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Archive for the ‘Ask a Tech Teacher’ Category

How do I create a classroom library checkout system?

28 Jun

tech questions

Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please contact me at askatechteacher at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it here. 

I got this question from a colleague:

I am looking for an app that classroom teachers can use to scan a classroom library and allow teachers to check books out with students.  Any suggestions on one or your colleagues may have liked?  Thanks for your help!

I chatted with colleagues and got a few common answers:
  • Classroom Organizer–a free app that works with a desktop application; lets you scan in books, manage them, and check them out (through the app)
  • Classroom Checkout–a fee-based app that catalogues books, manages student checkouts, and keeps track of books.

Another interesting approach that one friend uses is through Google Forms and an add-on called Checkitout: You enter all the books yourself (rather than scan a barcode and have the information populate) into a Google spreadsheet tied to a Google Checkout Form. Students would fill the Google Form out with relevant information and that would automatically populate on the spreadsheet you created. You can sort the spreadsheet by book rather than date to see which books are checked out to whom. Richard Byrne does a nice summary of how it works here.

A final option: QR Codes. I didn’t find anyone in my PLN using this approach, but it sounds pretty good. Here’s an article on it.

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Top 10 Reasons to Sign Up for Summer Learning

16 Jun

T-i T preview 2If you haven’t yet made the decision to join me at Summer PD: Tech-infused Teacher for three-weeks of high-intensity tech integration, here are the Top Ten Reasons for signing up:

10. Tech in ed is a change agent. You like change.

9. You’ll have a bunch of tech ed skills you can now say ‘I know how to do that’. Like TwitterChats. And Google Hangouts. And screencasts.

8. Your school will pay for it of you promise to teach colleagues–or show the videos.

7. It’s fun.

6. You want to meet new people.

5. You’re technophobic, but lately feel like teaching without technology is like looking at a landscape through a straw. You want to change that.

4. Richard Sloma said, “Never try to solve all the problems at once — make them line up for you one-by-one.” You want your tech problems lined up in single file.

3. Technology in education is the greatest show on earth. Well, at least in the classroom. You want to be part of it.

2. Ashton Kutcher told teens, “Opportunity looks a lot like work.” You agree. Learning tech ed this summer is an opportunity you’re ready for.

1. Albert Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Education’s fix requires technology. You’re ready for a new level of thinking.

For more information, click here.

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Create a Tech-based Curriculum With the SAMR Model

12 May

tech in edThis is a question I get often from teachers: How do I teach my state/national/international curriculum using technology? When I first addressed this issue about fifteen years ago, there weren’t any tools to make this happen. In fact, I ended up writing my own project-based technology curriculum (now in its fifth edition). I wanted a curriculum that scaffolded learning year-to-year, blended into the school academic program, could be re-formed to apply to any academic topic, differentiated for varied student learning style, and was age-appropriate for the needs of the digital natives populating my classroom. Everything I found through traditional sources was skills-based, undifferentiated, and relied on programs that have always been around rather than the ones that incited student passion.

The most difficult part was convincing colleagues that 2nd graders couldn’t write a book report in MS Word until they understood toolbars, keyboarding basics, enough digital citizenship to research effectively online, and how to solve the never-ending-but-repetitive tech problems they surely would face during their work.

Overall, it took a year to curate teacher needs, evaluate what skills were required to accomplish them, and then blend them into a tech program that optimized learning for the particular age group.

Before I disclose my secret formula, let’s assess where you are–right now–in your technology integration efforts. Dr. Ruben Puentedura developed the popular SAMR model as a way for teachers to evaluate how they are incorporating technology into their instructional practice. Here’s how it works:

Substitution

Tech acts as a direct tool substitute with no functional change.

This is a great starting point. Look at what you’re doing in your lesson plans and consider what tech tools could replace what you currently use. For example, if you make posters to discuss great inventors, could you use an online tech tool like Glogster or Canva?

Augmentation

Tech acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvement.

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What You Might Have Missed in April on Ask a Tech Teacher

02 May

top monthly postsHere are the most-read posts for the month of April:

  1. 31Websites for Poetry Month
  2. 67 K-8 Hour of Code Suggestions–by Grade Level
  3. 23 Great Websites and Apps for Earth Day
  4. Do You Miss Kerpoof? Try These 31 Alternatives
  5. 16 Great Research Websites for Kids
  6. 17 Ways to Add Tech to your Lessons Without Adding Time to Your Day
  7. 7 Authentic Assessment Tools
  8. Chromebooks in the Classrooms–Friend or Foe?
  9. 13 Reasons For and 3 Against Technology in the Classroom
  10. 3 Comic Creators That Will Wow Your Students

..

And, just in time for summer, here are a few new technology-in-education products you may be interested in:

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Summer Online Learning Questions We’ve Been Asked

22 Apr

In response to extensive interest from readers, Ask a Tech Teacher will be offering four Summer Learning classes:

1 of 4 Certificate classes

1 of 4 Certificate classes

summer online classes

1 of 4 Certificate classes

summer online classes

1 of 4 Certificate classes

summer classes

1 of 4 Certificate classes

June 20th through August 7th

3-4 weeks, lots of resources and hands-on help

You can find out more by clicking on the image. What I want to do today is go over the most common questions I’ve gotten regarding sign ups:

Q: What is the cost to register?

The full program is $249-$259.00. 20 Webtools in 20 Days is 4 weeks long so the price is a bit higher. You can enroll through the PayPal button on the website or with a school PO. If you attended before, or sign up really fast, you get a 10% discount. Use coupon code:

SUMMERPD

…when you check out.

If you have a group of five or more attending from your school, you qualify for a 20% discount. Email us for more information (askatechteacher at gmail dot com)

Q: I don’t know which class to take.

Here’s a quick checklist:

  • If you want a broad overview of integrating technology into your classroom, start with The Tech-infused Teacher. Follow that with the sequel, The Tech-infused Classroom (offered sequentially) if you have time.
  • If you took The Tech-infused Teacher last year and loved it, take The Tech-infused Classroom. It’s the sequel and lets you dig deeper into what you learned last year.
  • If you’re looking for specific help on tech tools, take 20 Webtools in 20 Days. This covers webtools teachers use most often in their classes, or want to use.
  • If you’re looking for help specifically with using technology to add creativity and zing to your writing lessons, take Teach Writing with Tech.

Q: What if I can’t figure out how to use some of the tools during the classes? I’m not very techie.

Email the instructor at askatechteacher at gmail dot com throughout the week and/or bring up your question at the weekend Google Hangout or TweetUp.  That’s what this class is for–to get you comfortable with tech tools you want to use in your class. We’ll even set up a separate GHO with you to walk you through it. Plus, you can chat with classmates through the Discussion Forum. They’ll be able to share personal experiences they’ve had with the tools.

Q: Who are the teachers for this PD? And what are their qualifications?

The Master Teacher is Jacqui Murray. She’s been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years and K-16 for 35 years. She’s an adjunct professor as well as a Master Teacher. She’s the author/editor of over a hundred tech-in-ed resources including a K-8 tech curriculum that’s used throughout the world. She will be joined as needed by other teachers from the Ask a Tech Teacher crew.

Q: I want to sign up with several other teachers from my school. Is there a group discount available?

Absolutely! Just email us with your group members at askatechteacher@gmail.com so we set your membership up correctly.

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10 Ways to Wrap Up the School Year

08 Apr

end of school yearIt’s the end of school. Everyone’s tired, including you. What you want for these last few weeks are activities that keep the learning going, but in a different way. You want to shake things up so students are excited and motivated and feel interested again.

Change your approach to teaching. Provide some games, simulations, student presentations–whatever you don’t normally do in your classroom. If you’re doing PowerPoints, use the last few weeks for presentations.  Make them special–invite teachers. Invite parents. If you never serve food in your lab, do it for these presentations.

Here are my favorite year-end Change-up activities:

6 Webtools in 6 Weeks

Give students a list of 10-15 webtools that are age-appropriate. I include Prezi, Google MapMaker, Scratch, Voice Thread, Glogster, ScribbleMap, and Tagxedo, These will be tools they don’t know how to use (and maybe you don’t either). They work in groups to learn the tool (using help files, how-to videos, and resources on the site), create a project using the tool (one that ties into something being discussed in class), and then teach classmates. Challenge students to notice similarities between their chosen tools and others that they know how to use. This takes about three weeks to prepare and another three weeks to present (each presentation takes 20ish minutes). Students will be buzzing with all the new material and eager to use it for summer school or the next year.

Instead of webtools, you may choose to have students play educational games and simulations online and teach them to classmates.

Designed for grades 3-12. Here’s a thorough lesson plan.

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22 Digital Tools for the Classroom

29 Feb

digital classroom tools

If you don’t have children, you may not have noticed the massive changes going on in the local schoolhouse. Those geeky tech tools that we adults like to avoid are taking over the classroom. Every year, students face new iPads, apps, online grading systems, webtools, digital devices, LMSs, cloud-based homework, digital portfolios, and more. As a teacher for twenty five years (the last fifteen in technology), it has my head spinning.

But–this may surprise you–students don’t mind a wit. They’re ready for tech, wondering what’s taking us so long to adopt the tools they can’t get enough of at home. Technology is in their DNA where we adults–it’s like bringing out the fine china for a special guest.

