Richard Parris, someone who made a differenceAs educators, we have a list of colleagues we admire, ones we know from experience make a difference. Your list probably includes some teachers from your school and maybe from your school district. If you are fortunate enough to be able to attend many professional opportunities, that list includes some people you see only occasionally. And we may admire ones we know only from blog posts or tweets. For me, Rick Parris was in that last category.
Peanut SoftwareI first encountered Mr. Parris when, in the early 1990's, I was looking for a way to include digitally-drawn mathematical functions in tests and quizzes for a calculus class. I came across WinPlot. It had the nice compromise between small program size and ease of use, and number of features. It became a favorite tool when I was finishing up my graduate work and teaching as an adjunct at a local college, looking to impress the "real" professors.
When I started my present job, I brought that tool with me, using it when I taught calculus and trigonometry classes. I noticed that Parris listened to feedback from users and made frequent updates. At one time, I wanted to create graphs where the axes are scaled in multiples of pi. So, with a few emails and a couple of weeks, that feature was added. Try doing that with a suggestion for a MicroSoft product. I wrote about using the program in an earlier post.