The Importance of SEL to Education Success

social emotional learningLife is much simpler when you — as a parent or teacher — can point to one solution for a problem, solve it, and everything is golden. Success in school was like that when grades were the barometer and studying harder was the tool. Now, we know academic achievement is much more complicated.

“Students are telling us there’s a big missing piece in their education” –John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic

Today’s educators realize learning has as much to do with academics as how students get along with themselves and others. This is called “Social Emotional Learning” or SEL. It’s akin to the importance of play in teaching preschool kids to socialize with others, develop tenacity, and learn respect for those around them. If you’re not convinced of the importance of SEL, here’s what students say:

“Students and young adults believe SEL schools would create a more positive social and learning environment” — report by the Collaboration for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

A positive attitude about themselves and others is linked to not only academic success but correlated to lessening the negative impact of future-ending problems such as drug use. It should surprise no one that as of mid-2018, two states have passed SEL measures, sixteen SEL-related bills and resolutions have been introduced, and twenty-three states are working on SEL standards.

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15 St. Patrick’s Day Resources For Your Class

Getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day? Try these fun websites:st patricks day websites

  1. Color the shamrock
  2. Color the Pot-o-gold
  3. Color the leprechaun
  4. Puzzle–St. Pat’s Puzzle
  5. Puzzle–St. Pat’s puzzle II
  6. Puzzle–St. Pat’s drag-and-drop puzzle
  7. Puzzle–St. Pat’s slide puzzle
  8. Puzzles and games
  9. St. Patrick’s Day history–video
  10. St. Patrick’s Day quiz
  11. St. Pat’s Day songs–video
  12. Tic tac toe
  13. Webquest for St. Patrick’s Day I
  14. Webquest II
  15. Wordsearch

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Pi Day is Easy to Remember–Celebrate With Students

Throwback Day–I’ll republish this Pi Day post from last year, just to remind you of this wonderful mathematical event:

Pi Day is an annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant π (pi). Pi Day is observed on March 14 since 3, 1, and 4 are the three most significant digits of π in the decimal form.

Daniel Tammet, a high-functioning autistic savant, holds the European record for reciting pi from memory to 22,514 digits in five hours and nine minutes.

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Peer Feedback That Works

Assessing student learning traditionally is accomplished with tests. The problem teachers have with this approach is managing them. If they’re short answer or essay —  the preferred way to check understanding — grading takes a long time. And unless assessments are frequent, it’s easy to miss the student who is lost or just doesn’t get it. Even with the advances technology offers in responding directly to students, it can be too time-consuming for large classes.

A solution that has become popular is peer feedback. This isn’t new; in fact, it is prevalent in universities. What exactly is peer feedback and how is it being applied to lower grades?

What is peer feedback?

When used as an assessment strategy, peer feedback is much more than casual comments shared between classmates. It is the logical evaluation of one student’s work by another using predetermined characteristics and measures. Through the implementation of a prescribed rubric, a student’s classmate looks at their work and determines if it satisfies the goals of the lesson, the Essential Questions, and the Big Ideas.

One important difference from teacher evaluations is that students don’t grade each other.

Why peer feedback?

Peer feedback has become popular as teachers move to a “teacher-guide” model of education rather than a “teacher-lecturer”. When the time comes in a lesson to assess student learning, instead of a formal test in a quiet room with a clock ticking, teachers employ a system of peer feedback. For many, this is more effective, less stressful, and maintains the goal of encouraging lifelong learners. Sometimes, this is an excellent way to address school budget cuts, large classes, and the burden of too many pieces to be graded. Other times, teachers employ this method because not only the one being reviewed benefits but so too does the reviewer as they must know what the lesson is about to effectively review classmates. As a pedagogical strategy, it teaches critical thinking, one of those traits that is hard to teach but essential to being a productive adult.

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Humorous Look at What I Learned from my Computer

i love techAs a teacher on a mission to infuse technology into my classes, I’m often surprised how often technology can be applied to teaching and life. I share these humorous gems with students during classes, post them on the classroom walls, and incorporate them into conversations with colleagues. My goal is to demystify technology, a topic that remains for many confusing and intimidating. If students and colleagues learn to approach it light-heartedly, they’ll be more likely to accept it.

