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Archive for the ‘Ask a Tech Teacher’ Category

What to do When Computers Are Down

26 Jan
sideways cat on laptopAll tech teachers have experienced a day when the computers don’t work. You jiggle the mouse and nothing. You reboot and the screens remain dark. You know how to tap dance when the internet won’t connect (use software instead) or a particular program refuses to load (go to your Symbaloo page of alternatives).
But what happens when the computers themselves are down–a systemic virus, or a site-wide upgrade that went bad? What do you do with the eager faces who tumble across your threshold ready for their once-a-week computer time? You need something that ties into technology without using it.
Here are some ideas:

Discuss digital citizenship

This is a topic that needs to be discussed every year, repetitively. When I teach digital citizenship, it always includes lots of back-and-forth conversation and surprised faces. Students have no idea that the right to use online resources includes responsibilities. In getting that point across, I end up answering endless questions, many that revolve around, ‘But no one knows who I am’, ‘But how can I be caught‘.

Use tech downtime to delve into this topic. Gather in a circle and talk about concepts like ‘digital footprint’, ‘plagiarism’, and ‘digital privacy’. Common Sense has a great poster (see image below) that covers these through a discussion on when to put photos online. You can print it out or display it on the Smartscreen. Take your time. Solicit lots of input from students–like their experiences with online cyberbullies and Instagram, and what happens with their online-enabled Wii platforms. It can be their personal experience or siblings.

A note: The poster says it’s for middle and high school, but I use it with students as young as third grade by scaffolding and backfilling the discussion:

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3 Apps to Combat Grammar Faux Pas

22 Jan

Grammar has often been a subject students resisted learning, were bored by, or flat out didn’t understand. That’s changed, thanks to the popularity of iPads and their multimedia, multi-sensory apps. Here are three apps that will turn your classroom grammar program around.

photoGrammaropolis

Free (fee required for full options)

4/5 stars

Overview

Called the Schoolhouse Rock of the 21st Century, Grammaropolis gamifies a subject that has traditionally been about laboriously conjugating verbs and diagramming sentences. Its eight cheery cartoon characters star in 9 books, 9 music videos, 20 animated shorts, 26 quiz categories, and a multitude of games which–when blended together–teach grammar. Through the vehicle of a map, catchy music and fast-paced lessons, students learn the parts of speech and win seals. Content is thorough, useful, and accurate, the app intuitive to use with a minimal learning curve. There is no software to download, no maintenance, no fuss. Students can sign up as an individual or through a class account where the teacher can track their progress. It’s available on iPads, smartphones, and the web.The iPad app opens immediately to the student account (only one user per iPad account) while the web interface requires a log-in.

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2014, I Resolve…

14 Jan

NY ResolutionsNew Years–a time for rest, rejuvenation and repair. A time to assess life. Do we settle into our routine, enjoy where it’s headed, or is it time to grab our purse, our iPhone, our car keys, and get out of there?

Here are my resolutions this year. Lots of them! This is actually more of a To Do list. I break it down into Fiction (for my novel writing), Non-fiction (for my tech ed writing), Blogs (for my four blogs) and Business (for marketing my myriad of books):

Fiction

  • Rewrite and publish To Hunt a Sub. This tech thriller series uses science to drive the plot. The science is current, not futuristic, with extrapolations on what can be accomplished. The characters are damaged, flawed, and heroic. The plot is fast-paced, non-stop (which I have to work on). At one point almost ten years ago, I called this book completed. Now, I’m glad I took a second look. I like it much better. I’ll be giving you updates over the next few months with a tentative plan to get it out before summer.
  • Rewrite the sequel to To Hunt a SubTwenty-Four Days. This is the second in the series and plays up the part of my AI Otto in solving mysteries. This, too, I called completed at one point. Then I edited and called it completed. Then my agent offered advice, I made changes and called it completed. Yikes! I’m getting sick of it! This time, I’ll go through it, fix problems, and self-pub! I need to move on. I won’t finish it this year, but I’ll get started, with a planned publication date of mid-next year.
  • I attended Richard Bausch’s amazing workshop last year on writing. 2014, I need to find another motivating class to enrich my writing. Any ideas?

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Subscriber Special: January

05 Jan

saleEvery month, subscribers to Ask a Tech Teacher and the Structured Learning Newsletter get a free/discounted resource to help their tech teaching.

This month:

Any keyboarding curriculum purchase–get the video support for free

To get this special: Just add a comment to your purchase that you are taking advantage of this subscriber special. We’ll do the rest.

Delivery: PDF or print for books; YT for videos

How to Order: Publisher’s website only

Price: varies

Check this link often to see what else has been added as free/discounted

 

We Honor Veterans

11 Nov

In the USA, Veterans Day annually falls on November 11. This day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918. Veterans are thanked for their services to the United States on Veterans Day.






 

Humor that Inspires–for Teachers! Part V

09 Oct

funny quotesIf you liked the last Humor that Inspires (Part 1, and Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4), here are more to kick-start your day:

  1. “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.”
    – A Yale University management professor in response to student Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)
  2. “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”
    – H. M. Warner (1881-1958), founder of Warner Brothers, in 1927
  3. “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
    – Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962
  4. “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
    – Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899
  5. “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”
    – Mark Twain (1835-1910)
  6. “A pint of sweat, saves a gallon of blood.”
    – General George S. Patton (1885-1945)
  7. “After I’m dead I’d rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one.”
    – Cato the Elder (234-149 BC, AKA Marcus Porcius Cato)
  8. “He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.”
    – Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
  9. “Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.”
    – last words of Pancho Villa (1877-1923)
  10. “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”
    – Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935) Read the rest of this entry »
 

9/11… We Remember

11 Sep

America, we love you.

 

5 Top Ways to Integrate Technology into the New School Year

08 Sep

I was reading an article–Five Real Reasons Why Teachers Don’t Use Technology More–from eSchool News listing the reasons why teachers don’t use technology. Included were some that probably resonate with educators at your school–Portrait of Asian secretary sitting at desk

  • it keeps changing so how do you decide what to choose
  • too much to do, too little time
  • teachers are pulled in too many directions
  • unreliable technology
  • no respect for the teacher’s voice in this tech ed process

I was nodding, thinking of people the reasons fit perfectly–and then I noticed: The article was written in

1999!

That’s right–fifteen years ago and nothing’s changed.

Have you been giving the same reasons for fifteen years too, hoping the tech demons will just go away and leave you to teach in peace? Every June, do you say, I got through another year without this or that tech tool–and everything went well.

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A Day in the Life of a Tech Teacher

04 Sep

teacher-359311_640I love summer. I sit at home, reading, researching, chatting with friends. I make my own schedule, own my own time, start and finish a project without interruptions.

That is a massive high to me.

Why? I’m a tech teacher. That is like a teacher+. I teach–yes–but I’m also the first line of defense (sometimes offense) for colleagues as they struggle to use the digital devices populating their classrooms. From the moment I step foot on her home campus, life spins out of my control. Here’s a typical day I have–does it sound familiar:

6:45 arrive

6:47 a student arrives to use lab

6:48 I greet student with a friendly hi and begin work on a lesson plan

6:49 Student asks for help

7:00 Student finishes and leaves; I return to my lesson plan

7:02 Frantic teacher calls–her computer won’t boot up. She came in early to do some work and now what’s she supposed to do can I come right away

7:03 I arrive in teacher classroom to help

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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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