Marc Seigel: Chemistry Teacher

Who are you and what do you do?

I am Marc Seigel and I teach CP and Honors Chemistry at Middletown High School South in Middletown, NJ.  Before landing at this school, I, well, bounced around a little.  I’ve taught at a Magnet school, been an Director of Instruction for Math, Science and Agriculture, and served as a head fencing coach.  This is my 13th year in education.

What hardware do you use?

The device that I absolutely can’t live without (my baby) is my Lenovo Tablet PC.  It combines everything that you want from a tablet with the computing power of a laptop.  Using the stylus, I can annotate on PowerPoint slides, create answer keys write in Word documents, and even grade papers digitally.  To allow me to be wireless in the classroom, I connect my laptop to a Warpia wireless VGA adapter which duplicates my computer screen through the projector.  There are several benefits to this setup.  First, it eliminates the need for an interactive whiteboard (actually insulted my supervisor when I refused to let him install one in my classroom) which saves the schools thousands of dollars.  Second, because I am wireless, I am not tied to the front of the room to teach.  Being both Italian and Jewish, I have no ability to talk to a group of people without wild gestures nor without pacing, so this lets more of my personality shine in the lessons.  Sometimes I teach from the front, the back or even at the desks alongside the students.  The Warpia can plug into any projector with a VGA port so I have actually taken my classes to different parts of the school and still conducted class the way I would have had we been in the classroom.  

Finally, and definitely the most important, it makes my students more willing to participate in the lesson because they don’t have to raise their hands nor go to the front of the room to write out the solution to a problem.  As I am walking around, checking for understanding, I simply put the computer in the middle of one of my pods (all of desks are grouped into 4-5 person pods instead of rows) and have all the students in that group write their answers on the screen while everyone else keeps working.  I can even freeze the screen so the rest of the class can’t see what they are writing.  It gives the students who need it a little more time to process.

The 2nd piece of hardware that I can’t live without is my cell phone, a Samsung Galaxy S3.  I can document lessons and activities using the camera, share documents through Google Docs, check email and answer questions on Twitter from my students.  My students are encouraged to use their phones as often as possible in class.  Regularly, a student will ask a question that I don’t know the answer to, so my immediate response is “Take out your phone and Google it.”  My phone has even served as a hotspot when the school’s Internet wasn’t working and as a way to Skype with a reporter who wanted to interview some of my students for an article she was doing.  

And what software?

I live on Google Apps.  I have eliminated almost all paper for my chemistry labs by putting all of the documents in a Google folder that I share with my students.  When they enter the lab, they log into their school Google account, access the lab sheet, and type all of their answers directly into the document.  When they are finished, they simply drag it to a folder I created for them and it is the same as putting it in the basket on my desk.  My students also use their phones to document their lab results and insert the pictures into the Google Document.  After the due date has passed, I go into each students’ folder and grade the labs using the comments feature.  I have found it allows me to give greater feedback and correct mistakes as they are occurring.

Except for the usual Microsoft products (which I am trying to move away from), most of what I try to use are free web tools.  Evernote is my go to for organizing important links from around the web; it is also the easiest way to share things I find with my administration.  My students are huge fans of Prezi and Animoto for their presentations.  They are a way to take traditional projects to the next level by allowing students a greater use of their imagination in the design process.

But, the program I can’t live without is Camtasia Studio made by TechSmith.  This is a video editing and screencasting tool that I use to create instruction videos for my classes.  There are a bunch of free screencasting web tools, but none have the functionality of a full program like Camtasia.  I can record anything on my screen (on the fly if necessary), edit out my mistakes, add callouts or arrows to highlight important information and then upload the file directly to YouTube or save it to my computer.  I am not a video editing wiz so it is perfect that the program is extremely easy to use for any ability.  

What would your dream set up be?

