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Archive for the ‘Ask a Tech Teacher’ Category

7 Skills Students Need for Today’s Classwork

23 Jul

vocabularyClassrooms are infused with technology. You rarely see a lesson that doesn’t ask for online this or digital that. Students are expected to collaborate and share online as young as kindergarten when they read digital books or draw pictures using iPad apps. By middle school, they work in online groups through forums, wikis, and Google Apps.

Accomplishing this so it serves educational goals isn’t as much about knowing how to use the tools as constructing knowledge in an organic, scalable way. Doing a project that uses Google Docs or MS Word doesn’t mean students will apply that knowledge to the year-end PARCC and SB tests. Creating an online graphic organizer on the animal kingdom doesn’t necessarily conflate with knowing how to compare-contrast (a skill mentioned thirty-eight times by Common Core between kindergarten and eighth grade).

To prepare students to make the cerebral leap between tools used for a particular project and tools available as-needed requires preparation in eight areas:

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Writer-Teacher? Join Me For an Online Class

22 Jul

If you’re a writer and a teacher, we have a lot in common. I’ve published over a hundred books/ebooks on teaching in today’s classroom. At my other blog (Ask a Tech Teacher), I talk a lot about teaching, technology, and balancing the two. I write on organic topics, publish how-to’s on everything from using images to running a Genius Hour, and teach online webinars and classes.

In fact, I have two classes coming up:


tech-infused teacherThe Tech-infused Teacher: The 21st Century Digitally-infused Teacher

College credit (MTI 562)

Next class: July 27th, 2015

Next: September, 2015

(email askatechteacher@gmail.com for more information)

The 21st Century lesson blends technology with teaching to build a collaborative, differentiated, and shared learning environment. In this course, you will use a suite of digital tools to make that possible while addressing overarching concepts like digital citizenship, internet search and research, authentic assessment, digital publishing, and immersive keyboarding. You will actively collaborate, share knowledge, provide constructive feedback to classmates, publish digitally, and differentiate for unique needs. Classmates will become the core of your ongoing Personal Learning Network.

Price includes course registration, college credit, and all necessary materials.

Assessment is based on involvement, interaction with classmates, and completion of projects, so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker.


Diffeentiated TeacherDifferentiation: How Technology Makes Differentiation Fast and Easy

College credit (MTI 563)

Next class: August 10, 2015 

Differentiation in the classroom means meeting students where they are most capable of learning. It is not an extra layer of work, rather a habit of mind for both teacher and student. Learn granular approaches to infusing differentiation into all of your lesson plans, whether you’re a Common Core school or not, with this hands-on, interactive class. Ideas include visual, audio, video, mindmaps, infographics, graphic organizers, charts and tables, screenshots, screencasts, images, games and simulations, webtools, and hybrid assessments.

Price includes course registration, college credit, and all necessary materials.

Assessment is based on involvement, interaction with classmates, and completion of projects, so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker.


Others you might like (that are coming soon):

webtools for education20 Webtools in 25 Days (How to Find Webtools that Serve Your Classroom)

College credit

Next class: email askatechteacher@gmail.com to be notified when available)

Participants will explore twenty popular digital tools educators are using in their classrooms to extend learning and differentiate for student needs. Participants will review between one and four during the five-week class (by themselves or in groups) and present their review to classmates in a weekly Google Hangout. Participants will respond to the reviews of their classmates with comments, suggestions, personal experience, and questions. Both curations can be used as resource tools in the participant’s upcoming school year.

Assessment is project-based so participants should be prepared to be fully-involved and eager risk-takers.


Click for take-aways from the last sessions of these classes.

I’d love for you to join me. Questions? Email me at AskATechTeacher@gmail.com.


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.

 

6 Tips to Avoid Email Phishing

21 Jul

phishing‘Phishing’ is an attempt to steal your personal information by posing as a trusted source (a friend, your bank–like that). Kaspersky reports that while spam is declining, accounting for only 66% of email last year, phishing attacks have tripled. Why? Because it works. People think it won’t happen to them, until it does. To clean up after a successful email box invasion can take months, cost thousands of dollars, and give you many sleepless nights.

