Tech ed

Most Popular June Articles

Here are the most-read posts for the month of June:

  1. Internet Safety Month–Rules to Live By
  2. Tech Tip #93 Shortkey for Find
  3. Looking for Summer Activities? Try These
  4. In Love with Space? Here are Great Websites to Take You There
  5. Tech Ed Resources–K-8 Keyboard Curriculum
  6. Tech Tip #95 Open a Program Maximized
  7. Tech Tip #111 Quick Browser Fix
  8. 5 (free) Keyboarding Posters to Mainstream Tech Ed
  9. Tech Ed Resources for your Class–Digital Citizenship Curriculum

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Categories: free tech resources, Tech ed, Tech Tips | Leave a comment

Going Back to Space? Here are Ideas

Space units are always exciting. Part of it’s the history, but a lot is that space is our final frontier, a wild untamed land that man knows so little about. Now that Elon Musk’s SpaceX has safely delivered American astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time in almost a decade, the fever of excitement over space couldn’t be higher.

I have a list of over 20 websites I use to support this theme for K-8. Here are five of my favorites: 

SpaceX ISS Docking Simulator

This simulator will familiarize users with the controls of the actual interface used by NASA Astronauts to manually pilot the SpaceX Dragon 2 vehicle to the ISS. Successful docking is achieved when all greeen numbers in the center of the interface are below 0.2. Movement in space is slow and requires patience and precision.

This can be played online or as an app through Google Play.

Educational Application

This realistic webtool is an excellent scaffold for MS and HS students connecting STEM to their curiosity and excitement about space. Good applications not only for space but engineering, mechanics, and computer technology.

Cost: Free

Age group: MS and HS

Overall rating: 5/5

Build a Satellitebuild a satellite

This is an online simulation that challenges students to build a working satellite. They choose what science their satellite will study, select the wavelengths, instruments, and optics that will be required, and then build! After launch, students can learn about a large range of real astronomical missions dating from the 1980s and the data they collected.

The game is a cooperative effort of the James Webb Space Telescope and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Grammaropolis is aligned with both national Common Core standards and Texas Expected Knowledge and Skills Objectives for grades K-6. – See more at:

Educational Applications

To build a satellite, students must understand advanced topics like wavelength and optics, and research scientific areas such as black holes, the Early Universe, and galaxies as they select what their satellite will study. A real interest in telescopes and space science will make this game more meaningful.

Cost: Free

Age group: High school and college

Overall rating: 5/5

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Categories: Science, Tech ed | Leave a comment

How is Technology Useful in Skill Building?

edtechToday, I have a guest post from Matt Quibly, webmaster for a fascinating website called Qui.bly. It has a forum sort of set-up that enables parents to ask child-related tech questions and get answers from like-minded parents and/or professionals. If they don’t want to post inquiries, parents can peruse a list of topics on areas such as gaming, ebooks, the digital future, and more. We were echatting the other day and Matt shared a list of skills he believes kids develop from exposure to technology. See what you think:

Research Skills:  Knowing how to use search engines can significantly improve a child’s research skills, while browsing can also improve their resourcefulness. If children know how to access useful information and feel engaged in the activity they are more likely to retain information than if they were bored.

Logic and problem solving skills:  Online games, apps and video games may actually help to exercise the side of the brain responsible for logic skills. There are many constructive apps and games that challenge a child’s mathematical abilities, hidden object games that can help with improving focus and puzzle games where they may be able to improve spatial reasoning skills, just to name a few.

Responsibility: Real life simulation games like The Sims or Oregon Trail can teach children about responsibility. In The Sims, for example, the player is expected to take care of their character by ensuring it eats, showers, goes to work on time, pays the bills. It also shows that it takes repetitiveness and determination to improve the character’s skills like cooking, gardening, athletics and more.

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Categories: Digital Citizenship, education reform, Tech ed | Tags: , | 4 Comments

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.

