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How I’m Doing on ‘To Hunt a Sub’

16 Apr

to do list for novelHere’s an update on my upcoming novel, To Hunt a Sub:

  • It’s fully drafted. Now I’m fact-checking
  • I’m awaiting eagerly a meeting with a friend who will help pin down some critical geeky, techie details. That’s my last step!
  • After that, I’ll re-read–for the fginal time I hop
  • I still need a cover. I’m finding images (like the ones I’ve posted in other articles on this topic, to see if they resonate long-term with my feeling for the book
  • I still need an editor. I have a couple of ideas. Anyone have one they love?
  • I have the publisher set up–the same people I’ve worked with on all my books. They’re amazing–fast, affordable, and good to work with

Sending it to the publisher of course doesn’t mean I’m done. It simply means a new TODO list that focuses on marketing. More on that later…

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Posted in Musings

 

21 Great Websites and Apps for Earth Day

15 Apr

earth dayApril 22nd is Earth Day. Celebrate it with your students by letting them visit these websites:

  1. Breathing Earth
  2. Breathing Earth YouTube Video–of CO2 use, population changes, and more
  3. Conservation Game
  4. Earth day collection
  5. Earth Day—NASA Ocean Currents
  6. Eco-friendly house
  7. Eeko World
  8. Ecotourism Simulation–for grades 4 and above
  9. Electrocity
  10. Footprint calculator
  11. Home of the Future
  12. My Garbology
  13. NASA City

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Google Hangouts–Are You Using Them Yet?

08 Apr

google hangoutClasstime traditionally is a static point in time. Students show up in your room. You teach for 50 minutes (or however long the period is). You may post study guides and homework on a class website, but they don’t make a lot of sense to the student who missed class because s/he was sick or out of town. Those students—you try to meet after school to catch them up, which may or may not work with your schedule or theirs. Or they get notes from friends which also may or may not work.

That has become a dated idea. Let me give you an example. My daughter invited me to participate in one of her MBA classes at the University of Maryland (with instructor permission). I’m in California; she’s in DC. Five years ago, that would have been a show-stopper, but not anymore. She broadcast the class on her iPad with her Google Hangouts (GHO) app, sent me an invite, and that’s it. I saw everything she did. When her professor accessed an internet program, I brought it up on my computer and worked along with him. When he played a TED talk, I listened on my screen. When I had a question, I typed it into the backchannel (a message board that pops up with GHO) and my daughter asked for me (since I was observing, I muted my mic).

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Summer PD–from Ask a Tech Teacher

02 Apr

Summer is coming, and so is Tech Training! Join me with a great group of professionals (who will quickly become your best online friends) for three weeks of intensive training on tech topics you want to learn about. All the details are below.

Note: Early Bird special for those who sign up by May 31st. Use coupon code SUMMERPD to get 10% off!

Sign up now–

  • it’s all online, but a lot of 1:1 assistance, so space is limited.
  • you get lots of the materials as soon as you sign up. Take from now until June 22nd to review them, use them in your end-of-year and next-year planning

 

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What is the 21st Century Lesson Plan?

27 Mar

lesson plansTechnology and the connected world put a fork in the old model of teaching–instructor in front of the class, sage on the stage, students madly taking notes, textbooks opened to the chapter being reviewed, homework as worksheets based on the text, tests regurgitating important facts.

Did I miss anything?

This model is outdated not because it didn’t work (many statistics show students ranked higher on global testing years ago than they do now), but because the environment changed. Our classrooms are more diverse. Students are digital natives, already in the habit of learning via technology. The ‘college and career’ students are preparing for is different so the education model must be different.

Preparing for this new environment requires radical changes in teacher lesson plans. Here are seventeen concepts you’ll want to include in your preparation:

  1. Students are graduating from high school unable to work in the jobs that are available. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to insure students learn over-arching concepts such as how to speak to a group, how to listen effectively, how to think critically, and how to solve problems. The vehicle for teaching these ideas is history, science, and literature, but they aren’t the goal.industry analyst
  2. To focus on the over-arching concepts above, make learning platform-neutral. For example, when teaching spreadsheets, make the software or online tools a vehicle for practicing critical thinking, data analysis, and evidence-based learning, not for learning one brand of software or a particular spreadsheet tool. Besides, what you use at school may not be what students have at home. You don’t want students to conflate your lessons with ‘something done at school’. You want them to apply them to their life.
  3. Morph the purpose from ‘knowing’ to ‘understanding’. Teach the process, not a skill. Students should understand why they select a particular tool, not just how to use it. Why use PowerPoint instead of a word processing program? Or a spreadsheet instead of a slideshow? Expect students to be critical thinkers, not passive learners.
  4. Transfer of knowledge is critical. What students learn in one class is applied to all classes (where relevant). For example, word study is no longer about memorizing vocabulary, but knowing how to decode unknown academic and domain-specific words using affixes, roots, and context.
  5. Collaboration and sharing is part of what students learn. They help each other by reviewing and commenting on projects before submittal to the teacher (GAFE makes that easy). The definition of ‘project’ itself has changed from ‘shiny perfect student work’ to review-edit-rewrite-submit. You grade them on all four steps, not just the last one. This makes a lot of sense–who gets it right the first time? I rewrote this article at least three times before submitting. Why expect differently from students? Plus: No longer do students submit a project that only the teacher sees (and then a few are posted on classroom bulletin boards). Now, it is shared with all classmates, so all benefit from every students’ work.collaboration
  6. Self-help methods are provided and you expect students to use them. This includes online dictionaries and thesauruses, how-to videos, and access to teacher assistance outside of class. These are available 24/7 for students, not just during classroom hours. This happens via online videos, taped class sessions, the class website, downloadable materials so students don’t worry that they ‘left it in their desk’.
  7. Teachers are transparent with parents. You let them know what’s going on in the classroom, welcome their questions and visits, communicate often via email or blogs when it’s convenient for them. That doesn’t mean you’re on duty around the clock. It means you differentiate for the needs of your parents. Your Admin understands that change by providing extended lunch hours, compensatory time off, or subs when you’re fulfilling this responsibility.App icons
  8. Failure is a learning tool. Assessments aren’t about ‘getting everything right’ but about making progress toward the goal of preparing for life
  9. Differentiation is the norm. You allow different approaches as long as students achieve the Big Idea or answer the Essential Question. You aren’t the only one to come up with these varied approaches–students know what works best for their learning and present it to you as an option.
  10. The textbook is a resource, supplemented by a panoply of books, primary documents, online sites, experts, Skype chats, and anything else that supports the topic. This information doesn’t always agree on a conclusion. Students use habits of mind like critical thinking, deep learning, and evidence-based decisions to decide on the right answers.education resources
  11. The lesson plan changes from the first day to the last–and that’s OK. It is adapted to student needs, interests, and hurdles that arise as it unfolds, while staying true to its essential question and big idea.
  12. Assessment might include a quiz or test, but it also judges the student’s transfer of knowledge from other classes, their tenacity in digging into the topic, their participation in classroom discussions, and more.big idea Light bulb  illustration icon
  13. Vocabulary is integrated into lessons, not a stand-alone topic. Students are expected to decode words in class materials that they don’t understand by using quickly-accessed online vocabulary tools, or deriving meaning from affixes, roots, and context.word study
  14. Problem solving is integral to learning. It’s not a stressful event, rather viewed as a life skill. Who doesn’t have problems every day that must be solved? Students are expected to attempt a solution using tools at their disposal (such as prior knowledge, classmates, and classroom resources) before asking for help.
  15. Digital citizenship is taught, modeled and enforced in every lesson, every day, every class. It’s no longer something covered in the ‘tech lab’ because every class has as much potential for working online as offline. Every time the lesson plan calls for an online tool or research using a search engine or a YouTube video, teachers review/remind/teach how to visit the online neighborhood safely. It’s frightening how students blithely follow weblinks to places most parent wouldn’t allow their child to visit in their neighborhood. Just as students have learned how to survive in a physical community of strangers, they must learn to do the same in a digital neighborhood.
  16. Keyboarding skills are granular. They aren’t used only in the computer lab, but in every class students take. If students are using iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, or desktops for learning, they are using keyboarding–which means they must know how to do so efficiently, quickly, and stresslessly. Since keyboarding benefits all classes, all teachers–including the librarian–become partners in this effort. I go into classrooms and show students the broad strokes; the teacher reinforces it every time the student sits down at the computer.typing on keyboard
  17. Play is the new teaching. It is a well-accepted concept for pre-schoolers and has made a successful leap to the classroom, relabeled as ‘gamification’. Use the power of games to draw students into learning and encourage them to build on their own interests. Popular games in the classroom include Minecraft, Mission US, Scratch, and others on this list. If your school is new to this concept, clear it with admin first and be prepared to support your case.play

When I first wrote lesson plans, it was all about aligning learning with standards, completing the school’s curricula, ticking off required skills. Now, I build the habits of mind that allow for success in education and home life and construct a personal knowledge base with students that will work for their differentiated needs. Like any lesson plan, this is only difficult the first time. After that, it seems natural.


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of dozens of tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and dozens of books on how to 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, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

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How I’m Doing on ‘To Hunt a Sub’

19 Mar

I am eager to get my book, To Hunt a Sub, completed, but I have to push it back a few months. I need to verify a few details (meaning, about fifty) with a specialist and they aren’t available until May.

unavailable

Hopefully, then, I’ll sprint for the end.

hurry

Sigh.

sigh


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 dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com 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. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. 

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Can You Fix These Grammar Problems?

16 Mar

grammar errorsA dear efriend–Ankur Mithal over at Dark Office Humour–posted a list of funny signs found around the area. I got a good laugh over them and then my muse pointed out they were a great opportunity for grammar lessons.

After all, we are grammaraticians, neologists, and writing experts. Who better than us to fix these signs in need of a comma, word rearrangement, or toss in the trash.

Read the list below and add a comment about how you would correct the errant grammar that led to the misunderstood message:

  • In an office:
    TOILET OUT OF ORDER……. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW
  • In a Laundromat:
    AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT
  • In a London department store:
    BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS

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6 Stand-alone Lesson Plans for Subs

12 Mar

substitute teacherAs a tech educator, it’s difficult to find a substitute teacher who is comfortable delivering my tech-infused lesson plans to students. Even if the sub is knowledgeable in the subject matter, s/he doesn’t have intimate knowledge of what this particular student group knows about software, websites, problem solving, and more, which can be scaffolded for the current lesson. Nor does she know my organic expectations of students such as the level of independence and self-direction I expect during class. When I started teaching tech, my generic sub lesson plan looked like this:

  • practice keyboarding for fifteen minutes
  • visit inquiry-themed websites

That was fine–don’t get me wrong; it promotes student learning while avoiding a meltdown by the teacher–but I now have better options that keep momentum going while I am away for PD or recovering from an unexpected illness. This collection of six stand-alone lesson plans are designed to complete important techie learning tasks, assess existing knowledge, or integrate technology rigor into class inquiry. They require little domain-specific knowledge on the part of the sub, asking primarily that s/he supervise activities and encourage critical thinking, problem solving, and transfer of knowledge on the part of students. Next time you need an emergency lesson plan, try one of these:

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Keyboarding with ASCII Art

11 Mar

I’ve written about ASCII Art (click for ASCII Art directions) and use it as an integral part of my keyboarding curriculum. It’s a fun way for students to use keyboarding in a creative, unique way. The way I teach it, it doesn’t take long to complete, say thirty minutes for a complete drawing like these:

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ing this article on Extreme ASCII. Paul Smith creates drawings that look like this:

Here’s the story:

What a great story for my students–and me!


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of dozens of tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, 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, a tech ed columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning

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TurboScan–Great Class Management Tool

05 Mar

scan appTurboScan

Scanning app

$2.99

A teacher friend is already stressed–and the year is only half over. Her school is putting together digital portfolios for every student which will include representative work monthly in each subject. That means posters, math papers, art projects, tests, summatives must be scanned into the server and filed in each student’s digital portfolio. Not so bad if there are enough scanners and computers to get it done. Which there aren’t. My friend has to wait in line, squeeze this work into breaks, or stay late or come early to try to get her portion of the work done.

One $2.99 iPad/iPHone/Android app would take care of the problem. It’s called TurboScan. Using the iPad (or Smartphone) camera, you take one-three pictures of a single- or multi-page document, tweak it so it’s the way you want it, email it to wherever you need it or save it to the camera roll and transfer it that way. Instead of hours, she’d be done in minutes.

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