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Tech Curriculum

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Tips for Teaching Students About Software

Tips for Teaching Students About Software


Understanding the function of software as well as how it interacts with corresponding hardware are foundational skills in computer science.  Here are a few tips for teaching your students all about it!

Understanding the function of software as well as how it interacts with corresponding hardware are foundational skills in computer science.  Here are a few tips for teaching your students all about it!


Tip #1

Work on what students use in their other classrooms.

Yes technology class is the place to introduce cool tech that students may not be getting the chance to interact with elsewhere, but it’s also the place to get them from passable to proficient in their everyday tech use.  Docs, Slides & Sheets all have features your kids might not know about that can get them working smarter, not harder.


Tip #2

Help your students be creators, not just consumers.

Encourage your students to be creative in the implementation of their tech.  Go a step further and get them thinking about what needs are being met by the software they are using, then see if they can think up something better, or maybe even something for an unmet need.


Tip #3

Review vocabulary.

Computer science is a field that has a great deal of subject specific vocabulary.  Furthermore, a great deal of that vocabulary consists of words that have entirely different meanings in other contexts (cookies, run, block, loop, etc.)  Don’t assume students know the right terms for what they’re working with, or let students continue to work with technology they don't know how to refer to correctly.   Be sure to incorporate learning the definitions, as this will enable students to begin to recognize and choose between similar software (among other things).

Understanding the function of software as well as how it interacts with corresponding hardware are foundational skills in computer science.  Here are a few tips for teaching your students all about it!


Tip #4

Consult standards.

Use national computer science standards such as those put forth by CSTA or ISTE to get a clearer idea of what you should be teaching.  Many software standards involve not only knowing how to use software, but also how it works and how to learn from common computer processes to augment their own problem solving abilities.


Here are a few particularly relevant guiding standards from each to start you off on the right foot:

  • CSTA K-12 CS Standards 

  • 1B-CS-02 3-5

    Model how computer hardware and software work together as a system to accomplish tasks.

  • 2-CS-02 6-8

    Design projects that combine hardware and software components to collect and exchange data.

  • 3A-CS-02 9-10

    Compare levels of abstraction and interactions between application software, system software, and hardware layers.

  • 3B-CS-01 11-12

    Categorize the roles of operating system software.


  • ISTE Standards for Students 

  • 3 Knowledge Constructor:

    Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

  • 5 Computational Thinker:

    5a - Students formulate problem definitions suited for technology-assisted methods such as data analysis, abstract models and algorithmic thinking in exploring and finding solutions.

    5b - Students collect data or identify relevant data sets, use digital tools to analyze them, and represent data in various ways to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making.

  • 6 Creative Communicator:

    6a - Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.

  • 7 Global Collaborator:

    7a - Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.


Tip #5

Don’t do work that you don’t have to.

My shop contains lessons ready-made for you to teach.  Get everything you need in one swoop with the Software Technology Lessons Bundle For Grades 1-5, or check out a wide variety of other software lessons!


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Brittany Washburn
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10 of the Best Upcoming STEM Conferences

10 of the Best Upcoming STEM Conferences


Education conferences are a great way to learn tips and tricks for your teaching, find out more about new instructional products, and make connections with other innovative educators.

Education conferences are a great way to learn tips and tricks for your teaching, find out more about new instructional products, and make connections with other innovative educators.  They’re also a fantastic place to get those professional development hours you might be short on!  These days, many conferences are either partially or fully virtual, and/or provide access to recordings of the sessions for a period of time afterwards.  This makes attending one easier than ever before. 


Here are 10 of the best STEM conferences coming your way, starting in Fall 2021 and going into Summer 2022:


October 28 – 30, 2021 Portland, OR

November 11 – 13, 2021 National Harbor, MD

December 9 – 11, 2021 Los Angeles, CA

NSTA STEM21 

Each year, the National Science Teaching Association hosts a national conference on science education (in the spring), three area conferences (in the fall, as stated in the dates above for 2021), and a STEM Forum & Expo.  The conferences for 2022 are scheduled in Houston, TX from Mar. 31 – Apr. 3, and another in Chicago, IL from July 21 – July 24.   


October 28 – 30, 2021 Virtual Event

SSMA Annual Convention

SSMA (School Science and Mathematics Association) strives to build and sustain a community of teachers, researchers, scientists, and mathematicians.


November 4 – November 6, 2021 Virtual Event

AACU Transforming STEM Higher Education  

AACU (American Association of Colleges and Universities) conference this year is entitled "Nothing Stays the Same: Reflecting on, Reckoning with & Re-Engineering Undergraduate STEM Education".


