Twitter –> Markdown FTW!

Thanks to Jim Groom for sharing this post by Matthias Ott, my Twitter archive has now been converted from HTML to Markdown .

To do this, there is a Python script, created by Tim Hutton. As Matthias explains:

  • It converts the tweets in your archive to markdown with embedded images, videos and links.
  • It replaces t.co URLs with their original versions.
  • It copies used images to an output folder, to allow them to be moved to a new home.

I don’t know if I want to host my Twitter archive anywhere but having run the parser I know that it is now future-proof and far more portable, should I decide to host it publicly in the future. It is, after all, a significant part of my digital footprint from the last 13 years and nine months.

If you haven’t taken a copy of your Twitter archive yet, I recommend that you do. And if you do have a copy of your archive, it is definitely worth converting it into a more friendly format.

Now I just need to decide if I want to nuke my Twitter account completely? 🤔

Reading Productivity

Having spent more than a year improving my personal productivity, I can sum up what I’ve learned in a single sentence: “Pick one task and do it”. However, that would do a disservice to the journey and to the great people who helped me along the way through their writing on the subject. So, without wishing to encourage you to spend more time reading about productivity than being productive, here are three books that really helped me reach a place where I can stay focused on doing ‘the work’.

Focus – Leo Babauta

If I had to recommend one book this would be it. It has really made a difference in helping me become more productive. The books’ strength lies in its brevity and the fact the Leo doesn’t over do the GTD stuff. Instead, he focuses on the underlying issues that may be stopping you from doing ‘the work’. It reads well. Eloquent prose, set out in well-structured essays that challenge you to reflect deeply on the way that you prioritise and use your time. Particularly, useful was the focus on changing and replacing habits. By replacing bad habits with useful, more productive ones, I have seen a huge difference in my productivity.

Highlights include:

  • You don’t need to respond
  • Going with the flow
  • Single tasking and productivity

Keeping It Straight – Patrick Rhone

Patrick is one of my favourite writers on the web and his work translates really well to the structured, thematic nature of a book. Keeping it Straight is Patrick’s first book – a collected set of essays that deal with personal productivity, minimalism, mindfulness and motivation. Again, this is not a long read; perfect for the daily commute or for dipping into when the moment arises. This book is very personal, much of the content gleaned from Patrick’s journal, it adds a level of authenticity that I find is often missing from books of this ilk.

Highlights include:

  • Don’t Worry
  • Doing The Dishes
  • Email (And Other Things That Go “Ding”)

#uppingyourgame – Doug Belshaw

Doug is a friend who has been fantastically supportive, helping me on my blogging journey. He has also (although he may not have realised it) had a significant impact on my approach to personal productivity. His approach is a pragmatic one and as such he begins by getting to the heart of why we should care about being productive in the first place. This is refreshing, as many productivity related texts assume that the reader already has this figured out. Like the other two books, this is a well structured, well designed text, placing emphasis on the authors voice.

Highlights include:

  • What does productivity look like?
  • How to find your personal well of motivation
  • Productivity killers
———

As I mentioned above, it is easy to spend more time reading about productivity than actually getting on and being productive. However, while I’m on topic, I thought I would share some of the other material that has contributed to my journey. This is not an exclusive list, just a selection of the ones that come to mind as I sit writing this.

Manifesto: Inbox Zero

Idea: five.sentenc.es

Essay: Making the Clackity Noise

Essay: Cranking

Essay: The Noise

Essay: the beauty of the ellipses

Essay: Purpose Your Day: Most Important Task (MIT)

Essay: Do One Thing Well

Essay: How I Became an Early Riser

Essay: How to ‘chapter’ your life to make it more productive

Essay: The hidden power of a gift

Book: Mindfulness in Plain English

Video: Just This

Podcast: Enough: The Minimal Mac Podcast

Podcast: Back to Work

iPad + Garageband FTW!

I recently shared on Google+ how I had been using iPads and Garageband to help my Year 8 class to improve the quality of their writing. This is a reworked version of that post. Thanks to John Johnston and Helen Morgan (amongst others) for sharing their thoughts.

The learning…

I’ve been using iPads with my Year 8 class to record narrative writing that they have created. I had the students draft a piece of writing based on Down the Rabbit Hole by Lewis Caroll, which they recorded using the iPads. I wanted the students to see how punctuation effected the way the read because after reading the first drafts, I was none too pleased with the standard of their writing.

I uploaded the recordings to the VLE and asked the class to peer assess each others work. Using those comments and some live assessment in Google Docs from me, they created improved narratives with more accurate punctuation and improved vocabulary.

They then recorded their final drafts which we burned to discs. While the drafting/redrafting process is not unusual in the English classroom, recording and evaluating their written work in this way added a new dimension to the learning process. It ensured that every single student’s work was shared without the embarrassment that some students feel standing in front of the class. By putting the audio on the VLE, every student received feedback, which due to time constraints would not happen in a traditional classroom setting. What’s more, I could further differentiate my support by listening and focussing feedback where it was most needed.

To complete the unit I wanted them to present their work effectively. They created a CD cover using drawn or found images, with their narrative writing printed up on the reverse. Giving them a physical artefact to take away that represented their effort and progress was highly motivational and also contributed to the quality of the finished work.

It was a great project to end the year with and the use of the iPads and Garageband made a huge difference to the quality of the students’ work.

Here are two example recordings (personally, I think that the background noise adds to the ambience):

And here is an example cover (front and back):

Rabbit Hole Front

Rabbit Hole Back

I used SurveyMonkey to get the class to reflect on their use of the iPads and Garageband. Here’s a selection of comments:

  • “I found it useful because it helps you find your own mistakes”
  • “I found this useful because I could do y punctuation from listening to it because I would know when to put , and . as I know when I paused and stopped at the end of a sentence”
  • “It helped me to see where I need to put commas”

The technology…

The whole process was fabulously straightforward and the sound quality was excellent.

Here are a few tips if you wish to use iPad and Garageband in the same way. Garageband is super easy to use but the default settings can scupper a recording instantly. Before the students hit record make sure that they select the ‘puzzle piece’ in the top left and set the duration to automatic. Not doing so will result in the recording being cut short. Secondly, select the spanner in the top right and turn off the metronome. The iPad will record all sound so it captures the sound of the metronome in the recording.

With those settings sorted you are ready to record. The UI is beautiful and reacts to what you are doing generating relevant buttons, e.g.: when recording a stop button appears and also an undo button to easily take backwards steps. My students found it very easy to use and they (like I was) were really impressed with the sound quality.

What if I don’t have access to iPads and/or Garageband?

I’ve been working with audio/podcasting for over three years now. It is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated mediums in education. Most schools plug for video… it’s usually seen as the obvious choice but there are many activities for which I believe audio to be the best option. Capturing group discussions, for example, is far easier with an audio recorder than a video camera. I do this with my A2 students and then upload the recording to the VLE for them to refer back to and/or download. As it’s an MP3 it is a small file, there is rarely a need to edit, and I find that the students concentrate on what is being said rather than admiring themselves on camera.

I am surprised at the lack of take up when it comes to the use of audio/podcasting in schools because the technology itself is ubiquitous. You don’t need to invest in iPads or Apple Mac computers. Audacity (a free, cross-platform, sound editor) will do the same job as Garageband and most laptops (including notebooks) come with a built in Mic. However, cheap USB Mics are easy to get hold of. This one has done the job for me in the past. Furthermore, nearly all mobile devices have an audio capture function which is easy to manage (audio formats are far more malleable) whereas video recorded on mobile devices can be difficult to use due to variations in format/codec. As John stated: “It can be an instant win pedagogically and motivationally.”

Moreover, both Garageband (built into all Macs) and Audacity are standalone apps which do not require an internet connection. A common complaint from teachers when they look at using technology in the classroom is that the school network or internet is not reliable. In using these apps, or the iPads themselves, there was no reliance on the school network. This gave me and the students confidence that we would complete the task. As Helen noted it’s important to have a “fall back plan”, I briefly considered recording direct into AudioBoo but this could have easily broken down due to a bad network connection or missing plugins such as Java or Flash.

If you think audio could work for you and your students, I recommend that you jump right on in and give it a go. Results can be achieved quickly and in a cost effective way. If you would like further advice on how to use audio in your classroom, please get in touch.

Twitter for Mac: Separate Windows, Separate Streams

[Cross-posted from my Posterous blog]

T4M Separate Windows

This is my preferred way of using Twitter for Mac.

Firstly, click on the stream you wish to view, e.g.: @replies, a list you have created or a hashtag you wish to follow. Then click Shift+Cmd+T and it will open that stream in a separate window. Do this for each stream you wish to follow.

Today I have my ‘Niche’ list open in one window and my @replies in another. The main, Twitter for Mac, window is minimised to my hidden dock.

Desktop background is by John Carey.

Email productivity in five.sentenc.es

sparrow inbox zero

Be concise – check out five.sentenc.es.

Be organised – try inbox zero.

Place things you need actioned at the beginning of emails NOT at the end.

If you include questions, number them in order of importance.

One day a week DO NOT check your email – give yourself a break and return to your inbox refreshed; ready to tackle the latest deluge.