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.

Tony Vincent: Learning & Technology Consultant

Who are you and what do you do?

I used to teach 5th grader and now I’m self-employed as a learning and technology consultant. I have the pleasure of empowering teachers with technology. Much of my time is spent traveling to conferences, schools, and workshops. When I’m not traveling,  my work hours are spent in my home office finding new web and mobile apps, bookmarking resources, recoding podcasts, blogging, and preparing for my next presentation. You can find my work at learninginhand.com.

What hardware are you using?

OFFICE WORKSPACE

While I might be known mostly for my work with mobile learning, my main computer in my office is certainly not very portable. I got the biggest and fastest iMac I could get my hands on. One 27 inch screen wasn’t enough for me, so I have two additional 27 inch displays connected to that iMac. I’m pretty much surrounded by screens. I can move my mouse among all of the screens. This way I can have multiple webpages up at once while composing a blog post or planning a presentation.

Typically TweetDeck takes up one whole screen. Other times I can be playing full screen video on one screen while getting work done on the other two. Admittedly, having too much open at once actually decreased my productivity. I’m not a believer in multitasking. I try to remove all distracts, including turning off email notifications, so that I can work uninterrupted on one task for as long as I can. When Twitter or a video is just a glance away, I can quickly lose focus and then a task takes a lot longer to complete.

I plug my iMac, cable modem, and Time Capsule WiFi router into a UPS. That’s an Uninterruptible Power Supply which is a big battery. If power goes out, it takes over so that my computer doesn’t suddenly shut down. Power can go out and for 15 minutes I can still be online.

Since I spend so much time at my desk, I’ve treated myself to an Aeron Chair. I have a foot cushion, which makes sitting at the desk feel extra comfortable and seems to help me keep a better posture.

After losing eight years of work when my “School” folder was accidentally deleted and one backup became corrupted and the other was a sham (I will never trust nor use Carbonite ever again), I now go overboard on backups. I backup to an Apple Time Capsule. I also weekly connect a Drobo and make a complete copy of my hard drive.

You can’t see one wall in my office because a huge green screen is set up. I keep it there for my podcasts and for other videos I make. To do chromakeying with a green screen wall, you need proper lighting. So I have two floor work lights that illuminate the screen. Then I have two soft box lights that provide lighting for me. I rig all four lights together using extension cords and power strips. Here’s a PDF that links to what I bought for this setup. Everything plugs into one outlet controlled by a wall switch.  That was I can flip a switch to turn and off all four lights for filming. After filming I use either iMovie or Final Cut X to replace the green with a backdrop of my choosing.  I then use Screenflow to layer items on top of the video.

MOBILE WORKSPACE

I love the MacBook Air for its speed. In fact, I had to upgrade my iMac to using an SSD (Solid State Drive) because I am addicted the snappiness. Because of these fast flash-based hard drives, my Macs boot more quickly than any of my iOS devices.

My MacBook’s SSD is limited to 256 GB, which is not nearly enough to hold everything I can to travel with. Mostly I want to bring my past presentations so I can pull out slides and put them into what I’m currently working on. So, I travel with a 1 TB USB hard drive. I use it to bring with me all of my files and to clone my MacBook. You see, I use Carbon Copy Cloner each night I’m done working when traveling to make a copy of everything on my MacBook. Should my laptop be stolen or malfunction, I can boot into a clone of my MacBook Air from my 1 TB drive on any other Mac.

I have many adapters, cords, and gadgets I travel with. To keep them organized, I use a Grid-It. It’s a board covered in elastic bands. I can pull my Grid-Out out of my bag and have access to any of my do-dads I might need.

I carry a lot in my Grid-It, including a Logitech Cube. It’s a wireless presentation remote that doubles as a wireless mouse. I also carry around a Tekkeon battery supply that I can use to charge my iPhone or iPad when traveling. You’ll also find in  my Grid-It a Verizon Mi-Fi card for 4G internet access, and a mini speaker.

When traveling, my iPad comes with me as well. I’m not a fan of fingerprints, so I travel with Zwipes microfiber cleaning clothes (I also place a cloth in every room of my house). Everything I travel with comes with me in my Incase Compact Backpack. I’ve tried lots of backpacks, but I really like my the Incase because it’s not too large and has a spot for my MacBook Air, iPad, and Grid-it. It also has a couple little compartments for my earbuds and iPhone.

What software are you using?

I might be working on my iMac, MacBook Air, iPad, or iPhone, so I store as much as I can in the cloud so I can access my calendar, notes, and documents anytime and anywhere. 

Besides email, the app where I spend my most time is Evernote. In fact, I’m composing this very post inside Evernote while on a somewhat bumpy flight and continued on my desktop computer after I arrive home. Yes, I pay for the Premium Evernote so that I can store notes locally. That way I can access my notes even when I’m without internet. I keep my to-list, brainstorms, workshop notes, and so much more in Evernote, and I can access it all from any device.

I use Dropbox to share files among computers. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain how Evernote is different from Dropbox. I use Evernote primarily for text.  I use Dropbox to keep the slideshows I’m working on. I also use it to share large files with others and love the I have backups of files online and synced to among my computers.

Other cloud-based services are also very important to me. I use Google Drive when I have others that will be collaborating on word processing and spreadsheet documents with me. I use iCloud mail, calendar, and address book so that those apps can be synced across my devices.

I still use some traditional kinds of software as well. I use Apple’s Keynote for Mac to make visual aids for my workshops and presentations. Apple’s Pages come in handy for making handouts and infographics. For my videos, I use Screenflow. It’s primarily screen casting software, but I use it for my more. I allows for layering of videos and images, so it’s perfect for overlaying information and images on top my video.

What would be you dream setup?

I’m so lucky in that I am living with my dream setup today. My dream is that all teachers and students can feel just as empowered as I do.

While I’m pleased to show off my shiny gadgets, it’s what I can do with them that I am most proud of. They’ve helped me learn, craft presentations, construct infographics, contribute to blogs, podcast, make videos, and develop apps (watch for them later this year).Whether I’m at home or on the road, I’m thrilled that I have the tools to communicate, collaborate, and create no matter where I am.