Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Ten Tech Problem-Solving Tips You Don’t Want to Miss

03 Jun

problems-solvingHere are the top ten problem-solving tips according to Ask a Tech Teacher readers:

  1. Tech Tip #108: Got a Tech Problem? Google It!
  2. What to do when your Computers Don’t Work
  3. 25 Techie Problems Every Student Can Fix–Update
  4. How to Teach Students to Solve Problems
  5. I Can Solve That Problem…
  6. Let Students Learn From Failure
  7. Let’s Talk About Habits of Mind
  8. Computer Shortkeys That Streamline Your Day
  9. #81: Problem Solving Board
  10. 5 Ways to Cure Technophobia in the Classroom

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#IWSG–Another bad first draft or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

01 Jun

writers groupThis post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out). The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears, or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month’s insecurity – “Not with a bang but a whimper”.

TS Elliot’s “The Hollowman” was one of my favorite poems growing up, and this line still sticks with me:

Not with a bang but a whimper.

He wrote it to describe the end of the world, that we will not go out in a blaze of glory, but a dribble of meaninglessness. Right now, I’m praying that my imminent book launch is a road to … somewhere… not a dead end,  that it’s the answer to my dreams rather than just another bad first draft, that the ending is meaningful, not just where I ran out of things to say. If self-publishing is “learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss” (I’ve rephrased Douglas Adams), I so hope I miss.

Thoreau made the observation, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.” I hope To Hunt a Sub is fish free.

Any words of encouragement to get me through this?

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How I’m Doing on ‘To Hunt a Sub’–VII

28 May

us submarineI had a few interruptions, but made a lot of progress on my newest thriller, To Hunt a Sub. Here’s the short blurb for this thriller:

…a brilliant PhD candidate, a cynical ex-SEAL, and a quirky experimental bot team up against terrorists intent on stealing America’s most powerful nuclear weapon, the Trident submarine.

Here’s what I did these past few months:

  • I incorporated my editor’s changes–loved most of them–and sent the final draft to several people I hope will write reviews for me. That will take a few months, which gives me time to complete other items.
  • I got my cover, which is waiting for the big Cover Reveal date (I haven’t set that up yet). Paper and Sage did a great job on it (who I found through efriend, Rebecca Bradley).
  • I am consciously ignoring the call of this book’s sequel, Twenty-four Days. I know if I start editing that, I’ll lose energy for the launch of this book.
  • I’m organizing my Blog Hop pieces where I’ll ask your help to promote my newly-published book. Stay tuned!
  • I’m still looking at Kindle Scout as a good option to get started. We’ll see.
  • I still need to get my barcode. I think I have a good place to get that in a day, so I’m procrastinating it.

I hope to move on to marketing in four(ish) weeks. Sigh. <shiver>.

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Thirteen Writing-with-Tech Tips You Don’t Want to Miss

23 May

digital writing helpHere are thirteen of the top writing-with-tech tips according to Ask a Tech Teacher readers:

  1. A Helping Hand: Assistive Technology Tools for Writing
  2. Tech Tip #124: Editing is Easier with Digital Writing
  3. Revision Assistant–the Most Comprehensive Virtual Writing Assistant Available for Students
  4. 4 Ways Students Can Plan Their Writing
  5. 7 Innovative Writing Methods for Students
  6. How to Write a Novel with 140 Characters
  7. Technology Removes Obstructed Writers’ Barriers to Learning
  8. 66 Writing Tools for the 21st Century Classroom
  9. How Minecraft Teaches Reading, Writing and Problem Solving
  10. Common Core Writing–Digital Quick Writes
  11. Will Texting Destroy Writing Skills?
  12. #112: 10 Ways Twitter Makes You a Better Writer
  13. How Blogs Make Kids Better Writers

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10 Things Students Can Do With Buncee

16 May

bunceeBuncee is a web- and iPad-based creation tool for both teachers and students. With it, teachers can prepare engaging lessons, newsletters, and how-tos. Students can write interactive digital stories, easy-to build presentations, and more. The drag-and-drop interface makes it simple to put exactly what you want where it fits.  If you ever struggle with getting PowerPoint to do what you want, you won’t with Buncee. It’s intuitive, aligned with other programs you already know how to use, with virtually no learning curve.

Here’s how it works: You log into your account and set up your class. You can invite up to thirty students (no student email required) and then manage their activities, assignment responses, and classwork from the teacher dashboard. A project is built like a slideshow–add new slides that appear in the sidebar and build them out with a wide variety of searchable multimedia–Buncee artwork, stickers, photos, videos, freehand drawings, audio, text, animations, YouTube videos, and links. You can add images from the web, your computer, or your DropBox account. You can even record your own voice as an overlay (requires premium) for a how-to video or a digital storybook. Completed projects can be saved as jpgs or PDFs, and then shared via email, QR Code, social media, or embedded into blogs and websites.


I love that the site is easy enough for kindergartners, but sophisticated enough for teacher lesson planning. It’s the rare tool that blends simplicity with suave well enough that all stakeholders can feel proud of their work.

The site provides a library of prepared projects that teachers can use on everything from reading to math to science. Slide backgrounds include KWL charts, chalkboards, lined paper, calendars, desktop, outer space, and more. There are also a vast number of YouTube videos showing how to do many of the Buncee features (though most are simple enough, you won’t need the help).

