Ask a Tech Teacher is a group of tech ed teachers who work together to offer you tech tips, advice, pedagogic discussion, lesson plans, and anything else they can think of to help you integrate tech into your classroom for education.
All around the country, schools are turning around education through the use of technology. Here are two, one in Hawaii and one in California that show you steps that might work for you:
Kalakaua Middle School leadership team gets into the spirit to boost positive behavior.
King David Kalakaua MS, Hawaii
When innovative school leaders decided to try a new technology program at King David Kalakaua Middle School this year, they hoped recognizing students’ good behavior would lessen their bad behavior. Their goal was to improve school climate and build positive relationships with everyone on campus by focusing on the positive. In less than six months, not only have they met that goal, but they also changed their peer’s perception of “trouble” students and helped boost grades.
“We feel like it’s had a major impact on students,” says MTSS Coordinator, Tiana Kamiko. She spearheaded the program with her fellow Behavioral Health Specialist Kristen Shimabukuro. “The campus itself feels happier. The kids are smiling more. Just the other day, we had a student telling Kristen that we’re part of the reason he likes to come to school now.”
The idea of rewarding students for positive behavior has a long history in schools, and numerous studies have shown the practice can improve student behavior, reduce suspensions, and even boost student achievement. It is, however, unusual for a school to see such a large jump in so many categories so quickly.
In Kalakaua, Kamiko and Shimabukuro took the lead in updating the school’s little-used paper reward system to an electronic version that rewards more students and offers everyone a chance to redeem prizes based on points they have earned.
The old system was a paper shuffle. Students would receive a paper ticket with their name on it for every positive deed a teacher recognized, from helping a classmate to always being prepared for class. Students would deposit their tickets in a big box and every week a few names would be drawn to win a prize, mostly snacks. “Universal recognition wasn’t happening. Some students’ tickets were never selected in the random drawing, so they were never recognized school-wide,” Kamiko says. “Many kids didn’t even turn in their tickets.”
This year, the MTSS/ PBIS team at Kalakaua decided to adopt technology from Hero K12, an online program where teachers can chart a wide variety of student behaviors, handing out points for everything from being prepared for school with supplies, assignments, uniform, and student ID (1 point) to going to an afterschool event (50 points). The school is even giving out extra Hero points for good grades with each A earning students 100 points. According to Kamiko, “by offering points for exemplary grades, we not only motivate students to pass all of their classes, but we motivate them to excel.” All staff members on campus can give and receive Hero points, from administration to office staff, from classroom teachers to education assistants, from custodial staff to security guards. This allows staff members to put themselves in their students’ shoes by experiencing the Hero program first-hand.
The big payoff for students is the ability to purchase items at a school store. In a school where the vast majority of students are economically disadvantaged, the store offers everything from school supplies and snacks to special school jackets and the biggest prize of all, the ability to reserve private time on the school’s basketball court. “It’s one of our biggest sellers,” Kamiko says, noting that students need 1,000 points to reserve time. “They have to work really hard to pay for that one.”
Mr. William Calori of Kalakaua Middle School wins Hero of the Month in November 2017.
And that is the whole point. By noticing and rewarding students’ good behaviors, and enticing them to create good habits, Kamiko and Shimabukuro say the new program is succeeding quicker than they expected. More than 60 percent of the school’s sixth graders use the program regularly, according to a recent school survey. More than 500 of the school’s 1,200 students follow the school program on Instagram while 65 percent who answered the survey said they have purchased something from the Hero store.
But the impact is going beyond numbers. Every week, Kalakaua’s Hero team highlights the top Heroes of the week, those students who earn the most points. Recently, a group of students with serious behavior issues topped the school’s list, surprising some of the staff. “It’s a huge milestone to get those students who have shown a history of negative behavior to do so well. It speaks a lot to what Kristen and I have been trying to push,” Kamiko says. In fact, there’s a group of students at the grade 6-8 school who are isolated from other students because of past misbehaviors. But these students have become the school’s best Hero helpers who set up and monitor the basketball court when a VIP session has been booked. “They are seen as positive role models,” she adds. “It has shifted a lot of the perceptions of them.”
Hero K12, a Miami Lakes, Florida, company, started in 2014 and now serves more than 1 million students in 43 states. Schools and districts can use the company’s software to set up their own program, calibrating not only what they choose to reward but also how many points to give each item. The program is used at locations from Indian Springs High School in San Bernardino, California, to Cedar Creek Middle School in Texas, and Lyons Creek Middle School in Florida.
