There is no end to the number of online tools available. I get inundated with them by friends (My child wants to use this website. What do you think?), fellow teachers (Would you check this web tool–does it work for literacy?), parents (My child loves this tool. Is it appropriate?). I am always thrilled because introductions through friends and colleagues are much more authentic than through online advertising or an ezine.
When I review a website or app, I take 15-30 minutes to test it out, try to see it through the eyes of the age group that will use it. Here’s what I look for:
- Does it have advertising? If so, it needs to be nominal and G-rated. I don’t want them to be overbearing or distracting. Worse is if they are inappropriate. I’ve seen great websites and online tools ruined by objectionable ads.
- Is it intuitive? Students want to be able to figure the program out without being taught. An intuitive website and/or app 1) has an easy-to-understand start-up screen that clearly identifies how to use the tool, 2) the process for using the tool is similar to others the students is familiar with, and 3) the student can independently launch and operate the web tool or app without requiring an adult.
- is it user-friendly? Does its design and layout make students want to accomplish the goals of the program? Are students engaged in the activity, motivated to use the web tool? Is it functional? Is it visually stimulating? Does it require only a nominal amount of reading?
- Does the web tool differentiate for types of students and their unique needs? Sure, there are lots of good web tools appropriate for a certain standard classification of student. What I want is the web tool that can adapt to varying needs.
- Is the tool challenging? Does it require sufficient critical thinking to keep the student engaged or do they get bored quickly?
- Is the web tool compatible with most browsers, most computers? I don’t want it so old it won’t play well with the type of computer commonly used by students. I also don’t want it so specialized that students must buy extra equipment to use it.
- Is the web tool free? That’s preferable. There are lots of good web tools that are free to a certain point and charge a fee after that. Depending upon what ‘point’ that kicks in, I’m OK with that
- Does the web tool encourage higher-order thinking–creativity, evaluation, critical thinking, problem solving?
- Is the web tool or app error-free? This means not only that it’s free of spelling and grammar errors, but that it doesn’t freeze, stall, shut down, or crash.
- Does the web tool have educational applications? When students are at school, I want to focus on academic endeavors, leaving those more focused on ‘play’ to the home environment. So many fun programs are also educational, this isn’t a high hurdle.
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.
The first review: the K-8 Technology Curriculum
The K-8 Technology Curriculum is Common Core and ISTE aligned, and outlines what should be taught when so students have the necessary scaffolding to use tech in the pursuit of grade level state standards and school curriculum.
Each book is between 130 and 260 pages and includes lesson plans, assessments, domain-specific vocabulary, problem solving tips, Big Idea, Essential Question, options if primary tech tools not available, posters, reproducibles, samples, tips, enrichments, and teacher preparation. Lessons build on each other kindergarten through 5th grade. For Middle School, they are designed for the grading period time frame typical of those grade levels, with topics like programming, robotics, community service with tech.
Topics include keyboarding, digital citizenship, problem solving, domain-specific vocabulary, and more.
K-5 has a FREE companion wiki with FREE webinars on how to teach each lesson throughout the year and takes questions from anyone who has the curriculum. It’s used worldwide by public and private schools and homeschoolers.
Who needs this
Tech teachers, tech coordinators, library media specialists, curriculum specialists
Classroom grade level teachers if your tech teacher doesn’t cover basic tech skills.
How do you use it
If you’re the tech teacher and have dedicated technology time each week, this takes you through that 30-45 minutes, unpacking what needs to be taught when. If you’re a classroom teacher, integrate the lesson pieces into your regular curriculum. For example, where a project is required to learn a tech skill, pick one that supports your inquiry.
Stuff that goes nicely with this
First of all, when you buy this curriculum, you get weekly webinar training, access to a companion wiki, access to a Master Teacher to address your questions. So don’t buy those.
What else do you need? Hmmm…..webinars maybe
Where do you get it
Available in print and/or digital as a single or multi-user license
Pay via PayPal or school PO
Sold directly from:
Screenshots from the K-8 books:[gallery type="slideshow" ids="23104,11559,10204,10209,10201,10200,7819,7820,7817,6383,5479,5478,5461,4927,4924,4919,4918,4897,4886,4441,18363,10127,10126"]
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.
If your children are eager to be creative this summer, but addicted to computers, try these wonderful art-oriented websites. For your youngers, start any visit to the internet with a conversation about safety, privacy, and good digital citizenship. Soon, they’ll know the rules and you won’t have to keep chatting about it:
Lots of art websites for K-8
- Art Online
- ASCII art picture generator–instant
- ASCII Art Text Generator
- BigHuge Labs
- Image edit exposure tool
- Image Edited? Check here
Many people in the United States, particularly students, parents and teachers, join forces on Read Across America Day, annually held on March 2. This nationwide observance coincides with the birthday of Dr Seuss.
