My Techy Life for Dr.Taylors Technology Class
Technology for most people means computers and software though for me it means much more than that during the several years I have been teaching science of energy, design and build, and pre-engineering, which uses a host of industry specific technology. I will have to travel way back in technology time to when I received an Apple IIe from my father as a gift, which was one of the most important things he ever blessed me with. I was in love with the idea of owning a personal computer but never thought I could afford one. I had to be the one to unpack and set my IIe up and eventually going onto the world wide net and connecting with some faceless stranger in the early 80’s. What I remember most is how I could type a paper in two hours when it took a friend two weeks with a typewriter. There was no search capability then, but I do remember using Quicken software to manage my personal and business checkbook.
A few years later I went back to college and would check-out an Apple IIc laptop from the CSU Stanislaus library during a two hour break in classes and type my class notes, save to a floppy disk, and print it at home. I took a few computer courses in Basic and Pascal and fooled around with the notion of entering computer science, but choose child development in preparation to teach instead. After becoming pregnant with our first, I decided to stay home and raise our family but incorporated computers into our life, even teaching myself HTML and helping my son build his web page. That was fun. By then my Apple IIe was donated to charity, I had learned MS-DOS and balanced my husband’s business checking account but with a PC. I remember my son learning to use Treehouse, a learning software environment and he was a natural with software. Anytime I needed to learn some new software I would have him play with it first and show me. He still does that with the latest updates on our iPhones and jailbreaking his phone. Thinking about all those software CD and diskette boxes and games we used to have piled all over my office brings back fond learning memories with my family.
When my husband was hospitalized with leukemia 20 years ago, I used our laptop and portable printer to pay bills and run his business from the hospital room. I had lots of trouble transferring his Quicken account to the laptop but tech help was good back then and it smoothed out. This was state of the art then, but for me it saved our business. We began using Quicken for payroll and to calculate quarterly taxes and sales tax forms and still do along with RPRO inventory management system. Eventually we made our own business webpage from scratch but it was too graphics heavy to publish online and load quickly.
When Yahoo opened up commercial storefronts with templates we set up our online catalog in 1997 and it has been going ever since. We added FedEx and UPS shipping software and shared ideas with other business owners like Kashi Cereal on a Yahoo business forum where we learned how to dedicate our shipping computer to our orders. It was amazing to come into work in the morning and orders would be printed out waiting to be filled and shipped. This was before Google was independent and offered the search engine for Yahoo. When Yahoo and Google split, our sales were affected. I wish I had bought Google and Apple and remember almost buying Apple in 1987 at about $35 a share when we had a big recession but chickened out. What is Apple worth now? I did buy some Yahoo before Google split and it lingered for some time. All during this time, my husband and I thought we were really tech savvy, more than the average person and worried how the next generation would learn all the computer skills we had. By this time, we moved away from MS-DOS programming by ourselves to an icon based Graphic User Interface GUI, and so did the schools. Schools left computer programming behind, which was a mistake as now we have to reintroduce it to our students when it is more complicated. At least we have the advantage as programming is all in English.
Moving forward in time with our kids in high school I began substituting and learned how to use an automated attendance program, which was easy, and Accelerated Reader, one of my most favorite educational programs ever as you could track students reading levels as they improved, and kids loved it too, plus they were reading and reading. It was a great help in preparing children for eventual online STAR testing, though today those who have never used it do not see the value of it.
I entered the Project Impact intern program at Teachers College of San Joaquin and learned Data Director at Stockton Unified for report cards and testing results. I remember how happy I was to learn PowerPoint and other tech software like Moodle in one of the intern classes. I had five classroom computers and we used them all the time, especially for researching, composing, and printing 8th grade reports. I was lucky and at a school with our own tech support Joe, who was beyond awesome. I remember getting my first overhead projector after showing my principal how I used a borrowed one. I never was in a classroom with a SMART Board, though if I had one, I know I would have used it. I had to make do with having new pre-Algebra software that I could project and use my mouse to write on the screen, and show video problems. With restricted access, I learned how to use VNP to download YouTube videos onto my flash drive to show my students anyways and get around district controls. We were given training on tech and software but sharing one class set of a clicker polling devices was impractical and useless, and unused. This was an often occurrences with new tech goodies. I moved up to high school and we began using a closed Google site for student ePortfolios, which was difficult for most of the school to implement but the results for the teachers who did was children well prepared for the workplace. We even used cell phones to research behind the principals back. I love it when students ask to use their phones to research!
