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Teaching Soft Skills in the Computer Lab using Digital Breakout Challenges

Teaching Soft Skills in the Computer Lab using Digital Breakout Challenges


It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.
It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

What is Social Emotional Learning?

When I say Social Emotional Learning, I'm talking about Soft Skills. Things like communication, collaboration, perseverance, and problem solving. 

There is a major trend in education now to bring Social Emotional Learning (SEL) back into the classroom. I'm not sure if it always was there and we were just calling it something else, but it is here in a big way now. 

Everywhere you turn, people are talking about Character Education. How this generation of kids don't know how to get along. How kids can't communicate anymore. How they give up easily and don't persevere. How they can't solve their own problems. 

Have you noticed this, too?
It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

Bringing SEL into the Classroom

Soft Skills might seem like a task for the School Counselor. Let him/her come in and teach a lesson once a month, right? Wrong! 

SEL is something that we need to work on every day in order for it to stick. 

Luckily, it can be integrated into pretty much any subject area. There are even a few common core standards that have wording to encourage soft skills. 

BUT, when we put students on a "program" on the computer, they aren't working on any of these skills (maybe perseverance, but the program probably avoids frustrating students for logical reasons). 

Things are about to change, friends. 

Digital Breakouts

You may be asking what a Digital Breakout is, and what is has to do with computer lab time and soft skills. Keep reading. 

If you've use any interactive notebooking concepts, you can do a digital breakout. It is an easy transition of skills. 

Interactive notebook to Digital interactive notebook to Digital Breakout. Let me break it down for you. 

Interactive notebooks have pieces to cut and paste, things to write or draw, and it is all done in a notebook on paper. 
It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

Digital interactive notebooks have these things in digital format. For example, cut and paste becomes click and drag. Write becomes Type. Draw becomes Use the Shape Tools to create a graphic. 
It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.


Digital Breakouts (the way I make them) are basically a Digital Interactive Notebook with one additional layer - the codes. 
It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.
The Hint for this one says "How many parts are included in the citation of an online article?" So, students complete the digital activity, but the code could be related or something completely different. It requires students to practice problem solving and perseverance. 

Each slide has a placeholder for the Code and when students are ready, they enter the codes into a locked Google Form. 
It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.
The form only allows correct answers, so it is self-checking. Once students input all correct answers, they can submit it and get their certificate. 
It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

Soft Skills and Digital Breakouts

What do these things have in common? They require students to work together.

I almost never have students do a Digital Breakout independently. Groups of 2-3 students is ideal. 

This makes them collaborate, communicate, persevere, and problem solve together. 

Collaborate - small groups can divide up the puzzles and codes or choose to work through them together. 

Communicate - students have the opportunity to talk. I know, I know, how dare I let my students talk in class! haha I take this time as the teacher to facilitate their communication and work on skills with them if I need to step in. 

Persevere - these puzzles are going to challenge them. They have to keep at it even if the group is arguing or frustrated about something. 

Problem Solving - they can't complete the digital breakout until all of the answers are correct. Not all of the puzzles are straightforward. Some have multiple layers to solve, kind of like a word problem. There is extra info, missing info, they have to work across slides (pages) to find the answers.

My brother is a Computer Engineer. He spends his day staring at a computer screen. Yet, he has to work with others at almost every step of every project. 

When he was interviewing for the position, most of the questions they asked of him were about his ability to communicate and work with a team. It is unavoidable! 

So, it has become my mission to get students talking and working together in the computer lab. Gone are the days where they plug in their headphones and work independently the entire time. 
It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.


Are you ready to dive in and try a Digital Breakout?
I have tons of topics already. Click on a link to see the options.
Internet Safety
Online Research
Online Test Taking Tools
Coding Vocabulary
Keyboards
Computer Parts
Computer Lab Rules K-2
Computer Lab Rules 3-5

Or would you like to learn to build your own Digital Breakouts?
Make Your Own Digital Breakouts

As always, I want to hear from you! What are you doing to encourage students to work on SEL in the computer lab or any time they are using technology? Fill me in!

