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15 Ways to Share Digital Files with Elementary Students


15 Ways to Share Digital Files with Elementary Students

One of the most common questions I receive is on the topic of sharing files with students. 
In the computer lab a lot of the work our students do requires a template. They are learning to use software programs and it is really helpful when the assignment is set up for them step by step as a template in the program about which they are learning. 

This means we need to be able to share files with them quickly and easily. We don't need yet another hurdle to completing the assignment.

I polled the Technology Teacher Tribe Facebook Group and these were their top ways of sharing files with students:

15 Ways to Share Digital Files with Elementary Students


  1. Google Classroom
  2. Server with Network Folder
  3. Padlet for younger students
  4. Website
  5. Screen monitoring system
  6. Email students a "copy" link
  7. Schoology
  8. OneNote and Teams
  9. Dropbox
  10. Bitly
  11. AirDrop
  12. Nearpod
  13. Classflow
  14. Symbaloo
  15. Seesaw
In this blog post I'll expand on some of them. If you want longer tutorials you can find them online. 

Google Classroom
10 of the people who responded about how they share files with students said they use Google Classroom. This made it by far the most popular method. 
It was the common consensus that setting up and using Google Classroom with students was absolutely worth the efforts. Even very young students can get it by about mid year. 

Server with Network Folder
Sarah said: We use our server. Each class has a folder and each child has a folder in their class. Work is popped inside their class folder for them to use. A little more tedious but great for teaching navigation skills as well as save and Save As

Padlet
As long as you have a way to get the Padlet link to your students (you can use a QR code or Google Tone to make it really easy) then Padlet is awesome for passing files back and forth. 
There is a 3 Padlet limit for the free account though, so that is something to take into consideration. 
Check out this blog post for some ideas for using Padlet in the classroom.

Website
My personal favorite option. If you're new to making a website I highly recommend the Weebly platform. The user interface makes it really easy to build a website even if it is your first time. 

I teamed up with Weebly to create Teacher tutorials specifically for building a class website. Click on the image if you want to learn more about the tutorials. 

Using a class website means you can customize everything to be exactly as you need it. I like to give each lesson its own page so that students don't have to scroll through irrelevant content. 

Screen Monitoring System
This method is my second favorite. There are tons of programs out there like Lanschool, Hapara, GoGuardian, Net Support, etc. that are a game changer in the computer lab or the general classroom. With the click of a button you can share files and website links to student devices. These are paid programs though, so check with your school about budget. It is totally worth it for all of the other great features too. 

Learning Management Systems
I know I already mentioned Google Classroom, but there were also several other learning management systems mentioned. They all pretty much work the same way. The teacher makes an assignment in which the file is attached. Students log in to the LMS to access their assignments and are able to open any attachments or links. It is almost as great as having your own class website, except that you can't control all of the options and that students need accounts. 

Symbaloo
Symbaloo is discussed a lot in the FB group. Some people have it set up as a shortcut icon on the desktop so that students have quick access. Others have made a short link or a hyperlink on their website for students to get to the symbaloo quickly. Once students are on the Symbaloo page they can access links and files easily. 

A word of advice:
Always make sure that if you use someone else's template that you follow their terms of use in regards to posting the file online. Many have a requirement of only uploading template files to password protected pages like a Learning Management System. The last thing you want is to get a takedown notice for breaking the DCMA laws! It is totally preventable though so just follow the rules and ask if you need clarification. 

There you have it! 15 ways to share files with your students. I hope this opens up more possibilities for resources for you to use.
15 Ways to Share Digital Files with Elementary Students

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Brittany Washburn
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Sub Plans for the Elementary Computer Lab


Sub Plans for the Elementary Computer Lab
Whether you're out sick or have a planned day out of the computer lab, writing sub plans is time consuming and often stressful. Technology teachers have a unique set of challenges to consider when deciding what to leave for a sub. 

This blog post will hopefully give you some solid ideas and peace of mind for the next time you need to be out. 

I have this other blog post about Technology Tools for Sub Plans with ideas and tools to help your sub be more comfortable using technology. Today's post is going to assume you have a substitute who is not comfortable using or teaching technology. You can skip right to idea #3 if your substitute cannot use any technology.

