Category: Classroom management

A Teacher’s Best Evaluator

It’s always a challenge to evaluate teachers. I’ve been through many systems, often different each year, and honestly, none seems better than the other. But Christian Miraglia, Education Consultant and part of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew, suggests asking students to evaluate the teacher. Here’s how that would work:

A Teacher’s Best Evaluator

Years ago, I was involved in an effort to restructure my school district’s teacher evaluation system. Months of work were put into the project, which focused on a professional growth model and also allowed for the traditional method of checking the boxes. Hours of research and meeting with other districts took place. One might ask about your typical administrative evaluation, but if you have gone through these, they are cursory and don’t do much to improve your actual instruction. So I was prompted to think about teacher evaluations and their effectiveness. Who ultimately is the best person to analyze the teaching? I concluded with the students. After all, the students are with you daily. They observe teachers at their best and their not-so-effective moments. 

Wait a minute, some might say. “Students are evaluating teachers; they do that on social media and Rate your Teacher. And it is ugly.” Acknowledged, it can be ugly. However, if an environment of trust is established, one might be surprised by the results. 

If a teacher wants a good picture of how teaching impacts students, I suggest using a Google Form survey or Microsoft forms. This approach is low-tech as it is pushed out to the students to the teacher’s choice of platforms.


7 Easy-to-do Ideas for Tech in the Classroom

If anyone thought technology wasn’t here to stay (I see a few hands up), the pandemic and remote teaching exploded that vision. Teaching from homes has shown many how ill-prepared we are to use even the most intuitive technology in the education field. Honestly, as a tech teacher, I’ve been a bit disappointed we didn’t do better. I was thrilled to find this article from Programming Insider providing a great starting point for tech tools that are a natural fit with education:

Best Ways to Use Tech for Teachers

Teachers are always encouraged to find new ways to improve the quality of learning for their students. Technology improvements can also make their work easier when utilized well. In this article, we talk about the best ways to use technology for teachers and students.

Read more:

Here are more articles from Ask a Tech Teacher on tech tools that will energize your teaching and your students’ learning:


How to Clean Up Google Classroom for the Summer

As you end your school year, there are lots of details that must be taken care of . If you use Google Classroom, here’s a list, created by Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Scott Winstead:

How to Clean Up Google Classroom for the Summer

As the school year comes to an end, teachers everywhere are getting ready for summer break. For many, this means cleaning out classrooms and organizing materials for the next year. However, it’s not just your physical classroom that needs to be cleaned and organized at the end of the year.

If you’re a teacher who uses Google Classroom, there’s one more task to add to your list: cleaning up your virtual classroom. 

I know, it sounds like a pain. One more thing to add to the list. But not to worry, it’s nowhere near as hard as it sounds. You’re just tying up loose ends and creating a blank state for the following school year. Just a little work now will help you to stay organized over summer break and make it easier to get started again in the fall. 

In this article, I’ll share the four simple steps you can take to close up your Google Classroom for the year in a neat, organized fashion. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Make sure all work is graded and returned.

The first step to close out your year in Google Classroom is make sure all student work has been graded and returned to them. You can do this on an individual assignment basis, but that might prove to be a huge job, with loads of assignments. Luckily, there’s an easy way to handle it all at once.

One in your Google Classroom, click the hamburger menu in the top right of your dashboard. From there, you’ll see a menu item that says “To-do” or “To Review.” You’ll then see your classes with assignments that have either been assigned, turned in, or graded. The turned in column is what you need to pay attention to. You still need to process these and get them back to your students.

To do so, just click “Turned In” assignments, then grade the assignments if necessary, and click “Return” to give them back to your students.

Not only will this clean things up for you, but it will also return ownership of individual assignments to the students. This allows them to keep the assignment even if you delete it all on your end.

Once finished, you can click the three vertical dots next to each assignment you returned and mark them as reviewed to finish cleaning up your list.

Step 2: Clean up your Classroom folder.

First and foremost, notice I didn’t say to delete your Classroom folder. In fact, let me say this as plainly as I can… do NOT delete your Classroom folder. This folder is created when you first set up your Google Classroom account. Deleting it can cause a lot of problems.

What you want to do is clean up the sub folders within the main folder. When you create individual classes, Google Classroom will create a subfolder for each class in your Classroom folder. Each of these folders will contain folders such as assignments.

If you want, you can delete all of this. But a lot of it is probably worth saving, and it’s likely you have plenty of drive space to do so. In that case, you could do something like create a subfolder for the school year in your Google Drive, and move all of the individual classes into it. Simple, easy, clean, and you lose nothing.

Step 3: Clean up Google Classroom calendars.

