ISTE2014 Tips – “Welcome to HotLanta”

In 30 days, the largest EdTech Conference in the world will transcend upon one of the hottest cities in the U.S. The Conference…ISTE, of course. The city = none other than Atlanta, GA, better known as “Hotlanta”. With approximately 15,000 educators gathering together for this incredible, there are a few things that one needs to consider.



The City of Atlanta has a population of approximately 45,000 residents. However, when you factor in the metro area (Buckhead, Bankhead, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, etc.), that number rises to a metropolitan population of 5.45 million people, making the Atlanta metro the 9th largest metropolitan area in the country.



With so many people living and working in Atlanta, there are a few things that one must consider.

  1. There will be TRAFFIC. For anyone who went to FETC this past January, I think that we can all clearly remember the biggest news during that time was the fact that people who were driving in the middle of the very random snow storm were stuck in traffic for as many as 12 hours. That being said, even though the sun will be out, one needs to be prepared for the traffic. The really tricky thing is that in most cities, you have shortcuts. In Atlanta however, you have confusion. I-285 and GA400 have regular traffic jams that extend beyond what you’d typically see in a city. Here in the DC Metro area, we have traffic on the major highways and Interstates from 6:30 a.m. till about 9:30 a.m. or so. In the afternoon, it starts up again at about 3:30 p.m. and doesn’t tend to die down until 6 or 7 p.m., depending upon the artery. In Atlanta, your “safest” times to drive are between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
  2. This brings me to Point #2. Peachtree. When you’re headed anywhere in Atlanta, it’s important to know which Peachtree you’re supposed to be on. Atlanta is notorious for having one too many Peachtree something or anothers. The main thing to keep in mind is that Peachtree St. is the one that goes through Atlanta, and Peachtree Rd. is the one that begins in Buckhead, transitioning you out of the city.
  3. Now, we can get into public transportation. MARTA is the name of Atlanta’s transit system. This is a real treat for anyone who has been to the last 2 ISTE Conferences. ISTE 2012 had a decent transit system in San Diego, CA. ISTE 2013 had nothing in San Antonio. This year’s ISTE Conference is located in a city that has a very regular and reliable transit system, with stations opening as early as 4:45 a.m. and closing as late as 1:36 a.m. I’ve created a metro-coded map for ISTE that lays out the location of all Metro train stations. It’s pretty easy to understand, as the metro system is color-coded, and only contains 4 possible lines. The red and yellow lines will get you to and from the Airport. The blue and green lines will get you to the Georgia World Congress Center for ISTE. Riding the metro is very inexpensive, as a full-day pass is only $9.
  4. The (ATL) airport is BIG. Having worked on a few marketing campaigns inside of the airport, I can tell you that its a very entertaining place. Airtran and Delta are the major airlines here. There are only 2 security lines. Each line tends to have 3 to 5 lanes open. Baggage claim and flight check-in counters are located on the same side of the airport, so at the very least, you won’t get lost in those areas. In terms of Concourses, there are a total of 7, and they go in order (T, A, B, C, D, E, F). The International Concourse is Concourse F, so if you’re arriving from outside of the U.S., then you’ll need to make the trek from F to T to exit the airport. The nice thing about ATL is that there are moving sidewalks and escalators that take you to each Concourse. And, if you really don’t want to walk, then there’s always the Concourse train that arrives at each Concourse within 90 seconds. There’s great food on every Concourse, it’s just all up to what you’re in the mood for. Personally, if I end up flying (instead of driving), then you’ll find me on the T Concourse at Jamba Juice (the only one that’s not on a college campus in Atlanta).
  5. Last, but not least, when it comes to transportation, we must include Amtrak. Amtrak is located on Peachtree St., and unfortunately, it’s located near a metro train station. Thus, if you’re coming to ISTE by train, then I’d suggest having a taxi pick you up from the Amtrak station to take you to your hotel.

When it comes to experiencing ISTE in Atlanta, my suggestion is to rely on MARTA. With MARTA, you get the most convenience for the least amount of money, and you don’t have to worry about the stress of driving.



There’s a reason as to why Atlanta is referred to as “HotLanta”. After taking a look at the upcoming forecast, I can pretty much guarantee to you that the heat of the city will be on. If you’re coming from a coastal area, then you’re about to face a very rude awakening, as the heat in Atlanta is no joke. If the forecast says it will be 90+ degrees out, then please make sure that you bring the appropriate attire. You can almost liken the weather conditions to what we experienced last summer when ISTE 2013 was in San Antonio, Texas. Capris, skirts and shorts are the preferred attire for most, as jeans and full-length pants are often too heavy and lead to heat exhaustion when one stays outside for too long. The good news is that the vast majority of the hotels in the area have a pool. Below is a break down of what the weather is expected to be during the week of ISTE 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 11.15.18 PM

The Convention Center tends to be quite cool, so all in all you should need nothing more than some capris and a very light jacket. Oh, and make sure you bring a raincoat and/or an umbrella…it looks like it’s going to rain (for at least a few of the days).



My First #EdCamp

Today, I participated in EdCamp Lehigh Valley. This was my first EdCamp experience, chock full of lessons that I’ll be bringing to the classroom and to the future EdCamps that I attend. The proceeding is a chronological compilation of lessons that I learned today.

    1. Do not rely on Apple Maps
      • Upon leaving the hotel this morning, I figured I’d just type the name of the school that the EdCamp was happening at into my iPhone, and I’d be good to go. Boy, was I wrong. Apple Maps directed me to the old location of the school, and when I say old, I mean 15 years old! 20 minutes later, I was able to find the correct address and location via Google. Mornings like this morning make me wish I had kept my Android.
    2. Be Brave
      • Don’t be afraid to make the first move. This goes for talking to people and for hosting a session. Speaking up allows you to meet others who have similar interests, or who may be in similar situations. It’s easy to be a lurker online, in places like Twitter; it’s much harder to be a lurker in person. Within two minutes of picking up my name tag, I had already connected with two #eduawesome people.
    3. Eat
      • Bring a snack, just in case. EdCamps tend to be 5-6 hours, and sometimes you just don’t know what food will be offered. This morning, EdCamp Lehigh Valley presented us with bagels, cream cheese and coffee. It was nice, and informal, kind of like a workplace lounge. By about lunch time, the spread had been changed to fruits, veggies and chips. The spread made for a nice snack. The thing that is important to remember about EdCamps, is that they are free events, that rely on sponsors for things like spaces, food, free schwag and door prizes. So, if the EdCamp’s website or invitation doesn’t specify that there will be food, or that they have a food sponsor, then it’s best to bring your own lunch (BYOL), just in case.
    4. Interact
      • The unconference experience is meant to be more like a conversation, and less like a setting where you are fed information. If you have input, then give it in the moment. Don’t wait for comment cards to come around, because I’m pretty sure they aren’t coming.
    5. Take Notes
    • I loved using a combination of a Google Doc and Evernote for this today. Taking notes allows you to go back and re-visit the concepts and conversations that you were involved in. If the Session Host(ess) puts their Twitter handle on the session board, or shares it during their session, then take note, as you may want to follow up with the individual after the EdCamp is over.
  1. Juggle 2 Sessions at Once
    • There were two great sessions that were happening at the same time today, “Computer Programming” and “Even Little Ones Can Tech”. I started off in “Computer Programming” (thank you @geekyteach) and about half way through decided to head on over to the “Even Little Ones Can Tech” session. At first, I was afraid that I would be perceived as being rude, but then I remembered that the whole premise of the EdCamp is to basically try all the flavors that you want, kind of like going to Coldstone Creamery. Once I got what I wanted out of the “Computer Programming” session, I went next door to give and get some input on the variety of things that kindergarten students can do with technology.
  2. Host a Session
    • The most intimidating thing about hosting a session, is deciding to host one in the first place. I waited and waited for someone to post a “Things That Suck” session on the Session Board. After waiting for about an hour, and seeing that no one had taken the plunge, I opted to take Bill Selak’s advice and host the session myself. Planning the session took a total of about 10 minutes, as you have to choose hot, controversial topics in education.
    • In “Things That Suck”, you choose “Sucks” or “Rocks” once you hear the topic. Then, you move to the respective (“Sucks” or “Rocks”) side of the room to further discuss your perspective. It’s completely fine to be in the middle if you’re undecided on the topic that is presented.
    • One suggestion that I received was to explain what “Things That Suck” is all about at the beginning of the day. This way, educators are more inclined to be a part of the discussion. Next time, I present “Things That Suck”, I plan to demo it in the morning with the topic of “peanut butter”. This way, all attendees can see what the conversation is meant to look like.
    • Today’s “Things That Suck” topics included:
      • Snow Days
      • Homework
      • High Stakes, Standardized Tests
      • Student Teaching/Co-Teaching
      • Grades
      • PD Days
      • Interactive WhiteBoards
      • School Funding
      • Common Core State Standards
      • Evaluations
    • Next time around, I’ll be including Filter Walls, concluding with a special viewing of Adam Bellow’s “Filter Wall”.
    • Being the unbiased moderator of this session, it was interesting to see and hear the different perspectives presented for each topic.
    • The cool thing about the “Things That Suck” session, is its transferability to the classroom. Instead of calling it “Things That Suck”, Bill Selack’s write up suggests calling it “Awesome or Lame”. This would be a great way to teach students how to take a side, and defend their opinion, which could also be turned into a persuasive writing prompt.
  3. Stick Around for the Raffle Prizes
    • We were each given 10 raffle tickets when we signed in this morning. At the end of the day, we re-convened into the cafeteria, for the drawing of the various raffle prizes. By 2:30 p.m., it looked as though half of the original participants had left. You had to be present to win the raffle prizes, so several of us won at least one raffle prize. One individual won 5 prizes. So, stick around, especially if you have a chance to win cool things like ChromeBooks, gift cards, or SnagIt software:)
Whelp, that’s all for my first-timer lessons. And, just as a random little side note, I must add the following.
When driving back to Alexandria, VA from Lehigh Valley, PA, I couldn’t help but to stop at the Hershey Factory as it was technically, sorta, kinda on the way. The Hershey Store is awesome, but was as crowded as a New York City subway station during rush hour. If I ever head back there, I’d definitely go in the morning, versus visiting one hour before closing. And, if I were a milk chocolate fan, then I would’ve bought this:

