I am a bit of a productivity geek. It is really interesting to find a new life hack that improves my day to day productivity and I like reading about how other people stay productive. Some of my favorite weekly articles are Lifehacker’s How I Work, Use This, and What’s in My Bag?. Along those themes I wanted to start documenting the tools I use to get things done and see how they change from year to year. So these are the products and services that help me stay productive.
What hardware do you use?
My phone is the OnePlus 5T with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. I consider this to be my primary device because I use it every single day. There are days that go by where I don’t use my desktop and/or laptop. The OnePlus 5T is a couple of years old but the battery life and performance are still fantastic.
At home I have a custom desktop computer that I built about 10 years ago. It has a Quad-core 3.2 Ghz AMD processor with 8 GB RAM. At the time I built the computer it was a pretty powerful machine and ten years later it still gets everything I need to done (web browsing, document editing, music, Plex server, and light video editing with Camtasia). I added some hard drives to it over the years and the first one just failed on me a few months ago.
At work I use a 2017 13-inch Macbook Pro with Touchbar. It has a Core i5 and 16 GB RAM which is plenty for the work I do on it. People always ask about the Touch Bar. I don’t use it much and would be fine without the Touch Bar. I also use an old 4th generation iPad. It is stuck on iOS 10.3.3 but I primarily use it as a second monitor on my MacBook.
As for the accessories, I use a Logitech K800 wireless keyboard often when I do presentations or workshops. I’ve had the same one for over 5 years and just had to change the batteries. I recently purchased a Fuse Reel The Side Winder for cable management on my MacBook Pro. It has been fantastic. I have the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 2100 Wireless Headphones for when I run/workout at the gym and they are first bluetooth gym headphones to not die on me in under a year. I also have a Garmin Forerunner 25 to log my runs.
And what software?
Since I use a variety of devices/patforms the software I use must work across these devices/platforms (Windows, macOS, Android, and Web) as well as the ability to export my data. If the software doesn’t have those features I am very hesitant to use it.
On the Windows desktop I use Storage Spaces for a software based RAID. I’ve been using it for over 5 years and haven’t had any problems. I use Storage Spaces for my Plex server. It is nice to have a backup for all the media I’ve had since high school / college. On the Mac, I user Noti for Pushbullet notifications and Spectacles for window management. On Android, I use Fenix for Twitter, KeePass2Android, Microsoft Outlook for my work email and my calendars (I always seem to have sync issues with Google Calendar and Office 365), and Solid Explorer. On the iPad, the only thing I use it for is a secondary display for my MacBook Pro with Duet. The iPad is too slow to get any work done but works great as a secondary display.
Cross platform apps/services I use include Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive (this is what I use for all of my doument backups), Google Photos (full resolution backups), Google Voice, Chrome Remote Desktop, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Authy, Typora, KeeWeb (Windows, Mac), Camtasia, VLC, Plex, Feedly, Nuzzel, Pocket, Buffer, Pushbullet, and Dark Sky.
Two new additions to my workflow are Microsoft To Do and Dropbox Paper. I have been a Wunderlist user for years but Microsoft has notified users the product will be sunset soon so I made the switch to To Do. The only thing I miss is the Wunderlist browser extension; there is no browser extension for To Do. When I see a website I want to check at a specific date/time I usually add it to To Do but I can’t do that on my desktop browser. (As a workaround I’ll use Chrome’s send to device feature then use the To Do mobile app). I also started to use Dropbox Paper for note taking. I really have grown fond of markdown since I started this blog about a year ago. Markdown is very simple and clean to use. Dropbox Paper essentially uses markdown for the formatting and also allows you to embed multimedia easily. I wish it was a little more open with uploading a markdown file to the service but overall I really like it.
What about in the classroom?
I teach an introductory coding class to 8th grade middle school students (we have a great podcast called Coding Lab EDU you should check out) and I also help support instructional technology at the middle school and high school in my district through modeling best practices, co-teaching, and facilitating workshops.
My school district has shifted to Chromebooks over the past two years although we still have some Windows laptops and desktops as well as Macs for specific classes in the district. Chromebooks seem to load faster and have far less connectivity issues. Almost all of the instructional technology tools we use in the district are web-based which makes Chromebooks a perfect solution for us.
I use Google Classroom for the courses I teach (with both students and teachers). Google Classroom has grown on me but I still prefer Schoology. I wish Google Classroom had the competency based options for assignments like Schoology. With Google Classroom I need to individually enable assignments as students satisfactorily complete them. It would be nice to create rules like Schoology (ie: if student scores above 80% they can start the next assignment).
For the introductory coding class we use Scratch. Most of the students I work with have no coding experience and Scratch is great way to learn coding vocabulary before trying more traditional coding languages. For students who have coding experience I use Python (although many students with experience choose to use Scratch for their projects). When creating sprites for projects my students often use AutoDraw. It is a great way to quickly create royalty free images to use in projects. Some of the other tools I use are Google Drive, Adobe Spark, BrainPop, Breakout EDU, Newsela, Edublogs, Flipgrid, Soundtrap, Gradecam, Nearpod, Padlet, Remind, and Storyboard That.
Photo: Hunters Race / Unsplash