Cool Tools for School, Thing 29: App-palooza!

Recently, I’ve been inspired to start bringing back library centers and more flipped classroom style learning in the library. I did library centers and more flipped classroom instructional videos earlier in my career but that style of learning in the library kind of fell off my radar when we lost our library clerks a few years ago. Now that I have a clerk again, we’re through the bulk of her training and, have settled into a smooth working routine together, it’s felt like a great time to start bringing back those centers and flipped classroom instructions again. With those goals fresh in my mind, a few apps stood out to me during this Cool Tool exploration.

What I tried:

Apple Clips

Somehow, I had never heard of Apple Clips before this tool! I love that it has just enough options to make a video look splashy but doesn’t have all the bells and whistles and options to distract and overwhelm me. It’s also simple enough that I think students could quickly get a handle on it and make short videos of their own but again, it won’t overwhelm them or give them so many choices they keep tinkering and struggle to finish their project. Another thing I loved about Apple Clips was the option to have captions display what you are saying when you record a video of yourself. This is a great, easy way to sneak in reading comprehension skills since it gives students the chance to hear and see the words at the same time! I tested it out during a few practice videos and it was surprisingly accurate!

Shadow Puppet

We already have this app on our school iPads but I had yet to use it myself. Like Apple Clips, I like that it has enough to make a video look slick and cool but not so much that it’s difficult to use or time consuming to learns the ins and outs of creating with it. I love the ability to not only do voice overs for selected images but also zoom in and out of them and add extra effects.

What I’d like to do with them:  

I’d love to app smash these two apps together! I’d love to take pictures of a book and record myself reading it with the Shadow Puppet app and then, upload that video to Apple Clips and use that app to add in a cool introduction and closing. As part of our unit on the 3 Apples Award, I’ve wanted to break the kids into groups and have one center where they watch/listen to the books on the iPads. I normally use YouTube videos for this because there are so many wonderfully produced ones out there that remind me of my Reading Rainbow days but, YouTube can be a sticky wicket. Every now and then you have a student who says they aren’t allowed to watch YouTube. It also opens up the possibility that some of the students will migrate away from the video they are suppose to be watching and find other things to watch instead. And of course, there are the issues of inappropriate content in videos aimed at children that seem to pop up every few months. Most of the YouTube issues can be circumnavigated by closely monitoring the students but, one of the things I like about doing centers is it gives me a chance to work intensively with a smaller group of students while the other two groups do a relatively self-guided lesson on their own. Having to intently monitor the YouTube viewing center takes away my chance to work hands on with the other groups. I think app smashing with these two apps will give me the ability to make my own snazzy, Reading Rainbow style videos for my students and upload them to the library websites via Google Drive and thus, cut down on the temptations to go elsewhere on YouTube! I’d also like to make some short, videos explaining library vocabulary like author, illustrator, and the parts of a book to work into library centers for next year!

What I’d like students to try with them:

Instead of using our trusty old paper grading rubric when we study the Caldecott award and do our mock Caldecott, I think it would be great to have them use Shadow Puppet to take pics of certain pages of the book and record themselves explaining things they liked and didn’t like about the illustrations. Apple Clips could be used as an assessment tool during some of our centers. Students could record themselves identifying the parts of a book or explaining what an author does (and so much more!).

I always love this Cool Tool-it’s so fun to explore new to me apps as well as find fresh, fun ideas for apps we’ve been using for years. I’m particularly excited to have found not one but two easy to use apps for myself and my students to use as we start doing more and more center based library instruction!


Cool Tools for School, Thing 11: You Pick!

While exploring Thing 50: The New AASL Standards, I spent some time looking at the Tech Tools & Resources for the AASL Standards doc to which Polly had linked. One of the tools on it was Goosechase EDU, a tool I’d been introduced to in the past but had never gotten around to actually using. Now seemed like the perfect time to correct that.

Goosechase EDU allows you to create and run a scavenger hunt. I thought this would be a great way to shake up our end of year library review. Normally we play library review bingo but a scavenger hunt sounded like a much more fun and active way to review some of the things we learned this year!

First, you have to sign up for an account. You can even use Google to login/create an account if you’d like. Then, you create your first “game” or scavenger hunt.