First, I would just love for a steady wireless Internet connection with a large amount of bandwidth.  But, more specifically, I would love a classroom that was flexible to any learning environment that my students wanted that day.  Currently, my room has 4-5 desks arranged in pods, with a couple of bungee chairs for relaxed seating.  I would love to remove the individual desks and put in curved desks that could seat students more students with comfortable chairs that were on wheels to facilitate easy movement.  Actually, I would love individual desk units on wheels to manipulate the seating arrangement.  

The class would have a classroom set of Chromebooks available so that we can record our labs on Google Docs easier, submit files online instead of on paper, and quickly find answers to questions online.  My students need to be connected, whether to each other in class or to the world outside our walls.  I want students to be curious about science and not just want to get good grades.  It would also be a dream for all of my students to have smartphones to help them access information, organize their lives, and document the learning they are doing every day.  Too much to ask?

 

Jason Markey: Principal at a 1:1 High School

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jason Markeyand I am entering my first year as principal at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, IL.  I have spent the previous two years as assistant principal at East Leyden.  Prior to that, I served as assistant principal at Woodstock High School, taught social studies at East Leyden, Iowa City High, and middle school math at Central Middle School in Waterloo, IA.  In my current role as principal at East Leyden I am very excited to be part of new 1:1 initiative which sees all of our 3,500 high school students in district receiving Google Chromebooks.

What hardware are you using?

In my office, I’m typically using my 13” Macbook Pro connected to a 27” ACER LED Display to provide an extended desktop.  The Mac trackpad is a must for me, I’ve really become accustomed to the gesture shortcuts and I feel I have much finer control which comes in especially handy when editing video.  You may also notice the Samsung Chromebook in the lower left hand corner of the picture.  This is our students’ 1:1 device and also goes with me everywhere.  When we were choosing a device for our students my personal test was to use the possible choices with my own workflow.   I figured if I can’t work through creating, writing, and accessing applications and information it should not be what we give our students.  I also have an iPad 2, which after initial testing as a potential 1:1 device has become my go to e-reader primarily.  Last but certainly not least is perhaps my most important piece of hardware, my Droid Razr Maxx running Ice Cream Sandwich.  This has been a lifesaver on many occasions as I can truly access all of my Google applications that really make up my workflow and the battery life is outstanding.

And what software?

For me it’s becoming the cloud or nothing so most of the list will be web-based applications.  My browser of choice is Chrome .  Chrome provides me with a seamless experience across all my devices now which is a really valuable feature.  Primary applications are Google Apps for Education(I rarely have to access any Office application), Tweetdeck to connect with my PLN,  and Diigo for social bookmarking and organization.  Again, I think it is really important valuable to work, as much as possible, in the cloud as the students are.  That being said, I do require a few client based applications for different tasks.  Unfortunately, I have two windows based applications I still have to access, for this I have Parallels loaded on my Macbook which gives me the ultimate flexibility in one computer. Another client based application that is a must for me is Camtasia.  I create a number of tutorials for our staff and to share with my PLN and although there are a number of great free cloud based options Camtasia (Software for screen recording and video editing) still provides a depth of editing options which are really powerful.

What would your dream set up be?

One piece missing from my dream set up now is a stand up/sit down desk which I hope to add this year.  Additionally, I would like to add the new Nexus 7 tablet as it provides a more fluid Google Apps experience than the iPad does at this point.  Other than that, I feel like I’m very fortunate to have the tools at my fingertips to take advantage of what technology affords us and since we have really embraced cloud computing here at Leyden the hardware is less significant than it once was.  

Diana Potts: Science & Social Studies Teacher, Edtech Advocate

Who are you and what do you do?

Diana Potts, I teach 4-6th graders, science and social studies, with a 6th grade homeroom. I also provide edtech support to teachers. In my spare time I lurk on twitter, blog, and participate in edchats. My professional interests include edtech, successful PD, classroom design and PBL. 

What hardware are you using?

