Category: Teaching

9 Mistakes Teachers Make Using Tech in the Classroom

It’s easy to confuse ‘using technology’ with digital tools. Your school passed iPads out to all classes. Some of your colleagues think having students read in this tablet format means they’re integrating technology into their curriculum. Kudos for a good start, but they need to use the tablets to differentiate for student learning styles, enrich learning materials, and turn students into life-long learners.

That’s harder than it sounds. Technology hasn’t been around long enough to beget standards that work for everyone (not withstanding ISTE’s herculean efforts), the set-in-stone of settled science. Truth, that will never happen. Technology tools populate like bacteria in a culture. Every time you turn around, there’s another favorite tool some teacher swears has turned her students into geniuses and her class into a model of efficiency. After fifteen years of teaching technology, chatting with colleagues, and experimenting, I can assure you there is no magic wand. What there is is a teacher not afraid to try new ways, test them out in a classroom environment, toss what doesn’t work and share the rest. Her/his success doesn’t come without lots of failure and mistakes, widgets that sounded good but were too complicated or non-intuitive for a 21st century classroom.

Which of these nine mistakes do you make? Then, see how to fix them:


5 Tips to Bring Joy to Education

Aristotle famously said,

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

As a teacher, I have a different opinion. The process of learning should be as joyous as the end result. Luckily, Lainey Franks agrees with me. She is a former educator with 15 years experience in the classroom. In 2022 she became the CEO of Tools for Schools, the developers of Book Creator – an inclusive, creative edtech tool. I think I would have liked being in her classroom. Here are her five tips for bringing pizazz back to education, using a great tool students in my classes love:

5 tips to bring joy back to school

By Lainey Franks

When I was teaching, the start of the summer was always a time for me to relax and spend quality time with my family. But it was also a time when I would start thinking about the upcoming school year. 


5 Ways for Teachers to Streamline Their Workload

Streamlining teacher work means finding (more) efficient ways to manage tasks, improve productivity, and enhance the teaching experience. Here are strategies to achieve this from the Ask a Tech Teacher crew:

5 Ways for Teachers to Streamline Their Workload

It’s not easy being a teacher considering the amount of work you deal with every day. On the surface, you prepare lesson plans and determine the series of activities you will give for your next class. Underneath it all, there’s the overbearing workload that consists of endless paperwork and ad hoc responsibilities during on-campus events.


How to Find Old Elementary School Teachers

Need help finding an old elementary school teacher? Our Ask a Tech Teacher team has several ways to track down your favorite educators from years past:

How to Find Old Elementary School Teachers

Do you remember the teachers who shaped your educational journey? Whether it was the teacher who taught you how to multiply fractions or the one who fostered your love for literature, many of us can still recall some of our favorite elementary school educators.

There are various reasons why one would want to find their old teachers. You might want to express gratitude, reminisce about the past, or catch up. But it’s not always straightforward to find someone you knew years ago. They might have left the school, moved to another place, or changed their contact information.

That’s why we’ve compiled this guide of five ways you can track down your old elementary school teachers.

5 Ways to Find Your Old Elementary School Teachers

Here are five easy and effective ways to find your school teacher.

1. Check Your Alma Mater

If you attended elementary school between the mid-1900s and today, chances are there’s an online database of alumni from your school. Some of your former teachers may still be listed on the alumni page of your school’s website.

The official name or other contact details of each teacher may not be listed, but you can find out which teachers taught during your time at school. You can then use that information to search for them online or contact the school office and ask if they have any additional details on the person.

2. Search Social Media

Searching directories, waiting by the phone for hours, and swinging by the last known address were all the old ways of tracking someone down. But now, with the advent of social media, tracking down an old teacher is easier than ever. While social media is most popular among people aged 18-29, Facebook is the most suitable social platform where you have a high chance of finding your teacher, with 72% of users aged 50 or above on the popular platform.

You can search for your teacher’s name in Facebook’s search bar, identify them through their profile picture, and send them a friend request. If not, try reaching out to friends from elementary school who might be connected with your teacher or at least remember their names.

3. Use Online Information Sites

Leveraging an online reverse lookup site to locate your elementary school teacher is one of the quickest ways. With some basic information about your teacher, such as name or email, you can quickly get results with an overview of their current whereabouts and contact details. For instance, with just your former teacher’s name, you can find all of their contact info on, which is the lookup site we found to be the most accurate.

These lookup tools use information and directories from around the web, giving you access to personal data in minutes.

4. Check Your Local Teachers’ Association

If you can’t find your former teacher by searching online, consider contacting the local teachers’ association. A member of the association may know where your elementary school teacher is now. Many associations keep extensive databases of teachers, so it might be worth contacting them to see if they can give any useful information.

You can also search the association’s archives, as they might have stored information about past and present teachers. You might even find a picture of your teacher from their teaching days.

5. Ask Around

If nothing works, you can always try your luck and ask around. Talk to old classmates, school employees, nearby neighbors, family members, or friends. That’s the simplest way to go, as there must be someone who knows the latest update from your teacher. You may even get some interesting stories about your former teacher.