Just as Google Classroom automatically creates subfolders for each class you create, it also creates individual calendars that include due dates for everything you assign. And similar to your Classroom folder, I say “clean up” because you don’t want to just go in and delete everything right off the bat.

It’s important to note that if you delete all your calendars without saving anything, you might regret it. Referencing back to old assignments, due dates etc. can be helpful when planning for a new year, so I recommend saving your Google Classroom calendars before you delete them.

You can do this by saving as PDFs, printing them out if you want paper copies, or taking screenshots.

Once you’ve saved what you want, it’s time to hide or delete your old Google Classroom Calendars. It’s pretty easy. Just go to Google Apps next to your icon at the top right of the screen. Click on “Google Calendar.” Then scroll down and on the left, you’ll see the list of all your calendars.

Each calendar can either be hidden or deleted. To hide, click the three vertical dots and select “hide from list.” To delete, click “Settings and sharing.” Then scroll to the very bottom of the page and click “Delete.” You’ll be asked to confirm. If you’re sure, click “Permanently Delete.” Repeat for each calendar you want to get rid of.

Step 4: Archive your classes.

Almost done! This is probably the most important step when it comes to cleaning up your Google Classroom for summer break. Archiving your classroom does the following:

1) It freezes everything so students can’t make any changes.

2) It hides the class from your current view.

3) It makes your integrated meet link inactive.

To archive a class, go to the main page where you see all your classes. Click on the three vertical dots of the class you want to archive, and then click “Archive” from the dropdown. You’ll get a message asking you to confirm. Click “Archive” again and your class will disappear from the main screen. Quick and easy.

Note, you can get a class back after archiving by restoring. It’s not the same as deleting.

There you have it. Four simple steps and your Google Classroom is now ready for Summer Break. Enjoy your time off and rest easy knowing your Google Classroom will be nice and tidy at the start of next school year!


Scott Winstead is the founder of where he has shared his expertise in eLearning and instructional design for the past decade. 

–Images credit to Deposit Photos

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.

Encourage Creativity in the Classroom

“Eighty-seven percent of teachers and 77% of parents agree teaching that inspires creativity has a bigger payoff for students”

This according to Gallup research (To read more of the report, click here). No one is surprised by this. Teachers and parents have long known that if students are engaged, they learn faster and remember more.

Our Ask a Tech Teacher crew has some interesting thoughts on mainstreaming this in your classroom:

How to Encourage Creativity in the Classroom: Best Tips to Inspire Your Students

Kids don’t go to school just to learn classical subjects such as history, math, or geography. They also need to understand how to be social, how to create connections, and how to develop their creativity.

Plus, in the current work environment, creativity is considered the skill of the future and many employers devise training sessions to help their employees think outside the box. So why not start at an early age, when the brain is more eager to learn and creative pathways easier to forge? 

Also, in today’s day and age, teachers can use a wide range of tech tools to connect with and inspire their students. Now, if you’ve run out of ideas, here are a few tips (with and without technology) to help your students embrace their creative side. 

Use Fun Tools

Have you ever thought about using 3D printing to help students express their creativity?

Up until a few years ago, 3D printing wasn’t an easily accessible technology. However, due to lowered prices for printers, materials, and even pens, nowadays it’s rather easy to get hold of some tools. All you need is a reliable supplier of educational resources, such as Springboard Supplies

3D printing allows kids to improve spatial visualization and understand better geometric concepts. It’s also a lot of fun and can inspire all sorts of creative projects!

Turn Boring Topics Interesting

More often than not, the topics studied in school tend to be dry and factual (even for the younger students). This is also one of the reasons why some students may have trouble retaining the information. 

Still, teachers can take a dry concept and, using creativity, turn it into a fun and easy-to-understand experience. Let’s take polygons as an example – children learn about this geometric concept throughout their primary years.

So, to help them solidify the information and increase creativity, ask them to draw a few polygons on a piece of paper (it doesn’t matter the shape). Once they’re done and you have a chat about their drawings, ask them to turn those polygons into something they love – it can be anything from their cat/dog to flowers, cars, toys, and so on. 

Encourage Their Curiosity

Kids and teenagers are some of the most curious people you’ll ever meet. Plus, nowadays they have easy access to resources and educational materials (no more time spent in the library).

So encourage them to explore the topics in which they show interest. Help them find the resources they need by using mediums that are familiar to them (Google, social media, YouTube, and so on).

Let’s take the “water freezes at 0℃” lesson that discusses the concept of freezing. To pique their curiosity, ask “Do you think only water freezes when temperatures drop?”. As kids try to come up with other things that freeze, propose and experiment. 

Everyone should name three regular household items (of small sizes) that they think will freeze. Next, when they get home, they should ask their parents to place the three items in the freezer overnight. The next day, discuss what happened to each item, why it didn’t freeze, and their thoughts on their colleagues’ experiments.

Problem-Solving with Multiple Solutions

Unless we’re talking about a mathematical concept, most problems have a multitude of solutions. Now, apply this idea to the classroom and ask your students to come up with solutions to a simple problem.

Avoid giving them the answer and don’t shut down any of the solutions they come up with. If the solution isn’t viable, explain why and help them find a workaround. Also, encourage them to investigate alternatives, do research on the topic using available resources, and debate the issue amongst themselves. 

This exercise may seem frustrating at first (especially for the teacher), but it encourages kids to change their point of view and consider different factors when they find themselves at a dead end. It’s also a great way to teach them resilience and the concept of “try until you succeed”. 

Wrap Up

Creativity is a beautiful skill and once you get the kids going, you’ll be amazed at how their thinking changes and evolves. Plus, as you gear your lessons towards a more creative setting, you’ll end up with a nice toolkit of resources and digital tools that make your job easier and a lot more interesting.

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.

Random Acts of Kindness Day

I’ll never forget the day years ago when I stood in a donut shop, half asleep, bed head, with a monster sugar deficit. As I got to the front of the line, the man before me said, “I’ll pay for hers, too.” I didn’t know him. We hadn’t commiserated over how Krispy Kreme was always crowded. I’d just slogged onward, waiting my turn, eager to taste my apple fritter. His simple act of paying for my donut made me feel special, brought a smile to my face all day, and lightened the load of whatever happened after that.

That was one of my first Random Acts of Kindness, the feel-good event started in 1995. Now, February 17th in America is called the Random Acts of Kindness Day (September 1st in New Zealand) and is when everyone encourages acts of kindness without any expectation of consideration in return.

“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” — Mark Twain

What is Random Acts of Kindness Day?

February 17th — Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Day — is twenty-four hours when anyone who chooses to participate agrees to perform unexpected acts of kindness to pay it forward for that time they need a little bit of unexpected care.  We flaunt our altruistic side by doing something nice for another without a thought for the consequences.

Why is Kindness important?

Why kindness is important seems obvious but really, it isn’t. I can name a whole lot of people who have succeeded despite being, well, jerks so why should we think there’s merit in a gentler approach?


How Does the Metaverse Fit into Education?

Learning hit a bump in the education road as it attempted to adapt traditional and proven in-person schooling to remote environments during a worldwide pandemic. The metaverse–though far in the future–offers an interesting option for teaching without touching. It burst into the headlines when Facebook changed its name to Meta–arguably, a foreshadow to their future endeavors. If you’re a Star Trek fan, you know ‘metaverse’ as the Voyager’s holodeck.

Here is Go Student’s discussion on metaverse’s future in education:

How Does Metaverse Have a Place in Education

We’ve already had a small taste of how education’s form is changing thanks to Covid-19 and what seems like a lifetime of online classes. So, it comes as no surprise that online learning and the metaverse are being discussed in the same conversations.

Immersive learning experiences are certainly seen as the new way forward.

Read on…

Ask a Tech Teacher has several articles that address other virtual learning topics that might interest you:


How to Change the Dynamics of Peer-to-peer Learning with Tract

As teachers move from a “teacher-lecturer” model of education to a “teacher-guide”, peer-to-peer learning–acquiring knowledge from a select peer group–has become a popular education strategy. Often, it is a less stressful way to support the long-held goal of developing lifelong learners. As a pedagogical strategy, it can be more effective in reinforcing critical thinking, cooperation, creativity, and problem solving–traits that are difficult to teach but essential for students who want to become productive, happy adults.

What most educators and parents innately know has become a truism of education:

“If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” –Albert Einstein

If you’re not familiar with Tract, you’re in for a treat. Tract is a new way to inspire students to become lifelong learners. It’s easy to use, intuitive to setup, enticing to students, and requires no professional development on the part of teachers to roll out. The platform focuses on student growth and learning, accomplished via videos, hands-on projects, and more, all with the goal of sparking student creativity and empowering them to explore their passions at their own pace. Lessons are given by young adults, your students’ peer group. They engage learners through multimedia, tasks, projects, and peer interaction. Content is vetted, curated, and reviewed by qualified teachers to ensure its educational rigor.

Click for a more detailed review of Tract or visit Tract’s website here.

I was thrilled when the folks at Tract partnered with me on their new platform. I’m a fan of peer-to-peer learning and I could tell right away that Tract did it well. If you’ve already heard about Tract and are ready to try it out, visit their website at and use the access code ASKATECHTEACHER to get your free Tract teacher account.

