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Author Archives: Jacqui

About Jacqui

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Teaching Basic Cybersecurity Measures To Everyday People (For Parents of Digital Natives)

As one who manages way too many online accounts, I read this article from Ask a Tech Teacher contributor and CyberSecurity expert (retired), Sam Bocetta with interest. My checklist (green for good and red for ‘need help’):

    • I’m paranoid about links and downloads
    • I check for virus and malware regularly
    • Ooops–don’t yet use a VPN
    • I should pay more attention to my passwords
    • I am religiously careful of email
    • Yep–switched to HTTPS for my blogs and websites
    • I update software when prompted (that’ll have to be black)

Read Sam’s article below. When you’re done, evaluate your cybersecurity safety.


The topic of cybersecurity is becoming something people of all ages worry about. This is largely due in part to the rise in malware, ransomware, and infections people have experienced over the last year.

And these security threats aren’t just aimed at large businesses or municipalities, but normal people as well. Anyone who enjoys using the internet is a potential victim of hackers or malicious actors. And while most are aware that cyber-threats exist, most don’t know what to do about it.

This largely stems from the complexity of the subject and the challenge of teaching basic cybersecurity measures to everyday people. This is beyond concerning as cybersecurity is fast becoming one of the biggest threats to modern society. So today we are going to explain how to teach & outline cybersecurity best practices for both the young and old alike.

For many adults and parents, it can be a difficult task to teach the basic of staying safe online to those who are younger. However, the best strategy is starting conversations at an early age. This advice will be timeless as kids are starting to use the internet at younger and younger ages.

Harmful Links

Teach kids that not all links are created equally and that some can even be malicious. It’s a complicated subject for some to wrap their head around. After all, a link is just a link on the surface. So you will need to explain that some links could be harmful to click on.

A good way to teach this is to have them hover the cursor on the link and see the URL that it is pointed to. Let them know that if the URL isn’t one they recognize they should not click on it. If they are unsure, they should ask an adult.

Virus & Malware

[caption id="attachment_60878" align="alignright" width="300"] Computer Security Signpost Showing Laptop Internet Safety[/caption]

Explain what a virus and what malware is. This can be a difficult concept for some younger people as it’s a very abstract topic. A simple way to explain this to them is Malware or Viruses take over a computer without approval from the user.

And that this could possibly lead to the computer no longer working, or being as fast. This can also lead to larger issues such as the company you get internet from disconnecting your service.

Suspicious Downloads

Even if its a “game they want to play” you have to instill the required reasoning so children can verify the website they are downloading from is trusted. A great way to teach younger people about this is to install a due diligence process.

This means having them do an online search for either the file name they are downloading or the website they are downloading it from. Also, by outlining the sites that are safe to download from, you can have them avoid suspicious downloads all together.

Utilizing A VPN

Easily one of the best ways to make your connection more secure and private when connecting to a public Wi-Fi will be to use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. To put it in other words, a VPN will establish a virtual private communication channel over a non-private network, thus giving you an extra layer of security

Learning about the importance of a VPN and how to use one is something that anybody who uses public Wi-Fi often should know.

Strong Passwords

One of the most common things people do wrong when interacting with online programs or software is picking an easy or short password. To teach strong password basics to both young and old alike, explain why they are bad.

Let them know that hackers or malicious actors use programs that try lots of passwords, and that easy single word passwords will be cracked very easily. You can also teach the importance of using professional password manager services, which will not only only select passwords for your accounts that are incredibly tough for hackers to crack, but will also change those passwords on a weekly or daily basis for extra security.

Best Email Practices

For many older people using the internet, e-mail is their gateway to communicate with their friends or family. But a common pitfall is clicking on links from email addresses they do not recognize.

And what’s more, beyond simply opening emails, older email users are more likely to click on links in those emails. Teaching older internet users to not trust emails from people they don’t recognize will go a long long way to keeping them safe.

HTTPS > HTTP When Providing Information Online

Explain the difference between HTTP & HTTPS websites. This is a common area of confusion for some older internet users. You should explain that they should never under any circumstances submit personal, sensitive, or financial information on sites that do not have “HTTPS” present in the URL.

A great way to explain this is to advise any website asking for any information at all should be secure, and they should look for a lock icon next to the web address in their browser.

Using Antivirus Programs

Keeping your computer clear of viruses are a great way to ensure the worst doesn’t happen. It’s a common occurrence that when older people get their computer services that it’s full of hundreds of viruses.

Simply teaching them how to use the anti-virus software can go a long way. If possible, find a solution that automatically scans the machine at regular intervals and explain to them why regular check-ups are needed.

And while some interfaces are confusing when dealing with anti-virus software, a few minutes of training will have even the oldest of internet users get comfortable with the program. Said another way, spending a little bit of time to make them feel comfortable will help increase their buy-in.

Update Software

Many people both young and old alike may not update software on their computer or devices when it pops up. This is usually the case because they do not know the outcome of the update. However, to teach solid cybersecurity fundamentals you need to get across that these updates often contain improvements on security.

It’s a strange concept to explain that there are new type of exploits or holes in a device or software being found all the time. So explain to them that there are people out there constantly coming up with new ways to hack into devices and software.

Final Thoughts

It’s a fact of modern life that both the young and old have to use the internet to interact with society. But, these groups can be at a disadvantage due to the complexity of the subject. By simply teaching them some basics you can improve their security and confidence leading to a better overall experience.

While it is impossible to protect others or yourself from every risk, teaching the basics in a straightforward and understandable way will go a very very long way.

Sam Bocetta is a retired cybersecurity analyst currently reporting on trends in cryptography and cybercrime

More on security

Use BCC to Hide Email Addresses

6 Tips to Avoid Email Phishing

10 Passwords Everyone Uses (And You Shouldn’t)

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 TeachHUB, and author of the tech thriller, To Hunt a Sub. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Categories: Guest post, Parents | Tags: | Leave a comment

Physical Bookstores in The Digital Age

As a parent, I fondly remember browsing bookstores with my children. We probably went there with a specific book in mind, one required for school, but ended up taking our time exploring all the tomes available. Though bookstores remain, too often, parents simply buy books online–digitally or print, doesn’t matter–and miss out on that opportunity to discover new worlds.

That’s why when Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Alex Mitchell, suggested this article–The Future of Physical Bookstores in The Digital Age–I said yes almost before reading it. You’ll find Alex has written a thoughtful analysis of what’s going on with physical bookstores in an ebook era:

The Future of Physical Bookstores in the Digital Age

bookstores in the digital age

Brick and mortar bookstores have been a dying breed in recent years. It seems every time we turn around another handful of locations are closing.

When Amazon released the Kindle in 2007 authors began to see the end of times. Worries about cheap, sometimes poorly edited, and often over-saturated eBook markets seemed like they would be the death of the printed word. Another supposed threat to the print book is torrenting and online downloads of materials.

However, in recent years it seems that print books have been selling better and better.

It is surprising, then, that many noted names in the book industry have been hit hard in recent years. People have noticed that there has been a slump in sales for Barnes and Noble, and the company has closed many locations. Additionally, the popular entertainment store Hasting’s was bought and liquidated in 2016 after failing to gain investors during their bankruptcy protection period.


Categories: Guest post, Teaching | Tags: | Leave a comment

33 Resources for Read Across America Day

Many people in the United States, particularly students, parents and teachers, join forces on Read Across America Day, annually held on March 2. This nationwide observance coincides with the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Here are some great reading websites for students K-5:

  1. Aesop Fables—no ads
  2. Aesop’s Fables
  3. Audio stories
  4. Childhood Stories
  5. Classic Fairy Tales
  6. Fairy Tales and Fables
  7. Listen/read–Free non-fic audiobooks
  8. Starfall
  9. Stories read by actors
  10. Stories to read for youngsters
  11. Stories to read–II
Categories: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Grade, Holidays, Reading, Websites | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Here’s a Preview of March

Here’s a preview of what’s coming up on Ask a Tech Teacher in March:

  • Teaching Basic Cybersecurity Measures
  • Solve 50% of Tech Problems with 16 Simple Solutions
  • 3 Favorite Webtools
  • Looking for Trusted Advisors? Look No Further
  • Peer Feedback That Works
  • Celebrate Pi
  • 10 Myths About Teaching with Tech
  • St. Patrick’s Day Resources
  • 8 Tech Tools for PE Teachers
  • SEL in Education Success
  • What I’ve Learned from my Computer
  • 11 Projects to Teach Digital Citizenship
  • Career Planning
  • CBA–a Powerful Diagnostic Tool
  • Earth Day Activities
  • Easter Activities


Categories: Teacher resources | 1 Comment

Here’s the Easiest Way to Check for Plagiarism

plagiarism checkOne of the biggest problems facing digital natives as they grow into adults is understanding how to maneuver the vastness of the Internet ethically, safely, and to serve their needs. It sounds simple–log on, search, enjoy–but let’s equate this to a shopping mall. You enter the wide, inviting front doors, find the store with the product you need, and then must pay for it. If you don’t have money, you can’t get the product. Even if you could sneak it into your purse, you don’t because that’s stealing (and besides, someone might see you).