It might not come naturally to think about Social Emotional Learning and Tech Class together, but it is totally possible to integrate these two things. Digital Breakouts are the answer, and students are begging for more.

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Brittany Washburn
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How to Engage Introverts Using Technology

How to Engage Introverts Using Technology


Technology is a great way to engage more introverted students in the classroom. No matter what you teach, differentiated learning with technology is a great way to get those more shy and introverted kids involved in classroom activities and responses. Technology can also give them the opportunity to showcase their talents and proficiency without putting them on the spot.
How To Use Technology In The Classroom To Engage Introverts

Technology is a great way to engage more introverted students in the classroom. No matter what you teach, differentiated learning with technology is a great way to get those more shy and introverted kids involved in classroom activities and responses. Technology can also give them the opportunity to showcase their talents and proficiency without putting them on the spot. 

So, what exactly is the difference between an introvert and an extrovert? Well, it depends on who you talk to, but there are a few different ways that you can define the difference. One definition of an introvert is that they are recharged when they are by themselves, while an extrovert prefers groups and can gain momentum and energy with groups. When I teach students the difference between the two, some kids will say that introverts hate people, but really, introverts just prefer a few close friends and small groups, while extroverts have a lot of friends and prefer large groups. At the same time, a person can be an outgoing introvert or a shy extrovert. The more out there with a lot of connections you have, the more successful you may be. So how do we as teachers support and engage more shy students and introverts in the classroom to help them be more successful? 

Technology is a great way to engage more introverted students in the classroom. No matter what you teach, differentiated learning with technology is a great way to get those more shy and introverted kids involved in classroom activities and responses. Technology can also give them the opportunity to showcase their talents and proficiency without putting them on the spot.

Using Polling Applications For Q&A 

There are so many applications that give teachers new ways to engage students in the classroom. Here is a link to a list of some of the best survey and polling technology for the classroom!  With this type of tech, the teachers and the students benefit. You can ask questions and get answers in real time to see how well students are understanding the lesson. 

Piazza is an application that allows students to ask questions anonymously so they may feel more free to express themselves and their questions without being put on the spot during class.  

PollEverywhere, in addition to allowing multiple choice questions, you can brainstorm ideas and see the most popular rise to the top. You can have students ask questions and then vote on which question is the most relevant or popular with the students. 

Sli.do Is one of the best sources out there for crowdsourcing questions. 
Differentiated Learning With Technology
Another thing to be aware of with introverted students is to give more varied options for participation in class as well as how they may present their projects. Here are some ideas different ways an introverted student could present

A presentation could be pre-recorded as a video or a voice-over. 

Students could use Glogster to create a poster. 

Build relationships and communities with students through technology. If a student is painfully shy or can’t work in a group, then make the group smaller, use different ways to communicate online. Make fun activities with technology like a meme-making-project. 

What kinds of ways do you try and engage introverted students? How do you build a better classroom community with technology?




Technology is a great way to engage more introverted students in the classroom. No matter what you teach, differentiated learning with technology is a great way to get those more shy and introverted kids involved in classroom activities and responses. Technology can also give them the opportunity to showcase their talents and proficiency without putting them on the spot.
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Brittany Washburn
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6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom

6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom


6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom

Glogster EDU is a great way for teachers and students alike to creatively express knowledge and skills. The platform can be used to design online media posters for all sorts of presentations - whether teaching a lesson or sharing what they've learned. They can be shared in various formats - on LCD projectors, interactive whiteboards, and even on websites. They can be worked on at school and at home. And teachers can even use Glogster to teach “How To Use Glogster”.

If you’re looking for a really cool and easy way to integrate technology into your classroom, Glogster is a very intuitive way to do it. Instead of the hassle of building dioramas or tri-fold posters, Glogster allows students create online posters with pictures, videos, text, GIFs, links, and citations. Glogster gives any subject a reason to use technology, here are a few innovative ways that you can use it in your classroom.

