Thursday, November 29, 2012

Online Organizational Tools

I am always trying to be more organized, and am easily seduced by the promise of a more efficient, more productive, able-to-multi-task, me.  About a year ago, I saw this video promoting Microsoft's Outlook and how it could sync my work and home calendars, and was hooked.

I've since switched to Google Calendar, which syncs more seamlessly, but I still wanted something to help me organize my projects -- those endless to-do lists with sub-lists of their own.

First, I tried out lino, which is really just an online bulletin board.  It lets you post "sticky notes" with lists, photos and other attachments.  You can also have several "canvases," which is nice if you have larger projects which need several sticky notes of their own.  You can also send the notes to others, but I admit I never used that feature.  Although I don't really have anything negative to say about lino, I didn't use it much and it didn't help me get more organized.

I'm currently trying out Trello, another online organizing tool, and I think I'm going to stick with this one.  My test case was a photo wall project I've been sitting on for over a year now.  This project is just one item on my to-do list, which is itself only one "card" on my household "board."  But Trello allowed me to put inspiration photos, checklists, and other notes, all on this photo project card.

Trello is actually meant for collaborative projects, but its format works well with the way I think.  I'm happy to say that my photo wall project is well on its way to completion!  I promise to post a photo of it soon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Word Clouds

Wordle is not only a fun teaching tool but also something you can just play around with yourself or with your kids.  To create the Tagxedo one above, I quickly collected a list of words that represent me, then played around a little with colours, fonts and orientation.  Are you ready to try your own "word cloud?"

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pomegranate Syrup Revisited

A few weeks ago we finally tried making our own pomegranate syrup, or nar ekşisi.  I've written about this delicious staple of our household's diet before, so click here and here if you want a little history of our love affair with this condiment.  

C bought 15kg of pomegranate from a small local grocer's for about 20 Turkish Lira, a bargain in Istanbul, and one Sunday afternoon after brunch, we put our friends to work peeling the lovely fruit!  There's nothing like good company and conversation to make a job fun and easy!

We then squeezed the juice out of the seeds, drinking several glassfuls of the sweet-sour juice in the process.  (Hint: if you're careful about separating all the white pith from the fruit, you don't get any of the bitterness that comes with pressed pomegranate juice, where an entire half fruit is simply squeezed.)

We lit the mangal and let the juice condense in a cast iron pot for several hours, until it reached the consistency we wanted.  15 kg of pomegranate produced 1 Litre of pomegranate syrup, which explains why the pure stuff is so expensive and difficult to find!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

iPads for Kids

I've toyed with starting a second, professional blog, but I've decided instead to marry the teacher and the mother that I am and combine them -- with a twist.  From now on I will periodically include posts about education that are specifically of interest to parents.  In other words, I'd like to share with my non-teacher friends, trends and developments and hot topics in education that they might be interested in as parents, aunts and uncles, or grandparents.

Now straight to my first topic: do you give your toddlers, never mind your primary school-aged children, iPads?

We don't have a TV in our home, and I am the first to cringe when I see kids frittering away hours with various technology.  But a recent conversation with Dr. Shabbi Luthra, Director of Technology at the American School of Bombay, confirmed my growing hunch that 'protecting' my children from technology would be doing them a tremendous disservice.  The key is teaching your children how to responsibly and correctly use technology.  After all, it's as much about the skills that 21st century learners need to navigate this new digital age, as it is the incredible possibilities for creativity and collaboration that technology opens up.

Imagine this: a grade one class in Toronto is learning to read and write.  Their teacher types up their stories and posts them on the class blog.  She uses her own Facebook network to spread the word and encourage teachers in other countries to read and comment on her class' blog.  The students check in daily to read and respond to comments, and add thumbtacks on a map on the classroom wall to represent all the places in the world their blog is being read.  They have live Skype chats with students at an international school in Seoul, Korea.  They write each other letters.  And this is just the beginning.

The above is not specific to the iPad, but rather shows how technology enables kids to collaborate and get outside of the classroom.  For more specific uses of the iPad in the classroom (or for ideas you could modify and use at home), click here for an October 31st post on Edutopia, George Lucas' educational foundation.

So do you think kids should have access to iPads or not?  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thinking About Coming Back ...

It's been a year since I last posted to this blog and in that time, I've:

  • spent delicious and challenging time as a stay-at-home mother with my two sons, 18.5 months apart in age (yes, I'm patting myself on the back just a little here ... it wasn't easy, but I got through those first difficult months!);
  • traveled home to Canada with my family twice;
  • returned to work after a 7-month maternity leave (incredibly long by Turkish standards);
  • started a second Masters degree (an M.Sc., no less!);
  • spent a night away from my kids for the first time ever -- twice!
  • presented at two conferences (hence the nights away);
  • watched my older son start preschool;
  • attempted several times to get into a regular exercise routine;
  • toilet trained a toddler;
  • committed to getting a dog (she arrives in about two weeks).
Now I'm thinking of resuming this blog.  We'll see!