This year, make tech your everyday china. Use it often, dynamically, bravely, and with a smile. Here are the top 22 digital tools your colleagues are using in their classrooms:

  • annotation tool
  • avatars
  • backchannel devices
  • blogs
  • class calendar
  • class Internet start page
  • class Twitter account
  • class website
  • digital devices
  • digital note-taking
  • digital portfolios
  • dropbox
  • email
  • flipped classroom
  • Google Apps
  • journaling
  • maps
  • online quizzes
  • screenshots and screencasts
  • video channel
  • virtual meetings
  • vocabulary decoding tools

Each brief description includes the appropriate grade level, whether the tool is critical/important/optional, a ranking from 1-5 scale for how intuitive it is, and popular examples.

digital classroom toolsDigital Devices

K-8, Critical, 3/5

Digital devices include PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, laptops, iPads, and Surface Tablets. They might be packed into a cart that’s rolled from class-to-class, collected in a lab, or offered as a 1:1 program that puts a device in every child’s hand. But one thing all programs have in common: They’re popular with students because they’re how kids want to learn. Because they blend rigor with passion, they should be part of every educator’s toolkit.

Annotation Tool

K-8, important, 4

A digital annotation tool allows students to take notes in class PDFs. If you use books or resources in this digital, portable format, you likely also have this tool. With it, students can take notes in their books, fill in online rubrics and quizzes,  and automatically link to additional resources without having to retype URLs.

Popular digital annotation tools include Acrobat and iAnnotate. Since student needs are not extreme, pretty much any tool your school makes available will accomplish student goals.

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7 Innovative Writing Methods for Students

17 Feb

assessment

Knowledge is meant to be shared. That’s what writing is about–taking what you know and putting it out there for all to see. When students hear the word “writing”, most think paper-and-pencil, maybe word processing, but that’s the vehicle, not the goal. According to state and national standards (even international), writing is expected to “provide evidence in support of opinions”, “examine complex ideas and information clearly and accurately”, and/or “communicate in a way that is appropriate to task, audience, and purpose”. Nowhere do standards dictate a specific tool be used to accomplish the goals.

In fact, the tool students select to share knowledge will depend upon their specific learning style. Imagine if you–the artist who never got beyond stick figures–had to draw a picture that explained the nobility inherent in the Civil War. Would you feel stifled? Would you give up? Now put yourself in the shoes of the student who is dyslexic or challenged by prose as they try to share their knowledge.

When you first bring this up in your class, don’t be surprised if kids have no idea what you’re talking about. Many students think learning  starts with the teacher talking and ends with a quiz. Have them take the following surveys:

Both are based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Harold Gardner’s iconic model for mapping out learning modalities such as linguistic, hands-on, kinesthetic, math, verbal, and art. Understanding how they learn explains why they remember more when they write something down or read their notes rather than listening to a lecture. If they learn logically (math), a spreadsheet is a good idea. If they are spatial (art) learners, a drawing program is a better choice.

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8 Benefits of Getting An Online Tutor For Your Kids

10 Feb

online tutoringI got a great article from one of the Ask a Tech Teacher contributors on a topic of increasing interest to my readers: the efficacy of online tutoring. This give you eight solid reasons why online tutoring may work for you:

Gone are the days when you pick up your hard-wired phone to get a box of pizza delivered. Gone are the days when you put thick textbooks in your bag that made your back hurt. In the age of modern technology—of Uber and e-books and talking Siberian Huskies on Youtube—where almost everything is just a few clicks and taps away, some other great things have just been made possible.

Online tutoring is the hottest trend in town. Parents, especially those who are working, are lining up to get their children help online as this can mean their kids getting better grades and doing better in school. This could also be good news to working moms who do not want to leave their children unattended and get left behind in school. While they could no longer focus on tutoring their kids like they used to before, they took to another new method that works just as great, if not better.

If you are looking to get an online tutor anytime soon—for yourself or your child—we have listed a number of benefits you could get by doing so.

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How Students Access Twitter in the Classroom

05 Feb

tech questions

Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please contact me at askatechteacher at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Paul:

We are considering the appropriate role for Twitter in schools and as part of my research I read your article “13 Reasons to Use Twitter in the Classroom.” While I understand the points that you are making in the article, one question I didn’t see answered is how students access Twitter — is this done on their personal devices; or is this something that is allowed on district equipment?

If schools are allowing twitter on district-/school-owned equipment, how do they deal with the risks involved with a completely open environment in which students could share anything (pornography, threats, etc.) with little ability of the school or district to monitor direct messages, etc.

I appreciate your perspectives and we continue to consider the best way to reach our digital native students.

Twitter can be a revolutionary tool for students, used correctly. It meets students where they wish to learn and energizes pretty much any activity that takes place on the stream.

Most schools do not let students set up or access Twitter accounts at school earlier than high school. I’ve seen Middle School, but this is for unique student groups, certainly with parent approval and administration knowledge and support. Younger, accounts are usually set up as private class accounts.

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