Thursday, February 24, 2011

Twitter: Keeping Up With It All

Update for clarification: In this post Steven mentions Read It Later. Read It Later is now called Pocket.

Thanks to Richard for allowing me to post on the most awesome Free Technology For Teacher Blog! I hope you are are enjoying your travels!

Steven W. Anderson is an educator, blogger, speaker and social media user. As one of the founders of #Edchat on Twitter, Steven, travels the country talking to educators about how they can harness the power of social media to create the learning spaces students need and to provide the professional development they aren't getting. When not traveling he is a District Instructional Technologist for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in Winston-Salem, NC. There he resides with his wife, Melissa and their 2 year old daughter, Reaghan.


I admit it.

I am addicted to Twitter.

And I have admitted that before. I truly enjoy the people I am able to connect with and have conversations with. But I am most addicted to the resources because that is how I started. I spend lots of time finding stuff for my teachers. And I figure if it works for them, why not share with other educators.

There are tons of links, articles videos and other great stuff that come across my screen everyday. I can never keep up with it all. People ask me all the time how I have time to go through everything. The key is I don't do it the moment it comes up. If I see an interesting tweet with a link and I have time, I will dig deeper but most of the time I only glance, decide if it is something to look at and save it for later.

There are lots of ways to save tweets for later. Each tweeter has an RSS feed that you can subscribe to in a reader like Google Reader or on a page like Netvibes or Pageflakes. And that is an ok way but you still have to do that for each Tweeter and still have to scroll through each user to find the good stuff.

Others suggest using a social bookmarking service like Diigo or Delicious and that is better to save links but then what if what you find is no good or not what you expected? Then you have to spend the time to go back and delete the save. And that can be time consuming. Diigo does have the advantage of the Save It Later feature that doesn't bookmark but does save for later. And it works but for me it was too many steps and I needed something that would work on any device and I can access on any device.

My favorite tools that I absolutely can not live without is Read It Later. It is a beautifully simple service that saves your links for later. The best part, the app works on just about every device out there. So I can go seamlessly from my PC, to my iTouch to my Droid and have complete functionality and access to my complete list of saves.

Sounds little like Diigo right? Don't get me wrong, I love Diigo. But the thing that sets Read It Later apart is the Unread/Read features. I have the standard list of unread links. But what if I read one, uncheck it and forget to save it to my Diigo account? No worries my friend. Read It Later saves every link I have ever saved to read later in a nice little list I can access anywhere. And it is searchable too by key term, tag or date. Now that is handy!

As I said before Read It Later is available for any browser with the simple bookmarklet. There is one for adding the site to your Read It Later List and one for marking it read. But if you want more functionality you can get the Read It Later Extensions for either Firefox or Chrome.

Want to have access on your iTouch or iPhone or iPad? No problem. There are apps for those devices too. Do you have a Droid? If you useDolphin you can use the bookmarklets or you can download the PaperDroid app in the Android Marketplace.

Once you get your list started (and you have some time) you can log into your account, anywhere you have Internet access and see all the sites you marked and can visit them at your leisure. Each site opens in a new window so you don't have to worry about going back and forth to your list. Once you are done with the site you can unckeck it but remember, you have the "Read" list so you can revisit it in the future.

One of the new features is your List with a brain. Called Digest, you get a highly organized and personalized site of all your saves that reads like a newspaper. It costs 5 bucks. I haven't done it but it looks neat.

Right now I have over 700 sites. Yep, over 700 in my list. Some have been in there since I started using the service about a year ago, and I just haven't gotten around to looking at them but I know I want to some time. So if you are looking for a quick and easy way to save all those great resources you get from Twitter that you just don't have time to check out, give Read It Later a try. I promise, you won't know what you did before it!

Video Guide to Conference Awesomeness

Earlier this month I shared with you Sacha Chua's great guide to conference awesomeness (her word choice). That guide is designed to help shy people connect with others and make the most out the conferences they attend. Well now she's made a video explaining the things in her Shy Connector's guide. The video is just under eight minutes in length. Even if you're not a shy person, the guide and video offer tips that anyone can use to maximize their conference experiences.

View All Microsoft Formats in Google Docs

Somehow I missed Google's announcement last Friday that the Google Docs viewer now supports all Microsoft Office file types. The viewer also supports Apple's Pages files. If you have files in any of those formats you can now upload them to your Google Docs account and view them from any computer. Most importantly, if someone sends you one of these file types as an attachment to your Gmail account, you can view the file without having to download it.

Applications for Education
If you work in a school environment in which your students and colleagues use a variety of word processing services the support for multiple file types in Google Docs could make managing the files sent to you a whole lot easier. Rather than trying to save files into multiple folders or trying to convert the files before saving, you can just read them in Google Docs.

Customer Service and the Services We Choose

Image Credit: RW PhotoBug
This is a guest post from Harold Shaw, Jr. Harold and I got started in the ed tech blog-o-sphere about the same and met virtually during a call-in show on Wicked Decent Learning. A few months later we met in person when he lent me an OLPC laptop to try out with students. 

I want to thank Rich for giving me the opportunity to guest post on his blog. I got the idea for this post as a result of his recent struggles with his cable company and Internet Service Provider.

Customer Service - what is it? Pretty simple in theory, taking care of the people who use your products and finding solutions to problems they are having with those products as quickly as possible. Customer service is changing due to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc.  In the past most customer service issues were handled between the two parties at a relatively low organizational level. However, with the advent of social media, companies can “listen in” to know what people are really saying about their company at much higher levels - if they choose to and act upon those issues differently than they have in the past.

I recently wrote a post about MarsEdit, how it was not working for me and added the link to that post on Twitter. Within a couple of hours, I had a reply from Daniel at Red-Shirt Software asking me to contact him. We went back and forth for about a week and he figured out what the problem was, fixed the main issue I was having with MarsEdit, which made me a very happy customer. Due to his efforts I will continue using MarsEdit as my blog editor on the Mac. Also according to Daniel, they have some good things planned to improve MarsEdit and I look forward to seeing the updates that are in the pipeline.

While this is only an example of great customer service, it is not an isolated instance of companies paying attention to what is being said about their products on social media sites like Twitter.  I believe that almost all companies are actively listening to what is being said about their products on social media websites and attempt to resolve customer service issues that are discussed there as quickly as possible - they really don’t want something about their product going viral.

In today's world of Twitter, Blogging, Facebook and other forms of social media, when we review or discuss a product or service, our words can be spread to 100's, 1,000's or even more people almost instantaneously. These words can have a powerful effect on a product or business positively or negatively, therefore, we also have the responsibility to ensure that what we are saying is accurate, to the best of our ability.  

When I write and publish a post about a customer service issue or something that doesn’t work to my satisfaction and am angry or frustrated, are those the same words I would choose later?  In most cases they are not.  Usually I am simply venting and haven’t given the vendor an opportunity to actually have time to resolve the issue. Is venting this in public fair to that business or product if they haven’t had a reasonable opportunity to resolve the issue. I don’t really think so. I also know that I am not the most patient person when comes to technology  I just want it to work and work when I want it to (does that sound familiar to anyone else out there?).

I use the following rule of thumb when I am going to say something negative about a product or a businesses customer service - wait 24-48 hours (depending on how frustrated or angry I am) after writing the entry before publishing. That way I have time to take out something or edit it differently before others get to read it.  Who know perhaps, just perhaps you might get great customer service while you are waiting and have a completely different story to tell than the one you originally would have wrote about.  Then again if there is no resolution in sight and you have all you facts correct, you should be honest about what is going on, but like my grandmother used to say “a little honey goes a long way, where a lot of vinegar just doesn’t do whole lot of good sometimes.”

This relatively new power to communicate with with anyone within an organization via social media has empowered the “little guy” to be heard by people other than just that person on the other end of the phone or who reads your letter and throws it in a file “someplace”.  To my way of thinking this is a good thing.

What do you think? Has social media changed customer service in today's technology-based world? Does a company's use of social media influence your decision to use their products?

Maps Compare - Four Maps on One Page

Maps Compare is a site that allows you to compare Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, Bing Maps, and Google Earth browser plug-in on one page. To use the service just enter the name of the place you're searching for and Maps Compare will display that place on all four maps at once. Zoom in or zoom out on one of the maps and you're doing the same on the other three.
Applications for Education
Maps Compare makes it easy to compare the maps of four commonly used services. Each map displays the same place just a little bit differently. The differences could be used in an introductory lesson in geography and cartography.