30 March 2010

I Say Uncle

So, 23 Things, you've been good to me.  I love all you've shown me, and I feel like we've had some really good times together...wandering through cyberspace holding hands, discovering new territories, helping me become a better teacher... It's all been good. 

Still, you drain me of a lot of energy.  And I haven't been able to fully commit - all these other things in my life like my job, my friends, my husband, my exercise, they've gotten in my way!  So I'm sad tonight that I didn't make deadline #1.  Farewell, MP3 player.  Adieu.

But hear me loud and clear, 23 Things: I'm ready.  And come spring break, I will crush you.  No more Ms. Nice Chick.  I'm gonna whip through the rest of you and take no prisoners.  Because I will not miss deadline #2.  I like Somerset, and I like to win things. 

You've been warned.

25 March 2010

A Digression About Digressions

I'm practically at fever pitch trying to figure out how I'll finish all this while I'm also reading PT journals and proofreading output projects and grading essays and calculating averages and writing comments this weekend.  I realize I've got no one to blame but myself for having fallen behind in the things, but I think what I'm finding over and over is that the internet is cruel and addictive!  I come to my tablet with the best of intentions and get engrossed in one thing, but then I follow a link to something else that interests me.  And while I'm checking that site out, I find another link that beckons to me.  And then another, and another, and another, and suddenly I'm engaged in something that has nothing at all to do with a thing, but has been interesting.  Yikes.

Perhaps what I need most to find in this project is a way for my computer to monitor my browsing and keep me on task.  That sounds more Big Brother than Web 2.0, but it might help.

Thing 8: So 2007

I'm not gonna lie - I thought these customized start pages were a little underwhelming (not as underwhelming as Linkedin, but nothing is that boring).  I think that maybe I'm being unduly influenced by the fact that I realize they're not so cutting edge - I remember creating something similar on iGoogle years ago.  So this wasn't as innovative or new to me as some of the other tools and things we've been looking at.

Still, I checked them out, and did create my own Pageflakes start page.  I even made my own theme, and added a fun page, and really set it as my home page.  I'm just not sure I'll really use it much.  I know I recently gushed about how awesome it was to have all the blogs I follow and news sources I check in one spot, but for some reason, it quickly becomes overwhelming when there's also games and facebook and email and weather...  It was Walt Whitman who said "Do I contradict myself?  Very well then, I contradict myself.  I am large, I contain multitudes" - I'm feeling him right now.

I can't put my finger on what makes this less appealing to me than Google Reader, but it is.  That said, I'll acknowledge there are a few things I like:
1. It's pretty.  I like my customized theme.
2. Being able to create separate pages is very convenient.  Dividing feeds for news from those for fun or for work is smart.
3. Some of the widgets are cool.

However, I also see some things I don't like:
1. The obnoxious, unmoveable ad space.
2.  I have some trouble actually getting the content (at least at school) - it simply won't download.  What's the point of setting all this up if it's not reliable? 
3. The reader function doesn't seem as user-friendly as Google's.  I just prefer the layout and sidebar menus there instead.

Final verdict is meh.

23 March 2010

Thing 7: Google Reader Rocks My World

Tonight, I fell in love...with Google reader.  It's awesome.  I love it so much I want to marry it.

That might be just a little over the top, but not much.  When I think of the time I can save by not navigating to each page individually, I get very excited thinking about how I'll use those extra minutes of my day (that might sound glib, but I really don't mean it to be).  Perhaps focusing on those minutes isn't the real way to show the value here.  Like the Blogger dashboard, it allows me to see who's updated recently (to save me the trouble of checking each page only to be disappointed), but at the same time it gives me the headlines from sites I can count on being updated.  All my news coming to me at the same time and in the same place that I can follow friends' blogs and work sites...heaven.  I resisted the urge to add (yet) the fun sites I check frequently - a healthy dose of shame precludes me from naming all the gossip sites I lurk - but after 23 Things is over, I think they'll be there too.

And Google Reader Play?  What a treat.  Such goodies there.  Did you see the happy meal?  Gross.

Obviously, the personal benefits are fabulous, but yes, I'm excited about the professional ones too.  I already subscribed to my ning, for example.  I'm wondering how I could use this with students though - how cool would it be to set up a home page like this that I could share with students?  So they could check out the updates that most interested them?  Hmmm... how to make that work...

I was surprised to see that some others in the project were underwhelmed by Google reader.  I think they're either nuts - no offense, of course - or just not people who surf as many sites as I do regularly.  Because to people who do a lot of searching, like me, it's crazy cool.

09 March 2010

Thing 6: The Ning Thing

I'll admit that at first I didn't really know what to make of nings.  On the one hand, I like the social networking framework - it is familiar to me, and helps establish the feel of a sort of grass roots online community.  One of the best examples of this I can think of is the pre-service and practicing teachers who formed a group to discuss literacy instruction within the Web 2.0 ning.  In a couple different classes I took during my certification work, I was asked to write letters to practicing teachers, and they responded, eventually.  The exercise was a very valuable one, but a bit frustrating as well - a professor assigned the letters to us in the class, we submitted it a week later, the letters were delivered shortly thereafter, we waited for teachers (admittedly, a very busy bunch) to write back and return their own letters to the professor, and waited again for our professors to distribute the letters to us.  By the time the cycle was complete, weeks had elapsed, and often, the questions asked were no longer relevant, pressing or interesting to us.  The accessibility and immediacy afforded by the online group is impressive, and makes the exchange that much more meaningful.

On the other hand, I also got the impression that the nings operate as little more than a fancy sort of meta-search engine, whose primary value is to connect people with similar interests so they can provide referrals to existing content.  Helpful referrals, sure, but I didn't see a whole lot of original content... 

UNTIL I found the English Companion Ning.  I'm in love.  Here's a group of people asking and answering the very questions I revisit over and over again in my career.  The original content is their dialogue, and it's helpful.  The site is organized well, and thus far I haven't found too many vacuous or vapid posters.  What I have found are some concrete ideas and suggestions for summer reading texts (something I'm struggling with at the moment) and cool lesson plan ideas for my Walt Whitman unit.

This might render an even bigger improvement to my life than my shiny new food processor.