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70 Collections to Infuse Your Writing

08 Feb

descriptions

For the next few months, weekly writing tips will include word choice suggestions. That includes:

  • colorful and original descriptions
  • pithy words and phrases
  • picture nouns and action verbs
  • writing that draws a reader in and addicts them to your voice

I keep a  collection of descriptions that have pulled me into the books. I’m fascinated how authors can–in just a few words–put me in the middle of their story and make me want to stay there. I’ve shared 48 themes in the past:

A note: These are for inspiration only. They can’t be copied because they’ve been pulled directly from an author’s copyrighted manuscript (intellectual property is immediately copyrighted when published).

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How Students Access Twitter in the Classroom

05 Feb

tech questions

Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please contact me at askatechteacher at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Paul:

We are considering the appropriate role for Twitter in schools and as part of my research I read your article “13 Reasons to Use Twitter in the Classroom.” While I understand the points that you are making in the article, one question I didn’t see answered is how students access Twitter — is this done on their personal devices; or is this something that is allowed on district equipment?

If schools are allowing twitter on district-/school-owned equipment, how do they deal with the risks involved with a completely open environment in which students could share anything (pornography, threats, etc.) with little ability of the school or district to monitor direct messages, etc.

I appreciate your perspectives and we continue to consider the best way to reach our digital native students.

Twitter can be a revolutionary tool for students, used correctly. It meets students where they wish to learn and energizes pretty much any activity that takes place on the stream.

Most schools do not let students set up or access Twitter accounts at school earlier than high school. I’ve seen Middle School, but this is for unique student groups, certainly with parent approval and administration knowledge and support. Younger, accounts are usually set up as private class accounts.

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Tech Tip #123: Quick Search for All Plagiarized Images

03 Feb

As a working technology teacher, I get hundreds of questions from parents about their home computers, how to do stuff, how to solve problems. Each Tuesday, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: I’m teaching a class on internet forensics–to drive home the point that the internet is a scary place for the uninformed. I know people who use facial recognition tools to search FB, Instagram and those sorts of picture curatators. Most of the programs I’ve found are expensive and complicated. Is there an easy one to share with my students:

There sure is–Google’s Image Search. Go to:

http://image.google.com

Upload an image you want to search for (or drag-drop it into the field), like this one:

child drawing

Google will find all the places it appears:

google image search

I use student work where possible. There always seems to be one child who’s already created a website and uploaded their original drawings or photography to share with friends.

This is a great way to warn students about misusing online images: It’s just too easy for the original creators to track them down.

Click to subscribe to tech tips.

More on images:

5 Image Apps for your Classroom

Dear Otto: What Online Images are Free?

Tech Tip #82: My Picture’s a TIFF and the Program Needs a JPG


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

 

Keyboarding and the Scientific Method

28 Jan

scientific methodConvincing students–and teachers–of the importance of keyboarding can be daunting. Youngers find it painful (trying to find those 26 alphabet keys) and olders think their hunt-and-peck approach is just fine. Explaining why keyboarding is critical to their long-range goals is often an exercise in futility if they haven’t yet experienced it authentically so I’ve resorted to showing–let them see for themselves why they want to become fast and accurate typists. To do this, I rely on a system they already know (or will be learning): the Scientific Method.

Let me stop here and point out that there are many versions of the scientific method. Use the one popular at your school. The upcoming steps easily adapt to the pedagogy your science teacher recommends.

I start with a general discussion of this well-accepted approach to decision making and problem-solving. If students have discussed it in class, I have them share their thoughts. We will use it to address the question:

Is handwriting or keyboarding faster?

I post each step on the Smartscreen or whiteboard and show students how our experiment will work:

  • Ask a question: Is handwriting or keyboarding faster?
  • Do background research: Discuss why students think they handwrite faster/slower than they type. Curious students might even research the topic by Googling, Is keyboarding faster than handwriting?
  • Construct a hypothesis: Following the research, student states her/his informed conclusion: i.e.: Fifth graders in Mr. X’s class handwrite faster than they type.
  • Test hypothesis: Do an experiment to see if handwriting or typing is faster. Pass out a printed page from a book students are reading in class. Have them 1) handwrite it for three minutes, and then 2) type it for the same length of time. Each time, calculate the speed in words-per-minute.
  • Analyze data: Compare student personal handwriting speed to their typing speed. Which is faster? Discuss data. Why do some students type faster than they write and others slower? Or the reverse? What problems were faced in handwriting for three-five minutes:
    • pencil lead broke
    • eraser was missing
    • hand got tired
    • it got boring

Each student compares their results to classmates and to other grade levels. What was different? Or the same?