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After you select “new game”, you give some details about your scavenger hunt. Since “Game Location” is optional, I left it blank for privacy and safety reasons.

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Next, you’ll need to start creating your “missions” or tasks. Missions can take multiple forms. You can have photo or video submission, text submissions or GPS based submissions. You can also create your own from scratch, re-use missions you created for other scavenger hunts, or borrow them from the existing Goosechase Mission Bank.

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I chose to make all of my missions either photo or video submissions. You give each mission a name, a points value, and a description. Mine included things like, find a book and take a picture of the front cover or, make a video of a group member demonstrating how to use a shelf marker to look for books.

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After you’ve assigned your mission an name, points value, and description, you can either save it and move on to the next one or, make a few adjustments in the advanced settings. Goosechase automatically defaults to showing all submissions in the game feed as they are submitted so everyone can see them. If you were playing this in a larger setting I can see where that would be fun for the other players and might help stir up the competition. However, in the smaller space of my library, I thought it would just cause students to copy each other in a race to get done first so I changed it to hide the submissions from the feed. Since it automatically defaults to “shown in feed” you have to do this for every mission which is a bit annoying but not the end of the world.

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After you’ve made all your missions, it’s time to decide which game mode you’d like your scavenger hunt to take. You can do individuals or teams. I opted for teams. You can have up to 5 teams per game with the free EDU account. You can create your own team names and give each team a join code or let teams create their own names. I unchecked the option for letting teams create their own names and went with the very creative Team 1, Team 2 and so on. After that, the next step is activating the game so teams can join and participate. I gave mine a date range so I can test it out sporadically before the actual students play it and so I wouldn’t forget to activate before they came to play and waste precious class time logging in to do so.

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Then, once players start completing missions, you can view them from the submission hub, if you’re logged into the account the created the scavenger hunt under.

Some things to note:

  • To join a game, students do have to create an account for Goosechase and be logged into that account to find your game and play it. I work with elementary students and wasn’t too sure about having them log in using their Gmail accounts. Instead, I created five accounts with the usernames fpslibrary1, fpslibrary2, fpslibrary3 and so on. For an email address, I entered whatever username I had just created and the system took it (even though none of those email address is real or valid).
  • To speed up the whole process, I plan on having the five iPads logged in to the fpslibrary accounts, the scavenger hunt selected and each iPad signed up as one of the 5 teams before the students arrive anyway. That way, they can just get right to playing the game after I’ve explained how it works.
  • This whole idea could also be executed without the Goosechase app if necessary. You could put the missions on index cards or a piece of paper and still have students take pictures and videos with the iPads. You would just need to save time at the end of class to review the submissions from each team’s iPad before you could see how each team actually did. I’m thinking of doing this anyway in case there are any unexpected internet issues or iPad problems the day I want to try the scavenger hunt.

In addition to this being a fun way to wrap up the year with my primary grade students, I think it could be a great review/orientation for the intermediate students when they come back in the fall. With the older kids being on a flex schedule I won’t see all of them right away for projects but I still try to see all of the 3rd-6th grade classes the first few weeks back for a welcome back orientation and book exchange. I love the idea of this fun game setting the tone of our year!

Thing 40: Final Reflections & What’s Next?

Another year, another Cool Tools session to wrap up. Let’s dive right in!

What did you learn?

  • How did you put what you learned into action at school? Personally?
      • While I struggled initially with the EBP lessons that kicked off the Track 4 Cool Tools, I think they have had the biggest impact on how I do things. I’m more aware than ever of all the potential evidence I could (and should) be collecting about what I/we do in library. I’ve started using my cell phone camera to snap quick pics of student work, students working, final products etc. Then, I’ve been using the Google Drive app to upload them right to special folders I created in Drive. It really doesn’t take that long and before I knew it, I had a nice collection of examples of what we actually do in library.
      • In keeping with the goals I came up with in my EBP writeups, I’ve also stuck with my fancy new monthly infographic wrap ups I’ve been creating for my principal. Next year, I think I’d like to find a place in the library and hang them month after month so everyone who has a few minutes of time could get a better sense of what actually happens in our space.
  • Did you expand your Personal Learning Network? Make new professional connections?
      • I did the Polly recommended double dip strategy for one of my writeups and used the DIY option as an excuse to sign up for the Learn 2 Tweet class I had been wanting to check it out. Through that class, I not only learned more about how to use Twitter more effectively, I also meet some great librarians and added them to my network of people I can reach out to when I have questions! I also learned about tons of great hashtags and regular live tweet sessions I can use to expand my PLN even further!
  • What challenges did you face during the workshop?
    • As always, time is the biggest hurdle to this class. I want to read and explore all the options in each tool, then I have to decide which ones I’ll actually want to work with, explore them, try to use them with actual classes/lessons, then finally, write up the whole process! The part I struggle with the most is getting them worked into actual lessons in a timely fashion that also leaves me time to report about how it all went.

What’s next?

  • Did you start some projects that you’ll be following up on in the future?
      • I absolutely plan on continuing all the projects I started during the EBP tools (infographic summary for principal, newsletter for teachers, recording evidence). I’m also really looking forward to using Google Classroom to assist with Battle of the Books next year. Finally, I can’t wait to use SeeSaw more next year and would love to be able to use BookWidgets for student assessment.
  • Are you planning to share what you’ve learned with others?
      • I would love to put together a professional development session for one of our superintendent days on using Google Classroom for our teachers. I’ve also been thinking about putting together a proposal to lead a book study on The Together Teacher in my district.
  • What other professional development projects will you be pursuing?
    • In part, because of what I’ve learned in this class over the years, and as part of my overall goals, I’ll be starting to pursue my goal of someday becoming National Board Certified next year. I’ll also be taking a one credit class in the fall through UB on being a leader in your building community!

Did you like learning this way?

  • For some of you, this might have been your first experience with this kind of independent, self-driven learning. Did this work for you?
      • I’ve always found it fairly easy to be an independent, self-driven learner. As long as deadlines and guidelines are clear, I usually don’t have any problems focusing on the work I need to do when I need to do it and sticking to a self-imposed schedule. I also like the challenge of the doing something just for me, not because anyone in particular is watching or expecting it from me.  
  • What did you most value about the program? What didn’t work well?
      • Hands down, one of the things I most value is all the time and effort Polly puts into pulling together all the resources and ideas for each tool! Often, they are all things I’ve wanted to look into more at some point but, never seem to have the time to do the research on it. Thanks to Polly, I can focus on the exploration and not the hunt and gather.
      • I struggle with the same things every year, over extending myself and at the end of the school year and getting crunched for time, and taking time to connect with the other participants. This year was no different but I’ll continue to work on it.
  • Would you do it again?
    • Absolutely! This was my third time and I have never regretted the time I spent on Cool Tools.

Bonus Lesson: Making Connections

For this lesson, I ended up looking at the following blogs: Aabdul810, TechieToolsBlog, and Bri’sCoolToolsBlog.

What did I learn? So much!!! I wish I did a better job of reading other blogs during this year’s Cool Tools because in just this weekend, I got so many ideas and learned so many cool tips and tricks. I guess that will be my goal for next year…

One of the first things I learned, courtesy of Aabdul810’s Thing 2 post on Photo Fun, was that you can use your own photo to create word clouds in Tagxedo! I had no idea you could do this-I just assumed I had to use their pre-programmed options. (I really really wanted to try this out right now but, I’m out of town for the long weekend and my host’s computer says it doesn’t have the right software to create a Tagxedo.)

Over at Bri’s Cool Tools Blog, I learned about LessonPaths in her Thing 5 Curation Tools post. Not only is it another potential way for me to curate resources for students (I like that it supports a wide variety of resource tools), you can search other people’s “playlists” so you don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel when looking for great resources for teachers, students, and parents.

Finally, I hit up Techie Tools Blog. In Thing 11: Coding tools, I learned about the app Cargo Bot. I’ve been celebrating coding month in December the past two years with my 1st-5th graders. I get a lot of great ideas and activities (even some unplugged activities)  from the Hour of Code website but, also like to have some coding apps for the kids to try. Right now, I only have Daisy the Dinosaur and Scratch Jr on our iPads. This app will make an excellent addition to our coding apps (can’t believe it’s free!!!) but, like Techie Tools, I’ll have to practice more with it before I introduce it to the kids! I’m stuck on one of the early tutorial levels!!