As a educator, you’ll want to teach students how to protect themselves as soon as they start using open email networks. Here are six suggestions:

  1. don’t open attachments–especially from strangers. Request that the sender embed it into the message portion of the email so you can preview it. Truthfully, I open lots of attachments, but they’re always expected. When someone I know is sending me an unexpected attachment, I ask them to include a code (something no one would expect, like their initials) in the first line of the email so I know it’s legit.
  2. don’t click links in emails–especially from strangers. I routinely make exceptions with this if it’s from someone I know and/or an expected email. DO NOT EVER click links from a financial institution no matter how legit it looks. Spammers are very good at spoofing legit financial institution websites, and thus persuading you to enter your highly-private user name and password. Instead, log into your account and enter that way.
  3. check the email address of the sender. Does it match the name? Does it look representative of the sender (for example, would Wells Fargo use an email address like wellsfargo@yahoo.com)?
  4. check for misspellings and misphrasings. More than half of phishing attacks are from Asia which may not be your home country.. That means they aren’t fluent in your native language and make mistakes.
  5. if you know the sender, does the email sound like their communication style? If not, send them a quick message to ask if they just contacted you.
  6. if the email passes all of these tests and you’re prepared to click on a link, PAUSE FOR ONE MORE TEST: Hover over the link and see what the address is. If it doesn’t match what the text says or doesn’t look legitimate, don’t click.

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Tech Ed Resources–Classes

15 Jul

I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m going to take a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.

Today: Classes

Overview

Ask a Tech Teacher offers a variety of classes throughout the year. All are online, hands-on, with an authentic use of tools you’ll want for your classroom.

Diffeentiated TeacherDifferentiation: How Technology Makes Differentiation Fast and Easy

College credit (MTI 563)

Next class: August 10, 2015

Differentiation in the classroom means meeting students where they are most capable of learning. It is not an extra layer of work, rather a habit of mind for both teacher and student. Learn granular approaches to infusing differentiation into all of your lesson plans, whether you’re a Common Core school or not, with this hands-on, interactive class. Ideas include visual, audio, video, mindmaps, infographics, graphic organizers, charts and tables, screenshots, screencasts, images, games and simulations, webtools, and hybrid assessments.

Assessment is based on involvement, interaction with classmates, and completion of projects, so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker.


tech-infused teacherThe Tech-infused Teacher: The 21st Century Digitally-infused Teacher

College credit (MTI 562)

Next class: July 27th, 2015

Next: Sept. 21st, 2015

(email askatechteacher@gmail.com for more information)

The 21st Century lesson blends technology with teaching to build a collaborative, differentiated, and shared learning environment. In this course, you will use a suite of digital tools to make that possible while addressing overarching concepts like digital citizenship, internet search and research, authentic assessment, digital publishing, and immersive keyboarding. You will actively collaborate, share knowledge, provide constructive feedback to classmates, publish digitally, and differentiate for unique needs. Classmates will become the core of your ongoing Personal Learning Network.

Assessment is based on involvement, interaction with classmates, and completion of projects, so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker.


webtools for education20 Webtools in 25 Days (How to Find Webtools that Serve Your Classroom)

College credit

Next class: September, 2015 (email askatechteacher@gmail.com for more information)

Participants will explore twenty popular digital tools educators are using in their classrooms to extend learning and differentiate for student needs. Participants will review between one and four during the five-week class (by themselves or in groups) and present their review to classmates in a weekly Google Hangout. Participants will respond to the reviews of their classmates with comments, suggestions, personal experience, and questions. Both curations can be used as resource tools in the participant’s upcoming school year.

Assessment is project-based so participants should be prepared to be fully-involved and eager risk-takers.


Who needs these

Read the rest of this entry »

 

What’s a Tech Teacher Do With Their Summer Off?

13 Jul

summerSoon, the school year will end. For ten weeks, I’ll stay home, feeling like I have an endless span of hours to do all the activities that got sidelined by grading,  projects, training, and general ‘school’ stuff. Once I get through reading until I’m bored (or  I run out of food) and straightening up the house (I won’t get carried away), I’ll start on the meat of my summer activities. Truth, that list is more of an overstuffed file cabinet than a carefully-constructed To Do page, but here’s what it looks like:

  1. Finish a tech thriller I’ve been working on this for four years. I’m 80% there (40% to go). Of course, it has lots of cutting edge technology and a quirky AI named Otto (after the palindrome). If you follow my blog, you know this is on my list every summer, as predictable as the Golf Channel. This time, I’m doing it!
  2. Under the file folder, “The world doesn’t change in front of your eyes; it changes behind your back,” I realize a few tech trends are passing me by. This includes 3D printing, Maker Spaces, and Google Classroom for starters. They are seeping into tech conversations regularly on my social media and there’s little I can contribute other than questions. I need to fix that this summer. Any suggestions?
  3. Learn a new tech tool every week. I’m teaching a volunteer program starting in June to do just that for homeschooling parents. I’ll share a video, a project, and academic tie-ins each week. Best part–it’s free! I’ll tell you more once it’s live.
  4. I’m also teaching a variety of other online classes, one on the tech-infused teacher and one on using tech to differentiate. These do require a sign-up but there’s still time if you’re interested.
  5. Get back to my inquisitive, curious roots. I used to spend hours figuring out how to solve problems, find solutions, determine what made something tick. Now, I’m too busy. I can feel the rift in my spirit, my sapped energy, my fuzzy brain. This summer, I’m getting back to that. Here’s my promise:

When I see something techie I don’t understand, I’ll ask:

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Get Your Summer Started with Ask a Tech Teacher

06 Jul

digital devicesNew to Ask a Tech Teacher? Here’s what you do:

Subscribe to the site

We publish 5-6 articles a week on a wide variety of tech-in-ed topics. Don’t miss out on the latest about:

Grade-level specific (K-12) tools and information

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The 21st Century classroom

Tech tools for the classroom

Reviews of tech ed books, products, websites, apps

Keyboarding

Digital Citizenship

Common Core

Lots more

Sign up for one of our newslettersedtech

We offer three:

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Weekly tech tips

Tech-in-ed resources

When you’re signing up, we’ll ask if you need specific help. Fill that out. I’ll contact you and we’ll see where I can best serve your needs.

Check out Hall of Fame articles.

These are favorite articles rated by readers on Ask a Tech Teacher–the Ask a Tech Teacher Hall of Fame. These articles were read and reposted the most often, and had the biggest impact on your classrooms. The list includes topics on classroom management, digital citizenship, the future of education, how technology blends into the classroom, and more.

Do you own the K-5 curriculum?

Join the K-5 Companion wikis. Get FREE help on questions, extensions, or anything that impacts how you teach a lesson. Every week, we teach the lesson with you. You can see an example here.

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How to Build Your Personal Learning Network

01 Jul

plnWhen a colleague tells you she heard about a new tech tool from someone in her PLN, do you first wonder what she’s talking about–not the tool but the three-letter acronym? Or maybe you think, ‘Of course  [Amanda] has a PLN. She’s a geek.’ You might even understand the purpose of a PLN–to provide educators with a collaborative learning environment–but think you don’t need one, or staff development provided by your school is all you can handle.

What is a PLN

According to D. Johnson (2013), a PLN is:
..
“a self-created set of experts, colleagues, and resources…that meet one’s daily learning needs.”

More simply, it’s:

…an extended group of knowledgeable people you reach out to for answers, and trust to guide your learning.

These individuals can be anywhere in the world, but are always carefully selected by you for their expertise in your subject area. It doesn’t mean they have all the answers. It means that when you have questions, you trust them to inform your thinking, guide your research, and provide answers and directions scaffolded from their personal experience. You may never meet them in person, though you likely collaborate through Google Hangouts, Skypes, or pre-arranged TweetUps.

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Let’s Talk About Habits of Mind

24 Jun

habits of mindPedagogic experts have spent an enormous amount of time attempting to unravel the definition of ‘educated’. It used to be the 3 R’s–reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. The problem with that metric is that, in the fullness of time, those who excelled in the three areas weren’t necessarily the ones who succeeded. As long ago as the early 1900’s, Teddy Roosevelt warned:

“C students rule the world.”

It’s the kids without their nose in a book that notice the world around them, make connections, and learn natively. They excel at activities that aren’t the result of a GPA and an Ivy League college. Their motivation is often failure, and taking the wrong path again and again. As Thomas Edison said:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, and Albert Einstein are poster children for that approach. Both became change agents in their fields despite following a non-traditional path.

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Faceoff: What Digital Device Should My School Buy?

19 Jun

chromebookIn the not so distant past, two types of computers battled for supremacy in the classroom: Macs or PCs. Both were desktops and both did the same things, but in hugely different ways.

Today, whether it’s a Mac or a PC, a desktop is only one of the digital devices available in the education toolkit. First laptops eased their way into schools, pricey but popular for their portability and collaborative qualities. Then came iPads with their focus on the visual, ease of use, and engagement of users. The most recent entrant into the education digital device market is Chromebooks–able to do ‘most’ of what ‘most’ students need–at a precipitously lower price.

