Technology Update #4

In This Issue

Welcome to issue #4 of Westside.Technology Update! As of this writing, it is winter break – I hope each of you is enjoying your time to relax, recharge and re-energize! This issue is a bit more focused that previous installments. I hope you take away two main things – we have great technology trainings coming up in the new year, and that there are great tools out there to help you manage email. Read on to learn more!

Thought of the Week: New Year, New You!

It’s the end of the year. the time of year when we start to think about creating new year’s resolutions. I offer up two suggestions. First, consider coming to a technology training at Area 66. We have a great line up for the spring semester – there should be something for everyone! We start off with SCRUM: Project Management, and then have session on the NEW Google sites, sketchnoting, mystery video chats, live video streaming, digital portfolios and Newsela. You can view the session descriptions and dates on Area 66 or by clicking here.

Second, I’ve heard from a number of people that they are overwhelmed by the volume of email that they receive. Between students, colleagues, administrators and parents many folk’s inboxes are overflowing! Fortunately there are many ways to get your inbox under control. This issue of Westside.Technology: Update showcases several apps and web services that you can use to renew your relationship with email. Email is a fact of life for educators, but it doesn’t have to be a burden. Check out a couple of the services showcased here and you may find one you enjoy!

Showcase: Apps to Manage Email

Email. Love it or hate it, the ever present communication medium is part of an educator’s life. From communicating with students to collaborating with colleagues to staying up to date with district happenings, email is a fact of life. However, all of those messages can be overwhelming! Fortunately there are tech tools here to help you out! Check out these apps and web services designed to help tame the email beast!

Inbox by Google (Web & iOS)

Inbox by Google is a complete re-imagining of what email can be. Created by Google, its available on the web or on your mobile device. Inbox automatically bundles messages into categories, lets you ‘snooze’ messages to come back at a more appropriate time and allows you to treat your inbox like a ‘To Do’ list. It’s approach takes some getting used to, but can be very powerful. You can run Inbox and regular Gmail at the same time. Access inbox by going to: or searching for the app in the App Store on your mobile device.
Learn more by checking out the Google Support Page.

Spark by Readdle (Mac & iOS)

Spark started as an amazing mobile app and has recently released a Mac app. Spark aims to simplify the email by intelligently looking at your messages and helping you see what is the most important using a ‘smart inbox’. It’s highly customizable and features many ‘Power User’ features such as complex searching, the ability to use multiple signatures and email snoozing. You can download the mobile app from the App Store (iPad and iPhone) and the Mac App from the Mac App Store.
To learn more about Spark, check out their homepage. or read these great reviews: iPad/iPhone & Mac.

Apple Mail App (Mac & iOS)

Apple’s Mail app on the Mac and on iPhone/iPad does a reliable job of managing email. Many of the advanced features available in Spark and Inbox are absent. For example, ‘snooze’ or smart categorization of messages features are absent. What Mail does do well, is providing a reliable, traditional way to send and receive email in a way that doesn’t require a web browser. If you are one that loves to categorize your messages yourself, this may be for you.

Avoid Email All Together! Try Google Hangouts (Web & iOS)

Tired of long email chains where messages could get lost? Want quicker, more real time communication? Want to have video chats AND text chats available to you? Well you can with Google Hangouts. Hangouts has evolved into Google’s messaging platform for education and business. While it started off as a place to video chat, it has evolved into a full fledged workplace collaboration application. You can instant message people directly, or create persistent chat rooms (that you can name!). The chat rooms are particularly great for teams. By having the messages live inside of the hangouts app, it takes them out of your email inbox. You can access Hangouts in multiple ways.

  • Go to Hangouts online on your Mac
  • Sign into Chrome on your Mac. You will then see the Hangouts icon in your menu bar.
  • Download the ‘Hangouts by Google’ app on your iPad, iPhone or Android phone.
    To learn more about Hangouts, check out Google’s getting started page.

The Doctor Is In

Question: With all the apps and services available for email, what do you recommend?
Answer: I think there are a lot of advantages to using the web to check your email. It stays in sync no matter what device you check it on and it eliminates any errors that might be caused by a misconfigured email client. If you are wanting to change, you may be in one of two categories. My advice is listed below for each!

I want to try something new, but want it to be simple:
If you are wanting to try something new, Inbox by Google is the way to go for most people. It is really easy to switch back and forth between Inbox and the traditional Gmail interface.  If you decide that you like, it there are apps you can use for iPhone, iPad and Android.

I’m a power user and want the most flexibility:
If you want something more advanced and customizable, and are willing to go all-in, Spark on the Mac and iPad/iPhone is the power user’s choice. Pretty much any customizations you would want are available! Please note that the Spark system works best if you use it everywhere. Trying to switch back and forth between regular Gmail online and the Spark app works, but there may be a few issues that pop up.

Previously featured on Technology Update