Many thanks to Larry Jacobs for inviting me to join him on EduTalk Radio, to talk about my recent Editor’s Choice Award from SmartBrief Education. We had a great time talking about technology in education, blending games like Minecraft into curriculum, and using technology to meet students where they want to learn.
Here’s the link:
…and here’s a summary of some of the conversation:
Kids are baptized in technology. To move education to the next level, we need to meet them where they’re ready to learn.
But, like any food that tastes good must be bad for you—same with MC. If kids love it, it must be a waste of time. But it isn’t.
- Minecraft can be used for any topic
- Kids inspire it. Teachers probably wouldn’t even be aware of Minecraft if not for student interest. That makes it authentic.
- Minecraft teaches critical thinking, problem solving , collaboration, many of the 8 Habits of Mind—authentically (persist, remain open to continuous learning), writing (pre-post game writing), history (build an ancient city and have kids explore)
Preparing students for end-of-year testing?
I’ll be taking a week (or so) off–until after the New Year–to edit/format my website, work on writing projects with a deadline, prioritize life, and wish my two adult military children could come home to visit. I may drop in on you-all as you enjoy your holidays, but mostly I’ll be regenerating.
I wish you a wonderful season, safe and filled with family.
See you shortly!
DialMyCalls (an AATT sponsor) has a special Christmas offer for kids who want to hear from Santa:
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This Christmas we have a great gift for everyone! Whether you’re an existing DialMyCalls user or not, you can take advantage of our completely free phone call from Santa. Imagine the look on your child’s face when they receive a personalized phone call from Santa with his or her name on it!
- Simply select your child’s name and the message from Santa you want sent.
- Pick the time, date and phone number you want the call sent to.
- We create a personalized message and send the call when you want it sent!
- Each household can send up to 3 free calls from Santa Claus.
- Additional Santa Calls may be purchased for a small fee.
What an amazing gift to any child for Christmas!
Life is hard, but help is all around us. The trick is to take your learning where you find it. In my case, as a technology teacher, it‘s from computers. A while ago I posted four lessons I learned from computers:
- Know when your RAM is full
- You Can‘t Go Faster Than Your Processor Speed
- Take Shortcuts When You Can
- Be Patient When You‘re Hourglassing
I got a flood of advice from readers about the geeky lessons they got from computers. See which you relate to:
We are all getting used to–even addicted to–that online hive mind where other voices with thoughts and opinions are only a click away. Who among us hasn’t wasted hours on Facebook, Twitter, blogs–chatting with strangers or virtual friends ready to commiserate and offer advice. It’s like having a best friend who’s always available.
But while your back is turned, the real world is changing. Once in a while, disconnect from your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram–even your blogmates. Re-acquaint yourself with the joys of facial expressions, body language, and that tone of voice that makes the comment, “Yes, I’d be happy to help” sincere or snarky. Engage your brain in a more intimate and viscerally satisfying world.
Here are five great holiday websites that will put the seasonal spirit into your teaching. They are education-infused, lively, and appeal to varied learning styles. If you’re a tech teacher, you’ll want to use all of them. If you’re a classroom teacher, click through and find the ones right for your age group:
12 Days of Christmas
Middle School and High School
Ask a Tech Teacher is a small group of tech-ed teachers with a big goal: provide free and affordable resources to anyone, anywhere that integrate technology into education. It’s an ambitious goal and we rely on donations from readers like you to make that happen.
About this time of each year, when several of our larger bills come due, we give a shout out for help. This year, we thought we’d share some of the costs of running Ask a Tech Teacher:
- Site hosting–we use WPEngine–an excellent company that keeps the site up and running over 99% of the time.
- Domain name hosting--for that, we use GoDaddy. They always take my calls, walk us through how to fix problems in terms we understand. we’re teachers, not network geeks, but they don’t hold that against us.
- Legal images–to avoid problems with illegal images, we buy ours through a service called Kozzi. They have a wonderful, vast collection of all sorts of tech and education pictures.
- Constant and chronic techie problems–such as IPNs and plug-in updates and so much more. Again, we’re teachers. This double geek stuff makes our heads hurt.
- The geeky tools and programs that deliver content–like the apps we review and the programs we use for webinars.
