I first considered this topic at a presentation I attended through WordCamp Orange County 2014. I had several trips coming up and decided to see how I addressed issues of being away from my writing hub. Usually, that’s when I realize I can’t do/find something and say, “If only…”
I am finally back from three conferences and a busy visit from my son–all of which challenged me to take care of business on the road and on the fly.
Truth is, life often interferes with work. Vacations, conferences, PD–all these take us away from our primary functions and the environment where we are most comfortable delivering our best work. I first thought about this when I read an article by a technical subject teacher(math, I think) pulled away from his class for a conference. Often in science/math/IT/foreign languages, subs aren’t as capable (not their fault; I’d capitulate if you stuck me in a Latin language class). He set up a video with links for classwork and a realtime feed where he could be available and check in on the class. As a result, students–and the sub–barely missed him. Another example of teaching remotely dealt with schools this past winter struggling with the unusually high number of snow days. So many, in fact, that they were either going to have to extend the school year or lose funding. Their solution: Have teachers deliver content from their homes to student homes via a set-up like Google Hangouts (but one that takes more than 10-15 participants at a time).
All it took to get these systems in place was a problem that required a solution and flexible risk-taking stakeholders who came up with answers.
Why can’t I work from the road? In fact, I watched a fascinating presentation from Wandering Jon at the Word Camp Orange County 2014 where he shared how he does exactly that. John designs websites and solves IT problems from wherever he happens to be that day–a beach in Thailand, the mountains in Tibet or his own backyard. Where he is no longer impacts the way he delivers on workplace promises.
Here’s what I came up with that I either currently use or am going to arrange:
- have necessary apps on iPads and smartphones to make access the internet easier. This includes email, faxing, note-taking, scanning, sharing
- have at least one cloud-based email account (forward your other accounts through this one)
- set your email message to appropriately warn emailers that you may be out of touch occasionally
- have a cloud-based note-taking program–Evernote, Notability. Whatever works, but have one
- know where co-working environments are wherever you’re headed to be prepared for emergencies (these are places that rent fully-equipped office space by the day/week)
- use eboarding passes–don’t print. Who can find a printer at the beach? Send the boarding pass to your phone
- have a cloud-based fax program like RingCentral
- print from the cloud–AirPrint is nice. Wean yourself from hard copies. It’s easier to do than it sounds.
- use a hot spot connected to your phone. Try really hard not to use public wifi like Starbucks–very unsafe
- a wifi repeater is nice in case you’re REALLY remote
- be brave about solving problems–don’t let setbacks and roadblocks stop you, be accountable to yourself or you won’t get stuff done
- have books on your iPad/reader (not in cloud)
- have Google Maps
- have a Find-my-phone program
- have a Find-my-friends program–so friends can locate you via GPS at any given moment
- have Skype and/or Google Hangouts to stay in better touch with your nuclear family
- if possible, have a satellite phone
- have spare batteries for your phone and iPad. The personal hotspot (maybe all wifi) and Google Maps burns through power. What should last nine hours turns out to be two.
- have redundancy if it’s important. My external battery charger died and my iPad ran out of juice on the flight home. I had to read (gasp) a paperback rather than a digital book
- check in regularly with friends via social media; they want to know you’re OK
- be aware of time zones
- have solid, sturdy equipment to carry your gear. Wandering Jon recommended Crumpler.
Forbes has a good article on working remotely, though their definition of ‘remote’ means ‘home’ rather than ‘across the planet’. Ryan Wilcox has some interesting ideas on the remote worker’s tool belt and office.
What problem did I miss? Do you think with this list, you could go forth and be productive?
More on digital devices:
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of dozens of technology training books that integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out next summer.