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Tech Curriculum

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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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Digital Citizenship Week Activities for K-5

Digital Citizenship Week Activities for K-5


Digital Citizenship Week is in October and is a great opportunity to go over these topics with students. I have rounded up internet safety resources and activities to help with planning.

Digital Citizenship Week is in October and is a great opportunity to go over these topics with students. I have rounded up internet safety resources and activities to help with planning. 

Learn about Digital Citizenship with Common Sense Media

First up is Common Sense Media

https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-citizenship-week They have a page all about Digital Citizenship Week and they also link to resources and activities. 

Make an Internet Safety Themed Bulletin Board

Preparing your classroom with functional décor for digital citizenship topics gets everyone excited and engaged. This Student-Created Bulletin Board set includes one for the Internet Safety Standard, Digital Citizen. The activity has students come up with rules for being safe on the internet. Click on the picture to see the set. 

Read eBooks

eBooks are a great way to introduce students to digital citizenship vocabulary. Read these eBooks to your classes. There are 15 booklets so you can spread them across grade levels over the course of Digital Citizenship Week (and beyond). 

Try Digital Activities for Digital Citizenship Topics

I have 2 sets of activities for K-5 digital citizenship. Pick one or the other based on what you want to have included. 

This one goes along with the Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Curriculum. They're supplemental digital activities for each CSM lesson:

If you don't want to use the CSM lessons then this set of resources and activities are what I'll recommend:

Review Digital Citizenship with Discussions and Digital Breakouts

Discussion prompts are a great way to see what your students know and how they've been thinking about these topics already.

Next, have a fun review with Digital Breakouts! 
To learn more about any of these resources and activities, click on the images. 

Hopefully this list gives you some inspiration for how to cover Digital Citizenship Week with your students. 

Here are other blog posts I have about Internet Safety:

Digital Citizenship Week is in October and is a great opportunity to go over these topics with students. I have rounded up internet safety resources and activities to help with planning.


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Brittany Washburn
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Warm Up Activities for the Computer Lab

Warm Up Activities for the Computer Lab


I LOVE Literacy so it is no surprise that I use books as a warm up activity for almost every technology lesson. Both print and digital books (and even audiobooks) can be used, and reading to my classes is a way to connect with my students. The discussions that come from it are amazing and make me feel like I'm building community even in just 45 minutes once a week.

I LOVE Literacy so it is no surprise that I use books as a warm up activity for almost every technology lesson. Both print and digital books (and even audiobooks) can be used, and reading to my classes is a way to connect with my students. The discussions that come from it are amazing and make me feel like I'm building community even in just 45 minutes once a week. 

There are amazing Technology Themed Children's Books available. I compiled my favorites into a spreadsheet. You can make a copy of it here

For the past year I've been hard at work putting together over 80 eBooks on technology topics. I thought I knew a lot about technology until I started researching to be able to write these books! I have learned so much and it really fuels my desire to teach others. I think students are going to love being introduced to topics with these eBooks. 

Here are the ones I have done so far:

Computer Basics eBooks

 

  • Parts of a Computer
  • Computers
  • The Internet
  • Web Pages
  • Operating Systems
  • How a Mouse Works
  • Using a Mouse or Trackpad
  • Using a Keyboard
  • History of Computers
  • Inputs and Outputs
  • Parts Inside a Computer
  • Taking Care of a Computer
  • Email
  • File Storage
The Computers basics booklets can be use any time of year to introduce these technology topics. 

Digital Citizenship eBooks

  • Conflict Resolution
  • Cyberbullying
  • Media Literacy
  • Public Forums
  • Private and Personal Information
  • Social Media
  • Viruses and Hackers
  • Blogs
  • Distance Learning (freebie)
  • Peer Pressure
  • Online Reputation
  • Screen time
  • Online Sources
These digital citizenship booklets make great discussion starters. Read them whole group to introduce students to the terminology that they'll be using in your internet safety unit. 

Online Research Skills eBooks


  • Search Engines
  • Search Results
  • Ads in Search (and Advanced search techniques)
  • Reading a Web Page
  • Evaluating a Web Page
  • Copyright
  • Taking Notes
  • Citing Sources
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
Read the Online Research Skills eBooks to your classes to introduce the terminology they'll be using for research projects. 

