Thursday, July 25, 2013

What's in your tech bag-o-tricks?...Hardware edition

As educators, we all utilize technology differently.  If you're like me, you have developed your own go-to set of tech for your classes and might be a bit set in your ways.  For that reason, it might be good for us to share what we have tucked inside our tech bag-o-tricks and how we use it.  Maybe we'll get some good ideas :)  

Today, let's keep the discussion to hardware and leave software to a different day.  For my part, I will share not only my 'personal' tech gear that I find useful but what is available on campus that I may or may not use.  In the end, the picture of a yeti will become reasonable, I promise :)

My Bag

I consider the computer bag part of this discussion, since it houses the gear and the papers/exams that need grading.  I use two bags for different occasions.  Both have served me well and I would recommend either.

  1. To and from work I use a very professional looking leather Samsonite messenger bag that has two dividers in the central compartment.  The inner compartment is large enough to hold a decent size laptop (a 15" will do just fine).  I use the central compartment to hold books or items to be graded...ok, rarely books.  It's getting a little long in the tooth but has held up for over 10 years.
  2. The Synergy computer backpack by Wenger.  Great bag, plain and simple.  Has a padded computer compartment, lots of little pockets and zippers, and is designed to stand up on it's own.  Lots of room.  This has been a companion going to the gym, when I have to carry a lot of books to work, and especially when I go on vacation (computer, cables, change of clothes, snacks, passport, phone, wallet, kitchen sink, etc all fit in it).


As any good geek, I have multiple modes of accessing computer power at my fingertips at all times.  A desktop computer and a laptop are necessary for me, since I spend a lot of time using these tools.  For that reason, I don't scrimp and get what I want (when possible).
  1. A 27" iMac with upgraded CPU and RAM (12 GB)
    • It's about 1.5 years old and is running fast and furious.  I have no intentions of upgrading this for at least another 1.5 years...most likely more.  I require the big screen because I need to zoom everything now that I am getting a bit older.  Plus, I like having multiple windows open at a time and not having to switch.
  2. A 32GB iPad Mini with AT&T wireless
    • I had an iPad 2 for two years, but wanted the smaller and lighter version due to the fact that my main use with the device was reading.  I don't play games a lot, so it's more comfy to read a book or web page on the lighter device.
  3. An HP 2740t Tablet PC running Windows 7
    • Great 12.1" tablet that has served me well.  I have use a tablet pc to teach my courses since 2003/2004.  I purchased my own to start the ball rolling and have since had two upgrades paid for by grants or the university.  I'm about due for a new one, as this unit is nearing 4 years of use and is a bit slow.  It will last another year if need be.
    • In class, I write on the screen which is projected to front.  We have finally gotten whiteboard coatings in place of the chalk boards of old, but they are the cheapest version of white board tech and are an absolute horror to use.  Thus, this tablet makes my life a ton easier.
    • I also use the tablet functionality to create videos (not podcasts, but videos) that are available to my students.  I've been creating these videos since 2005 and have found communicating via screen recordings to be well received by my students.  Here's an example, should you care to learn some chemistry today (Click Me!!)

Other Tech Goodies

I have a few other personal and work provided items worth mentioning.  As an FYI, the university puts a certain setup into each room, even if some items are NEVER used.  The idea is that any instructor can go to any room and have access to the same tech everywhere.
  1. An Apple iPhone 4s.  Due for an upgrade soon, it's in good enough shape to last another year, so we'll see.  I don't use the phone in class unless I forgot my calculator.  I'm one of those profs who doesn't believe cell phones have a place in education at this point...meaning I don't have a reason for you to use them, so don't use them!
  2. A document camera is available at every instructor workstation on campus.  I don't have a need for a document camera, since I write on the screen of my tablet.  If I have a piece of paper I want to show the class, then I will scan it and use my tablet.
  3. A VCR...yes, you read that correctly.  Almost all the workstations on campus still have a VCR.  No, I don't use it.
  4. A computer with DVD exists at every instructor workstation.  To watch a DVD or get sound on a YouTube or other media player, I will use the computer and project it for the class.  The specs on the computers are so random that I won't even venture a guess as to what they are, but I will tell you that they are all windows machines.
  5. A Blue Yeti USB microphone.  I use the microphone to record my tutorials and help videos.  Fantastic quality that wasn't cheap (about $150), but worth it when I have such perfect audio in the videos I create.  It looks cool, too.  The Yeti resides at my house, which is where I do all of my screen recordings.
That's all of my gear and gear available to me.  How about you?  Please share what's in your bag or even that one special item you cannot live without in your teaching.

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