Category Archives: Tech for Teachers

Teaching and Engineering

As many of you know, I have been studying to be a teacher the past two years after working for a very long time as an engineer.

I have been subbing (an absolutely terrifying experience for the first 80 or so classes, but, especially the first) for 2 years.  I then started Project IMPACT (a credentialing program) on Monday and Weds nights (an absolutely terrific experience) where I am, formally, learning so much about teaching and learning.

Last September and October (2008) I was teaching a 7th grade Math and Core class. That experience was your typical sink or swim experience….it was both terrifying and terrific, but, I learned sooo much.  Hey, that is what I like to do….learn.

So why am I writing this in a “Technical” Blog?  Well there are lessons I am learning as a teacher that would have been very valuable to me (and others) had I learned them at the beginning of my engineering career (rather than at the end).

Sooooooo……for those of you who are just starting out, or are in the middle of, your engineering / technical careers,  here is a  list of the  top 5 things I have learned, or am still learning, as a teacher that could help you.

5. Working Collaboratively is Very Effective

As an Engineer I was a soloist.  I designed alone, I put the breadboard together alone (preferring to do it myself rather than involve a tech).  I worked with others only when I had to.

What I have learned as a teacher is that group efforts are extremely valuable, as long as they are done correctly.  In class I arranged the seating so there were groups of 4 or 6 students per group.  In those groups the dynamics were outstanding and the students learned and learned to love learning.

If I were to do my career over…I’d be more open to collaborating with others.

4. You learn more by teaching a subject

As a teacher you have to really understand the concept before you can teach it.  And if you do not know it inside and out, the students will help you to understand it.

As an engineer, you will learn a lot more if you present your ideas as often as you can to your colleagues.  Hopefully, they will have questions that will force you to learn even more.

3. People learn in different ways

IMPACT has taught me that there are multiple ways people learn:  verbal / linguistic, logical / mathmatical, visual / spatial, Bodily / Kinesthetic, Naturalistic, Muscial, Internpersonal, and Intrapersonal.

Knowing this when I was in engineering would have prepared me to better explain the design, concepts, theories, etc to people with different learning styles.

As a blogger you see that I try to include the written word, diagrams, video, and audio as much as possible.

2. Organization

My organization skills as a young engineer were not as good as they could have been.   The computer helps, but, I still find myself occasionally mired in a mess thus losing time and flow in the process.  Developing a presentation that makes sense from beginning to end is an organizational skill, that I grapple with all the time.

As a teacher you are forced to organize a mountain of paper and an encyclopedia of information on a daily basis.  Developing lesson plans from beginning to end demands great organizational skills.  In IMPACT, they teach you how to develop a lesson plan and how to think through the process.   I had to learn those type of  skills on the job as an engineer.

The experience gained from organizing a lesson,  or the daily paperwork and information,  as a teacher would have helped me greatly as an engineer.  I am still learning.

1. Public Speaking

I only wish I had the experience of standing in front of a class of thirty-two 8th graders before I had to give presentations to an audience of colleagues at a conference, or in a conference room.

There is no crowd tougher than 8th graders (hmmmm, for that matter, kindergarten thru 12th graders….).

If you want to get really good at public speaking…volunteer to speak in front of an 8th grade class, or two.  All your other speaking engagements will be easy after that!


It might be interesting / productive if engineering courses could include some education classes in the requirements.  🙂


Tutoring Help via YouTube

If you need (or someone you know needs) help with Math, Physics, SAT Preparation….visit the Khan Academy on YouTube.

An example video is included below.  I picked Pre-Algebra since that is the class I long term subbed in for two months this year….I like that he says almost the same thing I told my class: The best way to learn math is to Practice, Practice, Practice.


Teaching Update

After 8 full weeks, my long term sub position has ended.

What an experience!

We were all sad it ended even though we all knew this day would come. I have learned a lot about teaching (do I still want to teach as my “encore” career?…..YES!) and have learned what not to do, what to do differently, and how to manage a class (well…I am still learning this), so I will be better prepared the next time I get this chance.

But…..this class will always be my first, and will always be special. The mix of kids in the class was amazing…all of them were absolutely terrific, full of life and wonder, and energetic about learning and about school. Where a lot of classes I have subbed in a lot of students were absent, it was a rare day when we had one absence….

