My Favorite 5 Tech Tools for Teacher-Authors

Here are five of my favorite tech tools for teacher-authors:

self edit1. A good editing program

Whether you’re self-published or agented, you want your documents as clean as possible. You can edit it yourself, use beta readers, or pray, but one more option to include in your toolkit is a good online editing program. Often, these ask you to copy-paste your text into a dialogue box on their website and they take it from there. Sometimes, you upload your entire manuscript. What they do varies from simply checking your grammar and spelling to analyzing pacing, word choice, and more. I like Grammarly for basics and AutoCrit for more detail.

See my Grammarly review here.

2. A digital deviceipad tips

I know lots of people who write the first draft of their documents with paper-and-pencil but almost always, the next version is completed on some sort of digital device. That might be a Mac, PC, iPad, Chromebook, laptop, or in some cases a dedicated word processor like the Retro Freewrite or Alphasmart. Pick one or more that work for you, doesn’t matter which as long as it’s digital  and allows you to type and edit your manuscript.

See my reviews here for Chromebooks, iPads

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With JotForm, Summer Camp Registration Couldn’t Be Easier

Every school I know offers a summer camp. Sometimes, these are for just their students but often, the community is invited in an effort to provide a safe, fun summer learning environment for all kids.

The biggest problem with summer camp has nothing to do with picking interesting subjects or lining up teachers. It’s organizing enrollees. JotForm has the camp registration solution.

If you’re not familiar with JotForm, it is the gold standard for form creation whether on PCs, Macs, or mobile devices. For your summer camp, it can be used to sign up volunteers, get feedback on events, enroll people into classes, collect payments, and more. Its drag-and-drop interface makes building a form intuitive, and quick. With a wide variety of summer camp-themed templates, it’s easily adaptable to your school or camp colors and logo. Once the form is completed, it can be shared via a link or social media, or integrated into DropBox, Google Docs, and many other popular platforms.

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Here’s a Preview of February

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

  • February Subscriber Special
  • Questions Parents Ask about Tech in School
  • 20 Valentine Sites For Students
  • How Wearable Technology is Changing Education and Easing Disabilities
  • 15 President’s Day Activities
  • Engineers Week — A Must for High School
  • Best-in-Category Winners
  • Purpose Driven Learning: Myths, Problems, and Education Applications
  • What to do when you lose a digital document
  • How to Make Kindness Part of Your Classes
  • What is Constructivism and How Does it Fit Your Class?
  • Solve 50% of Tech Problems with 16 Simple Solutions
  • Kids Can Create Games That Teach
  • 39 Resources for Read Across America Day
  • Snow Days Stop Learning? Here’s How to Fix That

A note: Occasionally, dates change and the article above doesn’t appear as planned. If you’re curious about that, feel free to send us an email at askatechteacher@gmail.com

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How to Celebrate World Read Aloud Day

world read aloud dayOn Feb. 1, 2019, World Read Aloud Day celebrates the pure joy of oral reading with kids of all ages. Created by LitWorld, past years have found over 1 million people in 100 countries joining together to enjoy the power and wonder of reading aloud in groups or individually, at school or home, and discovering what it means to listen to a story told through the voice of another. For many, this is a rare opportunity to hear the passion of a well-told story and fall in love with tales where hearing them reaches listeners on a level nothing else can. Think back to your experiences. You probably sat with an adult, in their lap or curled up in bed. The way they mimicked the voices in the story, built drama, and enthused with you over the story and characters made you want to read more stories like that on your own. This is a favorite activity not just for pre-readers, but beginning and accomplished readers because it’s not about reading the book; it’s about experiencing it through the eyes of a storyteller.

Somehow, as lives for both the adults and children have gotten busier, as digital devices have taken over, as parents turned to TVs or iPads to babysit kids while they do something else, we’ve gotten away from this most companionable of activities. World Read Aloud Day is an opportunity to get back to it.

Importance of reading aloud

There is no more powerful way to develop a love of reading than being read to. Hearing pronunciations, decoding words in context, experiencing the development and completion of a well-plotted story as though you were there are reason enough to read aloud but there’s more. Reading in general and reading aloud specifically is positively correlated to literacy and success in school. It builds foundational learning skills, introduces and reinforces vocabulary, and provides a joyful activity that’s mostly free, cooperative, and often collaborative. Did you know reading aloud:

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Categories: Holidays, Reading | 1 Comment

Best-in-Class Resources–Last Chance to Vote

Last Change to vote for your favorite Tech Ed Tool!

Every year, I review a large number of websites, apps, and resources that help educators blend technology into their classrooms. I get lots of feedback from readers sharing their experiences, asking questions, and clicking through to see if a particular tool will serve their needs.

But, I often don’t hear how the product worked in the fullness of time.

Starting last year, I sought out your opinions:

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Categories: Awards, Reviews, Teacher resources | 1 Comment

How Is Cloud Computing Revolutionizing the Education Industry?

When I started teaching, syncing work between school and home was impossible. Completing homework required either printing it and bringing it in as paper or–well, nothing. There was no way to get it into a student school drive from home.  Thanks to cloud computing, that nightmare is over. Cristopher Burge who runs the website Cloud Storage Advice, has a great rundown on how cloud computing has revolutionized education:

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The concept of cloud computing saw its beginnings in the educational sector ever since the first open source websites saw the light of day. Online libraries and collections of free didactic documents were a reality as early as 1997, through the Cisco Networking Academy. American entrepreneur Salman Khan (not to be confused with the Bollywood actor of the same name) founded a similar project ten years later, namely the Khan Academy.

Cloud Computing in the Educational Sector

And yet, cloud computing for school and universities wasn’t a top priority less than a decade ago. According to statistics published by Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman, only 4% of the school and education system was interested in cloud computing in 2009. It registered as one of the lower ranking fields on the list, but it still managed to position itself in the top ten.

Nevertheless, an article published in the International Journal of Advanced Computer Science and Applications one year later in 2010 uncovered that 88% of teaching professionals saw a need for integration of the service. Fast forward to 2018, how many schools in the world can actually say that they executed this?

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PASCO Motion Sensor–A Must for Science Classes

Data collection and analysis are cornerstones for many STEM and STEAM programs but they’re not just about math. They teach students how to think critically and solve evidence-based problems. Unfortunately, data collection hardware is expensive and setup is complicated–intimidating for many non-tech-minded teachers.

Enter award-winning PASCO Scientific with a commitment to providing innovative, affordable tools for K-12 science and math programs.

What is PASCO Scientific

PASCO Scientific is the global leader in developing technology-based solutions for hands-on science. They provide a wealth of rugged, inquiry-based products to educators in more than 100 countries around the world. Their products are wireless, Bluetooth- and/or USB-connectable, and their SPARKvue software runs on Mac and Windows platforms, Chromebooks, iPads, iPhones, and Android. No matter the technology mix in the classroom, everyone shares the same user experience, with learning focused on the subject matter not the hardware, thus simplifying classroom management for the teacher. They are NGSS-aligned as well as correlated with International Baccalaureate (IB) standards.

Among PASCO Scientific’s many devices, you’ll find:

  • a wireless weather station
  • a wide variety of sensors and probes
  • the Ergobot to teach both Forces & Motion and Programming & Robotics.
  • a wireless blood pressure and heart rate sensor
  • curricula for Chemistry and Physics that are NGSS-aligned
  • bridge building kits
  • STEM modules
  • lab equipment
  • hundreds of free labs for download from their website

Most of these are simple enough for young learners with robust features for advanced applications and many come with K-12 curricular resources and support materials.

If you’ve used probes and sensors in your classes before, maybe have older ones that you struggle to set up and run, do yourself a favor and look at PASCO’s collection. I can’t review all of them in this post (it’s already long!) so let me spotlight one I particularly like: the PASCO Wireless Motion Sensor.