It depends on the task at hand. My weapon of choice is my MacBook Pro. I went all Mac about a year ago and haven’t looked back. When I want to create in Google Earth or Sketchup, I use my Pro as it can keep up with my squirrel-like attention span to pull from various sources. On the go I use my iPad2 and iPhone.  At work I use a MacBook laptop (with a split OS, using mostly Windows). Working in both Windows and Mac on a daily basis is a plus as it allows me to see pros and cons to both.

When I’m in full work mode, I’ll have my Pro and Work computer open and bounce back and forth using one for research and one for creation.

And what software?

Again, depending on the task at hand.  If I’m at home I use mostly Mac products.  On my “work” computer I use Windows 7 products, I mostly stick to Word and Publisher.  Lately I’ve been using Google Apps more and more as well as Evernote because of their ease of mobile access across devices.  When I want to create a movie or presentation, I go to the Mac products; I find Keynote and iMovie intuitive for my thought process and just cleaner looking in final product.
For work I use SMARTnotebook for visual support for lessons. Our student notebooks have SMARTnotebook on them, giving students a choice to use it for their end product..

What would your dream set up be?

Technologically speaking, my ideal would be to have a cart of MacBook Pros for student use and then 1:1 iPads. I would have Apple TV and a high quality projector.  The iPads would act as my Document camera and connect through the Apple TV for projection (I like to dream rich.)  The wireless would allow for BYOD for student use of personal devices, such as phones.  My students would each have a Google Apps account for collaboration and creation. My classroom would look like a cross between a science lab and a Google thinking/collaboration space.

Mike Ritzius: Science Teacher, Consultant & Edcamper

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Mike Ritzius – high school science teacher, professional development consultant for NJEA, and Edcamper. I occasionally blog about my professional activities at Ritzi.us

What hardware are you using?

My go to tool is an old school, hard bound lab notebook. That’s right, pen and paper. I never have to worry about charging it up. I could not tell you the brand. I discovered a pile of them back in my lab days and cling to them like my precious.

I also rely heavily on my HTC Inspire 4G Smartphone. It is my auxiliary brain. Don’t ask me to remember anything without it. The Inspire also has a decent camera with flash that I use often for both work and personal things. My Shure SE215 sound isolating headphones are a must have, living in South Philly. For getting real work accomplished, I have a Dell Latitude E6420 running Windows 7 with 4GB of Ram and an Intel Core i5 processor. It is a snappy machine and handles my work load easily. I also have EEE netbook when I just want something for social media and a Kindle Touch for leisure time.

And what software?

Everything Google – Mail, Tasks, Calendar, Drive, Reader, Voice – on a daily basis. I like how all of the services integrate, especially with regards to my phone.There is nothing more dreadful than setting up a new phone. Google Groups, Doodle, and G+ Hangouts are especially important for edcamp planning. I am big fan of SnagIt, Jing, and Skitch for creating presentations. I resort to MS Office when I need something with serious polish.

For sharing, I use WordPress to blog just about everywhere – personal, my local association, and for the planning of the upcoming learning community in my district. Twitter (Tweetdeck on the computer, Twidroyd Pro on my HTC) is my primary means of engaging my learning community and I use posterous for one off projects and less serious things.

For capturing information, Scoop.it is great for archiving around a topic, like edcamp. For project planning, nothing beats Evernote. I will create a notebook for each project and dump items in from everywhere. The fact that I can capture from my phone, the web, or upload offline docs makes it head and shoulders better than anything else out there.

For my own personal “software”, I try to follow GTD. Admittedly, I do not do this well but it helps keep me from being completely disorganized. I find that I need to reboot myself about twice a year.

What would your dream set up be?

I do not have a specific dream setup. For me, it is more about the people around. My edcamp experience made this clear. We are a team of people from a variety of background with a variety of skills but we share drive, passion, and a sense of responsibility towards each other and the movement. Being around such people compels me to do my best work and any frustrations I feel are the result of my own doing. If all professional experiences matched my edcamp one, I would feel guilty accepting a paycheck.