All of the images are linked to the resource if you're interested. Just click or tap to learn more. 

1. Sub Plan Idea #1: Continue projects or units already happening

If you're already into your school year a bit and have your procedures established, the computer lab should be able to run pretty seamlessly without you. Most students will know how to get to the class website and keep working on projects or units that they have already started. 

This is one of the major benefits of having a class website or using a pre-made curriculum like my k5tech.net elementary technology curriculum. Leaving sub plans when you can just say something like "1st grade lesson 17 on k5tech.net" is a breeze!

Students will be able to be self-directed and not require much input from the sub. You can have "techspert" students help any other students who need it. 

2. Sub Plan Idea #2: Review something students have already done

I'm going to recommend Digital Pixel Art for this. Do one at the beginning of the school year and then have the rest on hand for days you need to be out. That way students are still getting practice on their tech skills, but there is no tech knowledge needed by the substitute. 

The "Everyday Bundle" is really good for this because then it doesn't matter what time of year the lesson is done. There are 4 levels of challenge that makes it great for all grade levels K-5. 

Again you can have a few student techsperts in each class to help the other students so that the substitute doesn't have to. The sub can just manage behaviors. 

3. Sub Plan Idea #3: Unplugged Technology Activities

This one is probably the reason why you clicked to read this blog post. Most computer lab teachers don't even want students to use technology when they can't be there to lead. I have plenty of ideas for you so that your students can still have a productive day. 

Tech Themed Picture Books:
Have your sub start each class by reading one of these great tech themed picture books. All are great for K-5. 

This should take up about half of the class time. If you have a tough group on the day you're out, you can leave a coloring page for the students to complete at their seats while the book is being read. 
The next activity I'll suggest is unplugged technology centers. I'll start with ideas for your youngest students and then progress to things your older students can do. 
File Folder Keyboards
Yes the prep time on these is a bit intense, so this is something you'll want to already have done before you need to be out. It is a great idea to have introduced your students to these file folder keyboards before you leave them for a sub. They make a great warm up or early finisher activity too, so having a class set of these serves many purposes. 
Typing Practice Printable Keyboard Pages
Any grade level can color in printed keyboards. You can turn this into a whole group activity by calling out a color and a letter and having students color it in one key at a time. Most substitutes should feel comfortable leading this activity. 
Technology Themed Coloring Pages
Standard coloring pages here. Having coloring pages on hand is always a good idea, but some administrators frown on them being left for substitutes. There isn't much educational value without a conversation or reflection, which some subs won't be able to lead. 
Fill in the Keyboards
Can you tell yet that I like to leave keyboard activities for the sub? There is never too much keyboard practice/review and it works for every grade level! These fill in the keys keyboards do need to be prepped ahead of time if you want them to be on a ring and laminated to use with dry or wet erase markers. They are great to keep on hand for early finishers and students who lose technology privileges too. 
 Technology Vocabulary Term Word Searches
Gotta love a printable worksheet with a purpose! These word searches are intense and should take students a long time to complete. I laminate a class set so that they can be used over and over again with a dry or wet erase marker. 
Crack the Code Puzzles for Technology Class
I prep these the same way I do the word searches. Students don't even realize that they are learning computer languages. They just think they are doing decoding puzzles, which are familiar from math class. I have pairs of students share the Converter Keys so that it saves on paper. 
Coding Quests Printable Board Games
If you know you have a substitute who doesn't mind a little noise then these printable board games could be the way to go! Of course you'll have to prep them ahead of time and it is a good idea to have your students play at least once before leaving this as sub plans. 
You could set any of these activities up as stations and have students move through them (even the picture books could be their own center if you have space for a classroom library). 

Emergency Sub Plans

Are you required to have a set of plans on hand for emergencies? I think it is pretty typical for admin to require this. 
Once I'm at least a month into the school year, I rely on my digital emergency sub plans  that are part of my curriculum already. Students know what to do because it is all website they are familiar with already. 
Otherwise, I leave this document with the front office for true emergencies. 
You can change out the book to whatever you have available in your computer lab. It should probably be something you own otherwise the media specialist will likely be annoyed with you for checking out a book for the whole year. 

Well there you have it. These ideas should get you through a handful of days that you need to be out of the computer lab. Thanks for reading!
Sub Plans for the Elementary Computer Lab

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Brittany Washburn
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October Activities for the Computer Lab


October Activities for the Computer Lab




By October in the computer lab things are starting to settle down a bit. Most students can get logged in independently. They are finally ready to dig in to some projects that bring other academic content together with tech skills. 

How to use this blog post: find the grade level you're interested in and then read about the activities. Click on any images to go to the product description to learn more about it. You'll see some activities in multiple grade levels. This either means that differentiation is provided to make the lesson appropriate for multiple grade levels, or it includes multiple grade levels of activities for the tech lab.

Kindergarten: Mouse Practice and Website Navigation

TECHademics is a great activity to work on both academic content and tech skills together. The best part is that it works on any device. The Fall edition of Kindergarten TECHademics has 12 math and ELA activities. 
Most Kindergarten students still need serious time practicing the mouse or trackpad. This is a skill we have to keep reviewing and using in order for them to master it. Fall Themed Mouse Practice Work Mats are great for this time of year as a warm up or early finisher activity. Also perfect to leave with a sub. 

You'll see Timely Tech across many grade levels here because there is something for everyone. The Kindergarten activities for October include letters, numbers, patterns, and word families, all while practicing the mouse or trackpad. 

First Grade: Keyboard, Website Navigation, Fire Safety

First graders should be ready for more, but we have to go at their pace. I think it is still in the critical time window for establishing procedures (if you also only see them once a week) so I try to stick with the same activity types for the first few months. 

These Fall Math and ELA digital activities are great to use whole class, as computer stations, or for early finishers. They are really versatile because students should be able to complete everything independently. 
For some fun themed activities, Fire Safety week is a great opportunity to use coding robots. For first grade, I have students program the bot to go to one card at a time. If you want to add a challenge to that you can have them program the bot to go to the spot and back to the start place.

Second Grade: Pixel Art, Fire Safety

I love using Pixel Art as a main activity in the computer lab. Students have no idea how many skills they are working on all at once! For 2nd grade I use the level 2 or 3 option and do either the Fall designs or the Halloween ones (sometimes I let them choose which they would like to do). 

During Fire Safety and Prevention Week we review the important stuff and get out the Code and Go robots. My 2nd graders can handle a challenge, so I have them program their bot to go to up to 5 spots before returning to the start spot. They love it and classroom teachers love that we are reinforcing important topics. 

Third Grade: Pixel Art, Timely Tech

I'll be honest here, I make my 3rd graders work so hard in the computer lab. We don't make much time for seasonal or holiday activities. But I do always keep these activities in my back pocket for rewards for good behavior. 3rd graders can do the level 2 or 3 option of either the Fall or Halloween Pixel Art. 




For the main activity for October in 3rd grade, students work through the slides in Timely Tech. They work on alphabetizing, they make new words out of the October themed words, respond to a typing prompt, and use the shape tools to design a scarecrow.

Fourth Grade: Online Research Skills

Fourth graders are getting a crash course in online research skills in October. I have them do a combo of the activities in Timely Tech related to research, and as many activities as we have time for from the online research unit (not October themed). 

Fifth Grade: Technology Vocab and Troubleshooting, Copy and Paste

5th Graders are also working on online research skills in October, but from the perspective of researching technology tips and tricks for troubleshooting. 
Something fun we do in 5th grade in either September or October is the Build and Apple Orchard Scene digital glyph. Students really master their copy and paste skills with activities like these.

Phew! There you have it, a full set of October themed activities for the computer lab. What have you tried that your students like? 










October Activities for the Computer Lab

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Brittany Washburn
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4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard


4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard
What do you recommend for teaching the mouse and keyboard? This question comes up the first half of every school year, and with good reason. Not being able to efficiently use a mouse and keyboard really holds our youngest students back from being able to use devices.

