Internet Safety Month–Rules to Live By

June is National Internet Safety Month, thanks to a resolution passed in 2005 by the U.S. Senate. The goal is to raise awareness about online safety for all, with a special focus on kids ranging from tots to teens. Children are just as connected to the Internet as adults. This is a great list of internet cautions I got from an online efriend a few years ago. It covers all the basics, avoids boring details, and gives kids (and adults) rules to live by:

Not everything you read online is true

It used to be anything we read in print was true. We could trust newspapers, magazines and books as reliable sources of information. It’s not the same with the web. Since anyone can become published, some of the stuff you’re reading online isn’t true. Even worse, some people are just rewriting stuff they read from other people online, so you might be reading the same false information over and over again. Even Wikipedia isn’t necessarily a reliable source. If you’re researching something online, consider the source. Some poorly written, ramdom web page, isn’t necessarily a good source. However, if you find a .gov or .org site, the information has a better chance of being true. Always look at who owns the website and whether or not they have an agenda before considering whether or not certain information is true.

Not everyone you meet online are who they say they are

This is the hard part because we want to trust our friends, even our online friends. The truth is, some of the people you meet online are lying about who they really are. Sometimes adults pretend to be kids and kids pretend to be someone else. They do this for a variety of reasons; grownups might want to try and have sex with kids or frenemies might want to act like friends to get information on someone they want to bully at school or online. Unless you know someone very well and can verify their identity, don’t trust that everyone who you speak to online are who they say they are.

Some people who are pretending to be kids really aren’t. There are grownups who pretend to be kids so teens and kids won’t get creeped out talking with them. This is never a good thing. Most of the grownups who are looking to talk to kids are looking for sex. Parents need to monitor their kids’ friends list and ask questions about the friends they don’t know. It’s more prevalent than you think and it COULD happen to you.

Not everyone you “friend” is your friend. Just like in the real world, not everyone you know is a friend. Think long and hard about the people you’re “friending.” Drama doesn’t just stay in school anymore, now it follows you home thanks to the social networks. Plus, stuff y

ou share with what you think is a private social networking page is a simple cut and paste away from being broadcast all over school. Also, be careful when friending friends of friends and friends of friends of friends. You don’t really know these people, why are you giving them access to your private life? Sometimes, it’s like giving them the keys to your house.

Continue reading

Categories: Digital Citizenship, internet | Leave a comment

Weekend Website #135: Samorost

Drop by every Friday to discover what wonderful website my classes and parents loved this week. I think you’ll find they’ll be a favorite of yours as they are of mine.

Continue reading

Categories: internet, Tech ed, websites | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Is Handwriting So Last Generation–Redux

handwriitingI wrote about the demise of handwriting 2.5 years ago. Seems even truer now than then. One problem for both sides is that 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. Where Common Core has a lot to say about many tools required to deliver the education that will lead to college and career for students, it doesn’t mention ‘cursive’ at all. Though Common Core allows for a nominal amount of personalizing–meaning add-ons–only eleven states (as of publication) have amended their education requirements to mandate cursive be included in the curriculum. Not a ringing endorsement. Headlines such as these proliferate in the news:

Technology may script an end to the art of cursive writing

Is cursive’s day in classroom done?

No longer swearing by cursive writing

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 that one in five parents say they last penned a letter more than a year ago.

Let’s look at the facts. Students handwrite 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.

Continue reading

Categories: homeschool, internet, K-5 Tech training, problem solving, second grade, teaching, writing | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Weekend Website #134: Math Books for Elementary Grades

Drop by every Friday to discover what wonderful website my classes and parents loved this week. I think you’ll find they’ll be a favorite of yours as they are of mine.


Continue reading

Categories: Book review, cloud computing, digital books, free tech resources, homeschool, internet, K-5 Tech training, math, teacher resources, Tech ed, websites | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

How to Instill Digital Citizenship in Students

digital neighborhood copyWhat is a parent’s greatest fear that first day they drop their precious child at kindergarten? You might think it’s whether they’ll get along with new friends or handle academic pressures. Or even that their eyes will be opened to the vastness of the Universe and no longer see their parents as the Answer to Everything.

