With a new year upon us, I want to share three items I’ve discovered that help organize my desk-related items like nothing else I’ve tried. I didn’t want these to be the ‘pencil caddy’ sort of ideas, but those that popped a light bulb over my head, significantly improving my ability to get the job done while sitting at my desk.
Here’s what I came up with. See what you think:
Computer Privacy Screen Protectors
Have you ever gotten that prickle in the back of your neck that someone is reading over your shoulder? Maybe you’re working on a sensitive email while students are in the classroom (during lunch break, say) and when you turn, you see a student standing there, politely and quietly waiting to ask a question. Or your computer screen–like mine–can be seen through your classroom window, which means anyone walking by can see what you’re doing on your screen, even if it’s grading student work.
- End-of-year Tech Tips: Image and Back-up Your Computer
- End-of-Year Tips: 13 WaysTo Speed Up Your Computer
- End of Year Tips: Is Your Online Presence Up to Date?
Try them out–post a comment if you need help. I’ll be here.
New 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):
- 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 Sub–Twenty-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?
Since I started this blog five years ago, I’ve had over 3 million visitors to the 1,134 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.
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.
When you look at these articles, they aren’t required to have been written in 2014–just visited last year. Some of these articles were written a few years ago and still generate a lot of interest among aspiring authors.
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:[polldaddy poll=8383517]
Here they are–my top 10 and bottom 10 of 2014 (though I’ve skipped any that have to do with website reviews and tech tips. Those, I cover in other posts):
Top Ten Hits
Like this week.
That’s right. It’s a new year, which means Pre-Spring Cleaning. Set aside the brushes and mops. Grab a comfortable chair, put on your problem-solving hat, and get started. The goal: To make your computer faster, more efficient, and more reliable for all the work you’ve promised to complete over the holiday break.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Make sure your firewall is working. Windows comes with a built-in one. Maybe Mac does too. Leave it active. It’s under Control Panel>Administrative Tools. Sometimes, they seem to turn off by themselves (I have no idea why). Check to be sure it is active. This will keep viruses and malware out that slow your computer.
- Defrag your computer. To quote Windows, Fragmentation makes your hard disk do extra work that can slow down your computer. Removable storage devices such as USBs can also become fragmented. Disk Defragmenter rearranges fragmented data so your disks and drives can work more efficiently. Never mind all that geek speak. Here’s what you need to know: Run Disc Defrag by going to Control Panel>Administrative Tools>Advanced Tools.
- Run Spybot or a similar spyware programs. Spybot is free, which is why I like it, and I’ve had good luck with it. Download.com says this about Spybot: The program checks your system against a comprehensive database of adware and other system invaders. The Immunize feature blocks a plethora of uninvited Web-borne flotsam before it reaches your computer.
- Run Ad-aware once a week to keep malware off your computer. It has a stellar reputation and is also free (although there’s an upgrade that you can pay for).
- Keep your antivirus software active. If you’re paranoid like me, run an antivirus scan weekly to be sure nothing is missed.
- Sort through your Documents and get rid of those you don’t need anymore. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in months–or years and is covered with dust, even spider webs. Do it, though. If you don’t, every time you search, the computer must finger through those unused and worthless files. It doesn’t understand the difference between ‘unused’ and ‘important’.
- Back up your files to an external drive or cloud storage. If you have an automated system, skip this. If you don’t, consider getting Carbonite or similar. If you use Windows, try their backup program. It’s easy to find: Click the Start Button and search ‘backup’.
- Empty the trash. Don’t even look in it. If you haven’t missed a file by now, it won’t matter if you throw it out.
- Learn to use that program you’ve been promising you would or delete it. Evernote is a great example. Use it (and you won’t be sorry) or delete the email from your best friend exhorting you to try it. Move on.
- Go through your programs and delete the ones you no longer use. Here’s what you do:
- go to Control Panel>Programs and Features
- peruse the list and pick the programs you downloaded by mistake, meaning to use, or used to use and no longer do
- don’t look back
- Update any software that needs it. I don’t mean BUY a newer version. I mean click the free update that’s been nagging at you (Adobe Reader and Windows, for example)
- Clean the junk off your desktop. Put it in folders or create a folder for ‘Working on’. Don’t know how to create a desktop folder? Just right click on the desktop and select ‘New>folder’
- Clean up your Start Button. Remove shortkeys you no longer use (with a right click>delete). Add those that have become daily go-to sites
For most teachers I know, life zooms by, filled with lesson planning, meetings, classes, collaborations with their grade-level team, parent meetings, and thinking. There are few breaks to update/fix/maintain the tech tools that allow us to pursue our trade.
But, that must happen or they deteriorate and no longer accomplish what we need them to do. Cussing them out does no good. Buying new systems takes a long time and doesn’t fix the problem that the old one wasn’t kept up. If they aren’t taken care of, we are left wondering why our teacher blog or website isn’t accomplishing what it does for everyone else, why our social media Tweeple don’t generate activity, and why our TPT materials languish. There’s a short list of upkeep items that won’t take long to accomplish. The end of the calendar year is a good time to do these:
Only a few more days for Ask a Tech Teacher subscribers to get 25% off:
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25% off a Room License (up to 26 seats) on 1-9 grades
9 grade-level technology curriculum student eworkbooks (kindergarten through 8th grade–only 3rd-8th available currently). Aligned with the Structured Learning K-8 technology curriculum (which is aligned with Common Core and ISTE)–one ebook per grade level. Each ebook is 136-195 pages, with 193-230 images.[gallery type="slideshow" ids="38071,38063,38064,38065,38066,38067,38068,38069,38070"]
This is a student-paced, student-directed course that integrates with any school curriculum and prepares students for end-of-year Common Core testing. Includes:
- why learn technology?
