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Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

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.

Pros

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).

General

  • 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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Five Must-Do Skills to Accomplish During High School

18 Jan

A Lou Holtz Pep Talk

Lou Holtz, the University of Notre Dame’s erudite ex-coach, entrusted with turning UND football players into graduates, once exhorted, “How you respond to the challenge in the second half will determine what you become after the game, whether you are a winner or a loser.”

High School is like the second half, and you’re about to find out if you’re a winner. At the starting line, all students are equal, crossing the freshman threshold with the same opportunities, and same possibilities for their future. The 4.0 student stands shoulder to shoulder with the star athlete, and the C student who aspires to nothing more than minimum wage work has an equal chance that inspiration will strike. Every one approaches the starting line, not knowing if the race will be won with brains, hard work, willpower, or intensity of desire.

But you’re different. You know what you want: USNA. There are five general skills you’ll have to learn over the next three years (if you don’t have them by the time applications go out, prior to senior year, it’ll be too late).

08graduation_0251

Maybe you’re thinking, that’s easy. I do it every day. Or maybe you’re wondering: How do I make this happen? I can answer both: It’s not easy or everyone would do it. The only thing easy is the instructions for making it happen.

Vigilance. That’s right. Be vigilant. Every time you’re faced with a problem, try to solve it first. Every time you meet a person you just don’t like, figure out how to get along.

More on this later. For now, know that these are skills the Naval Academy values so they’re worth learning. You either learn them now, in high school and in time for the USNA application, or you’ll learn them later in the School of Hard Knocks that is life.

Not to fret, though. I’ll give you lots of ways to accomplish this. If you want to, you can do it. They only piece that you must be born with is the desire to attend USNA.

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10 Hits and 10 Misses for 2015–Ask a Tech Teacher

06 Jan

top ten 2016Since I started this blog five years ago, I’ve had over 4.8 million visitors to the 1,422 articles I’ve written on integrating technology into the classroom. They may be about how to use wikis or blogs in the classroom or what I’ve learned from my students as we got through another tech week. I have regular features like:

I post a lot of lesson plans that have worked for me and share my thoughts on other ideas that affect teachers trying to tech-ify their classrooms. If you’ve just arrived at Ask a Tech Teacher, start here.

It always surprises me what readers find to be the most and least provocative. The latter is as likely to be a post I put heart and soul into, sure I was sharing Very Important Information, as the former. Talk about humility.

Before you look at what statistics say are the most popular posts, tell me what your most popular categories are by voting in this poll:

Here they are–my top 10 and bottom 10 of 2015 (though I’ve skipped any that have to do with website reviews and tech tips. Those, I cover in other posts):

top ten 2016Top Ten Hits

  1. Hour of Code Suggestions by Grade Level
  2. Do You Miss Kerpoof? Try These 34 Alternatives
  3. Homeschool Day at the Getty
  4. 21 Holiday Websites For Your Students
  5. 10 Tips for Teachers who Struggle with Technology
  6. 20 Great Research Websites for Kids
  7. Keyboarding
  8. Digital Citizenship
  9. 13 Reasons For and 3 Against Technology in the Classroom
  10. 23 Websites for Poetry Month

What conclusions do you draw from this list? I’m amazed by the Hour of Code listing. That article was just published in December and still it beat out lots of articles that had the entire year to collect votes.

Here are the Top Ten Misses–posts I thought were great, but you-all didn’t visit as much. One thing I figured out this year that pushes the link-heavy-posts in the Top Ten Hits over the pedagogic-infused Top Ten Misses is that the Hits are open to dozens of students to visit. I’ve had days where I’d get a 1000 hits in an hour because teachers posted the list as a resource for students. Most of the sites on the Top Ten Misses are consumed individually, over coffee and a donut. I’m not sure how to adjust for that…

top ten 2016Top Ten Misses

  1. 10 Space Websites That Will Launch Your Class Study
  2. 3rd Grade Websites on Economics
  3. Computer Shortkeys That Streamline Your Day
  4. 5 Best Practices for Digital Portfolios
  5. Let Students Learn From Failure
  6. 11 Things I Love About Common Core
  7. Why use a Digital Portfolio–and 9 ways to do it
  8. 29 Online Educational Activities Kids Will Love This Summer
  9. Use Google Safe Search
  10. What’s a Tech Teacher Do All Day?

Did you have a favorite you agreed/disagreed with? I’d love to know. Take a moment to answer this poll:

To subscribe to Ask a Tech Teacher at our new home and get a free ebook, please click here.


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.

 
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Get Ready for the New Year!

11 Dec

tech tips for writersNext week, I’ll post four holiday activities that will get your computers and technology ready for the blitz of writing you’ll swear to accomplish in your New Year resolutions. Here’s what you’ll get (the links won’t be active until the post goes live):

  1. Is Your Online Presence Up to Date?
  2. Back up and Image your computer
  3. 15 Ways to Speed Up Your Computer

Join me! You’ll come away feeling ready, re-energized, and geeky.


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.

 
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