Archive for the ‘Ask a Tech Teacher’ Category

The Power of Symbols–What does the word ‘Turkey’ mean?

19 Nov

Last year, I did a poll on the meaning of the word ‘turkey’. This was to demonstrate how powerful symbols are to your students and do so with an authentic use of technology to support discussion on math, language standards, and the holidays. As a summation to your discussion with students on symbols, idiomatic expressions, geography, farms, or another topic, post this on your Smartscreen. The poll includes lots of definitions for the word ‘turkey’. Have each student come up some time during the day (or class) and make their choice.

Did your students come up with other definitions I didn’t list?

More on Thanksgiving:

18 Thanksgiving Sites For Your Students

A Holiday Flier in Publisher

16 Holiday Projects

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


Hour of Code–the Series

04 Nov

Coding–that mystical geeky subject that confounds students and teachers alike. Confess, when you think of coding, you see:


…when you should see


December 7-13, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one hour introduction to coding, programming, and why students should love it. It’s designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator.

They provide a variety of self-guided tutorials that say “anybody can do this on a browser, tablet, or smartphone”. They even have unplugged tutorials for classrooms without computers. No experience needed.

Coding is a great tie-in to Common Core math Standards. Any time I can show students how to complete math skills without doing math, it’s a plus (because it surprises them. They don’t expect a discussion on problem solving or Minecraft to help them with math).

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share eight ideas that will energize your Hour of Code. They include (if the link doesn’t work, it’s because the article hasn’t posted yet):

  1. Hour of Code: Why Not?
  2. Hour of Code Suggestions by Grade Level
  3. Program with Alt Codes
  4. Programming Shortkeys
  5. Scratch Jr: Website Review
  6. Hour of Code: Minecraft
  7. Programming a Macro in five minutes
  8. Build a Website

Here are’s suggestions on teaching Hour of Code in your classroom. If you have a favorite tool, they likely will guide you in using it for this amazing week. Check out this list:

More Hour of Code resources

3D Tin website review

Hour of Code: Primo–Programming

20 K-8 General Programming Websites 

K-8 Lesson bundle of coding projects

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


8 Websites on Financial Literacy

30 Oct

balanceWhen kids read that America’s $18 trillion+ debt is accepted by many experts as ‘business as usual’, I wonder how that news will affect their future personal finance decisions. Do they understand the consequences of unbalanced budgets? The quandary of infinite wants vs. finite dollars? Or do they think money grows on some fiscal tree that always blooms? The good news is: Half of the nation’s schools require a financial literacy course. The bad new is: Only half require a financial literacy course.

If your school doesn’t teach a course about personal economics, there are many online sites that address the topic as mini-lessons. Some are narrative; others games. Here are eight I like. See if one suits you:


Banzai is a personal finance curriculum that teaches high school and middle school students how to prioritize spending decisions through real-life scenarios and choose-your-own adventure (kind of) role playing. Students start the course with a pre-test to determine a baseline for their financial literacy. They then engage in 32 life-based interactive scenarios covering everything from balancing a budget to adjusting for unexpected bills like car trouble or health problems. Once they’ve completed these exercises, they pretend that they have just graduated from high school, have a job, and must save $2,000 to start college. They are constantly tempted to mis-spend their limited income and then must face the consequences of those actions, basing decisions on what they learned in the 32 scenarios. Along the way, students juggle rent, gas, groceries, taxes, car payments, and life’s ever-present emergencies. At the end, they take a post-test to measure improvement in their financial literacy.

The program is free, takes about eight hours (depending upon the student), and can include printed materials as well as digital.

Rich Kid, Smart Kid

Rich Kid Smart Kid is a collection of four games where three children–Ima, Jesse, and Reno–struggle with real-life scenarios such as running an ice cream stand, raising money for a personal goal, the importance of allocating earned money to varied needs, (such as charity, investments, and savings), and  the difference between good debt and bad debt. Games are leveled for age groups from Kindergarten to high school. They include thorough lesson plans, learning objectives, classroom activities, and discussion questions, as well as companion websites with more resources.

The program is free, online, and can be completed in four sessions–one for each game. There are also add-on low-tech options like board games.