Indian Springs HS, California
Educators at Indian Springs High School in San Bernardino, California are running a similar program and have seen results on their campus. San Bernardino is one of the poorest cities in the country where violence is a regular part of life. Yet when the Hero school store opened for the first time at Indian Springs High School, 120 kids waited in line for 45 minutes to redeem their points for school gear. “It gave us a unified voice for how teachers were using PBIS,” says Chelsea Ramirez, the school’s PBIS coordinator. “So much of teaching is behavior and discipline. This helps teachers stay in a positive mindset.” The rewards, which included tickets for homecoming and school football games, “gave kids who would not typically be able to afford these events the ability to attend,” she adds. “They got to be part of their school’s culture.”
Back in Honolulu, the popularity of Hero threatened to overrun the school budget’s ability to purchase items for the school store. While the store started out with school supplies and snacks, it became apparent iTunes gift cards and more Kalakaua gear were coveted, Shimabukuro says. The team quickly realized they would need more money for the program. Their solution? Give students 100 points if they wrote a letter asking a local business to make a donation to the school. “The response from students was overwhelmingly positive,” Shimabukuro says. “We had a stack of 300 letters – that’s huge for our school.” The school has even created a GoFundMe page to try to raise enough money to sustain the school’s Hero store.
The results are showing on students’ bottom lines as well. Comparing this year’s grades to last year’s shows that students went from 658 A’s to 745 A’s this year, with smaller jumps in students getting B’s and C’s. The positive results seem to be coming from every corner of the school.
Kalakaua Middle School students enjoyed a pajama party for earning Hero points at their school.
The number of students who needed some type of extra support, from behavioral to social and emotional help, decreased this year from 101 students to just 62. “We do think Hero has had a large impact on the climate of our school as well as the behaviors of our students both inside and outside the classroom,” Shimabukuro says.
The rewards have even improved parents’ connection with the school, she adds. When students were offered 25 points for attending the school’s Open House with their parents, the number of attendees jumped well above the typical 40-50 parents who would show up, Kamiko says. “Our cafeteria was packed and there were even people standing along the edges of the room. That’s an incredible success for our school.” This program’s success and innovativeness would not have been possible without the strong leadership of Principal Lorelei Aiwohi, teachers, and each and every staff member on campus.
Dealing with behavior issues day in and day out is difficult when it feels like punishment is an educator’s only option. Kalakaua Middle School and Indian Springs High School are proof that positive efforts can pay off big time. And they show positive behavior programs can implement real change across a school.
Wayne D’Orio is an award-winning journalist who writes frequently about education.
My Army son is coming to visit from Okinawa Japan for a month. We are training it across country (I’m in California) to visit my Navy daughter in the Washington DC area. Along the way, we’re stopping in Marion Indiana to visit my sister Tina who I haven’t seen in over a decade (though we talk often). I will get to meet many of her extended family I have never met. What a trip!
I am planning to be back to blogging the last week or so of July. Really, it’s hard to keep my fingers off the keys for longer than that. As a result, I won’t be around much. I apologize in advance for missing many of your posts. I will try to drop in now and then but I’m not sure of time constraints.
Through the Midwest Teachers Institute, I offer four grad school classes that teach how to blend technology with traditional lesson plans.
Building Digital Citizens
Leveraging Writing with Technology
The Tech-infused Teacher
The Differentiated Teacher
They include all the ebooks, videos, and other resources required so you don’t spend any more than what is required to register for the class. Once you’re signed up, you prepare weekly material, chat with classmates, respond to class Discussion Boards, complete weekly projects/summatives, and participate in a weekly video meeting. Everything is online.
If students use the internet, they must be familiar with the rights and responsibilities required to be good digital citizens. In this class, you’ll learn what topics to introduce, how to unpack them, and how to make them authentic to student lives.
copyrights, fair use, public domain
digital footprint, digital privacy
digital rights and responsibilities
image—how to use them legally
At the completion of this course, you will be able to:
Know how to blend digital citizenship into lesson plans that require the Internet
Be comfortable in your knowledge of all facets of digital citizenship
Become an advocate of safe, legal, and responsible use of online resources
Exhibit a positive attitude toward technology that supports learning
Exhibit leadership in teaching and living as a digital citizen
Assessment is based on involvement, interaction with classmates, and completion of projects so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker. Price includes course registration, college credit, and all necessary materials. To enroll, click the link above, search for MTI 557 and sign up.