Here are eleven tech terms I find myself applying daily to many of life’s quirks:

#1: Your short-term memory experienced a denial of service attack

A Denial of Service — a DoS – is defined as:

“…an interruption in an authorized user’s access to a computer network…”

If I’m the “authorized user” and my brain is the “computer network”, this happens to me often. Laypeople call it a “brain freeze” and it is characterized as an event, a name, or an appointment that should be remembered but isn’t. I simply explain to the class full of curious upturned faces (or colleagues at a staff meeting) that I am experiencing a DoS and ask that they please stand by.

#2: I don’t have enough bandwidth for that

Bandwidth refers to your computer’s capacity for handling the volume of activity thrown at it. I learned how this geeky term applies to life from my millennial daughter. She says “yes” to everything people ask to the point that she can’t possibly complete what she promised. When she falls short, she explains that she no longer has enough bandwidth.

You might be familiar with the more pedestrian term “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” “Bandwidth” is a better way of saying it because no animals are harmed in its execution.

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How Smart Tech and IoT are Making Educational Spaces More Accessible

Internet of thingsI haven’t written much about IoT (the Internet of Things–see the end of this article for more resources on IoT) and education. I do talk about it in my Digital Citizenship grad school class (if you click the link, it’s MTI 557) but haven’t turned those ideas into blogs yet. Thank you, Jane, Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, for writing a quick overview of that topic’s intersection with education. 

Even though 86% of universities currently educate students with disabilities, only 24% of the schools say that they offer those students assistance “to a major extent.” The schools that do place emphasis on the needs of their students often have programs that encourage accessibility as well as accessible classrooms. Smart technology that is connected by the Internet of Things (IoT), however, is beginning to change all of this by making classrooms and campuses around the country more accessible while crafting a better learning environment for every student.

Crafting Smart, Accessible Learning Environments

Students with physical disabilities that affect their mobility can often find it hard to access learning spaces. Integrating smart, connected technology into college campuses is a way to prevent these issues from affecting disabled students or those with lower mobility. Mobility-friendly stairlifts and motion-sensitive doors, for example, are ways in which smart technology is used to allow students with disabilities to easily access buildings and classrooms. Using smart technology to accomplish this is nothing new. Other industries that cater to the elderly population, people with limited mobility due to obesity and the housing sector already utilizing technology to improve health and increase accessibility. All of these solutions have come to fruition based on, first, the concept of universal design and, second, the idea that technology can be used in innovative ways to enhance life in practically any way possible.

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How Readilearn grew from one woman’s dream to an exciting education resource

Norah Colvin, educator, writer, and consultant, is the brilliance behind the exciting education website, readilearn. It started as her dream and is now a go-to resource provider for the first three years of a child’s learning journey. I’ve gotten to know Norah Colvin online through her pithy posts about teaching. Every time I leave her blog, I come away better for having stopped by. I think if we lived near each other–or taught in the same District–we’d be fast friends. Norah used her deep knowledge on teaching to create resources for professionals in this field. I’m a big supporter of teacher-authors (anyone out there? I’d love to host you here) and asked her to share her expertise with my readers:


lreadilearnThank you very much for inviting me to write a guest post on your blog, Jacqui. I am delighted. I always enjoy your wonderful suggestions for using technology in the classroom and wish I was still there to implement them. I have often said that I was born too soon. I arrived a little too early to enjoy the richness of technology that is now available to teachers in the classroom.

That’s not to say that I was slow to get involved with technology when it became available; I was just already well into my adult years.

Even before I purchased my first personal computer in 1985, an Apple IIe, I had tinkered with electronics kits to try to get an understanding of how computers worked.  I think there were cables and switches and various things to turn on and off a series of LED lights. At the same time, I was absorbed by the games we played on an Atari 2600, which was ostensibly purchased for my son, in 1984.

