Archive for November, 2012

EdcampNJ Is Almost Here!

Just a quickie post to further publicize an upcoming Edcamp event with which I am involved – EdcampNJ!

If you’re not familiar with Edcamp/ “unconference” events, here’s how I described the event this past summer:

Most of you who read blogs by educators are at least passingly familiar with Edcamp, the participant-driven “unconference”  for educators based on the BarCamp model.  Edcamps typically do not have keynote speakers or even pre-determined workshop schedules; rather, attendees come together first thing in the morning to offer sessions based on their own knowledge, expertise, and experience.  Sessions are typically more conversation-driven than lecture-driven, and those who offer sessions act more as discussion facilitators than presenters.  In other words, the Edcamp folks have taken the most valuable parts of the professional conference – the “coffee pot conversations” held with your colleagues in between sessions and at lunch – and built the entire event around them.

This event will take place this coming Saturday, December 1, 2012, at Linwood Middle School in North Brunswick, NJ, from 9am – 3pm.  As of last count, we have over 400 educators of all backgrounds and geographic locations (including some from across the pond!) signed up to attend; if even only 50% of those show, it will be one of the best-attended Edcamp events ever.

As always, the cost to attend is free – we just ask that you register so we know how many to expect.

There promises to be something for everyone at this event, and if nothing offered tickles your fancy – run your own session!  You don’t have to be an expert to run a session, you just have to want to hold a conversation.  I will be there, and plan to blog my reflections on the day later in December.

Hope to see you there!

I’m Damian Bariexca, and This Is How I Work

I’ve been a huge fan of Lifehacker for years; it was one of the very first blogs I started reading.  Recently they’ve been running a series called “How I Work”, in which they ask “heroes, experts, brilliant, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more.”

Since my invite to contribute to the series must have gotten lost in the mail, I’m going to indulge my geekery here and tell you everything you never cared to know about my workflow.

  • Name: Damian Bariexca
  • Occupation: School psychologist, professional development consultant
  • Location: Perkasie, PA
  • Current Primary Computer: Dell Latitude E6410, running Windows 7
  • Current Phone: Sprint Nexus S 4G, running Android 4.1 Update, 11/27/12: Sprint HTC Evo 4G LTE, Android 4.0.4
  • I work: Feverishly, and often on the run

What apps/tools/software can’t you live without?

Evernote, Dropbox*, and Google Apps are my holy trinity.  I have made no secret of how much I love Evernote, for its organizational power as well as its ubiquity of access – I can get to information in my account on any of my own computers, on anyone else’s via web access, or on my phone.  Evernote syncs all of my text notes, PDFs, documents, and other files for work, graduate school, and my personal life, in one location.  Dropbox has replaced my “My Documents” folder as my default file storage system; again, I can access my account from any computer with Internet access, and my files are synced instantaneously across my primary laptop, my family desktop, my old my wife’s netbook, and my phone.  I use Google Apps for email, calendar, document collaboration, mobile phone service, RSS reader, and photo manager at home, and I also use many of those same apps at work.  My Child Study Team has started to focus especially on Google Calendar and Google Docs as our primary methods of organization and collaboration – using these tools beats the hell out of having multiple versions of meeting schedules and spreadsheets floating around via email.

Beside ease of access, using these three services gives me a sense of security in that I’ve got all my work (plus over ten years of family photos) backed up off-site in case of fire/flood/etc. at my house.

Honorable mention:

  • Lastpass: Online password manager
  • PDFill: For watermarking, redacting, merging, splitting, and otherwise futzing with PDF files
  • VLC: Media player that plays just about any file type you can throw at it
  • Remember the Milk: Dynamic to-do list manager; allows users to create rule-driven “Smart Lists” (see my write up on RTM here)

What’s your workspace setup like?

I can work anywhere (that’s kind of the point of being mobile) as long as it’s CLEAN.  I don’t even mean “washed” clean, I mean “clear” clean, organized.  In my home office I have a nearly 6’x3′ IKEA desk with very little on it besides my monitor, keyboard, scanner, and a few souvenir glasses that hold pens and flash drives.  My desk at work is similar.  Recently I’ve been doing a lot of blogging and grad school work right on my living room sofa and coffee table.  I like big, open spaces whenever possible.

I find that characteristics are more important than specific spaces in that I can adapt to a greater range of environments as needed.  My job keeps me on my feet and out of my office more than one might imagine, so in addition to work email (which gets pushed to my phone), most folks I work with have my mobile phone number and can call or text if they need me.  Between my phone and, to a lesser degree, my work laptop, I can make any space work in a pinch.  It almost makes having an office redundant.

What do you listen to while you work?

Nothing.  I love all types of music, and I’ve been a musician for most of my life, but I’m not one of those people who can plug in and work productively to music or TV.  I need it to be quiet, especially if I’m writing.

