“Our children love being tested”–Here’s Why

There have been a number of stories about the failure of tablet technology in schools. 3rd grade teacher Michele Rice at Prairie Elementary School in Haysville, Kansas has found a way to markedly improve student achievement in lessons using tablet technology. She offers a step by step approach to ensuring an efficient and effective implementation of the technology.

How’s that relate to testing? Read on…

TECH OR TRADITIONALIf you told a child they were about to be given a ‘test’ to try to raise achievement, you could normally expect their enthusiasm to be almost non-existent. However, 3rd grade teacher Michele Rice at Prairie Elementary School in Haysville, Kansas has found a way to markedly improve student achievement in lessons which leaves children enjoying what they are learning, often without knowing they are taking a test at all.

Michele explains how she has used tablet technology to achieve such notable improvements.

“At Prairie Elementary School, we set high standards, based on our mission to equip learners with 21st century skills to achieve excellence in a continually-changing world. In these times of change, students need to learn in a way that will stimulate them and prepare them for the world they are going to live and work in.

“While it can seem incredible that a piece of hardware can really impact learning, the results are astonishing. When any learning activity is delivered on our tablets, attention, drive and results all improve. When I deliver a test from time to time to assess each student’s comprehension and level of development, they see it as another fun task!

“The bottom line is that it is certainly not about the hardware. A tablet is after all just a piece of hardware. It is the quality and presence of a management tool for the teacher and high quality learning content for the students that for us, has defined success. For a successful tablet implementation the technology has to be a complete solution that enhances, supports and simplifies teaching and learning.

“It is clear that the students absolutely love taking part in lessons using the tablets, but for the teacher, there can be a sense of a loss of control. This brings me to my next piece of advice, which, in my experience, defines the success or failure of a tablet implementation. The technology must give teachers an intuitive way to supervise and control student devices, lessons and activities and in turn easily enable differentiation of instruction and access to digital content. It is this differentiation of instruction that, when set up properly, can be so easy.

“Historically I would give the whole class a test to assess their comprehension but using the tablets I can select the test questions based on each child’s individual place on their learning pathway. There is nothing worse than taking a test, knowing that you can’t answer half the questions. By assigning ‘appropriate’ tests to each child, based on their stage of understanding they feel a level of success and enjoy the tests. Meanwhile I’m still getting the information I need on their developmental status.

“I can push out any number of activities for tests rom the content portal, to each child based on their specific learning needs. If such teacher management tools are a part of the tablet solution the teacher can shift their instruction from whole class to personalized learning.

“Without this, the technology can be just used as a game, and potentially a very costly investment.

“On my PC I have sight of each child’s tablet display and I can interject with a comment, freeze their screen if they are off task, or struggling with a specific question in a test, or display their screen onto the interactive whiteboard if they are working on something particularly interesting and worthy of whole class discussion.

“The beauty of the our tablets is that they come with free access to a content website full of high quality learning resources. Teachers do not have the time to search around the internet to review, approve and purchase the appropriate resources for a particular lesson. Having a wide range of preapproved content available that is stored by grade and subject makes my life so much easier.

“All teachers in our school upload their lessons to the site so we can share ideas, rather than waste time recreating them.

“Our tablets also have a QR code feature which extends the learning beyond simply directing them to the right activity.

“With the extended learning opportunities offered by the use of tablet technolgy throughout the day their battery life lasts; another important consideration. Each night we plug them in to charge them up ready for the next day when we will continue to use our tablets to explore the world of learning.”

Prairie Elementary School uses the LearnPad tablet solution3rd grade

If you’re planning to roll out tablets in your school, you might check John Pearce’s list of questions (over at Edudemic) or Larry Cuban‘s post on ‘Does it Work’?

More on laptops in the classroom:

The Tablet’s ‘Killer App’

7 Education Trends You Don’t Want to Miss

6 Steps to a Successful Tablet Roll-out

LearnPad–a great solution for lots of classrooms

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3 Problems to Address Before Blogging at Your School

tech questionsDear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Molly:

I really enjoyed your article on students blogging.  It seems like a great way to get them writing willingly since they love to be online.  I was wondering, what are some of the problems you have run into and how did you solve them?  What pitfalls can teachers watch out for long-term?

Three big–not necessarily ‘problems’ as much as issues to address:

Digital rights and responsibilities

You don’t want to roll out blogging in your classroom without a sturdy program educating students on digital citizenship–privacy, profiles, footprints, safety, fair use/copyrights. I have lots of information on those topics on my blog. Another good resource is Common Sense Media.