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Book Review: Kindergarten Technology Textbook

kindergartenKindergarten Technology: 32 Lessons Every Kindergartner Can Accomplish on a Computer

by Structured Learning IT Teaching Team

I’m often asked what books I recommend for teaching technology in the classroom. Each year about this time, I do a series of reviews on my favorite tech ed books. If you want to fix some of last year’s problems, I suggest you consider the nine-volume K-8 technology curriculum series that’s used in hundreds of school districts across the country (and a few internationally). It’s skills-based, project-based, aligned with Common Core and NETS national standards and fully integratable into state core classroom standards.

The first in the series, the 132-page Kindergarten Technology: 32 Lessons Any Kindergartner Can Do (Structured Learning 2013), is available in print or digital, and perfect for Smartscreens, iPads, laptops, digital readers. It includes many age-appropriate samples, reproducibles, Web 2.0 connections, thematic websites, and how-to’s. Because I edited this book, I made sure it includes pieces that I as a teacher knew to be critical to the classroom:

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Categories: Book review, Book reviews, classroom management, homeschool, Kindergarten, teacher resources, Tech ed, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back-to-School (Free) Training on Tech Tools

tech webinarsToday, we at Ask a Tech Teacher launch our list of Great Training for teachers. These are videos to show you how to use some of the apps, websites, widgets and tools mentioned on the Ask a Tech Teacher site, used in your technology curriculum, and that you really should know how to use (so you can teach students and other teachers). This is the brainchild of David Kinane (click for more of his brilliance), one of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. He not only came up with the idea, but created most of them (well, all so far, but I have plans to help. I promise!).

If you haven’t met David, here’s a bit about him (from his website):

David has been Head of IT at a secondary girls school in the UK. He has been Head of IT at a large Auckland Intermediate School as well as Director of IT at a large Auckland primary school. David also spent a period of time working for Team Solutions at the University of Auckland, where he was the Secondary Schools Elearning Facilitator. David has presented on elearning at conferences in Europe, Australia and all over New Zealand and has been interviewed twice by EdTalks. David is a regular contributor to Interface Magazine and has written articles for Edudemic Magazine.

These videos are designed for educators who: 

  • use the SL tech curriculum
  • teach tech
  • teach a grade-level class and want to integrate tech into it
  • are an integration specialist, supposed to know ‘everything about anything tech’
  • would like to help students meet the Common Core tech requirements

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Categories: free tech resources, teacher resources, Tech ed | Tags: , | 2 Comments

5 Tech Ed Tools to Use this Fall

summer classesTechnology has become synonymous with education reform. Like starter on a barbeque, squirt around enough iPads and digital tools and classes start to sizzle. No one says, “Let’s teach cursive in 1st grade–that’s how we’ll fix things!” Nope. You won’t find that on the Education Improvement Bucket List (EIBL). So, bring your laptop and iPad to the local beach hotspot (that’s WiFi hotspot) and consider these new faces that will join your class in the Fall:

  • students are expected to type multiple pages at a single sitting
  • students are expected to take online assessments
  • students are expected to research using the internet
  • students are expected to use technology to publish and share and collaborate
  • students are expected to use a variety of media in communicating their ideas
  • students are expected to use glossaries and dictionaries, both print and digital

Sound familiar? They’re from Common Core standards, sprinkled through benign-sounding guidelines for math and literacy, steamrolling forward whether you’re ready or not. But you can be ready–no worries. Here are five skills to learn this summer and use in the  Fall that will make a big difference in how you prepare for these new requirements:

Teach keyboarding

If you have a school computer lab, get the experts there to teach keyboarding when your class visits them, then reinforce it in your classroom. If you don’t have a computer lab, create good keyboarding habits with your students every time they use the class computers. That’s a lot easier than it sounds. All you have to do is put a short list of keyboarding expectations up for students to follow:

  • use both hands on home row, on their own side of the keyboard
  • use the finger closest to the key
  • keep elbows at your sides
  • keep good posture

That’s it. Brief, but pithy. No student will think they can’t do only four items.  By the time those online assessments pop up, students will be (more) prepared.

