Author: Jacqui

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.

Common Core Language: Teach Your Students to Speak Like a Geek

common coreHere’s a free lesson plan from the newest Ask a Tech Teacher book, How to Achieve Common Core with Tech–the Language Strand. This covers K-8, 87 Standards, and has 8 projects.

BTW, the lines at the front of each step are to check off the skill–track progress in case you don’t complete it in one class period. Feel free to print to out for your classroom use:

Essential Question

Why is appropriate vocabulary essential to academic success?

Lesson Summary

Students teach each other domain-specific words through presentations. This reinforces vocabulary, as well as presentation skills.

By the end of this unit, 3rd-middle school students will review up to 7 L, 4 SL, and 1 WHST, as well as authentically use and review Tier 3 vocabulary (or optionally, Tier 2).

Big Ideas

  • Words are beautiful.
  • Knowing Tier 3 vocabulary helps students understand the subject.


Internet, Speak Like a Geek assessments, Speak Like a Geek sign-ups

Teacher Preparation


Today we Honor Veterans

In the USA, Veterans Day annually falls on November 11. This day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918. Veterans are thanked for their services to the United States on Veterans Day.[youtube]

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.

What You Need to Know about Kidproofing the Internet

internet safetyHow to keep their children safe online is a constant question from parents at my school. They ask about firewalls, filters, kidsafe desktops, nannycams. Should they keep their children away from computers or just off the internet? Do they have to sit with them while they work?

No. No. and No. What parents need to do is teach children to take care of themselves while visiting this vast, anonymous, addictive neighborhood called ‘the internet’. Just as they come to understand that they stay at your side in large busy stores, that they don’t talk to strangers, that they don’t open the door to people they don’t know, they will learn to be safe in the digital world. Because it’s part of our genome–to do what keeps us safe.

While they’re getting to that epiphany, here are some ideas you can employ:

  1. Teach your children how to use the internet. They are digital citizens. They have rights and responsibilities. Just as in their neighborhood, they must learn to do it right. They aren’t born with that knowledge. Teach them to avoid ads, about online relationships, tell them again, and again. Sooner than you think, they will own it. Just as they don’t cross the street without looking both ways, they won’t cross the ‘digital street’ unless it’s safe.
  2. Discuss with your child what they can and cannot do online. Discuss why. Help them to understand. They feel invincible. You want them to feel safe, but able to take care of themselves. Part of taking care of themselves is not putting themselves in harm’s way.
  3. Use a parental control filter. Only you know the password which makes it your perogative what types of activities are available. Start by blocking ‘pornography’ because few little boys can resist the urge to type that whispered three letter word heard on the playground. From there, block everything you worry about–chicks, Minecraft, girls, Facebook, xxx, murder. It’s easy to unblock if your child needs a site that won’t come up. More importantly, it leads to a conversation with your child about what they’re researching, why they need it. You want your child comfortable with you involved in their lives–not as an arbiter of right and wrong, but as an interested loving party.
  4. Do not assume parental controls are perfect. Assume they aren’t. Stay vigilant. Be aware when your child is too quiet or too noisy at the computer. Ask questions. Pop in unexpectedly.
  5. Enforce rules. Don’t decide you’re too tired one night to go check a website your child tells you they need to visit. Always always always follow your own rules.
  6. Check ‘history’ on your child’s computer. Do it with them so they understand you’re not hiding anything. This is part of the plan to keep them safe.
  7. Know what their school does to keep your child safe online. Follow the same rules, or follow your own. Do explain the differences to your child. Children are flexible. They will be fine with varied rules.



Dear Otto: Is it important that students use all fingers when typing?

tech questionsDear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from SueAnn:

Dear Otto,

As the common core is dictating that keyboarding be taught at lower grade levels and to enhance the abilities of our students to type for longer periods of time and to develop writing skills, do believe that words per minute and accuracy is more important than correct fingering? or vise versa? We have many students that can type 35 WPM at 95% accuracy or better but do not use the correct fingering. As the technology teacher in my elementary school, I walk around when the students are doing their typing drills and encourage them to use the correct fingering during their practice time, I teach the correct fingering, we play games to learn the correct fingering we sing songs to learn the correct fingering but when they actually apply these skills in word processing I notice that their fingering is not being used correctly.