Experiment with a wide variety of available digital writing tools to help students tap into their inner writer. Understand the secrets to picking good digital writing tools while working with classmates in a hands-on and non-threatening writer’s workshop format. Resources include a blend of videos, pedagogic articles, lesson plans, projects, and classroom discussion to share suggestions with classmates in a collaborative environment. Strategies introduced range from conventional tools such as quick writes, online websites, and visual writing to unconventional approaches such as Twitter novels, comics, and Google Earth lit trips. These can be adapted to any writing program be it 6+1 Traits, Write Source, IB, Common Core, or other popular language arts curricula.
At the completion of this course, you will be able to:
Use technology to drive authentic writing activities and project-based learning.
Use traditional and non-traditional technology approaches to build an understanding of good writing and nurture a love of the process.
Guide students in selecting writing strategies that differentiate for task, purpose, and audience.
Assess student writing without discouraging creativity via easy-to-use tech tools.
Provide students with effective feedback in a collaborative, sharing manner.
Be prepared for and enthusiastic about using technology tools in the writing class.
Assessment is project-based so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker. Price includes course registration and all necessary materials. To enroll, click the link, search for MTI 558 and sign up.
The 21st Century lesson blends technology with teaching to build a collaborative, differentiated, and shared learning environment. In this course, teachers will use a suite of digital tools to make that possible while addressing overarching concepts like digital citizenship, internet search and research, authentic assessment, critical thinking, and immersive keyboarding. Teachers will actively collaborate, share knowledge, provide constructive feedback to classmates, and publish digitally. Classmates will become the core of the teacher’s ongoing Personal Learning Network. Assessment is project-based so participants should be prepared to be fully-involved and eager risk-takers.
At the completion of this course, the learner will be able to:
Integrate and adapt blogs, wikis, Twitter, and Google Hangouts to collaborate and share.
Research ways to safely and effectively search and research on the internet, including how to be a good digital citizen.
Appraise technology to support teaching.
Integrate keyboarding skills into classroom activities and prepare for yearly assessments.
Assess student technology use organically.
Develop and employ a Personal Learning Network.
Solve common tech problems that arise in the classroom.
Assessment is based on involvement, interaction with classmates, and completion of projects, so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker. Price includes course registration, college credit, and all necessary materials. To enroll, click the link, search for MTI 562, and sign up.
Differentiation in the classroom means meeting students where they are most capable of learning. It is not an extra layer of work, rather a habit of mind for both teacher and student. Learn granular approaches to infusing differentiation into all of your lesson plans, whether Common Core or other standards, with this hands-on, interactive class. Ideas include visual, audio, podcasts, movies, mindmaps, infographics, graphic organizers, charts and tables, screenshots, screencasts, images, games and simulations, webtools, and hybrid assessments.
At the completion of this course, the learner will be able to:
Analyze and critique the technology used to differentiate for student learning styles.
Explain how differentiating content and presentation engages a greater proportion of learners.
Construct and implement measures that ensure the outcome of student learning demonstrates understanding.
Devise a variety of assignments to address all learners’ needs.
Create an inclusive learning environment in the classroom.
Integrate and adapt blogs, wikis, Twitter, and Google Hangouts to collaborate and share.
Assessment is based on involvement, interaction with classmates, and completion of projects, so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker. Price includes course registration, college credit, and all necessary materials.
It’s America’s birthday and I’m celebrating. I have an Army son heading off overseas and a Navy daughter doing her thing stateside. I’m toasting both of them today and all of America’s warriors, God be with you.
Happy 4th of July! - YouTube
Act of Patriotism - Homeless Man Saves American Flag in Storm.wmv - YouTube
This topic that is close to my tech teacher soul. It has become a familiar argument between those who believe children intuitively learn to type (“see them on smartphones and iPads–they don’t need help”) and those of us who believe instruction makes them better, faster. Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, James Lovelock, discusses this:
Explicit typing, simulated application and practical application – Why is this not a thing?
When it comes to education, there has always been a call for approaches that are more grounded in context. For example, you could just look at a map and do some measurements, or you can get out there with a trusty surveyor’s wheel and chart a space and learn real applications. It makes perfect sense to do this, practical application proves relevance and also allows for greater engagement.