Rainforest or ocean dioramas…

I know, dioramas are like very exciting and cool in elementary. But they are also very labor intensive and require a lot of physical resources and parent help. Glogster is a way to give diverse learners, or students with less resources another way to show what they’ve learned while simultaneously integrated technology.

6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom



Posters on influential people…

Every year, and often in multiple classes, students are given the assignment to create some sort of presentation on a person. With Glogster, students can blend videos, pictures, and information in a way they could never on a tri-fold.




6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom



Integrating Math and Science and Art and Technology…

Glogster is naturally a amalgamate of multiple subjects. By simply adding it to your class projects you’re integrating technology, and if you make it a group project or cooperate with another subject, then Glogster becomes an incredibly powerful learning tool for students.



6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom


Presentations on different countries and cultures…



6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom


Lessons on different types of careers…



6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom


Glogster Is Also A Teaching Tool!!

Another way you can use Glogster is to teach! This application isn’t just for students, but there are tons of resources and lessons already built in Glogpedia, and it’s open for you to create your own Glogster to teach and demo to your students how to use it.



6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom


The list for how to use Glogster goes on and on. With all these incredible options, it is a great option for diverse learners and an amazing way to fully integrate technology in the classroom.
6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom


What kind of cool ways have you used Glogster in the classroom? Share some of the amazing work of your students in the comments below!




6 Innovative Ways to Use Glogster in the Elementary Classroom

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Brittany Washburn
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Coding with Scratch and Scratch Jr in the Elementary Classroom

Coding with Scratch and Scratch Jr in the Elementary Classroom


Scratch and Scratch Jr is a great way to introduce your students to coding. Scratch is basically an online community and its aim is to educate and introduce kids to coding. Students can easily create different activities and convert them into programs using scratch.
Scratch and Scratch Jr is a great way to introduce your students to coding. Scratch is basically an online community and its aim is to educate and introduce kids to coding. Students can easily create different activities and convert them into programs using scratch. These programs can also be shared with each other.
The purpose of scratch Jr is also similar to scratch but it is designed specifically for children of age 5-7. It sparks creativity in kids and at the same time, they also develop an interest in coding. Kids can program different types of games, stories, and activities. In this way, they learn problem-solving skills and how to express themselves creatively.     

How Scratch and Scratch Jr Works

Here is how Scratch works:
  1. Type scratch.mit.edu in the address bar of your browser and press enter.
  2. After you press enter, the homepage of scratch will appear. Here your students can create interactive games, stories, animations and so on.
  3. Create an account and sign in.
  4. After you sign in, you will see a lot of different types of projects created by the scratch community.
  5. You can also go to the help page of scratch to see some of the projects for beginners.
  6. Click on any project that you want.
  7. Click “see inside” button to see how that specific project is made.
  8. You can also edit, make adjustments and experiment with new things in that project after you click “see inside”.
Here is how Scratch Jr works:
  1. Open the Scratch Jr.
  2. Click on the home button to get started.
  3. A page with the character of cat will appear. Your students can edit this page as they want. They can add more characters, remove or replace the “cat” character and so on. They can also make animations.
  4. Engage your students in different interesting projects.

Using Scratch and Scratch Jr with elementary students

Using Scratch and Scratch Jr with elementary students is a great way to get them started with coding. There are so many fun activity ideas that you can do in your classroom. Here are some of those ideas:
*Ideas are inspired by members of the Technology Teacher Tribe Facebook Group
Scratch and Scratch Jr is a great way to introduce your students to coding. Scratch is basically an online community and its aim is to educate and introduce kids to coding. Students can easily create different activities and convert them into programs using scratch.

Retelling a familiar story

This is a great way to spark creativity in your little students. Ask them to think about a familiar story such as three little pigs. Once they pick a familiar story, ask them to recreate it in the Scratch or Scratch Jr. However, the ending of the story should be different than its actual end.

