“The BAD Old Days” – Reflections on Productivity Tools

In thinking about current internet productivity tools out there, I am struck by how easy they can make it to discover information, share it, and effectively work together with others. I know that is what they promise to do, so it should not come as a shock, but the contrast with how we ‘used to do things’ is striking.

Even something as simple as Google’s main search page, while technically one could call this a ‘search engine,’ I believe that this is a huge productivity tool. If you remember the early days of the Internet (Lycos and Alta Vista, anyone?), generating even a basic internet search was not a simple matter. You could not just type in what you wanted to find, and expect to find it right away. You would often have to wade through several pages of links that, at best, were tangentially related to your search terms. Google and their search algorithms, of course, changed all that. It is pretty incredible how accurate a google search is in finding exactly what you are looking for, not to mention that ‘add ons,’ like images that relate to your search, products with links to stores to buy the item in question, etc.

Sharing documents has also changed dramatically. Emailing word docs back and forth, making sure you had the right version, while at the time was a great advance, was often tedious as well. Tools like Google Docs, Drop Box, Evernote, and Noterize (for iPad), have made sharing with others and yourself accross multiple devices, ridiculously easy.

One area that I have really been interested in has been in using productivity tools to enhance faculty observation and classroom walkthroughs. I came across an interesting blog post for using Google Docs in classroom walkthroughs, which can be found HERE. I  also came across an article on administrators in a Wisconsin school using iPads to collect, share, and analyze data on their classroom walkthroughs. I followed up with the administrator in the article, who told me about the iPad app “Noterize” that they use for this purpose.

Often times, new advances in technology are heralded as game changers, and there is often more hype than substance. But in the case of productivity documents, in my opinion at least, they really deliver on their promise.

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