Having said that, one would not do this without first explaining the concepts and practicing the basics of measurement. Yet all too often, when it comes to touch-typing that is exactly what occurs, students are expected to just ‘pick it up’ as they go along because the work required to develop the skill correctly can be viewed as “unnecessary,” “too time-consuming,” or “artificial learning.”
It isn’t particularly good reasoning but it is the sort of reasoning that has come about due to ICT skills in many cases being defined by their output, such as writing a report or creating a slideshow, rather than the underpinning skills such as typing or point-and-click being articulated. When looked at in this manner, it is like saying the walls of your house are the foundation rather than what is under your feet.
At times one gets the impression that such assumptions come from uncertainty when it comes to ICT skill development. An article on “the importance of ICT in the classroom” by a professional acquaintance of mine, Hayley Bertwistle, makes a similar point far more succinctly than I could and she is far from alone in making it. It is hardly unsurprising either, compared to when my siblings both did their teacher training in the late 90’s and early 2000’s when ICT units were elective, my training has ICT instruction as a compulsory element of my degree. The gap between our instruction has been created by increased recognition of the importance of ICT skills and access to devices changing from a few middle and upper-class homes to the vast majority of households.
Having said that, teachers (in particular primary) are already being pressured with an increasing array of outcomes they must address. A primary teacher can be teaching English, Maths, Dance, Geography, Music, Physical Education, Drama and then may have ICT expectations leveled at them regardless of their prior experience or knowledge in the area. It can feel overwhelming in that respect and that is why in some cases there is pushback or resistance, too much to do with an extra thing to add on top.
Despite that feeling, there are options.
Programs for typing are common with a wide variety of approaches and depth. The best present a balance of rote learning and simulated practical application while giving some form of tracking for progress that can be used to indicate strengths and weaknesses in performance to allow for targeted support where required. Typing Tournament Online, that I help administer, is one such program that is capable of satisfying those basic criteria and exceeding them.
Programs like this, help create a strong foundation for students to apply such skills in their use of ICT in the future. A student who can touch-type confidently and with high accuracy is going to type an essay far more accurately, effectively and without losing their coherence of thought which would otherwise occur if they had to stop and start between thinking about what they are trying to communicate and stumbling through the act of communicating it (through typing).
As someone who learned to touch-type back in the early 90’s with a similar program, I can now type over 80 wpm comfortably. This is because I had the advantage of explicit typing, simulated application and practical application all complementing one another. Two steps handled by the same program, the last through opportunities afforded to me by different teachers. With the right tool a teacher does not have to be an expert in typing yet can still be able to facilitate the opportunity for students to learn.
James Lovelock currently works for EdAlive Educational Software, a respected publisher of educational software in Australia, and oversees the provision of Typing Tournament to various institutions. Having previously worked as a Teacher’s Aide with students who have required technological support to effectively integrate their learning into mainstream environments, he is now nearly at the end of his secondary teaching degree through the University of New England. Previously published through the ACCE (Australian Council for Computers in Education), he maintains a keen interest in ICT implementation in the classroom that is authentic, engaging and effective for students of all abilities.
In these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.
Today’s tip: #28: My Sound Doesn’t Work
Q: I can’t get any sound out of my computer. Do I need a new sound card?
A: Before you invest that kind of money, try these easy fixes:
Are headphones plugged in?
Is the volume turned up?
Are speakers plugged in? Checking may be difficult if you can’t reach the back of the CPU (the tower) easily to check the plugs.
Is the sound muted? Check the systray icon or the icons in the lower right corner of your monitor.
Are the speakers broken? Plug in a set of speakers that you know work. Does that fix it?
If the sound card is the problem, you can check it by plugging headphones into the port for that function, probably at the front of your CPU tower. If they don’t work, you have isolated the problem to the sound card.
I am honored to be selected as one of TutorFair’s Top Ten Education Blogs for 2018! Without a doubt, the credit goes to my readers. I am proud that the resources, reviews, and materials I curate for you resonate with your teaching needs.
Do check out their full article to see all ten selected blogs. It includes names of edtech experts you already follow and a few you’ll want to add to your list.
When I started teaching a decade ago, Type to Learn was the MS Word of typing programs–everyone used it. The game-based keyboarding program was fun, engaging, and actually worked. Students graduated from the thirty-forty lessons (that took about a year to get through) with the skills they needed to become fast and accurate typists who could use the keyboard as an effective tool in both classwork and homework.