My EdTech Spotlight article

I recently wrote an article on the concept behind EdTech Spotlights, and figured I’d share it with you all, in case it doesn’t make it off the cutting room floor.

Here goes…

“This year, we’ve begun a new initiative that highlights the varied ways in which students use technology to enrich their learning experiences. From producing daily newscasts, to coding on iPods, our students are developing a greater sense for the ways in which technology is and can be used in their daily lives. Through weekly EdTech Spotlights, teachers throughout the school are able to see how their colleagues are leveraging the use of technology for academic purposes. This type of Spotlight has led the way to several practices that can now be seen in classrooms on a regular basis.

At Excel Academy, our girls are doing more than viewing technology. They are interacting with it, expanding their learning through it, and one day, we hope to see many of our scholars build technology tools that others can use. During Computer Science Education Week, over 200 of our scholars participated in the Hour of Code. Within this hour, students were able to program a virtual robot to light up a blue tile, using a simplified programming language. By opening our scholars’ eyes up to the world of technology, understanding it from the inside out, our goal is to increase interest amongst young girls for all fields of technology and computer science. Getting girls interested in technology at an early age, will in turn get more women involved in technological developments and related fields of employment; both adding variety and diversity to a field that is traditionally dominated by men.”

My Nerdlution

It’s been awhile, so here goes.

After reading a few tweets over the last few days, I learned about this thing called Nerdlution. Normally, I don’t subscribe to such “nerdy” undertakings, but this one struck my fancy due to its start date and the ability to encompass more than one goal. Plus, having undertaken two whole jobs for the price of one :(, the sarcastic side of me spoke to my gluttonous side and decided that there’s no such thing as “too much”. While most may select one or two things to focus on for the next 50 days, I find myself choosing 3 equally important things to do. Maybe it’s the overachiever in me, maybe I was just bored. Who knows?