Peer-to-peer learning is a second cousin to teaching and in many cases, more effective in solidifying understanding of a topic. Students often collaborate and share with peers in their education journey and careers. Becoming adept at giving and receiving feedback will help them negotiate the workplace and life diplomatically and effectively.

With educators struggling through the challenges of remote and hybrid teaching, there is renewed interest in how to deliver peer-to-peer learning beyond traditional approaches of discussion boards, forums, blogs, and collaborative projects. While the value of peer-to-peer learning is unquestioned, executing it is not always easy, and when executed poorly, students become confused and discouraged.

If you are looking for a fool-proof platform for deploying peer-to-peer learning in your class (and you should be), try Tract.

On the Tract platform, students learn through videos created by their peers but also by creating their own video or written projects (learning paths), developed either individually or in small groups. When completed, these are uploaded to a video gallery and shared with fellow students, giving everyone a chance to share knowledge and learn from each other. The combination of these essential pieces–learning from peers, teaching to peers, and sharing research–makes education dynamic and motivating, turning reluctant students into lifelong learners. Tract not only teaches topics of interest to kids, but encourages students to work together on projects and passions, and share their knowledge with classmates.

The importance of peer teaching and peer learning is well established:

The Roman philosopher Seneca declared: “docendo discimus” (“by teaching, we learn”). 

If you want to put project-based, peer-to-peer learning into practice, you’ve found the right platform with Tract. Be one of the first 1,000 to request access at Use the access code ASKATECHTEACHER to get your free Tract teacher account.


Tract considers it incredibly important to create a safe, supportive learning environment for students to share their classes, projects, and comments. While they trust all students, they also recognize the importance of taking the proper precautions to protect against inappropriate content that violates Community Guidelines. These guidelines include common sense policies like 1) be kind and respectful, 2) no bullying, 3) only upload age-appropriate content, and 4) be a good digital citizen.

–This post is sponsored by Tract. All opinions are my own.

@tractlearning #tractapp #p2plearning

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 to Help With Masks

The pandemic has changed teaching in many ways–remove vs. in-person vs. hybrid for one, the need for internet access in homes for another. Schools struggle to find the right technology to address these many changing needs. One that caught my eye was reported in The Dispatch–technology to address the sometimes garbled communication that results from speaking through masks. Here’s their interesting story:

New tech installed at SOCSD helps with teaching through masks

Starkville High School student Peyton Willoughby sat in his 10th grade English class Thursday not worried about struggling to hear his teacher because of new technology installed in the classroom.

As his teacher discussed poems and literary elements, information flowed throughout speakers across the entire room, giving Willoughby the assurance that he was obtaining all of the necessary material.

“For me, I really love (this new technology),” Willoughby said. “I think it’s absolutely amazing because the teacher can be up and vocal and moving around while still maintaining that audibility … it makes the teaching much more engaging and more enjoyable.”

Read on…

For more about teaching through COVID, here are a few more articles:


Tract–A new way to learn

Tract is a peer-to-peer, on-demand, project-based learning platform designed for grades 3-12. It includes classes and lesson plans, even themed clubs. It focuses on building student creativity, critical thinking, and independence–skills students need to become prosperous, happy adults.


If you haven’t heard of Tract, that’s alright. It’s the new way to inspire students to become lifelong learners. It doesn’t focus on state or international standards (though it does meet them–just don’t look for that in the learning path detail). Its purpose is to spark student creativity and empower them to explore their passions at their own pace. Lessons are given by high school and college students who clearly show their love of the subject. Content is vetted, curated, and reviewed by qualified teachers to ensure its educational rigor.

The best part for you as a teacher: There’s no professional development required. Teachers setup and start using Tract in the classroom in under 24 hours!

Dig deeper

Do you get the idea that the Tract learning platform breaks the mold of what students and teachers typically think of as school? Listen to this: Learning is presented via videos and hands-on projects with ample opportunity for peer interaction. They can cover traditional topics in science and math or more eclectic ones like popular culture, current events, music, entrepreneurship, Minecraft, and TikTok. Curious about the topics? Here are some examples:

How to Be A 12-Year-Old CEO–of a coding company!

Unusual Creatures of the Congo

Can Trees Really Talk to One Another

Build a Bongo

Want to Become a music producer

Investing in Different Sectors of the Stock Market


Why Tract?

Why select a platform that doesn’t do education the way it’s always been done? That’s why. Every teacher I know has students who are bored by conventional education, who equate learning with yuck. Tract’s approach is completely different from anything they’ve seen. It motivates reluctant students, awakens their love of learning by including topics they care about. Say goodbye to forced participation. That doesn’t happen with Tract. Here’s feedback on one of the classes:


10 Ways Any Teacher Can (and Should) Use Technology

Common Core tells us:

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: