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.

New Tech Teacher? I Understand You

If you teach technology, it’s likely you’re a geek. Even if you didn’t start out that way–say, you used to be a first grade teacher and suddenly your Admin in their infinite wisdom, moved you to the tech lab–you became a geek. You morphed into the go-to person for tech problems, computer quirks, crashes and freezes.

Overnight, your colleagues assumed you received an upload of data that allowed you to Know the answers to their every techie question. It didn’t matter that yesterday, you were one of them. Now, you are on a pedestal, their necks craned upward as they ask you, How do I get the Smartscreen to work? or We need the microphones working for a lesson I’m starting in three minutes. Can you please-please-please fix them?

Celebrate your cheeky geekiness. Flaunt it for students and colleagues. Play Minecraft. That’s you now–you are sharp, quick-thinking. You tingle when you see an iPad. You wear a flash drive like jewelry. The first thing you do when you get to school is check your email

(more…)

5 Digital Tools Parents Will Love

parent resourcesToo often, like it or not, technology makes parents squirm. Few moms and dads embrace questions that start, ‘How do I use this program to…’ They’d rather describe the smell of the number eight or get a root canal. But, the digitization of education requires anyone with children possess a basic understanding of hardware, the internet, and concepts like what-the-heck-is-buffering.

As a tech teacher, an important part of my daily job is to get parents at least on speaking terms with their child’s tech needs. To do this, I answer their questions–any time of the day, about any tech issue whether school-related or personal. Things like How do I copy a file to a flash drive? How much RAM does my child need? My baby can’t [fill in the blank with a tech problem of your choice]. How do I make a roster for soccer?

And I run tech classes for moms and dads. Here, I teach basics, starting with the five utilities that will make a parent’s job as Head Family Geek simpler, more predictable, and more effective:

Security software

Parents always worry about what viruses end up on computers when their children surf the internet. That’s a reasonable concern, one which requires guidance beyond the simplicity of virus software. After you’ve pursued a discussion on digital citizenship and safe surfing, recommend two Free easily-installed programs that protect against malware, spyware, ad bots, and host of other digital bad guys:

Use these two as part of a weekly computer maintenance routine (that also includes backing up data files, virus protection, and defragging–you might have to explain ‘defrag’ to them, too. Leave a comment below if you need help with that).

(more…)

Tech Tip #63: Don’t Like Double Space Between Paragraphs?

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 Tuesday, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: Word 2010 comes with a double space between paragraphs as the default, but I don’t like that. I’ve tried to reset it to single space, but it doesn’t fix it. What do I do?

A: I don’t like it either. What was Bill Gates thinking? Don’t as many people start a paragraph with a tab indent as a double space between paragraphs? Now I have to fix that every time I open a Word doc. Here’s how to do it (in Word 2010):

  • Go to Page Layout
  • Go to Paragraph, Spacing
  • Make sure ‘after’ is set to 0–not 10.

To make this the default:

(more…)

34 Categories–Over 500 Links–of K-8 Links for Your Classes

I’ve spent a good chunk of time this summer updating my link collections so they are easier to wander through and reflect more topics you’re interested in. Here are 34 categories. K-MS are also subdivided by topics with age-appropriate links. The themed categories mix all ages together. I’m not sure which is better. It’s awfully difficult to differentiate by age considering the varied skill levels of students. Please forgive me if the grade-level categories don’t always hit the mark for you!

Remember: Any time students visit the internet, remind them of their rights and responsibilities, and the obligation to be good digital citizens.

Enjoy!

(more…)

5 Tech Ed Tools to Use this Fall

summer classesTechnology has become synonymous with education reform. Like starter on a barbeque, squirt around enough iPads and digital tools and classes start to sizzle. No one says, “Let’s teach cursive in 1st grade–that’s how we’ll fix things!” Nope. You won’t find that on the Education Improvement Bucket List (EIBL). So, bring your laptop and iPad to the local beach hotspot (that’s WiFi hotspot) and consider these new faces that will join your class in the Fall:

  • students are expected to type multiple pages at a single sitting
  • students are expected to take online assessments
  • students are expected to research using the internet
  • students are expected to use technology to publish and share and collaborate
  • students are expected to use a variety of media in communicating their ideas
  • students are expected to use glossaries and dictionaries, both print and digital

Sound familiar? They’re from Common Core standards, sprinkled through benign-sounding guidelines for math and literacy, steamrolling forward whether you’re ready or not. But you can be ready–no worries. Here are five skills to learn this summer and use in the Fall that will make a big difference in how you prepare for these new requirements:

(more…)

tech q & a

Dear Otto: Use Tech to Differentiate Lessons?

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 Ali:

I would love some information on differentiating tech lab lessons. I struggle with that the most in my lab.

I love tech for differentiating. There are so many software programs and online tools that speak to a student’s individual interests–Word (for writing-intensive), Publisher (for multimedia), PowerPoint (for multimedia), Voki (for video/audio), Big Huge Labs (for lots of choices). For 5th grade and up, I have a unit I co-teach with the grade-level teacher. I introduce students to about 18 online tools, then they pick one for a class project (whatever inquiry is going on in the classroom at the time). Here’s a link to my collection. You will want to those that suit your group. Favorites are Voki, Poll Daddy, Animoto, Photostory, a mind mapper. In all the years I’ve taught this unit, I am constantly amazed at student choices. those I would have predicted loved writing pick video tools, and vice versa.

Here are some more ideas for differentiating instruction in your classroom:

(more…)

Tech Tip #62: Email from Word (Or PowerPoint or Excel)

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 Tuesday, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: I was helping one of the faculty at my school. She couldn’t print a document (server problems) so I suggested she email it to herself at home and print it there. She started going online to her Yahoo account and I stopped her. Click the email tool on the Word toolbar. She was so excited–an epiphany! What fun to share that with her. She was so happy about it, I’m going to email it to all the teachers in the school (I’m the tech teacher). (more…)

tech q & a

Dear Otto: How do I teach [wild and crazy] 7th Grade Tech?

tech questions

Dear 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 Patricia:

What are best practices for teaching technology applications in a computer lab? As a first year teacher technology applications teacher in a middle school (7th&8th graders mixed classes) I really struggled with engaging students to listen to assignment instructions prior to beginning an activity. Then once the activity started students would ask questions that had already been discussed if they had been listening. It  was frustrating to have to repeat instructions 20plus times over again.

Middle Schoolers are a special breed. They definitely need to learn productivity software like word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, but–you’re right–it’s hard to get them to sit still. I’ve found it’s much better to give them big goals, general guidelines, deadlines, and let them go. I just finished editing a tech textbook for 7th grade and it includes units on problem solving, logical thinking, digital citizenship, programming. To teach these topics, you as the teacher engage students with Robotics, Scratch, games (select games that teach–i.e., Minecraft, Bridge Builder, SimCity), web-based communication tools (Animoto, Glogster, blogs, wikis). It’s self-directed, student-paced, so places responsibility for learning squarely with the student. As general lesson guidelines, try these:

Tech Tip #61: How to Get Youngers to Use the Right Mouse Button

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: Kids always get confused when I’m explaining directions that require the right mouse button. I’ve found an easy way to clarify:

“Right click with your mouse”

Student promptly clicks with their left mouse. I know–doesn’t make sense. It does to them. They’re happy to focus on the right hand and have no idea they need to go one level further. My comeback:

“The other right.”

(more…)