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3 Organizational Apps to Start the School Year

14 Oct

Whether you teach science or PE, there are hundreds of apps to help you do it better. The response to this tidal wave of information has been confusion. As each teacher downloads their favorites, students spend as much time learning the app as applying it academically.

There’s a move afoot to pick five that are cross-curricular, train faculty, and then use them throughout the school year. This is the way it used to be when MS Office ruled the computer and everyone understood it. If this is your school, here are three apps to start the school year:


When looking for an app to curate classroom reading, consider these requirements:

  • works well with your current LMS
  • includes a wide variety of reading formats
  • displays books quickly, allowing you to open multiple books, add annotations, and take notes
  • displays class textbooks

Lots of apps do the first three; none the last. Why? Many class texts use formats that only display on the publisher website. What became apparent as I researched was that GoodReader was one of several considered Best in Class because of its broad-based ability to read, manage, organize, access, and annotate a wide variety of file formats. Where it has long been considered a leader in reading and annotating PDFs, new releases accommodate almost any type of file including .docx, mp3, jpeg, ppt, xlx, audio, and videos. With its tabbed interface, users can open multiple documents and click through them as needed.

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6 Tech Best Practices for New Teachers

07 Oct

A study released last year by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that nearly half of the nation’s teacher training programs failed to insure that their candidates were STEM-capable. That means new teachers must learn how to teach science, technology, engineering and math on-the-job. Knowing that, there are six Best Practices teachers in the trenches suggest for integrating technology into classroom instruction:

digital citizenDigital Citizenship

Many schools now provide digital devices for students, often a Chromebook or an iPad. Both are great devices, but represent a sea change from the Macs and PCs that have traditionally been the device-of-choice in education. While I could spend this entire article on that topic, one seminal difference stands out: Where PCs and Macs could be used as a closed system via software, materials saved to the local drive, and native tools, Chromebooks and iPads access the internet for everything (with a few exceptions) be it learning, publishing, sharing, collaborating, or grading. There’s no longer an option to hide students from the online world, what is considered by many parents a dangerous place their children should avoid. In  cyberspace, students are confronted often–if not daily–with questions regarding cyberbullying, digital privacy, digital footprints, plagiarism, and more.

The question is: Who’s teaching students how to thrive in this brave new world? Before you move on to the next paragraph, think about that in your circumstance. Can you point to the person responsible for turning your students into good digital citizens? When third grade students use the internet to research a topic, do they know how to do that safely and legally?

When asked, most educators shrug and point at someone else. But it turns out too often, no one is tasked with providing that knowledge.

The answer to who’s responsible: Everyone’s responsible, starting with you, the New Teacher. Adopt this topic as your own, blend it into your teaching. Don’t assume students know until they provide evidence of that.

If you’re looking for a curriculum on digital citizenship for K-8, click the link.

Problem Solving

oopsLots of new teachers are intimidated by technology in their classrooms. Besides so many digital tools–how does anyone stay up to date on them–there’s a worse problem: What happens when something doesn’t work? Waiting for the school’s IT folks can quickly derail a tech-infused lesson.

New teachers need to learn rudimentary tech troubleshooting like these 25 common problems, and then teach them to students. It shouldn’t be a stand-alone lesson, rather teach it organically as it arises in class. When a student’s headphones don’t work, figure out how to solve it as a class. When a website freezes, show how to unfreeze and then move on with the lesson. Once a problem is solved, ask students to retain that knowledge, transfer it to other classes, and teach their friends. Surprisingly quickly, students will no longer be slowed down by tech problems. Sure, they’ll happen, but everyone will know the solution.

If you’d like a more complete list, here’s a collection of 98


PARCC and SBAC may have convinced many educators that keyboarding is a critical, granular skill, but it can’t be taught by a once-a-week tech lab session of 10-15 minutes. Think how often keyboarding is part of student work–entering website addresses, adding comments to blogs, typing docs into GAFE, and taking online assessments. All of these require keyboarding skills, yet no one is responsible for teaching them. Students who can keyboard well blossom. Those who can’t–well, you know. Teaching keyboarding requires two steps: 1) an overarching curriculum map of what to teach when, and 2) reinforcement every time students sit at the computer. No matter the class, that teacher–be s/he history, literacy, social studies, math, reading, writing, or tech–reminds students of the right way to keyboard. It adds minutes to her teaching and saves students hours as practice and skill eventually (by about 4th grade) allows their typing fingers to keep pace with their thinking brain.

As the New Teacher, set the example. Blend keyboarding training into your lesson plans.

If you’re looking for a keyboarding curriculum for K-8, click the link.

part of body vocabulary in illustrationVocabulary

An important part of succeeding in core classes is understanding the language. Common Core has three levels of vocabulary:

  • basic
  • academic
  • domain-specific

Current best practices embrace students learning by using. This isn’t accomplished with memorized word lists. Instead, when students uncover unknown words, they decode them and then use them throughout the lesson. This is accomplished by addressing basic and academic vocabulary across all subjects, whether students are in history, science, math, or reading. Every digital device should be preloaded with instantly-available age-appropriate dictionaries that allow students to quickly research a word almost without leaving the academic topic.vector image of a girl using laptop


Try, fail, try again. A lot of learning is accomplished by failure. Make this a strategy in the classroom. No longer have students submit a final project and get a grade. Instead, recognize Common Core’s plan-revise-edit-rewrite as a flexible learning path that is both practical and transformative. This isn’t just for writing, though. Use it for all projects–a science poster, a history magazine, and math homework. Always give students the opportunity to edit and resubmit work that’s granular to their learning.

multiple intelligenceStudent Choice

You teach the Big Idea; let students pick how they share their learning. You make an effort to teach using as many of the multiple intelligences as possible–audio, visual, tactile, kinesthetic, logical, or linguistic. Let students pick which approach best serves them in conveying what they’ve learned. They might write a report, share a movie, add music and color, draw a picture, or build an infographic. Introduce this wide variety of options early in the school year and make them available for as many assessments as possible.

These six topics integrate technology–a tool students want to use–into everything, making your teaching authentic, scalable, motivating, and rigorous.

More on new teachers:

9 Mistakes Teachers Make Using Tech in the Classroom

Should Tech Teachers be in the Classroom or the Lab

Humor that Inspires–for Teachers! Part II

Definition of ‘Teacher’

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


16 Websites to Teach Mouse Skills

05 Oct

One of the most important pre-keyboarding skills is how to use the mouse. The mouse hold is not intuitive and if learned wrong, becomes a habit that’s difficult to break. Here are some images to assist you in setting up your newest computer aficionados:


Here are 16 websites student will enjoy, including 3 for adults new to computers:

Read the rest of this entry »


3 Apps to Put Parents in The Education Loop

29 Sep

parents and childrenI’ve taught Preschool-8th grade for thirty years. Throughout, one factor stood out as the most reliable barometer of student achievement: Parent involvement. It didn’t mean parents as tutors, homework helpers, or classroom volunteers–although it could be those. It meant parents showing they cared about their child’s success.

Today’s education model is catching up with the fundamental part parents play in student achievement. In Massachusetts, for example, family and community engagement is one of four standards within its teacher-evaluation rubric.

If you’re looking for a way to involve parents more granularly in your classroom, try these three ideas:

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5 After School Tech Club Activities

23 Sep

With the growing interest in coding comes a call for after school tech camps that supersize student enthusiasm for learning technology. If you’ve been tasked (or volunteered) to run this activity, here are five activities that will tech-infuse participants:

write an ebookWrite an Ebook

It’s been said that inside 70% of us is a book crying to get out. Kids are no different. Many dream of becoming an author, a journalist, or another profession that focuses on writing.

In this class, take students through the six steps required to move from dream to publication:

  1. brainstorm
  2. plan required research
  3. write the book
  4. review with a critique group
  5. edit
  6. publish

The goal during the after school tech club is that each student will publish their first ebook–or at least give it a good start.


Start with a discussion on 1) the difference between an amateur and professional writer, 2) what it means to be ‘published’, and 3) publication options.

Break students into writing groups. These are the individuals that will help each other to plan, write, and edit the ebook. Each week, students will complete assigned steps with the goal of finishing their book (such as plot out action, develop character sheets, and research a setting), then discuss in critique groups of 4-6 students either in person or on Google Hangouts.

Each student should plan on writing a set number of words each week, say, 2000 (about seven pages).

