It’s weird being in college again. I never thought I’d have to go back and take another formal class. 12 years of elementary school – then a break for 3 years to travel, 2 years of Junior college to get my grades up, then more school for biochemistry. It seemed like it would never end. Then I got my first job in the Silicon Valley in the late 90’s. That was a great job, with lots of great friends, flexibility, an amazing paycheck and some really cool projects. I had lots of freedom, and ultimately it gave me the freedom to try something new. Fast forward to 7 years ago when my wife and I came to Austin for me to be a wedding photographer.
My life as a photographer has been great, too. I’ve seen over 400 couples get married, photographed an additional 167 couples for engagement pictures, and even had the opportunity to document some of Austin’s great events like concerts at the Blanton, Art Night East, La Dolce Vita at Laguna Gloria, and even annual galas for nor for profits like the Center for Child Protection. As much fun as it is being a professional photographer, I don’t see myself as a 60-year old going to weddings every weekend. So it’s time for a change.
I’ve written about starting Real Estate classes before, but there is something very different now than when I was a student last century.
School has changed so very much since I took my last class. No longer do I get up every morning, brew a cup of instant coffee, take a hot shower, brush my teeth, and head out on my bike to actual classes on campus. That was 20 years ago. For lunch I’d grab a bowl of noodles for $1.25 from the cafeteria. During my late afternoon break between lab classes I’d play frisbee on the grass, or share class notes with the pretty girl from math class (who I married). Nights would be spent studying, or writing papers out on a word processor. I’d fight with the tractor-drive printer and carefully pry away the perforated side sections.
Today, it’s totally different. My classes are entirely web-based.
I don’t have to set an alarm clock to make sure I’m out of bed on time. I don’t have to ride my bike across campus in the cold AM air to make sure I’m in the lecture hall before the professor arrives. Heck, I don’t even have to get dressed if I don’t want to. (but of course I still do). All this collegiate freedom requires a bit more planning on my part. I’m not reminded by T.A.’s or fellow students about upcoming assignments, quizzes or tests. That can be a big problem if you aren’t prepared.
So to help me ensure success, I started using a few simple on-line tools to stay organized. By far the most important are a few free tools provided by Google Apps – G-Mail, Google calendar, and Google Docs. These three items completely replace everything that used to be in my old backpack except my textbooks. Instead of pulling out a binder, folder, or notebook, I simply open a Google Doc on whatever screen I’m near. All these Google Apps are entirely web based, so I can access them anywhere. In a library, on my laptop or iPad, or even from my iphone. I can jot down a note, write out an assignment, cut and paste text, and even share my note with other students if I want.
When I am ready to submit my work to the professor, I simply email the google doc to them. It’s fully Word compatable, so it doesn’t matter if they use a Mac or a PC. Text is Text.
To help stay even more organized, I use a Google Calendar to keep track of due dates, test deadlines, and other important scholastic milestones like registering for classes.