Tools Overview online

As a kind of table of contents, I’ve published a spreadsheet of all the tools so far, and a few ideas into the future. I’ll update this as I post each day, so you can revisit any time and get the most up to date information there.

Or you could just read them here as I put them up. Get that RSS (Tool #4) so you don’t miss any.

Tool #6: Portable Storage

typical usb memory stick
typical usb memory stick

During the course of a typical work day, I might use up to 6 different computers, 2 at home and 4 at work. Keeping one set of information constantly updated, and always coordinated between computers is very important. Grades and attendance, for example.

I use a system where I carry a USB memory stick (also called a thumb drive) with all my important data. I always save the newest version to the memory stick when I edit and save a document.  Every 3 or four days, when I save to the memory stick, I then copy everything on the stick to the computers I am using. That means I have 6 backups, but the files I use are on the memory stick.

portable hard diskYou can buy a memory stick now for very cheap. I bought a 2 gigabyte stick 3 years ago for 20,000 yen. Yesterday I bought a 16 GB stick for 4,000 yen. Most people would never use more than 1 GB. But if you start using audio or video files, the sticks can fill up fast. If that is the case, try a portable hard drive. They now cost less than 10,000 yen, and give you 120-320 GB and more. This is a great way to back up your laptop, or carry it instead of the laptop when you visit friends with computers.

A quick note on terminology in English. Memory is usually a computer chip used by the computer to run software faster. It usually stays in the computer. Storage is used for files and data that you save for using later. So when I am typing something in a word program, I am using the computer’s memory. When I save the document, I am using it’s storage. So the name memory stick should really be storage stick. But it’s not.

tool #5: Daily Lit (erature)

Daily Lit Logo
Daily Lit Logo

There are TOOLS and there are tools. The last 4 tools I’ve brought to you have been BIG tools. They tend to do a lot and require some learning. Other tools are simple, quick and really effective immediately. This is one of those tools.

Daily Lit sends you small portions of books to you by email or RSS (see Tool #3) to your computer or mobile however often you want. Many of these books are classics, or are newer ones freely available (through Creative Coomins, another upcoming tool).

I asked Daily Lit to send me a book about cheese. It suggested daily chapters for 20 days after I told it how much time I have to read. So now, each day, I get part of a book about cheese.

You can tell it how often to send you chapters, and how long each chapter should be. This is absolutely great for reading in the train or while waiting in line.

Literature teachers should take note, you could assign homework using this site, and tell students how often and how much, and it would be delivered just in time to each student.

Tool #4: RSS


Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary (RSS) (日本語) is like getting an online magazine subscription to a blog or news “feed”. This means whenever a person updates their web site, blog or adds to their page, it is automatically sent to me. I used to go “surfing” on the web, but no longer. It now comes to me. Some people get this information in emails, but I prefer to use a Reader, a special software that organizes all these.

I use Google Reader. It is free, and works well. I have about 40 different sites registered. Whenever they update, it is sent, within seconds, to my reader. So when Andrew Sullivan posts one of his 59 messages a day, I get them all. Ian Blogost posts about 2 messages a week, I get those too. I organize them into topics, like Learning, Language, Technology, and Fun. I click on the star in the corner to save the ones I like. Best of all, I add Tags to ones I save. This is like giving labels to each post, so I can find it different ways. (I will explain more about tags in another Tool.)

RSS is the biggest change to the Internet in the last 5 years. It is the biggest difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. If you don’t know about this difference, you are  Web 1.0 and are 5 years behind.

Tool #3 Rikai Translator

Rikai is free
Rikai is free

I constantly tell my students they should use their dictionaries as little as possible. They are ultimately frustrating. Far better to find material that students feel is comfortable, where they know about 95% of the words, so they don’t have to use the dictionary, and can still guess the meanings of the other 5% of the words.

But when one is surfing the web, at times, you need quick access to a dictionary because the web is not like a graded reader. The best I’ve found is Rikai translator.