My new tool (smartphone)

I just got a new phone and like a lot of educators, a smartphone is a great tool to use in one’s professional setting. I wish I was so cool that I could just head over to Amazon, pick a phone in 30 seconds and give no further thought to what I carry around in my pocket.

I, unfortunately, am not that cool.

I did quite a bit of research and landed on the Pixel 4a. I don’t research as much as my good friend Omar, but a few weeks, I feel, is a lot. To understand how I got here I want you to understand how I use my phone. My laptop is my primary go-to device throughout the day, but I still use my smartphone a lot!

How I use it

I am not a heavy user by any stretch of the imagination. A heavy day of use (for me) is somewhere in the vicinity of 3 – 4.5 hours of on screen time but during those screen on times here is what my phone has to do:

  • Check Gmail
  • Check Slack
  • Check Asana
  • Answer text messages
  • Check on our network with its mobile app
  • Camera/Photos (work and personal entertainment)
  • YouTube (personal entertainment)
  • Reddit (personal entertainment)
  • Netflix/Amazon Prime (personal entertainment)

Yep – that about does it. I don’t game on my phone, I just don’t find them too entertaining. When you look at that underwhelming list of tasks my smartphone has to do it doesn’t matter if it is iOS or Android and I am past any sort of brand loyalty.

So that leaves these factors:

  • Storage size
  • Price
  • Longevity
  • Decent camera

The contenders

Since I don’t need flagship performance, I can stay far away from the $1000 price tag phones. In fact, I can go to the lower end of mid-ranged phones. Which leaves this list:

  • iPhone SE (screw you if you think the XR is a viable option)
  • Pixel 4a
  • OnePlus Nord (this isn’t available in North America so RIP)
  • Poco M3 (this isn’t available in North America so RIP again)

I have decided that I need at least 128GB storage. How did I come to this conclusion? My previous phone had 128GB of storage and I managed to use up over 60% of it in two and a half years. So that leaves this list and price points:

  • iPhone SE – 128GB – $449
  • Pixel 4a – 128GB – $349

Decision time

At that point I made my decision. To boot the Pixel does boast a better battery life, better screen and a headphone jack. Battery life is somewhat important, but in my research it looks like both would be suitable for my needs.

I know that the iPhone is more powerful, will last a good year or more than the Pixel, but at $349 I feel I can get three good years with this phone. I’ve had many iPhones in the past and in my experience, going to the five year mark with an iPhone is reeeaaaally pushing your luck. I’ve tried and it becomes very, apps crash all the time, the camera gets slower and slower. It is not a good experience.

Face unlocking and wireless charging are on the iPhone but not the Pixel and while those things are really nice to have, they are not deal breakers by any stretch for me. The cameras on both phones are both good and definitely good enough for me.

Headphone jack FTW

Now to the headphone jack. This is important to me and almost a deal breaker. Hear me out. I work at a school and we have small sound boards in our gym, in our theater and a portable sound system (for outside events). None of these systems have Bluetooth. I am sure we could buy a Bluetooth receive to plug into the system, but that can be a little unpredictable. A wired connection works every time and when it doesn’t work, it’s usually a faulty wire that can easily and quickly be replaced.

The headphone jack is a source of comfort for me. If someone in the theater needs sound, I’ll just plug in my phone. Done.

So I went with the Pixel for the price, the headphone jack, the storage and the battery life. I made a decision based on what I needed my tool to do. If I can check all the boxes can I find a another tool that can at a cheaper price? If it is cheaper what is the trade off? The Pixel 4a meets all my requirements and is priced agreeably to boot.

Google Drive vs YouTube – Which to use in distance learning

A number of teachers have been making their own tutorial videos for distance learning. A common question I get is whether or not to store it in Google Drive or to put it on YouTube?

I say YouTube.

The reason why I suggest YouTube over Google Drive is simply the processing times. On YouTube, it will process videos very quickly. With Google Drive can also process videos quickly . . . when it wants to. Sometimes it can take hours to process the same video Google Drive. While it seems like they are both doing the same thing, the YouTube service has way more resources dedicated to this singular process and so it typically goes faster. Continue reading “Google Drive vs YouTube – Which to use in distance learning”

Episode 185 – Rants!

It’s been a while but we are back! As always check us out on Apple Music or your favorite podcasting app.

  1. Patrick’s new phone (coming soon)
  2. Distance yourself from tech and social media for your own health
  3. block editor
    1. Rant
  4. Chromebook camera failures
    1. Chrome OS update
    2. Doesn’t affect all Chromebooks
    3. Alt + V Zoom work around
  5. Record All Online Meetings with Apple OSX by Tony DePrato
    1. Stay away
    2. Review by Patrick Cauley
    3. Tony is incapable of drawing a triangle
  7. Big Sur issues
  8. Chromebook loophole
    1. Dell Chromebooks
    2. Enterprise Chromebooks as an option

You can download the episode here″ – Digital signage on the cheap

Schools are looking for ways to better communicate with their community inside the school as well as outside. One way to do this is with digital signage. This can helpful for a bunch of reasons:

  • Sharing the menu for lunch
  • Birthday greetings
  • Local sports news
  • Reminding students of deadlines
  • Reminding students of school activities
  • General news (weather, local, state, national/international news)
  • The joke of the day
  • And much, much more!

The set up isn’t too crazy. You need a screen to display the information on and you need a player to directly connect to the screen that acts as the brains of the operation, but I only wish it was that easy.

Continue reading “ – Digital signage on the cheap” – A review

Hello readers, today I am reviewing another online whiteboard website. What makes this site different is how basic and minimalist this service is. There aren’t a ton of features and there is a very low learning curve but is it enough to be a good to be considered when there are already strong contenders in this space.

Signing up & the tools

You don’t have to! When you go to you are immediately dropped into a whiteboard and can start working. No need to sign up, sign in or anything else. If you want to sign up, you can do with either an email or with your Google account – so pretty simple.


Continue reading “ – A review”

Covid 19 – Never going back

Covid-19 has changed a lot.

A number of schools have had to think quick, move just as fast and definitely have had to be pretty creative figuring out how to deliver quality education, how to provide support for families and much more.

As we continue to navigate this pandemic people keep longing for the days when we return to normal. I have a sneaky suspicion that when those days do come, normal will not look like a school pre-Covid. Here are some areas that have been changed by Covid and will probably not go back to the way they were.

Continue reading “Covid 19 – Never going back”