My Nerdlution

1.   Read one chapter a day

I read less now, as a 30-year-old, than I ever have in my whole life. This fact alone is really sad when you couple it with the fact that I have over 3 dozen books that I’ve only opened once (maybe). That being said, this Nerdlution, will force me to finish those books that I can’t believe I ever put down, and pick up those books that I’ve forgotten all about. 
One chapter at a time, I’ll likely be able to finish at least 3 or 4 books over the next 50 days. On a really nerdy note, I just finished the book Lean In, today:)

2.   Write daily

For the last 6 years, I’ve been trying to write two books. One is about the unbelievable events of one’s life; the other is about all of the ridiculous stuff that happens in airports. Writing daily will help me get a little closer to completing both of these books. 
The thing that I love about writing is that the very act of writing can encompass so many different forms. Over the next 50 days, I’ll focus on writing chapters and vignettes for my books, I’ll write blog posts (for work) every Tuesday and Thursday, I’ll build my online portfolio and update my resume, and lastly, I’ll compose the many short and long responses for my Google Certified Trainer application.

3.   Coding

This Nerdlution couldn’t possibly be complete without the inclusion of some simple coding practice. Ever since I began to code over the summer, I’ve found myself dreaming of creating apps. and building websites. Just imagine all of the doors that can be opened when one learns to code. There’s such a movement in education right now centered on the topic of coding, that it would be a crying shame to miss out on learning this new skill.
Whelp, off to coding now. I wish you all a successful 50 days of Nerdlution!

Adventures in Coding: A Teacher’s Perspective, pt. 1

Since coding is all the rage nowadays, I figured I’d spend Summer “Break” learning how to code. I must confess that I was very naive at first, thinking that my mathematical genius would kick in and I’d pick up the coding process in a snap. Boy was I wrong.

I’ve been using this free program called LearnStreet. The website offers beginner courses in Javascript, Python and Ruby. As a novice Techie, I chose the most “popular” course: Javascript. Mistake #1.

In my opinion Javascript tends to be based more on problem solving and logic, and less on mathematical equations and operations. After venting to my Twitter peeps on the many obstacles in Javascript coding that I have been unable to overcome, Mr. Gauthier (@mrgfactoftheday) suggested that I try Python. So, I did. And to be completely honest, it makes a lot more sense to me.

I like Python, because it is more attuned to mathematical procedures and operations, as opposed to Javascript which uses more logic and syntax in order to complete a code. Python has reminded me of theorems from my high school Pre-Calculus and Algebra II classes. Also, in coding practice, I’ve learned a lot about myself on a very technical level.

For example, I don’t tend to follow rules to a “T”, in coding, you have to. I also don’t read directions when I think that something should be intuitive. In coding, you MUST read the directions, otherwise you’ll get lost, and begin pulling your hair out. So, take my advice, for now…if you’re new to coding, and you want to travel down Easy Street first, then start with Python, and once you gain some confidence in your abilities, give logic-based, syntax-heavy Javascript a go.

This is your TechTeacherT, signing off.

Until next time, when I conquer the beginner Python course.

Over and out.

Prepping for first-ever #girlsintechchat

On July 2nd from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST, I’ll be hosting a Twitter chat called #girlsintechchat. The goal is to pull together ideas and resources for getting more girls interested in pursuing careers in a Technology field. In this day and age, something just seems wrong about having Technology as a field that boys run. I’ve personally been a fan of Technology, in particular gaming since I was 5 years old, when my older brother taught me how to play Mario Brothers.

By getting more girls in the mix within their K-12 careers, we’re more likely to see diversity in the workplace, and a stronger prospect of gender equality. In today’s society where a man’s salary outranks that of a woman’s the majority of the time, it’s important that we teach our girls that equality is a goal worth striving for. By leveling the playing field on the Technology front, I hope that this prospect, this idea of equality in the workplace is something that can be achieved sooner, rather than later.

Since this will be the first #girlsintechchat I’ll be seeking input as to the preferred time and date of future #girlsintechchat. Please complete the survey below, so that a regular time/date can be set for future chats.