Get familiar with Big Huge Labs

This is one of the easiest, all-purpose photo formatting tools around. It has dozens of ways to communicate ideas through images, with lots of lesson plan ideas–book covers, trading cards, photo captions. My favorite is the photo cube. Collect six pictures, say, stages in an animal’s life cycle. Upload to the six sides of a cube. Print and fold. It’s easy enough for 2nd grade and fun enough for olders. Who can resist rolling that cube and seeing all those stages in a chicken’s development? (BTW, if you’re a paper free school, create the cube online using PhotoCube and embed it into the class website or blog).

Use Online quiz creators

Common Core assessments will be online–eventually–so get students prepared by using online quiz programs like Equizzer . Create the quiz online. They take it online. Grade it online. Equizzer is free; others are inexpensive. Pick one you like and use it. No more excuses.

Another option is a program like PuzzleMaker. Create crosswords, hidden words, mazes that assess student knowledge in a game format. The learning concept is the same: Students demonstrate their understanding of a scholastic topic via an online tool.

Create an internet start page

An internet start page is the first place students go when they bring up the internet. It includes whatever you want it to–a calculator, To Do list, class calendar–and links to dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias, and other reference materials important to student literacy.  All the topics you discuss throughout the year are in one spot, easy to find for first graders, quick for all students. I use a site called Protopage (click for an example of my classes), but you might want to use Symbaloo, LiveBinders, or Only2Clicks. Spend some time this summer checking out options and setting up the one that will work for your classes.

Test out some online publishing tools

Whatever you do, do not return to the classroom thinking all student work must be printed, hopefully before it gets crumpled, lost, or eaten by pets or siblings. There are so many ways to publish work that doesn’t involve MS Word and dead trees. First, convert Word docs to a PDF (click ‘save-as’ and then select ‘pdf’). As a PDF, it can be opened on any computer, iPad, even in an ereader like iBooks. If you have Google Apps for Education, students can use Google Docs and submit by ‘sharing’ privately with you (only you). No transfer, no handling, no printing. You can also publish documents to online sites like Scribd that will keep them organized, private, available to your group, and embeddable into class blogs, wikis, or websites.

But don’t limit yourself to textual documents. You can also publish via images (lots of sophisticated free sketchpads like Mutapic available), infographics (like the free and Easelly), graphic organizers (Eduplace has a huge collection), videos (YouTube made this easy with their tape-and-edit features), even music. Pick two of these visual tools and make them part of your curriculum differentiation for those non-text learners in your classes.

Collaborate online

Two great choices for online collaboration are Google Apps for Education and Google Hangouts. Both make it easy to get-together with classmates, hash out projects whenever and wherever students are available.  Google Hangouts are like sitting in a group and sharing resources. Everyone shows up on the screen (to a max of 10) and can share their documents and desktops, then save to everyone’s cloud-based Drive for later use. Not only is this a great way to extend classroom learning, it can be incorporated into your faculty in-service training, too.

There you have it–5 ideas you don’t want to return to school without. Set aside an hour and click through the links I’ve provided. Try a few projects. See what resonates with you. Leave a comment below–is there anything you’d recommend teachers must have for their classroom?

Want more useful tools? Try these:

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculumK-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blogger, a columnist for Examiner.comIMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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Categories: classroom management, free tech resources, teacher resources, Tech ed | Tags: , | 10 Comments

Book Review: 1st Grade Technology–32 Lessons

1st gradeThis is another in a series of textbooks designed for K-8. I think you’ll find them useful in your classroom Web 2.0 integration:

First Grade Technology: 32 Lessons Every First Grader Can Accomplish on a Computer

by Structured Learning

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m often asked what books I’d recommend for teaching technology in the classroom. Each year about this time, I do a series of reviews on my favorite tech ed books. If you want to fix some of this year’s tech problems and get students ready for the rigor of Common Core, I suggest you consider the nine-volume K-8 technology curriculum series that’s used in hundreds of school districts across the country (and a few internationally). It’s aligned with both Common Core and NETS national standards and fully integrable into state classroom standards.