- formative and summative assessments
- domain-specific vocabulary
- relevant tech problem solving
- required digital citizenship overview
- curriculum map with a K-8 timeline of topics
- embedded links so students can simply click and go—no searching for the site, trying to remember the site address
- rubrics, quizzes, study guides, and more–to save teacher duplicating papers. It’s right there in the workbook!
- over one hundred full-color images and how-tos
- samples of projects at student fingertips so wherever they’re practicing, they have an example and directions
- background material right there. If student wants to remember what they did a week–a month–ago, it’s right there.
- extensions to dig deeper for those who are inspired by a topic
- year’s worth of homework–all in one place
- workbook goes with the student. It’s licensed to them through the school. If they’re in the library, the classroom, the soccer field, they can practice. Even at home (with appropriate license).
What’s included in Student Workbooks
- student digital workbooks for the entire class
- teacher manual for each grade level purchased (print–international excluded–and digital)
- 32 teacher videos weekly to address current lesson (K-5 only)
Benefits of a Room License for School:
- provide an overarching curriculum map for using technology in your school
- provide access to full text PDF from 26 digital devices in the room, 24 hours a day. This maximizes productivity and student independence.
- enable flexible learning paths as students work at their own pace, with the ability to review or work ahead as needed
- share pedagogy to infuse your classroom with technology
- enable teachers to dig deeper into relevant topics, vertically integrate with core grade-level teachers
- provide multiple authentic and organic methods of formative and summative assessment
- provide free online Help via Ask a Tech Teacher (staffed by educators who use SL resources) and grade-specific wikis (K-5 only)
- free desk copy of print book for teacher use (if available in print and for domestic customers only)
Benefits of Room License for Students:
- provide easy access to monthly lessons, how-tos, rubrics, project samples, practice quizzes, grade-level expectations, homework, images, and check lists
- provide quick links to websites required in lessons
- provide full color instructions that can be zoomed in on for greater detail
- allow a convenient place to take lesson notes (using a PDF annotator like iAnnotate)
- encourage students to be independent in their learning, work at their own pace rather than a one-size-fits-all class pace. This is great both for students who need more time and those who ‘get it’ and want to move on
- enable a quick way to spiral up to the next grade level for quick learners or back to earlier resources for student needing to scaffold their learning
- prepare students for the rigor of end-of-year summative testing
If you’re an AATT or Structured Learning subscriber, get 25% off when you purchase a Room License for one grade-level or a set of K-8.
If you need a license for your school or District, contact Zeke dot Rowe at StructuredLearning dot net–he’ll give you a special 25% off code for those.
Also applies to K-8 Keyboarding Student Workbooks.
Coupon code: STUDENTWKBKSPECIAL
Discount: 25% off a Room License (up to 26 seats) on 1-9 grades
Works on all of these digital devices:[gallery type="slideshow" ids="36554,36553,38278,36551,38281,36550,38280,36555,38279,38277,36552,38282"]
How to Order: Publisher’s website only
Every month, subscribers to Ask a Tech Teacher get a free/discounted resource to help their tech teaching.
Delivery: PDF (Digital only)
How to Order: Publisher’s website only
Price: $14.99 value–this month: $4.99 (discount take after you click ‘Buy’)
Every year, I struggle with a Halloween costume. The teams of grade-level teachers always have themed looks—the Three Bears or Eeenie Meenie Minie and Moe–but I don’t have a team. I also don’t have kids at home to inspire me into painting my hair pink or my nails black.
A few years ago, I found the solution, and now–no worries. Even if it slips by my consciousness until I arrive at school on our Halloween Parade Day to the sight of goblins, Dr Who’s and other fantasies, I’m ready. Here’s my costume:
Kids love field trips. They’re out of the classroom, get to travel by bus with lots of kids and not enough adults. What’s not to like?
A few items come to mind: Cost, staffing, potential for disaster. And that’s just off the top of my head. There’s a way to provide the field trip experience with few of the risks, no cost, and a fraction of the time away from what is likely an overstuffed education day:
Virtual Field Trips, via the internet.
There are so many options for real-time webcams, conversations with experts (via Skype and Google Hangout), and the opportunity to visit locations that are otherwise inaccessible that classes have embraced this new approach to seeing the world. This enthusiasm has encouraged a cottage industry that often is far from the exciting, realistic experience teachers want for their students. When I search the internet, it seems any site with a camcorder and multimedia resources calls itself a ‘virtual field trip’. Truthfully, many of them are a waste of time. Sure, I like the pictures and the movies, but I don’t feel like I’m there, immersed in history or geography, with a life-changing experience that will live in my memory for decades to come.
Intellectually, I know there are good ones out there. Finally, after wearing through my favorite virtual shoes, I have a list to recommend. These next nine virtual field trips cover topics from geology to history to the human experience. See what you think:
What’s not to love about a website that starts:
Welcome to Earth! It’s a planet having an iron core, with two-thirds of its surface covered by water. Earth orbits a local star called the Sun, the light of which generates the food supply for all the millions of species of life on earth. The dominant species on Earth is the human being, and you’re one of the six billion of them! Humans have iron in their blood, and their bodies are composed of two-thirds water, just like the planet they live on.
Enjoy your stay, and try to stay calm.
360 Cities contains the Internet’s largest collection of uploaded panoramic images. Let’s pause here for a moment. Panos–those wide pictures that cover up to 180 degrees left and right. Right?
360 Cities does panos differently. Let me show you. Here’s one from my iPad:
Here’s one on 360 Cities: