iHeart my iPhone

Thanks to all who Tweeted about the iPhone/iTouch session today at NECC.  If you haven’t already, visit http://ieducation.wikispaces.com/, a wonderful wiki from the session.

I’ve had my iPhone for a year and it is the only handheld device I’ve every used successfully.  It syncs beautifully with Exchange 2007, bringing me my mail, calendars and contacts.  My one complaint with this integration is that Active Sync with the iPhone doesn’t sync the notes or tasks, which I use extensively.  I don’t have a solution for the notes but I’m currently using toodle-do as a middleware to sync my tasks.  It’s clunky, but it works.

Some of my personal and productivity apps include

  • Tweetie for Twitter access
  • Facebook
  • WRAL News – my local new channel’s iPhone app
  • PhoneFlix to manage my Netflix queue
  • Free Ping to ping my network

Until recently, I hadn’t done much to introduce the iPhone into my classroom.  However, after nine years of teaching computer science, I may be adding chemistry to my list of courses in the upcoming school year.  This prompted me to look for apps that might be applicable to my new subject area.  Recent downloads:

  • The Chemical Touch Lite – an amazing (free!) periodic table.  This is a wonderful app.  It allows you to view the Mass, Density, Melting Point, Boiling Point, Radius, and Electronegativity of each element.  With a simple touch, you can move from the table to the wikipedia article on that element.  Waiting in the doctor’s waiting room last week, I learned all about Technetium using this resource.  Unsurprisingly, I chose it because it was tech-net-ium.
  • Stoichiometry simulator by T.J. Fletcher.  This is a beautifully designed app. The Lab Manuals are clearly written and the simulator is easy to use.  I look forward to seeing how this will apply in class.
  • Calorimetry Simulator by T.J. Fletcher.  Also nicely done with an attractive design and a clearly written help file that explains calorimetry.  The program includes simulations for several known metals and then three unknowns.  Also looking forward to using this simulator.

I’m also looking into whether the programming of Apps would be a good introductory programming class for our school.  I believe that it would be attractive to our students.  Information gleaned from the iPhone developer site indicates that you must be programming on a Mac.  As a dedicated Tablet PC school, this would be a deal-breaker.  My Apple rep is checking, so I’m hoping that there is a solution.

So why do iHeart my iPhone?  It’s easy.  Exchange integration is easy.  Getting apps is easy.  The interface is easy.  Are there things that I’d love to see added (Flash integration in Safari, copy/paste, the aforementioned notes and tasks), but overall, it is fabulous!

Why “Tech Life Balance?”

Note: This post was the initial post on a blog I had from 2009-2011 entitled “Tech Life Balance.”

One of the most frequent questions that parents ask me is how to tell if their girls are spending too much time online or how to curtail the amount of time they spend online with Facebook, IM and similar applications.  I have a series of tools and tips for these parents to use in collaboration with their daughters to keep the virtual from getting in the way of family time or academic work.  This post doesn’t include those tips, but I will endeavor to post them in the future. Additionally, I know that the division between virtual and real, and between home/school/work is getting narrower if it even exists at all.  I know that students can use IM to collaborate on assignments.  None of that is the point.

I am very connected and all of my devices are multi-purpose.  My husband has six computers: Work tablet, work desktop for photo/video editing, home laptop, netbook (for controlling his flash systems), audio processing rack-mount “desktop” and a cute shuttle for his extensive music collection.  Oh, and his iPhone. I (the head of technology department) have my Lenovo X61 tablet and an iPhone.  Clean and simple, yes, but it also means that I am connected at all times.  I check my email after my second sip of coffee and don’t turn it off until I go to bed.  Unobsessed with Facebook, I check it only twice a day and can usually spend a maximum of ten minutes logged in.  In the morning I read local news online, BBC, and Slate.  I actually have to make a point to check Twitter, which I should do more often.  It doesn’t sound like I’m lacking for tech life balance does it?

But I am.  Technology is my job.  Technology is my leisure.  I carry my iPhone at all times because I am on call.  Most of my email requires a response and many messages each day are requests for assistance.  So, my students have Facebook and I have email.

So, one aspect of tech life balance is about unplugging.  While recovering from a recent surgery, I was off-line for nearly seven days.  I hadn’t been unplugged for that long in ten years and may not be again for another ten, but it helped me realize that I could unplug to rest and restore.  If I can do that, I can unplug to go to a movie, to the gym, to cook dinner, or to paint.

Another aspect is about the role of technology in our lives.  My life, yes, but also my students lives.  In my classroom and in other classrooms.  Is it just as good to watch a Chemistry experiment online as it is to do it in real life?  Can I help my students learn with virtual tools as effectively as when I am there beside them in a tutoring session?  What will make a girl decide to take programming instead of other elective?  How can I use technology to implement systems that make things more efficient and easier?

Thus, tech life balance is the name of this blog.  In one sense, it is tech/life balance and in another it is techlife balance.   Enjoy.

Food Relief Assignment

Note: This post is from a previous blog about teaching technology at an all girls school.  That blog was entitled “Girls. Technology. Action!” and ran during 2008.

After racking my brain for an assignment that would appeal to girls’ desire to help people and have a real world application of their work, I assigned the Food Relief Calculator program.  The girls created a class called person and then inherited classes for children vs. adults.  They did research to figure out how much food and water a person of that age/weight class needed in one day.  They then used a program with an ArrayList to enter the people in a village and then to calculate how much food and water the relief agency would need to send in for them.  It wasn’t a bad assignment, but I still think that I might be able to find a better one for next year.

Challenging Myself

Note: This post is from a previous blog about teaching technology at an all girls school.  That blog was entitled “Girls. Technology. Action!” and ran during 2008.

In her keynote at the NCGS STEM Think Tank, Dr. Stacey Kline noted that

Many young women choose science because they want to help people, animals and the earth and they want to be connected to the objects of study. It is important that science curriculum allow girls to make these connections.

Since then, I’ve been asking myself, how can I apply this to teaching AP Computer Science. Right now, my students are coming to the end of a unit on Inheritance. I want to design an end of unit programming project that incorporates all of the programming skills needed and meets the requirement of helping people, animals, or the earth. Most programming examples to demonstrate inheritance focus on HR databases or on a hierarchy of mechanical devices. I’m trying to think of examples that seem to be more based in an actual reality, but that could be the basis for a program that does something helpful. Wish me luck.

Why?

Note: This post is from a previous blog about teaching technology at an all girls school.  That blog was entitled “Girls. Technology. Action!” and ran during 2008.

Why start a blog to talk about girls and technology?  The number of women awarded degrees in Computer Science has dropped from a peak in 2006.  I teach AP Computer Science at a girls’ school.  I majored in Biology.  I loved Calculus.  I learned HTML and CSS so that I could teach girls how to code web sites.  I learned FLASH so that I could get girls more interested in learning more about technology.  I learned Java when six student wanted more technology classes.  My own life experience shows me that girls are capable of mastering subject matter in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics, but are encouraged to focus on humanities and arts or change majors before earning their degree.  Today, I’m attending the STEM ThinkTank at Harpeth Hall where educators are gathering to talk about what we can do to keep girls interested in these subject areas.    Stay tuned.