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Tech Tips for Tots: Using Technology for Early Childhood Education


Pre-kindergarten and early childhood education teachers, this one's for you.  Have you been looking for ways to infuse technology in your curriculum?  At the preschool level, it can be hard to be committed to finding a balance,  and looking for edutainment - not just entertainment.

Pre-kindergarten and early childhood education teachers, this one's for you.  Have you been looking for ways to infuse technology in your curriculum?  At the preschool level, it can be hard to be committed to finding a balance,  and looking for edutainment - not just entertainment.


First, keep in mind that picture sharing and video chatting with loved ones is a stated exception to the screen time guidelines laid out by the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organizations for preschoolers. It’s beneficial to help them get acclimated to talking to people online, and to give them the enrichment of a visit with a loved one. 


Moving forward from there, the United States Department of Educations’ four guiding principles for use of technology with early learners are as follows:

  • Technology—when used appropriately—can be a tool for learning.

    • Families and early educators should ask themselves following questions:

      • Content—How does this help children learn, engage, express, imagine, or explore?

      • Context—What kinds of social interactions (such as conversations with parents or peers) are happening before, during, and after the use of the technology? Does it complement, and not interrupt, children’s learning experiences and natural play patterns?

      • The individual child—What does this child need right now to enhance his or her growth and development? Is this technology an appropriate match with this child’s needs, abilities, interests, and development stage?

  • Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children.

  • Technology may be used to strengthen relationships among parents, families, early educators, and young children.

  • Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children.


As you get started on devices with your preschoolers, always make sure that the gadgets and apps your little ones are using are safe and secure by previewing any technology or software you let them use.  Can they wander off into areas with potentially inappropriate content?  On shared devices, can they accidentally access your (or other student’s) private information?  Can they find themselves contacting people without supervision?


Another way to focus your kids on things they need to be learning is by concentrating on teaching basic computer skills.  Take a look at the kind of standards students will need to be attaining once they hit kindergarten, like simply touching and getting to know the function of different pieces of hardware.  You can also introduce preschoolers to many basic computer science concepts and skills without ever touching a device. Introducing them to the concept of passwords, understanding that certain activities have sequenced steps like computers have algorithms, and practicing working and playing with strangers respectfully can all be done without screens.


When you really get rolling, here are some tech ideas to inspire you:

  • Coding stories and games offer collaborative and playful ways for children to explore early coding on platforms such as  Scratch, Jr..

  • Take photos of block buildings or artwork that children have created. 

  • Video dramatic play to replay for children.

  • Record children’s stories about their drawings or their play, then make audio or video files to document their progress.

  • Ebooks and sites like Storyline Online let your children interact with books.

  • Starfall is a phonics-based website to strengthen reading skills. 

  • ABC Ya, Cookie and Fuel the Brain feature age-appropriate educational games and activities spanning all subject areas. 

  • Suessville, named for Dr. Suess, includes kid-friendly activities as well as information about the author’s books.


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Pre-kindergarten and early childhood education teachers, this one's for you.  Have you been looking for ways to infuse technology in your curriculum?  At the preschool level, it can be hard to be committed to finding a balance,  and looking for edutainment - not just entertainment.

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Brittany Washburn
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Apps and Online Tools That Help Kids Master Bloom's Revised Taxonomy


In an increasingly digital world, teachers are now finding ways to incorporate apps and online resources that help support students as they work through Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.

Bloom’s Taxonomy was first devised in the 50’s, and then revised in the early 2000’s.  In one form or another it has shaped how teachers think about nourishing and engaging their students for over 60 years.  That's no wonder, since it encourages the development of skills to help students of all ages solve problems and think critically both in and out of the classroom.  Additionally, I’ve found the verbs developed for each of the stacking levels of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy help me plan learning activities that will keep students challenged in their Zone of Proximal Development.


In an increasingly digital world, teachers are now finding ways to incorporate apps and online resources that help support students as they work through Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.  



Creating: 

Put elements together to form a new coherent or functional whole; reorganize elements into a new pattern or structure (design a new set for a theater production, write a thesis, develop an alternative hypothesis based on criteria, invent a product, compose a piece of music, write a play). 


