Thursday, September 6, 2007

Schoolhouse Rock(s)

Due to Harvard's hilarious calendar, which has us starting classes a full week and a half from now, I am forced to sit mildly by while all my friends, and even my brother, experience the thrilling ups and downs of the first days of college. And me? Well, at least I have LifeHacker to keep me sane.

Unfortunately, LifeHacker today decided to join the crowd, taunting me with back-to-school promises! Fortunately, I love back-to-school promises as much as the next person, and so LifeHacker's Top 10 Back to School Tools for the Organized Student was a great read. Lots of good stuff here, but my favorite was my new pick for frontrunner in the race to help poor students become digitally organized, Schoolhouse 2.

I think the picture probably says "awesome" much more articulately than I ever could, but I think you see what I mean. Besides the general comfy, iTunes-esque Mac interface, there are a few things that I think really set this program apart:
  1. It is an actual program. You know, one that lives on your computer.
  2. No enforced Web 2.0 gimmick. "Social note-taking?" I think that's called mooching.
  3. Likewise, no enforced tagging setup. Semesters are like playlists, courses are like albums, and assignments / notes are like songs. Of course, this setup is a bit less versatile than the "everything can be in all applicable categories at the same time!" wow factor of tagging, but let's face it: sometimes, a file, or note, or whatever, really does only belong in one place. Schoolhouse 2 understands this.
  4. Ability to pull in all sorts of file types. I can't tell you how many cryptically named syllabi PDFs and Word document assignments I've amassed from email and course websites over the years. Do you know where they are now? Yeah, neither do I. With Schoolhouse 2, hopefully that will change.
  5. Nifty "Ask Instructor" button. Seriously, this program is like a closed-circuit Facebook for your coursework. I can see keeping this window open as I do my homework, receive assignments, and write quick summaries of readings, inputting all of that information into a format that makes sense to me, rather than messing around with a an opaque folder system on my computer.
  6. Free. For real.
I think I'm going to try committing to this program for at least a month, and then I'll report on my experience with the program in action. That is, when/if I ever do get any action. Of the academic kind.

Please, school. Please start soon.

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