The concept of ‘buy’ and ‘money’ are often blurry on the Internet but the idea is the same: If you can’t follow the website’s rules to acquire the online product, you can’t have it. If you take it, that’s plagiarism and–like stealing from a store–carries drastic penalties.

Me, I don’t want to cheat anyone so when I acquire resources from the Internet, I want to do it legally. That’s why plagiarism checkers are important to me. There are many to choose from but one I recently discovered is It requires no installation, is quick and intuitive to use, and covers everything I need at a fair price.

What is is an online plagiarism checker that uses a sophisticated algorithm to check content for different types of plagiarism. It can operate as a stand-alone web-based tool or be integrated into an LMS like Google Classroom or Moodle. When you set up an account, you tell it whether you want to access it as a teacher, a student, or an individual owner. Each provides different tools. For example, teachers can collect assignments through and track student submittals while checking for the authenticity of assignments. Once you have your account set up, you get one page for free, to see how works. From there, you purchase packages depending upon how many pages you’d like to check. If you are purchasing a school subscription with roles like students, teacher and owner, you won’t need to purchase packages as individuals. You’ll pick from two subscription models:

  1. per page. School purchases pages for all its members, and members are using pages to run checks.
  2. per user. School purchases licenses for users, giving users unlimited access to the software (no page restrictions apply).

The goal of is not to catch students plagiarizing (though it does) but to help them succeed in their academic ventures. It’s a subtle difference in interpretation but a big difference in attitude and results.

One more note: is an excellent tool not only for students but for writers, entrepreneurial businesses, and teacher-authors. For the purposes of this post, I’ll concentrate on teacher-student uses.


Categories: Digital Citizenship, Reviews | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Kid-created Games That Teach

gamification of learning

It’s discouraging to all stakeholders that annually, about 1.2 million students fail to graduate from high school. And “Pathways to Prosperity” reports that just 56% of college attendees complete a degree. Fingers point all directions but nothing changes the stark truth: Something causes kids to hate learning so much that they’d rather face their future without the knowledge or skills to do so successfully.

Solutions to this problem abound but one of the most popular with K-16 educators — because it works — is to gamify learning. Wikipedia defines “gamification” as:

“an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments. The goal is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning.”

Games remind kids of days when they chose their own seats, worked at their own pace, and responded to their own interests. Through childhood games, they learned social skills, problem-solving, sequencing, and a whole bunch more while they thought they were doing a puzzle, building blocks, or playing dodgeball.

Fast forward to formal schooling. As early as Kindergarten, kids are stuck into classrooms where play is replaced with rote drills, repetition, and growing boredom. It’s taken the experts decades but finally, the value of applying gameplaying characteristics to learning is being recognized as a formidable approach. I’ve written much about the use of games and simulations but today, I want to focus on the student as maker, where they create the game, troubleshoot problems, and refine the end result — exactly the traits valued by coding and programming.

Here are some of my favorite game creation tools for students:


Categories: Games/Simulations, Reviews | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Easily Manage Class AR with Metaverse Collections

metaverseMetaverse is one of the most popular AR apps in schools. It blends a website for the creation of AR experiences with an app for their display, nimbly allowing users to create, share, and interact with their AR ‘experiences’ (or projects). It’s easy to use and requires no coding. Users can access a wide variety of AR games, lesson plans, and other experiences created by others and shared in the Metaverse ecosystem via the free app (reminder: Always preview these to be sure they fit your student group). For those looking for greater personalization, they can create their own on the website.

The top four education uses for Metaverse are Breakouts (here’s a spreadsheet with a long list of Metaverse Breakouts by topic), Scavenger hunts, timed quizzes, and Choose your own adventure stories. Other popular uses are interactive stories, AR field trips, student-led learning, and programming (like the popular Hour of Code).