January 25-28, 2022 Orange County, Florida

FETC 2022

At the Future of Education Technology Conference you’ll hear expert insights, meet with the leaders in the technology industry and find your people to help you advance even further in your professional goals.  The future of education is sparked by continually reimagining how technology can be incorporated into the different learning models. 


March 9 – March 12, 2022 Orlando, FL

ITEEA Standards for Technological and Engineering Literacy: The Role of Technology and Engineering in STEM Education

 The 2022 ITEEA (International Technology and Engineering Educators Association) conference focuses on the roadmap that Standards for Technological and Engineering Literacy (STEL) provides for all educators. The conference theme highlights the importance of the three organizers within STEL—standards, practices, and contexts with connections and learning opportunities for all STEM learners.


Education conferences are a great way to learn tips and tricks for your teaching, find out more about new instructional products, and make connections with other innovative educators.
June 26 – June 29, 2022 Minneapolis, MN

2022 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition

Now in its 129th year, the ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) Annual Conference and Exposition is the only conference dedicated to all disciplines of engineering and engineering technology education. The premier event of its kind, the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition fosters an exchange of ideas, enhances teaching methods and curricula, and provides unparalleled networking opportunities for engineering and engineering technology education stakeholders, including deans, faculty members, researchers, and industry and government professionals.


March 2 – March 5, 2022 Providence, Rhode Island

SIGCSE TS 2022

The Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education is organized by the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE) and is the organization’s flagship conference. It has been held annually in February or March in North America since 1970. The SIGCSE organization provides a forum for educators to discuss issues related to the development, implementation, and/or evaluation of computing programs, curricula, and courses, as well as syllabi, laboratories, and other elements of teaching and pedagogy.


April 2022

Elementary STEM CON 

Elementary STEM Con believes educators deserve professional development that lives up to crucial work they are entrusted to do every day.  They aren’t looking to simply deliver PD; they aim to provide an experience that builds skills and renews your passion and enthusiasm for teaching.


June 26-29, 2022 New Orleans, Louisiana 

ISTE Live 22

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference has been recognized as one of the world’s most influential education events.  ISTELive 22 will be a hybrid event featuring powerful voices and offering a treasure trove of content and resources for attendees in New Orleans and those attending virtually around the world.


Summer 2022 Denver, Colorado

Steve Spangler: Science In The Rockies

This conference is perfect for educators, administrators and curriculum specialists (Pre-K to 8) who want to explore best practices, instructional strategies and high-level engagement pedagogy for inspiring students through STEM.  Participate in more than 75 hands-on STEM experiments, demonstrations and design challenges that are aligned with the Next Generation Standards, and take home over $500 worth of teaching materials and supplies.


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Education conferences are a great way to learn tips and tricks for your teaching, find out more about new instructional products, and make connections with other innovative educators.


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Brittany Washburn
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5 Tips for Teaching Students about Hardware

5 Tips for Teaching Students about Hardware


Understanding the structure and function of hardware is a foundational skill in computer science.  Here are a few tips for teaching your students all about it!

Understanding the structure and function of hardware is a foundational skill in computer science.  Here are a few tips for teaching your students all about it!


Tip #1

Use analogies.

Help your students understand the function of individual pieces of hardware by comparing them to things students are already familiar with.  For example, you can compare a monitor to a window and a computer tower to a brain.


Tip #2

Review vocabulary.

Computer science is a field that has a great deal of subject specific vocabulary.  Furthermore, a great deal of that vocabulary consists of words that have entirely different meanings in other contexts (port, key, mouse, etc.)  Don’t assume students know the right terms for what they’re working with, or let students continue to work with technology they don't know how to refer to correctly.  Be sure to incorporate learning the definitions as well as simple item-to-word correlation, as this will enable students to begin to recognize hardware even with significant cosmetic differences (among other things).


Tip #3 

Broken hardware can be your friend.

Build up a store of “dead mice”, broken keyboards and other defective hardware from wherever you can get them around your school.  Bring them out for students to handle and practice with.  Students can begin working on skills such as typing, maneuvering mice, plugging in usb or headphone jacks and opening and closing laptops/chromebooks without risking damage to your schools inventory of functional hardware. 


Understanding the structure and function of hardware is a foundational skill in computer science.  Here are a few tips for teaching your students all about it!
Tip #4

Consult standards.

Use national computer science standards such as those put forth by CSTA or ISTE to get a clearer idea of what you should be teaching.  Many hardware standards involve not only knowing how to name and correctly use hardware, but also how to troubleshoot it.


Here are a few particularly relevant guiding standards from each to start you off on the right foot:

  • CSTA K-12 CS Standards 

  • 1A-CS-02 K-2

    Use appropriate terminology in identifying and describing the function of common physical components of computing systems (hardware).