  • Draw conclusions: Each student determines what can be decided based on their personal test results. Did they type faster or slower? Did this change from last year’s results? Did some classmates type faster than they handwrote? Did most students by a certain grade level type faster than they write?
  • Communicate results: Share results with other classes and other grade levels. At what grade level do students consistently type faster than they handwrite? In my classes, fourth graders write and type at about the same speed (22-28 wpm) and fifth graders generally type faster than they write. Are students surprised by the answer?

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8 Digital Tools for Writing

26 Jan

Even though I’m a tech teacher by profession and a geek by desire, my default approach to writing is pen-and-paper. It’s got to do with grabbing a wrinkled piece of paper and jotting a note that I woke up thinking about or shuffled through my brain on a long commute. Something about pen scratching on paper or the even flow of the letters beneath my hand helps me think. But, by the time I’m ready to unravel whatever hijacked my attention, I’ve either forgotten what I meant or lost the note.

For the new year, I’m improving my productivity by going paperless. Before beginning any writerly activity, I’ll take a moment to decide if there’s a digital solution that not only saves me time, but adds less trash to our throw-away society. Here are eight ideas I’ve come up with:

pre-writingNote-taking

Use one of the many digital note-takers that live as apps on my phone and iPad. It can be as simple as iPhone’s expanded Notes or as varied as the integration of text, images, photos, and videos in Notability.

Digital annotator

Instead of printing out agendas and rosters, I’ll load them onto my phone or iPad and digitally annotate them with the basic simplicity of Adobe Acrobat (free) or the fully-featured approach of iAnnotate (fee).This includes conference schedules and submittals at my critique group.

digital writing toolsBrainstorming

There are so many great tools that make brainstorming with colleagues simple. And, if you’re planning your next story, brainstorming is a great way to get the basics down before fleshing out the plot. Start with the title in the center bubble of the canvas, add characters, setting, and plot. Put the details in as you figure them out and drag-drop them to their right place. You can do it as a timeline or a mindmap. Many brainstorming tools are infinite screens so you can pinch-and-drag to put as much information as you’d like on a canvas.

If you click the links for ‘timeline’ and ‘mindmap’, they take you to a list of popular, mostly-free options for either tool.

White Board

If you like to draw out your thoughts, any of the free or fee digital white boards are perfect. Draw out your ideas, add colors and text, with maybe a lined paper or grid background. Most are simple, uncluttered, and focus on getting your ideas on paper without the confusion of nested tools A few are collaborative and most can be shared with others. AWW is a simple, functional start, but there are lots more options here.

Voice notes

This is one of my favorites because it lets you continue whatever else you’re doing while saving that elusive, brilliant idea. One of my favorites is iTalk–a big red button on your screen that shouts ‘Print to Record’. There are other great options for phones here.

digital writing toolsMapping

There are a wide variety of mapping tools that let you track your characters and setting geographically around the planet. Google Earth is my long-time favorite, but Google Maps and Waze are just as good. These have become critical to my plotting and scene development, preventing me from putting a bistro or bus stop in the middle of the Hudson River.

Browser

Of course, most writers now use the internet to research. That goes through a browser. My favorite is Chrome, but it used to be Firefox (until that started crashing all the time). The only time I was a fan of IE was the pre-Firefox days.

Word processing

A digital writing list wouldn’t be complete without adding the tool that turns data into a story. Word processors include MS Word, Google Docs (not great for long manuscripts or highly-visual non-fiction), and fancier tools like Scrivener. All of these make it easy to edit your words, move parts around, and back-up your manuscript so you don’t lose it if the house floods.

These are seven that come to mind as I consider how my writing couldn’t happen without digital tools. How about you? What do you use that wasn’t around when your mom was writing her stories?

