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:


Here’s a Preview of October

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

  • Tract–new peer-to-peer learning platform
  • National Bullying Prevention Month
  • Subscriber Special
  • Special Education
  • Dyslexia Awareness Month
  • Google Earth Lesson Plans
  • Apps for Curious Students
  • Free Posters
  • Websites about Habitats, Biomes, Landforms
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Digital Citizenship Week
  • AI in Ed
  • Halloween Resources


Comics–an underused tool to boost SEL skills

Comics have long been considered not just to gamify education but to teach writing skills that are challenging for some students. SmartBrief Education tells Dan Ryder’s story,

How comics curriculum boosts SEL

Dan Ryder, a learning facilitator at Community Regional Charter School in Skowhegan, Maine, says he uses comics to support students’ social and emotional learning. In this blog post, Ryder shares several ways he will use comics in the classroom during the first weeks of school, including to help foster discussion about choices and different perspectives on social issues.

Read on…

You can create comics in dedicated webtools or with tools you probably already have, like Google Drawings:

comic strip in google draw

For excellent online comic creator tools, check this list:

  1. Book Creator–(iOS/Android) templates to create digital comic books and graphic novels.
  2. Canva–excellent comic templates you can use from an individual or education account
  3. Friendstrip–use their library of pieces; create/publish/share
  4. MakeBeliefsComix–simple comic creation
  5. Marvel– create comic strips and books with Marvel characters.
  6. Pixton.com–offers a comic builder to simplify the process
  7. PlayComic–English or Spanish
  8. PowToon–try free, then fee
  9. Storyboard That!–the gold standard for comics; free or fee


Do you need a career coach?

Now more than ever, teachers are struggling with more questions about teaching than they can find answers for. Let’s start with those you may have about running your classroom. Maybe your school doesn’t offer mentors that will answer these on a daily basis. Maybe you’re new and don’t want to appear too new–or you’re experienced but not in some of the new teaching techniques. Does these sound like questions you have:

  • How do you start kindergartners who don’t know what ‘enter’, ‘spacebar’, ‘click’ or any of those other techie words mean?
  • How do you teach kindergartners to use the mouse? First graders to keyboard? Third graders to safely search the internet?
  • What do you do with students who join your class and haven’t had formal technology classes before?
  • You’ve been thrown into the technology teacher position and you’ve never done it before. How do you start? What do you introduce when?
  • You’ve been teaching for twenty years, but now your Principal wants technology integrated into your classroom. Where do you start?
  • How do you differentiate instruction between student geeks and students who wonder what the right mouse button is for?
  • How do you create a Technology Use Plan for your school?
  • How do you create a Curriculum Map?
  • As an edtech professional, what’s your career path?
  • How do you create lesson plans, teach to specific standards, or integrate tech into core classroom time?

I know from my network that teachers are struggling with the massive changes occurring in education. They wonder if they’ve burned out on what once was their passion. Should they keep trying or make changes?

If any of this applies to you, don’t feel you have to handle it alone. Consider a career coach. Check out these resources from colleagues:

Or feel free to contact me. My path may be like yours. I started teaching in a classroom, switched to online classes and then grad school classes. Now, I teach, coach, mentor, and write about education for a variety of ezines and ed companies. I’d love to talk to you about what you’re going through.


A Book New–and Veteran–Teachers Will Want to Read

They Call Me Mom

by Pete Springer
Pete Springer’s memoir They Call Me Mom (Outskirts Press 2019) about his first years teaching will delight new teachers and have experienced educators nodding along with him. As a teacher, Pete’s early experiences remind me of the joy inherent in teaching:
“This job required about as much brainpower as my tree planting experience.”
“This is the story of how I fell in love with teaching and the joys and challenges that this noble profession provided to me over the course of thirty-one years.”
He breaks the book into chapters every teacher will understand:
  • How did i get here
  • Setting up your classroom
  • Working with students
  • Working with colleagues
  • Working with your boss
  • Discipline
…and more. Aside from grading, parents, lunch duty, conferences, and yard duty, these are the biggest issues teachers face. Even as a veteran teacher of thirty years, I still couldn’t wait to read Pete’s take on these timeless issues.

“Instead of saying, “Do everything my way, and you can become a successful teacher,” she was giving me her permission to find my way.”

“…storytelling was one of the most successful methods to get my students to pay attention.”