If you aren’t familiar with Metaverse (and realize you should be), check out my review of Metaverse. If you already use Metaverse in your classroom (click for my review of Metaverse), you’re going to want to know about their newest classroom management tool:

Metaverse Collections


This is Classroom Management Made Simple 😎

  • View all of your students’ Experiences in one place
  • Edit your students’ Experiences and view Experience Storyboards
  • Share your students’ Experiences as a group



Categories: Classroom management | Tags: | 1 Comment

Best-in-Category Winners for 2018

During the last month, Ask a Tech Teacher readers voted on which tech tools had the greatest impact on their teaching. For this Best in Category award, we asked them to look for the ones that made them say Wow and rush to share with colleagues everywhere.

Then we looked for the following qualities:

  • how dependable is it
  • how versatile is it for time-strapped teachers
  • does it differentiate for the varied needs of students and teacher
  • do educators like it (fairly subjective, but there you have it)
  • how did it work when exposed to your students
  • was it easy to use and intuitive to learn
  • did it fulfill promises and expectations
  • has it become a beloved tool in your classes or a failed experiment

Here are the 2018 Best-in-Category and Honorable Mentions for the following Categories: (more…)

Categories: Awards, Web Tools | Tags: | 1 Comment

Purpose Driven Learning: Myths, Problems, and Education Applications

purpose driven learningPurpose Driven Learning (or PDL) is a concept coined by Michael Matera and Adam Moreno to summarize the philosophy that each learner’s inner strengths can be unlocked by focusing with purpose and drive. By following the guidelines for Purpose Driven Learning, teachers avoid the biggest pitfall in many lesson plans  — that they are theoretic without meaning in the real world. With PDL, resources are relevant, lessons are personalized, and real-life connections are placed under a bright light. In the end, learning is changed from pedantic to powerful and students learn to reliably connect academic studies to the world outside the schoolhouse.

The Goal of PDL

In a phrase:

the goal of Purpose Driven Learning is NOT about a curriculum that lasts a year. It’s about creating life-long learners who fuel their future passionately with knowledge.

This applies to both 1) education pursued with the goal of college or career, and 2) the critical preparation of students to succeed in life. Purpose Driven Learning, faithfully delivered with buy-in from students, will result in students willingly participating in even the boring lesson pieces (like worksheets or podcasts) as well as exciting applications like simulations and student-devised projects.

Problems implementing Purpose Driven Learning

Engaging PDL in your classroom is seen by some as teaching students what they want to learn at the expense of what they need to learn but this isn’t true. Done right, students come to understand that real knowledge relies on a solid foundation of data upon which they build their personal interests. For example, students who want to join America’s proposed Space Force must first be grounded in the basics of science and math.

Educators who wish to use PDL often run into three roadblocks:

School Standards. Because state and national standards are often devised to serve the majority of students, they may not well-serve your students. But they do provide a necessary foundation without which the goals of your particular group can’t be met. That means that standards are taught first and additional learning is scaffolded afterward. Standards are in fact the foundation that underpins your students’ ability to achieve their PDL goals.


Categories: Classroom management, Education reform, Teaching Strategies | Tags: | 1 Comment

Engineers Week — A Must for High School

Next week, February 17-23, 2019, is DiscoverE’s Engineers Week. Their tagline:

“A week-long event, a year-long commitment”

Do you wonder why anyone would be passionate about engineering? Forbes published three good reasons:

  • The U.S. has approximately 1.6 million engineering jobs that pay $42 per hour in median.
  • Job growth from 2010 to 2014 was in the double digits in several engineering occupations.
  • Since 2007, the number of engineering grads nationwide has shot up 33%.

What is Engineers Week?

For those not familiar with DiscoverE, sponsors of Engineers Week, they are a volunteer-driven online coalition of over one-hundred organizations committed to promoting engineering to the K-16 community. This includes the provision of resources, programs, in-person presentations, classroom assistance, training, activities, videos, books, technology programs, and more. The purpose of Engineers Week is as much to celebrate engineers as to increase public dialogue, in that way bringing them to life for kids, educators, and parents. With the national call for STEM resources and the popularity of programs such as Hour of Code, the talented professionals of DiscoverE are more in-demand than ever.

“93% of DiscoverE educators think an engineer’s presence helps STEM students.”


Categories: High School, Reviews, Science, Websites | Tags: | 1 Comment