Educational Links

Reading, writing, speaking and listening

–click for a full lesson plan

genius hourGenius Hour

The Genius Hour Project traditionally sets aside 20% of class time to pursue a topic students are passionate about. An after school setting follows these basics, but adapted to a full-time exploration of the topic.


While immersing themselves in a topic they love, Genius Hour also teaches students how to pursue a goal important to them. That means fulfilling 8 specific benchmarks:

  1. Brainstorm to come up with a topic that fits required parameters.
  2. Write a paragraph of at least five lines on why this topic is important to learn.
  3. Write another paragraph about what student already knows on the topic and what s/he needs to learn.
  4. Create a list of five research questions to guide inquiry including where to find the answers. These will be approved by the teacher.
  5. Pitch conclusions to the group (on Project Pitch Day). Student must be persuasive and use evidence to convince classmates this is a worthwhile topic. Student should plan to use Prezi, HaikuDeck, Voki or another presentation method that fits their communication style.
  6. Now go forth! Enjoy the research.
  7. When done, create a presentation that will share research and conclusions with classmates.
  8. On Project Presentation Day, present research and take audience questions. Use tools similar to those used on Project Pitch Day.

While this is student-paced and self-directed, the teacher overseas each benchmark.

Educational Links

Any academic subject, as well as speaking and listening and research. Tech tools learned may include videocasting and audiocasting.

–click for a full lesson plan

seniorsTech in Service Learning

The teacher will make arrangements with interested senior centers for students to teach weekly classes. Students teach seniors how to use a variety of technology, “emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details, while using appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation” (from Common Core) such as:

  • how to use computers—in general terms
  • how to use email to stay in touch with family
  • how to use the internet
  • how to play online games with grandchildren or each other
  • how to use Skype to stay in touch with family
  • how to download favorite songs onto their computer
  • how to digitize photos to use on phones/desktops/a slideshow
  • how to create blogs to share with each other
  • how to create a webcam video to share with family members
  • how to read ebooks from an iPad
  • how to search for information on areas of interest
  • how to solve computer problems (i.e., taskbar disappeared, can’t find a program, internet window too small)
  • how to use the tech equipment at senior center that residents don’t know how to use
  • how to understand domain-specific language associated with technology, i.e., ‘cloud’

The teacher will determine what tools are available to be used in the class (i.e., digital cameras, iPads, and email programs).


Introduce this project with a guest speaker who will discuss the special needs and learning styles of seniors. Students are then divided into groups of 4-6. One-two students will teach while other group members rove through the classroom to help seniors.  Teaching will be paced for senior needs with the goal of helping them learn, not complete a set amount of material.

Educational Links

Research, speaking and listening, technology

–click for a full lesson plan

multimedia15 Digital Tools in 15 Days

Students select, learn, and then teach a digital tool they are interested in learning. Students are expected to understand how to use the tool, create a project that ties into classroom inquiry, and then teach classmates. Through this exercise, they broaden their awareness of digital tools that will benefit their learning, recognize overarching similarities shared by most webtools (for example, most have tools and toolbars, tooltips, and drag-and-drop functions), hone their skills by teaching classmates and answering their questions, and realize learning doesn’t always require a teacher.


Because all of these tools are online, begin the exercise with a discussion on digital rights and responsibilities associated with web-based resources.

Students break into groups, select a digital tool that interests them from a list prepared by the teacher, and pick a date for their class presentation. Then, they assign tasks to group members that include:

  • learn the tool
  • complete a project using tool
  • teach classmates
  • assist during the teaching

Resources available include help files, the digital tool’s website, how-to videos, and knowledgeable students and adults.

Each presentation is about thirty minutes, inclusive of teaching, demonstrating a project, and taking questions.

Educational Links

Research, technology, speaking and listening. Depending upon the tool selected, learning will also link to a wide variety of academic topics, such as writing, social studies, and math.

–click for a full lesson plan

online mathKhan Academy

Khan Academy is an online program designed to teach math skills starting from where student knowledge is. It uses a combination of videos, white board how-tos, practice exercises, and quick quizzes. There are no weekly requirements, time-sensitive goals, or demands. It is student-paced and self-administered, allowing students to spend as much time as necessary to fully understand concepts.