Those are frightening, and might be ranked in the top ten–or even five–but today, the biggest concern is how to protect an innocent from the pernicious onslaught of the technology that grows like mold over every part of the education landscape. Will that trusting child be cyberbullied? Will they see stuff they shouldn’t on school websites? Will a predator find them from a naive contact online? And what about classmates–will they share bad websites found by older siblings?

It may surprise you that this scenario also keeps teachers awake at night, especially new teachers. What if they fail to protect their charges from this violent, dark online world? I remember second grade life cycle reports. I taught students how to search online images for pictures of each stage in a bug’s development, save them to student network folders, and then proudly insert them in the report. Students would find authentic and exciting pictures of ‘ladybugs’ and ‘pupae’ and ‘preying mantis larvae’ and ‘chicks’–

Chicks! That turned out to be a lousy search term. I’d warn students to search ‘baby chickens’ instead, but always, for one child each year, it wouldn’t work and–according to their parents–were permanently damaged by the pictures that popped up. They’d have nightmares. Their personalities would forever tilt to the dark side because of that picture–at least.

Truth, all stakeholders do their best, but stuff happens. If not in the classroom, at a friend’s house whose parents aren’t as vigilant as they could be, or on an iPad during library time. Educational best practices used to insist on protecting children from those eventualities, minimize exposure by unplugging kids as much as possible. That’s not the case any more. Even if we unplug them at the school house door, they plug right back in the moment they are away from the classroom. Our job as educators is to stare into the abyss of the unknown and educate: Teach these digital natives how to not just survive  but thrive in the digital world.

Continue reading

Categories: classroom management, Digital Citizenship, internet, K-5 Tech training, Tech ed, tech security, websites | Tags: , | 9 Comments

Tech Tip #44: Clean Your Computer Weekly

As a working technology teacher, I get hundreds of questions from parents about their home computers, how to do stuff, how to solve problems. Each Tuesday, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: I’m afraid of getting slammed with viruses, malware, all that bad stuff that comes with visiting the internet. What can I do?

A:  If you take reasonable precautions, the chances of being hit are minimized. Here’s what I do:

  • Don’t download from music or video sites. They have the greatest amount of malware statistically because the Bad Guys know we-all like getting free music and videos.
  • Make sure your firewall is working. Windows comes with a built-in one. Maybe Mac does too. Leave it active. It’s under Control Panel-Administrative Tools
  • Do the following every week:

Continue reading

Categories: Computer hardware, free tech resources, internet, Parent resources, tech security, websites | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to Teach Digital Citizenship in 3rd Grade

digital citizenship

How can I teach my students about digital citizenship

Understanding how to use the internet has become a cornerstone issue for students. No longer do they complete their research on projects solely in the library. Now, there is a vast landscape of resources available on the internet.

But with wealth comes responsibility. As soon as children begin to visit the online world, they need the knowledge to do that safely, securely, responsibly. There are several great programs available to guide students through this process (Common Sense’s Digital Passport, Carnegie CyberAcademy, Netsmart Kids). I’ve collected them as resources and developed a path to follow that includes the best of everything.

Here’s Third Grade:

Overview/Big Ideas

Why is it important to be a good digital citizen? How can students do this?

Essential Questions

  • What is a ‘digital citizen’?
  • What are my rights and responsibilities as Digital Citizens?
  • How is being a citizen of the internet the same/different than my home town?
  • What are the implications of digital citizenship in today’s world?

Continue reading

Categories: internet, tech security, third grade, web | Tags: , | Leave a comment

5 Great FREE Programs for Students

When I started as a tech teacher, I pushed my administration for lots of software. I wanted a different one for each theme–human body, space, math. Now, they’re all on the internet–for FREE–which means we can use our tech budget for iPads, microphones, splitters… Wait–we have no budget. Good thing I’m addicted to FREE. Continue reading

Categories: first grade, free tech resources, homeschool, internet, K-5 Tech training, Keyboarding, kidpix, Kindergarten, second grade | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

7 Great Labor Day Websites

You’re bbq-ing. Friends are over. Life is good. Summer is ending, but that’s tomorrow. Not today. Today is about fun.

What do you do with the child who got sunburned so badly s/he can’t stay outside? Or those last fifteen minutes when the kids are hungry, tired, and completely disconnected with everything that they’ve been doing? Here’s a list of websites they’ll find irresistible. I’ve pulled out five I think are the best starters, but you can decide: Continue reading

Categories: cloud computing, fifth grade, first grade, fourth grade, free tech resources, Google Earth, homeschool, internet, Parent resources, websites | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Dear Otto: How Do You Keep Students From Playing with Settings?

tech questions

Do you have a tech question?

Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Jamie:

I love your site I have purchased three of your Technology series. I noticed [in the K-6 textbooks] you talk about using protopage – how do you let your students use it  without them doing anything to what is on the page. 

A: I love my protopage internet start page. I don’t mind if my students (I teach K-8) edit the page (within reason). I was worried at first so I put blocks there specifically for comments, wall writing, doodling. I tried Wall Wisher, which didn’t work well. I added a hamster and a pet dog that students can play with, feed, virtually cuddle. In some of the widgets (such as the calculator), the skins can be changed. That’s fine. I like that students personalize their stations even though the next class in 45 minutes might make changes. If they take ownership of the computer, they’ll take better care of it and enjoy the class more. I used to let them add wallpapers until the IT department locked us out.

Continue reading

Categories: Ask Otto, internet | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Curious About ChromeBooks? Watch These


Can you run your classroom with internet-only laptops?

Let me back up a moment. Chromebooks are Google’s internet-only laptops. You don’t install software or wrestle with an operating system. Everything is done online, which means faster boot-ups and longer battery life (can you believe up to a day on one charge?).

I see tremendous value to getting students to Web 2.0 classroom connections faster. In my classrooms, we spend about half the time on internet sites like Google Earth (you can use it online), Big Huge Labs, online typing sites and more. I conceptually can see online connections for many projects that I simply haven’t pursued because there’s been no need. If software wasn’t there, I’d find the connection and be equally satisfied.

Despite that, there remains a significant need to use word processing software like MS Word for reports etc (though MS 360 solves that if you want to pay for a subscription). My students love Publisher projects and PowerPoint slideshows, but I think we could morph to online sites like Glogster and (fill in the blank for an online PowerPoint look-alike).

Continue reading

Categories: classroom management, internet | Tags: , | 10 Comments

Tech Tip #99: Top Ten Internetting Hints

tech tipsAs a working technology teacher, I get hundreds of questions from parents about their home computers, how to do stuff, how to solve problems. Each Tuesday, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

I’ve been sharing Tech Tips for 98 weeks–almost two years. Here are the keyboarding hints readers consider the most important:

Continue reading

Categories: internet, Tech Tips | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Tech Tip #93: Auto-fill for Internet Addresses

tech tipsAs a working technology teacher, I get hundreds of questions from parents about their home computers, how to do stuff, how to solve problems. Each Tuesday, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: Is there a faster way to type internet addresses? All that h-t-t-p stuff–I keep making typos.

A. In fact, there is. Get the main part of the address in, say ‘google’ or ‘spellingcity’, then press Ctrl+enter and the browser will auto-fill the rest. What a time saver!

Questions you want answered? Email me at and I’ll answer it within the next thirty days.

To sign up for Tech Tips delivered to your email, click here.

Follow me

Continue reading

Categories: internet, Tech Tips | Tags: , | 5 Comments

#99: How to Teach Internet Basics to Kids

Review the basics of internet, including the address bar, forward/back buttons, links, favorites, plagiarism, and netiquette


Lesson Description

  • Federal, state and local governments have spent millions of dollars to connect students to the Internet. By 2005, 94% of public school classrooms had internet access. Hopes are high that Internet use will change the process of education and enhance student learning.
  • The internet offers a multitude of freeware to enthuse students about a myriad of educational subjects. The days of purchased software on a budget are gone. If you know what to do.
  • Throughout this workbook, we’ve listed dozens of free websites on common academic subjects. In this lesson, we’ll talk about internet basics: How to access those confusing web addresses and links.

Computer Activity

Continue reading

Categories: first grade, free tech resources, homeschool, internet, Kindergarten, mouse skills, second grade, teacher resources, Tech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Weekend Website #69: Free Online Classes From MIT et al

Contemporary wisdom is ‘you get what you pay for’. Not always true. Here’s a long list of FREE internet resources that are high quality, useful and simple to install.

MIT, UC Berkeley, Stanford and others now offer online tech training–for FREE. Read this: Continue reading

Categories: free tech resources, internet, teacher resources, websites | 5 Comments

Website Powered by

%d bloggers like this: