A Trip Down Digital Memory Lane

Winter break has started which means for me it is a time to relax and reflect. Since I do much of my thinking with my pen, (or really with my keyboard) I have been contemplating my digital portfolio and have found two tremendous tools to help me (and others) better view my online activities on my blog and Twitter.

The first item that I found by reading a posting by Richard Byrne on his Free Technology for Teachers blog is called Ebook Glue. Ebook Glue is a simple tool that lets you transform any blog into a downloadable eBook. The postings can be downloaded either in ePub format which works on most e-readers including the iPad and the Barnes & Noble Nook, or the Mobi platform which works with the Amazon Kindle. The e-books include text and pictures in an easy to read, visually appealing format. (They are missing any embedded items like YouTube videos or embedded presentations that might have been on your blog though.)  An example from the eBook version of my blog appears below. You can download my eBook here.

A page from the ePub version of this blog as it appears on the iPad.
Note that the ebook will not feature all blog posts, only the most recent ones based on how the blog's feed is set up, usually the last 50-100 pages of postings. Besides the easy to read format similar to what you get using the web app Readability, once the ebook is downloaded it will work anywhere, even without wifi, so it is the perfect companion to take to catch up on your favorite blog postings when you are waiting at the doctor's office or on the train.

Looking back at my blog in this new format has been a transformative experience. Just reading the postings on an ereader, free from the distractions of the web, allows for richer, and deeper reading. This might be a partial solution to the problem that I have discussed in the past, Does the Internet make us Shallower? Ereaders also allow me to add notes and annotations to the page for a more active reading experience.

In education, this is an excellent way to feature student work. (For a great example of using student blogs see FrischLeads created by my colleague, Tikvah Wiener.) Besides the advantages for the reader, this allows our students to easily "publish" their writing which can be a great motivator for them.

The second item I found, appropriately enough through reading a tweet by a member of my PLN, MisterD, is a method to download one's entire Twitter archive. The instructions to do this were recently posted on the Twitter blog. Note that Twitter is slowly rolling out this feature so if you do not see it yet in your Twitter settings, wait a few days and try again.

Once I downloaded my tweets, I still had work to do in order to easily view them. Twitter gives you all files associated with your tweets, most of them highly technical and not important for the average user. After some searching, I discovered that a downloaded folder called "data" containing a subfolder called "csv" which included all of my tweets in csv format, the simplest type of spreadsheet format that can be read using Excel or any similar program. But my search was not over yet. Once I found this folder, I realized that my tweets were stored in dozens of files and I wanted them all in one large spreadsheet for easy sorting and editing using Excel or Google Docs. I did some research and found these instructions for merging multiple csv files into one large file using the Windows Command Prompt. The instructions are a bit scary for most users since they involve typing text-based commands rather than mouse clicks but trust me they are worth following since they will save you a lot of time. Once I had my tweets in one csv file, I opened this file in Excel, saved it in an Excel format, and uploaded it to Google Docs.

Now for the fun part, reading my tweets. Below, you can see my entire Twitter portfolio from when I began using Twitter almost four years ago until this past Friday. It is quite nostalgic to revisit some of my early tweets. My reasons for joining Twitter still apply, to follow great tech writers, although I have realized that many of the best are not newspaper columnists as I then believed but are my fellow teachers. And to use it for professional networking, today I would describe this as to use as my personal learning network, a term which I was unaware of at the time. I had a lot of postings 4 years ago on the special Birkat HaChammah, blessing the sun, ceremony. If you missed it, make sure to catch the next one in 24 years. I wonder how my digital lessons will hold up for the next one? Will we still be using Smart Boards then or will they be replaced by something like the holodeck in Star Trek? I digress.

I have a lot of reading to do this week. If you have a blog or Twitter of your own, I highly recommend you do the same. If you don't, here are a few ebook blogs that I added to my library, Torah Musings by Gil Student and Thinking About Chinuch by Aaron Ross.  Enjoy the reading!