Evaluating: 

Make judgments based on criteria and standards (e.g., detect inconsistencies or fallacies within a process or product, determine whether a scientist’s conclusions follow from observed data, judge which of two methods is the way to solve a given problem, determine the quality of a product based on disciplinary criteria).


Analyzing:

Break material into its constituent parts and determine how the parts relate to one another and/or to an overall structure or purpose (e.g., analyze the relationship between different flora and fauna in an ecological setting; analyze the relationship between different characters in a play; analyze the relationship between different institutions in a society).


Applying:

Use information or a skill in a new situation (e.g., use Newton’s second law to solve a problem for which it is appropriate, carry out a multivariate statistical analysis using a data set not previously encountered).


Understanding:

Demonstrate comprehension through one or more forms of explanation (e.g., classify a mental illness, compare ritual practices in two different religions).


Remembering:

Retrieve, recall, or recognize relevant knowledge from long-term memory (e.g., recall dates of important events in U.S. history, remember the components of a bacterial cell).


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In an increasingly digital world, teachers are now finding ways to incorporate apps and online resources that help support students as they work through Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.


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Encouraging Kids to be Content Creators Instead of Content Consumers


Kids are constantly consuming digital content. They are reading blogs, watching Youtube videos, and helping social media content go viral. But what if they were the ones creating this content? Teachers can encourage their students to be the ones creating valuable content.

Kids are constantly consuming digital content. They are reading blogs, watching Youtube videos, and helping social media content go viral. But what if they were the ones creating this content? Teachers can encourage their students to be the ones creating valuable content. 


Classroom blogs are a great and versatile way to get your kids creating content. You can have students post their writing (stories, paragraphs, poetry, etc.), pictures of class projects, or even audio projects (read aloud practice, speech class ventures, etc.).  As a bonus, they are also a great way to showcase student work to parents and keep them in the loop.  Many blogging platforms are designed to be very easy to use, like Blogger and Live JournalEdublogs was even made just for classroom and school library blogs.  


Instructables is an online community of people writing how-tos that your students can contribute to.  Walk your students through signing up and creating accounts, including making sure to verify their emails so they can both make instructables and comment on others.  The website provides a video tutorial if you’d like some guidance in helping your students create their first how-to.  Not only is this a great way to have your students create content, it’s also a great opportunity to teach procedural writing with a little extra buy-in. Since their writing will be published publicly to the web, you can speak to your students about how this is a situation in which they want to do their very best.


There are also several creative platforms out there for contributing to online communities that create storybooks and illustrations, such as My Storybook and Storyboard That.   Storybird is a subscription service, but it can really get inspiration flowing and it is unique in that it lets students put words to already created (wordless) picture books from various professional illustrators.


When guiding your students towards being content creators, it is imperative to also teach them internet safety.  First, when signing up for things, impress upon your students that they are not to share personal identifying information on the internet.  Another major point you’ll want to go over is how to behave respectfully and responsibly in online communities. Go over the word respectful and what treating other people with respect looks like online.  As a general rule of thumb, I like to have students wait until after they have contributed some of their own work before allowing them to comment.  I find this helps to impress upon your students the hard work that someone put into each project they look at, to encourage them to treat others' work with respect.  Talk about what appropriate actions your child can take if they see they don’t have something good to say about, such as simply moving on to find work that they do like.  If you are specifically asking your students to provide constructive feedback to one another, practice this skill several times in person before having them try it online.


Getting your students to be content creators can help your students be responsible online citizens, as well encourage them to develop pride in their work.


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Kids are constantly consuming digital content. They are reading blogs, watching Youtube videos, and helping social media content go viral. But what if they were the ones creating this content? Teachers can encourage their students to be the ones creating valuable content.


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Back to School Technology Activities to Jumpstart the School Year


Here are a few ideas that technology teachers can use during the first month of school to get students excited for a year of tech learning.  Tech needs and interests differ as students grow, so there’s a little something for every age level.  Each level also includes an unplugged activity in case you are still smoothing out your tech at the beginning of the year!

Here are a few ideas that technology teachers can use during the first month of school to get students excited for a year of tech learning.  Tech needs and interests differ as students grow, so there’s a little something for every age level.  Each level also includes an unplugged activity in case you are still smoothing out your tech at the beginning of the year!


Primary

Unplugged: 

Build Your Own Computer (Brittany’s Own!)