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Preparing High Schoolers For A Career In Cybersecurity

No one who even glances at the news can deny the importance of cybersecurity experts. I know first-hand the dearth of qualified people available to fill these critical positions. If you’re a high school teacher trying to prepare students for a career in this field, Sam Bocetta, a retired cybersecurity analyst currently reporting on trends in cryptography and cybercrime, has some suggestions:

computer securityCreating cybersecurity programs for K-12 students is something schools and educations around the world are preparing for due to the rapidly increasing number of career paths in the field.

However, lots of them feel it’s hard to make such a complicated subject understandable at the K-12 level. Luckily there are technology & resources that are helping educations with the task of teaching cybersecurity to K-12 students…meaning that educators don’t have to just rely on the old school techniques like books & whiteboard drawings to teach the complicated subject of cybersecurity. This is not to say that the old methods that instructors may be already using aren’t effective.

Rather, when teaching such a complicated subject such as cybersecurity, it only helps students for them to be learning in an interactive digital environment. And it’s true that every student learns differently, so educators have the additional task of making sure each student learns to his or her strengths.

Next, we will outline some tips that will help educators prepare K-12 students for a career in cybersecurity:

Can’t Teach It If You Don’t Know It

Our first tip for preparing K-12 students for cybersecurity sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s something most don’t give a second thought to. An educator is going to have a very tough time teaching cybersecurity to K-12 students if they themselves don’t know the subject well.

So the first step any educator or educational institution can take to ensure their students learn cybersecurity the right way is to ensure any teacher who is providing instruction on the subject is trained in cybersecurity. The cybersecurity industry is changing all the time, so staying on top of all the new methods and tools can be a huge task.

However, there are boot camps and other training courses that educators or institutions can retain to ensure all teaching staff have the required industry knowledge to not only teach the subject but to teach it well.

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Join me Jan. 23rd for a Webinar

Please join me on Jan 23, 2019 for a webinar on Building Digital Citizens:

Being a responsible digital citizen is critical to success in school and beyond, which is why integrating digital citizenship lessons across the curriculum at every grade level is so important. Join educator, coach and editor of the Ask a Tech Teacher blog, Jacqui Murray, for this free webinar to learn the essentials of digital citizenship and best practices for blending digital citizenship into lesson plans. Jacqui will share: – Your and your students responsibilities when using the Internet – The easiest way to teach Internet safety – Strategies to keep kids safe on social media – Fourteen proven strategies for dealing with cyberbullies – Which online images can safely be used — at school or home — and why

Click the image below to register:


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-8 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 reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today and TeachHUB, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Categories: Digital Citizenship, Online education | Tags: | Leave a comment

It’s Here–the High School Technology Curriculum!

The High School technology curriculum prepares students for their college-and-career future not by teaching widgets and programs—though that happens—but by showing them how to use the tech they have acquired throughout their education. How do they decide what program works best for what inquiry? How do they acquire the use of tools they have never before seen? How do they self-assess their knowledge, ensuring they acquired what they need? Don’t expect black-and-white answers. Success is more likely predicated on student transfer of knowledge than their ability to check off boxes on a rubric.

Here’s a quick overview of what you will find in this textbook:

  • Scope and Sequence aligned with ISTE and Common Core
  • Themed units tied into inquiry
  • Experiential learning with real-world applications
  • Opportunities for students to express and grow in their creativity
  • International mindedness
  • Articles on tech pedagogy

Each Unit includes:

  • an emphasis on comprehension, problem-solving, critical thinking, to prepare for career and college
  • Common Core Standards covered
  • ISTE Standards covered
  • essential question
  • big idea
  • materials required
  • time required to complete
  • domain-specific vocabulary
  • problem solving
  • steps to accomplish goals
  • assessment strategies
  • ways to extend learning
  • project examples where appropriate
  • grading rubrics where appropriate

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