, I like to write lists, and I want simple, but appealing visual design. I also need something that is platform agnostic since I own both Android and iOS devices, Chromebooks, and Windows and Mac computers. I also want something fast that when a thought pops in my head, I can quickly locate where that thought needs to go for reference later. Google Keep has been the closest I've come to "just right."

If you, dear reader, have any recommendations for productivity apps, please leave a comment on this post!

Google Keep keeps me (mostly) organized.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Google Keep for list writing, and while it fits most of my needs for organization, I am still tweaking my system.  I can create digital post-it notes and check-box lists in Google Keep. All notes can be tagged and color-coded. I can attach pictures and share notes with others. I can drag to reorder the notes and archive them as needed or even turn them into a Google Doc. If I think of something, I grab my phone and speak, type or draw a note in Google Keep.

I have two ongoing lists that I refer to everyday:

1. To Do
2. Grocery Shopping

My To-Do list is a running record of things that I should get done ASAP within the next few days. While I can prioritize by reordering the items, I can't categorize them individually. I could create separate lists by category, but I'm leery of having too many high-priority lists at the same time.

Grocery shopping is self explanatory.  I can't tell you how many times I wrote a list on paper only to forget it at home, or I forget to put numerous items on the list. I check and uncheck items on the master list as needed rather than deleting and retyping items. I also have this list shared with my husband in case he wants to add something--which he has yet to do digitally.

Organization can be a Bear.

Ultimately, the planner, journal, list or app itself won't make me more productive and organized. I must take action.  Productivity and effective organization can't just be a fairytale!

If you have a system or tips for organization that you'd like to share, please post a comment!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Google Voice Typing & 2nd grade Homework

My 2nd grade daughter is a whirling dervish.  She is sharp, intelligent, but she cannot sit still. Get her excited about something and she will talk... and talk.... and talk.... and talk about the topic. But I notice that when she is asked to write or type something, those quick thoughts fly away rather than travel down her arm on to the page.

When I reflect on why I like blogging, it has as much to do with my interest in the written word as it also does with the dexterity of my fingers and the voices in my head. My younger years of playing piano have transitioned from playing the ivory keys to flying over the QWERTY keyboard.  To be honest, I was never a virtuoso, but a very shy piano player, never truly confident in my abilities and reluctant to play for others. While I could play a classical piece of sheet music, I couldn't hear the music in my head if I was asked to improv for jazz band.  Relating this to writing, as my fingers fly over the keyboard, I can hear in my head the words I want to appear on the page. My thoughts quickly travel down my arm and out of my fingers on to the screen because I am a proficient typist.  My students are always wowed by this parlor trick:  I can type coherent sentences with correct punctuation and spelling without looking at the screen. It creeps them out when I'm looking at them as they talk to me, but typing something on the computer.

So last night, my 2nd grade daughter's homework included typing up a paragraph about rainforest
animals.  What could take me a few minutes to type up a paragraph would take my daughter eons to get on the screen.  What to do?  I wanted her to do the homework herself, rather than me typing it up for her, but her typing skills are not developed yet.  And as I'm trying to clean up dishes after a long day of school, it wasn't feasible to take the time for her to practice typing AND writing at the same time.  So using Google Voice Typing, we were able to separate the skills of typing and writing AND get the homework completed in a short amount of time.

Our Process:
  1. Open a new Google Document
  2. Go to TOOLS, select Voice Typing
  3. My daughter and I discussed the topic prior to hitting the record icon. Then when she knew what she wanted to say, she hit record.
  4. My daughter spoke her thoughts aloud and Google captured her words on the screen.
  5. Using the keyboard, my daughter edited her work, moved the cursor, hit record, and would clarify areas that needed revision. 
  6. When the paragraph was completed, she learned to use CONTROL-A to select all the text and chose a font to style her work.
Proud Mama captured the moments: 

When I think about my 9th grade ELA students who struggle with writing, I wonder if they have similar issues: their brains are working too quickly and their fingers can't write or type fast enough to capture the thoughts on the page. With Google Voice Typing on our class set of Chromebooks, students could record themselves or a partner answering an open-ended response question and once the words are on the page, they could work together to edit and revise the response. Due to time constraints, so much the writing process is condensed and by the time students get to high school they are expected to have proficient fine-motor skills to write or type quickly.  One look at any papers I may collect and you will be able to distinguish the proficient writers based on their penmanship and the words on the page. 

Google Voice Typing can help any fast-thinking, whirling dervish of a student to get his/her words on the page so that more time can be spent crafting their writing as opposed to recording it. 

Change that to "Click to Write!"