  • Students assemble and color a paper computer, learning the name and function of each part as they go.


Coding: 

ScratchJr

  • Coding for pre-readers, with symbols instead of written words on snap-together code blocks.


Something Fun:

Mouse Control Games

  • A small collection of games from Funbrain to help your young learners master control of their mouse and/or trackpad.


Middle Elementary

Unplugged:

Powerful Passwords

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


Coding:

LightBot

  • A puzzle game based on coding; it secretly teaches you programming logic as you play.


Something Fun: 

Make an Avatar Digital Glyph Activity (Brittany’s Own!)

  • Students will be asked to work across slides in either Google Slides or PowerPoint, copy and paste between slides, resize pieces, layer pieces, group pieces, and save their finished work as an image file. All while completing an engaging get-to-know-you activity.




Upper Elementary

Unplugged:

You Can Say That Again! - Text Compression

  • This collection of twenty activities is designed to aid the teaching and learning about data compression through engaging games and puzzles using cards, string, crayons and lots of running around.


Coding:

Minecraft: AI for Good

  • Program the Minecraft Agent to collect data about forest fires. 


Something Fun:

Digital Breakout Challenges (Brittany’s Own!)

  • Using technology and problem solving skills, students decipher codes to help save Max from cyberspace. This is a great activity to introduce students to the escape the classroom challenges, and it is fully digital!  This breakout activity can be done in Google Slides or PowerPoint.




Middle School

Unplugged:

Digital Citizenship Discussion Prompts (Brittany’s Own!)

  • All Digital Citizenship Standards are addressed with these 42 task card style discussion prompts.




Coding:

Dance Party

  • Code a Dance Party and share it with friends. Featuring Katy Perry, Shawn Mendes, Lil Nas X, Panic! At The Disco, Jonas Brothers, and many more.


Something Fun:

Kahoot!

  • Let students make their own quizzes.


Early High School

Unplugged:

Crack the Code Puzzles (Brittany’s Own!)

  • Binary Code, Hexadecimal, and Morse Code Encoded Messages with silly phrases as well as technology facts. These are still Tech lessons but on paper!




Coding:

NASA Moon 2 Mars

  • Students can design their own animated mission patch, imagine their life as an Artemis astronaut on the Lunar Gateway, and more. 


Something Fun:

Lyrics Training

  • Improve and practise listening skills with the best music videos. Students fill in the gaps to the lyrics as they listen to their favourite songs.


Late High School

Unplugged 

Peruvian Coin Flip

  • This activity teaches Cryptographic protocols by showing how to accomplish a simple, but nevertheless seemingly impossible task—making a fair random choice by flipping a coin, between two people who don’t necessarily trust each other.


Coding: 

Python + Biology 

  • Students develop programming skills and build their own animal classifier. 

Let's Build a Drone!

  • Build a drone frame in ten steps with NCLab's 3D Modeling app.


Something Fun:

Science Lab Safety Mannequin Challenge (Brittany’s Own!)

  • Join the mannequin challenge craze while practicing science lab safety! This resource walks your students through planning, rehearsing, filming, and reflecting on a mannequin challenge.


Pin this blog post to get back to later:
Here are a few ideas that technology teachers can use during the first month of school to get students excited for a year of tech learning.  Tech needs and interests differ as students grow, so there’s a little something for every age level.  Each level also includes an unplugged activity in case you are still smoothing out your tech at the beginning of the year!



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25 Virtual Teaching Tips from Teachers


When I asked my Facebook Group "If you're already teaching virtually, what is your best advice for those just getting started?" the post received 98 replies right away. There were a lot of common themes and I've compiled them into this concise list of advice.

When I asked my Facebook Group "If you're already teaching virtually, what is your best advice for those just getting started?" the post received 98 replies right away. There were a lot of common themes and I've compiled them into this concise list of advice. 

  1. Test your activities ahead of class. And test them again on every device type you have access to.
  2. Give yourself a break as things will not always go as planned.
  3. Always have an alternative option for students to complete independently if they cannot see or hear your live lesson. 
  4. Have a backup plan and a second back up plan because you'll need both.
  5. Blue light glasses, a good chair, and 2 monitors.
  6. Self care! Make time for yourself every day.
  7. Quality microphone or headset.
  8. Be patient and slow down. You're learning a lot of new things!
  9. Good teaching is good teaching. Trust your teacher gut.
  10. Commercial breaks during video lessons - ask random silly questions to break it up.
  11. Relationships over rigor.
  12. Music while waiting for kids to join.
  13. Make friends with your tech contact via candy, flowers, etc. 
  14. Take attendance as students enter the video meeting.
  15. Keep it simple with a few apps and websites you use all the time. 
  16. Get comfortable with making screencasts.
  17. Lower your own expectations.
  18. Record your lessons ahead of time and play the video during your lessons. 
  19. Take a deep breath!
  20. Use unplugged activities just like you would in the classroom. Whiteboards and notebook paper activities are just as effective as digital and can save a lot of effort. 
  21. Cut your activities in HALF. 
  22. Turn off your computer when the school day is over.
  23. Spend at least 2 weeks on procedures before trying to teach anything new. 
  24. Get stronger WiFi if you can.
  25. Accept that it is different than teaching in person.
Would you add anything to this list? Leave it in the comments! 

Pin this blog post to get back to later:
When I asked my Facebook Group "If you're already teaching virtually, what is your best advice for those just getting started?" the post received 98 replies right away. There were a lot of common themes and I've compiled them into this concise list of advice.


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12 Tech Tools for Keeping Parents in the Loop and Boosting Teacher-Parent Communication


As teachers, part of our job is making sure that parents are kept in the loop about their child's progress and behavior.  Luckily, there are lots of tech tools out there to help you do this!

As teachers, part of our job is making sure that parents are kept in the loop about their child's progress and behavior.  Luckily, there are lots of tech tools out there to help you do this!


If you want to keep things simple, class blogs as a way to keep your parents up to date have been around for quite a while.  Many platforms are designed to be very easy to use, like Blogger and Live JournalEdublogs was even made just for classroom and school library blogs.  


You can also utilize familiar video calling technology such as Skype, etc. for more convenient parent teacher conferences.


There are several apps created specifically as a platform for parent-teacher communication, such as Bloomz, SimplyCircle, and Remind.  

  • Bloomz has class updates, photo & video sharing, student portfolios, behavior tracking, two way messaging, a class calendar, manages parent-teacher conference scheduling and also has volunteer and item sign-ups.  

  • SimplyCircle lets you share messages, pictures & files, as well as add tasks, organize events & assign roles. You create Circles by adding email addresses so members of your circle do not need to be a member of Simply Circle to view the emails.  

  • Remind styles itself as a simple but effective engagement system that’s like text messaging for school communities.


Some learning management systems like Seesaw, ThinkWave and Schoology have integrated parent communication features.  

  • Seesaw’s communication features include two way messaging, class announcements, a journal students can add video reflections and group projects for their own families to see, and can translate your messages into over 55 languages with the press of a button.  

  • ThinkWave lets parents view messages, download handouts & files, see upcoming tests, assignments & activities, and view day-to-day results, attendance, & final grades.  

  • Schoology advertises the ability to communicate with students, faculty, parents, and other shareholders all at once with mass updates, in­-platform messages, and mobile notifications, and additionally lets you create parent groups so parents can collaborate with one another.  It also features an assignment calendar to help keep everyone up to date.


Popular with teachers who love gamification are avatar-based behavioral management systems like ClassDojo, or for older students Classcraft.  These systems let you award student-created avatars with points for desirable behavior and take away points for undesirable behavior.  Both of the aforementioned systems also let you connect parent accounts so they can see exactly how their students are acting when in school and allow for private messaging between the teacher and individual parents.  You can also use class-wide parent announcements to keep parents in the loop and upload attachments with your messages, such as handouts, worksheets, or permission slips.


You know what will work best in your classroom.  If you try one thing and find it isn't working as well for you as you'd hoped, then try something else next year (or next semester). Whenever you are considering a new teacher-parent communication system, here are the things you should look for:

  • free

  • easy to install and use

  • capable of two-way communication

  • can share files such as pics, videos, and documents

  • accessible on multiple devices

  • can send individual and mass messages can create or notify parents about events, etc. 


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As teachers, part of our job is making sure that parents are kept in the loop about their child's progress and behavior.  Luckily, there are lots of tech tools out there to help you do this!

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