The teacher sets up a class which includes all interested students. From the dashboard, the teacher can track student progress and observe sticky areas student may need assistance with.

The online program starts with a pre-test to determine the level of student knowledge, then provides exercises to backfill any holes in learning. Only after adequate scaffolding is provided do students move forward with new material.

Educational Links

Math, technology, enrichment, and a wide variety of academic subjects

–click for a full lesson plan

There you are-five activities that will easily fill an entire year of after school tech club. If your club lasts more than an hour, mix these up each day, allowing one hour for each. Let students pick what they’d like to participate in, but once selected, they are committed.

Questions? Feel free to email me at I’ve taught all of these.

More on classroom management:

11 Ways to Wrap Up the School Year

6 Stand-alone Lesson Plans for Subs

22 Ways to Add Rigor to Your Classroom

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, 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, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.


Office Hours–Questions? Let’s Talk

21 Sep

tech ed helpIf you are using the SL K-5 Technology Curriculum, you’ll love this new free service. Starting Sunday, Structured Learning will offer online, virtual Office Hours. Any questions you have about how to unpack lessons, teach a skill, or tie into class inquiry can be asked at this weekly real-time Google Hangout:

Sundays, 2pm PDT

Just like your college professor, doors are open to whoever shows up. Here’s how it works:

  • Sign up for one of our Companion Wikis (for grades K-5) to get notification. Do that first. If you don’t know how, email me at
  • Sundays, you’ll get a notification through the wiki with a link to the Google Hangout. Click it. If you aren’t familiar with Google Hangouts, check the Skills tab on the wiki, under ‘Google Hangouts’ for guidance
  • Join in!

Interested? Here’s the sign-up sheet:

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How to go Paperless in Your Classroom

08 Sep

paperlessEvery Earth Day, someone in your school, maybe the parent group, raises the question of WHY NOT a paperless classroom? Everyone nods their heads, agrees this is a revolutionary idea, and moves on as Earth Day passes.

Really, though: Why not? There are benefits to adopting web-based alternatives to paper:

  • it’s easy to collaborate when everything’s online
  • nothing gets soda dripped on it or eaten by the dog
  • students can collaborate without requiring parent time and gas fumes
  • teachers can answer questions in a timely manner
  • teachers can provide feedback on projects that students respond to and resubmit
  • student work is simple to copy, back up, and share as needed

To kickstart your paperless digital classroom requires a modicum of preparation. Take a few weekends this summer to set up a class blog and class website and get comfortable with the digital side of your school. This may include:

  • Google Apps for Education and/or Google Classroom–this serves as a basic digital portfolio for students, a collaborative tool with classmates, the teacher’s inbox, and her tool for returning graded and analyzed student work.
  • an LMS like Edmodo, Otus, or MyBigCampus–these often include an interactive gradebook, parent inclusion devices, a student discussion forum, polls, a way to collect and share resources, a class calendar, and access across a variety of digital devices.
  • digital portfolios for students–this can be accomplished with the LMS you use, Google Apps, Google Classroom, or even Dropbox

Four school-based pieces you’ll need:

  • a robust infrastructure–these additional digital devices require an extended internet interface as well as sufficient bandwidth to transport all that data. If the school’s WiFi network constantly goes down, teachers will learn not to depend upon it.
  • digital devices for students–Chromebooks, laptops, iPads, or netbooks.
  • staff training–make sure faculty are comfortable with these new devices and unusual approaches.
  • staff buy-in–if teachers don’t buy into using digital tools, they will continue to print newsletters, hang paper examples of student work, and pass out paper rubrics and worksheets. Help them to understand 1) student learning isn’t compromised by technology, 2) they CAN understand this geeky stuff, 3) it is dependable, and 4) it replaces tasks in their daily routine, not adds to it. For every school committed to going paperless, there are two that give up for these four reasons. Solve them before rolling out your program.

One last fundamental puzzle piece: Thought must be given to students who don’t have digital devices at home and/or don’t have internet access at home. Using affordable Chromebooks might solve the digital devices, but where will students be able to connect to the internet to access their classwork, assignments, and grades? I’ve seen amazingly creative solutions to this by educators, including a list for students of local businesses who provide free WiFi.

