Book Review: Dictate Your Book: How to Write Your Book Faster, Better, and Smarter

Two nights ago, I finish reading a new book, and now, I’m putting what I learned into practice. The book is called Dictate Your Book: How To Write Your Book Faster, Better, and Smarter (Growth Hacking For Storytellers)*, written by Monica Leonelle. So right now as I write this blog post, I am actually speaking to you. Read more

Learning about Google+ Hangouts, Drive, and Docs at #acenetc 2013

Today was the first full day of ACE-NETC in Indianapolis, IN… at least for me. The ACE-NETC conference is a place were Extension communication and technology specialists get together and help each other get to the next level. It is always great to get together to visit with people with whom I have been virtually working over the past year.

I started my day with a presentation by John Dorner from North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension. Dorner gave two presentations this morning, and I attended both of them. They were both on Google products. The first was on Google Drive and Google Applications. He then presented on Google+ hangouts.

Google Drive and Apps

Dorner explained NCSU uses Google Apps and Gmail. Along with his ncsu.edu account, he also has an extension.org account, which is also supported by Google Docs. He primarily uses his edu account for day-to-day work and uses his extension.org account for his national work with extension. He can get to all his stuff on Google from any computer with Internet access. He exclaimed it is easy to share documents with others. No more email attachments. Everyone is always looking at most current document. Since he began using Google docs, he rarely uses Microsoft products.

He started his presentation by focusing on drive.google.com. He commented that any file type can be uploaded. These files can be subsequently downloaded in their native form or they can be converted to a Google file type and worked on directly.

One of the nice features that I was not necessarily aware of was that you can search Google Drive files for any file that has been shared for a particular group, for example, extension. I was not aware of this feature. This is a great find. I also learned a bit more about Google Templates.

Google documents

Dorner demonstrated that you can upload a word document and convert it to a Google Document or upload a Word document and leave it in that file type. Google can convert a PDF document with OCR technology. He pointed out that the word processor does not have all the features of word but has 90% of most common features. He added he would not write a newsletter in Google but would write the articles. He also demonstrated the power of collaborating on a document. One idea is to use it for meeting minutes.

While demonstrating the spreadsheet application, he showed us a function called unique. I had never used it but I can immediately see the potential. He uses it to keeps track of classes, attendance, and ratings.

With the presentation application, you can export the file into a number of different file types. He also showed that you can have the speaker notes on a different screen. Finally, the presentation could be included in a Web page using the embed codes.

Dorner mentioned that he uses Googles Forms for many reasons. One of the benefits of using a form is that you can embed it in another Web page. Forms can be easily summarized. You can also require people to log in to access a form thus capturing additional demographical information.

Google+ Hangouts

Later in the morning, Dorner showed us how to initiate meetings with Google+ Hangouts. He began by demonstrating simple one-on-one sessions and the various ways of creating a hangout. He then moved on to creating a hangout with multiple people. Unfortunately, the session was hampered by bandwidth issues. I learned that you can also call a phone number with Google+ hangouts.

He showed us how to create a hangout with a Google event. With the advance event options, you can tie the hangout to a YouTube broadcast. Here shared a checklist to help guide through the process of creating a Google Hangout: http://go.ncsu.edu/hangoutchecklist

When holding a larger event, he recommended having a moderator to help answer and field questions.

Dorner also demonstrated many of the Google+ Hangout features:

  • Screensharing
  • Window capture
  • Remote desktop
  • Document sharing using google drive.
  • Slideshare
  • Google effects
  • Symphonic whiteboard
  • Youtube

As usual, I walked away knowing more than when I entered the session. John Dorner had a great session.

Adapting a new communication strategy in an established organization.

Last month, I took on the role of Chief of Staff for the Rocky Mountain Region (RMR) of the Civil Air Patrol. It has been busy while I get my feet under me in this new role. One of the areas, I felt we could immediately improve was in the area of communications and document handling.  With all organizational change, it will take time to make some of these changes. There are a number of people who have served in their roles for a long time and may be reluctant to adopt new methods. A couple of days ago, I sent a message to the entire staff recommending some methods for communication both internally and externally.  Here are those methods and my justifications:

Email – This will often be the primary means of communication especially when a record of the conversation is important. Unfortunately, the problem with email is that it is restricted between parties and some essential members may be left out of the loop of important conversations due to oversight or political intent. In an effort to ensure all members are at least accessible, members were asked to ensure that their correct email address is recorded on the RMR Roster.  This is important because there is not one central email domain for the staff; each member uses a personal email address or creates one specifically for their role. The roster is shared through Google Docs and requires permission to access it, so that we can control private information to a need to know basis.

