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Author Archives: Jacqui

About Jacqui

Welcome to my virtual classroom. I've been a tech teacher for 15 years, but modern technology offers more to get my ideas across to students than at any time in my career. Drop in to my class wikis, classroom blog, our internet start pages. I'll answer your questions about how to teach tech, what to teach when, where the best virtual sites are. Need more--let's chat about issues of importance in tech ed. Want to see what I'm doing today? Click the gravatar and select the grade.

Lessons Learned My First 5 Years Of Teaching

It’s always interesting to find out what new teachers learned in their early teaching that affected their later years. Here’s Elaine Vanessa’s take on that–5 bits of wisdom she acquired while surviving the early teaching years:

My first five years of teaching were the shortest and longest years of my life. I was living the best and the worst time simultaneously. However, it was the most memorable time of my life that I don’t want to forget. Also, those five years made me a well-groomed educator and a better person in my life.

Every teacher has a dream of having a classroom with respectful kids having fun activities and love while learning. It makes teaching easy if kids love to be in the room every day. However, my first years were not like that. As I continued, I got better every year. There was one thing consistent; learning. Below are five lessons that I have learned in my first five years of teaching. I am sharing them in the hope of being a candle in someone’s darkroom.

1.   Finding work/life balance is a process

You cannot work for more than 8 hours every day. You can burn out of exhaustion and fatigue. I have my husband to keep pushing me unless I would have been stuck within the first six months. I learned to keep my school work at school and find personal time at home with my family. You may need to work at home sometimes, but I recommend not making it a habit. Finding work-life balance is not easy; however, it must be a prior goal to achieve and maintain.

2.   Take time to get to know your students

Investing your time in understanding and taking care of your students will going to pay you ten folds off. It is not very tough to strike up a conversation with your students, make sure to ask relevant questions, and make a personal connection with them. It is also essential to make them aware of yourself, your family, and your experiences. This will help them to see a real inspirational person in you. Your openness will let them feel comfortable to ask for advice and help. Also, it will create a relationship of trust and respect by letting them explore and encourage them to try something new every day.

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Categories: Guest post, Teaching | Leave a comment

Plagiarism Checkers: The Benefits Students Fail to See

Ask a Tech Teacher contributor Serhii Tkachecnko, CEO at Unicheck, shares his thoughts on how educators can teach students about the benefits of plagiarism checking.

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Students experience an array of emotions toward education: from excitement to boredom. But when it comes to plagiarism checking, most students feel hostile. Many misconceptions circle around plagiarism checkers, but in reality, plagiarism checkers improve the cooperation, communication, and collaboration between educators and students. They are meant to help students and educators succeed.

Instead of being intimidated by plagiarism checking, why not educate students on its benefits? Here’s what you should explain to your students about plagiarism checking.

Using Plagiarism Checkers is Necessary

Before people accept something, they have to understand why they need it. Unfortunately, many students fail to understand the necessity of plagiarism checkers and treat them as a biased accusation of academic dishonesty. It will take some effort to change this mindset and help your students stop stressing about being checked. 

It’s a pity that some students fail to get their A+ because of the improperly cited sources. Regardless of whether the assignment lacked a citation, the citation method was wrong, or the student didn’t cite the correct source, a plagiarism checker could have fixed that. However, it’s an even bigger shame that the will to cheat overrules the will to express oneself. Plagiarism checkers can help students become better writers, express unique ideas, and stand out. On top of that, when all assignments equally go through a plagiarism check, the competition becomes fair again.

Educators should start explaining to students that a plagiarism checker is their friend as early as possible. In this way, by the time they reach college, students will already know these checkers are not used to punish them, but rather to improve their writing skills and the quality of education, both higher and K-12.

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Categories: Classroom management, Digital Citizenship, Teacher resources | Tags: | Leave a comment

Happy New Year!

Categories: Holidays | Tags: | Leave a comment

9 Touch Typing Programmes for Schools

One of the favorite topics on my blog is anything about keyboarding. Every time teachers think it’s been replaced by finger swiping or audio, it comes back full-steam as the obvious solution to coding or collaborative writing. I received this thoughtful article from Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Rohan, chockablock filled of information on how to evaluate a typing program for your students and which of the many meet the grade:

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Touch Typing software in the American market provides you with a huge amount of choice. This is not surprising as the US embraced Touch Typing as part of their educational system many years ago and is a mandated part of learning.

This has also led to high prices because it is something that schools have to have manufacturers of these products can effectively charge higher fees.

Now obviously when we as the consumer look to purchase something being a car or a chocolate bar price is not our only consideration. We have a great deal of choice and as great as it is to have many choices it also leads us to that dilemma of which one should I choose and how do I know I made the right choice.

Which factors do we place the most importance on and ultimately which product do we choose.

Do we go with the product we have used before because we know how to use it?

Do we choose solely on price and end up with “free” as that is obviously the best price? However, if it doesn’t perform or has negative features like adds, is it really free or is there a hidden cost?

Do we choose the programme our friends use because they said it was good and then we effectively didn’t have to make a choice therefore ruling out the possibility of choosing badly? At least we can blame someone else if it wasn’t the right choice.

Do we choose something based on aesthetics? Hey at least it looks good.

In reality we have to make a decision based on a number of these factors. The result of this is we need to rank all these programmes based on these criteria and also place importance on each.

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Categories: Keyboarding | Tags: | Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving Week to All!

I’m taking next week off. I’ll be preparing for my daughter’s holiday visit from her home in Maryland and my son who’s visiting from Okinawa Japan (by way of Georgia). I am so excited to see both of them!

I’ll be back December 2nd. Any emergencies–drop me a line at askatechteacher@gmail.com.


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 author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PleIQ: the interactive smart toy that fosters multiple intelligences through Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality takes students into bold new worlds where they become part of the learning, not passive viewers. They follow their passion by exploring with their senses. Ask a Tech Teacher sponsor, PleIQ is launching its Kickstarter campaign, offering a revolutionary tool that blends the physical and digital world into one that is irresistible for kids. Curious? Here’s an overview:

PleIQ (Play-Q) is the best new educational toy that beautifully merges the physical and digital worlds to provide our children with an immersive learning experience. PleIQ is the perfect complement to high-quality classroom instruction—a hands-on, 21st Century, augmented reality toy that appeals to all learning styles.

PleIQ is designed with every early learner in mind. Eight beautifully tangible cubes displaying each letter, number, and a handful of special symbols come to life before your eyes through the accompanying mobile app for smartphones and tablets. Together, the cubes and app provide 48 discovery-based AR learning experiences that naturally evolve and adapt to support each child’s unique intelligences. All activities are carefully designed to foster a child’s curiosity and creativity.

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Categories: Reviews | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Integrate OUR Curricula into Your Kiddom Digital Platform

I’m a big believer in online web-based curricula that can be accessed from any browser, any digital device, any location. It makes learning organic, part of life rather than something that must happen from a certain book or room. To me, the growing popularity of web-based curricula is no surprise. The problem is trying to blend them effortlessly into a class LMS or learning platform without lots of extra clicks and logins.

Kiddom’s partnership with highly-rated Open Up Resources changes that. It is now possible to deliver curricula lessons and materials directly through the Kiddom platform. This includes:

  • grades 6–8 Math curriculum
  • EL Education K–5 Language Arts
  • Reading with Relevance

Before I get into the details of this new relationship is, let me introduce the two partners–Kiddom and Open Up Resources.

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Categories: Math, Reading | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Encouraging Students To Take Responsibility For Their Education

This topic is a hot button for me. So many parents think education is the school’s job and student think it’s SUD–Some Other Dude’s responsibility but not them. I was thrilled when Ask a Tech Teacher guest author, Pete McAllister, sent this article in:

While teachers are often challenged with students who lack responsibility and self-motivation, enhancing student learning can be a tedious ongoing task. Because many students are unaware of the true importance of tertiary education and relevant qualifications, following a career path can be an overwhelming task. However, there are several effective ways that teachers can encourage students to further their education and take full responsibility for their own educations. The following top tips will enhance student learning and encourage a more positive attitude from students who would otherwise fall behind and lose sight of future planning.

Discuss Potential Career Options

A large number of young students in high-school would rather avoid thinking about how to further their education after high-school simply because they are unaware of alternative options. When taking into account that students lacking motivation may be burdened with financial stress at home, it would be wise to discuss potential paths that make studying further a possible reality. Discussing the details of bursaries [a ‘bursary’ for those not familiar is basically a grant for students] and partial subsidies would essentially enable students who are unable to rely on their parents’ financial situation to understand that they can take their futures in their own hands. In addition to this, you may find that some students are unable to attend universities full-time for several realistic reasons, which is why discussing part-time and correspondence tertiary education is absolutely necessary. By providing your students with ample realistic options, it is far more likely that you will be able to spark interest.

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Categories: Education reform | Leave a comment

Ward’s Science–So Many STEM Resources

One of the most difficult skills to teach in school is problem solving. I can’t tell you how many kids–and parents–ask me, “How do I get an A.” My answer: “By thinking,” which oddly confuses them. We talk about what that means–problem solving, critical analysis, logical thinking–but often, that sounds hard to them–too hard. They want an easier way.

Why is that?

Basically, it’s because there aren’t enough education opportunities that require that sort of skill and those there are, usually rhyme with ‘math’ or ‘science’ which to many kids are “just too complicated”.

Enter STEM–Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

“I don’t think schools can manage without coding and STEM. In Finland, we have had coding in the curriculum starting in the first grade; it is not taught separately, but through the thinking of various subjects.” –Anneli Rautiainen, Head of Innovation Unit at Finnish National Agency for Education

Coding, robotics, and experimentation–integral pieces of STEM–give students the best start possible to the rest of their lives. They are a toolkit of life skills such as problem-solving, coding and thinking. 93% of teachers (in America) believe these sorts of thinking skills in K-12 are critical.

Nothing promotes these better than STEM. Done right, STEM turns the confusing part of ‘thinking’ into fun. I found a partner in my STEM projects. It’s called Ward’s Science.

Who is Ward’s Science

Even after 144 years, Ward’s Science continues to be a leading provider of a full range of science products, kits, and resources for AP Science, Biology, Chemistry, Digital Science, Earth Science, Physics, and more for elementary-age students through High School (and beyond)–including Makerspace environments. Ward’s Science is known to its customers and the industry as the complete solution for materials supporting classroom science subjects. They not only offer project supplies but lesson plans, curricula, how-to videos, tips and tricks, personalized help, and podcasts. They even offer interesting extras like “How to choose a 3D printer”, “Connecting your Makerspace to your curriculum”, and “How to get funding for a robotics program”. Curricula are aligned with NGSS, TEKS, and other states and many of the kits are officially licensed by Science Olympiad. They even offer grant services to support school science programs.

What I really like about Ward’s Science

Ward’s Science makes it easy to find engaging, age-appropriate STEM resources, even if you aren’t quite sure what you want. The website is clean, simple to maneuver, and easy to understand. You type in what you’re looking for and get options. No ads. No animations. Just content.

Some services I didn’t expect and that would be difficult to find in other stores–virtual or physical–are:

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Categories: Reviews, Science | Tags: , | Leave a comment

What is Actively Learn and Why Should I Try it?

Actively Learn is a freemium online education platform that allows students to read a book (or some other document), make comments, answer questions posed by the teacher, and even collaborate with others. Quickly, it is becoming the close reading tool of choice for teachers because of its ease of use, differentiation of needs, depth of tools, and variety of resources.

What is Actively Learn

Actively Learn is a high-functioning ereader for ELA, social studies, and science students in grades 2-12. It provides reading resources either uploaded by the teacher or selected from the platform’s library of thousands of fiction and nonfiction books (some free; some through Prime plans), Common Core-aligned lesson plans, videos, or simulations. These are filtered by topic, grade, length, reading level, keyword, or standards (i.e., CCSS) and can include embedded questions, scaffolded notes, and topical media. These can be targeted to select groups, individuals, or the entire class, providing scaffolding for some and enrichment for others.

While reading the ebooks, students can take notes, highlight, jot down questions, share ideas with each other, and respond to the comments of classmates. They can look up words they don’t understand and translate the text into a long list of languages that may be their native or a secondary language they are learning.

Actively Learn is becoming recognized as an effective inclusive tool that involves all students–from gregarious to shy–in student-centered, student-led discussions.

How do you get started

Once teachers create an account, they set up their classrooms either by importing student lists from Google Classroom, Microsoft, Clever, or Edmodo, or by providing the class join code to students. Assignments are created and made available to individuals, groups, or the entire class and teachers can monitor progress, check the gradebook, respond to student questions, review student input, and view class data through their teacher dashboard.

Students, too, have their own dashboard where they access teacher-assigned materials and more. If this is the first time they’ve logged in, they can start with a quick how-to on using Actively Learn.

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Categories: Reading, Reviews | Tags: | Leave a comment