  • 1B-CS-02 3-5

    Model how computer hardware and software work together as a system to accomplish tasks.

  • 2-CS-02 6-8

    Design projects that combine hardware and software components to collect and exchange data.

  • 3A-CS-02 9-10

    Compare levels of abstraction and interactions between application software, system software, and hardware layers.


  • ISTE Standards for Students 

  • 1 Empowered Learner:

    1b - Students build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.

    1d - Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.

  • 4 Innovative Designer: 

    Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.

  • 6 Creative Communicator:

    6a - Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.


Tip #5

Don’t do work that you don’t have to.

My shop contains lessons ready-made for you to teach the Parts of a Computer in various themes, Computer Fundamentals, and more!


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Understanding the structure and function of hardware is a foundational skill in computer science.  Here are a few tips for teaching your students all about it!




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Brittany Washburn
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How to Use Choice Boards with Your Students

How to Use Choice Boards with Your Students


What are choice boards?  A choice board is a graphic organizer that allows students to choose from different ways to show their learning. Choice boards are set up in a grid, generally with 6-9 squares (although you can include more or fewer if desired).

What are choice boards?

A choice board is a graphic organizer that allows students to choose from different ways to show their learning. Choice boards are set up in a grid, generally with 6-9 squares (although you can include more or fewer if desired). 





Why use them?

  • Choice boards are easy ways for teachers to offer choices, and kids tend to respond very well to the freedom and respect that being offered choices gives them. It lets students have some agency in their own education.  

  • They are usually designed to be reused on multiple assignments within the same subject.  Vocab assignment planning done for the entire year?  Yes, please!

  • They provide a built-in mix of stability and variety to meet the needs of every personality.

  • The level of difficulty of the activities can vary or stay consistent.  

  • You can require that students complete items from the choice board in a specific way, such as choosing three choices in a row, pick one at a time with the goal of having completed every activity on the board once over the course of a quarter, or you can simply let students choose at random. 



What are choice boards?  A choice board is a graphic organizer that allows students to choose from different ways to show their learning. Choice boards are set up in a grid, generally with 6-9 squares (although you can include more or fewer if desired).
How to implement choice boards in your classroom

  • Choice boards are a great hub to host early finisher activities. Never scramble for an answer to the question “What can I do now?” again.

  • Choice boards can be great tools for learning as well as assessment. Load up the board with different research resources, experiments or broad guiding questions and use them when starting on a new subject to get students hooked.

  • Since choice boards offer so much variety, it is often good to pair them with learning tasks that students are doing over and over (such as vocab, spelling or math skill practice) to balance out the monotony.  It also saves you from doing planning that you don’t need to just to tweak tasks slightly so students stay interested.

  • For graded projects, make sure you have arranged things in such a way that students will truly just be showing their knowledge in a different way.  You don’t want one section of the board to need to be graded on a 15 point scale, while others only need a 10 point scale to fulfill.

    • On a related note, another variety of choice menus are based on just that - a point system.  Teachers assign each task on the board a point value, and every student has to do enough of them to add up to a total such as 10.  Some students will choose to do five 2 point activities, while others choose a 6 and a 4.  Once again, you just arrange activities so that doing enough of the small ones will result in the same amount of learning as doing larger ones.

  • Classes that have never seen a choice board before will need training and practice before this method becomes as effortlessly self-sustaining as it is intended to be.  Include clear written instructions right on the board whenever possible, and check their work often in the beginning to make sure they understand how to complete it properly.


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What are choice boards?  A choice board is a graphic organizer that allows students to choose from different ways to show their learning. Choice boards are set up in a grid, generally with 6-9 squares (although you can include more or fewer if desired).

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Brittany Washburn
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Organization & Cleaning Tips for Classroom Technology

Organization & Cleaning Tips for Classroom Technology


Experience makes the best teacher when it comes to learning to organize a classroom. Use these tips and tricks to save yourself time and money when it comes to organizing tech in the computer lab or classroom.
Experience makes the best teacher when it comes to learning to organize a classroom. Use these tips and tricks to save yourself time and money when it comes to organizing tech in the computer lab or classroom. 

The amazon links are affiliate links. If you purchase through these links then I receive compensation, which I use to keep this blog going!

Ideas to Keep Your Tech Organized

Carts for Laptops, Chromebooks & iPads

  1. Use Avery labels to barcode (or QR code) the tech, and then use your phone as a barcode reader. Use the QR reader to scan to a google spreadsheet, then you can sort them by number and compare them to a master list to see what’s missing.