At some point in the past, busy teachers moved away from a committed program that teaches typing to solutions that promised to automate the process with rote drills and games. With most of these freemium online programs, students log in and get started. No installation, no set-up, often little supervision, just typing. The problem is, they don’t work very well. With the push to move assessments online, students need good keyboarding skills. That means:
…fast accurate typing as a tool for writing and test-taking, not a distraction
If you’re one of the many who realize your students’ typing skills aren’t up to this standard, you’ll love Type to Learn’s game-changing update: It’s now in the cloud. No more software downloads. No more inability to sync between home and school. No more “runs only on desktops and laptops”.
Let me back up and describe Type to Learn Cloud. It’s a comprehensive typing program that teaches not just the basics but advanced skills necessary to become fast and accurate touch typists. It does this through a process of review, demonstration, practice, and assessment. Using avatar-like animation, engaging sounds, and colorful graphics, rolled out in a space-themed story, students progress through thirty-six lessons, five games per lesson, and seven assessments to complete the interactive missions that will save their world. It operates in the cloud, works on most digital devices (including Chromebooks and iPads with an external keyboard), and plays well with all browsers. Students can work from home or school and their progress syncs between the two.
How to get started
Here’s what you do to get started with Type to Learn:
Contact the folks at Tyle to Learn to set up your personalized account.
Once you’re set up for the type of licensing you require, log into your account with your account code and login info. This takes you to your teacher dashboard where you will find student reports and more.
Add students (or import them). Your account licenses you for a certain number of users.
The first time students log onto Type to Learn, an introductory video explains their part in the mission and how they can progress through activities.
Start with the story behind the lessons
Then, they take a pretest to assess their skills and place them at the right spot in the thirty-six lessons so they are challenged rather than bored.
PreTest with options for each lesson
Here’s a typical lesson:
At any time during practice, students can click back to review but cannot move forward until they’ve finished all required preparations.
Teacher accounts include a dashboard that provides a list of students, detailed reports on student and class progress, the ability to create certificates, and more. Also from here, teachers can set class/student speed and accuracy goals, group students based on ability, and differentiate instruction through custom content.
From the game screen, students have the ability to personalize some aspects of the program.
Customization available to students
For ease of accessibility, students can also adjust font size and play audio with rollover buttons. Students can also ask for help on any part of the program they don’t understand (with the ‘Ask Agent’ button). One more feature you won’t find anywhere else (at least, I didn’t): Text support throughout Type to Learn can be in English or Spanish.
Teachers can upload custom content for keyboard practice. This might include current events, vocabulary sheets, word lists, or other written content. These can be assigned to individual students, groups, or entire classes.
The methodology behind Type to Learn is based on research that highlights keyboarding technique, ergonomics, and key location. Here’s a link to their white paper.
A parent report can be accessed from the student login which allows parents to track their child’s typing progress and scores.
While the program does say it’s for K-12, it may be challenging for Kindergarten and 1st Grade. Though there’s not a lot of reading, that age group tends to be distracted simply finding the keyboard much less worrying about key placement!
Because Type to Learn is cloud-based, it is easy to assign practice not only for classwork but homework, allowing students to work on keyboarding from any device, from anywhere with Internet access.
If you used Type to Learn in the past and parents had to download what often became complicated (read that: confusing) software to run the program at home so it would sync with the school records, those days are over. Now, students simply access the Type to Learn website, log into the student account, and pick up where they left off.
As a current user of Type to Learn 4, I wondered if it was compatible with Type to Learn Cloud and how that-all worked so I contacted their support folks. Here’s what they told me:
“TTL4 customers can upgrade to TTL cloud. TTL4 customers are offered special pricing to upgrade their existing TTL4 web-enabled account (their data is stored in the cloud) or their existing TTL4 network version (stored on their servers) to the new Type to Learn cloud version. If they have a TTL4 web-enabled account we can automatically move all their existing data – students, teachers and student progress to the cloud-based version at no cost. Sunburst no longer sells TTL4 and any new customer will be sold a TTL cloud version. TTL4 is still up and running to support existing customers but little to no support is offered from Sunburst.”
Type to Learn is the original school typing program, what others aspired to be, with a fun blend of games and drills not replicated anywhere else. With the addition of cloud-based access, it becomes again a solid choice for any school as part of an effective, integrated keyboarding curriculum.