Rescuing Time, Part 2: Productivity Tools

I love me some organization!

Though I’m not always neat, I like things to be where they should be. The tools listed below are an odd assortment of ways I manage my computer, my work, and my classroom.

Resource share of productivity tools:

For your Mac

  1. Rescue Time: This downloads onto your computer, and you preset what applications and websites are deemed productive or distracting, then it monitors your usage. You can set productivity goals or alerts that let you know when you’ve been too distracted.
  2. WebDesktop: This allows you to put a website on the background of your desktop. I use it to show my Google Calendar, which keeps me organized for appointments and meetings.
  3. Good old Stickies: Application that comes on your OS X. They save automatically, you can collapse and organize them, and it gives you a place to put random notes (that you would have previously put on an actual sticky).

In Google Apps

  1. Calendars. I’d be lost without mine.
  2. Self Grading forms: script-based Flubaroo, array formulas (happy to share how to do this).
  3. Collections = automatic sharing: share a collection and then just drop your docs in rather than having to go to each document and share it.


  1. CalenGoo ($6.99) or GooCal (Free): I personally use CalenGoo, but they both work. Or you can link the native iOS Calendar app to all your Google Calendars by using this link.
  2. WunderList (Free): You can share lists, check off items, put attach items to dates.
Please leave comments with YOUR suggestions – what do you use?

Doodley Doo

I found myself in a 2 hour meeting with no pen or pencil, wishing desperately to be able to doodle, SO THAT I COULD STAY FOCUSED.

I doodled while watching her talk, and now I kind of want someone to analyze my doodles.

(My doodle, uploaded by taking a picture with my iPhone using the Genius Scan app, which can make images into pdfs.)

I found myself thinking that my doodles were kind of limited, and that sometimes I can’t think of what to draw and end up just coloring in boxes. This makes me despair about my lack of divergent thinking, like Sir Ken Robinson talks about in his video.

Vi Hart is a mathemusician who has videos of math doodles about number theory. (My favorite is the binary trees.) Also check out the binary hand dance, infinite elephants, and what’s up with noises.

Doodling also ties in with the importance of visual literacy in the world today. Students are exposed to visuals every day (think billboards, tv commercials, magazines) and need to be TAUGHT to be critical thinkers of what they are seeing. Cheryl Lemke writes a great article, “Innovation Through Technology” on this in 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn. They learn this by both thinking about visuals and creating them. Some people (myself included) express themselves better visually, and therefore learn better this way.

To sum up:

More doodling + more art = more learning.


Today I sent out the email that you needed to redo your calendars… I was feeling bad that people had to do all this extra work, but it is an inevitable part of using technology. Nothing ever works perfectly the first time. Actually, that applies to just about anything in life, right? Then why do we seem to get more frustrated with technology? I think it’s because when technology works, it’s pretty incredible, so we expect it to always be that incredible. The disappointment is thus greater when it doesn’t work.

But while we are on the subject, I thought I would share some other things about calendars that you might find useful:

1. Calendars on your phone.

Do you have a smartphone? Does it sync with your school or personal calendars? This is probably the #2 thing that I use my iPhone for (after texting). Recommendation for iPhone users:

  • Built in Calendar app – go to settings to add an account. If you are using your account, select “Gmail”, and then type in your email as


  • Use CalenGoo ($6.99 – the most expensive app I own) – it actually looks like Google calendars and works great. It will add all your calendars (the Calendar app won’t) and will sync with iCal. I like it WAY better than Calendar.
2. Set reminders.
  • This is where you can actually make the technology smarter than you because it remembers to do everything on time. When you make a new event, edit details, add a reminder. It can send you an email or pop up on your screen (or on your iPhone) the week, day, hour, minute before your event.
3. Agenda view
  • Instead of viewing by week, you can look at the days in a list. I don’t use this much, but what do you think?
4. Add flair to your events. (This is my personal favorite)

  • Up by settings, click the gear wheel and select labs.
  • Enable “Event Flair” and Save.
  • Select your event and add flair!






Race Report

So many of you know that this past Saturday, I completed my first Ironman event.2.4 mile swim + 112 mile bike + 26.2 run = 140.6

I thought I would use this blog for two reasons: share how the race went (personal) and show how blogs make us write (professional). Honestly, before having a blog, I would have never taken the time to write all this down.  English teachers, take note.

Here goes.

For me, completing an Ironman distance event required four things:

  1. Training
  2. Support from family & friends
  3. Mental toughness

1. Training. Obviously, I did a little swimming-biking-running before the event, and while it was not nearly as much as I wished: there are trade offs to be made by mere-mortals who also have jobs and families.

  • The swim: 1:17:20. The swim is over so fast, relative to the other legs. It is the closest (and not friendly) contact you have with other racers. (Watch this clif bar commercial simulating the swim to get a sense of what it is like.) The funniest part was how shallow the water was (maybe 2 feet deep at times). Lots of people were standing up and trying to run through it. When I got to the finish, I tried to stand up on the rocks and promptly fell over. After getting my balance, I ran up to the transition area where wetsuit-strippers were waiting to help get your wetsuits off. Just a quick 7 minutes later and I was hustling up the hill with my bike.
  • The bike: 7:34:43. I’m probably most proud of this part because I pushed myself the hardest, even after the wasp sting during the second lap. The worst part of it was the road. It was in such bad shape that it felt a bit like riding a bronco. One woman’s gatoradebottle fell out behind her and landed on the road in front of me. I missed it by centimeters. The hill at the bottom of Chalk Hill Rd was tough. On the first lap, it was hard; on the second, it seemed impossible. Several riders stopped and walked. My mantra was “Pain is temporary; pride is forever” but it sometimes mixed up in my head to “pain is forever, pain, pain…”
  • The run: 6:09:06. Not so much a run as a long shuffling trot (with walk breaks on the hills). It was every bit the death march as predicted. But there was the guy in the tutu and the girl for whom this was her FIRST triathlon. We chatted and cheered each other on. I did my first two laps, then the sun began to set. 
    By the time I reached the finish line, it was pitch black out. But I knew that I would finish. I paired up with a woman from Texas to run the last 4 miles, and that was the best time of the whole run. We cruised into the finish at a blinding 12min/mile pace.
  • Recovery: Thank you CrossFit and my chiropractor. My knees ached for 24hours, then my muscles were sore for 24hours, and then… fine. A week later and I’m feeling totally recovered.

2. Support of family & friends.

  • Scott and I rented a Eurovan and made the 623 mile trip down to Guerneville, California. He drove most of the way and did most of the cooking. Throughout this journey, he has helped me plan workouts, sherpaed for training rides and races, listened to me talk about every detail ad nauseum afterwards. I couldn’t have done it without him.
  • For the race, I used a sharpie to write the names of supporters on my left arm, to remind me of all the help I have had along the way and all the people thinking of me during that day. They were a mix of my immediate family, friends from KSI, colleagues from OES. I would look at the names of people during the race and know that they were cheering me on.

3. On my right arm, I wrote two words: Vision and Strength.

  • After 15 hours of being alone, you get kind of tired of yourself. I used these two words as inspiration to remember the vision of crossing the finish line (which I have replayed in my head during many early morning training runs) and to know that I have the physical and mental strength to finish, no matter what I felt like at the time.  I also counted a lot: 10 steps, 20 steps, 30 steps, 40 steps, 50 steps, walk for a minute. Repeat. Funny how the mind games keep you going. It reminded me of the Marshmallow Test because the kids who had strategies to get through were the ones who succeeded.

After crossing the finish line, confused and not really sure what to do with the ribbon blocking my way, I returned my timing chip and they wrapped me in a space blanket. I flopped down onto the curb and said to Scott, “No matter what I say tomorrow, or the next day, don’t ever let me do this again.” I’m glad I did it, and I am proud that I did it, but I think I’ll stick to the shorter events from now on!

Klingenstein “Pearls”


Most of you guys know that in june I attended the Klingenstein Summer Institute for new teachers.  Here are a few “Pearls” of wisdom:

  • Don’t think of it as “change” – it is really just continuous improvement.
  • “When everything is graded, when can [students] fail?” – Kelley Nicholson Flynn, science leader teacher
  • Does it require “the power of the group?” – Josh Pretzer, science leader teacher – when referring to whether or not to assign collaborative work.
  • Growth mindset: try, fail, learn.
  • 1% change: Don’t try to change everything at once – Gary Giberson, founder of Sustainable Fare, Lawrenceville’s dining services.
  • All my best assignments meet Stipek’s 5 dimensions of motivation:
    1. need for sense of competency
    2. need for sense of self-determination
    3. need for interpersonal connection
    4. need for sense of purpose, meaning, or relevance
    5. interest
  • “Every idea I’ve had has been improved by others” – Pearl Rock Kane, co-founder and school leadership visionary
Many of these probably don’t make complete sense without context, but I’d be more than happy to buy you a cup of coffee and elaborate!

Friday, August 5th….Leadership Day 2011

I’m participating in this… basically, it is a call to bloggers to post on August 5th about what effective technology education looks like: successes, wants, needs, resources, ideas, etc.  I’m continually impressed by what our kids do with technology, the risks teachers take to let them explore, and the trust from parents and administrators. I’m still formulating what I will write about, but most of all I’m looking forward to seeing what all the other bloggers write!