techy stuff and pretty pictures

I’m a ’90s kid, coming of age in a time when 14.4 kbs modems were the shit, webpages were super basic and Yahoo ruled the interwebs (Netscape still only had 3 colors). Iomega ZIP drives backed up my documents, I wanted to be Acid Burn, and Logo was so 10 years ago.  My parents bought our first home computer (Apple, of course) in 1986, and that was when I first learned to spell my full name correctly, without the big huge letters.  Like any other 5 year old, I just wanted to type my name over and over and watch the little turtle cursor go across the screen.  So it should go without saying that I’ve always felt at least comfortable with technology.

It’s always shocking when I meet other teachers (around my age or even younger!!) who have no clue how to use simple technology such as an electronic grade book, email, or PowerPoint.  Throw in an electronic whiteboard and you’ve just introduced a dinosaur to a spaceship.  #facepalm

There is a plethora of educational technology out there now, from test score tracking and school management to online courseware and curriculum sharing.  I’ve yet to find one that I love, is aesthetically pleasant and blows my mind with its capabilities.  There is so much crap out there, from Blackboard to ilearn to Moodle, and I haven’t adopted a single one.  Am I just behind the times?  Am I missing something here?  In terms of using technology in my classroom, I rely on the basics: PowerPoint (Prezi!), TED/Ted Ed, YouTube and other videos like these, animations like these and my favorite, PhET (amazing science simulations, fun to play with).

One of the requirements for teacher cedentialing in California is a technology requirement.  Prospective teachers could satisfy the requirement by: taking a 6 week long course (and paying $600 for it), take a semester long course (and paying $1500 for it), or take a technology exam that would give you a waiver ($60).  You can guess which option I took.  That exam was a total joke — there were seven tasks: print a page from the web, set up an Excel grade book using functions, format a prewritten letter in Word with proper font size and margins, find something using Google search, write 2 paragraphs on appropriate technology use, create a PowerPoint slide using a graphic from the web, and the last one was to send an email.  I was in and out within 30 minutes, even though the exam allowed up to 4 hours.  The clincher?  Everything about the exam – registering, score reporting, payment – was paper based.  I had to snail mail in a money order!! #facepalm

Anyways, I digress.  Hanging out with B and his crowd this past year, it’s pretty obvious that I am not part of the tech industry in-crowd.  I don’t know any languages, I don’t know what they mean when they talk about developer stuff and I’m like WTF, mate? when B jumps on my computer and pulls up Terminal.  I use, not  I may get there one day, with B’s help.

In the mean time, I’ve discovered a few really fun web-based photo editing apps.  Technology is kewl. By the way, don’t try using these sites with Chrome.  Shockwave crashed every single damn time when it came time to save my work.  So I started using Safari, and it works fine.

befunky — stupid name, cool effects and filters to make your photos look better/hipper/artier/prettier.  It’s like Instagram (you can find me on there as akires), but for your desktop, and with more stuff like adding text, frames and stickers with a bit of basic Photoshop style editing.

gifpal — exactly like the name, it makes animated gifs using either your webcam or pics from your computer.  Super fun, just like my two t-shirt twins here, Nelson and Matt.

pixlr — basic Photoshop on the web.  Layers, cropping , blur, select, adjust, etc.  I use it to create photo collages, which is not ideal and time consuming, but I haven’t found a better app for just that yet.  (top MBC photo taken from here)

Any other cool apps I should know about?