More on digital writing:

6 Tips That Solve Half Your Tech Writing Problems

10 Digital Tricks to Add Zip to Your Roadtrip

How to Write a Novel with 140 Characters


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

 
 

4 Ways to Plan Your Writing

22 Jan

Few people can sit down and start writing. Most of us hem and haw as we mentally walk through how to get from introduction to conclusion. It’s called ‘prewriting’ and everyone does it. What differs is the method–what best suits our communication style?

Here are four approaches I’ve seen work for writer friends:

mindmapBrainstorm/Mindmap

Brainstorming, also called ‘mindmapping’, is a visual approach for collecting all the bits of a topic that may find relevance in the fullness of your manuscript. It enables writers to come up with many ideas without worrying about where they fit, leaving that for the writing process.

Here are basics for brainstorming your novel:

  • There are no wrong answers.
  • Get as many ideas as possible.
  • Don’t evaluate ideas–just record them.
  • Build on the suggestions of others (if you’re doing this as part of a critique group or writer’s workshop).
  • Stress quantity over quality–get as many ideas as possible. Sort them later.

There are many online tools that facilitate this process. If you’re looking for a webtool, try Inspiration, MindMeister, or another from this list. For iPads, try iBrainstorm, Ideament, or another from this list.

Timeline

Timelines are graphical representations of a sequence of events over a period of time. Researching and creating timelines appeals to the visual, mathematic, and kinesthetic intelligences in a writer’s mental toolbox. They are critical to developing the story’s temporal flow, making sure events are in the proper order, with necessary scaffolding.

They can be created in:

  • a desktop publishing tool like Publisher or Canva
  • an online tool
  • a spreadsheet program

Popular options include MS Publisher, Google Sheets, or Excel. If you want a webtool, try Piktochart, Canva, or another from this list. If you have an iPad,  try Timeline or another from this list. Here’s an example of my novel’s timeline:

story timeline


Outline

Outlines are a tried-and-true approach to organizing knowledge on a topic. They:

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Five Must-Do Skills to Accomplish During High School

18 Jan

A Lou Holtz Pep Talk

Lou Holtz, the University of Notre Dame’s erudite ex-coach, entrusted with turning UND football players into graduates, once exhorted, “How you respond to the challenge in the second half will determine what you become after the game, whether you are a winner or a loser.”

High School is like the second half, and you’re about to find out if you’re a winner. At the starting line, all students are equal, crossing the freshman threshold with the same opportunities, and same possibilities for their future. The 4.0 student stands shoulder to shoulder with the star athlete, and the C student who aspires to nothing more than minimum wage work has an equal chance that inspiration will strike. Every one approaches the starting line, not knowing if the race will be won with brains, hard work, willpower, or intensity of desire.

But you’re different. You know what you want: USNA. There are five general skills you’ll have to learn over the next three years (if you don’t have them by the time applications go out, prior to senior year, it’ll be too late).

08graduation_0251

Maybe you’re thinking, that’s easy. I do it every day. Or maybe you’re wondering: How do I make this happen? I can answer both: It’s not easy or everyone would do it. The only thing easy is the instructions for making it happen.

Vigilance. That’s right. Be vigilant. Every time you’re faced with a problem, try to solve it first. Every time you meet a person you just don’t like, figure out how to get along.

More on this later. For now, know that these are skills the Naval Academy values so they’re worth learning. You either learn them now, in high school and in time for the USNA application, or you’ll learn them later in the School of Hard Knocks that is life.

Not to fret, though. I’ll give you lots of ways to accomplish this. If you want to, you can do it. They only piece that you must be born with is the desire to attend USNA.

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Did You Miss These Posts Over the Holidays?

15 Jan

keyboardingHere are five activities to get you ready for the demands of a new school year:

  1. 10 Bits of Wisdom I Learned From a Computer
  2. End-of-Year Tips: 18 Steps To A Speedier Computer
  3. End of Year Tips: Update Your Online Presence
  4. 4 Collaborative Projects Students Will Love

Try them out–post a comment if you need help. I’ll be here.

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Top 10 Commented-on Articles and Click-throughs in 2015

12 Jan

2015When readers take time to leave a comment and/or click through to a link I include in a post, it means they trust me, are engaged, and find what they’re reading valuable–want to extend it. This year, I had many more comments than in 2014–about 4800. This compared to over 14,000 over the life of my blog. Why? I’m not sure. I will say I selfishly have enjoyed my readers much more this year. The perspective I get and the vast range of experience is like nothing else in life. I live in a bubble and you-all let me venture out of it.

The 2015 articles that inspired this kind of activity from readers are special to me. I learn a lot by noticing what contributed to the WordDreams community.

Here they are–the ten most commented and most clicked-through articles I shared in 2015:

Top 10 commented-on articles

  1. 51 Great Similes to Spark Imagination
  2. 10 Bits of Wisdom I Learned From a Computer
  3. 29+ Ways to Market Your Book
  4. Lessons learned in a writing journey
  5. 10 Tips for Picture Book Writers
  6. #IWSG–None of My Marketing Seems to Work
  7. 8 Tips for Historic Fiction Writers
  8. 10 Tips for Steampunk Writers
  9. How NOT to Write a Book Review
  10. 27+ Tips I Wish I’d Known About Blogging

Click-throughs are another interesting metric. They tell me how many of the links I post readers actually investigate. They want more information, or primary sources for data, or maybe to purchase one of the books I review (I have an Amazon Associates account so each time a reader clicks through from my blog and buys the book, I get something like 3%).

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Learn to Blend Tech into Your Class; Get College Credit

08 Jan

hour of codeStarting January 18th, I’ll be teaching a class on blending technology into your classroom:

Click the link and scroll down to MTI 562 to sign up.

Here are the basics:

Course Description

The 21st Century lesson blends technology with teaching to build a collaborative, differentiated, and shared learning environment. In this course, teachers will use a suite of digital tools to make that possible while addressing overarching concepts like digital citizenship, internet search and research, authentic assessment, critical thinking, and immersive keyboarding. Teachers will actively collaborate, share knowledge, provide constructive feedback to classmates, and publish digitally. Classmates will become the core of the teacher’s ongoing Personal Learning Network. Assessment is project-based so participants should be prepared to be fully-involved and eager risk-takers.

Course Objectives

At the completion of this course, the teacher will be able to:

  1. Use blogs, wikis, Twitter, and Google Hangouts to collaborate and share.
  2. Guide students to safely and effectively search and research on the internet.
  3. Use technology to support teaching and achieve Common Core Standards.
  4. Blend keyboarding skills into classroom activities and prepare for yearly assessments.
  5. Assess student technology use organically.
  6. Use digital portfolios to store, share, and curate classwork.
  7. Rely on a Personal Learning Network.
  8. Solve common tech problems that arise in the classroom.993311 a studying female student with approved

What do students say?

At the beginning of the class, I had to contact Jacqui several times because I was so confused. I had no idea what a digital portfolio was, or how I was expected to create one. Throughout the course of the five weeks, I was able to take the knowledge that she instilled in me, and begin importing different assignment on my own into my digital portfolio using widgets (I did not even know what these were before this class!) and links.   I was able to participate in the “tweet-up” with my classmates and several Google Hang Outs with Jacqui. I completed daily and weekly goals by reading the assigned articles and lesson plans, as well as watching the videos that accompanied each topic. Reading all of the valuable information, creating a blog and a wiki, exploring different websites, creating projects, and creating a digital portfolio, will greatly benefit my students this year and in the years that follow.

LOVING all I’m learning!!

 To say I have learned a lot in the past five weeks of my online class is an understatement. I have attended Google Hangouts, learned about wikis, back channels, created a blog, and even tweeted!

I would like to close by saying how much I enjoyed this class. I truly learned so much. As a technology teacher I was not sure what to expect from this course. I found that much of what I currently do in the classroom has been validated. However and more importantly, I learned many new instruction and assessment strategies (along with some new tech tools) that I can now use and apply to improve the learning in my classroom. Thanks everyone!

As a technology teacher I wasn’t sure what to expect from this course. While this course validated much of what I already do in the classroom the The 21st Century Digitally-infused Teacher course also showed me ways in which I can improve and modify my instruction. I enjoyed the course format and feel the instructor was not only very knowledgeable but provided great resources as well. Thank you!

I loved this class! Jacqui was very knowledgeable and helpful whenever I was stuck.

“MTI 562 really opened my eyes and made me think about how to put technology into my lessons. Jacqui Murray encouraged me to be a tech-infused teacher! I can not wait to try these newly learned skills in August”

Click here for 15 take-aways from the last class.

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