middle school technology

Weekend Website: Hunger Games

hunger gamesI’d like to welcome Michelle Mano as my guest blogger today. As a former classroom teacher who understands the importance of creasting a community of 21st century learners, Michelle is a strong advocate of technology in the classroom She has a great lesson plan and activities to share with you-all today, based on The Hunger Games:

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opened in theaters on November 22 and has taken the world by storm, already grossing almost $600 million internationally. This adaptation of the bestselling young adult series by Suzanne Collins has captivated middle and high school students with its story of a futuristic government that rules through fear, subjecting its people to a deadly annual tournament. With equal parts adventure, suspense and romance, it’s clear why this trilogy has achieved such widespread appeal.

But what about its educational potential? Is it possible to use such a popular work of fiction in the classroom to generate excitement for learning?

Teach.com and Hunger Games Lessons have recently released “Sparking Their Interest: Engaging Students with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, an exciting guide that examines the role of popular culture in education and offers great ideas for incorporating The Hunger Games into your everyday lessons. Hunger Games Lessons was started by Tracee Orman, a high school English teacher who recognized the series educational value. Teach.com is an educational resource dedicated to discovering, discussing and encouraging great teaching around the world. They work closely with USC Rossier Online, a top-ranked teacher preparation program delivered online from the University of Southern California, to foster innovation and creativity in teachers. Both share a vision of empowering educators to prepare students for 21st century learning, particularly when it comes to getting young students excited about school. According to the Hunger Games guide, “keeping your curriculum relevant is the key to student motivation…when placed in the context of 21st century skills, utilizing popular movies, television and literature allows students to become technologically adept, culturally aware and motivated to learn.”

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Categories: Guest post, high school, middle school technology | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

12 Tips for Teaching Middle School Tech

Middle Smiddle schoolchoolers are a special breed. They definitely need to learn productivity software like word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, but I’ve found it’s better to give them big goals, general guidelines, deadlines, and let them go. I just finished editing a tech textbook for 7th grade and it includes units on problem solving, logical thinking, digital citizenship, programming. To teach these topics, you as the teacher engage students with Robotics, Scratch, games (select games that teach–i.e., Minecraft, Bridge Builder, SimCity), web-based communication tools (Animoto, Glogster, blogs, wikis). It’s self-directed, student-paced, so places responsibility for learning squarely with the student.
Here are some ideas:
  1. flip the classroom. Provide resources to students on the topic (say, Scratch or robotics) via a screencast or a Google Hangout and then do a project using the skill during class time. Students will have to do the homework to be productive in class.
  2. use backchannel devices like Today’s Meet or Socrative–or even Twitter. Keep the feedback displayed throughout the lesson on the Smartscreen so you and students can track involvement
  3. focus units on inquiry, collaboration and sharing, and strategies to be used in all classes
  4. use domain-specific language as you teach tech. Don’t shy away from terminology like ‘backchannel’, ‘programming’, ’embed’, ‘widget’
  5. use every tech tool you can for every activity possible. Show them how tech is part of your daily activities, ingrained into your teaching. Use a digital online clock to track time. Take pictures with your iPhone. Scan art projects with an iPad app. Have them come up with more ways to use digital tools.
  6. Expect students to be risk takers. Don’t rush in to solve their problems. Ask them to think how it was done in the past or what strategies might provide a solution. Embrace all that come your way.
  7. if a student doesn’t like one of the tools you suggest, let them come up with their own. If they can convince you it satisfies the Big Idea and answers the Essential Questions, let them use it.
  8. Regardless of what you teach during the year, be sure to cover digital tools being used by your school, correct keyboarding, and how to be good digital citizens. These are critical.
  9. Differentiate instruction for your students. Be flexible, open-minded, and adventurous. One of techs biggest pluses is that it differentiates well for learning styles. Use it.
  10. Collaborate with other 8th grade subject teachers on cross-curricular planners that involve technology.
  11. Treat students as ‘authors’ and ‘doers’, rather than passive consumers. Consider a BYOD approach in your classes so students can use the devices they have easiest access to and are most comfortable with (if your school IT folks and infrastructure can support this approach). Encourage students to complete projects when most convenient for their schedules.
  12. Assessment isn’t static—nor is it ‘bad’. Be creative. Remember why you assess: 1) to see if students understand the lesson, 2) to see if what was taught can be transferred to life, 3) to help students prepare for college and/or career.

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Categories: classroom management, lesson plans, middle school technology | Tags: , , | 23 Comments

Dear Otto: How do I teach Inquiry and Research in Middle School

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 Ms. F:

Question: I teach 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Instructional Technology. I struggle with the district standard for Inquiry & Research.  I can’t seem to find just the right type of assignment/topic because searching this, that, or the other thing is just random, out of context, an exercise in learning key word searching, finding reliable sites,synthesizing info.  If I make it too simple they can find all the answers on one site and then just plug in the facts.  I had 6th do a What-Happened-In-Your-Birth-Year project where they identified different categories and then searched for an event in that category:  Movies (and then find the Oscar winner for that year), Sports, Science, etc.  Right now the 7th grade assignment is comparing e-Readers (price, memory, size, features) using a spreadsheet, then drawing conclusions.

Any great ideas that would interest middle school students are welcome!!


Here are some ideas:

Hope this helps. Be sure to check out our Digital Citizenship ebook. It has a lot more hints.

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, a columnist for Examiner.com, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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Categories: Ask Otto, middle school technology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Tech Tip #66: Zoom In/Out of Websites

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 week, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: I can’t read the internet page. How do I zoom out of a browser window?

A: There are a few ways, but here’s the simplest of all: Hold down the “Ctrl” key and move your “mouse scroll wheel”. One direction zooms in; the other zooms out. 

There are two other ways:

  • Ctrl+ (the plus sign next to backspace) will zoom in one step at a time; Ctrl- will do the same zooming out
  • Go to the menu bar. Select ‘View’, ‘Zoom’ and either ‘Zoom in’ or ‘Zoom out’

To return to the original setting, hold down the “CTRL” key and hit the number zero.

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Categories: 8th grade, fourth grade, keyboard shortcuts, mouse skills, Tech Tips, websites | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Otto: Lab Teacher or Integration Specialist

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 Sandra:

I am a Tech teacher, I was told that my school is thinking of eliminating our computer lab, and that students will use their computers in their classrooms.   I would love to hear other Tech teacher’s opinions as I think a tech lab is useful at this point where teacher’s are not so at ease with using technology, so I think students would be missing out.  I believe in students coming to the lab with their teacher or not, with their own laptops (as we have 1:1), but a Tech teacher at this time seems necessary to me. I feel many of the things that I do like Google Maps, Programming, keyboarding, and so many software that I introduce which they don’t know of, will be left out. Not to say that in a few years, teachers will not be IT literate enough to do it all themselves, but right now and looking at the teachers at my school, they still need a lot of Professional Development to get to know all the fantastic tools out there, and learn how to adapt and use them with their students.
Really look forward to hearing other views.

This is a hot question. We rolled it around on my blog about a year ago and my opinions haven’t changed since then. Click the link. I know it’s the direction Admin wants to go, and it’s the right direction to satisfy Common Core and ISTE standards. The question is: How does one make it work? The classroom teachers aren’t trained to deliver tech. It would be like we tech teachers asserting we could deliver their content as well as them. Just not true. Yes, tech will get integrated into the curriculum with the best efforts of the classroom teachers, but student knowledge, skills, comfort will suffer. Who will teach keyboarding? Digital Citizenship? Techie problem solving tricks? And when will the classroom teachers have time to uncover those fabulously useful web-based tools like Animoto, Prezi, Bubbl.us, and the new ones that pop up every day?

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Categories: Ask Otto, middle school technology | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Tech Tip #64: Reset Default Font

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 week, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: If you’re like me, you don’t like MS Office 2007 or 2010’s default font of Calibri, size 11 with a double space between paragraphs. Here’s how you fix that:

  • Type a couple of paragraphs in any document
  • Highlight what you typed and right clicktemplate ms word
  • Select font
  • Change the font to what you prefer. In my case, it’s TNR 12
  • Click the Default button on the lower left and approve that this is, in fact, how you’d like a future documents to be formatted when opening a new document. If it asks whether you want this for future documents, say Yes.
  • Now right click again and select Paragraph
  • Make sure Line Spacing is single (or double if you’re following MLS)
  • Go to Spacing and make sure both Before and After show 0 pts.
  • Click Default

That’s it. The next time you open a document in MS Word, it will open with this revised formatting.

Questions you want answered? Leave a comment here and I’ll answer it within the next thirty days.

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

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Categories: 8th grade, fifth grade, middle school technology, Parent resources, teacher resources, Tech Tips, Word Processing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Here–8th Grade Technology Curriculum!

8th grade technologyThe eighth grade technology curriculum prepares students for their future not by teaching widgets and programs—though that happens—but by showing them how to be life-long learners. 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, insuring 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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Categories: Book review, classroom management, digital books, lesson plans, middle school technology | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Tech Tip #60: How to Add Shortcuts to the Desktop

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: How do I create a shortcut on my desktop so I can find my programs easier?

A: There are two ways to do that:

  1. click on the icon on the start button and drag and drop it to the desktop, or
  2. right click on the icon on ‘all programs’ (click start button, then select ‘all programs’ at the bottom) and select ‘send to’, then select ‘desktop (create shortcut)’

That’s it.

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Categories: 8th grade, fifth grade, fourth grade, free tech resources, middle school technology, teacher resources, Tech Tips, third grade, windows | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Here–7th Grade Technology Curriculum!

Copy of Teacher Manual--Tech Curriculum--7th gradeThe National Board of Governors Common Core Standards expect technology to facilitate learning through collaboration, publishing, and transfer of knowledge. Educators want students to use technology to work together, share the products of their effort, and employ the skills learned in other parts of their lives.

Finally, a 7th grade tech curriculum that addresses those needs. Published by Structured Learning, it includes:

  • 32 units, each aligned with Common Core and ISTE
  • Grades 6-8 Scope and Sequence (aligned with Common Core and ISTE)
  • Step-by-step weekly lesson units
  • Articles that address tech pedagogy
  • Each lesson reflects Common Core emphasis on comprehension, problem-solving, critical thinking, preparing students for career and college
  • Students are expected to understand the process, not replicate a skill
  • Focus is on transfer of knowledge and blended learning
  • Collaboration and sharing is often required
  • Online support is offered FREE through help blog
Categories: Book review, classroom management, digital books, lesson plans, middle school technology | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

How to Make a Student-created Video

dairy‘Student-generated’ now has a face–a lively and creative group from Loreto Secondary School in County Meath Ireland. They combined their talents and came up with a fun, engaging PSA to promote dairy.

I fell in love with the video and asked Mr. Tom Kendall (Head of ICT as well as a math and ICT teacher) to summarize the adventure so I can share it here. By the time you’re done reading the next few paragraphs, you’ll be amazed at the inquiry-driven work, the risk-taking employed at ever so many levels, their problem-solving and critical thinking that went into the creation of this four-minute video. If you’re an inquiry-based class or an IB school with an eye to your end-of-year Exhibition, this is a wonderful example. Enjoy:

Aiming for Viral: We Take Dairy and This is Crazy!

A behind the scenes look at the making of a student-created video.

We want to make a Video!

This school year, six Transition Year students in my Digital Publishing class approached me for advice on creating a video for a business competition. In Ireland, Transition Year students fall into the 15 to 16 age bracket.

The competition challenged students to form their own mini-advertising company with the goal of designing and implementing a campaign to promote the importance of dairy to their peers.

What type of Video?

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Categories: middle school technology, problem solving, Tech ed | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Free Lesson Plans–Visit My TeachersPayTeachers Store

tech edLooking for something to spice up your classroom? Here are a variety of projects you can download for free. Just visit my TeacherPayTeachers store, click download, and they’re yours. If you enjoy them, please add a few stars to the recommendation list:

A Colonization Brochure in Publisher

A Publisher trifold on American colonies (or any
other topic you’re covering in your classroom). Includes step-by-step directions, standards addressed, time required, prior knowledge expected, vocabulary used, higher-order thinking skills addressed, samples, reproducibles, grading rubrics, and more.

His Words in Our Words

Students interpret the words of Dr Martin Luther King in their own words in a visual organizer. Great project that gets students thinking about impact of words on history. Common Core aligned

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Categories: 8th grade, fifth grade, first grade, fourth grade, free tech resources, Kindergarten, lesson plans, middle school technology, second grade, third grade | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Weekend Website #107: Google Search Education

Every Friday, I share a website (or app) that I’ve heard about, checked into, and become excited to use. This one is tools available for teachers to help their students maneuver the often-tricky machinations of the internet.

Google Ed research

A complete course in how to search using Google

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Categories: 8th grade, education reform, fifth grade, free tech resources, homeschool, lesson plans, news, problem solving, teacher resources, web, websites | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Weekend Website #100: CybraryMan Math

Every Friday, I’ll send you a wonderful website (or more) that my classes and my parents love. I think you’ll find they’ll be a favorite of your students as they are of mine.

math websites

Not warm and fuzzy, just useful


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Categories: free tech resources, homeschool, K-5 Tech training, math, middle school technology, Parent resources, websites | Tags: , | Leave a comment

6th Grade Technology Textbook is Here!

technology curriculum

7th in the series, a year's worth of technology lessons for 6th graders

6th Grade Technology: 32 Lessons Every Sixth Grader Can Accomplish

7th in the SL Technology Curriculum Series

Be among the first to purchase from website–get FREE P&H

The choice of  hundreds of school districts, private schools and homeschoolers around the world, this seven-volume suite is the all-in-one solution to running an effective, efficient, and fun technology program for kindergarten-sixth grade (each grade level textbook sold separately) whether you’re the lab specialist, IT coordinator, or classroom teacher. Each volume includes technology basics all sixth graders should know, useful cloud-based Web 2.0 tools, themed units that tie into classroom units of inquiry, articles that address the pedagogy of sixth grade technology, and Scope and Sequence for a ten-month program. Each lesson includes 1) brief overview, 2) prior skills required, 3) vocabulary required, 4) difficulties students might have, if any, 5) assessment strategies, 6) knowledge, skills, and strategies students will gain, 7) connections to other curriculum areas, if any, and 8) ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Standards addressed.

Additionally, this ten-month program highlights areas of digital citizenship and higher-order thinking skills identified as critical for students if they expect to live productive lives in our emerging global society. These areas include the ability to demonstrate creativity and innovation; communicate and collaborate; conduct research and utilize information; think critically, solve problems, and make decisions; and use technology effectively and productively.

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Categories: lesson plans, middle school technology, news, teacher resources | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

6th Grade Tech Textbook Almost Ready

I received numerous requests for this logical addition to the K-5 series. We’ve collected lots of ideas from 6th grade teachers, checked the details and are now organizing the lessons so they work in your classroom. Once that’s done, we’ll put them into a year-long format that provides sixth graders a student-centered curriculum to move them into the skills they’ll need for middle school education.

If you’d like to be notified when this book is ready, please click the form below and sign up. The publication date looks to be after the new year.

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Categories: lesson plans, middle school technology, news, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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