Read more »

Categories: blogging, classroom management, Dear Otto, Digital Citizenship, keyboarding | Tags: | 2 Comments

Tech Ed Resources for your Classroom–Webinars

I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m going to take a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.

Today: Webinars

Overview

Webinars are short video presentations themed to a variety of tech ed topics. That includes:

  • Common Core–don’t let anyone tell you Common Core is additional material that must be taught by layering on top of an already overcrowded curriculum. Common Core is a method of teaching what you already teach–just faster and more effectively. These webinars give you lots of ideas.
  • K-5 tech curriculum–32 webinars per grade level delivered one per week throughout the school year. These are free as the companion webinars for those who own the K-5 tech ed curriculum–5th ed. If you don’t own the curriculum, they can be purchased separately.
  • Organize your classroom for tech–there are a lot of classroom design details that morph tech into a learning tool rather than a set-aside like music or PE. These webinars get you started.
  • Pedagogy–technology is the poster child for education reform, especially with the gauntlet thrown down by Common Core Standards. No longer is the excuse, That’s not how I teach, acceptable. Now–tech is how we all teach. Because it’s a better way.

Who needs these

Classroom teachers, tech teachers, tech coordinators, library media specialists, curriculum specialists, administrators

How do you use it

Sign up for one or more collections. You get all of the webinars currently available (click the relevant link to see how many that) PLUS everything we add for a year.

Authors

The Ask a Tech Teacher crew

Stuff that goes nicely with this

The K-5 (or K-8) tech curriculum  goes nicely because then you get 32 webinars per grade level for free.

Where do you get it

Available as a single or multi-user license from the publisher

Pay via PayPal or school PO

Here’s a sample:

Here are screen shots of more:


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of dozens of technology training books that integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out next summer.

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29 Online Educational Activities Kids Will Love This Summer

earth dayWhat are we as parents and teachers most worried about over the summer? That kids will lose that education sharp edge. It will be dulled by sun and sand and something else.

Worry no more. Here’s your cure: learning disguised as play (inspired by the fascinating website, Playful Learning). Kids will think they’re playing games, but they’ll actually be participating in some of the leading [mostly] free simulations available in the education field. A note: some must be downloaded and a few purchased, so the link might take you to a website that provides access rather than play:

Economics/Money

  • Admongo–explore, discover and learn about online ads while playing a game
  • Coffee Shop—run a coffee shop business
  • Lemonade Stand—run a lemonade stand business
  • Life (Insurance)—manage your life and see why insurance is important

Read more »

Categories: Games/Simulations, history, math, problem solving, science, Social media, websites | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

22 Tips on How to Work Remotely

remote workI first considered this topic at a presentation I attended through WordCamp Orange County 2014. I had several trips coming up and decided to see how I addressed issues of being away from my writing hub. Usually, that’s when I realize I can’t do/find something and say, “If only…”

I am finally back from three conferences and a busy visit from my son–all of which challenged me to take care of business on the road and on the fly.

Truth is, life often interferes with work. Vacations, conferences, PD–all these take us away from our primary functions and the environment where we are most comfortable delivering our best work. I first thought about this when I read an article by a technical subject teacher(math, I think)  pulled away from his class for a conference. Often in science/math/IT/foreign languages, subs aren’t as capable (not their fault; I’d capitulate if you stuck me in a Latin language class). He set up a video with links for classwork and a realtime feed where he could be available and check in on the class. As a result, students–and the sub–barely missed him. Another example of teaching remotely dealt with schools this past winter struggling with the unusually high number of snow days. So many, in fact, that they were either going to have to extend the school year or lose funding. Their solution: Have teachers deliver content from their homes to student homes via a set-up like Google Hangouts (but one that takes more than 10-15 participants at a time).

All it took to get these systems in place was a problem that required a solution and flexible risk-taking stakeholders who came up with answers.

Why can’t I work from the road? In fact, I watched a fascinating presentation from Wandering Jon at the Word Camp Orange County 2014 where he shared how he does exactly that. John designs websites and solves IT problems from wherever he happens to be that day–a beach in Thailand, the mountains in Tibet or his own backyard. Where he is no longer impacts the way he delivers on workplace promises.

Here’s what I came up with that I either currently use or am going to arrange:

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Categories: international, online education, teacher resources | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

High Tech In The Classroom

global computer networkYou’ve probably seen it in your school–teachers who have lots of techie devices in their classroom but use them primarily for sponge time, spare minutes, fill-in. It’s not integrated into the lessons, rather a play activity ‘when students have time’. I call it ‘babysitting’.

More and more, that is unacceptable. Common Core casually includes tech and digital tools dozens of times in the Standards as though they are part of a toolkit teachers turn to when communicating concepts. Ask a Tech Teacher contributor Sara Stringer addresses this disparity below. I like that term–’high tech’. It fits. Like ‘higher order thinking’ does in lessons:

As technology expands, it needs to be embraced in the classroom. We’re past the days of overhead projectors and simple chalkboards. The time has come to utilize the tools in front of us so that students may learn more effectively. We’ve moved into the age of digital learning.

Ideally, all classrooms would be fitted with the latest and greatest technology at our disposal. While we may not be able to provide each student with all of the technology the world possesses, we can still explore what options will work best for each classroom.

The Hardware

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Dear Otto: Best Practices for New Teachers About Tech

tech questionsDear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Lucia:

I currently teach an instructional technology class to undergraduate students preparing to be educators. Every semester I need to revise my course to reflect “updates” in current Ed Tech. I’m hoping you might give me some advice on “best practices” for teaching students who want to be teachers! I’ve learned so much from you…and I’m hoping you can give me a boost here! I’m truly appreciative of any advice you may have!

There are four topics considered ‘best practices’ by current teachers when using tech in education. Here they are with a link to resources to help teach them:

  • digital citizenship--show how to keep students safe as they are encouraged to go online for research, collaborating, sharing, perspective-taking, and more
  • problem solving–lots of new teachers are intimidated by technology in their classrooms. Besides that there are so many digital tools–how does anyone stay up to date on them–there’s a worse problem: What happens when students using technology in class have a problem with it? What’s the teacher do? There are lots of problems the teacher can solve herself, without slowing down class and while modeling problem-solving skills, that don’t require an IT Intervention. Here’s a collection of 98

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14 Action Items, 5 Take-aways and 3 Tidbits from the TpT Conference

tpt1.6 million teachers buy from Teachers Pay Teachers. Over 90,000,000 people visit the website monthly. If you’re a teacher, why wouldn’t you set up a free seller account (they take a percent of revenue, like Amazon does) and see if all those brainy ed ideas caroming through your brilliant brain will fund your weekly Starbucks bill (or in the case of Deanna Jumper and a growing group of teachers like her, bring in over $1 million dollars to pay a lot more than bills)?

I have a TpT store (Ask a Tech Teacher) so decided to attend the first-ever premium seller’s conference on how to TpT better, smarter, more effectively, while having more fun. I went with a girlfriend–a fellow teacher. Together we made the desert drive from Orange County, California to Las Vegas Nevada, prepared to learn how to make our online stores the best they could be. From beginning to end, every seminar I attended was packed:

tpt

Here are my action items and take-aways from this great conference:

How to improve sales

  1. Submit for Seller Spotlight in TpT newsletter
  2. Set up a custom category in tpt
  3. Before publishing, search to be sure the products is not already up there
  4. Use a title that can be found
  5.  Link products to other products in my store.
  6. Sponsor resources on the newsletter. I can do this for $50(something like that) which is taken out of my earnings.tpt13
  7. Send a note to followers once a month. Cross  post on Twitter and FB.
  8. Have blogging buddies–support each other
  9. Best practices for search optimization
    1. Keep titles simple
    2. Be descriptive not creative
    3. Most users search by subjects and themes
    4. Include key phrases at beginning of description
    5. Promote other products at the bottom of the description
    6. In title, mix subject grade month
    7. You can change title without messing up the links
    8.  The message: tracking your sales equates to more sales
  10. Add a terms of use and a copyrights page to each doc
  11. Add a page with related products
  12. Add a page with 10% off on products
  13. Morning work is popular
  14. Add a page with Contact info, social media

Take-Aways

  1. June is a slow month. As is July. Good to know since it has been for me. I’ll wait before giving up. August-December statistically have the biggest sales.
  2. They don’t recommend product covers as pins on Pinterest. I should have listened harder on that one
  3. Don’t self-promote! This is a common theme on anything to do with social media
  4. If you make less than $20,000, TpT doesn’t send a W9. Good to know
  5. Everyone there was happy, excited, exhilarated to be a teacher sharing knowledge. The overwhelming attitude: We can do this together

Interesting Tidbits

  1. Average to first sale is 161 days
  2. Education use isn’t necessarily fair use in the eyes of the copyright police   You must be a nonprofit ed institution
  3. Ideas cannot be protected by copyrights

More on this conference? Watch my slideshow:

And–check out Monica’s review here and the Flutter Girls review (wonderful presentation by these two ladies).
More on tech ed conferences:

5 Must-have tools for Ed Conferences

18 Take-aways from ISTE–Observations, Tips and Great Digital Tools


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of dozens of technology training books that integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out next summer.