The purchase of the Apple IIe replaced my use of a typewriter, and I slowly adapted to using it for composing as well as ‘typing up’ work and stories that I had written, edited, revised and rewritten by hand. I loved using Publisher and thought the dot matrix images, now considered so primitive, were just wonderful. I taught myself BASIC and made some simple activities for children in my classroom to use. I also began using it to prepare lessons and activities, though I still made most by hand.

I had one computer in my classroom in 1985 and two in 1986. I was flabbergasted when I returned to the classroom in the early naughties, after a few years’ break, to find that most classrooms were lucky if they had two computers. While change may have been slow in the first twenty years of computers in the classroom, implementation intensified as the internet became more accessible and reliable.

You may be wondering why I would provide this information in the introduction to a post about readilearn, an online collection of teaching resources for the first three years of school. But to me, it is a simple progression, a culmination of my life’s work. It allows me to combine activities I love with my passion for learning and education.

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What You Might Have Missed in February

Here are the most-read posts for the month of February:

  1. My Favorite 5 Tech Tools for Teacher-Authors
  2. Questions Parents Ask
  3. 18 Valentine Sites For Students
  4. How Wearable Technology is Changing Education and Easing Disabilities
  5. The Easy Way to Teach Internet Skills
  6. Engineers Week — A Must for High School
  7. Purpose Driven Learning: Myths, Problems, and Education Applications
  8. Best-in-Category Winners for 2018
  9. Easily Manage Class AR with Metaverse Collections
  10. Kid-created Games That Teach

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today and TeachHUB, and author of the tech thriller, To Hunt a Sub. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

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Subscriber Special: March

March 10th-15th:

the 56-page PDF, “25 Digital Tools for the Classroom”

for free!

“25 Digital Tools for the Classroom” is a thorough discussion on which are the most useful tools in a K-8 classroom, organized by grade level. This includes popular digital tools such as blogs, backchannel devices, vocabulary decoding tools, avatars, digital portfolios, digital note-taking, as well as others you may not have thought of.

Here’s what you do:

  • Sign up for our newsletter, Weekly Websites, Tech Tips, And Tech Ed News
  • Email us the welcome message you receive (we’re at askatechteacher at gmail dot com). Make sure the subject line reads, “Please send free ’25 Digital Tools for the Classroom'”.
  • We’ll send you the collection.
  • Weekly (or so), you’ll receive a newsletter with reviews, edtech alerts, and more.
  • If the newsletter doesn’t work for you, no problem canceling. There’s an ‘unsubscribe’ at the bottom of each email.

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Teaching Basic Cybersecurity Measures To Everyday People (For Parents of Digital Natives)

As one who manages way too many online accounts, I read this article from Ask a Tech Teacher contributor and CyberSecurity expert (retired), Sam Bocetta with interest. My checklist (green for good and red for ‘need help’):

    • I’m paranoid about links and downloads
    • I check for virus and malware regularly
    • Ooops–don’t yet use a VPN
    • I should pay more attention to my passwords
    • I am religiously careful of email
    • Yep–switched to HTTPS for my blogs and websites
    • I update software when prompted (that’ll have to be black)

Read Sam’s article below. When you’re done, evaluate your cybersecurity safety.


The topic of cybersecurity is becoming something people of all ages worry about. This is largely due in part to the rise in malware, ransomware, and infections people have experienced over the last year.

And these security threats aren’t just aimed at large businesses or municipalities, but normal people as well. Anyone who enjoys using the internet is a potential victim of hackers or malicious actors. And while most are aware that cyber-threats exist, most don’t know what to do about it.

This largely stems from the complexity of the subject and the challenge of teaching basic cybersecurity measures to everyday people. This is beyond concerning as cybersecurity is fast becoming one of the biggest threats to modern society. So today we are going to explain how to teach & outline cybersecurity best practices for both the young and old alike.

For many adults and parents, it can be a difficult task to teach the basic of staying safe online to those who are younger. However, the best strategy is starting conversations at an early age. This advice will be timeless as kids are starting to use the internet at younger and younger ages.

Harmful Links

Teach kids that not all links are created equally and that some can even be malicious. It’s a complicated subject for some to wrap their head around. After all, a link is just a link on the surface. So you will need to explain that some links could be harmful to click on.