That means educators now have four options (desktops, laptops, iPads, Chromebooks) as they select tools to unpack education. The challenge is to understand the differences between these options and select based on personal criteria. That includes classroom needs, infrastructure, maintenance, and–yes–money. What gives the most value for the least investment?

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3 Great Special Needs Digital Tools

17 Jun

Besides iPads and Chromebooks and a plethora of free websites that enable students to collaborate, share and publish, education’s tech explosion has resulted in a wide (and increasing) variety of tools that extend the teachers reach, making it easier to differentiate for the varied needs of students even in a busy classroom. Tech-infused alternatives to granular education activities such as note-taking, math, and reading allow students with specialized needs to use their abilities (strengths) to work around their disabilities (challenges). Technology has become the great equalizer, providing students of all skill levels the tools needed to fully participate in school.

Mixed in with the scores of digital tools I see every week, I’ve found three that stand above the rest and will quickly become staples in your teaching toolkit:

  • Sonocent–for note-taking and study skills
  • Babakus–for mathematical functions
  • Signed Stories–for reading

Sonocent Audio Notetakertool_imageBETTERl

Free to try; fee to keep

There are a lot of digital note-takers that can tape a lecture or a class or even a conversation. Many embed the audio file into a note page that includes writing and images. At that point, you have an audio recording that sits to the side of the rest of your notes. It’s not blended and there’s no way to mix the audio with the images and written text.

Award-winning desktop application Sonocent Audio Notetaker 4 (available for PC, Mac or as an iOS app) fixes that. Arriving just a decade after the 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments 197 insured that students with disabilities have access to general education, its powerful recorder, transcription, and study tools take aim at the needs of reluctant readers. Using the free app, students can tape a live lecture, a Skype call, an online webinar on their iPhone or iPad (or directly to the software), transfer it to their dashboard where they can transcribe, annotate, highlight, edit, format, add to, delete, or simply play it back for reference. Students can integrate it with text notes, slideshows, screenshots, pdfs–even pictures they’ve taken of the whiteboard.

The result is not only a powerful summary, but a comprehensive study guide that can be viewed, read, or listened to, whatever works best for the student.

Grammaropolis is aligned with both national Common Core standards and Texas Expected Knowledge and Skills Objectives for grades K-6. – See more at: http://www.techlearning.com/magazine/0007/grammaropolis/54131#sthash.bauH6spt.dpuf

Pros

With Audio Notetaker, students move well beyond hand-written notes in their quest to learn. This is especially important for those easily distracted by note-taking while listening, or who simply learn better with a wider variety of senses.

Reviewing notes can be a challenge for dyslexic students, but Audio Notetaker reads back a student’s notes, both audio and text, and enables the student to rearrange them as needed for their personal better understanding.

The audio recorder not only records the room you’re in but, with the flip of a toggle, will record your computer. This is great if the student is watching a webinar and wants to incorporate that into his/her note-taking.

There are a lot of training webinars available for teachers and students addressing the basics and sophistications of the tool. Once I watched a few (and a few more–there’s a lot to the software), I had no trouble using the program even my first time.

Cons

This is a robust tool with a rich learning curve. Don’t expect to intuit how to use it. Be prepared to spend time watching their thorough webinars and practicing a bit before the all-important lecture you have coming up. This isn’t so much a ‘con’ as a warning.

Insider tips

Importing from the iPad to the computer is quite easy for PCs, a little more complicated for Macs. No worries, though. There’s a detailed video explaining how to do this.

Educational Applications

Use Sonocent to record students as they work on a foreign language, tape their speaking style, and provide benchmarks for their reading skills to be compared against yearly progress. You can even record a story for a student who struggles with writing and then let them copy their own words from the audio.

Create digital flashcards with Audio Notetaker by exporting the data to a file that then plays on an iPod or smartphone.

Sonocent offers a school pack that includes lesson plans and sample files for elementary and high school.

Conclusion

Audio Notetaker is a robust digital note-taking and study tool. It fulfills many steps in the Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid–recall and understanding of information/knowledge, applying and analyzing, making knowledge available to create new ideas, and facilitating evaluation of both the original material and the outcomes. It’s a credit to Sonocet that one tool can do so much. If you were adding only one new tool to your teacher toolkit, this should be it.

Design: 5/5

Functionality: 5/5

Fun Factor: 5/5

Availability: 5/5 (iOS, PC, Mac, Web, Android in beta)

Overall: 5/5

babaBabakus

Fee

Babakus (for 1st grade and up) is a calculator that combines the slide ruler with the Abacus. It’s part of a revolutionary and unique method for students with dyscalculia or other math disabilities to succeed with basic math functions. Invented by a neuropsychologist Bjorn Adler, he created it to address a specific difficulty some students faced when working with numbers and figures not addressed by traditional math programs.

