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Archive for the ‘Ask a Tech Teacher’ Category

6 Ways to Make Classroom Typing Fun

26 Feb

learn keyboardingWhen you teach typing, the goal isn’t speed and accuracy. The goal is that students type well enough that it doesn’t disrupt their thinking.

Let me say that again:

The goal of keyboarding is students type well enough that it doesn’t disrupt their thinking.

Much like breathing takes no thought and playing a piano is automatic, students must be able to think while they type, fingers automatically moving to the keys that record their thoughts. Searching for key placement shouldn’t interfere with how they develop a sentence. Sure, it does when students are just starting, but by third grade students should be comfortable enough with key placement to be working on speed.

To type as fast at the speed of thought isn’t as difficult as it sounds. For students in school, ‘speed of thought’ refers to how fast they develop ideas that will be recorded. 20 wpm means they know most key placements by touch. 30 wpm is the low end of not interfering with thinking. 45 wpm is good.

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22 Ways to Add Rigor to Your Classroom

24 Feb

strong teacher at classLet’s start by clearing up a misconception: Rigor isn’t unfriendly. Adding it to your class doesn’t mean you become boring, a techie, or overseer of a fun-free zone. In fact, done right, rigor fills your class with Wow, those epiphanies that bring a smile to student faces and a sense of well-being to their school day. Rigor provides positive experiences, is an emotional high, and engenders a pervasive sense of accomplishment students will carry for years–and use as a template for future events.

It is NOT:

  • lots of homework
  • lots of projects
  • lots of resources
  • lots of rules

When those are used to define rigor, the teacher is flailing–thinking quantity is quality. Rigor is not about adding a column of data or remembering the main characters in a Shakespeare novel. It’s seeing how that knowledge connects to life, to circumstances and to daily problems.

Simply put, adding rigor creates an environment where students are:

  • expected to learn at high levels
  • supported so they can learn at high levels
  • cheered on as they demonstrate learning at high levels

It helps students understand how to live life using brain power as the engine. Sure, it will ask them to collect evidence and draw conclusions that may find disagreement among their peers. It will insist they defend a position or adjust it to reflect new information. And it will often move them outside their comfort zone. It will also prepare them to solve the problems they will face in the future.

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What Happens When Technology Fails? 3 Work-Arounds

08 Feb

tech failureHas this happened to you? You spend hours rewriting an old lesson plan, incorporating rich, adventurous tools available on the internet. You test it the evening before, several times, just to be sure. It’s a fun lesson with lots of activities and meandering paths students undoubtedly will adore. And it’s student-centered, self-paced. Technology enables it to differentiate authentically for the diverse group of learners that walk across your threshold daily.

Everyone who previewed it is wowed. You are ready.

Until the day of, the technology that is its foundation fails. Hours of preparation wasted because no one could get far enough to learn a d*** thing. You blame yourself–why didn’t you stick with what you’d always done?  Now, everyone is disappointed.

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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.