This post is for teachers like me who generally plan some kind of "work" project for the summer, imagining how good it will feel to salt some big something away for the next school year, but vaguely dreading a tedious task. It's easy to imagine that "technology" might be such a project for a teacher who is anxious to bring a meaningful internet activity with his or her classes.
If so, I suggest that you relax, find something limited in scope, and explore areas that may have lifestyle benefits even if they don't work out for school.
I've put together some possibilities that are QRS- quick, rich simple.
* Open a Flickr account and spend a couple of hours collecting photos on a subject of interest. When I began to search for pictures to publish in my Dad's Ann Arbor Memories book, I became absolutely intoxicated with this resource for personal and/or classroom use.
* If you don't have a Google Account, open one. Go to Docs. Then spend a couple of hours uploading a handful of your most heavily used documents. After they are uploaded, "share" them by publishing them as web page. Be sure to check the "automatically republish when changes are made box". Now you have some options. You might want to book mark your documents. Better yet, link them all to a single table of contents which you also publish and bookmark. The publishing feature of Google Docs has probably impacted my work life more than any other tech application (with the exception of web browsers). I think the experience of playing with Doc htmls will open up your eyes to some great info sharing possibilities.
* Record a lecture with Audacity (or better yet, GarageBand). Choose a topic that is tried and true. If it is longer than eight minutes, plan to break it into parts. Audacity is a free download and if your computer has a built-in mic, all you have to do is press the red button on the application and record. Upload the file(s) to Moodle or some other storage site like box.net. When lecture time rolls around next school year, have the students bring headphones to class or listen to the talk as homework. You'll have discovered the joy of podcasting.
* I won't repeat my Why Twitter? post here, but I have a fast track suggestion if you want to jump into Twitter with both feet. Sign up for an account. Decide what kind of information flow you want. Identify a couple of heavily followed Tweeters in that area, and then "follow" who they are following. For example, I do Twitter for Web 2.0 teaching info. The majority of those I follow provide quality tweets on Web 2.0. If you poached my list, you would get the same flow of information to start and then you could tailor it to your interests. (You don't need permission to follow others on Twitter).
* Enjoy learning about religion, history, math, science, literature, etc.? As summer homework, download some courses from Yale, Stanford, Michigan, or Oxford. Put then in your iPod and listen to them while you garden or walk. Where do you get them and how much will this cost? These lectures are free and available by the dozen on any topic at iTunes U.
* Researching a vacation or prepping a new topic? The next time you complete your research try Diigo. Get used to using tags and enjoy the highlighting and sticky notes features. Better yet, see if you can collaborate with a friend or colleague on this project and have the experience of sharing bookmarks, highlights and notes.
* Many of my baby boomer friends have been bemoaning the demise of their daily newspapers. Have you tried setting up an RSS Reader, yet? Most of your favorite newspapers have set up some rss feeds for their columnists and bloggers. (Locally, the Detroit News has been most successful transitioning their writers to blogging). Of course a Reader has the advantage of pulling blogs from sources all over the internet. Once you start, it will be hard to resist the urge to overload. Educational uses? Hey, teachers deserve a few moments of quiet time with their "newspaper" in order to be at their best with their students.
P.S. If you wish to explore more easy to use tools, check out the Web Warriors.
"Summer Relaxation" Flickr Creative Commons photo by Third Eye Studios
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