Category: Classroom management

Is Handwriting Like Camera Film–So Last Generation


Another problem for cursive in schools: Common Core is ‘silent’ on it, according to the Alliance for Excellence in Education. That’s like the Fat Lady warming up, but not sure when she’ll be performing.

Studies show one in three children struggle with handwriting. I’d guess more, seeing it first hand as a teacher. Sound bad? Consider another study shows that one in five parents say they last penned a letter more than a year ago.

Let’s look at the facts. Students hand-write badly, and don’t use it much when they grow up (think about yourself. How often do you write a long hand letter?). Really, why is handwriting important in this day of keyboards, PDAs, smart phones, spellcheck, word processing? I start students on MS Word in second grade, about the same time their teacher is beginning cursive. Teach kids the rudiments and turn them over to the tech teacher for keyboarding.

I searched for reasons why I was wrong. Here’s what I found:

  • 1 in 10 Americans are endangered by the poor handwriting ofHandwritingCursiveCapDir physicians.
  • citizens miss out on $95,000,000 in tax refunds because the taxman can’t read their handwriting
  • Poor handwriting costs businesses $200,000,000 in time and money that result in confused and inefficient employees, phone calls made to wrong numbers, and letters delivered to incorrect addresses.

Read on:

Schools: Less cursive, more keyboarding

BROWNSBURG, Ind., Aug. 28 (UPI) —

Officials in an Indiana school district said cursive writing lessons will be scaled down this year in favor of computer keyboarding.


How Blogs Make Kids Better Writers

If kids are inspired to write, they get better at writing. The trick is to make writing fun.educational blogs

Blogs do that. The students get to interact with their favorite toy–a computer–and go online for legitimate purposes. They get to see their thoughts in print. What could be more appealing. Blogs and online forums are a teachers dream.

The problem is how teachers use these tools. Like every good skill, blogging and online writing requires a bit of explanation. Start with these simple rules:

  1. Be concise in a blog. Readers don’t go to blogs to read a novel. They want something that will help them in, say, a minute (that seems to be the average time people spend on a post)
  2. Be pithy. Readers don’t want to waste even that sixty seconds. They may get tricked the first time by a snazzy title, but not again. So, students must put their thoughts together in a cogent and concise arrangement.
  3. Be knowledgeable. There are so many bloggers out there, students must come across as intelligent on their topic and smart enough to discuss it in that one minute the reader gives them. How do they do that?
    1. Watch grammar and spelling.
    2. Pick a topic they know about. If it’s an opinion, pick something they have ideas about.
    3. Don’t tear down the other guy’s opinion as a way to promote their own. This sort of mean-spiritedness turns people off.

For more great reasons why blogs are good for kids, visit Educational Blogging Wiki–including helping them find their voice and empower their maturing identities.


Just Another Day In Computer Lab

Today, my guest blogger is Kristi Richard of South Bend, IN (Go Notre Dame!) She’s a web designer, owns her own freelance business called Studio 545, and

[caption id="attachment_4333" align="alignright" width="338"]TECH TEACHER Where’s the blue one go?[/caption]

volunteers one day a week to teach computer basics to grades six , seven and eight at Our Lady of Hungary Catholic School. In her words, “Our Lady of Hungary … received a nice donation of computers and internet service to get a computer lab up and running. I was asked to teach basic computer skills to the kids, and have enjoyed working with them for about four months now. I only work one day at week with the kids, but I have developed quite an appreciation for what teachers go through nine months out of the year!”

Kristi and I met online chatting about tech teacher experiences and she had me in stitches telling me about her escapades. I asked her to write a post so I can share it with you. Enjoy!

Sometimes the kids in my 6th – 8th Grade computer lab look at me as a computer genius, but I am thinking to myself “Whew, glad that worked, now remember what you did, Kristi”!

My second week of teaching this lab, my priority was trying to remember all the kid’s names. But shortly after the kids came in to the lab, all of a sudden four computers including mine went down. We are on a network, so I am thinking, “Now what do I do??” I kept myself under control and did what the tech guys always ask you to do. 1) are the cables plugged into the back of the computers (check!), 2) are the computers turned on (check!) . . . 3) are they plugged in correctly? So there I was, Mrs. Richard, on my hands and knees, ass in the air as I was looking under the lab desks to check the monstrous mess of cords, plugs and cables that hook up twenty computers along this section! I could hear the kids giggling at me while I continued to struggle in tight quarters trying to figure out which cord/cable/plug hooked to the computers that went out. Then came the hot flash . . . jeeze, not now!

After about seven minutes of searching, I saw it . . . the extension cord to a power strip was wrapped around a girls ankle and had come unplugged. She didn’t have a clue! She must have sat down and wrapped her ankle around the cord and just yanked the cord out of the power strip. NO CLUE as she sat there working away on her computer with this cord wrapped around her ankle! I unwrapped the cord, and debated for a second if this was the right cord, or if I would set off a huge power surge and kill a row of computers if i plugged it into the empty outlet. What did I have to lose? I was just a volunteer and I was dying under here! They applauded when I plugged in the cord and the computers went back on – it worked! “Mrs. Richard, you rock!!” (I thought to myself as i backed out from under the desks, face sweaty and red).

At 52, I am getting a bit old to be crawling around under desks. But somehow . . . I love it!

If you have a funny story you’d like to share with readers, email me at or leave a comment here. Chances are, lots of other tech teachers and parents will relate to your experience.

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.


10 Top Click-throughs from Ask a Tech Teacher

I include lots of links for my readers to places that will help them integrate technology into their education. They cover websites on lesson plans,

[caption id="attachment_4210" align="alignright" width="160"]top ten Top Ten Click-throughs[/caption]

math, keyboarding, classroom management, cloud computer, digital books, teacher resources, free tech resources, and more. On any given day, I generate on average 157 of these click throughs. Which links my readers select tells me a lot about the type of information they’re looking for from me.

Here’s a list of the top sites my readers selected to visit from my blog:

  1. Keyboard Climber–actually, the top four were keyboarding websites, so I’ll lump them all into the #1 slot. They included:
  2. Mousing around--a fun mouse-skills program that’s perfect for kindergarten and first grade (more…)

Can Technology Help Teachers Plan?

Today’s post is from the CEO and creator of Holler for Mastro Differentiation Help for Teachers, Kasha Mastrodomenico. Kasha has a Baccalaureate in secondary

[caption id="attachment_786" align="alignright" width="320"]gardner Multiple Intelligences and Teaching[/caption]

education and history and a Masters in Social Studies Secondary Education from the State University of NY (SUNY). She has taught middle school and high school, and is certified in Special Education. Along the way, she became a passionate advocate of multiple intelligences and differentiation in teaching and a presenter on both subjects in her county education network. Through these experiences, she came up with the idea to speed up the implementation of multiple intelligences for teachers so it can become an easy-to-use tool in all classroom units of inquiry. She is currently writing a book on differentiation and how to enable teachers to plan it quickly.

I know you’ll enjoy Kasha’s insights:

Is there really technology to help teachers plan?

My department and I were lucky enough to be asked to give a staff development presentation on how to differentiate in the classroom a few years back to Hall County School District in GA. I was a teacher there at the time. My section of the presentation was on how to differentiate activities. This is a brief overview of my presentation:

  • Give four choices of activities to students the day before they are to do it that are focused on different multiple intelligences
  • Give students the choice of how they want to work (self, partner, group)
  • Create the groups so they are workable and make the copies

After they said it was really nice work and how great the activities and the idea of this type of differentiation was, they said it must take me forever and a day to plan and that it was not realistic. I was crushed. Then I started getting emails from the people that I had presented to asking for more activities and lessons. I even got chased down in the grocery store! I decided that I needed to create something that not only helped students but also helped teachers plan quickly.

A couple of years later I found myself with a web designer and created My Grandma chose the name of my company so that my maiden name, Holler, was in it. The main part of the site is made up of two engines. One of the engines helps teachers do what I had presented about years ago and it helps them make those four choices of activities in less than 10 minutes! I even made sure that the rubrics were similar to each other for the consistency of grading but unique to each of the activities. The only thing that the teacher needs to do is choose four activities from the 50 project based learning activities provided based on multiple intelligences. They then type in the content they want the student to work with, giving as much information as they want. The last step is to click create. I couldn’t have made it any simpler. The other engine works similarly. It is an expository writing system that focuses on the small goal for students. The teacher chooses the levels of writing, from a topic sentence to a data based question essay, that they need for their class. They type in the question they want their students to write about and then press create.


class internet start page

Using an Internet Start Page

This is a great idea for kids. Use one of these free start pages to put everything important there for your child that’s internet-based. Mine includes oft-used websites, blog sites, a To Do list, search tools, email, a calendar of events, pictures of interest, rss feeds of interest, weather, news, a graffiti wall and more. Yours will be different, more geared toward summer activities. Ask your child what s/he’d like there. Maybe sponge activities (internet sites that take just a few minutes to soak up empty time).

I used (Protopage is your own personal page, which you can access from any computer or mobile phone), but you can use netvibes. Start pages are an outreach of the ever-more-popular social networking. Most search engines offer them also. They all have a huge library of custom fields to individualize any home page. And, they’re all simple. Don’t be intimidated.

When you get yours set up, on the To Do list, put what the child should do to start each computer time. This gives them a sense of independence, adultness, as they get started while you’re wrapping something else up.