Tech Tips to Save a Few Trees

These tips have come about in the course of teaching graduate students – they give me great ideas. I think they might be useful to anyone who teaches, however. They should certainly be useful in the media center.

1. Use your iPod as a notecard. I’m not sure if all iPod models can do this, but mine has a Notes feature. I have been using this to provide reminders of things we need to discuss in class.

When I teach class, my office is 100 miles away. My goal is to carry less and less stuff with me as I travel to my classroom. (This goal works hand in hand with another goal, which is to use less and less paper.) At the same time, I must have a Plan B in case of technology failure – and this is one strategy.

I make text files (in, say, Notepad) that contain the essential bullet points of things I must remember for that day. Somewhere in iTunes you can enable the iPod as a drive. With the iPod connected to the computer, I simply drag my text files over to the folder called “Notes.”

This is not for heavy duty files or long documents. Also, it’s not interactive in any way since you can’t input information into the iPod while you’re on the road. But I have found it handy as a way to avoid cluttered sets of sticky notes and printouts.

2. A low-tech tech tip: reusable checklists. If you have sets of procedures on a checklist, and you repeat these steps over and over, here is a way to avoid printing out a new checklist each time. (For example, I have a checklist of tasks that must be done in preparation for each class, and they repeat weekly. This tip would work for grocery lists, travel packing lists, etc.)

Make your list in Word. I use double brackets [] to make a quick box for check marks, but you can find fancy bullets in Word if you want. Print the list. Insert it in a plastic protection sleeve that you might use in a 3-ring binder – choose the clear kind so that you can see the paper easily. Use a dry-erase or Vis-à-vis marker to mark off items when they’re done. When this project or lesson is complete, use a damp paper towel to wipe off the markings and reuse for next time. (I keep a special paper towel for this, which can be used many times.) Less work, less paper, less ink.

3. Diigo (www.diigo.com). I’m just beginning to use this tool and don’t understand it thoroughly yet. It’s a social networking tool, but more so for my purposes it’s a way to highlight and annotate web pages and save them for future reference. You can simply read a web page and highlight interesting points, or you can also attach “sticky notes” to help you remember what you thought as you were reading it. You can make your work private or share it with the world – your choice.

I’ve been hearing buzz about other ways to use Diigo, like for bookmarking. For me, though, I see two primary uses. One is for my personal scholarship. My job requires me to read a great deal, and more and more of the material is online. To avoid printing reams of articles and then having the problem of where to store them, I can use Diigo as a storage and organization system for my personal library.

A second use is for evaluation. My job also requires me to evaluate student work that often takes the form of web pages. (I’ve become quite addicted to Word’s powerful annotation features for assignments submitted in that format.) With Diigo, I can comment upon their work directly on the page and then share the feedback with the student privately. So far, the best way to do this seems to be to set up a group of two, but there may be better ways. You can also have Diigo collect your annotations and send them to a “Friend.” Think about the stacks of paper this process saves.

I hope one of these ideas may be useful to you as we all enjoy the new treasures of Web 2.0 and as we try to preserve our precious natural resources!

MaryAnn Fitzgerald
University of Georgia

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Posted on April 5, 2008, in Technology. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Okay, okay, you got me. That Diigo IS pretty cool. Spent the last couple hours moving and linking and highlighting and tagging.

    Thanks again.

  2. First of all, I’m not sure paper is less healthy for the environment than digital, see: http://www.china-pix.com/multimedia/guiyu/

    But aside from that, wouldn’t Jott.com (assuming you’re bringing your laptop to class) be easier? Or just using the Notes feature on even the most generic cell phone?

    Diigo is new to me and sounds cool. How is it different/better than Google Notebook/del.icio.us or your own wiki?

    Thanks for the tips!

  1. Pingback: Odds & Ends (04/11/08) | Tech Tips & Timely Tidbits

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