Final Thoughts on How to Find Old Elementary Teachers

Finding your elementary school teacher may take time and effort, but the rewards can be sweet. Reconnecting with someone you haven’t seen in years is a special feeling that can bring back old memories and happy times.

With these five tips, you should have no trouble finding your old elementary school teacher and reconnecting with them.

Copyright ©2023 – All rights reserved.

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, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Tech Teacher Appreciation Week

This article got lots of reads last year, so am republishing with updates. I’ve included information about:

  • How tech teachers are different than other teachers
  • Why tech and the teacher who manages it in your school has become more important than ever
  • How to talk to a tech teacher (hint: they’re a little different; heed these suggestions)
  • Gifts tech teachers will love

Tech Teacher Appreciation Week: The First Full Week of May (May 7-13, 2023)

There’s always been something mystically cerebral about people in technical professions like engineering, science, and mathematics. They talk animatedly about plate tectonics, debate the structure of atoms, even smile at the mention of calculus. The teaching profession has our own version of these nerdy individuals, called technology teachers. In your district, you may refer to them as IT specialists, Coordinators for Instructional Technology, Technology Facilitators, Curriculum Specialists, or something else that infers big brains, quick minds, and the ability to talk to digital devices. School lore probably says they can drop a pin through a straw without touching the sides.

When I started teaching K-8 technology, people like me were stuffed into a corner of the building where all other teachers could avoid us unless they had a computer emergency, pretending that what we did was for “some other educator in an alternate dimension”. Simply talking to us often made a colleague feel like a rock, only dumber. When my fellow teachers did seek me out — always to ask for help and rarely to request training — they’d come to my room, laptop in hand, and follow the noise of my fingers flying across the keyboard. It always amazed them I could make eye contact and say “Hi!” without stopping or slowing my typing.

That reticence to ask for help or request training changed about a decade ago when technology swept across the academic landscape like a firestorm:

  • iPads and then Chromebooks became the device of choice in the classroom.
  • Class screens became more norm than abnorm(al).
  • Technology in the classroom changed from “nice to have” to “must have”.
  • 1:1 became a reality.
  • Students researched online as often as in the library.
  • Students began spending as much time in the digital neighborhood as their home town.
  • Textbooks morphed into resources rather than bibles.
  • Student work was stored in the cloud and submitted digitally rather than as sheets of paper into the teacher’s Inbox (that really was a box).
  • Students collaborated on work, sharing virtually, and then published digitally.

That made the tech teacher (or whatever you call her in your school) the cornerstone to all things education, which brings me to the gist of this article: Teacher Appreciation Week. This year, for that special day, give your technology specialist a gift they will truly appreciate: Talk to them. Before trying this, do a little research about these geeky folk who relish challenges and live for a problem they can’t solve. Here’s a short list of tips, taken from my own personal experience and that of my tech teacher friends, that will help you have a more positive experience when you confront this big-brained Sheldon-look-like (if this is familiar, it’s because I posted it last year also; still, it’s copyrighted so don’t borrow without attribution):

  • You can’t scare them. They’re techies. Try kindness instead.
  • Patience and tech are synonymous. Techies are intrigued by problems so don’t mind spending lots of time on them. Know that going in.
  • Bring food. Techies often forget to eat, or ate everything in their snack stash and need more.
  • Some days, tech looks a lot like work. Distract them with an interesting problem.
  • Start the encounter with a discussion on Dr. Who, Minecraft, Big Bang Theory, or Game of Thrones. Find a clever tie-in to your topic.
  • Understand that tech teachers often think trying to teach colleagues to tech is like solving the Riemann Hypothesis (many consider this darling of mathematical problems impossible). Bone up on basics before the Meeting.
  • Life after the 100th crashed computer is what might be called a life-defining moment. If that just happened to the tech teacher as you walked through the door, turn around and come back another time.
  • Understanding a techie who’s in the zone is like understanding the meaning of life. Again – leave the room; come back later.
  • While tech teachers can get your computer working, your Smartscreen humming, and your students all online at once, there are days they need a dictionary to understand everyday English. Be gentle.
  • Know the difference between the “happy-techie” face and the “go away” face. Act accordingly.
  • Their heads are like Matrix on steroids. Don’t try to understand them – unless, of course, you’re a geek too. Then, you’ll feel at home.
  • The tech teacher does remember times when colleagues solved their own tech problems and appreciate it. So, do try to fix your broken computer yourself (i.e., check the plugs and power buttons) before visiting.
  • Avoid words such as “Meh”. These started geeky but are now so mainstreamed as to be boring. Geeks, nerds, and tech teachers hate being bored.

If you’re already on talking terms with your school techie, here are a few gifts they’ll like better than post-it notes or a new scarf:

  • snacks — chocolate, chips, pretzels, or anything eaten quickly and by hand. They’re allowed to eat at their keyboard because they know how to fix it.
  • a problem they’ve never seen before
  • something written in binary, hexadecimal, or Klingon
  • tickets to the Las Vegas Defcon, one of the world’s largest hacker conventions. You don’t even have to go with them.
  • a t-shirt that says “I paused my game to be here” or “Pavlov’s Cat”

If you don’t understand one of these gifts (like hexadecimal, DEF CON, or Pavlov’s Cat), don’t give it to them. Techies are curious and might ask you about it.

Other gifts to avoid would be any that revolve around the three P’s: 1) paper (like letter-writing paper or post-it notes), 2) pencils, or 3) plastic. I know–#3 is difficult to avoid but geeks, nerds, and tech teachers have a higher-than-usual intolerance for destroying the environment.

That’s it. I’d love to hear what creative gift you gave your school’s tech teacher.

Copyright ©2023 – All rights reserved.

Here’s the sign-up link if the image above doesn’t work:

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 Teachers: Secrets to Getting Started

This article from the Ask a Tech Teacher crew is for new teachers searching for what will be required of them as teachers, how to determine their style, the importance of a mentor, and more secrets to guide them in their new profession:

How to Choose Your Teaching Style and Level

It takes a certain kind of person to be a teacher. It’s one of the most noble professions you can choose, especially when you think about the powerful impact you can have on your students’ lives. However, before you get to that point, you need to decide which grade you want to teach and what kind of teacher you really want to be. Some people choose to work exclusively with younger children while others prefer to teach middle school students or in high schools. In this post, you’ll discover the different types of teaching approaches and decide which one matches most with your personal teaching style.

Teaching Requirements

Before getting into the types of teaching styles, you first need to earn your degree. Most teachers hold a master’s in education, so you’ll need at least four to five years to earn your degree. If paying for your education is an issue, you even consider asking your parents to cosign a loan. But what if they refuse because of their own financial problems? Since most young adults can have issues qualifying for loans on their own, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each type of financial options before choosing one. That said, there are different options to consider, so make sure you take time to research what they are and how repaying them can affect you.


18 Things Teachers Do Before 8am

This is inspired by Jennifer Cohen over at Forbes who wrote a wonderful article on “5 Things Super Successful People Do Before 8am” (few of which I do, though I can claim #5). She includes chores like exercise, eat a healthy breakfast, map out the day–all great ideas, but not pithy enough for the average teacher I know.

Here’s my list of what the average teacher accomplishes before her first class of children crosses the threshold of her domain. These are gathered from chatting with friends and efriends on how they start their days:

  1. Research the answers to sixteen ‘why’ questions students asked during yesterday’s classes.
  2. Figure out how to run that dang iPad app students want to use.
  3. Wash Superman (or woman) cape.
  4. Close eyes for three seconds to invoke the memory of Emma [replace ‘Emma’ with the name of the Poster Child for why you’re a teacher].
  5. Accomplish the equivalent of stuffing twenty people in a phone booth–which means find son/daughter’s lost iPad which must be brought to school every day, get kids off to school with packed lunches and completed homework, arrange household repairs, sort dog and husband/wife, talk significant other down from an emotional cliff, and figure out how to make coffee by pouring hot water through yesterday’s grounds (oops–forgot to buy coffee).
  6. Eat breakfast–real food, not leftovers or peanut butter from sandwiches.
  7. Move what wasn’t accomplished yesterday to today’s To Do list, which is most everything.
  8. Promise that today, unlike yesterday and the day before, and the day before that, you won’t say D*** five times before the first class arrives. Set a goal of only four times.
  9. Do emergency morning yard duty instead of the project set up you’d planned to do this morning—and the reason you came in early.
  10. While doing emergency morning yard duty, imitate someone being patient rather than someone chewing on their last nerve.
  11. Keep an open mind to all nature of miracles, no matter the shape or size.
  12. Answer parent email and voicemail from the prior day because you promised the Principal you would–again.
  13. Paste on your Reasonable face when a parent drops in for an impromptu conference, shoehorned in after s/he dropped off her/his child and before the 8am start-of-day. Stow the one that says, ‘Leave me alone’.
  14. Take a nap, especially if you’ve been up most of the night grading papers or preparing lesson plans.
  15. Smile at the parent who always talks with that irritating tone reserved for women they consider delicate.
  16. Solve the education problems of the world.
  17. As Paul Harvey said in Broadcast, “In times like these, it is good to remember that there have always been times like these”.
  18. Remember that–as Edwin Louis Cole once said, you don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.


8+ Steps To A Speedier Computer

This week, I’ll post updated suggestions to get your computers and technology ready for the blitz of projects you’ll swear to accomplish in New Year resolutions. Here’s what you’ll get (links won’t be active until the post goes live):

  1. 8+ Ways to Speed Up Your Computer — December 13th
  2. 9 Ways to Update Your Online Presence — December 14th
  3. Backup and Image your computer — December 15th

Regular readers of Ask a Tech Teacher know these are updated each December. New readers: Consider these body armor in the tech battle so you can jubilantly overcome rather than dramatically succumb.

Today: 8 Ways to Speed up Your Computer