People Important to Technology eBooks


  • Ada Lovelace
  • Alan Turing
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Annie Easley
  • Benjamin Banneker
  • Bill Atkinson
  • Bill Gates
  • Chester Gordon Bell
  • Christopher Sholes
  • Douglas Engelbard
  • Edith Clarke
  • Ellen Ochoa
  • Elon Musk
  • Gitanjali Rao
  • Grace Hopper (freebie)
  • Hedy Lamarr
  • Jerry Lawson
  • John Atanasoff
  • Joy Buolamwini
  • Katherine Johnson
  • Larry Page
  • Marie Curie
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Mary Spio
  • Mary Wilkes
  • Nikola Tesla
  • Philip Emeagwali
  • Sergey Brin
  • Steve Jobs
  • Ted Hoff
  • Thomas Edison
  • Tim Berners Lee
Phew that is a lot of people important to technology! These eBooks make a great introduction to a unit on Technology Careers. Students can even use the Booklets to research a person and then create a research report or presentation on the information. 

  • Audio files
  • File Sizes
  • Fonts
  • Image Files
  • Multimedia
  • Software Basics
  • Presentation Software
  • Word Processing Software
  • Spreadsheet Software
  • Algorithms
  • Bugs and Debugging
  • Decomposing
  • Events and Conditions
  • Loops
  • Programs
  • Sequencing
  • Values and Variables

Coming soon is a series on Creativity with Technology! 

Pin this post to get back to later:

I LOVE Literacy so it is no surprise that I use books as a warm up activity for almost every technology lesson. Both print and digital books (and even audiobooks) can be used, and reading to my classes is a way to connect with my students. The discussions that come from it are amazing and make me feel like I'm building community even in just 45 minutes once a week.


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Brittany Washburn
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Tips for Teaching Typing

Tips for Teaching Typing


With an ever-increasing focus on technology in our world, typing is a crucial skill.  Technology teachers are often asked to take the lead in typing instruction, or at least guide classroom teachers in their own efforts to teach typing.  Here are some of the most critically acclaimed programs to help get your students where they need to be!
With an ever-increasing focus on technology in our world, typing is a crucial skill.  Technology teachers are often asked to take the lead in typing instruction, or at least guide classroom teachers in their own efforts to teach typing.  Here are some of the most critically acclaimed programs to help get your students where they need to be!  


To get you started, check out these two resources:

Printable Keyboarding Expectations Poster (FREEBIE) 

Using a Keyboard Booklet 


Online Typing Tutors

Typing.com

Younger students will develop their fine motor skills and familiarity with the keyboard, while older students can improve their typing speed.


Typing Club

Typing Club is web based and highly effective. It is free for both individuals and schools, with an optional paid school edition.


TypeTastic!

TypeTastic School Edition allows you to track students' progress, customize study material and set up timed tests, and complete K-12 Keyboarding Curriculum with over 700 engaging activities.


Side Note:

If you are having issues with ads on a free typing website, consider using a Chrome extension called uBlock Origin. It blocks everything (including YouTube ads). Every once and a while you may have issues with websites displaying properly because the extension sees an image on the site as an ad in which case you simply disable it for those specific sites.


Have Tablets? These are iPad-friendly Typing Apps and Sites:

Practice with Typing Games

Nitro Type 

Compete in fast-paced races with up to 5 typists from around the world. Compete against your friends, earn new cars, track your scores, and more.


Typing Games Zone

Play 131 free keyboard games online.


FreeTypingGame.net 

Free games, lessons and typing tests.


Arcademics  

Three solid typing games you can use for extra practice.  This website is also a hub for educational games covering a wide variety of math skills as well as grammar and spelling practice, and every single game here is truly educational.

With an ever-increasing focus on technology in our world, typing is a crucial skill.  Technology teachers are often asked to take the lead in typing instruction, or at least guide classroom teachers in their own efforts to teach typing.  Here are some of the most critically acclaimed programs to help get your students where they need to be!


School-Wide Typing “Olympics”

During the last couple of months of the year, run a Typing Olympics (or something like it). Each grade could have a WPM and accuracy target (such as K = 5 WPM up to 6th = 35 WPM). Publicly post awards gold, silver, and bronze medals, and perhaps also include special medals for those "most improved" during the “Olympics” period. 

Check out this blog post I have on how I run a Typing Olympics.


Check out these Digital Typing Activities

As a technology teacher I'm always looking for ways to differentiate and reach my students where they are. The typing programs in this post are great, but many times students will need additional practice materials to master keyboarding. These are some resources I've created for that purpose:


Check out these Unplugged Typing Activities

File Folder Keyboard Activities 

Alphabet Keyboard Practice 

Typing Practice 

Fill in the Keyboard Letters

Keyboard Puzzles

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With an ever-increasing focus on technology in our world, typing is a crucial skill.  Technology teachers are often asked to take the lead in typing instruction, or at least guide classroom teachers in their own efforts to teach typing.  Here are some of the most critically acclaimed programs to help get your students where they need to be!


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Brittany Washburn
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Teaching Your Kids About Passwords

Teaching Your Kids About Passwords


Passwords are a part of life in the 21st century. Begin by taking time to talk to your students/kids explicitly about passwords.  It may seem like these basic concepts should go without saying, but every stable building has to be built on a strong foundation.
Passwords are a part of life in the 21st century. Begin by taking time to talk to your students/kids explicitly about passwords.  It may seem like these basic concepts should go without saying, but every stable building has to be built on a strong foundation. 

Cover things such as:

  • how passwords keep their digital identity and online goods safe
  • passwords should not be shared verbally
  • remember to log out and select not to save passwords on public computers

Passwords with young kids

You can start introducing the concept of passwords as early as preschool (all without even touching a device).  Try these ideas:

  • Don’t say the secret word (i.e. playing Taboo style games).

  • Make a fort and have an individualized secret password each child needs to enter

  • Practice using polite phrases as "passwords" for everyday actions.

  • Put kids in partners, then have them take turns thinking up "passwords" and making sure their partner can't guess it.

  • Suggest an at-home project: Parents keep a special snack in the pantry in a locked box.  If the  child forgets to lock up their treats again after eating one, the parents remove and hide the contents of the box.

Passwords are a part of life in the 21st century. Begin by taking time to talk to your students/kids explicitly about passwords.  It may seem like these basic concepts should go without saying, but every stable building has to be built on a strong foundation.

Passwords with school-age kids

Targeting lower-mid elementary students (but usable for any level that needs it), take a look at this comprehensive introductory lesson:

Powerful Passwords

This lesson from code.org has students explore why people use passwords, learn the benefits of using passwords, and discover strategies for creating and keeping strong, secure passwords


A picture book is also a great conversation starter. Check out Cici's Cellphone Circus: Passwords that I wrote.

Passwords tips for all

No matter what their grade level, secure passwords can be especially difficult for children to remember, so try this method to help your students have the best of both worlds:

  1. Have students begin by grabbing a pen and paper (or opening a note-taking app) to write down the ideas they come up with.

  2. First, demonstrate thinking of several one or two sentence phrases that your students can remember.  They can be centered around favorite foods, objects or activities.  They can also be lines from a favorite book or song.  Once they have their sentences, begin converting them into passwords.  Start by taking the first letter of each word and noting it.  Then think if any capitals were present in the sentences and replace those letters as capitals. Finally, check if and special characters can be applied, such as & for and, 2 for to and too, 4 for for, * for star, and @ for at.  

For example: 

Sentence: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch water

Password: J&Jwuth2fw 

Sentence: Chocolate ice cream is my favorite!  But I like vanilla too.

Password: cicimf!BIlv2

  1. You may also want to see if you can think of some sentences that may help students remember which website matches which password.  For instance, a password for abcya.com might be based on the sentence “C is for cookie, and that’s good enough for me”, and a password for youtubekids.com could be a lyric from their favorite song to listen to on YouTube.


Here are some more fun ideas for teaching and reviewing the concept:

Passwords are something you and your students will be forced to deal with, so hopefully these tips make things a bit less painful for everyone!



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Passwords are a part of life in the 21st century. Begin by taking time to talk to your students/kids explicitly about passwords.  It may seem like these basic concepts should go without saying, but every stable building has to be built on a strong foundation.



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Brittany Washburn
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