We could sell ads, but we don’t want to clutter the pages. That’s distracting as you search out resources for your classroom. We rely on donations. Any amount you can contribute–$5… $10… using the PayPal Donate button below or in the sidebar, would be appreciated.
Here’s the one-time donation button, or you can find it in the sidebar:
Here’s the button for a monthly donation–the price of a cup of coffee and a donut:
BTW, we’re always open to sponsors, too. We love sponsors! If you’re an edtech company interested in helping spread Ask a Tech Teacher resources to everyone, contact us at [email protected]. We can add you to the sidebar, review your product, or another sponsor sort of activity.
- 12 Days of Christmas
- Christmas—history—fun video
- Gift Hunt–updated version of 12 Days of Christmas–just as much fun
- Holiday collection
- Holiday Crossword
- Holiday Elf Games
- Holiday hangman
- Holiday Hangman II
- Holiday music
- Holiday music II–sing along with the music–the site provides the words
- Holiday—Design Gingerbread House
- Holiday—find the word
- Holiday—match game
- Holiday—Math Facts
- Holiday—North Pole Academy
- NORAD Santa
- Penguin Show
- Reindeer Orchestra
- Santa Tracker
Two critical maintenance tasks that lots of people skip are:
- image your computer
- back up your documents
Image your computer
Every computer must be reformatted eventually. Every time you download from a website or open an email attachment or update one of your online tools or software, you collect digital dust and grunge that affects the speed and efficiency of your computer. Performing the clean up items suggested in 18 Steps to a Speedier Computer helps, but eventually not enough. The only way to return your computer to its original zippy youthful self is by reformatting.
I hate reformatting my computer. I lose all the extras I’ve added (like Jing, cookies, Printkey 2000 which is out of production). I forget which software I have (sure, I remember MS Office, but what about Google Earth and Celestia?) And then there are all the personalizations I’ve added that get lost with the reformat. It takes me hours–days?–to return my computer to its prior user-friendly state. As a result, I resist reformatting for as long as I can. Usually, until a virus has made my computer unusable. Then, I have no choice.
Then I discovered imaging. When you image your computer, you take a picture of what your hard drive looks like, including all the programs and extras, and save in a secure back-up area. When you reformat, all you have to do is copy the image back to the computer. Mine is on a terabyte external drive. Even if my two internal drives explode, I’m good.
Here’s what you do:
- Click the start button.
- Go to Control Panel
- Select ‘Backup and Restore’
- On the left sidebar, you’ll see an option for ‘create a system image’. Select that.
- Follow directions (it’ll ask which drive to use for the image–stuff like that)
Like this week.
There are two ‘speed’ problems that arise when using computers:
- the computer itself is slow, for lots of reasons
- you are slow–meaning: You have too much to do. We’ll deal with this later…
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’. Plus, they distract you from finding the documents you really want. If you don’t use files anymore, but don’t want to toss them, make an ‘Old’ file and put them all in there.
- 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
- Clean out your subscriptions. This slows YOU down as you sit to work. They usually arrive via email. Dragging through dozens of emails a day when you know you aren’t interested in a lot of them slows you down. Me, I have over 200 every day. I regularly purge blog and newsletter subscriptions that didn’t work out as planned.
- Make notifications weekly instead of daily. If you get Google alerts, set them for weekly (unless you really must know when someone posts on the term ‘Labrador puppies’). If you have social media, let them notify you of activity once a week instead of daily. If you get reports on Twitter usage or Google Adwords, schedule those weekly.
- Change your browser to Chrome. When I did, it doubled my surfing speed. And it’s not just me. Among those-who-know, it’s considered the fastest browser (and IE the slowest).
- Slim down your start-up process. Only have the programs you really need start when you boot (or reboot). Skip the rest. How? Click Start, type msconfig in the search bar and press Enter. In the System Configuration window, click the Startup tab. From the list of programs that appears, untick the box next to those you don’t need to launch automatically at startup. Only deselect programs that you don’t use regularly or know that you don’t need.
- Add more RAM. That’s the stuff that lets you keep more stuff open on the desktop (including tabs in your browser). If you don’t have enough, it’s like having a postage-stamp-size desk for planning your lesson plans. Upgrade yours to the max your system will take.