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Enhancing your e-mail productivity – Boomerang for Gmail and NudgeMail

I’ve been using a nifty little add-in for Gmail that I thought was worth sharing. Boomerang for Gmail gives you greater control of your e-mails by allowing you to hide them for specified periods of time and/or send them at later dates.

Delaying when you see a message

Clicking on the Boomerang button allows you to make a message in your inbox disappear for a while. You can set when it returns to your inbox, exactly when you think that you’ll be ready to act upon it:


Delaying when you send a message

Boomerang also allows you to delay when you send a message. You can write your message now but set it to go out later at a time of your choosing:


Automatic reminders to follow up

Boomerang also can remind you to follow up on a sent message:


This functionality of delayed seeing and/or sending is extremely useful and helps me get closer to my goal of ‘inbox zero.’ If you’re using Gmail, I encourage you to try out Boomerang.


For those of you who aren’t using Gmail (and, really, why wouldn’t you be?!), check out NudgeMail. NudgeMail also allows you to have messages disappear for a while and then return to your inbox. Here are some sample NudgeMail commands:


Hope one of these tools is helpful to you (and, oh, here’s that picture of Karl)!

Upcoming book: What school administrators need to know about digital technologies and social media

Chris Lehmann and I submitted our book to the publisher yesterday:

McLeod, S., & Lehmann, C. (Eds.). (in press). What school administrators need to know about digital technologies and social media.

Man with book sitting in chairphoto © 2008 George Eastman House | more info (via: Wylio)We’re really excited about this book. Take a look at the chapter contributors below and you’ll see why [and before you ask, yes, there were many others that we could have asked and, yes, we had to make some difficult author/topic choices given the space limitations of a printed book].

The book is intended to help administrators

  1. gain a basic knowledge base,
  2. think critically about some key issues, and
  3. get some concrete suggestions for instructional and organizational uses of various digital technologies.

Chris and I will keep you posted as this gets closer to print!



Learning Tools


More Learning Tools

Adobe’s Project ROME

I don’t often blog about specific technology tools, but Adobe’s new Project ROME looks intriguing. Check out the two videos below. It seems like there might be some powerful possibilities for educators and students.

Project ROME has video overviews for specific tasks, tutorials for example projects, a support forum, and a growing help and documentation section. There is a specific emphasis on P-12 education, including a separate educator discussion forum. There also are possibilities for educators to integrate the tool with Google Apps for Education and/or Moodle.

What do you think? Have any of you used Project ROME personally or with students? 


Video – Corey Dahl fires his Flip video camera

Corey Dahl (@coreydahlevent) fired his Flip video camera and filmed the event:


Happy viewing!

Subscribe to me

Okay, I think I’ve got this figured out, at least for now…

I use five primary tools to post content and resources to the Web:

  1. Dangerously Irrelevant - where I put my longer, hopefully more thoughtful writing and have extended conversations with readers
  2. Twitter - where I share resources and converse with others in shorter snippets
  3. Delicious - where I bookmark sites that I want to use or revisit later (although I don’t use this as much as I should)
  4. Mind Dump - where I put things that I want to capture (e.g., quotes, videos, images) for posterity; my personal archive for stuff that is too short or off-topic for Dangerously Irrelevant but also is too long for Twitter or Delicious (i.e., I want more than just the URL and a few keywords)
  5. Google Reader - where I share out items from my incoming RSS feeds that I think will be of interest to others

I’m now using TwitterFeed to feed everything from Dangerously Irrelevant, Mind Dump, Delicious, and Google Reader to Twitter and Facebook. Everything that goes through Twitter also is sent automatically to LinkedIn and Google Buzz. So if you’re following me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Google Buzz, you should see everything that I’m sharing out. And, of course, many of you have put Dangerously Irrelevant and/or Mind Dump in your RSS readers (thank you!).

LearnbuttonI could use Evernote for sharing publicly but instead I use it to archive things that need to be more private than Mind Dump (such as meeting notes, my highlights from Kindle books, and the HTML coding for my web sites). I also use other social media sites such as Flickr, YouTube, and Vimeo but I share their content through my five main channels above.

The Shareaholic extension for Google Chrome makes all of this much easier. It also allows me to post items to Digg, Yahoo Buzz, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Mixx, and other aggregation / sharing sites as desired.

The feeds for Dangerously Irrelevant, Mind Dump, Delicious, and Google Reader all have been run through Feedburner so I can monitor RSS subscribers. I set up TwitterFeed to run everything through so I can track how often items get retweeted. I also am using Google Analytics.

For those of you who are interested, here are the URLs and RSS/email feeds for my five main channels:

  1. Dangerously Irrelevant (RSS / email) [you also can subscribe to any blog category]
  2. Mind Dump (RSS / email)
  3. Twitter (RSS)
  4. Delicious (RSS)
  5. Google Reader (RSS)

And here are some of my other sites, including the folders that I share from Google Reader (so you can read what I do!):

I think I’ve got all this set up so that there’s no duplication in any one place. For a while there, for example, I was posting the same resource more than once in Facebook. If you notice any future duplication, please let me know.

Is there anything I’m missing, forgetting, or also should be doing?

Happy reading!

[hat tip to Jose Vilson, who’s apparently in the same mindset I am these days]

My Google Chrome extensions (August 2010)

I’m a huge fan of Google Chrome; every other browser seems poky and/or unstable in comparison. If you haven’t used it, I highly recommend you try it. You may never go back to your old browser!

I thought I’d share my current extensions (click on images for larger versions). I’m particularly fond of Shareaholic, Last Pass, RSS Subscription Extension, Unburner, and Send using Gmail. If you’re using Chrome, what other extensions should I try?


Should we require school employees to have RSS readers? – Part 2 (more questions)

RSSlistenLast week I posted some questions that have been swirling in my head about RSS readers, including the thought that perhaps school employees should be required to have and use them. There were many thoughtful comments (thank you!), and I now have some additional questions whirling inside my cranium…

  1. Many commenters commented on the undesirability (or futility) of “requiring people to learn.” I understand and probably am in agreement with that idea. And yet we try to do this all the time, in education and other professions. The idea that we should require professionals to stay up-to-date in their field is by no means radical. Teachers, administrators, lawyers, doctors, nurses, etc. – we all are required by law to go back to school, participate in workshops, attend conferences, and so on (interestingly, professors aren’t). If we can require people to learn via face-to-face (or perhaps online course) settings, is requiring educators to use RSS readers any different?
  2. Another thread in the comment stream was that we shouldn’t force educators to do anything. Rather, we should demonstrate the utility of tools like RSS readers and then hope that educators will be drawn into using them. This, of course, is the professional development strategy that we use for most desired changes in P-12 education. How’s that working for us? Do most school organizations achieve whole-scale educator adoption through the use of training that is designed to induce, rather than initiatives that “force,” educators into action? While I’m a big fan of individual choice, I also confess that I’m skeptical of the efficacy of the inducement approach. I think we get a few educators that way - usually the ones that are change-oriented in the first place - and the rest go about their business as usual. For example, Suzie Martin said in her comment that she hopes to get 5 staff members out of 40 to use RSS readers. I don’t think it’s naive to believe that we can do better than that with our professional development.
  3. In a similar vein, we all can think of examples where desirable wide-scale educational and/or social outcomes only were possible through forced action. You know, things like mandatory school attendance, seat belt usage, vaccinations, and desegregation. Is “forcing” people to do things always bad?
  4. Douglas Reeves says that “action drives belief,” not the other way around. He contends that it’s usually difficult to see the benefits of something before we do it because it’s too abstract. We have to start doing it - and thus turn the conceptual into something more concrete - before we actually see the benefits and buy in. This is why, for example, many school districts require educators to be in professional learning communities (PLCs). At the beginning, most educators aren’t clear what the benefits of PLCs will be to them. Over time, however, if the initiative is done well (and, unfortunately, in education that’s a big if), the idea is that educators will start seeing - through their ongoing PLC activities - the benefits of belonging to such a group. Does action drive belief or does belief drive action?
  5. Stephen Downes has been hammering at us edubloggers for years to get out of the echo chamber and expose ourselves to a diversity of voices. Similarly, Tim Kastelle notes in his commentary on Ethan Zuckerman’s TED talk that “Connecting ideas to each other is the core creative act in innovation. And it is well-documented that we make more creative connections between ideas when we are exposed to a greater diversity of ideas.” Do we believe that exposing educators to a diverse set of high-quality peer voices is beneficial? If so, how do we go about making that happen? In the past we’ve relied on conferences, workshops, book clubs, and the like. Can’t we take advantage of digital technologies’ efficiencies to help us accomplish this goal?
  6. Daura said in her comment that “Not everyone is on the technology train, and I don’t think anyone should be forced to jump on board.” Kalyn replied in her comment, why not? I agree with Kalyn, not Daura. I realize that I’m mostly preaching to the choir here, but technology really isn’t an “edufad,” is it?
  7. Gerald Aungst said in his comment that “if admin says we must do it, it’s probably not good for us.” Really? Have dialogue and trust levels between administrators and teachers degraded so much that a blanket statement of that sort is true? I know that’s a fair statement for some districts but I hope that’s not true at a large scale because, if so, we’ve got much bigger problems than whether educators are effectively integrating technology into their work.