Another great idea I picked up over at Techie Tools Blog was using Google Classroom for Battle of the Books! Being a relatively new librarian, and thus fairly new to Battle of the Books, I’m still looking for ways to improve on it every year. But, I’m also looking for improvements that also make running it easier on me-this will be especially true next year when we no longer have our library clerks (a fact I’m pretty sure I’m still in deep, deep denial about…). On the surface, it might seem like setting up Battle of the Books in Google Classroom might be more work, not less, however if I use some of my summer break to set things up in Google Classroom, I think I could save myself a lot of time during the school year.

However, I didn’t just love this idea because it potentially revolutionize the way I conduct Battle of the Books in my building next year, I loved it because it finally gave me a good idea for using Google Classroom in the library. Every since they finally made Google Classroom available to us, I’ve wanted to use it with my classes but, I also didn’t want to use it just to use it. I wanted to have a good idea that made the most sense with Google Classroom instead of another option. One of my biggest holdups with Google Classroom was that, if I don’t always use it, the kids will forget how to access it. So few of my classroom teachers use our Google Apps for Education options with their classes that their Gmail credentials aren’t something they are use to needing to know. I’ve been extolling the benefits of Google Docs and slowly making some converts this year. One of the things that frequently happens though, is that the teacher makes a master template in Google Docs, shares it with the students, and then when they all open it and start working on it, everyone is overriding everyone else’s work. If I’m available, I’ve been able to show them how to have students make their own copy (the only way I knew how to combat this problem) but, when I’m not available, they often give up and just switch to Word docs. Not something that helps me make converts of everyone…

But now, thanks to Techie Tools post, I know that Google Classroom has an option that will MAKE A COPY FOR EACH STUDENT!!! This tiny detail alone might be enough for me to convince loads of teachers to join me on the Google bandwagon next year! I can’t wait to start showing and telling this little detail all over the school, maybe even the district…I think I might have an idea for my first PD session next year!

And finally, here’s the links to where I left some comments on the other blogs:

Aabdul810 Thing 37: DIY

Aabdul810 Thing 2: Photo Fun

Techietoolsblog Thing 11: Coding Tools

Techietoolsblog Thing 12: Collaborating, Connecting, and Sharing

Bri’s Cool Tools Blog Thing 5: Curation Tools

Bri’s Cool Tools Blog Thing 3: Online Communities and Personal Learning Networks

Bri’s Cool Tools Blog Thing 2: Photo Fun

Thing 35: Digital Portfolios for Students

The Setup

For this week’s activity, I decided to finally try out the Seesaw app. I learned about the Seesaw app last year and immediately requested it be placed on the school iPads. However, there were a variety of technical difficulties and issues the result of which was I didn’t get the Seesaw app on all of the iPads until after the midway point of this school year! And, as is often the case in teacher world, suddenly weeks had gone by and I hadn’t tested out the new app I had been waiting months to get…

Determined to test it out before the year ended, I decided to try it with my 4th graders this year. I’ve been struggling with this grade all year. I see a lot of off task behavior from them each week and since the class sizes are on the large size for this group, I feel like I’m constantly redirecting and correcting, and getting very little teaching accomplished during any given class. My hope was that putting them in charge of their own learning documentation (and letting them know I could instantly share with their teacher and parents) would motivate them to stay on task and allow us to get more done than usual.

Tips, Tricks & Fun Ideas

Back in February, I watched a webinar on using Seesaw in the classroom and picked up tons of tips, tricks, and ideas!

If you have an ALA membership, you can click on the link to watch the webinar. Here are the best tips and tricks I learned from it:

    • How to get around the class limit-In the free version of Seesaw, you can only have up to 10 classes and I definitely don’t work in a school with only 10 classes in the building! The trick here is to set up each grade level as a class. Then, create folders for each of your teachers in that grade level. I went a step further and made subfolders within the teacher folders for each of the students. Then, it was just the quick matter of showing students how to select their teacher, then their name when uploading a document. There really is nothing to it and they caught on very quickly.  Just make sure you go into your manage class settings, scroll down to folders and make sure you’ve enabled the “show add folder step” for students and teachers. Otherwise, they won’t be able to find their folders.


