Jacqui Murray

30 Mar

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-eighth grade, creator of a passel of technology training books for middle school and technology in education generally. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, and more. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

Jacqui won the Southern California Writers Conference Outstanding Fiction Award for her upcoming techno-thriller, To Hunt a Sub (excerpt available on Reviewers laud her novel as ‘strongly written’ with ‘interesting and unique plot hooks’. She’s currently working on a prehistoric character-driven novel, Born in a Treacherous Time (excerpt available on She was born in Berkley California to Irish-German parents. After receiving a BA in Economics, a BA in Russian and an MBA, she worked for twenty years in a variety of industries while raising her two children and teaching evening classes at community colleges. With her children now adults, one in the Navy and one in the Army, she lives in Laguna Hills CA with her husband and two beautiful Labradors.. She teaches computer science to grades K-8 while pursuing her writing.

You can find her columns, guest posts and thoughts at the following digital ezines, blogs and websites:

If you’re interested in having Jacqui guest post on your blog, website, or review a product/website/book for you, please contact her at

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Posted in Musings


Most Commented Posts

25 Aug

I’m alpeople icons dialog speech bubblesways surprised by which posts inspire readers to comment. Like most writers, I have a small group of devoted fans who I can always count on to remind me I’m not writing to a void. But beyond these wonderful efriends, each post garners a few more responses from people I don’t know. I always drop by their blogs to visit and see what motivates them to be bloggers and writers. Sometimes, they’re artists, poets, good Samaritans, and/or just plain ordinary people who have reached out.

I want to share some of my most commented blogs with you. This list is surprisingly different from ‘Most Visited’. I’ll show you the comparison:

Most Commented

  1. 51 Great Similes to Spark ImaginationFace people   on Cement wall texture background
  2. How to Describe an American–if You Aren’t
  3. 10 Tips for Picture Book Writers (a guest post from a wonderful efriend and artist)
  4. 8 Tips for Historic Fiction Writers
  5. 10 Tips for Steampunk Writers (this one surprised me. I wrote it based on research and found out what an amazing genre this is)
  6. 6 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Blogging
  7. 178 Ways to Describe Women’s Clothing
  8. #IWSG–Am I a Storyteller?
  9. 14 Tips for Young Adult Writers
  10. 13 Ways to Exorcise Wordiness

Most Visited

  1. 51 Great Similes to Spark Imagination (tops both lists. That surprised me)
  2. 178 Ways to Describe Women’s Clothing
  3. 35 Weird Traits Your Characters May Have
  4. How to Describe a Landscape
  5. How to Describe Nature
  6. How to Describe an American–if You Aren’t
  7. One-Word Characteristics to Spice Up Your Writing
  8. How to Describe a Person’s Clothing
  9. How To Describe Noses, Mouths, Legs, and more
  10. How to Describe Dogs

I’d love to hear what your most-commented blog post is.

Jacqui Murray is the author of dozens of books (on technology in education) as well as the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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Posted in Writing


My Summer with David Rosenfelt

11 Aug

love dogsI discovered David Rosenfelt, creator of defense attorney Andy Carpenter, love-of-his-life Laurie, supremely persuasive investigator Marcus Clarke, and best-dog-in-the-world Tara (though she’s actually the second-best dog in the world–Rosenfelt hasn’t met my dog) through my Amazon Vine reading. I’d just finished Robert Crais Suspect, about a military dog named Maggie with PTSD who’s handler is killed in Afghanistan. It’s a wrenching story of how this one-man dog, bred to defend her pack, survives her failure and creates a new life. At times, we see man’s world through Maggie’s loyal, unselfish, focused eyes. I wanted more of Maggie, but Crais hasn’t cooperated. When Tara’s story arrived in my email box, I grabbed it.

I read Hounded and bought the other ten. Carpenter is clever, humorous, smart, human (he’s afraid of everything so brings his ex-cop girlfriend for protection). His characters, while typical for a defense attorney story, are uniquely-constructed with traits that are appealing and fascinating (for example, Marcus barely talks, communicates what he must with ‘Yunh’ and ‘Nunh’. Don’t expect long-winded explanations from him).

The plots don’t always revolve around dogs, but they always include Andy’s life with Tara. She’s his confidant–he hashes out cases with her while they take walks. Long walks–an hour or more. He feels she’s a good listener which inspires him to unlock mysteries.

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11 Take-aways from Summer PD

07 Aug

summer pdSummer PD 2014 just ended. A couple dozen of us–teachers, library media specialists, tech integrationists, lab teachers–gathered virtually for three weeks to experiment with some of the hottest tech tools available for the classroom–Google Apps, differentiation tools, digital storytelling, visual learning, Twitter, blogs, backchannels, student as digital citizen, and more (30 topics in all). PD was run like a flipped classroom where attendees picked one of two daily topics, then they read. Tested. Experimented. Failed and tried again. Asked questions. They shared with colleagues on discussion boards, blogs, Tweets. Once a week we got together on a Google Hangout (well, two because GHO only allows 10 participants) to share ideas, answer questions, discuss nuances.

The class awarded a Certificate based on effort. Not end product. Here are my takeaways as moderator of this amazing group:

  • They are risk takers. Kept trying long beyond the recommended hour a day in some cases.
  • They were curious. They wanted to get it right, see how it worked.
  • They are life long learners. Some had been teaching for thirty years and still enthusiastically embraced everything from twitter to genius hour.
  • They were problem solvers. I often heard, ‘This will work with my students ‘if I tweak it here, I can solve this problem’.

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Subscribers: Here’s Your August Special

05 Aug

saleEvery month, subscribers to Ask a Tech Teacher get a free/discounted resource to help their tech teaching.

This month:

Companion Wikis

Free if you own the K-5 tech curriculum

Get 10% off if you want to purchase the membership (coupon code: AUGUSTSPECIAL)

Over 190 videos, spread throughout the school year, starting Week #1 and ending Week #32. One each for each K-5 lesson in the SL Tech Curriculum. Plus: Access to archives from prior years.

Delivery: video

Videos Start: Mid August, 2014 (order now–don’t miss any!)

How to Order: Publisher’s website only


3 Problems to Address Before Blogging at Your School

29 Jul

tech questionsDear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Molly:

I really enjoyed your article on students blogging. It seems like a great way to get them writing willingly since they love to be online. I was wondering, what are some of the problems you have run into and how did you solve them? What pitfalls can teachers watch out for long-term?

Three big–not necessarily ‘problems’ as much as issues to address:

Digital rights and responsibilities

You don’t want to roll out blogging in your classroom without a sturdy program educating students on digital citizenship–privacy, profiles, footprints, safety, fair use/copyrights. I have lots of information on those topics on my blog. Another good resource is Common Sense Media.

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22 Tips on How to Work Remotely

24 Jul

remote workI first considered this topic at a presentation I attended through WordCamp Orange County 2014. I had several trips coming up and decided to see how I addressed issues of being away from my writing hub. Usually, that’s when I realize I can’t do/find something and say, “If only…”

I am finally back from three conferences and a busy visit from my son–all of which challenged me to take care of business on the road and on the fly.

Truth is, life often interferes with work. Vacations, conferences, PD–all these take us away from our primary functions and the environment where we are most comfortable delivering our best work. I first thought about this when I read an article by a technical subject teacher(math, I think) pulled away from his class for a conference. Often in science/math/IT/foreign languages, subs aren’t as capable (not their fault; I’d capitulate if you stuck me in a Latin language class). He set up a video with links for classwork and a realtime feed where he could be available and check in on the class. As a result, students–and the sub–barely missed him. Another example of teaching remotely dealt with schools this past winter struggling with the unusually high number of snow days. So many, in fact, that they were either going to have to extend the school year or lose funding. Their solution: Have teachers deliver content from their homes to student homes via a set-up like Google Hangouts (but one that takes more than 10-15 participants at a time).

All it took to get these systems in place was a problem that required a solution and flexible risk-taking stakeholders who came up with answers.

