Brooke Mulartrick: Technology Integration Specialist

Who are you and what do you do?

photo (20)My name is Brooke Mulartrick and I am a technology integration specialist in the Methacton School District, located in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  I serve five K-4 buildings and support administrators, teachers and students in their quest to use technology in efficient and creative ways. I used to think my life was tough, traveling to five buildings, but then I met someone who traveled to 17 buildings.  I enjoy helping others expand their horizons when it comes to integrating technology in the classroom.  I taught transitional first grade for four years prior to moving into my current role, and yes, I miss having my own class!  Last year, I earned my Certificate in Supervision and Administration from Johns Hopkins University.

What hardware are you using?

At school, I use a district-issued Dell laptop.  At home, I use my husband’s hand-me-down Macbook.  Having used PCs my whole life, I’m more comfortable navigating on my PC, but I like the speed and easy maneuverability of my Macbook.  

At school, the big hardware investment has been SMARTBoards.  We’ve been purchasing them for years, but none were mounted up until last year.  I find mobile SMARTBoards to be very un-user friendly with the constant reorienting and the safety hazard of the leg stand and wires!  I used to spend a lot of time helping teachers set up their classrooms in the most efficient way to allow for a safe wire arrangement and a clean path to the board.

We also have a lot of IPEVO document cameras in the district.  I don’t know why anyone would want to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars, on a document camera.  The IPEVO cameras meet our needs and the company is great to work with.  $69 and free shipping?  Yes, please!

Each elementary classroom has 4-5 desktop PCs.  Each building also has a stationary computer lab (Dell desktops) in addition to a mobile lab (Dell laptops).  We have a refresh cycle coming up and I’m hoping we can do some type of pilot to let teachers decide if the mobile laptop lab should be replaced with newer laptops or other devices such as tablets or netbooks.  Currently, we have 7 iPads in one elementary library.  Some other iPads are scattered throughout the special education department.  I have a district-issued iPad* so I can support the use of iPads in the classroom.  

*When I go to workshops or conferences, I take my Dexim iPad case with keyboardso I can type more efficiently.  This keyboard is almost full size with spring keys and I barely make any typing errors!

And what software?

Software/applications that I use for personal productivity:

  • Evernote for note-taking and task-organization.  
  • Dropbox for sharing documents between my work and personal laptops
  • Tweetdeck for viewing chats on Twitter (I use Hootsuite on my iPad because Tweetdeck crashes for me)
  • Google Voice for distributing my mobile number in my work email signature
  • Diigo for bookmarking favorite sites
  • Zite for catching up on news from my PLN

Software/applications that I’m using with teachers and students:

  • Google Earth (in 3rd grade, we’ve used it for cardinal/intermediate directions and evaluating changes over time in a suburban community)
  • Kidblog (using with 3rd and 4th grade students)
  • Little Bird Tales (using with 2nd grade students for digital storytelling)
  • Student Wiki – I created a wiki for our elementary students to use as a resource for quicklinks, skill practice and creation tools.  This wiki is a shortcut icon on every computer in the elementary buildings.
  • Teacher Technology Integration Wiki – I created a wiki for district staff to use as a resource for quicklinks, help guides and grade-level collaboration.  The help guides under “Technology Resources” are the most referenced pages on the site.

What would your dream set up be?

I would love it if all our systems could integrate with Active Directory so teachers and students would only have to remember one password. Wouldn’t that be nice?  It wouldn’t prepare kids for the real world where they have to remember 10,000 passwords, but maybe they won’t have to remember that many by the time they graduate.  

On the hardware side, I’d love to see a mobile device in the hands of every child and teacher.  I see these devices being used in the following ways:

  • As a student response system (with the use of an app like Socrative) to give teachers real-time data for formative assessments
  • As a tool for skill practice
  • As a tool that encourages the application of higher-order thinking skills through the use of various creation apps (i.e. PuppetPals)
  • As a tool that speeds up the process of receiving feedback on assignments
  • As a tool that promotes collaboration among students and teachers
  • As a tool that simplifies the process of giving parents a glimpse of what’s going on in the classroom (i.e. Instagram or the use of a blogging tool)

The list can go on, but I’ll wait for the day when my dream comes true.

Nathan Hall: English Language Teacher

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Nathan Hall and I am an English language teacher for a private language school in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I typically teach eitherhigher level students or business English. You can find more information about me and what I do on my website, or on my latest obsession, Twitter.

What hardware are you using?

I am a bit old school, mostly due to financial reasons. I tend to hang on to my equipment a lot longer than the average user. My main computer is my trusty old 12″ aluminum G4 PowerBook which has been with me for about 6.5 years now. I plan on retiring it this summer with either a MacBook Pro or Air. I am leaning towards the 11″ Air since I take my laptop everywhere I go. I would consider an iPad, but I still have things I do on the laptop that wouldn’t work as well on the iPad.

I also have an old 80GB iPod Classic that is my constant companion during my commute to work. I just finished my MA TESOL as a distance program and the iPod was my note reader, slide viewer, lecture playing class on the go. It also is my video and audio player in class as well as holder of all sorts of documents for work. If it dies, I may shed a tear or two.

At school, I hold my class in the business classroom which has 15 older Windows XP Dell desktops that are showing their age. Still, they have internet access and that is pretty much all I need in my class.

I also have access to a SmartBoard which has to be shared amongst all the teachers. Still, it is nice to have in such a small school.

And what software?

I am true believer in using online, cloud-based tools in the classroom. Since I have full access in my classroom all the time, I want my students to be using tools that they could use on their own machines without any installation. I use a wide variety of tools (as listed on my Diigo account), but I have a few primary sites that get constant use.

Our class website uses Posterous since it is free, can be used by the students, can embed anything without any plugins, and can have a variety of administrators and contributors. I also like the fact the students can submit posts by just emailing them in.

Another widely used tool is TitanPad (a form of Etherpad) in which I administer the class group and assign pages to each students, groups of students, or as a class page. For those who aren’t familiar with TitanPad, it is a real-time collaborative document editor that is totally free to use and can be password protected without having the students register or give out personal details. That is really important to me since all of my students are in my class for a short time and are not always wiling to give their information away online. Google Docs would work well if we were a Google school, but it would be a nightmare to administer with all the student changes that occur on a weekly basis.

I use a number of collaboration tools as well as various audio and visual tools such as Vocaroo and Screencast-O-Matic. Every tool I use in my class is free and doesn’t require the student to register to use.

Personally, I love Twitter. I primarily use it for professional development and for connecting with educators from around the world. I can’t believe it took me this long to get on board.

What would your dream set up be?

I would love to have a laptop or tablet cart that could be used in various classes. This would allow other teachers to make use of this technology instead of having to wait to use it once or twice a month. We could share these tools on any given day and in their normal classroom. I would also love to see us open up the restrictions on using cell phones in the classroom. I am working on that one. This would allow the students to use these tools on their own devices and would make it easier for them to continue their work outside the walls of the classroom. Oh, and I want a faster internet connection. This restriction of a maximum of 3 students using streaming video at one time is killing me. Because of that, I have to download the videos and then put them on the network drive for students to use. It is a bit of pain for me, but makes it an insurmountable problem for less tech saavy teachers.