Thanks so much,

#girlsintechchat Time/date preference Survey

Notes To Self: ISTE 2013 – 15 Lessons Learned

After participating in ISTE13 this past week, I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on several lessons learned. These specific lessons are not academic in nature, that post will come a little later. Rather, I’ve formatted this post as a “Notes to self” type of entry, in order to make better decisions next year. In addition, one of my upcoming posts will be about what you should be prepared for when attending ISTE14 in Atlanta next summer.

1.        Eat more.
With all the walking and talking that one is bound to do while at an ISTE Conference, I quickly discovered the necessity of eating more than just once or twice a day. The heat that Texas has to offer is no joke, and while I didn’t personally, nor did I hear of anyone fainting, I must say that it is still important to be mindful of one’s dietary intake. And, just for the record, an Iced Chai from Starbucks does not equal a meal, or anything close to it.  

2.        Eat out.
Yes, we all love to splurge for room service every now and then, but it’s really difficult to make F2F connections with people when you’re cooped up in a hotel room for every meal. The few times when I ate at the hotel’s restaurant, I remember starting impromptu conversations with other ISTE participants who were also enjoying a nice quiet meal. If you ever want to know where to eat in a foreign city, just get onto Foursquare, and you’ll be able to check out the most happening locations within an area.  

3.        Buy the expensive, big bottles of Fiji water.
Let me just start by saying that I’m not a water snob, I just know what’s good. When you’re staying in a hotel that charges $2 for each little bottle of water you consume, you’d be better off walking over to the nearest drugstore and getting a few large bottles of Fiji. It’s good water, and you get a lot more, for a little less $.

4.        Take naps.Many ISTE participants on Twitter have already talked about soaking up information like a sponge. This article talks all about the benefits of taking a nap, and no, it’s not just beneficial for “old people”. Besides, while taking a nap, you can also give your phone a chance to charge.

5.        Make sure phone is fully charged while out. 
Nowadays, no one likes to be “stranded” without their technology device(s). What’s worse is having a phone, a full signal, and a dead battery. If you’re the type of person that carries a charger or a spare battery around, then great! If you’re not, then remember to recharge your phone before it dies, as my phone did twice. Luckily, I was hotel-bound each time.

6.        Get a hotel with FREE WIFI.Maybe I’ve been spoiled by always staying in hotels that had free WIFI at previous conferences and events. Either way, I couldn’t bring myself to pay $10 a day for access when I could get unlimited access at Starbucks or the Convention Center for free. 

7.         Bring the bare minimum number of technology devices.
Just because ISTE13 was a Technology-based Educational Conference, it doesn’t mean that one should bring half a dozen devices. Last year, my device count was rather light, with only my SmartPhone, an iPad, and my MacBook. This year was a bit more intense. I ended up packing my MacBook, iPhone, and both my personal and work iPads. Not to mention the free Surface tablet that 10,000 of us received for free at the event. As if the weight of these devices was not enough, now I have to go through and collate all of the QR codes that I scanned on my iPhone and iPads. Next year, I’ll pack way smarter, limiting the devices to a ChromeBook, that I’ll get this Christmas, and ONE iPad. Should definitely save a lot of time when being required to shut down devices prior to the flight departure.  

8.         If you know you’re receiving a free device, follow the Twitter advice and bring a case.
It would have been really nice to carry around the new Windows Surface tablet in a case or bag, rather than the clunky box that it came in. But I suppose that this uncomfortable clunkiness was bound to be the result of not listening to the nice reminder tweets about bringing a case for the device. Oh well, another lesson learned.

9.        Leave enough room in your suitcase for free schwag.
When you attend a Conference of this size, you know there are going to be a lot of vendors, so be prepared. A recent tweet I read, said that there was one vendor for every three participants. That’s a lot of information to take in, and a lot of freebies to receive. Wishing I would have planned accordingly. Thankfully, when I got home late Wednesday evening, my next-door neighbor intercepted me, and offered to carry my overstuffed suitcase up three flights of stairs:)

10.      Pack less.
This kinda goes in line with #9. However, the main reason for packing less is that you’re not going to a deserted island, thus anything outside of the 4 or 5 changes of clothes can likely be purchased at a local retail location.