  • Alternatives to Student Folders-Another tip I loved was setting up folders based on the material or project, not the individual students. The example was given by a teacher who uses Seesaw to document her Maker Club projects and I loved this idea for documenting our Maker Club projects next year. It not only gives them another chance to get hands on with their projects and learning, it’s a great way to reflect on their successes and failures.  
  • Connecting with your Community and Stakeholders-One of the teachers talked about how they had a bunch of potatoes donated by the PTO and a local food bank. They used the potatoes to make potato characters from books and used Seesaw to document the process, final project, and share the results with their donors. What a great way to connect with members of the community who want to give back but can’t necessarily come into the schools to do so!
  • Keep the Learning Coming- The webinar also mentioned all the great resources you can use to answer your Seesaw related questions.


    • #seesawchat on Twitter-the 2nd & 4th Tuesday of every month at 7pm. A great place to find and share real classroom examples.
    • @seesaw -in between live chats, follow them on Twitter for more great tips and advice
    • – the seesaw website has a getting started guide, tutorial videos, activity ideas and more

The Project

For our final weeks of the school year, I decided to do a read aloud/book study. I picked a book and found some reading activities to go with it. Each student got their own packet and as I read aloud to the class, they follow along in their packet and answer questions/prompts as they come up. At the end of class, they use the library iPads and Seesaw to record the evidence of their work that day.  Once that is complete, iPads and packets are turned in and they can do a book exchange.

The Results so Far

The difference in their involvement and degree of on task behavior has been incredible! They are much more aware of how much they are or aren’t getting down and much more likely to self correct the last few classes. They also seem to like being in charge of recording their progress. I’m amazed (and sold in incorporating it into more classes next year!).

Things I liked about this Portfolio Option

  • I loved that you can have students access Seesaw from either their email or a QR code. For my older students, I would like to use their email addresses because I can see this being a great way to help enforce that information and help them remember it earlier in the school year. For my younger students, I love the simplicity of the QR codes. I think I could teach even my K’s to do that without too much work!
  • I like that you can decide who has access to the student work. And not just if you’ll let parents and teachers have access but if the students can see each others work as well.
  • I like that you can turn the ability to comment on or off.
  • I liked that even work created with another app can be documented through Seesaw. As long as that app can export the contents as an image, video or PDF file, it can be imported into Seesaw.
  • I liked the variety of options for documenting learning. Since not all students learn the same way it’s nice that Seesaw gives them multiple options for documenting and sharing their learning.

Final thoughts on Librarians and Portfolio Development

One of the downsides to the free version of Seesaw is that the portfolios don’t really follow the students throughout their student career. However, as an elementary teacher, I don’t know that these projects following them through their career is really the most important part of keeping a digital portfolio in the lower grades. I think simply getting them use to the idea of recording their work and reflecting on it is powerful and sets them up for greater success when they get to the upper grades and do need to keep a portfolio that reflects multiple years of learning.

As librarians, we should absolutely be involved in their digital portfolio process. Digital portfolios teach them how to use technology for a larger purpose than fun and recreation and they help them connect and share with other students (possibly beyond their classroom/school). Using technology purposefully and as good digital citizens are key components of our library standards so those are great places for us to be involved in the portfolio process, as well as adding their library work to their portfolios.

I can’t wait to keep exploring this app further and expand the classes I use it with next year!

Cool Tools for Schools, Thing 21: Productivity Part I

This is a topic I’m excited about! While I think I’m a fairly productive and organized person, I also think I could be more efficient and get more done in less time. I’d love to figure out where I can save some time or work smarter so I can spend my time on other things (like coming up with awesome lesson ideas or spending time with my husband or hiking with my dogs or reading a book…)

Here are some things I currently use that I think make me more productive, efficient, organized and, a just plain awesome person:

  • Good old pen & paper

My teacher planner from Erin CondrenI know this isn’t the most ground breaking or exciting think to cite on a list of your productivity tools but for me, as much as I love my tech, nothing beats paper and pen for keeping me organized. Two things I’ve learned about myself over the years: I am a visual person and writing things down helps make things “real” to me. I need to see my schedule on paper and my plans on a calendar for them to make sense for me. I also need to write things down whether its on a calendar or a to do list, for them to really sink in with my brain and become fact for me. Typing an event on my iPhone calendar or into a to do list just doesn’t make it stick in my brain quite the same as writing it down does.