The life cycle of a made-up animal


Another great way to grab the interest of your students and to engage them in a creative activity is the life cycle of a made up animal. Ask them to think about a made-up animal such as catermonkey (half caterpillar and half monkey). After that, ask them to create an animation of the life cycle of this made-up animal. It is up to their imagination how they want to present the life cycle of their made-up animal. 

I also really like these Scratch Cards from Amazon (affiliate link). 

You might also like the Blog Post How to use Buncee with Elementary Students.

Scratch and Scratch Jr is a great way to introduce your students to coding. Scratch is basically an online community and its aim is to educate and introduce kids to coding. Students can easily create different activities and convert them into programs using scratch.

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Brittany Washburn
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Technology or Computer Lab Pacing Guide

Technology or Computer Lab Pacing Guide


Technology or Computer Lab Pacing Guide
It can be challenging to know what to teach and when in the computer lab. Six different grade levels, rotating schedules, standards that are complex. No wonder many new tech teachers end up teaching the same lesson 6 different ways when they first get started. I was one of them.

My goal with putting together this pacing guide is to give you an idea of how I choose to structure the year. Please know that there isn't really a wrong way to do this. If you want to start the year with internet safety, for example, do it. If you want to end every year with internet safety, for example, that is great too.

It is probably also advisable to keep things flexible. Things come up. Snow days, field trips, testing, you get it. You won't be able to stick to the pacing most years (which is why you might notice that May on my guide is pretty vague).

It can be challenging to know what to teach and when in the computer lab. Six different grade levels, rotating schedules, standards that are complex. No wonder many new tech teachers end up teaching the same lesson 6 different ways when they first get started. I was one of them.
 Let's jump right into it now. I've made this a PDF so that you can click the resources I curated. Click on the picture above to download this free file.

Kindergarten Tech Lab Pacing 

Kindergarten Tech Lab Pacing
Kindergarten needs to master the mouse and keyboard before they can move efficiently on the computer. You'll see the beginning of the year dedicated to this. The awesome thing, though, is that there are great academic resources available to both practice the mouse and keyboard and reinforce what students are doing in the classroom. Score!
Once these skills are mastered, it is time to move into internet safety, followed by some basic coding.
The PDF version of the pacing guide has the list of resources I use to teach each of these topics. Check them out for more details.

First Grade Tech Lab Pacing

First Grade Tech Lab Pacing
First grade starts with a solid review of the mouse and keyboard. I learned the hard way that it isn't possible to just jump into the content without making time for those foundational skills.
Mid-fall it is time for Internet Safety. This is a unit that hits every skill set in the computer lab so I like to really dig in with 1st graders.
December is a great time for some academic content (math and ELA) so that students are engaged but also preparing for the tougher skills to come in the next units.
1st grade is when I introduce word processing and presentation software. We do really basic things with the software programs while learning to navigate.
Then, it is time for coding! Such a fun unit as first graders explore coding robots while reinforcing some technology vocabulary.
Something I think is really important for first grade is the ability to respond to reading using technology. We accomplish this through tech themed picture books and digital book companion activities.
If there is any time left at the end of the year, we review all of the skills.

Second Grade Tech Lab Pacing

Second Grade Tech Lab Pacing
 Don't tell anyone, but I think 2nd graders are my favorite. They are just so sweet and eager to learn.
Anyway, I like to start the year with a quick tech vocab review and then jump into a keyboarding unit that lasts about a month and a half (depending on schedule). Their hands are finally big enough to reach all the keys on the keyboard so I take this time to establish good habits and efficiency.
After our typing unit, it is time for internet safety. I love these digital activities that reinforce the common sense media curriculum.
December is Hour of Code, so we make it last the whole month!
When students get back from break, we really dig into software programs with units on word processing, presentations, and spreadsheets. I'm always blown away by my 2nd graders abilities to learn these complex programs. I try to keep the lessons as simple as possible so that the academic content doesn't get in the way of learning technology literacy. So far so good.
By April, students have regressed in their typing skills so we do a review unit again, this time including some advanced skills like learning some keyboard shortcuts.
If there is any time left, we do some open ended technology projects that you could call STEM or Makerspace.