Staff members are encouraged to contact their functional areas both above and below them. They should use at a minimum email to help address issues as well as pass on information.

Skype – Skype is a powerful tool for synchronous communications. With Skype, the unit and members can conduct conference calls for 24 people at no cost. With a paid subscription, the conference call can also include non-Skype users. I have been encouraging members to create a Skype account because of added functionality.  Skype also has an instant messaging capability that can be used one-on-one or in groups. During recent search missions, we have used Skype, specifically the chat feature to support mission staff operations. By creating a call group, members of the group text input into a common area that can archived as historical transcripts.

We are also including the Skype account as part of our RMR roster. Skype can be accessed at http://beta.skype.com/en/ Note: Skype is free. You do not need to pay for the premium version.

DropboxDropbox is a great tool for sharing large documents. It also helps with version control. Ideally, it is installed as a program on your computer, but it can also be accessed through the Web. With Dropbox, we are able to share documents across a team. Because the document is updated automatically, each member has access to the most current version. Presently, documents are typically shared through email, and it is difficult to maintain version control.

During a recent search mission that spanned two states, the mission staff was able to share Google Earth KMZ files rapidly between mission bases and staff members. This made it easy to keep everyone abreast of changes to the mission and search status.

Again, Dropbox accounts are noted on the RMR roster. Dropbox can be accessed at https://www.dropbox.com/ Note: Dropbox is free. You do not need to pay for the premium version.

Google Docs (AKA Google Drive) – Google Docs is a great tool for collaborating on documents as well as sharing final results on the Web. It also helps with version control. Google Docs is accessed through the Web, and you can control access to documents; this access can be from a public setting to only specific people. Google Drive is where you can access all the documents shared with you.

The most powerful aspect of this tool, in my opinion, is the collaboration feature. By using a Google document, a team can edit a document all at the same time. For example, instead of distributing a meeting agenda, the meeting agenda is created in Google Docs, and participants can add to it prior to the meeting and as the meeting is in progress. The agenda then easily moves from agenda status to minute status.

As with other tools preferred Google Docs accounts are added to the RMR roster. Google Docs can be accessed at https://drive.google.com/ Note: Google Docs is free.

Calendar – The calendar will note events and deadlines as we are aware of them. We are using a Google Calendar to record events. Not only is the calendar available to the public, but it can be embedded into our Web pages as needed. Also, individuals can subscribe to the calendar and can display this calendar along with their personal calendar. Staff members and the wing commanders are encouraged to submit events to be placed on the calendar. The calendar can be accessed at the following URL in the event you wish to subscribe to it. https://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=3jk96su67rb51lidmlckj40o2c%40group.calendar.google.com&ctz=America/Los_Angeles

Operations Bulletin – The Ops Bulletin is designed to be a communication tool to help remind unit commanders of upcoming requirements or scheduled events. I will be asking staff members for input on the 20th of each month, with a deadline of the 25th of the month. The input can be upcoming events, tips for the specific functional area, alerts to reg changes, trends in CIs and Air Force Evals, etc. Here is an example of the recent Ops Bulletin, November 2012.

Facebook – Facebook is a tool to highlight the good things that are happening across the region. It also can be used to generate buzz about upcoming events, as well as post topical items for extra emphasis. Our Facebook fan page can be found at http://www.facebook.com/RMRCAP.

Ideally, I would like functional areas to be able to post appropriate content to this page; however, I realize that not everyone is comfortable with Facebook. If individuals are not comfortable posting to Facebook, they are encourages to submit input through Major Nash, the Director of Public Affairs or send it directly to me.

Website – The Website is primarily for static or infrequent updated information to be shared with the public. I am working to bring it up to date. Ideally, it will be a place where we can share beneficial tools, documents, checklists, etc for region wide use. Our current site can be found at http://rmrcap.org/

Within the first month of taking on this role, these are the methods of communication that we will be using as a start. I am interested to hear about other methods or strategies to run an organization dispersed over a large geographical area with varying degrees of technology and technology literacy.

21st Century Tools Through the Lens of Bloom’s Taxonomy

Over this past weekend, I attended the 1st Annual Wyoming TEC Conference. TEC stands for Technology in the Evolving Classroom. During this conference, I had the fortunate opportunity to sit in on Angie Spann‘s session on 21st Century Tools. Angie is a Librarian and Media Specialist at Sweetwater School District #1. Here is the session’s abstract, “Our students need several skills to help them learn and become productive in the 21st Century. This session will explore web 2.0 tools to help students learn/practice these skills that they will need. Skills discussed will focus on Bloom’s Taxonomy and well as 21st Century Literacies.”

