1971 to 2014: A Technology Journey in the Classroom

A teacher responding to a young student: “No, I am not                                                available as a downloadable podcast.”

Well, I am! I made my first podcasts for an online Developmental Math Course I was developing and teaching five years ago. Made them in the comfort of my own office (and in my comfy pi’s), on my MacBook Pro using Screenflow and Clarisworks Paint which allowed me to open multiple blank pages, and a Wacom tablet. I produced a podcast for each Chapter section and posted them on our university’s iTunes University site. Instructors are still using them; I just need to update the page numbers for the new edition. A clerk at our local K-Mart heard my voice and asked if I was Mrs. Wedig. She used the podcasts and shared them with her children. A celebrity with a Texas drawl in the making! Sitting on my desk is my new SmartPen which I will use to make PenCasts for my online math classes. We have a collection of TI graphing calculators, 82, 83, 84, 85, and I downloaded the Inspire App on my iPad. We were fortunate to have a progressive Math department chair in Texas who took advantage of TI’s school partnerships back in the early 90’s. My children, both engineers, gave me a new TI 84+ Color calculator for Christmas. Now they want one! I use my iPad and MacBook Pro in the music studio to record and arrange music played on my Roland digital keyboard (own three Rolands!). At NMSU Alamogordo we use math textbooks that can be bundled with online homework apps. In fact, I now have an app on my iPad that takes me directly to the College Algebra text. I learned to design a Website for our business using ClarisWorks and posted pictures taken with one of the first digital cameras. Now I use my iPhone and apps to take pictures and share with family and friends and post on our new website. In 2013 we cancelled our subscription to cable TV and now watch programs using our AppleTV. Today I created a YouTube channel for our math department so we can post videos for our students. And what would we do without the calendar that syncs on all our Apple devices. I just recently joined the local library so I could download e-books and audiobooks which I listen to in my VW that is equipped with a Media plug-in.

Retire – Never! The classroom keeps me in the “tech loop”. Students, faculty, technology staff, presenters at conferences…always sharing how to use technology both in the classroom and at home. And, I am having a grand time learning and using all of it.

Here is a link to the smarten that my husband and I use:  http://www.livescribe.com/en-us/

To Be or Not To Be

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.   Dr. Seuss

There was never a question for me: I always wanted to be a teacher. The only decision was what grade levels did I want to teach and what subjects. I was fairly certain that I wanted to teach at the secondary level and preferred grades 9 – 12. Because of my musical talents, both vocal and piano, I was awarded several scholarships to the Del Mar School of Music. After the first year of pursuing a degree in music, I decided to change majors. I had the misfortune of never being adequately advised until my Junior year when the Dean of Education at Texas A&I University (the third university I attended) advised me to pursue a degree in Secondary Education with teaching fields in English and Mathematics. In the next year and a half (including two summer sessions), I completed all the requirements necessary to graduate and become a teacher. Before doing my student teaching, I decided to substitute at all grade levels to confirm my decision to teach grades 9 – 12. I was very excited the day I was called to substitute for my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Bode. She was now teaching a second grade class of gifted and talented students. Please remember that I had not observed an elementary classroom and had taken no classes required for an elementary level teacher. The day did not go fast enough for me! I was not accustomed to spending an entire day with the same group of students, was not prepared for playground duty, and did not enjoy spending my lunch time with 25 little people who chose to sail their peas through the air instead of eating them. What dietician in her right mind made that choice? It was evident: I had made the right decision – secondary education for this teacher.

I was privileged to be a mentor to four Trinity University education majors when I taught at Lee High School in San Antonio, Texas. Only one of those graduate students wrestled with the choice of being a teacher and I do not know if he is still a teacher today. I have taught with teachers young and old, experienced and “just beginning”, who would question their decision to be a teacher. Some left the classroom to never return, others found classrooms not in public education and/or secondary education, others have returned to the classroom after taking a much needed break, and then there are those that never left. When my husband retired from 29 years of teaching Chemistry, we moved to New Mexico and bought a cabin operation in Cloudcroft. It was our turn to “learn” again. We did, were successful, and sold the business. I chose to return to the classroom at the Community College level as a full time instructor and my husband followed as an online adjunct instructor. Teaching is “in our blood” and we continue to embrace each semester with enthusiasm.

Words of advice: All of us have a different story. Share with others and seek a mentor when contemplating the future. Changing your mind is okay. Just keep moving forward!

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Beware, so long as you live, of judging men by their outward appearance.                          Jean de La Fontaine

When I returned to Lee High School in the early 90’s after a two year attempt to teach inner city middle school students, I found that gangs had moved into the district and were conducting business on our campus. Having spent two years in the inner city school and experiencing the daily battle of recognizing gang members and their ability to “take over” a classroom if allowed, I resolved not to let that happen in my new classroom. Sometime in October, after I had established a rapport with my Algebra I class of sophomores and juniors, Michael walked through the door. Michael, dressed in black. Baggy pants, oversized shirt, chains hanging from his pockets, and, of course, the bandana. Michael, at least 6′ and on the heavy side. Even though he entered on time and quietly, I decided to have a little chat with him in the hall and make sure that he understood that this classroom was my turf and I was in charge. I stood tall, assertive and used my teacher voice. When I finished, Michael asked if he could speak. He then explained that he was not a member of a gang but had to dress the part in order to survive in his neighborhood. He wanted very much to learn Algebra, graduate on time, and then attend a culinary school, helpfully in New York. i later apologized to Michael and I became his mentor. He learned Algebra, passed the course, graduated on time, and with my letter of recommendation, was accepted into a culinary school in New York. I lost track of Michael and wish I could tell him how on that day in the East Wing hallway of Lee High School, he taught me a most valuable lesson.

TEACHING TOLERANCE                                                                                                                  A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center                                           http://www.tolerance.org

The Beginning of a New Year

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
Margaret Mead

My daughter, Meredith, always looked forward to the beginning of a new school year because it meant shopping for new pencils, pens, paper, notebooks, and whatever supplies she just had to have. She carried this excitement with her all the way through graduate school! And, I must admit, I experience the same excitement about shopping for school supplies, organizing folders and notebooks both hard copies and on my computer and iPad, planning for the semester, and preparing for that first day of the semester. In anticipating that first day, I try to recall what it felt like as a student to enter that classroom and meet a new teacher for the first time. In my small school we were usually assigned seats and in most instances it was an alphabetic assignment. Since we did not live a a mobile community, I could almost predict who I would be surrounded by in each classroom year after year. It was not until college that I would walk into a classroom and not know anyone. Recalling and remembering these experiences helps me as an instructor (teachers are called instructors in community colleges, something that I still have not grown completely accustomed to!) prepare for that first day of each class. I have always taken pride in my appearance and dress which I think is an important part of teaching at a community college – providing a professional example for both men and women. So, I plan ahead for that first day and choose with care my attire. I am a professional musician and love the stage so I am at ease in front of people and remind myself to perfect my “listening” skills when asking questions. But most importantly, I love the subject I teach and I love teaching. I always hope that this excitement is contagious and that my students can relax and actually enjoy learning math and that I can continue to have many more first days of a new school year.

Suggested website for teachers: Starting a New School Year: Nine Tips for Collaboration http://www.edutopia.org/blog/proactive-strategies-collaborate-early-often-terrell-heick