Third Grade Tech Lab Pacing

Third Grade Tech Lab Pacing
Third grade jumps right into word processing after going over the lab rules and procedures. I love this unit. They come out the other side total pros because we spend about 8 weeks going through each skill in a structured but meaningful way.
After our word processing unit we dig into digital citizenship with 4-5 weeks of lessons. Then, time for a typing bootcamp.
You see, the 2nd grade unit we did won't retain the skills forever. Every year students need to keep working on keyboarding otherwise the bad habits will sneak back in. So, we do what we call typing olympics for 4 weeks using a variety of typing activities.
Sometimes (depending on the schedule) we end up doing a week of Hour of Code in the middle of our typing unit, but its fine. It gets done.
After break, we do units on presentation software and spreadsheets. Again keeping the academic content mild so that students can really understand the programs and not get bogged down with reading.
Next comes some lessons on the basics of online search. Students are learning what search engines are and how to use them to find information. I make it engaging by using digital breakouts (it is like those escape rooms you've probably seen, but digital).
By April we have to review keyboarding so I do it in a way that also prepares students for their standardized tests. The activities are similar to those found on computer based tests.
If there is time left in May, we work on coding with robots and do some Makerspace time.

Fourth Grade Tech Lab Pacing

Fourth Grade Tech Lab Pacing
The fourth grade year starts with tech vocab and technology troubleshooting. I think it is really important that students this age can successfully troubleshoot basic tech problems. We also take the time to make sure students understand the technology standards we use. I love that they get a deep dive into what each standard means, and I get materials for bulletin boards for the whole school year. It is a win-win!
Then comes a unit on Internet Safety. I love Digital Passport by Common Sense Media for 4th graders. We reinforce the skills with some digital breakouts.
4th grade is when students really learn the online research process. Everything from how to narrow down a search to taking notes to creating bibliographies. It is an intense unit but it thrills the 4th grade teachers to see how their students' skills develop.
We slip in Hour of Code but don't worry, we do a full coding unit later. If there is time before winter break, I like to reinforce the online research skills with some digital breakouts. It is wild before Christmas!
When they come back, they learn about spreadsheets, word processing, and creating presentations with engaging lessons.
Before we know it it's April and time to prepare for online standardized testing. I try to keep this review engaging by using another digital breakout (can you tell my students love them? They don't even know they are learning).
We end the year with an advanced coding unit using a variety of resources. You could hear a pin drop in the room while students are learning these skills. They take so much brain power.
By the way, my 4th and 5th graders type for 10 minutes at the beginning of every session so that is why you don't see a dedicated typing unit.

Fifth Grade Tech Lab Pacing

Fifth Grade Tech Lab Pacing
I really push my 5th graders to be as independent and responsible as possible on their devices. This starts with lessons on troubleshooting and they also learn the ins and outs of our technology standards the same way the 4th graders did.
Then it is time to review online research. I keep this at about 3-4 lessons that go over narrowing down search results to find relevant information and evaluating websites. The skills they will need for our next units.
We go further down the rabbit hole of tech vocab than any other grade level. Students learn even obscure terms while also reviewing their keyboarding skills.
Once that is done, it is time for internet safety using a variety of resources.
December is time for lots of coding activities and I try to use different coding languages than they have learned before. They love it.
We spend the winter doing lessons on spreadsheets, word processing, and presentation software. I like to come back to these programs every year and go a bit more advanced each time. It really reinforces the skills.
In April it is time to review TEI (technology enhanced items) for their online standardized testing. We do this with a digital breakout and some google slides activities.
Just like in 4th grade we end the year with coding. We use a variety of resources and languages.

Phew! Now you have my whole plan. If you're looking for any specific topics that aren't included, email me and I'll do my best to help you find resources.

Technology or Computer Lab Pacing Guide

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Brittany Washburn
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