11.      Take comfortable shoes.
Unless you find some type of sick enjoyment out of getting blisters, pack comfortable shoes. In my situation, a roundtrip from the hotel to the Convention Center and back equaled a little over a mile. Multiply that by 3, and tack on another mile or two of walking around the Convention Center, and you’re easily looking at about 5 miles worth of walking each day. Now, I realize that there were shuttle buses to and from the hotels, but there’s something healthy to be said about choosing walking over riding or driving. Yes, I was that individual wearing Skechers with a maxi dress. In a Conference that is that spread out, comfort takes precedence over style. Next year, I’ll definitely be breaking in a few pairs of shoes before taking them down to HotLanta.

12.     Remember username and password to the QR code source for personal business card.
Last year, just in time for ISTE12, I made a bunch of business cards that had a QR code which would link to my resume. Personally, I thought it was pretty sweet. But, when you spend the vast majority of the Conference in obscurity, too timid to converse with anyone, the business cards become relatively useless. Fast forward one year later. Too busy with work to even remember the password, let alone the email address I used to make the QR code, I was a little stuck. Thankfully, the QR code was linked to a GoogleDoc I had created, so all I had to do was change the text to replace my resume with my Twitter handle.
13.     Find a better way to make F2F introductions with Twitter followers.
Maybe it’s just me, but every time I heard or said the word “following” or “follower”, my mind immediately went to Fox’s creepy TV show, “The Following”. Now, there has got to be a better way to make face to face introductions with someone that you’re “following” on Twitter than to say, “Hey, I think I’m one of your followers“. Creepy, right?? So, while at the EdTech Karaoke party, I recognized one of the people I followed right away, and said “Krissy?”. Thankfully, she wasn’t too weirded out by the whole introduction, though it was still a little awkward on my part. I just had this crazy thought where next year, I’ll wear some type of oversized sticker that reads “If you think you follow me, I’m @TechTeacherT”. Great icebreaker, right?

14.     Make new friends.
In addition to finding your Twitter peeps at a Conference this size, it’s also important to make new friends. You know, the ones that you’ve never communicated with or been connected to. For example, when the plane touched down in San Antonio on Sunday evening, I joined a taxi line that was at least one hundred people deep. While in the incredibly long line, another ISTE participant joined the wait. As we inched our way up to the front of the line, he asked if I’d mind splitting a cab. After seeing cab after cab pass by with only one person in it, I said , “Sure, why not”. So, we ended up splitting a cab ride into the city, which in turn, reduced some of the inevitable costs. Plus, meeting this one stranger, and crossing paths with him on a few additional occasions over the course of the week, made it that much easier to realize just how seamlessly we were all connected to one another.

15.     Check in to flight 24 hours in advance, not one hour ahead of time.This problem was one of the most important travel takeaways that I took from this Conference. Southwest is a great airline, really it is. But, I had neglected to read up on the airline prior to checking in, and did not realize until I got to the airport that there were no assigned seats, and that your boarding order was based on when you checked in for your flight. Thus, when you check in an hour or two before your departure time, you can’t blame anyone for any inconvenience you may experience, like not being able to access your devices because there’s not enough room in the overhead for your bag. I learned my lesson. On the homebound flight, I checked in 24 hours ahead of time, and thankfully was able to get and keep a seat and my bags, as the flight had been overbooked.

Be sure to check out my next post on preparing for ISTE14 in Atlanta, on Monday. Those of you coming from far, far away, will surely find it useful.

Game-based Learning for 1st thru 6th Grades

All school year, I’ve been using a variety of games from to support classroom objectives. After a little bit of digging, I recently tripped upon the Arcademics website which offers a host of games that span over several topics:

  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • Division
  • Multiplication
  • Integers
  • Decimals
  • Money
  • Decimals
  • Time
  • Algebra
  • Fractions and Ratios
  • Spelling
  • Geography
  • Word Relationships
  • Typing

These games were built for Grades 1st thru 6th, and several of them have an iPad app. that goes for 99 cents. The nice bonus here is that each month, the website offers one app. for free.