Why can’t I work from the road? In fact, I watched a fascinating presentation from Wandering Jon at the Word Camp Orange County 2014 where he shared how he does exactly that. John designs websites and solves IT problems from wherever he happens to be that day–a beach in Thailand, the mountains in Tibet or his own backyard. Where he is no longer impacts the way he delivers on workplace promises.

Here’s what I came up with that I either currently use or am going to arrange:

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14 Action Items, 5 Take-aways and 3 Tidbits from the TpT Conference

21 Jul

tpt1.6 million teachers buy from Teachers Pay Teachers. Over 90,000,000 people visit the website monthly. If you’re a teacher, why wouldn’t you set up a free seller account (they take a percent of revenue, like Amazon does) and see if all those brainy ed ideas caroming through your brilliant brain will fund your weekly Starbucks bill (or in the case of Deanna Jumper and a growing group of teachers like her, bring in over $1 million dollars to pay a lot more than bills)?

I have a TpT store (Ask a Tech Teacher) so decided to attend the first-ever premium seller’s conference on how to TpT better, smarter, more effectively, while having more fun. I went with a girlfriend–a fellow teacher. Together we made the desert drive from Orange County, California to Las Vegas Nevada, prepared to learn how to make our online stores the best they could be. From beginning to end, every seminar I attended was packed:


Here are my action items and take-aways from this great conference:

How to improve sales

  1. Submit for Seller Spotlight in TpT newsletter
  2. Set up a custom category in tpt
  3. Before publishing, search to be sure the products is not already up there
  4. Use a title that can be found
  5. Link products to other products in my store.
  6. Sponsor resources on the newsletter. I can do this for $50(something like that) which is taken out of my earnings.tpt13
  7. Send a note to followers once a month. Cross post on Twitter and FB.
  8. Have blogging buddies–support each other
  9. Best practices for search optimization
    1. Keep titles simple
    2. Be descriptive not creative
    3. Most users search by subjects and themes
    4. Include key phrases at beginning of description
    5. Promote other products at the bottom of the description
    6. In title, mix subject grade month
    7. You can change title without messing up the links
    8. The message: tracking your sales equates to more sales
  10. Add a terms of use and a copyrights page to each doc
  11. Add a page with related products
  12. Add a page with 10% off on products
  13. Morning work is popular
  14. Add a page with Contact info, social media


  1. June is a slow month. As is July. Good to know since it has been for me. I’ll wait before giving up. August-December statistically have the biggest sales.
  2. They don’t recommend product covers as pins on Pinterest. I should have listened harder on that one
  3. Don’t self-promote! This is a common theme on anything to do with social media
  4. If you make less than $20,000, TpT doesn’t send a W9. Good to know
  5. Everyone there was happy, excited, exhilarated to be a teacher sharing knowledge. The overwhelming attitude: We can do this together

Interesting Tidbits

  1. Average to first sale is 161 days
  2. Education use isn’t necessarily fair use in the eyes of the copyright police You must be a nonprofit ed institution
  3. Ideas cannot be protected by copyrights
And–check out Monica’s review here and the Flutter Girls review (wonderful presentation by these two ladies).
More on tech ed conferences:

5 Must-have tools for Ed Conferences

18 Take-aways from ISTE–Observations, Tips and Great Digital Tools

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of dozens of technology training books that integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out next summer.

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Free Posters

17 Jun

Check out some posters I created from my latest workshop. These are great quotes writers can live by.

You may grab them–no worries–just be sure to give credit to WordDreams (my writing blog) or me here at


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Posted in Writing


D-Day — 1944

06 Jun

Today (6/6/14) marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day, June 6, 1944

Today in 1944 on D-Day, more than 2,700 ships and craft landed troops on Normandy beaches, the largest amphibious landing in history.

Here are some D-Day FAQ’s from the Navy:


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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 webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a tech columnist for TeachHUB and, Editorial Review Board member for ISTE’s Journal for Computing Teachers, and freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer.


Happy Memorial Day!

26 May

I’m out back, by the grilling, turning hamburgers, corn, and whatever else can be grilled. Can you smell it? Yum!

I’m taking the day to honor our soldiers. Without their sacrifice, where would we be? Read the rest of this entry »