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Archive for the ‘Ask a Tech Teacher’ Category

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:

tpt

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

Take-Aways

  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 Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out next summer.

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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 »

 

How to Talk to a Tech Teacher

27 Mar

There’s always been something mystical about people in technical professions–engineering, science, mathematics. They talk animatedly about plate tectonics, debate the structure of mathematical functions, even smile at the mention of calculus. The teaching profession has their own version of these individuals, called ‘technology teachers’. They used to be stuffed in a corner of the school where most teachers could pretend they didn’t exist, that what they did was for ‘some other educator in an alternate dimension’.

Thawritert all changed when technology swept across the academic landscape like a firestorm:

  • iPads became the device of choice in the classroom
  • Class SmartScreens became more norm than abnorm(al)
  • Technology in the classroom changed from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’
  • 1:1 became a realistic goal
  • Students researched online as often as in the library
  • Students began spending as much time in a digital neighborhood as their home town
  • Textbooks morphed into resources rather than bibles

Today, teachers who don’t use technology are an endangered species. Often, they’re too young to retire, so they get a map from a colleague to that place where they’ve been told they’ll find help–from a person variously called the ‘tech teacher’, ‘integration specialist’, or ‘tech coordinator’.

As they enter the room, Google Maps in hand (an effort to impress), they figure the person they’re looking for must be the one who looks up as they enter, fingers flying across the keyboard, never pausing and never slowing even as she smiles and says, ‘Hi!’.

Before you ask your question, I have a short list of signs that will help you have a more positive experience when you confront this big-brained Sheldon-look-like:

  • You can’t scare them (in fact, even Admin and a lousy economy doesn’t frighten them). They’re techies. Try kindness instead.
  • Patience and tech are oxymorons. Know that going in.
  • Bring food. Techies often forget to eat, or ate everything in their snack stash and need more.
  • Some days, tech looks a lot like work. Distract them with an interesting problem.
  • Start the encounter with a discussion on Dr. Who, Minecraft, or Big Bang Theory. Find a clever tie-in to your topic.
  • Understand that tech teachers often think trying to teach teachers to tech is like solving the Riemann Hypothesis (many consider it impossible). Bone up on basics before the Meeting.
  • Life after the 100th crashed computer is what Oprah might call a life-defining moment. If that just happened as you walked through the door, turn around and come back another time.
  • Understanding a techie who’s in the zone is like understanding the meaning of life. Again–leave the room; come back later.

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5 Reasons Class Size Does NOT Matter and 3 Why Large is a Good Thing

19 Mar

problem solvingAre you drowning in students, sure that the flood of bodies that enter your classroom daily will destroy your effectiveness? Does it depress you, make you second-guess your decision to effect change in the world as a teacher? Do you wonder how you’ll explain to parents–and get them to believe you–that you truly CAN teach thirty students and meet their needs (because you must convince them–of all education characteristics, parents equate class size to success)?

Take heart while I play Devil’s Advocate and offer evidence contrary to what seems by most to be intuitive common sense. I mean, how could splitting your finite amount of time among LESS students be anything but advantageous? Sure, there are many studies (US-based primarily) that support a direct correlation between class size and teacher ability to meet education goals, but consider how you–personally–learn. Sure, it occurs through teachers, but just as often by trial and error, peers, inquiry, student-centered activities, play, experiencing events, differentiated ways unlike others. Educators like John Holt believe “children [and by extension, you] learn most effectively by their own motivation and on their own terms”.

Is it possible the root of the education problem is other than class size? Getting Beneath the Veil of Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City (National Bureau of Economic Research) indicates that traditional success measures–including class size–do not correlate to school effectiveness. According to this study, what doesn’t matter is:

  1. class size
  2. per pupil expenditure
  3. fraction of teachers with no certification
  4. fraction of teachers with an advanced degree

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Celebrate Pi Day

14 Mar

Pi Day is an annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant π (pi). Pi Day is observed on March 14 (or 3/14 in the U.S. month/day date format), since 3, 1, and 4 are the three most significant digits of π in the decimal form.

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13 Reasons For and 3 Against Technology in the Classroom

19 Feb

pros and consFor the 45 states who opted into Common Core, using technology in the classroom is no longer a choice–it’s required. Common Core’s Standards insist that for any student to be prepared for college and career requires they be digitally- and technologically savvy. From the English Language Arts Standards:

Technology differentiates for student learning styles by providing an alternative method of achieving conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and applying this knowledge to authentic circumstances.

…and from the Math Standards:

Mathematically proficient students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. Proficient students are sufficiently familiar with tools appropriate for their grade or course to make sound decisions about when each of these tools might be helpful.

The standards themselves go into detail. Sprinkled throughout are constant allusions to the importance of using technology, its fundamental nature as the bedrock of education, and the necessity to weave it throughout the academic fabric, regardless the topic, skill, or requirement.

Here are thirteen reasons why this is a good idea. The first seven are directly from the Standards, the last six from classroom experience:

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