Task Before Apps

Recently I was pitching an idea for a workshop on spreadsheets.  The an administrator gently shot down the idea. He had politely listened and then asked a couple of questions, “Are you going to do more than just show the basics of how to start a sheet file? What are you going have the teacher do?  What will be their takeaways? Will this help them in their classrooms?”

His words that impacted me the most were, “True, we are looking for classes that teach applications and programs, but we want classes that put “tasks before apps.”

I drew a blank.  I couldn’t remember hearing that phrase. What does he mean, “tasks before apps?”  My creation for a spreadsheet presentation got shelved.

A week later I attended a workshop by Martin Cisneros.  He presented some 40 plus or minus apps and tools for use in classrooms.  Repeatedly he told us to choose only two or three, and not try to master all of them. As I explored each app as he presented it,  I began to realize what “Task before App” means.  Some apps and extensions he presented were useful. Some were frivolous. Some had no use in my classes.

I understood:  If I don’t have assignments to use the app, then there is no need to teach the app.  Now I understood that administrator when he says, “task before app.”

Let me share just two apps that have become mainstays for me.

First, Keep.google.com;  

keepI use the Keep app to make notes that include lists, links, pictures, note taking, outlining and reminders.  I can even use them as a collaboration tool. The best function of all,  is that this one app will automatically sync across all my devices. I have an icon on my smartphone, an extension on my laptop and on my desktop.  It doesn’t matter where and when I add a note, it automatically syncs with all the other devices.   


Second, Mercury Reader offered by postlight.com.

mercury readerI use the Mercury Reader to get rid of all the clutter on web pages. It simplifies the looks of the page to make it easier to read. I can easily print hard copies or post to Google Documents or to a Google Classroom assignment.  All this make the pages become student friendly.

Other features allow me to toggle to a white on black screen or increase the font size.    I can highlight.  I can send it to a Keep note.  For Kindle owners, the touch of a button will send the file to a Kindle for on the go reading.  

I hope you can enjoy these two apps for the task that need apps.

12 Books in 12 Weeks 

Our school district, Stockton Unified School District, recently concluded a 12 week reading campaign. The challenge was for all students of SUSD to read 12 books in 12 weeks.

I thought it was a benevolent activity so I gave the flyers and challenge to my classes. I quickly realized this challenge was accepted by more of the elementary students and teachers than the high school audience.  My high school students laughed and satirically asked what a book was?  I guess they use cell phones and videos rather than pass their time reading pages on paper.

 I decided to “do it myself” just like the Little Red Hen in one of my favorite children story books.

I gave it the good old college try but came up short in total books read. I could analyze and make a list of why I didn’t meet or complete the challenge. I could dwell on dissatisfaction of not obtaining the worthy goal. Instead I have decided to share my list of books.  

The order of the list doesn’t have any strategy. Following is just a list that came to mind and a reason why I would like to read it.    

I hope you enjoy reading.

Books to Re-read:

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The Little Train That Could  by Watty Piper  

Childhood favorite.


15014._uy630_sr1200630_Crucial Conversations   by Kerry Patterson, et. al.  

Hints on how to talk when the results could cause a loss or really hurt feelings.


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One Minute Teacher: How to Teach Others to Teach Themselves by Constance Johnson       

I wonder if there are any suggestions to make me a more effective teacher.


 

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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success  by Carol S. Dweck  

Top guru of having positive attitudes about success.


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Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions 

by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana

My  students are very weak at asking investigative questions. Will this book help?


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Ditch that Homework: Practical Strategies to Help Make Homework Obsolete   

by Matt Miller and Alice Keeler  

Excellent book to learn better strategies to help students learn.


Books on the first time to read list:

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Blink   by Malcolm Gladwell  

I have read other books by this author and believe this would be an awesome read.


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The New One Minute Manager  by Ken Blanchard, PhD

I used the previous book which was excellent as a help for managing people.  I am curious of what is new in management styles.


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Measure What Matters    by  John Doerr    

Sounds like a statics and a help guide for science experiments.  I am curious to see if it will help me teach investigation to my science students.  


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Ditch That Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom   by Matt Miller  

This title sounds like additional hints and helps from an excellent author I have read.


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Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport  

I am curious what hints and behaviors will help me focus deeper and longer than I already do.


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Out of Curiosity: Restoring the Power of Hungry Minds for Better Schools, Workplaces, and Lives    by Bryan Goodwin

This book was suggested by a friend to see if science students can be taught to be curious and thus engage in science classes.