It’s 131 pages, about twice as long as the prior edition (thanks to Common Core tie-ins, more rubrics and examples, reproducibles, Web 2.0 connections and how-to’s that are age-appropriate for a 1st grader). It comes with a free membership in a co-teaching wiki so you can teach along with an experienced teacher using the curriculum. It’s much more like a tech lab-in-a-box than a mere 32 projects. The blurb says it all:

1st Grade Technology Curriculum is the second in a series designed to teach technology by integrating it into classroom inquiry. This nine-volume tech ed curriculum is the all-in-one solution to running an effective, efficient, and fun technology program for kindergarten-eighth grade (each grade level textbook sold separately) whether you are the lab specialist, IT coordinator, or classroom teacher. Each lesson is aligned with both Common Core State Standards (6th grade: aligned via Table of Contents) and  National Educational Technology Standards, and includes an Essential Question, Big Idea, suggested Assessments, required materials, vocabulary, problem solving, teacher preparation required, how to extend learning, examples, grading rubrics, additional resources, and how students can collaborate/share projects. Using a tested approach that promotes literacy, critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making, students learn the technology required to prepare for their future. The secret for you, as teacher, is knowing what to teach and when.

Each textbook includes a K-6 wide-ranging Scope and Sequence (in grades 6-8, it’s for middle school only), a year’s worth of lessons, monthly homework (3rd-8th only), student Certificate of Completion (excluding 6th grade), a comprehensive list of websites to support learning, articles that address tech pedagogy, and posters ready to print and hang on your walls.

With your purchase, you receive FREE access to a wealth of online resources including hundreds of teacher materials that differentiate instruction, websites that extend learning, and free help from professionals using the curriculum (membership included with purchase). Note: Color and embedded links shown in Click to Look Inside are included in pdf only.

1st grade technology units include (click here and scroll down to the green download box for a free preview):

  • Computer Basics
  • Mouse Skills
  • Tools and Toolbars
  • Symbols
  • Software
  • Holiday Greetings
  • Introduction to Google Earth
  • Introduction to the Internet
  • Fills
  • Thanksgiving Greetings
  • Shapes
  • Introduction to Windows
  • Reading on the Internet
  • Rainforest Animals
  • Open House Drawing
  • Introduction to iPad
  • Valentine Greetings
  • Open House Drawing #3
  • St Patrick’s Day Greetings
  • Edit Writing
  • Architecture and Design I
  • Internet Fairy Tales
  • Fairy Tale Cover Page
  • Tell a Story with Comics
  • Share a Slideshow
  • Introduction to Excel
  • Graduation

Disclaimer: I am one of the editors for this series, though it’s a collaboration of a team of technology teachers.


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 TeachersCisco guest blogger, a columnist for, 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: Book review, Book reviews, classroom management, first grade, homeschool, lesson plans, math, mouse skills, teacher resources, Tech ed | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


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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.

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

You’re a Geek Now

BTW2If you teach technology, it’s likely you’re a geek. Even if you didn’t start out that way–say, you used to be a first grade teacher and suddenly your Admin in their infinite wisdom, moved you to the tech lab–you became a geek. You morphed into the go-to person for tech problems, computer quirks, crashes, and freezes.

Overnight, your colleagues assumed you received an upload of data that allowed you to Know the answers to their every techie question. It didn’t matter that yesterday, you were one of them. Now, you are on a pedestal, their necks craned upward as they ask you, How do I get the Smartscreen to work? or We need the microphones working for a lesson I’m starting in three minutes. Can you please-please-please fix them?

Celebrate your cheeky geekiness. Flaunt it for students and colleagues. Play Minecraft. That’s you now–you are sharp, quick-thinking. You tingle when you see an iPad. You wear a flash drive like jewelry. The first thing you do when you get to school is check your email

It’s OK. Here at Ask a Tech Teacher, we understand. Readers understand. You’re at home. To honor you, we’ve created these two posters (see next pages). They provide more ways to get your geek fully on as you go through your day.

To help you shout it from the steeple of your school house, here are two posters you can proudly hang on your classroom walls.

10 Steps to Become a Better Geek

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Categories: geeks, teaching, Tech ed | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Book Review: K-8 Digital Citizenship Curriculum

digital citizenshipEducation has changed. No longer is it contained within four classroom walls or the physical site of a school building. Students aren’t confined by the eight hours between the school bell’s chimes or the struggling budget of an underfunded program.

Now, education can be found anywhere, by collaborating with students in Kenya or Skyping with an author in Sweden or chatting with an astrophysicist on the International Space Station. Students can use Google Earth to take a virtual tour of a zoo or a blog to collaborate on a class project. Learning has no temporal or geographic borders, available 24/7 from wherever students and teachers find an internet connection.

This vast landscape of resources is available digitally, freely, and equitably, but before children begin the cerebral trek through the online world, they must learn to do it safely, securely, and responsibly. This conversation used to focus on limiting access to the internet, blocking websites, and layering rules upon rules hoping (vainly) that students would be discouraged from using this infinite and fascinating resource.

It didn’t work.

Best practices now suggest that instead of protecting students, we teach them to be good digital citizens, confident and competent in the use of the internet.

This 70-page text (click for a peek inside) is your guide to what our children must know at what age to thrive in the community called the internet. It’s a roadmap for blending all the pieces into a cohesive, effective student-directed cyber-learning experience that accomplishes ISTE’s general goals to:

  • Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology
  • Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity
  • Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning
  • Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship

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Categories: Book reviews, Tech ed | Tags: , | 9 Comments

10 Steps to Tech Savviness This Summer

digital summer copySummer is for change. Out with routine, in with spontaneity. When you were in high school, that meant relaxing, seeing friends, going to parties. In college, it likely meant a summer job to make the money that paid for college. Now, as an adult, living your future, summer is a time to rejuvenate, to enrich, to build your core–those things that make you who you are.

As a technology teacher or IT coordinator or computer specialist (or all of the above), you need as much time as you can get and more than you have during the school year to stay afloat of what’s happening in the tech ed field. The list of changes is daunting–iPads, 1:1 initiatives, technology integration, podcasts, sharing and publishing student work, embeddable widgets, Common Core State Standards, digital citizenship, keyboarding. If you’re like me, you try to do what you can during the school year, but it’s summer, with its endless days and no schedule that gives you the freedom to let your brain lose.

Here’s my bucket list for this summer:

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Categories: free tech resources, teacher resources, Tech ed | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Weekend Website #129: 3DTin

Every week, I share a website that inspired my students. Here’s one that that students came in during recess to use:


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Categories: critical thinking, Tech ed, web, websites | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

14 Educational Websites Students Will Ask to Visit This Summer

digital summer copyThe most popular website at my school is Minecraft–hands down, starting in 1st grade (I’m amazed parents let six-year-olds use this sometimes violent game, but they do and students do and the mania starts). Because kids would live in this blocky virtual world 24/7, I only let them play it two lunch periods a week. Those days, my lab is always packed. Kids have no idea they’re learning math (estimation, geometry, shapes), science (geology, rocks, minerals), building, or softer skills like thinking and reasoning, problem solving, hypothesis-testing, risk-taking, and collaboration. They don’t realize they’re exercising that delicate skill called ‘creativity’ or care that Common Sense Media raves that “Minecraft empowers players to exercise their imagination and take pride in their digital creations as they learn basic building concepts.”

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Categories: critical thinking, Parent resources, Tech ed, websites | Tags: , , | 11 Comments

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