My commute, on the other hand, is when I like to listen to music (I can fit my entire digital music collection quite comfortably on my 80GB iPod Classic) and podcasts (my favorites at the moment are Savage Love, Practical Principals, Real Time with Bill Maher, and This American Life).  I’ve also just started dabbling in audiobooks.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Keeping my inbox empty and my email/Evernote archives well organized definitely saves time when looking for information.  When emails come in, I read them and decide whether they can be a) deleted (general info emails, all-staff emails that don’t apply to me), b) archived (just need to be tucked away for possible future reference, or c) acted upon.  Only emails that fall under that C category stay in my inbox, and even then, only until I have completed the action (even if that action is just a reply).  I have separate email folders for every student on my case load, plus others for various other committees and categories.

Of course, we are still using Outlook.  Once we move our primary email system over to Google Apps (fingers crossed!), I’ll be cross-labeling and archiving like a fool.

Some people prefer to only check email once or twice a day, but I find myself being more productive if I can receive the request, act on it, and get it out of my thought process.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

I don’t know if they’re gadgets per se, but I’m going to say my Fisher Bullet Space Pen and Rhodia Memo Pads.  They both fit comfortably in my front pocket, and when you’re on the go (as I often am in my building), sometimes it’s just quicker to jot a note down on a piece of paper than to unlock the mobile phone, wait for the note app to load, wait for the keyboard to respond… and if your battery is dead, you’re really out of luck.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Between the way I keep records, calendar appointments, and to-do lists, I am probably the most organized person I know.  I have to be, because my memory is spotty at best, to say nothing of my attention span.

Any other interesting tidbits/hints for your readers?

In my next post, I’ll take you inside my tech “go bag” – as more professional obligations keep me on the road, it has become my trusty mobile command center.

Feel free to take this format and run with it on your own blog!  Who are you, and how do YOU work?


* This is a referral link to Dropbox – sign up and install Dropbox on your computer through that link, and we both get an additional 500MB of storage!


Mind Over Mudder

Much is made in my ed leadership doctoral program of goals: organizational goal-setting, alignment with vision/mission, monitoring progress, etc.  Though I hadn’t originally intended to blog about this recent life event*, when I think about it in terms of goal-setting, it seems to parallel much of what my coursework has focused on.

After my surgery to correct femoral acetabular impingement late last December, I set myself both a short-term and a long-term goal for my rehabilitation.  My short-term goal was to run a post-surgery 5K on Memorial Day weekend.  The annual Doylestown (PA) 5K holds a special place in my heart, as we owned our first home in that town and lived there when our first child was born.  It wasn’t my fastest time, but on May 26, 2012, I did it (and have done a few since).

My long-term rehab goal was to get fit enough to run Tough Mudder, a 12-mile obstacle course through incredibly muddy terrain (“incredibly muddy” doesn’t begin to cover it; check out their website or Facebook page for pics).  The two nearest TM events to me took place in Poconos, PA in May, and Englishtown, NJ in October.  Being a Jersey boy born and bred, I chose the October event (that it would give me another five months to work on healing and conditioning was also a factor).

While I can’t say that having goals made me heal better or faster (that’s anatomy and physiology, as well as the dumb luck of having avoided any major cartilage damage), it was incredibly motivational for me during PT, especially before I was able to run on the treadmill and I was just doing basic stretching and resistance exercises.  Thinking that this (boring exercises) was what I had to do in order to get to that (running) helped get me through the tedium and focused me, even when my attention wanted to be anywhere but in that rehab room, side-stepping or squatting.

Even as I wrapped up PT and started running again, having the specter of Tough Mudder over me pushed me to increase my mileage, even as I was becoming complacent and satisfied with my times on 3-mile runs.

So did I meet my long-term rehab goal?  A picture is worth a thousand words:

Up next: my first 10K on November 3.  Once I get comfortable with that distance, I think the next logical step has got to be the half-marathon, which will basically be like the Tough Mudder minus the electricity obstacles and freezing water, right?  I’ll keep you posted.

Speaking solely as an individual, setting goals did motivate me to persevere in my rehab.  I would have done it anyway without the goals, but I feel that having an endpoint toward which to work fueled and charged my work (PT) in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.  Once the goals were reached, you move the goalposts back a bit further – not so much so that it becomes discouraging, but just enough to encourage growth.

Reflecting on this experience, I’m starting to get a better sense of how organizational goals (ideally should) charge our work as members of the organization… IF the buy-in is there.  As for me, I was as bought-in as I was going to get, what with my physical well-being on the line.  Now, if it was only as easy to get unanimous organizational buy-in…

*Shout-out to childhood friend, Dirty Birds teammate, and OG Tough Mudder Dan Staples, who, as we were catching our breath and staring down yet another obstacle, asked me, “So, you gonna blog about this?”  Yessir, Dan.  Yes, I am.