To that end, two of my favorite pen & paper products are those pads of paper that double as mouse pads (I use mine to keep my to do list literally right at my fingers without having another thing cluttering up my desk). The other think I can’t live without is my Erin Condren teacher planner. They aren’t cheap by any means but, they work better for me than any other lesson book I’ve ever seen. They’re also gorgeous and you can personalize them to further meet your needs. When you depend on good old paper & pen as much as I do, sometimes you just have to splurge on that paper.

Okay, here’s the thing: as a first year teacher librarian last year I was completely overwhelmed with the task of coming up with a curriculum map and lesson plans for the 24 classes I taught each.and.every.week. I know as a first year teacher that is kind of par for the course and all but, it still sucked and stressed me out. See, I was the third librarian in three years at my school. I inherited an empty desk and an almost empty file cabinet. There wasn’t a single lesson plan or curriculum map to guide me. I was overwhelmed trying to come up with a curriculum map for all seven grade levels from scratch. Like, to the point where I found myself occasionally being jealous of my classroom teachers because the modules told them exactly what to do and when to do it. When you find yourself coveting the thing most of your fellow educators hate with the burning fire of a thousand suns just because it gives them a direction, you know you need to find a better way to do what you’re doing. While hunting the inter webs for some sample curriculum maps I came across this website. I tried some of her sample lessons and really liked them. So, when her full curriculum went on sale over the summer, I bit the bullet and bought it. I don’t regret it at all. Her lesson plans are complete, creative and can be used as stand alone lessons or library centers (I had dabbled with library centers last year and wanted to try them more this year). She even organized all the extras for the lesson plans (power points, Prezis, activity sheets, recommended websites etc) online by grade level. Now, instead of spending hours a night and my whole weekends creating lesson plans, I spend one weekend a month organizing my lessons into centers for the upcoming month. I think it  ended up being two cents a day for all this. My time and sanity are definitely worth the two cents a day.

Oh, and she did several free webinars over the summer that I found very interesting and helpful. I especially enjoyed the one on library helpers and how to promote your school library during open house.

If one of your resolutions was to follow a budget or just be more fiscally responsible Mint is your new best friend.  Mint lets you create your own budget, gathers all your financial information into one place so you don’t have to login to all your accounts separately to see what’s going on with your bills/money, sets up bill reminders, gives you a free credit check, alerts you to unusual activity and more. Mint can seriously save your hours of time – I have a brother-in-law who spends hours each week inputting each and every receipt and transaction he and his wife have made that week into a Quicken spreadsheet. Mint does that all for you automatically (and then some) and it’s FREE! (I have told said brother-in-law about the awesomeness of Mint but for some reason, he’s still kicking it old school when it comes to his budget…) Mint lets me feel uber responsible about my money and very adult like (I can tell you exactly how much I spent on clothes and entertainment last month and whether or not it was in budget in seconds) without requiring a ridiculous amount of time and effort on my part.

  • Stitcher app

I don’t know if this one makes me more productive or efficient, but it does make my 50 minute commute more enjoyable and I feel like a smarter more interesting person after a week of listening to my Stitcher app, something I couldn’t ever say about listening to morning radio DJs.

The Stitcher app allows you to “stitch” together your own list of podcasts, news and, public radio into your own personal radio station playlist. There are literally thousands to choose from on the Stitcher app. Here is what I enjoy listening to on my way to and from work:

Stuff Mom Never Told You                                    The Math Dude Quick and Dirty Tips

The Dog Trainers Quick and Dirty Tips              The Splendid Table

TED Radio Hour                                                      Stuff You Missed in History Class

60-Second Civics                                                     How to do Everything

Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips                   Stuff You Should Know

A Way with Words                                                  Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me

Stuff to Blow Your Mind                                       Freakonomics Radio

So those are some of the tools and tricks I use already to try to be a more productive and amazing teacher/librarian/person. Next time I shall what I decided to try in the name of being more productive and amazing than EVER BEFORE!