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Getting Started as a Technology Teacher

Are you a new technology teacher or just interested in learning how another technology teacher gets organized at the beginning of the school year? This post goes over everything you need to know to give your students a great start.
Getting Started as a Technology Teacher

Setting up a class website

Your first order of business is to decide where and how to set up your lessons. As a technology teacher you're going to ask you students to go to a lot of websites, and typing them in can be such a hassle. Having a class website that houses all of the lesson links and activities will make your life easier and save time for your students to complete the actual lessons. 
Getting Started as a Technology Teacher

There are some great website building platforms out there and you can use any one you like. I build mine in Weebly because I like the ease of the click and drag interface. Each lesson I build has some basic components that are the same, so using the features in weebly I am able to copy a page and then just change out a few elements for each lesson. Click here to see an example website I have set up.
Getting Started as a Technology Teacher

Formatting technology lessons

I have two formats that I like to use for the different levels of learners. The lesson for students K-2 is going to look different than 3-5. 

Kindergarten through second grade generally has a "must do" activity and then learning games for early finishers. When I first started teaching technology I got some push-back from the kindergarten team because they thought their students were just "playing" on the computers. I had to show them the standards and explain how important knowing how to use a computer mouse is to the ability to do more complicated lessons in the future. I take the whole first quarter to build this skill (along with logging in to their accounts and navigating to the class website). The websites I choose for mouse practice nearly always have an educational component to them that will help in the classroom. Whether it is number sense or letter sounds, my students are developing multiple skills at one time. I'm sharing this tidbit with you so that you can plan how to address the issue if it is brought up for you! 
Getting Started as a Technology Teacher

To decide what to include in my lessons, I use the ISTE Standards for Students. At the beginning of creating all of my lessons, I laid out a plan for including each standard enough times for students to master it. I guess you could call it a pacing guide, but I didn't complicate it with time limits at this point. It was basically just a spreadsheet of the standards on top and the grade levels on the side with Xs for which standards I wanted to teach in each grade level. By the end of 5th grade everything was covered to mastery. I made myself a whole binder of forms to organize it. Click here to check out a blog post I wrote about it. 

3rd through 5th grade has three components to each lesson. I love to start with a warm up activity like keyboarding for the first 10 minutes of class. On my class website I set up a page with keyboarding practice options and taught my students to go directly there once they logged in. After keyboarding comes the directions and the bulk of the lesson. I love making screencasts of the directions so that students can watch as many times as they need to and refer back when necessary during their lesson. It means more prep time for me, but it makes class run so smoothly! So the lesson page includes the objectives, a video of directions, and the links to the lesson activities. At the bottom there are directions for what to do if they finish early and usually a link to direct them to the early finisher activities. See what I mean here

In addition to early finisher activities online, I also keep a classroom library that they can use if they finish early. I leave that option up to each student. Here are some of my favorite technology themed books:
*These are affiliate links to Amazon. If you purchase one of these after clicking through from my blog I will receive compensation.

Organizing your Computer Lab

When I first walked into the classroom that would be mine (the computer lab) I was so excited! It had been an old science lab but now it was 5 rows of computers and I was ready to get started. As I worked on organizing it, I realized it was lacking. I had no open wall space for displays because there was one whole wall of windows, two whole walls of upper and lower cabinets, and then the SmartBoard and a small whiteboard area. I had to find a way to project the lessons onto the SmartBoard, I needed a space for a teacher desk, and where in the world would I put the technology vocabulary terms? 

It wasn't until about 6 months in that I was finally happy with the setup. I chose to completely deconstruct the first row of computers to make room for a projector cart and carpet space. Luckily the computers in the front row were those awesome all-in-one Lenovos. They didn't need to be hardwired to the internet so I was able to move them to another part of the classroom. This made space for a desk for me, too! Well, a table not a desk, but at least I had a place to sit when I was planning. 

I used the upper cabinets for my word wall. I laminated technology vocabulary terms and taped them to colored construction paper, which I taped to the cabinets. It brought color to my room, which I didn't even realize was missing until it wasn't. So now I had solved almost all of my organization problems- except displaying the I Can Statements, which my Admin requires. 

Since I never write much on the whiteboard, I decided to use this space for the I Can Statements. Yay for magnets because that is exactly what I used for this purpose! Each week I would choose the corresponding I Can Statements for each grade level K-5 and post them on the board. Occasionally if a group was off by a week I would have to change it out for them, but it was manageable because I had all of my I Can Statements in a binder, laminated and ready to go. 
Getting Started as a Technology Teacher

Managing Your Computer Lab Classroom

Ok this one I didn't figure out until my 3rd year. It was a group effort between myself and the other specialists at my school. 

The first thing that I did that completely changed my technology teacher life was laminate and velcro a "hand" and a "name tag" for each computer station. It blew my mind that students would put their hand in the air for a questions and then wait and wait and wait without getting any more work done until I could go help them. And the question was usually something like "I can't find the q key." It was maddening. So in comes the laminated hand to save the day. Students could "raise their hand" by moving their "hand" from the side of their processor to the corner of their monitor. They could KEEP WORKING while waiting for me. Aha! 

It was also really difficult for me to learn 600 names. I remedied this by having them always put their name on their dry-erase name tag while they are logging in. Yes I would have to replace the dry erase markers every few months, but it was totally worth being able to call a student by name. 
Getting Started as a Technology Teacher

The specialist team at my school also did a scoring system as a way to motivate students to behave. They started with 5 points every class and only lost points if their voice level was too loud. At the end of the quarter the class (from each grade level) with the most remaining points would get a fun reward. It worked really well for us and we had great classroom teacher buy-in because they wanted their classes to keep all 5 points. Read more about this system in THIS blog post if you want the full scoop. 

What you can expect as a technology teacher

1. To LOVE teaching
2. To go home on time
3. NO parent phone calls (like ever)
4. Parent teacher conferences aren't for you, but I promise your school will find something else for you to do during that time. Register volunteers, help with the refreshments, the point is you don't get to go home ;-)
5. To play an active role in every single students' education in your school
6. To each lunch by yourself every day
7. To freeze and/or sweat for carpool or bus duty
8. To fix everyone's computer problems
9. To have your classroom phone ring twice as often as a classroom teacher's phone because computers break like all day long every day
10. To be misunderstood and totally on your own when it comes to planning and PD
Getting Started as a Technology Teacher

I think you'll really enjoy it!

Still nervous? Join my Facebook Group, the Technology Teacher Tribe

20 Tips for Teachers New to Using Technology

20 Tips for Teachers New to Using Technology

In this post I want to share with you some of the amazing advice other teachers posted when I posed this question on Instagram: What is your Best Advice for a teacher that is new to using tech in their classroom. 
20 Tips for Teachers New to Using Technology

Almost 300 teachers chimed in with advice! There were some repeated themes, so I've aggregated the advice into this nice list. 

1. Be open-minded
2. Make it meaningful, not just have your students "sit and get"
3. Try out the website or app first
4. Take it slow and ask for help
5. Start small, with one program at a time
6. Have a place to store all student account information
7. Keep a journal or reflection notes
8. Be sure you are monitoring students
9. Have a back up plan
10. Follow great teacher tech blogs
11. Learn right along with your students
12. Go observe other teachers using tech
13. Google it (or YouTube it)
14. Routines when using tech are just as important as all other classroom routines
15. Make sure the website/app/program works on a student computer
16. Turn off the light of the document camera when you're not using it
17. Start with Digital Citizenship
18. Encourage students to take ownership of the final outcome
19. No tech savvy teacher ever started out tech savvy! Practice makes "perfect"!
20. Never give up

20 Tips for Teachers New to Using Technology


What would you add to the list? What advice do you have for teachers new to using technology? If you are one of those teachers, what questions do you have?

3 Tools for Turning in Technology Assignments

3 tools for turning in technology assignments

3 Tools for Turning in Technology Assignments

This week I went Live on Facebook again to bring you the 3rd installment of my Tech Teacher PD Series. There is only one left and I hope you join us!

Please watch the video below to learn about my 3 favorite tools to use for having students turn in their assignments. 

Technology Teacher PD Part 3
3 easy to use programs for turning in assigned work in the tech lab
Posted by Brittany Washburn on Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The 3 tools

Here are links to get to each one of these tools. Let me know what you use in your classroom.

3 Parts to Structuring a 45 Minute Technology Lesson


Hey tech teacher friends! I recently did a Facebook Live video with my 3 components of structuring a 45 minute technology lesson. In the video you will hear ideas for the following three parts that I include in every technology lesson.
1. Warm up
2. Main Event
3. Early Finishers Activities


I hope you enjoy these tips. Here is my schedule for FB Live over the next few weeks.

3 Things to Consider when Establishing a Classroom Entrance Procedure- For the Computer Lab

3 Things to Consider when Establishing a Classroom Entrance Procedure- For the Computer Lab

If you're a technology teacher then this post is for you! I did a Facebook Live video with 3 tips for establishing a solid entrance procedure for the computer lab. You can check that out below. These are the 3 tips I shared. 
3 Things to Consider when Establishing a Classroom Entrance Procedure- For the Computer Lab

3 Things to Consider when Establishing a Classroom Entrance Procedure- For the Computer Lab

 1. Be as consistent as possible

This just means that you need to make a decision and stick to it. Don't start the year one way and then change your mind. It confuses your students and they will act up. That being said, if something isn't working, take the time to establish and practice a new procedure. 
3 Things to Consider when Establishing a Classroom Entrance Procedure- For the Computer Lab

 2. It looks different for the big kids and the little kids

For this tip you have to watch the video. I go through the procedures I use for 3-5 versus k-2. Tell me in the comments how you do it. 
3 Things to Consider when Establishing a Classroom Entrance Procedure- For the Computer Lab

3. Practice Makes Perfect

You have to do the procedure over and over again to make it stick. If you put in the work now, the rest of your school year will go so much more smoothly. 
Now check out this Facebook Live Video:


Interested in BONUS content? Check out my free email course for technology teachers, where I walk you through everything I do to map out, plan, and assess my students. And because I want to help as much as possible, just for signing up you will receive a free printable template of my daily lesson and reflection planner (and of course some free tips). 

Great Quotes for Teachers and Classrooms

Great Quotes for Teachers and Classrooms

Are you in need of some colorful, motivational quotes for yourself or your classroom? Check these out!
Don't just dream it, do it

Teaching is Tough, But So Are You
Don't Give up Until You're Proud
Fridays Make the World go Round















What else would you add to the list?

Word Clouds for Higher Order Thinking

Word Clouds for Higher Order Thinking

Word Clouds Require Students to Think About Which Word(s) Should Appear "Bigger" in the Cloud. 

Word Clouds are one of my favorite tools to let students use to show me what they know. ABCYa! has a great word cloud creator that can be used on any device. This is one of the first tools I teach my students to use at the beginning of the year because it has so many great applications.

My Favorite Way to Use Word Clouds is as a Formative Assessment Tool for Unit Vocabulary

At the very end of a unit, after we have studied several standards in one topic, I like to assign a word cloud. Students have to put in the most relevant information. I've taught them that the more terms they include, the cooler their cloud looks. Some students choose to type sentences about what they have learned while others use it with bullet points or definitions. Any of these methods are great and lead to really high quality word clouds. 

As you can see in Step 2, I chose to type a list of terms. Then I went back and typed "Matter" again so that it would show up bigger in my word cloud. Matter was the unit title so it fit with the assignment requirement. 

Use the Word Cloud Editing Tools to Make it Your Own. Creativity Counts!

ABCYa! has really great editing tools for students of any age. I usually have to give my students a time limit for editing because they want to see every possible variation. When they are finally happy with the Word Cloud, it is really easy to save. I usually have them upload it to a class Padlet, but if you have another system for collecting the final images then just direct students how to turn their assignment in. 

I recently started creating 5E Science Units, and in the "Elaboration" phase, Word Clouds are one option for an independent project. If you're interested in checking out these resources, click on the picture below to see one of the Physical Science Units. The best part is that they are completely paperless!





Interested in BONUS content? Check out my free email course for technology teachers, where I walk you through everything I do to map out, plan, and assess my students. And because I want to help as much as possible, just for signing up you will receive a free printable template of my daily lesson and reflection planner (and of course some free tips). 

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