For the last four years I have been fortunate to have full access to new and advanced technology that the average school districts can only dream of that are now becoming more affordable. I had full-time access to an apple computer lab to teach 3D Solidworks, Corel Draw, and Google Sketch-up software to use with our Dimension 3D printer and Versa Laser. Last year new Dells were installed in my classroom along with Arduino.cc software for microprocessors, Fritzing, Kodu, Bryce, Autodesk 123 Suite, and numerous other software for students to design, engineer, and build projects. I had to learn how to use the equipment and software from students and that was a steep learning curve. Besides the actual paid software, there was numerous free online software apps available we have used such as codeacademy.com and Scratch, an icon based programming environment designed to introduce children to logic and if/then statements designed by MIT. As a Makerspace class, we used Instructables, Thingiverse, and Make Magazine to learn how to make electronic and robotic projects and how to program them and transfer and hack into .stl files. I always push my students to use tech in projects.
During the last four years at the incredible Da Vinci Center for Innovative learning under the oversight of Bill Engelhardt and working with other innovative staff, I have not forgotten my poor teacher roots. The prohibitive $200 expense per student for a Lego Robotics kit propelled me to tinker with designing an inexpensive way to learn programming and make robots from scratch, by purchasing electronic components in an “untoolkit” and making what I have learned open-source and the curriculum completely free so all teachers can adopt some measure of programming in their classroom using Arduino software and cheap parts. In the process of trying to solve equity, access, and cost problems for myself along with my developing thoughts about my topic in the doctoral program, I came to the decision to make the simple things I have learned available to the public and will discuss my plans within the technology assignment in this course. I have always pushed myself to try the newest tech and this course will help that.
Before I end this techy biography, let me tell you what techy goodies I use now. I actively use three Twitter accounts for school, business, and education. I do the same for Facebook. I work my LinkedIn account and rarely use Tumbler, but did use Scoop It, until I found it was a waste of time. I am on Google+ and a part of several PLN communities to learn from and post personal and student achievement. I worry about being everywhere online with ID theft. I use Google Drive, shared Google docs, Google Hangouts, Blogger, and Gmail extensively with students in high school and with classes I teach at Teachers College. I do not like Haiku; first because it is not free, still thinking of the poor teacher, and two, because it looks too complicated in students eyes. I use the free Engrade online and Wiki for grading and lesson presentations with HTML and internet links for high school and adult students. I just learned how to use iMovie from a student who won $1000 for an energy career video he made on his iPhone so I could turn in a doctoral video assignment, which was very creative. I used to use Dropbox more before I found Google to be reliable for storage. I use an iPad for just about everything except for doctoral classes, and use a surface pro because it is solid state and similar to the iPad but has the writing features I must have to write in APA style. I use Mendeley on my home PC, work Apple, iPad, and iPhone so I can organize, annotate, and highlight wherever I am when reading articles for the doctoral program. I bought Pages but it just does not do it for me on the iPad. I use a combination of PC and Apple devices all for speed and usually have several open at the same time to gain even more speed. I read a lot.
I time save with my phone often to dictate my ideas on Note, send it to myself, then correct for doctoral assignments. My cousin does the same thing. She dictates patient notes on the way home from work, sends them to herself, then cleans them up, prints them for confidentiality, and puts them in their files. My iPhone is my goto device and from it I run my life. All on my work, personal, business, and education emails are on my iPhone. My students, parents, coworkers, family, friends, you name it text me or email me directly and I address hundreds of emails daily. I calendar everything.
I am sure I did not list everything I know or use and even with all this knowledge I feel I am not competent in all of those software and apps. I am not alone in this thought. My former high school student, who is a technology teacher in our department can do way more than I can with all the devices, software, and apps I listed and many I did not list and can troubleshoot every tech issue given him. I shared my lament with him when trying to learn Solidworks so I could teach it without a tutorial. I said, “I never have enough time to learn how to become competent at any of these.” He said, “I feel the same way.” With that said, I believe we will have to all become just enough competent to learn just-in-time and learn along with our students to stay up with technology.