Technology that Makes Teachers Happy

Educators are asked to stand up, sit down, talk at length, everyday and I wouldn't trade it for the world. That being said, anything that can be done to make our jobs easier is much appreciated.

Here are my technology suggestions. I know I already have a list of software but technology is not just about computer software. These are items that have made my day more manageable and because I live off a teacher's salary, they are affordable to all.

If I suggest a particular product that is only based on my experience but please select the product that best suits your needs and share in the comments what you chose.

E-reader: The revolution has begun, not since Gutenberg's printing press have we seen a dramatic change in how people read but with the recent developments in technology, e-readers have the potential to be an important part of your life. I have read on everything since it was possible to hold a computer in your hand (Calculator, Newton, Personal Assistant, etc). Reading is my favorite thing to do in the world but I would always read on an e-Reader because I needed to or was bored, not because I wanted to. The screen was too small or it would hurt your eyes and hands. Later in the military I suffered a dramatic back injury that made holding a physical book painful no matter what position I tried. 

The Kindle is made reading enjoyable for me again. It is so light but well made. The Ergonomics are     incredibly well thought out, the battery lasts forever, and I was able to surf the Internet and download books even while I was on vacation in a very rural area with the Whispernet Network.  You can upload PDFs, Audiobooks, and even have it read to you if you wish. There is even an application for your iPhone, Android Phone, or computer so you can read anywhere.

While the technology is incredible, the only drawback I have found is that the books are not dramatically cheaper. Additionally, while the iPad has the ability to read eBooks, there is a glare that you would not have with the other e-readers like the Kindle.

Wireless Keyboard: If you ever come to my classroom (and you are always welcome), I am rarely seated. Whether at the white board or working with students, I often need the ability to replay a video, pull up a document, send a student an email, click through a presentation, and the list continues. With a wireless keyboard you plug the USB dongle into your computer and then you are free to take the keyboard/mouse with you wherever you go. The one I use is a few years old and not sold anymore but you can find them for about $30. I would encourage you to go in the store or online and search for one that meets your needs. Here  are links to the top three. LogitechHPMicrosoft

USB Flash Drive: You might think, this not worth mentioning. USB Flash Drives are so common and relatively inexpensive that almost anyone can get one. Plus with Google Docs and free Online storage sites like adrive Dropbox, and Mozy who needs to carry files with them anymore? But there are so many things you can do with a Flash Drive like run your own browser complete with bookmarks, and many other programs from any computer (PortableApps), plus you never know when the Internet will be out. Being able to pass a few of these around to get your files to the students can be a lifesaver when Murphy's Law goes into effect. The cost of these starts at $5 and goes up from there. The only reason I point out the SanDisk Flash Drives is to call attention to their practical design. Many of these drives come with a cap which you will lose within a week. The SanDisk Flash drives retract.

Multi-Tool: This is one of those items that I simply "don't leave home without it". There just never seems to be scissors or a screwdriver when you need it. I have had my Leatherman Squirt E4 for years now and every day I am using it. It currently sells for about $20. The Squirt P4 model has pliers instead of the Wire Strippers.

Ergonomic Laptop Support: Laptops are great, don't get me wrong. But they are miserable for your back and neck. If you are relatively young and free from pain you  might think this is unnecessary for you to concern yourself with now, but many older teachers I know suffer from some kind of occupational hazard from all of the varied roles we serve. I love the Swedish and their practical and frugal designs. IKEA sells a wonderful Laptop rest called the Brada for a measly $3! It sits on your desk or lap and is light enough for carrying from room to room but wide enough for a laptop and perhaps a phone or PDA. I have also heard wonderful things about the Dave from IKEA on Cool Tools which sells for under $20. If you do not have an IKEA near you (I am truly sorry) then order it online as the shipping is reasonable.
Workbench: Educators work in such varied settings. There is never enough storage or workspace and no one size fits all. I am grateful to my colleagues Ted and Jon for pointing these Simpson Strong Tie Workbench Kits out to me. The kit is about $50 and then you purchase about $30 of lumber. The best part about this kit over other prebuilt kits is the ability to customize the height, number of shelves, and more. You are limited only by your imagination.

Science Specific Recommendations:

Stopwatches: It seems whenever I need stopwatches for a lab, the batteries are all dead. Most stopwatches neglect to put a on/off button on them (battery maker conspiracy)! These made by Ward Scientific do have the power button and are a pretty good deal. Myself and other teachers swear by them.

I'll add to this page as more great products emerge. However, I am committed to only sharing those products that I myself have used, can afford, and love. 

Do you know a must have technology that will enrich all of our lives? Please leave it in the comments or send me an email at phil at