Apps for the Commuter: Update

April 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

In January I shared how I make the most of my commute by having VoiceOver read books and articles to me: Apps for the Commuter.  I’m attending an Apple Leadership event at Apple headquarters in Cupertino today, and I just found out a better way to use VoiceOver.  I’ve always thought I had to turn it on and have it on for everything.  It turns out there is a shortcut that makes it easier to turn on and off on the fly.  Here are the directions. « Read the rest of this entry »

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Apps for the Commuter

January 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last week, Profhacker’s Open Thread Wednesday asked about our favorite mobile apps.  The text of my response is below, with the addition of links:

I have to give a shout out not to an app but to some built in functionality in iPads and iPhones. My commute can be up to an hour, and since public transportation is not an option that means all driving and no reading.

I find VoiceOver–one of the accessibility features on the iPad and iPhone–to be invaluable. Here’s how I include it in my workflow. During breakfast, I read RSS feeds using Mr. Reader on my iPad. (I love this app because I can send articles to Instapaper, Diigo, twitter, etc.). I send the articles I want to read later to Instapaper and make sure they download before I leave the house. (I only have wireless on my iPad, so no downloads on the road.) In the garage, I open Instapaper and ask Siri to turn on VoiceOver. Then I start my iPad reading and listen to the morning’s news while I drive. When I arrive on campus, Siri is once again working on the campus wireless network, so I have her turn off VoiceOver.

Turning on VoiceOver

Turning on VoiceOver

You can also turn VoiceOver on and off using the menu, but when it is on it takes more clicks. You can find the feature under Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver. You can also set the speed of the voice here.  I find I have to keep mine closer to the tortoise and the hare so I can follow the text while I am driving.  Be aware that touch gestures may be different in this mode.  For example, you must click to select, then double click to open items.  Scrolling is also different.

Alternatively, I have used Voiceover to read books in the kindle app. I found that I could do one chapter of Hirsch’s Digital Humanities Pedagogy per drive, and I could almost hear Lisa Spiro or Tanya Clement talking as their works were read to me. I also used VoiceOver when riding in an airport shuttle when reading made me queasy.

Using my iPad for this reading means that my iPhone is still free for other uses, like checking traffic on the maps app during traffic jams.  I find this type of reading useful for texts I want to familiarize myself with but which I don’t need to go in depth. Since I’ve also saved them to diigo, I can always go back to them when I need to read deeper.  VoiceOver works better on connected prose because if you miss a word, you can usually get the meaning by context.  Finally, I had to slow the pace of the voice down to make sure I caught everything.

Managing Email

October 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

My Email Folders for Workflow

My Email Folders for Workflow

Inspired by a post by Jesse Stommel in ProfHacker, “How to Crowdsource and Gamify Your E-mail” I posted the following comment, which I repost here:

Jesse, I feel your pain.  After starting in my new position at St. Edward’s I left behind 11 years worth of email and now had a chance to start fresh.  Faced with a new email platform (zimbra), I decided I needed to implement a new workflow.  Since zimbra has both tags and folders, I decided I should use both.  Now I tag for content; like google apps (my last system), I can use multiple tags on one item (as long as I use the zimbra web interface).  I use folders for the status of email.  My folder names include announcements, contacts_info, documents, done, follow-up, in progress, info,  need response, news, personal, priority, reading, repeating tasks.  I find myself most often using “done” (very satisfying) and “in progress”.  My theory is that I can check back into “in progress” to follow-up on tasks on my plate.  When my email quota is full, I plan on deleting the “done” folder, or maybe the “documents” folder, which holds messages with attached documents.  I managed to stay at inbox zero for a few weeks, but now as I begin my fourth month at St. Edward’s I must admit that today it sits at over 100.  Sigh. Like all email systems, it has fallen to the my meeting schedule.  Having read your post, however, I feel a new optimism to tackle the inbox.  At least it’s not at 300+!

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