They can't show us what they know because their technology literacy is usually limited to touchscreens and video games. Luckily, we can catch them up with a routine and consistent practice.

Tip #1: Start Early and Practice Often

Tip #1: Start Early and Practice Often

It is never too early to introduce children to the keyboard or mouse (I'm going to use mouse and trackpad interchangeably in this blog post). As soon as the child is beginning to identify letters, it is time. The mouse can be introduced even sooner!

You don't need fancy equipment or programs either. I recommend using old broken keyboards and mice as playroom toys for children to become accustomed to them. 

Tip #2: Use Unplugged Activities First

Tip #2: Use Unplugged Activities First

The last thing you want is the headache of running around from computer to computer fixing what inexperienced students just messed up. I learned this the hard way. It is amazing how fast a 6 year old can open 300 tabs or close out of everything you had prepared for their lesson. 

First, students need to learn the lingo for using a mouse and keyboard. We accomplish this by practicing on paper and talking about the vocabulary related to each. 

For example, a student needs to know all of these terms to use a mouse:
  • Hover
  • Click
  • Click and Drag
  • Double click
  • Right-click
  • Scroll
We can't expect a student to come to us knowing what these mean or how to do each of them. This is where Mouse Practice Mats come in. Click on either of these images to purchase the resource from my shop. 
4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

Whether you use a mouse or trackpad, these unplugged printable activities will help your students learn the vocabulary and practice the skills before they ever get on a device. 

Use the work mats for a few practice sessions. They make a great station activity at the beginning of the school year. Check in with your students to see if they are understanding how to hold their hands and how to do each action with the mouse or trackpad. 

For the Keyboard, we do something similar. Students need to know all of these terms just to get started:
  • Key
  • Home row (though I don't ask them to use the home row until 2nd grade)
  • Caps Lock
  • Enter or Return
  • Delete or Backspace
  • Spacebar
  • Shift and what it does
No wonder a kindergarten student can't log in right away. There are some foreign terms to learn and there are SO many keys on a keyboard that it takes a long time to master. 

Again we start on paper with a variety of activities. 
4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard
We color a printable keyboard first. There are many different ways to color code a keyboard and I'm not sure I have a favorite. I usually start with color coding rows in PreK and Kindergarten before switching to having each finger color coded separately.
4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard
Here is an example of what I mean by each row is color coded. Check out the bonus section below for ideas for using this color coding to help students learn to log in. 

Here are the paper activities I use to teach the keyboard:

4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

These photos are some of the activities in use in the classroom. They all make great station activities. Introduce them to students as a whole group and then have them rotate through the activities for how much time you have available. 
Tip #3 Use Educational Learning Games

Tip #3 Use Educational Learning Games

Once your students are ready to use the computers, it is time to practice their new skills for real! 

Here is a list of my favorite mouse practice websites:
Here's a list of my favorite beginner keyboarding websites:

Tip #4: Spiral Review Mouse and Keyboard Skills

Tip #4: Spiral Review Mouse and Keyboard Skills

This can't be a once and done activity. Students need consistent practice in order to use the mouse and keyboard efficiently. 

I like to make about 10 minutes per day skill review time. I give students options for what to do during the 10 minutes and just let them get to it. By consistently practicing, they continue building their skills over time. 

Bonus Tip: Logging In with Paper Practice Sheets

Bonus Tip: Logging In with Paper Practice Sheets

The goal of teaching students to use the mouse and keyboard is really that they can log in independently and access the day's activity, right?
4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard
You can get this login practice page to send home with your students Free in my Resource Library by clicking on the image. 

Whatever color coding you choose for your paper keyboards, you can also color your actual keyboards the same way. I use a sharpie paint marker to make a line and a dot on each key. The paint marker lasts about half of the school year before it needs to be touched up. 
4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard
If you create login cards for students, have them color code each letter of their username and password with the corresponding color on the keyboard row. 

By sending home the login practice pages with students, they will pick it up much faster. 

Now you know how I teach the mouse and keyboard to my youngest students. Do you have any other methods that work particularly well? I'd love to hear from you!

    4 Tips for Teaching Primary Students How to Use a Mouse and Keyboard

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