Tech Tools I Have Known and Loved

This post started as an exercise and kind of morphed into a personal timeline of tech tools.  I had kind of forgotten about it, languishing there in the drafts, until I saw Andrea Livi Smith’s blog post about great tech tools for teachers.  I love the idea of that app for attendance but I could never wrest the ipad from my 3-year-old’s grip.  And really, what’s more important: taking attendance, or a few rounds of Toca Tailor?  What’s that, you say?  Attendance?  Ok, I will stick with paper for that but I have my eye on that ipad for the future…


I am lucky in a sense because I relate to the ways that students just know and use technology and think nothing of it.  I am not THAT young, but I started to wonder why I feel this way.  Interestingly, in this post, I found it hard to keep it truly time limited–one kind of tool kind of morphed into others over time in many cases.


It all started with…

*Logo the turtle (circa third grade?  GOTO LINE 10)

*the IBM PCjr (playing paratroopers and Monster Math but hating the latter)

*Videogames: Atari, then Sega, and much later, Playstation and XBOX (mostly my brothers’ or college friends’ systems.  I was never very good at MarioKart, though.)

*Programming games like Tetris into TI-84 calculators (I admit I never did this myself, I always just let a dude put the game in there for me.  It was always a dude.  But I’m sure it’s not any more.  In fact, my only comp sci teaching student is female!  Woot!)

*AOL and the magic of email (this in about 10th grade.  Good times, but communication was limited to the ONE other friend I knew who had it.  I did have a dream about hugging this person recently, so that has been another nice side effect of this post.)


*Email all the time, starting freshman year of college, when I had to borrow my roommates’ computer because the 386 I brought to college couldn’t handle Ethernet and NETSCAPE (!!) (but I mourn–and still have–those paper letters)

*Listservs (the drama of drama kids)

*Mapquest (literally finding my way as an admissions advisor in New England)

*Evite (for partays–I still use it today, but they are decidedly different parties)

*Snapfish (sharing photos–but later I developed a preference for Shutterfly for actual photos, and now Instagram and Facebook for online sharing.  I miss the actual prints too, like I miss the letters.)

*Microsoft Publisher–it was not bad at all, y’all

*Yahoo! answers (embarrassing, but I was one of the good ones, I swear!  Yahoo! even came to my house in CA to study me!)

*Facebook (I see a shift here–it changed the nature of interactions and made long-distance friendships entirely more possible and sustainable because of the everydayness of updates and the easy way/motivation to add pictures)

*Power Point (it has its moments)

*Teaching with Blackboard, then Moodle, and now Canvas (I admit I love it, I love grading things online and I LOVE Speedgrader.  It makes me be organized–papers don’t get “lost.”  And I like savin’ some trees.)

*Research/library catalogs online (I am old enough to remember card catalogs and microfilm–and yes, I know microfilm still exists)

*Skype (with friends and students)

*Domain/blogging (again a shift–it’s about making explicit my interactions with the technology now)

*Twitter–I didn’t see the point until I stumbled upon the #Museum Super Bowl hashtag and instantly fell for it.  It doesn’t take much…

*Next: screencast/livestream of lectures?


Why do I respond so well to all of it?  Is it Logo?  Maybe because my family just always had it around, even back to the bins full of tiny paper squares from the old computer punchcards.  My older brother used to hide things in those bins.  Fun fact: there’s a building on the VT campus (Derring) where the windows are the architect’s name on a punch card.  Anyway, looking back, I evolved academically during just the right time to be learning and using technology.  And the tools themselves evolved and changed in these little categories than then kind of came together (as with photo sharing sites, then Facebook–it combined the best of multiple words); that’s a good image for the Concept Development model, which works in similar ways because our brain works in those ways.


I lived in two major eras–pre- and post-internet–and I dig the pioneer kind of feeling that brings.  What will be the equivalent for students today?


Graphic Organizers and You

This is for my students in 351 and anyone else who is interested (looking at you, future 580 students…)


The task was to read an article (“Eight Things Skilled Teachers Think, Say, and Do”) and construct a graphic organizer to illustrate how they think about and do (or don’t do, or don’t agree with) the things described in the article.  Nonlinguistic Representations and Identifying Similarities and Differences are actually two strategies in one class text, Classroom Instruction that Works.  This assignment occurred to me when I was reading the same reading assignment that the students read, which is a chapter that ties together nine research-based strategies for student achievement.  The photo I’m adding below is actually  my notes in the margin of that book, because as I read the content, it reminded me that I also need to make some super strides in my domain for the Domain of One’s Own initiative if I have any hope of competing.  So the content of the organizer is different from the students’ task, but the process of creating it is the same.


Gone but not forgotten

I had to do this week in two parts–maybe this makes up for the week off for Spring Break.


This will be our last week of the Domain of One’s Own project, but I am hoping to keep some of the key lessons I’ve learned going for the rest of my career.  I have my students write the “big ideas” or understand objectives of their lessons, so I will attempt to do the same.

Wish you were here

“I’ve always been suspicious of a doctorate in Education,” he said.  By some fabulous twist of fate and luck, I sat at a high table in Cambridge for dinner, and a begowned old gentleman was saying these words to me.  How to reply….oh, so many choices…I settled on explaining my work as couched within social psychology and the interactions between people and environments (with schools as a particularly rich environment), and he seemed to be okay with that, and moved on to explaining the various pieces of silver on the table before it was time for the secret cheese course and the Latin.  “You must be here for the Harry Potter experience,” said another, this one a lovely young female, also begowned, as she pushed peas onto the back of her fork.  Well…it was very much like that, yes, but the personae being enacted in the room were almost deafening, and that is what I will remember for life.  The contrast to American college life was stark, to put it mildly.