In our district we have been teaching correct hand placement and keyboarding in K-2 for several years. Starting earlier is not the issue, in my eyes. I believe that with the advent of texting and the basic issue that we do not have enough time to have formal keyboarding time on a daily basis leads to this issue. What are your thoughts? How important is correct fingering? Do you have ideas on how to help with proper fingering?
My 2nd question is: do you believe that word processing and typing are two different things? And if so, how do we get our students to transfer these skills? As I stated earlier, I can get my students to type 35 WPM with 95% accuracy during a drill, but to have my 6th graders sit down and type to a prompt in a word processing document for 3 pages off the top of their heads is an entirely different task. One that needs many repeated trials. I believe the second has very little to do with keyboarding and much to do with sentence structure, paragraph development, language skills and time. What are your thoughts on this? Do you have any ideas on how to make the leap from typing drills to word processing?
I do think using the correct fingers is important. I discuss this as ‘using the finger closest to the key’ and ‘no flying hands or fingers’ to get students to think about there’s a right finger for the key. They wouldn’t use just any finger playing the piano (so many youngers play piano, it’s a good analogy) or violin. Keyboarding is the same. To be most efficient and effective requires appropriate skills. The majority of my top keyboarders do it with skill–and then exceed 45/55 wpm. There are levels of knowledge in keyboarding: 1) knowing where the keys are. That gets students faster than 20wpm. If they don’t know key placement, they will have trouble hitting 20 wpm. Your students at 35wpm definitely know where all the keys are. 2) knowing skills–posture, hands and fingers placement, that sort. That enables students to touch type (hard to touch type when your eyes have to find the key), which pushes speed up tremendously.
top tech ed tools

How Do You Grade Tech? I Have 14 Ideas

eu-63985_640It used to be simple to post grades. Add up test scores and see what the student earned. Very defensible. Everyone understood.

It’s not that way anymore. Here are the factors I consider when I’m posting grades:

  • Does s/he remember skills from prior lessons as they complete current lessons?
  • Does s/he show evidence of learning by using tech class knowledge in classroom or home?
  • Does s/he participate in class discussions?
  • Does s/he complete daily goals (a project, visit a website, watch a tutorial, etc.)?
  • Does s/he save to their network folder?


What’s a Tech Teacher Do All Day?

tech teacherWhen you accepted the job to be your school’s tech teacher, you were probably excited, visions of cutting edge equipment at your disposal, training in the latest Google Apps, and a chance to collaborate with colleagues on extending the reach of education.

Well, maybe that happened, but so did a whole lot more. I sat down with about twenty of my ecolleagues over a virtual cuppa and asked them, really, what do they do all day? The answers may surprise you:

  • teach classes, anywhere from 22-35 a week (that’s right–35. I offer up a little prayer for that colleague every morning), 30-45 minutes per class.
  • grade assignments
  • run the school’s tech-based programs (i.e., report cards, grade books, Everyday Math Online, Type to Learn 4 Online, Fountas and Pinnell, the online writing program)
  • set up online accounts for teachers (on websites like KidBlogs, wikis, Google Apps, online tools)
  • try–and fail–to get teachers to troubleshoot their own problems
  • help faculty teach tech in their classes (because they don’t quite understand the geeky stuff)
  • help faculty write lesson plans that integrate tech
  • troubleshoot tech problems for teachers: tech teachers are the first stop with tech problems. It may start with fellow teachers running into the tech teacher’s class–even if s/he has students–and begging for help. If they can’t solve it (after they’ve spent an unspecified amount of time trying), it gets bumped up.


What is the Flipped Classroom

When I was editing the 8th grade tech curriculum, I got wowed by ‘infographics’–a visual approach to communicating information. Yes, I have known for a long time about ‘infographics’, but haven’t really paused to considered their strength. This dove-tailed nicely when I started getting questions from readers like, “What is a ‘flipped classroom’?”

Here–take a look at this one from Cool Infographics (and click the link–they have some great visual stuff over there):


Tech Tip #69:Change Size of Desktop Icons

As a working technology teacher, I get hundreds of questions from parents about their home computers, how to do stuff, how to solve problems. Each week, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: The desktop icons are tiny on my desktop. I don’t know how it happened, so I don’t know how to undo it. Please help!

A: This solution I learned in self-defense, like many other tips I share, when my students figured it out and made my desktop icons HUGE. Here’s how you fix that:

  • Highlight all desktop icons by click and dragging a box around them
  • Push Ctrl and roll the mouse wheel.
  • It enlarges or delarges for you

That’s it. How wonderful. I no longer have to squint at icons too small for my eyes.