After last week’s ISTE and CALICON conferences, I took some time off with my lovely wife to learn how to surf, soak up some sun, and basically disconnect. Long story short, it was glorious. But disconnecting is hard when you brought along multiple iPads, laptops, smartphones, and other gadgets for the conferences.
I did my best to hide the electronics and only rely on my iPhone from time to time. I went from spending about 8 hours a day online to being almost completely unplugged. I’d recommend it to anyone feeling a bit overloaded from all the technobabble.
But I realized that there were 5 (no more, no less) apps that I simply had to have during my time of disconnect. These tools let me still feel mentally connected to the outside world but not overly consumed by it. Below is not a review of each tool but rather the reason(s) I felt that I should use these tools despite trying to stay disconnected.
As I mentioned, I only used my smartphone as soon as ISTE wrapped up. Twitter was a great way for me to stay in touch with people I met at ISTE, friends that put a smile on my face, and of course update the Edudemic Twitter feed. I gained a new respect for the Twitter UI while on vacation too (did you know you can switch accounts with ease? Swipe to delete direct messages?) as the layout is intuitive, flexible, and addicting.
Twitter proved to be the most-used app for me which even surprised me. I used it far more than mail, maps, or Facebook. The Twitter app is, in my opinion, the best app available to educators on any mobile device. Boom. Said it. Don’t regret it.
As a news aggregation fan, I am always searching for the best way to keep track of the never-ending stream of information that comes my way every day. On vacation, this is doubly important as sorting out what matters and what can be read later is the exact purpose of the Pocket app. There’s a reason it was previously called Read It Later.
Better still, I rigged up my Gmail and other email accounts to actually stream into Pocket via RSS so this single app housed literally all information that I needed to see. No app switching, re-logging in, etc. Pocket let me stay as informed as I wanted to be with ease.
I had previously not really used Pocket but updated it prior to my flight out to San Diego. I then used it during the entire flight to read (in detail) just about every post in my feed. It led me to add about 10 new subscriptions (more on that later) to Pocket and showed me that there actually is a beautiful and simple way to manage the flood of information. Perfect for vacation time.
The new PayPal app is friggin’ crazy. I have had a PayPal account for years but never really used it until the newest version of the app came out about two months ago.
The key feature for me is the ability to take a picture of a check and have it automagically deposit into your PayPal account after a few business days. I know a few other banks do this but PayPal makes it crazy simple. I had actually found a bunch of small checks that I had been planning on depositing when I got back from the trip. Instead, I snapped a photo of each and made those deposits while sitting in the airport. By the end of the week, those checks were in my account and burning a hole in my digital pocket. San Diego’s terrific restaurants were the beneficiaries of most of that money.
I love QR codes and really any kind of code. Except for that strange competitor that Microsoft uses which is colorful and isn’t recognized by any QR code scanner. Stop trying to do your own thing every single time Microsoft, I mean really.
RedLaser is a free app that lets you scan absolutely anything and learn about it. QR codes, bar codes, whatever. My wife and I used RedLaser to learn about local events that had a QR code, details about products we wanted to buy, and food we were considering.
RedLaser told me that a few things at souvenir shops were actually available online for about 1/100th of the price. It told us that some of the food we were about to buy was waaay overpriced and that a market down the road was better.
My lovely wife is a Yelp expert. We literally had zero bad meals because of Yelp. We dabbled in mexican, asian, colombian, american, european, irish, and many other types of food. Every single restaurant was a big winner. It actually got us so excited to spend more time in San Diego that we’re already looking at flights for later this summer. (Quick note: JetBlue flights seem to be cheaper as you get a bit later into the summer!)
Yelp got us more than food though. We actually used it to find our surf instructor. He was great but actually let us know that Yelp has hidden a bunch of his positive reviews because they were done by people who had not reviewed anything else prior. So it set off Yelp’s spam blocker or something. So be sure to add some reviews to various things just so you don’t get a future review blocked. That’d be a bummer.
What Apps Can You Not Live Without?
What apps can you not live without? Whether it’s an education app or not, I’d love to know so let me know by adding a mention on our Facebook page or down in the comments. If you are looking for education apps, don’t miss our brand spankin’ new app directory that houses more than 50,000 education apps (and counting!)