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Tech Ed Resources for your Classroom–Common Core Bundle

CC Article Bundle Cover(3)I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m going to take a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.

Today: Common Core Bundle

Overview

In this bundle, you get 20 tech ed resources on how to use technology to achieve Common Core Standards–presented in a variety of ways including Lesson plans, webinars, and short but pithy articles. Included:

  • 5 books (including 70 lesson plans)
  • 8 webinars
  • 7 Hall of Fame articles addressing Common Core topics

Who needs this

K-8 class teacher, K-8 tech teachers, tech coordinators, library media specialists, curriculum specialists

Classroom grade level teachers if your tech teacher doesn’t cover basic tech skills.

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13 Ways Blogs Teach Common Core

bloggingIf you aren’t blogging with your students, you’re missing one of the most effective tools available for improving student literacy and math. Blogs are easy to use, fun for students, encourage creativity and problem-solving, allow for reflection and feedback, enable publishing and sharing of work, and fulfill many of the Common Core Standards you might be struggling to complete. Aside from math and literacy, Common Core wants students to become accomplished in a variety on intangible skills that promote learning and college and career readiness. Look at these 13 benefits of blogging and how they align with Common Core:

  1. provide and get feedback–building a community via comments is an integral part of blogging. If you didn’t want feedback, you’d publish a white paper or submit work the old fashioned hard copy way. When students publish their ideas in blogs, other students, teachers, parents can provide feedback, join the conversation, and learn from the student.
  2. write-edit-review-rewrite–teachers don’t expect students to get it right the first time. Part of the writing process is revising, editing, rewriting. This is easy with blogs. Students publish a topic, collect comments, incorporate these ideas into their own thinking, then edit their post.
  3. publish–the idea that student work is created for a grade then stuffed away in a corner of their closet is disappearing. Current educators want students to publish their work in a way that allows everyone to benefit from the student’s knowledge and work. There are many ways to do that–blogs are one of the easiest.
  4. share–just like publishing, students no longer create for a grade; they share with others. Blogs allow for sharing of not only writing, but artwork, photography, music, multimedia projects, pretty much anything the student can create.
  5. collaborate–blogs can easily be collaborative. Student groups can publish articles, comment on others, edit and rewrite. They can work together on one blog to cover a wider variety of topics and/or make its design attractive, appealing and enticing to readers.
  6. keyboarding–blogs are small doses of typing–300-500 words, a few dozen for comments. This is an authentic opportunity to practice the keyboarding skills students will need for Common Core Standards in 4th grade and up.
  7. demonstrate independence–blogs are about creativity. No two are alike. They offer lots of options for design and formatting so students can tweak it to their preference. Because they are open 24/7, students can do blog work when it suits them, not in the confines of a 50-minute class.
  8. build strong content knowledge–blog posts can be drafted as the student collects information, posted when the student is ready. Links can be included to provide evidence of student statements, as well as linkbacks for reference and deeper reading for interested students.
  9. respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline–Students can create their work in whatever digital tool fits the audience, task, purpose they are focused on, then embed it into their blog post. This is possible even in a simplified blogging platform like KidBlog. Most online tools (Voki, Wordle, Tagxedo) provide the html codes that can be easily placed in the blog post. Then, the student at their option can focus on presenting their ideas as music, art, photos, text, an infographic, a word cloud–whatever works for their purposes.
  10. comprehend as well as critique–student bloggers are expected to critique the posts of others by thoroughly reading the post and commenting based on evidence. If the reader doesn’t understand, they ask questions in the comments. This insures that when they evaluate the post, they have all the information required to reach a conclusion.
  11. value evidence–blogs make it easy to provide all the necessary evidence to support a point of view.  Students can link back to sources to provide credit and link to experts to provide credibility for statements. In fact, in the blogosphere, good bloggers are expected to do this as a means of building credibility for opinions they write
  12. use technology and digital media strategically and capably--certainly blogs are great for writing, but they’re also excellent as digital portfolios to display student work developed in a variety of places. Students pick the technology that fits what they’re expected to accomplish in a class, then publish it to the blog. Have you seen the movies students put together on a topic? Some are amazing.
  13. understand other perspectives and cultures–blogs are published to the internet. Even private blogs are accessed by many more people than possible with a hand-written paper. Students write knowing that people of all cultures and perspectives will read their material, knowing they can add comments that share their beliefs. This encourages students to develop the habit of thinking about perspective as they write.

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