The thing that I love the most about this site is that it incorporates the use of usernames (without passwords). Thus, in teaching students as young as First Grade about the importance of Digital Citizenship and being safe online, this site proves to be very useful.

At the beginning of the school year, I taught students about the importance of being safe online. In this particular lesson, we talked about usernames and how they help to keep us safe online. I had each First Grader create their own username based on some of their favorite animals, foods, colors, numbers and letters. As a result, I got some creative little combos.


The beauty of this lesson was that the students were over the moon with excitement about being able to use their self-created usernames to play some of the Arcademics games.

This lesson is a MUST for teaching students the importance of staying safe online. The fact that they get to practice some core skills in timed settings is an added bonus.

It’s All About Collaboration

Every single grade level has at least one standard that relates to collaboration or shared writing experiences. The beauty of these standards are that there are several ways to go about accomplishing this task.

*Note: This particular post will be continually updated based on the new collaboration tools that become available.

Some collaboration tools require an email, while others don’t. Therefore, I’ll be segmenting this particular post based on the need for an email address or just a username/password combo.

The first tool is the tried and true GoogleDocs. While you do need an account in order to set up a GoogleDoc, you do not need an email to edit one. Check out this GoogleDoc, and add your own text to it without signing in.

When setting up your own collaborative writing GoogleDoc, just be sure to choose “Anyone with a Link” and “can edit”.

K-12 Typing – It’s in the Standards

With the introduction of the Common Core State Standards, one can only begin to ponder the ways in which to approach the many technology-infused standards that exist. Since there is only one standard (technically three) that focuses on both the quantity and quality of one’s ability, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to the skill of typing.

We all know how important it is to learn how to type correctly. I’m sure that many of you have had staggeringly long papers to write type for graduate school. I remember the longest paper that I’ve ever had to type was 27 pages long.  That being said, below are the Standards that relate to typing. As you can see, there is only a clearly defined expectation for 4th, 5th and 6th graders.

W.4.6:  With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.

W.5.6:  With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of two pages in a single sitting.

W.6.6:  Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.

In making software purchase decisions, I’ve been getting input from fellow teachers on the software programs that they’d like to have for their students next year. When I brought up the need for typing programs, several teachers mentioned how great the Mavis Beacon Typing program was when they were in school. As great as the program is or may have been, some things need to be adequately updated with the changing times to ensure that our students are engaged in the learning process.

Through my experiences in teaching, I’ve devised a grade-by-grade plan for teaching typing. Keep in mind that a lot of typing lessons require the teacher to function as the scaffolder.

I completely realize how crazy it may seem to teach a 5-year-old how to type, but here’s the thing…since tech integration in the Common Core begins in kindergarten, so too should the most basic keyboarding instruction. Kindergarteners should be focused on finding letters with their two pointer fingers, as many of them have hands that are not quite big enough to span adequate reach on the keyboard. Thus, I recommend the following online activities for Kindergarten:

Keyboarding Zoo
Typing Rocket Jr.
Key Seeker
Super Hyper Spider Typer

I’ve used all of these “games” with kindergarteners and they’ve absolutely loved them all. The Keyboarding Zoo and Key Seeker games are great because animated animals and such come up after a specific letter is typed. Keyboarding Zoo is reinforces letter locations by having students type the same letter 10 times before they are given the next letter in alphabetical order. Super Hyper Spider Typer, and Typing Rocket Jr. are timer-based games, making them both my secondary choices for kindergarten. 

First Grade
The list of typing programs for First Grade is very similar to that of Kindergarten, with only a few minor tweaks based on their overall ability levels to find proper keys on the keyboard. With adequate keyboarding practice in Kindergarten, First Graders will likely feel more comfortable in timed settings. Thus, I would include the Cup Stacking Typing Game into the mix for First Grade.

Based on how quickly students are able to consistently “master” the above games, I’d begin to include Dance Mat Typing into the instructional plan. Dance Mat Typing is a really great program, and though it says its meant for students aged 7 to 11 years old, I would personally cap the cut off age at either 8 or 9 years old, as I’ve noticed many 4th and 5th graders getting bored by this very animated program.