Here are some great reading websites for students K-5:
- Aesop Fables—no ads
- Aesop’s Fables
- Audio stories
- Childhood Stories
- Classic Fairy Tales
- Edutainment games and stories
- Fables—Aesop—nicely done
- Fairy Tales and Fables
- Interactive storybook collection
- Listen/read–Free non-fic audio books
- Magic Keys–stories for youngers
- Mighty Book
- Open Library
- PBS Stories–Between the Lions
- RAZ Kids–wide variety of reading levels, age groups, with teacher dashboards
- Signed stories
- Stories read by actors
- Stories to read
- Stories to read for youngsters
- Stories to read from PBS kids
- Stories to read–II
- Stories to read—International Library
- Stories—MeeGenius—read/to me
- Story Scramble
- Story time–visual
- Storytime for me
- Teach your monster to read (free)
- Tumblebooks (fee)
- Ziggity Zoom Stories
Here are some of my favorite websites to teach mouse skills to kindergarten and 1st grade. It’s from my collection and is constantly updated here:
- Bees and Honey
- Click the square
- Jigsaw puzzles
- K-1 mouse practice
- More Mouse Skills
- Mouse and tech basics–video
- Mouse Click Skills—gorgeous
- Mouse exercises–for olders too
- Mouse movement–bomono
- Mouse practice
- Mouse practice—drag, click
- Mouse skills
- Mouse Song
- Mouse Use Video
- Mouse—Tidy the Classroom
- Mouse—Wack a Gopher
- Mousing around
- Tidy the classroom
- Wack-a-gopher (no gophers hurt in this)
Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.
Here’s a great question I got from Barbara, a principal at a local school:
There isn’t a lot of research on the topic of grading tech classes. Anecdotally, it seems to be all over the board–whether teachers grade or not, and if they do–how. The short answer to this question is: It depends upon your expectations of the tech class. If it’s fully integrated into the classroom, treated more as a tool than a ‘special’ class (some call them ‘exploratories’, akin to PE, Spanish, music), then you probably want to hold it rigorously to the grading scale used in the classroom. The projects created will be evidence of learning, more like summative (or formative) assessments of academic work than tech skills.
Each week of the school year, I post what I’m teaching on a grade-specific wiki. It tells viewers what lesson I’m teaching in the SL K-5 curriculum(sorry, this isn’t available for 6th-8th grade) and how I blend the authentic tasks, essential questions, big ideas, and student-centered projects into my class. I also include add-on lessons sparked by the skills learned in the curriculum, student resources, parent resources, favorite links, and whatever extras helped students provide evidence of learning in this particular week. Through the Discussion tab, wiki members can ask questions as they prepare for their students.
Here are the links to my wikis, by grade level:
They’re private, so to view the material requires a log-in. Why?
- I want you to be comfortable asking questions
- I want you to be able to chat with others who are also following the SL technology curriculum, see how they address prickly parts
It’s the time of year when inquiring young minds want to know–Where’s Santa? Here’s a great website to answer that question.[caption id="attachment_4169" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Track Santa on Xmas Eve[/caption]
New technologies have broadened and expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication. Digital texts confront students with the potential for continually updated content and dynamically changing combinations of words, graphics, images, hyperlinks, and embedded video and audio.
The underlying theme can’t be ignored by teachers any longer: A 21st Century learner requires technologic proficiency. Proof enough is that Common Core summative assessments will be completed online—only possible if students use technology as comfortably as paper and pencil to demonstrate knowledge.
But how do you do that if you aren’t a ‘techie’, a ‘geek’, if you barely use a Smartphone much less the myriad of online tools. I have ten strategies that will make your teaching life easier, bump up your effectiveness with students, and save time complying with Common Core standards. Try these ten tech uses. Watch what a difference they make:
Here’s a free lesson plan from the newest Ask a Tech Teacher book, How to Achieve Common Core with Tech–the Language Strand. This covers K-8, 87 Standards, and has 8 projects.
BTW, the lines at the front of each step are to check off the skill–track progress in case you don’t complete it in one class period. Feel free to print to out for your classroom use:
Why is appropriate vocabulary essential to academic success?
Students teach each other domain-specific words through presentations. This reinforces vocabulary, as well as presentation skills.
By the end of this unit, 3rd-middle school students will review up to 7 L, 4 SL, and 1 WHST, as well as authentically use and review Tier 3 vocabulary (or optionally, Tier 2).
- Words are beautiful.
- Knowing Tier 3 vocabulary helps students understand the subject.
Internet, Speak Like a Geek assessments, Speak Like a Geek sign-ups