Babakus is a visual representation of the relationships between numbers (up to seven digits) when performing addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The app includes exercises in nine different difficulty levels, enough to challenge any student, as well as explanations for both teachers and students.

The app is well-suited to the Common Core math class or schools that follow the Everyday Math program, offering a distinct difference in its approach to accomplishing traditional math functions.

Grammaropolis is aligned with both national Common Core standards and Texas Expected Knowledge and Skills Objectives for grades K-6. – See more at: http://www.techlearning.com/magazine/0007/grammaropolis/54131#sthash.bauH6spt.dpuf

Pros

For me, the Babakus process was not intuitive, so I was pleased to find an extensive training program of YouTube videos to teach the basic functions. The app also includes a complete teacher’s guide.

Cons

There is a definite learning curve to using Babakus, though it could be me rather than the app. I’ve never had trouble with math, so my approach is probably ingrained in my brain. For someone who has trouble, Babakus’ abacus structure may seem easy. I didn’t find any reviews by writers who had dysgrafia or dyscalcula. If that describes you, I’d love to hear your opinion on this app.

Educational Applications

Use Babakus as an alternative method for mathematical functions, especially for those students who don’t flourish with your current method.

Conclusion

Babakus is one of those wonderful apps every school should have available to students as an alternative method of performing math functions. Offer it to any student who doesn’t seem to ‘get’ the traditional method before they give up on themselves.

Design: 5/5

Functionality: 5/5

Fun Factor: 5/5

Availability: 5/5 (iOS, Web)

Overall: 5/5

signed stories 1Signed Stories

Signed Stories App by ITV used to be a free website. You might remember your students oohing and aahing over graphics so gorgeous they made your teeth hurt, and the signing so authentic speaking students wanted to learn it. Now, these glorious books are offered only as an app and there is a hefty charge per book. Still, thanks to a perfect blend of reading, visual, audio, and movement, they are worth ten times their price. Special needs children–and all children–will find it irresistible.

Special features include:

  • fully animated stories
  • an on-off toggle switch for the ASL
  • An ASL video dictionary
  • Narration, music and sound effects
  • an on-off toggle for captions
  • options for caption fonts, sizes and backgrounds
  • two ASL learning games on iPad
  • ability to watch without Wi-Fi after download

Stories are delivered in sign language by ASL master performers. One look at the inset image shows you the passion and energy these individuals bring to every story. Each story is age-appropriate for K-3, user-friendly, G-rated with no advertising to distract from the message. The books are intuitive to use, load quickly, and deliver exactly as promised–engaging, scintillating stories.

Grammaropolis is aligned with both national Common Core standards and Texas Expected Knowledge and Skills Objectives for grades K-6. – See more at: http://www.techlearning.com/magazine/0007/grammaropolis/54131#sthash.bauH6spt.dpuf

Pros

These stories are so well done, they become the student’s choice activity whether they read sign language or not. In my classes, students began learning basic ASL, thanks to the authentic delivery in the stories and the app’s organic dictionary of ASL terms.

Cons

There’s nothing I’d change. Sure, less expensive would be good, but not if it impacted quality. Each story costs no more than I’d normally pay for a child’s storybook.

Insider tips

Much to my surprise, the stories are produced by ITV plc, an international powerhouse entertainment company that also produces shows like Downton Abbey.

Educational Applications

Use this for both reading practice and learning to read. When I play it on my Smartscreen, the class falls quiet as everyone is watching the story. Even when they know how it ends, they are entranced by the performers and the artwork.

Conclusion

If you buy books for your child, add these digital books to the list. Displayed on a retinal display iPad, the colors are so vibrant, the story leaps off the screen. This is a must-have addition to your child’s digital library.

Design: 5/5

Functionality: 5/5

Fun Factor: 5/5

Availability: 5/5 (iOS, Web)

Overall: 5/5

The impressive nature of these three apps says a lot about the special needs field. There are dozens of honorable mentions, but these three stood out. I’d love to hear what your most effective tools are for your exceptional students.

More on specialized learning tools:

11 Resources to Blend Technology and Special Needs

50 Special Needs Tools

Technology Removes Obstructed Writers’ Barriers to Learning (a student experience with Sonocent)


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, adjunct professor in tech ed, 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.