Over the last few days, I received so much appreciation for our time together, it is amazing. (By contrast, I got barely a goodbye when I retired from my engineering job).

In short…teaching is a very tough profession, but, the rewards are tremendous.

To my first class… definitely ROCK! And no…I will never forget you!

And thanks to all the teachers who helped me learn…you know who you are.

PS: I want to evaluate / review technology for the classroom. If anyone reading this has a new product..please contact me.

Where I have been…

In case you are checking and wondering where the new posts are….

I’ve been so extremely lucky to have landed a short term (now three weeks long) substitute teaching position in a 7th Grade class in the Jefferson Elementary School District.

Since starting, I have had to RUN as fast as I can run just to stay behind a reasonable amount.

Do me a favor….the next time you get mad at your child’s teacher, or look at teachers at having so much time off, think of what I am going to tell you:

Teachers works HARDER than I EVER imagined. I am consistently working until 9 PM at night (and would go longer, except my body and mind simply won’t let me), grading papers, preparing lesson plans, organizing (the paperwork is unbelievable), just trying to keep up…..

Be kind to your Teachers…..

I’ve been an engineer for 25 plus years and have NEVER worked this hard nor have ever needed to work this hard.

BUT ALSO….I have never felt so rewarded. NEVER. This experience has BY FAR been the best experience of my life……and I’m and old guy…..done a lot, seen a lot and experienced a lot…..

If you are one of “my” students… know this is my “first class” and I will forever remember each and every one of you….you ROCK!

To everyone else….I’ll be back to this blog soon….thanks for hanging in the there!

Tech for Teachers – Podcasting Classes

If you do not know what podcasting is, here is a very cool introduction:

The world is changing.

Streaming (podcasting included) technology has already proven itself at some Universities where students who may have missed class, or need to refresh their memory can watch a video stream of the class anytime. For example, see these classes available by streaming by Berkeley.

Now students at any level are “attending” class via podcasts (the download and playback of of audio, video, and or data information to a player such as the Zune or iPod). This interesting article discusses how teachers and students at a rural New Mexico High School are using Microsoft’s Zune player to provide instruction anywhere, anytime.

Another example of a podcast can be found here from the creators of the Harry Potter Mugglenet web site. It works on either iTunes, Odeo, or Zune. If you slect iTunes, like I did, you will need to get an Apple ITunes ID…see my previous blog entry here.

This is a very interesting application of new technology for teaching.

Personal Telepresence – The Original

With all the hoopla about “Personal Telepresence”, I dug up this 1994 video segment showing our “Personal Telepresence” concept of 1992 (see this link for the original abstract).

This video is using the CLI Cameo which was the very first desktop videoconferencing system….enjoy.

Yahoo! for Teachers

A couple of days ago, I stumbled across an interesting Yahoo! application that makes it easy for teachers to “create and share classroom projects that meet state standards. Yahoo! for Teachers makes it easy for you to find and connect with other colleagues around the country”.

Right now, this offering is in Beta, but, if you are a teacher (and can get to the web site..which can be blocked by your schools firewall) you can participate in the Beta and provide valuable feedback to Yahoo! for improvement.

Anyway, if you can get to this web site…..give it a look.

Here is the YouTube version of the introduction video.

To me, it looks very interesting. But I’m concerned that the video is a year old and this is still in Beta. I will dig more to find out the status…


Every year for the past 8 years, the folks at Ohio State University have put on what the Tech Detective (YeOldeTechy) considers the single most outstanding and unique, “virtual”, worldwide event ever, The Megaconference.

I know those are strong words, but, they are true.

Thousands of students, educators, and hundreds of schools, universities, and organizations gather for a very full day of interactive learning starting in the early morning (Pacific US time, I know, believe me) to very late at night.

The attendees come from virtually anywhere: Finland, France, United States, Australia, Taiwan, and Japan to name just a few. They can talk to each other, listen and watch presentations, and get to know each other in ways not possible just 8 short years ago.

The technology used is H.323 IP (meaning it uses the Internet) videoconferencing. And although many still fear this technology (or are unaware of it), Dr. Bob Dixon and his crew have taken up the challenge to use videoconferencing to unite the world.

YeOldeTechy says BRAVO to all involved in this great adventure. Check out a few of the screen shots from the Megaconference Highlight video stream.