“…when we lose our calm, we are teaching them that it is okay to behave in this manner when something is not going right.”Xx


SEL in Your Classroom

SmartBrief, news on technology in education, recently published an article, Uniting technology and SEL to teach the whole child, on the importance of SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) in an educational landscape shaped by COVID-19. In part, they shared:

Social-emotional learning is seeing a surge in mentions in the educational landscape. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic clearly illuminated the fact that academic growth and social and emotional wellness are interdependent and that educators must take into account the social and emotional aspects of a student’s reality as they consider academic development.

I know firsthand the power of SEL, both as a teacher and as a former student. I was born and raised in the rural mountains of North Carolina and was greatly influenced by a teacher who led with compassion. This educator forever changed my life because she saw “the whole child” — she recognized me as more than my abilities in reading and math. She saw me as a hurt child from a broken home, although it was the only home I knew, and knew she could help me reach my potential by engaging me on a social and emotional level.

Read on…

For more background on SEL, check out our article discussing “The Importance of SEL to Education Success“:


Life is much simpler when you — as a parent or teacher — can point to one solution for a problem, solve it, and everything is golden. Success in school was like that when grades were the barometer and studying harder was the tool. Now, we know academic achievement is much more complicated.

“Students are telling us there’s a big missing piece in their education” –John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic

Today’s educators realize learning has as much to do with academics as how students get along with themselves and others. This is called “Social Emotional Learning” or SEL. It’s akin to the importance of play in teaching preschool kids to socialize with others, develop tenacity, and learn respect for those around them. If you’re not convinced of the importance of SEL, here’s what students say:

“Students and young adults believe SEL schools would create a more positive social and learning environment” — report by the Collaboration for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

A positive attitude about themselves and others is linked to not only academic success but correlated to lessening the negative impact of future-ending problems such as drug use. It should surprise no one that as of mid-2018, two states have passed SEL measures, sixteen SEL-related bills and resolutions have been introduced, and twenty-three states are working on SEL standards.

    • What is SEL
    • Why teach SEL in schools
    • SEL exercises
    • SEL resources
    • Vocabulary
    • More

Read on…


Tech Tip #3: Turn an Address into a Link

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: Turn an Address into a Link

Category: MS Office, Google Apps, internet, Edit/Format

Q: I get documents from friends with links to websites. How do they do that?

A: When you want to send a website address to people, here’s what you do:

  • Copy the address located at the top of the screen (right click on it and select copy).
  • Return to your doc (it’s probably on the taskbar at the bottom of your screen) and paste the address into the message (using right-click>paste, edit>paste, or the paste tool on the top toolbar).
  • Push the space bar once or push enter after the address. That activates the link. You’ll know you succeeded because it turns blue with an underline.

If you want to paste a link behind words:

  • Highlight the text you want the website linked to
  • Ctrl+K to bring up the link dialogue box
  • Ctrl+V to paste your link
  • Push enter for ‘OK’

This works in MS Office, Google Apps, and lots of online webtools.

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.


16+ Websites on Assessments

Here are a few of the popular resources teachers are using to

  1. Blendspace–if you create your lesson plans in BlendSpace, it includes opportunities to assess learning
  2. Easy CBM
  3. Educreations–video a whiteboard explanation of how students are completing a task (app)
  4. Edulastic–formative assessments; work on any devices (app)
  5. Flipgrid — record a video question from your desktop; add attachments; students respond from the app with their answer and decorations; appears as a grid of answers to the question (app)
  6. Flubaroo (app)
  7. Gimkit–gamified assessment, like Kahoot; freemium
  8. Go Formative (app)
  9. Google Forms (app)
  10. Kahoot–quiz-show-like format (app)
  11. Nearpod–works on iOS and the web; free or fee; plan lessons and then assess; send an image and have students draw on the screen with their answers (app)
  12. QR Stuff–send almost any type of file to a QR code–includes YouTube videos and audio files (create the QR online and scan with an app) (app)
  13. Recap–create an account, sign students up, they log in and you’re ready for formative assessments (app)
  14. Socrative (app)
  15. Stick Around–turn questions into puzzles (app)
  16. ThatQuiz.org

Click here for more

Click here for updates to this list.


Technology and Teaching: A Conversation with Teachers

Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Christian Miraglia, taught for 36 years before retiring. Here is Part 2 of his discussion on technology’s place in education:


Part II Technology is Here to Stay: A Conversation with Teachers

In my previous post, I wrote about the permanency of technology in the instructional setting for educators. Over the past weeks, I have spoken to a few educators about what has changed for them in this area. There is no doubt that the use of tech tools beyond the general record-keeping for attendance and grading has now found a footing in most classrooms around the nation. Some teachers who were initially hesitant to jump into the depths of technology integration find themselves fully immersed. Some who were on the proverbial edge of the diving board have been pushed into the pool and some have embraced the change with the excitement of a child playing with a new toy. 

I recently spoke with a fellow history teacher who has embraced the technology and been quite creative in the process. With a focus on the social-emotional component of instruction, he utilized a master Google Slide deck coupled with one of the Eduprotocols skills such as Number Mania or Iron Chef and the content he was covering. This procedure allowed him to see all of his students responding to the prompt and kept him connected to the students throughout the year. Taking the learning to another level as well as incorporating the 21st Century skill of communication, his students showed their parents an exhibit using Flipgrid they had built based on the unit essential question.  Without the use of this recording tool, the work would have been relegated to the school’s LMS as a click-through for the teacher. Moreover, with the exhibit being published, the student’s parents now had validation of their child’s work. Very powerful indeed.

Another teacher found that utilizing an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that was cloud-based gave her students round-the-clock access to work in their programming class instead of relying on a downloaded file to a school computer. In our current environment, this addresses the issue of student access to content extending beyond the limitations to work only done in between walls of the classrooms. 

In another conversation with a colleague of mine who is also a history teacher at the high school level, it was pointed out that because students were just glad to be back in a classroom setting they embraced any assignment that he pushed out. Because of the social distancing mandate in his district, it was important that he be strategic in his instructional strategy.  In the previous year of pandemic instruction, he explored how discussion panels could be used specifically using Canvas. He found that students were inclined to post well-thought responses as they looked forward to the feedback from their peers. The same collaborative approach was taken once students returned back to school in the summer utilizing the Eduprotocols. Once school started a couple of weeks ago with limitations on classroom movement students were able to collaborate on Google slides and communicate with each other by using the same strategy. More importantly, after students collaborated they had to report out on their choices. The selection of the strategy and technology tool was very intentional to create a more engaging environment as well as providing for a platform for the students learning experience. 

What is clear in these conversations is that these teachers have adapted and for the good. Providing more student agency, collaboration opportunities, and embracing the 21st Century Skills in this new environment has taken on new meaning. Purposeful selection of technology tools and platforms has become key. As the pandemic continues to affect educational institutions, teachers are becoming innovators in their strategies for instructional delivery. Yet as I read commentary on school openings and interact with teachers nationwide I hear a resounding cry for investment in professional development in these areas. Along with an investment should be a concrete plan for reviewing what is working in the classrooms and a commitment to training teachers in these platforms and applications. Technology is here to stay and is now very much part of teaching whether it be with delivery platforms or applications. The ultimate question remains, how does it affect student achievement?


Christian Miraglia is a recently retired 36 year educator and now Educational Technology Consultant at t4edtech where he also blogs. He can be found on Twitter @T4edtech and on his YouTube Channel Transformative Edtech.

@T4Edtech #edtech

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

16 Websites and 5 Posters to Teach Mouse Skills

Many of my most popular articles are about mouse skills. Every year, tens of thousands of teachers visit Ask a Tech Teacher to find resources for teaching students how to use a mouse. No surprise because using a mouse correctly is one of the most important pre-keyboarding skills. Holding it is not intuitive and if learned wrong, becomes a habit that’s difficult to break.

The earlier posts are still active, but I’ve updated this resource with more websites and posters to assist in starting off your newest computer aficionados. Check here for updates on links.

Mouse Skills

  1. MiniMouse
  2. Mouse and tech basics–video
  3. Mouse practice—drag, click
  4. Mouse skills
  5. Mouse Song
  6. OwlieBoo–mouse practice
  7. Wack-a-gopher (no gophers hurt in this)


  1. Digipuzzles–great puzzles for geography, nature, and holidays
  2. Jigsaw Planet–create your own picture jigsaw
  3. Jigsaw puzzles
  4. Jigsaw Puzzles–JS


  1. Mousing Around
  2. Skillful Senior


Many of these are simply repurposing mouse skill sites to the trackpad. 

    1. Basics
    2. Practice
    3. Touchpad vs Mouse