Sunday, September 23, 2012

Searching for the Perfect Search

Do you know of an app that I could use with my toddler to help him with math?  I just got an iPad for my daughter, do you know of any good apps?  Do you have any opening activities for the SMART Board?  I probably get 10 questions a day anywhere from how to make a game on the SMART Board to how create buttons on Proloquo2Go (communication app).  Somehow, I've become that guy in our school that everyone asks when they have techie questions.  My training--I'll teach you.  It's quite simple.  Here are my order of operations:

This one is a big duh!  When in doubt about anything, type in your exact topic or question and it's very likely that someone (a super nerd) has your answer.  Google is the king of search engines by a bazillion.  They have fancy algorithms to help you find your answer.  That's about as technical as I can get.

You thought YouTube was about viral videos like "Charlie Bit My Finger" or the old couple trying to figure out their webcam?  YouTube not only gives you the answer, but shows you in tutorial fashion.  If you wonder what an app is like before you buy it, type in "_____________app" and you'll either find the developer's video or another Super Nerd's tutorial.  I love how there are people out there that do all of the dirty work for you.  Really, the only effort it takes on your part is to have an idea and type it in the search engine.  YouTube is awesome for figuring out how to format Excel sheets, how to troubleshoot SMART Board problems, and how to create a simple communication board using Boardmaker.  Seriously, type in anything and some super nerd has made a video about it.  Everything.

Unless you're a mid-level nerd like me, you probably haven't heard of Diigo.  You know those bookmarks that you have up above in Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari that you never use or remember, but they sound neat at the moment?  Well, Diigo is a social bookmarking site that saves your bookmarks and tags them for later use.  For example, you can type in "middle school iPad apps" and any bookmark that you previously bookmarked with those tags will come up.  Nothing comes up?  You're in luck because you can look at everybody else's Diigo bookmarks with those tags.  Not only that, you can see how many people bookmarked and recommended the sites--saving you time searching website after website looking for what you need.  Try it.  I dare you.

Now, as I've become an experienced searcher, I've turned the tables.  The searches come to me.  What?  That makes no sense.  What is the internet?  Information.  People.  Resources.  Social networks.  What if you were interested in something and when you turn on your computer it is sitting right there in front of your face?  Have you ever heard, "You don't know what you don't know."?  How do I do it?  Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.  Twitter mostly.  It took me awhile to figure out the difference between Twitter and Facebook.  Aren't they both just "status updates"?  Nope.  That's the difference.  I see Facebook as a social network where you interact mostly with people you know (Although, there's always that random person you don't know who befriended you, right?).  You "Like" people, hobbies, websites, and events.  You read it.  People comment on it.  It's shared......and so on.  

Now, Twitter is similar in the fact that people are sharing and giving information.  Most people on Twitter don't post pictures of their roasted chicken with rosemary sauce, the temperature gauge in their cars, or the gas pump's outrageous price on your most recent fill up.  Who cares about that stuff?  Maybe your friends and family (maybe not).  Twitter, however, is like a GIANT room filled with people that you share a common interest.  You "follow" people like you--be it a speech pathologist, a teacher, a programmer, a mom, a blogger, an artist, a musician, a knitter, an athlete, a fan, and so on.  You end up creating a "personal learning network" or PLN.  What you have now when you log on is a wall full of useful (mostly) information that you're interested in and can share with others.  For instance, one person shared that the "Marble Math" app was free today only and another posted a question asking what activities could be done on a SMART Board with pre-school kids.  Remember how people commented on FB about your sandwich or the weather?  Instead of that, people comment on your topic of interest--people that know what they're talking about.  It takes a certain amount of drive to jump into another social network besides Facebook or Pinterest, but Twitter is well worth it once you figure it out.  I can honestly say that I get many of "my" ideas from others on Twitter.

Finally, I'd like to admit that I am a male and I am on Pinterest.  It is similar to Twitter, but much more visual (all visual).  If you aren't on Pinterest, it's basically a giant bulletin board of ideas, projects, recipes, crafts, favorite quotes, gadgets, and activities for kids.  You can either create your own bulletin boards (recommended to save your ideas/pins) or search everyone else's.  Try a search on Pinterest like "SMARTBoard" and see what you get.  Guess what you get?  A ton of resources.  I've started pages for Speech Therapy, iPad Stuff, & Cool Gadgets among other things.  Find friends, colleagues, or strangers and add their boards to your big board.  You'll have to trust me--there are more things on there besides hairstyles!