Second Grade
Dance Mat Typing and the other ‘games’ above are well-suitable for Second Graders. In teaching this particular level, it’s important to begin scaffolding proper typing practices. At this grade level, students should be introduced to the home-row keys (L = a, s, d, f; R = j, k, l, ;). During the Dance Mat Typing activities, I consistently walk around the class tapping the back of students chairs to remind them to sit up straight. By the end of Second Grade, they’ve got this mantra stuck in their heads: “No backs on backs, No legs on legs, No elbows on the tables”. This mantra encourages students to sit straight without getting elbow cramps.

In addition to Dance Mat Typing and the previously listed activities, I’d include the following activities as they encourage students to type complete words:

Spider Typer – Hard
Alpha Munchies w/ Sight Words

Third Grade
Before a student completes Third Grade, he/she should be able to:

W.3.6:  With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

On the aspect of keyboarding, there are two viable choices, depending upon your school’s situation. 

Option 1
First is continuing with Dance Mat Typing, and beginning to incorporate timed typing examples like the one listed below.

Timed Typing assessment:
Typing Assessment 

When it comes to online Typing Tests, one thing that I’ve found is that it is hard to find a website that isn’t infiltrated with advertisements. So, when it comes to Typing Tests, I’d suggest doing a Google search and finding the one that works best for you.

Option 2
If your school has a technology budget, then I’d suggest purchasing software to push out to all of the computers. 
Software purchases are a tricky area, depending upon your school’s Vision and Philosophy. Thus, I’ve stumbled upon this great list that breaks down the Top 10 Typing programs for kids. It’s a great resource site because it compares each program, side-by-side, saving you a lot of the typical legwork required in making software purchases. 

Fourth Grade
Since the formalized keyboarding skills begin in Grade 4, I suggest utilizing Typing software as needed, while focusing on the actual integration of keyboarding skills in classroom assignments. This can be done in a variety of ways, from having students type their hand-written poems, to typing full-on research papers. Either way, the most important thing here is that students become comfortable with typing information on a regular basis, as they will be expected to type one page within a single sitting. 

Incorporating daily or weekly typing tests would also be beneficial for this grade, as it will help them build both speed and accuracy. 

Typing Test for Kids 

As a way to incorporate game-based learning programs into the curriculum, I recommend having students “compete” against others in a typing race. It’s relatively easy, you see. All they have to do is join a game of Sky Chase, and type the words as they see them, as quickly as they can. At the end of the game, students can see their accuracy percentage and how many words per minute they were able to type.

Fifth Grade
By the time a student completes 5th grade, he/she is expected to type 2 pages within one single-sitting. This makes it extra important to reinforce typing opportunities for writing assignments, while also amping up on the Typing Tests. 

At this grade level Typing software can still be used, but it becomes increasingly important for students to gain comfort in typing. As adults, we know how tiresome it can be to type up a two-page paper in one sitting. Now, imagine your students having to do the same exact thing. At this stage, typing should become an activity that is infused within the curriculum, multiple times a week, if not daily. 

In addition to the previously listed software in the Third Grade section, feel free to include any of the additional game-based learning sites listed above, as these will undoubtedly maintain the student’s interest while also teaching them an invaluable skill.

Sixth Grade
At this stage, students are expected to type 3 pages within one single-sitting. Prior to this point, students should have grown accustomed to typing. They should be using their home-row keys, without making many mistakes and capitalizing without using CAPS LOCK.

By this point, typing should be as second-hand as texting.

7th Grade thru 12th Grade
In 7th thru 12th grades, typing should become a daily part of the student’s life. Though there are no standards within the common core that directly relate to the skill of keyboarding for these grades, special attention should be paid to more formalized typing that relates to the various writing standards of each respective grade. 

Since these grades will likely have to type their responses, to the questions in the Writing Section of the PARC-C, it’s important that typing is regularly practiced within the instructional day.

I hope this post gave all an insightful view on infusing keyboarding instruction into the curriculum. Be sure to read my next post on some collaborative writing platforms.