Once this framework is in place, here are the digital tools that will replace the tasks required for daily learning:

Digital Note-taking

Here’s traditional note-taking vs. digital note-taking:

One feels like a blender on whip. The other feels like the catalog room of the Library of Congress. When I introduce students to digital note-taking, we start with a discussion of handwritten vs digital notes. Here’s our list for why handwriting is better:

  • I always forget my log-in and password
  • I don’t know where keyboard keys are–I always have a pencil and paper
  • I am better at handwriting than keyboarding

Here’s our list for why digital notes are better:

  • I can lose my paper and pencil; I usually don’t lose my iPad or Chromebook
  • pencils break, points get dull
  • handwriting can only get so fast, but keyboarding gets faster every year
  • erasers disappear
  • my hand never gets tired
  • erasing is easier on digital devices
  • spell check is easier on digital devices
  • quick formatting makes my thoughts stand out
  • correct grammar is easier
  • digital keyboarding doesn’t waste paper
  • digital typing is always legible

It won’t take long for students to realize that digital note-taking keeps them more connected to classroom learning than traditional paper notes that always seem to be somewhere students aren’t.

There are lots of options for digital note-taking, including Evernote, Notability, and the omnipresent Google Docs.

hall of fameDigital textbooks

Traditional textbooks are heavy, clunky, expensive, and are always at school when you need them at home. Digital textbooks (PDFs or web-based) are available anywhere, easily fit in the smallest notebook, can be annotated and shared, and year-end clean up is as simple as ‘select all>erase’.

Additionally, you can upload many digital texts to webtools like Subtext where students can read as a group, discuss them with classmates, answer teacher questions, and submit their work to you for review.

Digital calendars

Does anyone carry around a calendar book any more? Instead, people use a digital calendar that automatically syncs life events across all of their digital devices. Classroom activities should be handled the same. Enter them to an easily accessible digital calendar like Google Calendar and share with students, parents, and interested stakeholders. This should include homework, projects, student presentation, school events–everything that requires preparation.

Digital newsletters

Create newsletters as you normally would–in a word processing program or desktop publishing–but skip the printing, collating, stuffing in mailboxes, and setting aside extras for people who lost theirs. Instead, send them out digitally as well as embedding them into class websites, blogs, and school announcements. Parents who want the paper version to paste to their refrigerator can print it themselves.

Options include Office 365 and LucidPress.


A screencasting program enables teachers to create videos of any activity that takes place on their computer screen. This includes how-to videos, lesson reviews, homework help, whiteboard explanations of math or science, and anything required for a flipped classroom.

Options include Jing (provides a link to a video), Screencast-o-matic (provides a video that can be embedded or uploaded to YouTube), and Educreations.

Tools to communicate student knowledge

This includes the myriad ways students show you–the teacher–that they have learned and understood your lesson plan. Here are some ideas:

  • backchannel devices to show student understanding during a lesson–like Socrative and Today’s Meet
  • word processing tools to write text-intensive research reports–like Word, Google Docs, and KidPix
  • multimedia tools that blend text, images, layout, and design–like Tackk and Sway
  • video tools that enable students to blend text, images, movement, and music into movies to address specific topics–like Animoto and Tellagami
  • audio tools that enable students to verbally share thoughts–like Audioboo and Voki.

Tools to Connect Students to Each Other

Students are comfortable connecting with each other electronically. They don’t need to meet in a physical location or call each other on the phone. quick methods like texting are fine. Give students a method to work together using forums, LMS Discussion Boards, blogs, and even Twitter. Encourage students to meet in study groups via virtual rooms like Google Hangouts.

Share or Publish–Don’t Print

Printing is not necessary anymore. If students have the framework discussed in the opening of this article, most of what would normally be printed can be displayed, shared, and graded on these devices.

The next time your school decides to investigate paperless classrooms, offer to take charge. And then charge. The traditional classroom vs. paperless is like a cell phone vs. an iPhone.  Would you trade your smartphone for a 1983 Nokia mobile phone? Don’t ask your children to make that trade either.

More on classroom management:

17 Websites to Manage Your Classroom

What to do when your Computers Don’t Work

3 Classroom Management Apps You’ll Love

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, 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, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.