These are some of the main thoughts that I’m mulling right now on this topic. I’m still sold on the idea that exposure to a (perhaps pre-curated) diverse set of high-quality voices of professional peers who are doing interesting things with instruction and/or technology would be beneficial for all educators. For me, the questions are not around the benefits but instead around the scalability of such a change.

As always, I welcome your feedback. Thanks, everyone, for the great conversation!

Image credit: Modified podcast logo with my headphones Photoshopped on

Should we require school employees to have RSS readers?

RSSlistenLast summer many of you helped create our wonderful lists of grade-level and subject-specific blogs that other educators could load into their RSS readers. I’m bouncing around a few thoughts in my head about those lists:

  • Should we require school employees to have loaded RSS readers (with a concurrent expectation that they spend time checking them and reading in them)?
  • How would the lives of the educators in your school organization be different if they regularly spent time with their loaded RSS readers?
  • How would the lives of preservice educators (i.e., student teachers) be different if they regularly spent time with their loaded RSS readers?
  • Can we figure out how to give educators professional development / licensure renewal credit for time spent with RSS readers, interacting with other educators in social media channels, etc.? We seem to be able to do so for face-to-face training, discussion groups, school book clubs, and so on…

Thoughts on any of this? Got your own questions you’d like to add to my list?

Image credit: Modified podcast logo with my headphones Photoshopped on

ISTE 2010 – Do you have a plan? Here’s mine…

iste2010logoI head to Denver tomorrow, eager and excited for the ISTE conference. I’ve got a plan this year; there are some things I want to learn and some conversations I want to have…

Things for which I’m scheduled

Things I hope will happen (if you can help with any of these, please come say hi!)

  • Have my usual rockin’ awesome time at Edubloggercon. Some of my best conversations and learning each year are here.
  • Faciliate our proposed discussion at Edubloggercon. Sylvia Martinez and I are proposing a conversation about the challenges of being an outside speaker/consultant. I don’t know if we’ll make the final agenda but I hope so!
  • Learn more about Google Voice. I need someone to help me get the most out of my new phone service.
  • Learn more about Google Apps for Education. I’m interested in talking with educators who are using this well with students in their school organization.
  • Learn more about the School of One. I’d love to talk with someone who’s seen it in action!
  • Learn more about robust learning software that does a good job of working with students at higher cognitive levels. These may be more like simulations or video games than traditional computer-based learning programs? Can I find software that’s doing performance assessment, not just fact assessment?
  • Learn more about essay grading software. I’d like to see how this software class has changed since last time I looked at it.
  • Maybe find funding for some CASTLE projects? This may be what draws me into the vendor area. I need to talk to some larger companies about some potential project sponsorship opportunities.
  • Learn new things that aren’t even on my radar. This usually happens a great deal for me, so I’m not too worried. Maybe I’ll pick up some tricks/tips for my new iPad!

Other thoughts

I’m deliberately leaving much of the conference open. I want to reserve space for spur-of-the-moment conversations and serendipitous interactions. If you want to chat – even if we’ve never met before – please come introduce yourself!

Trying to reach me at the conference? Try @mcleod on Twitter or call/text me at 707–722–7853. I’ll also be hanging out a lot in the Bloggers’ Café.

What’s your plan for the ISTE conference? Hope to see you there!

Tools for school – Digital document annotation on an iPad, iPod Touch, or laptop

[FYI, this post also has been translated into Croatian by the WHGeeks Science section!]

[Warning: this is a long post. Cross-posted at LeaderTalk.]

I’ve been playing around with digital document annotation on various portable computing devices. Here is an overview of where I am right now…

The old way!

First of all, just as a reminder, the image below is the way that we’ve traditionally annotated ink on paper. Some of you like to use pencils or pens to underline, write notes in the margins, etc. In my life I’ve spent a small fortune on yellow highlighters.


Kindle App for the iPad

Will Richardson got me thinking with his post on using the Kindle app, his iPhone, and Evernote together for document annotation and sharing. So I decided to try it myself with the Kindle app. I don’t have an iPhone, but I do have an iPad and two iPod Touches.

Here is what it looks like when you press and hold on a word to begin your highlight (or note) in the Kindle app for the iPad:


Once the word is selected, you can push and drag on either of the dots to resize the selection and cover more text. Note that the magnifying box helps you see where you are.


Once you’ve got your text selected, you click on Highlight or Note and it gets saved with your document. Repeat as desired.

Kindle App for the iPod Touch (or iPhone)

The process is the same for the Kindle App for the iPod Touch (or iPhone). Here are two images that show you what it looks like on the smaller screen. Again, note the draggable dots as well as the magnifying box.


Kindle App for the PC

The Kindle App for the PC essentially works the same way. Use your mouse to click and drag, selecting the text you want in a highlight or note. When you’re done, select the option you want from the popup box. The gray text background then turns to yellow. See in the image below that the Notes & Marks button is selected at the top right, allowing me to see all of my notes and highlights in a scrollable list on the right.


Note: The text you select in the Kindle App for the PC is NOT copyable for future pasting into another document.

Your notes online: Why this is better than marking up ink on paper

So far, so good. The process basically works like a traditional highlighter. Every time I sync the Kindle app with Amazon’s server, my notes and highlights show up on all of my other devices too. I don’t have to lug multiple, heavy books around. I can just carry my ultralight laptop, my svelte iPad, or my pocket-size iPod Touch and have access to my reading and the accompanying highlights / notes.

As Will noted in his post, the beauty of all of this, however, is that Amazon also makes available a web site where you can see all of your Kindle notes and highlights. I can even see an aggregation of others’ highlights if I wish (which is pretty cool).


The text on the web site is selectable, which means you can copy and paste it into other applications. For example, you could put all of your highlights into a Word document, a blog post, or a note in Evernote. Will did the latter, and I’ll walk you through that process…

Using Evernote to publicly share your notes

Here’s what it looks like in Evernote if you just copy-and-paste directly into a new note:


If you clean it up first – using some judicious search-and-replace – then it can look more like this:


You can share your notes and highlights with others by making a public notebook (or tag) in Evernote. In the image below, I’ve right-clicked on the notebook I want to share and then selected Properties.


A popup box appears. Click on Sharing and collaboration options:


The Web version of Evernote launches and you get to choose if you want to share with individuals or the world at large:


If you start sharing with the world, you get a personalized URL to which you can send others (e.g., They can click on the appropriate note and see everything you’ve put in the now-public notebook. Pretty nifty!


Another alternative: iAnnotate PDF

In addition to doing what Will did, I’ve also been experimenting with the iAnnotate PDF app for the iPad. I wanted a way to edit dissertation drafts, online reports and white papers, and other documents in PDF format. Although the GoodReader app (and, maybe soon, the iBooks app?) works great for viewing PDF files, you can’t edit them within the app. I read good things about iAnnotate and decided to try it.

I had some initial trouble getting documents into iAnnotate. I finally figured out, however, that the best way to do it is to synchronize it with a DropBox folder. That works pretty well (for GoodReader too!). Once you open a PDF file within iAnnotate, you have a number of tools at your disposal, including the ability to highlight, underline, strike out text, draw freehand, and leave yourself a pop-up note:


Although iAnnotate doesn’t give you the option of synchronizing to a web page like the Kindle app does, it does let you e-mail your annotations (with or without the document). When the annotation summary is received as an e-mail, it looks like this:


That text is then selectable, which means you can cut and paste it into other applications. Managing documents within iAnnotate is very easy, just as it is for the Kindle apps.

Reflections and implications

Here are a few thoughts:

  • The possibilities of all of this for academic work are endless. I will use the Kindle app to read nonfiction books like Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus and capture the quotes and notes that I think are important. I’ll use iAnnotate PDF to do the same for those documents and research reports that I’m always digging up online. When my students send me their writing, I’ll quickly convert those documents to PDF and then be able to comfortably annotate anywhere on my iPad, without being tethered to my laptop or desktop computers. And so on…
  • I love having all of the text from a book or report that I think is important – and ONLY that text – in one place. It’s searchable, it’s editable, it’s MINE. No more flipping through pages trying to find something. No more using multiple bookmarks and Post-It flags. A quick search and the text I want is there.
  • It would be nice if you could cut and paste from the Kindle App (particularly the one for the PC) into other applications.
  • The Pogo Sketchup Stylus – a special stylus for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch – is worth every penny when it comes to annotation. Highlighting text – particularly on the iPad – is a breeze compared to using my (apparently too fat) finger because the stylus has a smaller surface area and thus is more precise.


  • As digital annotation and sharing tools continue to become more robust, it becomes much more feasible to use iPads and other mobile computing devices as replacements for books and textbooks.
  • Like Will, I may never buy a nonfiction book on paper again (unless I have to).
  • I like Will’s idea of getting notes off of the Amazon web page and into Evernote. If iAnnote or the iBooks app or other e-book readers and annotation tools also make available online or e-mail versions of highlights and notes, I’ll do the same for those too. That way I won’t have to worry about particular proprietary formats becoming obsolete. Now, if Evernote ever goes out of style, I’m in big trouble!

So this is where I am right now with all of this. Although digital annotation using these tools is not yet as smooth as I would like, I’m deriving a lot of benefit from the new capabilities that I do have.

How about you? How are you annotating digital documents on portable computing devices? Got any tips or suggestions?

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