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May is Military Appreciation Week

09 May

God bless my Navy daughter and my Army son. God bless all of our warriors.

Here’s a playlist of all the great songs saying thank you to our soldiers:

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 one hundred resources on integrating tech into education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, adjunct professor in technology-in-education, 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.

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What You Might Have Missed in April

01 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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21 Ways to Describe Detectives

29 Apr

mysteryFor the next few months, I’m sharing word choice suggestions for categories of ideas. That includes:

  • colorful and original descriptions
  • pithy words and phrases
  • picture nouns and action verbs
  • writing that draws a reader in and addicts them to your voice

I keep a  collection of descriptions that have pulled me into the books. I’m fascinated how authors can–in just a few words–put me in the middle of their story and make me want to stay there. This one’s on how to describe detectives.

A note: These are for inspiration only. They can’t be copied because they’ve been pulled directly from an author’s copyrighted manuscript (intellectual property is immediately copyrighted when published).


  • No one drinks squad room coffee. You pour the stuff, let it sit and then dump it out and start over.
  • Run a trace on phones, credit cards
  • I don’t think, just follow the information. First thing we learn in PI school
  • Send picture of suspect to train depots, airports, toll plazas,  bus stations, police stations
  • Time would slow down for him now, so he arranged things in his shady nook to get some rest. Real sleep was not an option, not alone in hostile territory, but he could allow himself a light doze, just under the edge of total awareness, with his hand always on a weapon.
  • Buchanan’s security net had tracked Colonel Sims to Elmendorf
  • Watching where their arms were in relation to their bodies, watching for certain types of backpacks, watching for a gait that might reveal if they were carrying a weapon or an IED. Watching for pale jaws that suggested a newly shaved beard or a woman’s absent touch to her hair, possibly indicating her ill ease at being in public without a hijab for the first time

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How to Use Social Media for Professional Development

18 Apr

professional learning networkTell me if this sounds familiar:

With the 2016 New Year, you resolved to build your Professional Learning Network–finally, to stop living in the 20th century where your world revolved around a sticks-and-bricks building, a landline phone, and the mailbox. You joined all the big social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, blogging–just for starters). The plan was to connect with the movers and shakers in education, learn from them, and have them as a resource for those times you needed help on a lesson plan or to select the perfect webtool for a project. You committed hours to it, and then days, eager to make this work because everyone you know talks about how much they learn from social media. Now, six months into it, you know too much about your followers’ lunch plans and almost nothing about their educational pedagogy. You’re frustrated, angry, and ready to give this whole failed effort up.

Without knowing anything about you other than that paragraph above, I’m going to predict that you didn’t manage your social media, got intimidated by the words ‘friend’ and ‘defriend’, and quickly became overwhelmed by the volume of information that flooded your inbox every day. The purpose of a social media-based PLN is to extend your reach beyond the narrow confines of the bubble you live in, but that isn’t what happened for you.

Before you unplug from the virtual world, try these six steps. They’ll clean up the clutter, smooth out the wrinkles, and put you back in the driver’s seat of your online life:

Keep your stream pure

Only accept or seek friends who are in your professional area of interest. This is less like a speed-dating party and more like a job application. When you come across a promising educator, visit their social media, pass judgment on whether they fit your needs, and then make a decision.

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21 Writing Tips Found on Twitter

16 Mar

twitter writing tipsI confess, I like the Twitter approach to writing. It’s pithy, cogent, brief, with headlines that stick. I don’t always believe them, but am often entertained. And the posters–love them.

Getting quickly-consumed tips from Twitter that inspire as I start my daily writing seems to be a natural, especially when Tweeple include images (which I wish I’d do more often). I don’t always believe these tweets, but am often entertained. About once a year, I curate a list of favorite Twitter tips. Here’s what it looks like so far this year:

  1. To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.
  2. When you’re writing, write
  3. As part of my editing process I read aloud my manuscript. What a telling experience. (This is one of the most common tips: Read your mss aloud. It’s a sea-change from reading it silently.)
  4. Note to thriller writers on Twitter: Don’t worry, you’ll get followed: By the NSA. Because of your Google searches.
  5. Rituals are a good signal to your unconscious that it is time to kick in.
  6. Talent is extremely common. What is rare is the willingness to endure the life of the writer. –Kurt Vonnegut
  7. Show up and stay present (another reminding us that when we sit down to write, don’t get distracted)
  8. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite. –Elmore Leonard
  9. Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on the glass. –Anton Chekhov (I’d forgotten this one. It’s a keeper–and so true)
  10. Never use a long word when a short one will do. –George Orwell
  11. You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write. –Saul Bellow
  12. Finding an agent is as unlikely as a bus hitting you in the shower while being attacked by a shark. And still, we write.
  13. First person POV might be the easiest for beginners.
  14. If you’re a beginner, be kind to yourself.
  15. Love the process of writing. Or quit.
  16. The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.
  17. To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard. –Allen Ginsberg
  18. Waiting until you feel like writing is like waiting for a train at an abandoned station.
  19. Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk. –Thoreau (OK, not so much advice as funny.)
  20. Your writing should be more feral and less domesticated.
  21. There’s a certain peace in knowing your place in the writing universe. Find it.

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