Author: 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.

Kids’ Computer Posture Explored

Here’s a great article on a topic I don’t talk about enough–proper posture at the computer. Written by “Karen Weaver a 3rd grade elementary school teacher and author of the upcoming children’s book “The Magic Pencil”, it covers all the basics. I think you’ll enjoy it:

Good Sitting Posture in Front of the Computer Explored

Are your kids slouching all the time especially when in front of the computer? You are not alone.

A recent study involving almost 600,000 children and adolescents found that over 65.3% have poor posture, while 3.7% had to be referred to radiography for intervention.

In this post, we tackle one of the major culprits of poor posture in children, what its effects are, and what you can do about it as a parent.

Technology and Bad Posture in Kids

Kids’ routines nowadays are filled with technology that can harm their posture and development if left unsupervised. Watching TV, browsing the Internet, checking social media, playing video games, and now, even remote learning all require using a device.

Think about how your child looks like when he’s doing any of the said tasks. He’s probably either lying down, lounging on the sofa with legs crossed, or sitting with his head tilted forward to look closely at his gadget.

One study showed the effects of habitual computer use in adolescents. It found that increased computer use led to increased head and neck flexion in male teens. Meanwhile, females showed an increased lumbar lordosis.

We used to associate slouching and a hunchback with old age or depression. Now, a majority of children and teenagers have poor posture due to the effects of technology. It’s so rampant that the condition has already been dubbed as “text neck” by the medical community.

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Questions? Email 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.

study skills

Whiteboard Apps You’ll Love

Whiteboards have long been a de rigeur staple in classrooms, occupying pride-of-place at the front of the room. Despite the popularity of hi-tech Smartscreens, the simple whiteboard remains the favored method of sharing information during class time.

But one change has revolutionized their use: They can now be projected from your iPad. Before introducing three amazing must-have whiteboard apps, let me note that there are dozens of options, all with varied traits and prices. I selected these three because they are intuitive, multi-functional, and work as a classroom tool rather than just another new widget teachers must learn.

air sketchAirSketch

Free to try

AirSketch is a basic, uncomplicated whiteboard that lets you do anything you’d normally do on a whiteboard. It’s similar to web-based options like Miro with two dramatic differences: It works through a iPad and can be mirrored to a computer (and from there, the class screen). This untethers teachers from their desk.  All that’s needed is an iPad, AirSketch, a class computer, and a class screen.

sync spaceSyncSpace

Free to try

SyncSpace is a sharable, zoomable, collaborative whiteboard for iPads, mobile devices, laptops, and computers. Students work together on a drawing (using a finger or stylus), math problem, how-to, or a mindmap by adding illustrations, text, and/or pictures.

showmeShowMe

Free

ShowMe is an interactive whiteboard app that allows drawing, handwriting, text, and voice-over. Users construct a series of linked slides, save them as a video, and then share with others either publicly or privately.  The learning curve is shallow and intuitive for anyone who has used iPad apps in the past.

Need more options? Check this out (click here for updated list):

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JotForm Approvals–Great Way to Manage Workflow

You may know JotForm as one of the most popular tools in the form builder category, recognized for its simplicity and sophistication in what could otherwise be the complicated process of collecting and analyzing data. It works on all platforms, can be shared via a link or embed (as well as other options), and supports multiple languages. Over the past several years, JotForm has released many features designed to simplify and automate teaching’s more mundane tasks (Smart PDF Forms, a PDF Editor, JotForm Cards, Tables, and JotForm Reports–click for my reviews).  Their latest is called JotForm Approvals.

JotForm Approvals is a quick, customizable way to automate the rote responses in a form. It enables you to specify what actions follow once a form is received like alerting involved parties, forwarding the form when required, and notifying respondees of results. With JotForm’s trademark drag-and-drop interface, teacher and administrative teams can easily add approvers, multiple emails, conditional responses, and other elements so that certain steps in the approval process happen instantaneously. Responses never get lost in an email box or become delayed by a weekend or holiday vacation. Approvals is always on and always working.

Best of all, Approvals is free with any JotForm account.

How does it work

Every JotForm Approvals process starts with a form you already have in your JotForm account. Here’s an example of a form I use to approve additional training teachers request to deal with the complexities of remote learning:

 

  • To get started: Go to your JotForm dashboard and access the Approvals feature:

  • There, you’ll find a list of Approvals you are working on or involved in.  Select one of those or start a new one based on a form you’ve created. Do this with ‘Create Approval’.
  • Choose whether you want to use a template, create a simple one-step approval, or customize from scratch. Whichever you choose: Start by selecting the form you want to attach Approvals to and build from there. It can be simple:

or as sophisticated as you’d like:

  • Include emails of people to be notified, time frames, forwarding, and more.
  • When an Approval is completed, it can be shared, embedded, assigned, emailed, or a variety of other tools through third party options:

  • Once the Approval is published, responses to its form automatically trigger the Approval flow you created. You don’t have to do anything. Approvals handles all next steps, notifying you in your dashboard where you then approve or reject the pending approvals.
  • If you’re going to be out of touch, the Approvals can be re-routed to another person.

Features include

There are other tools that automate form responses but nothing as simple as Approvals. Look at these features:

  • Drag-and-drop steps in the Approval Builder 
  • Create custom outcomes
  • Assign submission to a specific approver based on respondee input
  • Customize approval settings
  • Employ advanced conditional logic, conditional branching, and more (or not–it’s up to you)
  • Select the emails to match your approval flow
  • Track and manage processes easily with organic tools 

Educational Uses for Approvals

The educational applications for Approvals is endless. Teachers, parents, and students will benefit from timely responses to forms they complete. Here are a few ways you’ll use Approvals in your class:

  • Equipment request for a virtual classroom

Virtual classrooms require different equipment than a traditional classroom that is often variable and unique to circumstances. Let teachers request specific equipment such as a web cam, microphone, or headphones. Approvals will route the request to the correct person–IT or HR for example–and send a response that it has been received.

  • Teacher training for specific topics or general requirements

School administration can expedite the process of accepting and processing teacher requests for training by sending them to the correct trainer speeding up the response.

  • Teacher Office Hours

Student or parent completes a form requesting one-on-one time with the teacher. Approvals verifies the request is received and sends it to the teacher or another individual for scheduling. This is also a great way to schedule presentations so students know immediately that their requested presentation time has been received and logged or changed.

  • Homework, classwork, or project submittal  

Students can submit their work in a variety of ways using JotForms’ varied options. Approvals can respond, telling the student that the work has been received, who is handling it, or that it has been denied/rejected so the student can follow through.

  • Afterschool Program or Summer Camp Registration 

Route completed forms to all involved individuals such as teacher, finance, and consent requests. Because each form can be automatically sent to multiple people, they can all work on their end of the request without waiting on others.

Want to see what this looks like? Watch this quick video:

If you use forms to curate data or expedite work, JotForm Approvals is the logical next step to automate responses. Do yourself a favor and look into this free feature, now available from JotForm.


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.

tech tips

Tech Tip #103: 16 Spring Cleaning Steps for Computers

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: 16 Spring Cleaning Steps for Computers

Category: Maintenance, Problem-solving

It’s easy to ignore basic computer maintenance. Heck—it’s as likely you’ll mess up your computer in a misguided effort to ‘clean things up’. tech problemsHere are sixteen painless tips to try whenever your computer just doesn’t seem to work right:

  1. Make sure your firewall is working.
  2. Run an antispyware program.
  3. Run a malware program.
  4. Keep your antivirus software
  5. Delete My Documents files you no longer need.
  6. Backup files to an external drive or cloud.
  7. Empty the trash folder.
  8. Delete programs you no longer use.
  9. Update any software that needs it.
  10. Clean the junk off of your desktop.
  11. Clean up your Start Button.
  12. Clean out your subscriptions.
  13. Make notifications weekly instead of daily.
  14. Change your browser to Chrome.
  15. Delete that program you never managed to learn.
  16. Slim down your start-up process.

For more detail,  visit Ask a Tech Teacher and the article, “15 Ways to Speed up Computer Use”.

Sign up for a new tip each week or buy the entire 169 Real-world Ways to Put Tech into Your Classroom.

What’s your favorite tech tip in your classroom? Share it in the comments below.

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5 Websites for 4th Grade Word Study

word cloudHere are a few of the popular resources teachers are using to reinforce and teach word study:

  1. Grammar games–a collection of easy-to-use games that cover grammar, vocabulary, parts of speech, and more
  2. Vocabulary-Spelling City–the ever-favorite word study program that lets you enter your class word lists and the site will turn them into engaging games.
  3. Visuwords–a visual tool to see what words and concepts are related to specific words
  4. Vocabulary Fun–use games to learn affixes, syllables, synonyms, idioms, and more
  5. Word Central—from Merriam Webster–not only reinforces learning with games but allows students to build their own dictionary; also has a tab for educators.

Click here for more Word Study websites.

Click here for updates to this list.

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5 (free) Security Posters for Tech Ed

Every month, we’ll share five themed posters that you can share on your website (with attribution), post on your walls, or simply be inspired.

This month: Security

–for the entire collection of 65 posters, click here



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.

tech tips

Tech Tip #86: Image Your Computer Often

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: Image Your Computer Often

Category: Maintenance, PCs, Chromebooks, Macs

Q: I hate reformatting. I lose the personalizations I added and the extra programs. Is there any way to make that process easier?

A: Yes. Create an image–a picture of your hard drive including system files, drivers, software and program updates, software and downloaded programs, docs, files, and extras—and save it in a secure backup area. When you reformat, 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 how to do this if you have a PC:

  • Click the start button. Go to Control Panel. Select ‘Backup and Restore’
  • On the left sidebar, select the option ‘create a system image’. Follow directions.

Mac owners: Use a cloud-based third-party service (like Carbonite).

Chromebook folks: Because no data or programs are stored to the device, rather than re-image, try a power wash to reset everything to factory settings. You’ll lose shortkeys and programs installed to the shelf, but that’s it. If that doesn’t work, there are more involved steps (still not too difficult, though) to re-image using third-party utilities.

Alternatively, you can use a cloud-based service like Carbonite. Be forewarned: If you have a lot of data, it takes a while. You can work on your computer while it’s backing up; it’ll just be slower.

Sign up for a new tip each week or buy the entire 169 Real-world Ways to Put Tech into Your Classroom.

What’s your favorite tech tip in your classroom? Share it in the comments below.

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Tips for incentivizing your teachers team while working remotely

This is a how-to article from an Ask a Tech Teacher contributor describing clever ways to make remote teaching work. A recommended read if your remote program isn’t working as you’d hoped:

Tips for incentivizing your teachers team while working remotely

The challenges involved in working remotely are many and varied, yet arguably the most significant obstacle managers face when trying to steward teams from afar is keeping them engaged and motivated.

This is all the more significant in an educational context, because teams of teachers are in turn responsible for looking after large groups of students who need to be ushered through the twists and turns of remote learning with aplomb.

Providing the right incentives in the right way is a solution that can help overcome remote working burn-out and general disgruntlement brought about by the current climate. The following tips should help you to come up with an effective strategy to ultimately bolster job satisfaction and improve performance.

Image Source: Pixabay

Implement an incentive program

To start off with, it is worth formalizing your approach to incentivizing teachers in a remote working scenario through a program which has been developed specifically for this purpose.

While this will require a little work upfront to set the wheels in motion, once everything is in place it will become perpetually beneficial and continue to pay dividends as time passes.

You can get some program ideas from here to give you a little initial guidance. It covers everything from programs focused on rewarding the most loyal team members for their long service, to programs that encourage teamwork and collaboration between individuals and groups alike.

Most importantly, the program you select needs to be viable for those working remotely; it is no good offering perks like a gym membership to someone who will be unable to make use of it for the foreseeable future. If in doubt, implement an incentive program on a trial basis and ask for feedback from the teachers who participate to see if it can be improved or scrapped, depending on its impact.

Give them all the tools they need

There is nothing more frustrating for a remote worker than to find that the hardware, software or network connection they are using to fulfil their duties is not up to scratch. This is all the more relevant to educators, who will need to be leading lessons, seminars and one-on-one study sessions on a daily basis.

If they know that every day will be an uphill struggle as they fight to get the better of the inadequate technology that they have at their disposal at home, it is easy to see how they will become dispirited, and thus have less reason to pour their all into their job.

On the other hand, if you ensure that they have all of the tools they need to thrive while working remotely, not just scrape by, then everything else will click into place and become so much easier.

It is a good start to give them a suitably modern laptop that can cope with the rigor of running Zoom meetings, wrangling Teams catch-ups and interfacing with the cloud-powered educational resources that are vital to remote learning at the moment. However, you can also incentivize their engagement by covering the other costs that they will be accruing during this time, such as paying for a faster and more stable internet service.

This is all about demonstrating that you appreciate and understand the hurdles that teachers’ teams will need to leap over whenever they are working remotely, and moreover are prepared to do something to support them in this process.

Seek their input & provide recognition for achievements

It is difficult to know what problems remote workers are dealing with, let alone take steps to mitigate or rectify them. So rather than relying on guesswork or trial and error, it is clearly a good call to actively ask teaching teams to tell you what is causing them strife, or suggest what steps could be taken to incentivize their work even further.

There are a few ways to go about receiving this feedback, and while it might seem efficient to just call a meeting with everyone participating and get it all out of the way at once, it is necessary to remember that not all employees will feel comfortable contributing in this context.

The more successful approach involves ensuring that regular contact is kept between managers and team members on a one-on-one basis. Even if checking in frequently does not throw up problems to solve every time, teachers will value the opportunity to have this interaction and will also feel like their work is making a difference if you highlight any successes they have had or milestones they have passed.

A combination of an open door policy for feedback and a proactive approach to recognizing the hard work remote teams are putting in will go a long way to boosting morale even in the most trying of times.

Furthermore, you can use the suggestions to tweak the things that are creating friction, rather than leaving them unaltered and continuing to wear away at an employee’s psyche.

Mix things up with online learning resources & special events

One of the unique struggles for teachers when working remotely is keeping their own students interested in the courses they are participating in, and it is certainly the case that maximizing engagement is far harder outside of a bricks and mortar classroom environment.

Keeping the schedule varied and adding special events to go with the wealth of resources that are at the fingertips of teachers and students alike should serve to satisfy the needs of all parties.

From webinars with mixed groups to stop things getting stale, to full blown online events that include special guest speakers, who are recognized experts in their fields, there are lots of ways that teams of teachers can be supported and incentivized through the appropriate use of these functions.

Another benefit of doing this is that it will give teachers some much needed breathing room during their packed schedule. Being in charge of virtual lessons for extended periods is so intense that it can be very draining, so anything that can alleviate this will be welcomed.

Make sure they do not feel under pressure to get involved in everything

Last but not least, you need to be sensitive to the fact that if teachers are working remotely and spend entire days interacting with students and colleagues in a virtual environment, they may not want to stick around even longer for post-work get-togethers and the myriad other events and happenings that are quickly becoming the norm across lots of industries.

Preserving the work-life balance is harder than ever if you do not need to leave the house to fulfil your professional role, so if team members know that they can log off, close their laptop and switch their brains off in the evening, rather than feeling obligated to stay involved in some extracurricular activity or other, they will be in a better mental state when they start work the next day.

There is no doubting that managing remote teams of teachers is a bit of a high wire act, and one which will inevitably involve the odd wobble and misstep from time to time. Being willing and able to adapt to new challenges and make changes is the best way to ensure everyone can cope.

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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.