During the presentation, Angie introduced recommended technologies to use based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, or more correctly the digital Bloom’s Taxonomy. Starting with the lower order thinking skills as outlined in the revised digital Bloom’s Taxonomy, she also highlighted the digital skills associated with each level.

Bloom's Taxonomy
Comparison of Bloom’s new and Old Taxonomies

Remembering

Here are tools that Angie highlighted to help students engage with the Remembering level:

  • Quizlet – “Quizlet is the largest flash cards and study games website with over 11 million free sets of flashcards covering every possible subject. It’s the best place to play educational games, memorize vocabulary and study online.”
  • Quizstar – “Use QuizStar to create online quizzes for your students, disseminate quizzes to students, automatically grade quizzes and view the quiz results online.”
  • Mindmeister – A mind mapping tool.
  • Diigo – Social bookmarking tool making it easy to collect, annotate, and share references.
  • Evernote – A tool for capturing all of your digital content with the additional benefit of accessing it anywhere.
  • Google docs – A tool set that will allow you to create and share your work online. The tool set includes applications that allow you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and forms.

Understanding

Here are tools that Angie highlighted to help students engage with the Understanding level:

  • Google docs – A tool set that will allow you to create and share your work online. The tool set includes applications that allow you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and forms.
  • Popplet – Popplet is a tool for developing ideas in the form of a mind map
  • Pinterest – “Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.”
  • Pearltrees – “Pearltrees is a place to collect, organize and share everything you like on the web.” It is another method for collecting and organize resources and ideas.

Applying

Here are tools that Angie highlighted to help students engage with the Applying level:

  • Scribble maps – This tool allows you to draw on maps and share them with your friends.
  • Gliffy – With Gliffy you can easily create professional-quality flowcharts, diagrams, floor plans, technical drawings, and more!
  • Evernote – A tool for capturing all of your digital content with the additional benefit of accessing it anywhere.
  • Jing – With Jing, you can capture 5-minute screencasts.
  • WordPress – WordPress is a blogging tool that will also enable you to create a fully functional Web site.
  • Google docs – A tool set that will allow you to create and share your work online. The tool set includes applications that allow you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and forms.
  • Pixton – Pixton is a comic creation tool.
  • Slide rocket – SlideRocket is an online presentation tool. You can create presentations in SlideRocket as well as upload and enhance presentations.

Analyzing

Here are tools that Angie highlighted to help students engage with the Analyzing level:

  • Google docs – A tool set that will allow you to create and share your work online. The tool set includes applications that allow you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and forms.
  • Kids zone: Create a graph – Kids Zone: Create a graph is a youngster friendly site where students can build their own graphs and charts.
  • Exploratree – “Exploratree is a free web resource where you can access a library of ready-made interactive thinking guides, print them, edit them or make your own.”
  • Many eyes – This is an IBM experiment. It is a collection of data visualizations.
  • Google earth – “Google Earth allows you to travel the world through a virtual globe and view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, and much more.”

Evaluating

Here are tools that Angie highlighted to help students engage with the Evaluating level:

  • Twitter – Twitter is a micro-blogging tool. “Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news about what you find interesting.”
  • Storify – “Storify helps its users tell stories by curating social media.”
  • Rubistar – “RubiStar is a free tool to help teachers create quality rubrics.”
  • Protagonize – Protagonize allows you write original stories.
  • Edmodo – “Edmodo provides teachers and students a secure place to connect and collaborate, share content and educational applications, and access homework, grades, class discussions and notifications.”
  • Google docs – A tool set that will allow you to create and share your work online. The tool set includes applications that allow you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and forms.
  • WordPress – WordPress is a blogging tool that will also enable you to create a fully functional Web site.
  • YouTube – YouTube is the most popular video viewing site. They display over 2 billion videos per day.

Creating

Here are tools that Angie highlighted to help students engage with the Creating level:

  • Google docs – A tool set that will allow you to create and share your work online. The tool set includes applications that allow you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and forms.
  • Wikispaces – Wikispaces is a secure environment where students can collaborate using text, video, audio, and imagery.
  • Glogster – “Glogster debuted in 2007 as a unique social network based on the creation and sharing of Glogs – interactive posters loaded with text, graphics, music, videos, and more.”
  • Vuvox – “VUVOX is an easy to use production and instant sharing service that allows you to mix, create and blend your personal media – video, photos and music into rich personal expressions.”
  • Storybird – “Storybirds are short, art-inspired stories you make to share, read, and print.”
  • Animoto -“Turn your photos, video clips, and music into stunning video masterpieces to share with everyone.”
  • Voice thread – “A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in 5 ways – using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam).”

Angie Spann did a great job exposing the participants to these tools. Now it is a matter to explore them at greater depth. I look forward to attending the next Wyoming TEC conference to see what else Angie has to offer.