New technologies have broadened and expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication. Digital texts confront students with the potential for continually updated content and dynamically changing combinations of words, graphics, images, hyperlinks, and embedded video and audio.
The underlying theme can’t be ignored by teachers any longer: A 21st Century learner requires technologic proficiency. Proof enough is that Common Core summative assessments will be completed online—only possible if students use technology as comfortably as paper and pencil to demonstrate knowledge.
But how do you do that if you aren’t a ‘techie’ or a ‘geek’, if you barely use a Smartphone much less the myriad of online tools. I have ten strategies that will make your teaching life easier, bump up your effectiveness with students, and save time complying with Common Core standards. Try these ten tech uses. Watch what a difference they make:
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I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m going to take a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.
Today: K-8 Keyboard Curriculum
K-8 Keyboard Curriculum (four options plus one)–teacher handbook, student workbooks, companion videos, and help for homeschoolers
K-5 (237 pages) and Middle School (80 pages), 100 images, 7 assessments
K-5–print/digital; Middle School–digital delivery only
Aligned with Student workbooks and student videos (free with licensed set of student workbooks)
Student workbooks sold separately
120 pages, dozens of images, 6 assessments
Delivered print or digital
Doesn’t include: Student workbooks
When you have to compete with a warm sun, sandy beaches, and playful friends, motivating students in summer school can be a daunting challenge. The best first step, right after introducing yourself, is to understand why students are with you rather than with friends or playing online games. Their reasons could be to try something new, make up for a class they failed, get ahead of classes they must take, or something else. Their answers to this question will guide you in how you teach the class. Once you know their reasons, be honest with them on how you will help them meet their goals. In general terms, you want them to know you’ll do your best to make their summer experience worthwhile, get them through the material, and help them pass the required exams with the grades they need. I’ve talked about best practices for teaching. Let’s today cover how to get students through the summer learning experience:
Make the class interesting
There are a lot of ways to teach a topic that satisfies curriculum demands. For example, you can fill in worksheets, watch videos, complete group projects, or work independently. Pick an approach that is 1) different from how you teach during the school year, and 2) fits your student group.
While you’re changing the approach, also change the setting. Teach class in a park, in a museum’s group learning room, at a restaurant over a meal, in someone’s home, or in the school auditorium. Here’s the logic behind that: Students react well to change. Do you remember the Hawthorne Effect Study? Done in the 1930’s (and redone in different ways many times afterwards), researchers examined how different aspects of the work environment (i.e., lighting, the timing of breaks, and the length of the workday) affected employee productivity. What they found wasn’t what they expected. The biggest impact on productivity came from simply paying attention to the workers and their environment. Let your summer school students experience this motivator. Change their learning ecosystem and watch how much harder they work simply because you care enough to pay attention.
June is National Internet Safety Month, thanks to a resolution passed in 2005 by the U.S. Senate. The goal is to raise awareness about online safety for all, with a special focus on kids ranging from tots to teens. Children are just as connected to the Internet as adults. This is a great list of internet cautions I got from an online efriend a few years ago. It covers all the basics, avoids boring details, and gives kids (and adults) rules to live by:
Not everything you read online is true
It used to be anything we read in print was true. We could trust newspapers, magazines and books as reliable sources of information. It’s not the same with the web. Since anyone can become published, some of the stuff you’re reading online isn’t true. Even worse, some people are just rewriting stuff they read from other people online, so you might be reading the same false information over and over again. Even Wikipedia isn’t necessarily a reliable source. If you’re researching something online, consider the source. Some poorly written, ramdom web page, isn’t necessarily a good source. However, if you find a .gov or .org site, the information has a better chance of being true. Always look at who owns the website and whether or not they have an agenda before considering whether or not certain information is true.
This is the hard part because we want to trust our friends, even our online friends. The truth is, some of the people you meet online are lying about who they really are. Sometimes adults pretend to be kids and kids pretend to be someone else. They do this for a variety of reasons; grownups might want to try and have sex with kids or frenemies might want to act like friends to get information on someone they want to bully at school or online. Unless you know someone very well and can verify their identity, don’t trust that everyone who you speak to online are who they say they are.
Some people who are pretending to be kids really aren’t. There are grownups who pretend to be kids so teens and kids won’t get creeped out talking with them. This is never a good thing. Most of the grownups who are looking to talk to kids are looking for sex. Parents need to monitor their kids’ friends list and ask questions about the friends they don’t know. It’s more prevalent than you think and it COULD happen to you.
I’m taking the day to honor our all soldiers on America’s Memorial Day. Without their sacrifice, where would we be? I tried to keep the videos to three and failed miserably. Once I got started watching, I got lost.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Omd9_FJnerY] [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoNj8qsptjA] [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07-RnI8W4xY] [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TT5u2xVEO5M]
At the beginning of the 21st century, the definition of digital equity revolved around the provision of a digital device to every student. Usually, that meant desktop computers, iPads, and laptops, either in small groups or 1:1. As digital equity discussions matured and hyperbole became reality, educators found that those loudly-touted digital devices often became paperweights. The reasons were varied (teacher training, infrastructure, and professional support to name a few), but one of the most prominent was money. Good intentions to give all students access to the world’s knowledge were derailed by the cost of the websites and webtools that made that happen. Turns out — and not really a surprise — the cost of the digital devices was minor compared to the cost of the websites and webtools required to meet goals.
There is one bright spot in this story: Online books. Thanks to the efforts of many devoted professionals and the financial support of more, there are a wide variety of free/inexpensive sources for books that students can use for classroom activities as well as pleasure.
Wrapping up your school technology for the summer is as complicated as setting it up in September. There are endless backups, shares, cleanings, changed settings, and vacation messages that — if not done right — can mean big problems when you return from summer vacation. If you have a school device, a lot of the shutdown steps will be done by the IT folks as they backup, clean, reformat, and maybe re-image your device. If you have a personal device assigned by the school but yours to take home, the steps may be more numerous but really, not more complicated.
Here’s a list. Skip those that don’t apply to you and complete the rest. I won’t take time in this article (I’m at about 1000 words right now) for a how-to on each activity so if you don’t know how to complete one, check with your IT folks or Google it:
Make sure your firewall and antivirus programs are working.
Many computers come with a built-in one to keep viruses and malware out that slow your computer. Sometimes, they seem to turn off by themselves (I have no idea why). Check to be sure yours is active. If you have a Chromebook or an iPad, don’t even worry about this.
Clean out your documents.
Sort through the documents you collected this year 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 spider webs. If you don’t do this regularly, the computer must finger through these unused files every time you search. If you hate throwing anything away, create an ‘Old’ folder, toss them all in it, and save that to a flash drive or in the cloud.
One of the most important yet underwhelming international events is coming up the first Thursday in May (in Canada, it’s March 15th). What is it? It’s World Password Day,
I know — words can’t express how tedious most people find passwords, how annoying they are to use, and how likely it is 99% of the world will not celebrate this event. Let me see if I can convince you otherwise. On January 1, 1983, when the Internet was invented, mankind agreed to a binary choice: Invent passwords or forever regret their absence. Without them, there would be no protection for your privacy, your online information, or even your personal identity. Passwords are now required to access websites, banking, email, social media, favorite shopping sites, chat venues like iMessenger, and even certain documents. These annoying, forgettable, intrusive entities are the first line of defense against hackers and for many, their entire defense. Because so many treat passwords casually, despite all they know about their importance, password theft is one of the fastest growing and most effective crimes.
While every expert recommends changing your password two-three times a year, no one does that. Do you? I don’t. I’m challenged to remember my password much less remember to change it regularly. As a result, World Password Day came into being:
Annually, on World Password Day, change all of your passwords
Teacher Appreciation Week: The First Full Week of May
There’s always been something mystically cerebral about people in technical professions like engineering, science, and mathematics. They talk animatedly about plate tectonics, debate the structure of atoms, even smile at the mention of calculus. The teaching profession has our own version of these nerdy individuals, called technology teachers. In your district, you may refer to them as IT specialists, Coordinators for Instructional Technology, Technology Facilitators, Curriculum Specialists, or something else that infers big brains, quick minds, and the ability to talk to digital devices. School lore probably says they can drop a pin through a straw without touching the sides.
When I started teaching K-8 technology, people like me were stuffed into a corner of the building where all other teachers could avoid us unless they had a computer emergency, pretending that what we did was for “some other educator in an alternate dimension”. Simply talking to us often made a colleague feel like a rock, only dumber. When my fellow teachers did seek me out — always to ask for help and rarely to request training — they’d come to my room, laptop in hand, and follow the noise of my fingers flying across the keyboard. It always amazed them I could make eye contact and say “Hi!” without stopping or slowing my typing.
That reticence to ask for help or request training changed about a decade ago when technology swept across the academic landscape like a firestorm: