Category: Classroom management

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


Note: Tract has been retired for new users, but the library of resources is still available

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:


Grading Apps, Tools, and Resources We Love

Are you looking for grading apps, tools, and resources that you can use to collect, calculate, and analyze your student’s grades? Or maybe you are looking for apps that allow students to calculate their own grades, which will save you time and effort. If so, check out our list below. If there are any apps that we missed, let us know.

Gradebook and Grading Apps (for teachers)

1st Class GradeBook – 1st Class GradeBook app provides educators with contemporary grading features, including class and student activity, grade reports, and more. Educators can also send reports to parents to keep them informed of their children’s progress. This app comes with a money-back guarantee.

BigSIS – BigSIS is a cloud-based, customizable student information system, providing solutions to private schools across the United States and Canada. BigSIS is made of modules that manage admissions, gradebooks, and more. You select the modules you want to buy; many modules are included in the software package at no cost.

Class Action Gradebook – This grade book app lets you import student data, import assignments, and maintain a journal. It has dynamic features such as seating charts, attendance, data export, and import. This app supports K-12 schools through colleges.

ClassMate Gradebook – This grading and class management program is designed for all education levels. It is flexible and easy to learn, so the educator can monitor learner activities. This app was created to support educators in the classroom.

Edusight– Edusight is an app that allows elementary educators to collect and monitor accurate data about their learners. Edusight Gradebook has an easy-to-use interface that helps educators better understand their learners’ performance and determine how best to help them. Edusight Notes allows educators to record video, text, and audio observations of a learner’s performance in class.

GradeBook Pro– GradeBook Pro is designed with educators to help record grades, learner performance, and attendance. With this app, you can set your default grade scale to any grade range you desire.

GradeBookWizard – GradeBook Wizard is a gradebook and attendance program that enables educators, students, and parents to communicate in a secure online community. Educators can log into their grade book from any computer with Internet access. Students can use their class website to post learning activities, grades, and handouts for students and parents to access through individual, secure logins.

Jupiter iO Gradebook  – A grade book for educators from K-12 to college. Use with your SIS or Jupiter SIS is possible. It provides automatic English-to-Spanish translation and text-to-speech conversion for special needs students.

TeacherPlus Gradebook – TeacherPlus is an online teacher grade book designed to integrate with the Administrator’s Plus student information system. It allows educators to use their grade book on any browser or device, anywhere and anytime. Real-time tools are available on the website to help educators and parents monitor a child’s progress.

Grade Calculators (for students)

College GPA Calculator– Enables college students to calculate and save their college GPA, record their semester performance, and track their entire academic career.

High School GPA Calculator Enables high school students to calculate their high school GPA, record their scores and track their cumulative academic performance.

Cumulative GPA Calculator– Enables high school and college students to calculate and save their cumulative GPA and determine how their future and current grades will affect their academic performance.

Grade Calculator Enables students to determine their class grades by adding their assignments to calculate their total score.

Weighted Grade Calculator– Enables students to swiftly calculate their weighted class grade by adding each assignment and its total value.

Final Grade Calculator Enables students to calculate what score they must receive on their final exam to achieve their desired final class grade.

Are there any apps that you would add?

Matthew Lynch is the Editor of The Edvocate and The Tech Edvocate.

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, 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 Ed Resources for your Class–K-12 Tech Curriculum

I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m going to take time this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found, are well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.

Today: K-12 Technology Curriculum


The K-12 Technology Curriculum is Common Core and ISTE aligned, and outlines what should be taught when so students have the necessary scaffolding to use tech for grade level state standards and school curriculum.

technology curriculum

Each book is between 175 and 252 pages and includes lesson plans, assessments, domain-specific vocabulary, problem-solving tips, Big Idea, Essential Question,  options if primary tech tools not available, posters, reproducibles, samples, tips, enrichments, entry and exit tickets, and teacher preparation. Lessons build on each other kindergarten through 5th grade. Middle School and High School are designed for semester or quarter grading periods typical of those grade levels with topics like programming, robotics, writing an ebook, and community service with tech.

Most (all?) grade levels include keyboarding, digital citizenship, problem solving, digital tools for the classroom, and coding.

The curriculum is used worldwide by public and private schools and homeschoolers.

Who needs this

Tech teachers, tech coordinators, library media specialists, curriculum specialists

Classroom grade level teachers if your tech teacher doesn’t cover basic tech skills.


Tech Tip #63: Reset Default Font

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: Reset Default Font

Category: MS Office, Google Apps, Classroom Management, Writing

Q: How do I change default font and spacing?

A: Type a couple of paragraphs in any document. Highlight what you typed and right click; select font. Change the font to what you prefer. In my case, it’s TNR 12

Then, in Word: Click the Default button on the lower left to approve that this is how you’d like future documents formatted. See how-to video here.

In Google Apps: Go to Styles drop-down menu>Options>Save current.

That’s it. The next time you open an MS Word or Google Docs document, it will have this revised formatting.

Sign up for a new tip each week or buy the entire 169 Real-world Ways to Put Tech into Your Classroom.

What’s your favorite tech tip in your classroom? Share it in the comments below.