Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Craig McClellan, and I teach 2nd grade at a public school in Nashville, TN. I am also a graduate student studying Instructional Practice in ELL (English Language Learners), and blog about technology (mostly
Apple) in education at The Class Nerd. You can find me on twitter at @craigmcclellan.
What hardware are you using?
Here’s my personal setup:
- 2013 13’ Retina Macbook Pro w/ 2.4GHz i5, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB hard drive. OS X 10.11 Public Beta
- iPad Air 2 in Silver w/ 64GB HardDrive iOS 9
- iPhone 6 in Silver w/ 64GB HardDrive iOS 9 Public Beta
- Apple Watch Stainless Steel 42mm w/Classic Buckle and White Sport Band
I purchased the Macbook Pro in the spring of 2014 when my beloved Macbook Air was stolen. At the time, the pricing between an Air and Pro with similar RAM and storage was only $100. It made a financial sense to get a more powerful machine with a retina display for so little more (relatively). However
, I have missed the form factor of the Macbook Air every day since I got this machine. It was my favorite Mac I’ve ever owned.
The iPad Air 2 is also a delight to use, and I find myself using it as much if not more than my Mac. The new features coming in iOS 9 have m
ade this device a force to be reckoned with.
My next iPhone will definitely be in the 6+ size (though probably not for another year). Now that I have an Apple Watch, I don’t take my phone out of my pocket as much, so the larger size won’t be as inconvenient. However, I’d like to be able to do more work on my phone when I do use it.
The Apple Watch is a delight, especially in the classroom. I can leave my phone plugged into my classroom sound system and still get my most important notifications^1 on my wrist. As much as I hate to admit it, my phone can be a distraction even in the classroom. The watch keeps me more engaged with my students. I can’t wait for watchOS 2 this month though. Native apps, and 3rd party complications are going to be amazing.
My classroom also has 3 old Dell desktops (one for me, and 2 for students), an iPad 4, 2 iPad minis on the way, and a Mimio smartboard (to be installed in the next few days).
And what software?
Software for Personal Productivity
One of my main requirements for personal productivity software is that it be available on Mac and both iOS devices and have some way to sync. I move between my devices so much I need my tools to be consistent.
Ulysses: Ulysses is a Markdown text editor for Mac and iPad (though iPhone is on the way). Markdown is a way of writing in plain text that allows you to quickly write, add in formatting, but not have to spend a lot of time on formatting like in a word processor. The goal of writing in Markdown is to write. Markdown editors are everywhere these days, and while there are some other really good ones out there, I always come back to Ulysses for its organization of files. It makes writing long passages (I’m currently working on a 35-50 page research paper for grad school) far easier to work with. I write for my blog, parent newsletters, grad school assignments, and more all in Ulysses. My responses to these questions were written on both my Mac and iPad using Ulysses.
OmniFocus: OmniFocus is my task manager of choice. If I’m being honest, the beginning of the school year is so insane that I’m not good at maintaining my OmniFocus lists. I try to follow David Allen’s GTD system though, and I always find I’m more stressed out when I don’t stick with it well.
Apple Notes: Right? Who would have thought. Having been on the El Capitan and iOS 9 public betas, I can say that I love Apple’s updated Notes apps. While they’re not perfect, they have definitely taken over nvALT as my main way of taking short notes.
Due: Due is relatively new to my setup, but already I dispensable. I use Due to remind me to do a task at a certain time. So while OmniFocus holds all of my tasks and allows me to choose what to focus on while working, Due reminds me to deliver a paper to the office during my planning period or call a parent right after school. Due is great because it bugs you ever 1, 5, or 10 minutes (your choice) until you complete the task. Plus it works great with Apple Watch.
Evernote: I begrudgingly place Evernote on this list as I’m actively trying to stop using it. I dislike the direction the company is going in every way and am looking for a good alternative to store and search my paperless files. I’m considering iCloud Drive and iOS 9’s search.
Drafts: Teaching is fast paced and difficult. Having an app I can open, immediately input text, and then do what I want with it later is amazing.
Software for Teaching
This is an area I’m continuing to expand, but with limited access to devices for students, I am working on finding great software and tools to use with the new smartboard though.
Google Drive: Working with 2nd graders, I don’t require each student to have their own google account. Instead, I have created a class account that my students can access to write documents in. I can then copy and paste their work to my class Squarespace blog to share with parents.
Drafts: Though I use drafts for myself as well, it’s really handy for student work. I set it up on student iPads with actions to send whatever they type to either a Google Drive file or a text file in Dropbox for with their name for me to grade.
Remind: I use Remind for parent communication, and absolutely love it. Quick reminders when forms are due, when students have PE and need tennis shoes, and more are really nice.
Squarespace: For longer news than Remind can transmit, I have a class blog hosted by Squarespace. I also post student work there to share with parents and other family.
I’ve tried a handful of other apps, and they’re fine. I do have plans to add more when my classroom gets more iPads in the coming weeks as well. For example, I want to record myself reading stories and store it on Soundcloud to students to use during Daily 5’s Listen to Reading.
How has your workflow and your teaching changed from when you first started?
As this is only my second year teaching, it hasn’t that much. The primary areas have been my attempts to reorganize my GTD system (emphasis on the word attempts), and my abandoning Evernote. I am excited to see how a smartboard in the classroom changes things for me as well.
What would your dream set up be?
Ideally, I would have an iMac in my classroom (and if we’re talking dream, it would be a 27inch Retina iMac) at my desk. It would be connected to the projector and smartboard, and I would do most of my work related computing tasks on it. Then have a smaller laptop (probably the new Macbook) and iPad setup for portable work like blogging and grad school writing.
I would love to have my students be 1:1 with iPads. I think that could be a game changer. I think the iPad Mini 2 is ideal for that. It’s a great form factor, not extremely expensive, and still really powerful. With that, I could have more personalized experiences for each student.
Finally, I would really like a File Transporter to store my paperless system in.
The convenience of cloud storage without the security concerns? Sign me up.
^1: Mostly messages and reminders from OmniFocus and Due.
Two additional questions:
Do you backup your data? If so how?
I have a Time Capsule at home that I use for my Mac, and I use iCloud backups for my iOS Devices. I plan on getting a Blackblaze subscription for my Mac soon, but am trying to save some money right now.
How do you separate your school and personal life?
Not very well. Especially with grad school connecting the two so often.
The main thing I’ve tried to do is listen to myself when I’m overwhelmed and take a break. I will often push myself to the edge and still have things to do. At that point, I have to stop and say my health and sanity is more important than this lesson or graduate assignment. I can’t kill myself or I’m no good to my students or my family.
Also a side mention, do you recommend installing the beta’s?
I won’t do it again next year unless Apple opens up testflight to external testers. I wanted to get betas of apps
and review them, but that hasn’t happened. The new features are nice, but not worth the frustration of the beta if I can’t get any good stories for The Class Nerd out of them.