    1. Create a spreadsheet with a tab for each teacher, and list the serial number along with a shortened ID number (A-1, A-2, etc.). Each Chromebook is labeled with the ID number which is quick and easy to see. Print a copy for the teacher so they can fill in student names and/or also share it with them as a google spreadsheet. 

  2. Number student seats on the tabletops. When your first class of the day comes in, call them up by number to come get their tech and return to their seats.  The laptops/Chromebooks (with the mouse/headphones plugged in) stay on the table at it’s assigned number place when that group of students leaves, students sign off of the Chromebook at the end of their class session. Have helpers from the last class of the day that collect and put away all of the Chromebooks in the charging cart.


  3. Modify a plastic mailbox by drilling holes in the back to feed the cords through. You can reinforce the holes with screw plugs so that the cords wouldn't get ripped by the holes or fall through the back. Then get multiple surge protectors to plug in all of the cords and a multi-plug adaptor for the wall to plug in all of the surge protectors. Make sure that everything could handle the power load!  Each slot has its own cord threaded through, which never slides out because of the screw plug, and the cords never get tangled or unplugged.


  4. Give each cart a color. For example, the red cart would have each laptop with a red dot sticker on it.  Then number each dot to correspond with a slot in the cart.  Alternatively, number each cart...101 (cart 1, number 1), 206 (cart 2, number 6) etc. 


  5. When labeling tech, the most popular options seem to be label maker labels or a silver ink permanent marker.  While many teachers have a method that they swear increases longevity, the short answer is that most every labeling method will need to be redone every now and then.


  6. Put a handout under a clear plastic protector on top of the laptop/Chromebook that included directions for students on how to log in to their Google Accounts.  You may also want to tape rules to the cart doors.


Mice

  • Use a calculator pocket holder (or even just a shoe organizer) on your wall numbered with enough spots to correspond to numbered student desks in your room.  Put headphones and mice in there, and also use that as their computer number. The whereabouts of the mice or headphones with that number are the responsibility of the child who is assigned to sit at that desk.  


  • Wireless mice often have problems with the mice connecting with the wrong computers in a school setting, so stick with the wired varieties.

  • Use stickers to mark the left buttons on your mice, making it easier for your inexperienced students to know which button to press!  You may also want to use little Velcro circles on the mice instead that will allow them to feel where they need to click without having to look down.


  • Ask around your school for “dead mice”, then cut the tails short and use them for practice activities.

  • Some teachers even swear by just taking the mice away and getting your students comfortable with track pads.  Many PK-5th tech teachers have shown that their students can do it!  You can begin using my Trackpad Gestures resource to have students practice moving, clicking, swiping, scrolling, right-clicking, and clicking and dragging on paper work mats before they even get on a computer.


Headphones

  • Spray paint sets of headphones to match table colors. 

  • Assign students to handle the passing out and collecting.

  • Students each get a Ziploc bag labeled with their name, which is then stored by class in a larger bag or in dollar store bins.  This can be done right along with headphone covers, which teachers have reported you can get for about $0.13 each pair. 

  • Go with a sturdier headphone option (such as Califone CA 2 headphones from School Specialty), then assign them to each student with the intention of having that student use the same set year after year.  Most last for all 6 years that they are at the school if they treat them right. Just change the Ziplocs out each year when kids switch to a new class.


  • Consider not storing headphones at all. Instead have students responsible for bringing their own, which are stored in their classroom. Get a few pairs of earbuds from the dollar store and keep those for students whose break or are forgotten, letting families know they’re available for $1.


*All Tech Tips*

  • Zip tie mouse, headphone and power cords in loops to shorten the cords so they don’t tangle.

  • Consider looking at our post on Technology Inventory Check-Out Systems if you want to really get serious about keeping track of everything.


Experience makes the best teacher when it comes to learning to organize a classroom. Use these tips and tricks to save yourself time and money when it comes to organizing tech in the computer lab or classroom.
Cleaning Tips

Start by checking out my article on Keeping Your Classroom Devices Clean!


Also note a few other cleaning standbys we’ve heard of other teachers using: 

  • Hand sanitizer on the way in and wipe down everything on the way out.  You can even have a student in each class that is responsible for squirting everyone with hand sanitizer before you start.

  • As each class leaves, spray Lysol on the keyboard and mouse. It dries within 60 seconds! 

  • When you do have to wipe everything down, attach a rag to a Swiffer floor cleaner.  Spray the tables and wipe them down with the Swiffer to save your back.


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Experience makes the best teacher when it comes to learning to organize a classroom. Use these tips and tricks to save yourself time and money when it comes to organizing tech in the computer lab or classroom.

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Brittany Washburn
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