Organize Through Orchestrate

One of my goals this school year is to move away from apps like Word and PowerPoint to the open source or online versions that are popping up all over the place. For the last few years I’ve been using OmniOutliner to set priorities, print out lists, and keep basic to do lists. As with all organization tools in my life, I have periods of intense use followed by periods of sporadic use. One of the reasons why I usually end up not using it is actually quite simple – it is just another application, sometimes one of 10 or more that are open. Plus, I have so many “projects” that my list ended up being cluterred, and in the end, unorganized. I did try and use Entourage’s project management feature, but that was the space shuttle solution for my skateboard problem.

I may have just found the perfect tool and solution.

Orchestrate is an online task manager created by a guy named Yongfook. He created it out of a personal need to manage multiple tasks easily. Essentially, you can create any number of task lists, which are subjects, projects, etc. These are always visible on the left side of the screen. You can pull one or more of the task lists to the right side of the screen where they open up into simple lists with check boxes. Adding task lists or items to the list is as simple as typing it in a small text box and hitting return. It is incredibly simple to use and elegant in its simplicity. When you check a box, it smoothly moves the item to the bottom of the list, greys it out, and makes it smaller.

Here are a couple screen shots.

Here we have the Task List. It tells you how many items you have completed and how many are “pending.”

Next we have the actual to do lists. You can hide these if they are not currently what you need, but they the list title will always appear in the task list above.

During the last week, I’ve had it sitting open in a tab in FireFox and have found that with it right there, instead of another application, I am referencing it more often AND the tab is constantly in view (unless I have more then about 10 tabs open, which does happen sometimes…).

While not necessarily a community Web 2.0 application, it shows what many, including Will Richardson, have been saying. The web is the new OS. I think I originally found Orchestrate on Techcrunch.

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Why Moodle Matters Even More

With the passage of HR5319, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), by the House and probable passage by the Senate, it looks like the federal government will do its best to try and regulate emerging technologies. In a nutshell, this bill will require schools and libraries to block social networking sites or risk losing federal money.

Like many things the federal government has done in the last few years, the fear factor is central. We must fight those online predators – where ever they are hiding. As a father, I agree it is a bit scary. I also know my kids will go to a park without my wife or myself sometime in the future (they are 3 and 5 now). We have been teaching them not to talk to strangers since they could talk so they will be able to explore the world a bit without mommy and daddy (or Big Brother) looking over their shoulders. We now have more to teach our kids, don’t talk to strangers at the park AND online. Simple. We can teach this lesson at home AND we can teach them at school.

As a blogger and a teacher who has used Web 2.0 apps with my students, I also know there is a big difference between what I have done with wikis and the students’ personal use of MySpace. However, this bill could place both of those uses in the same category. Essentially DOPA outlines criteria for sites that should be blocked by schools and libraries, if it

1) is offered by a commercial entity 2) has online profiles 3) has journal or blogging features 4) elicits personal information and 5) enables communication among users. (from Firewheel Design).

In addition to MySpace, it looks like many forms of public Web 2.0 apps could be included – Blogger (Blogspot sites), wikis (PB Wiki, Wikispaces), Flickr, YouTube, and even Amazon. Pretty much everything new. In education we are already struggling to get cutting edge technology into the hands of students. Between lack of resources, lack of professional development, reluctant teachers, reluctant adminstrators, the massive emphasis on standards, and the test-driven educational system, integration of these new technologies already faces an uphill battle. Yet, most of our students are online often and the evolving American/global job market is placing a greater emphasis on technology and information management.

Who is teaching them how to act out there? DOPA doesn’t include any measures to educate only to block access. Of course, most students probably chat and update their MySpace at home, so this measure is ineffective to begin with.

So that brings us to Moodle. It is not a commercial undertaking. It does have online profiles, blogging, asks for personal info, and enables communication among users. But, it does it in a closed network. It can be easily set to block access or, at least, block contributions from non-members. Students can learn responsible online behavior in the safety of a classroom. It is an amazing tool, but it also not the same as blogger or pbwiki or youtube.

Is this ideal? No. It is ridiculous that the legislators, whom are mostly digital immigrants – at best, are passing laws and judgement on technology without fully understanding the implications or consulting with actual librarians and teachers. If you missed Senator Steven’s (the committee chair in charge of Internet regulation) comments on the Internet, you can view it here. Be afraid, very afraid. In the end, we still have the responsibility to try and prepare students for the real world. Today’s real world includes social software and Web 2.0.

More information on DOPA can be found at:

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