A good way to teach this is to have them hover the cursor on the link and see the URL that it is pointed to. Let them know that if the URL isn’t one they recognize they should not click on it. If they are unsure, they should ask an adult.

Virus & Malware

Computer Security Signpost Showing Laptop Internet Safety

Explain what a virus and what malware is. This can be a difficult concept for some younger people as it’s a very abstract topic. A simple way to explain this to them is Malware or Viruses take over a computer without approval from the user.

And that this could possibly lead to the computer no longer working, or being as fast. This can also lead to larger issues such as the company you get internet from disconnecting your service.

Suspicious Downloads

Even if its a “game they want to play” you have to instill the required reasoning so children can verify the website they are downloading from is trusted. A great way to teach younger people about this is to install a due diligence process.

This means having them do an online search for either the file name they are downloading or the website they are downloading it from. Also, by outlining the sites that are safe to download from, you can have them avoid suspicious downloads all together.

Utilizing A VPN

Easily one of the best ways to make your connection more secure and private when connecting to a public Wi-Fi will be to use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. To put it in other words, a VPN will establish a virtual private communication channel over a non-private network, thus giving you an extra layer of security

Learning about the importance of a VPN and how to use one is something that anybody who uses public Wi-Fi often should know.

Strong Passwords

One of the most common things people do wrong when interacting with online programs or software is picking an easy or short password. To teach strong password basics to both young and old alike, explain why they are bad.

Let them know that hackers or malicious actors use programs that try lots of passwords, and that easy single word passwords will be cracked very easily. You can also teach the importance of using professional password manager services, which will not only only select passwords for your accounts that are incredibly tough for hackers to crack, but will also change those passwords on a weekly or daily basis for extra security.

Best Email Practices

For many older people using the internet, e-mail is their gateway to communicate with their friends or family. But a common pitfall is clicking on links from email addresses they do not recognize.

And what’s more, beyond simply opening emails, older email users are more likely to click on links in those emails. Teaching older internet users to not trust emails from people they don’t recognize will go a long long way to keeping them safe.

HTTPS > HTTP When Providing Information Online

Explain the difference between HTTP & HTTPS websites. This is a common area of confusion for some older internet users. You should explain that they should never under any circumstances submit personal, sensitive, or financial information on sites that do not have “HTTPS” present in the URL.

A great way to explain this is to advise any website asking for any information at all should be secure, and they should look for a lock icon next to the web address in their browser.

Using Antivirus Programs

Keeping your computer clear of viruses are a great way to ensure the worst doesn’t happen. It’s a common occurrence that when older people get their computer services that it’s full of hundreds of viruses.

Simply teaching them how to use the anti-virus software can go a long way. If possible, find a solution that automatically scans the machine at regular intervals and explain to them why regular check-ups are needed.

And while some interfaces are confusing when dealing with anti-virus software, a few minutes of training will have even the oldest of internet users get comfortable with the program. Said another way, spending a little bit of time to make them feel comfortable will help increase their buy-in.

Update Software

Many people both young and old alike may not update software on their computer or devices when it pops up. This is usually the case because they do not know the outcome of the update. However, to teach solid cybersecurity fundamentals you need to get across that these updates often contain improvements on security.

It’s a strange concept to explain that there are new type of exploits or holes in a device or software being found all the time. So explain to them that there are people out there constantly coming up with new ways to hack into devices and software.

Final Thoughts

It’s a fact of modern life that both the young and old have to use the internet to interact with society. But, these groups can be at a disadvantage due to the complexity of the subject. By simply teaching them some basics you can improve their security and confidence leading to a better overall experience.

While it is impossible to protect others or yourself from every risk, teaching the basics in a straightforward and understandable way will go a very very long way.

Sam Bocetta is a retired cybersecurity analyst currently reporting on trends in cryptography and cybercrime

More on security

Use BCC to Hide Email Addresses

6 Tips to Avoid Email Phishing

10 Passwords Everyone Uses (And You Shouldn’t)

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today and TeachHUB, and author of the tech thriller, To Hunt a Sub. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

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