The Techie Teacher®

The Best Online Safety Conversation Starter: The Smart Talk

Saturday, December 9, 2017 / Leave a Comment

The Best Online Safety Conversation Starter: The Smart Talk

How do teachers and parents bridge the online safety gap between home and school? Easy! With the best online safety conversation starter: The Smart Talk, a free web tool created by LifeLock that helps address digital safety issues.

In today's digital world teaching and practicing online safety needs to be a top priority both at home and in school. Parents and teachers need to be on the same page when educating children about this topic. Children can be easily exposed to inappropriate sites or scams and need to know how to avoid and handle these types of situations. Often times many adults don't understand the proper safety precautions they need to teach their children when it comes to interacting in our cyber world.

I have blogged about 5 Reasons to Use Picture Books to Help Teach Digital Citizenship and mention how many teachers all over the world are following Common Sense Media's scope and sequence to address digital safety. 

As the holidays approach, many children will be receiving digital devices. Some will be given their first phone, tablet or computer while others might get an upgrade. Therefore, what can teachers recommend to parents to help continue the conversation at home and bridge the digital safety gap? I have the answer for you...

The Smart Talk is a FREE tool that gets parents and kids together for a conversation about being responsible with new technology and populates a printable contract based on input. It was developed by Lifelock, whose core service is identity theft protection. The Smart Talk was designed to help adults empower children to become smart digital natives in our increasingly connected world.

A parent and child can sit down together and visit the The Smart Talk website. They will click the red Get Started button and walk through the five different categories:
  • Safety and Privacy
  • Screen Time
  • Social Media & Respect
  • Apps & Downloads
  • Texting & Calling
  • Extra Credit (fun stuff!)

Some questions are open ended and require the child to type in their response while others are selection responses. Here are a few examples:

One thing that really stood out to me when going through these questions is how the agreement holds both the child and parent accountable. For instance, this question below requires the parent to make a promise. When children see they aren't the only one being held responsible, I truly think there will be more buy in on their behalf!

Something else that I really liked about this interactive website were the Bonus Talk questions like the one shown below. There is even a link you can click for more information.

Once the parent and child decide on the criteria in all 5 areas, they can print their contract and sign it together. Here is a contract I printed on Astrobrights (obviously any "parent teacher" would print on colored paper😂) and hung on the refridgerator. I suggest making it fun and allowing the child to decorate the contract with markers, stickers, etc.. These puffy emoji stickers were a nice touch. You can find them by visiting my Amazon affiliate link HERE

Close up of signature
The Smart Talk is a very well designed tool that will help guide parents in the conversations needed to address digital safety. I highly recommend teachers and parents add this website to their "toolbox".

More Tips:

-Monitor child's browser history
-Limit child's access to certain sites
-Manage the time a child spends online using the unGlue app

Do you have any tips that have personally worked for your child? Comment below, I'd love to hear them!

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Hour of Code

Friday, December 1, 2017 / Leave a Comment
What is the Hour of Code? When is the Hour of Code? Why Should Teachers Introduce Coding to Students? What type of life skills does coding teach students? What platforms are available (computer/laptop/Chromebook/iPad) for Hour of Code digital activities? Learn all of the answers in this blog post!

Guest post by: Livio Blozon, Codemoji Creator

What is Hour of Code?

The Hour of Code began as a one-hour introduction to computer science, and as describes "is designed to demystify "code", to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science." The Hour of Code has become a worldwide event for K-12 students to celebrate computer science, starting with 1-hour coding activities, but expanding to all sorts of community efforts.

When is Hour of Code?

Hour of Code falls during CS (Computer Science) education week which is Dec 4-10th. This is a time when many schools, classrooms and students will be getting started in coding for the first time.

Why Introduce Coding in your classroom?

Learning to program can teach your students many useful life skills.
Coding, on a regular basis, can help your student in math and in developing problem solving skills.

Coding Skills Teach Life Skills

  • Learning from mistakes is vital.
  • Success is a scribbly line.
  • Persistence pays off.
  • Teamwork is important.
  • Get out of your comfort zone.
  • Learn logic which helps with problem solving.
Read all about 10 Surprising Skills Kids Learn Through Coding by clicking HERE

What platforms and devices can I use to introduce an Hour of Code to Elementary students?

Coding Platforms accessed by a computer/laptop

  1. (Read all about it HERE)
  2. Codemonkey
  3. Scratch
  4. Kano
  5. Kodable
  6. Codecombat
  7. Tynker iPad Friendly Activities

How can I code more with my students after CS education week? has a wide range of free activities; your students will not be able to complete all of them in just one hour, or even 10. However, if you go this route it will be hard to track your students progress or the concepts they’ve mastered. , Codemonkey, Codecombat, Tynker and others have built in progress tracking to make your life as a teacher easier. As students progress the content of these sites changes and becomes more challenging.

If you would like to use another platform like Scratch I would look into CS-First.com by Google; these are video guided tutorials to help you build many different projects using Scratch.

I hope you will find this information useful and will be inspired to introduce your students to coding during The Hour of Code, December 4-10th.

Guest post by: Livio Blozon, Codemoji Creator

My name is Livio Bolzona and I am 21 from Chicago IL. I am a fan of the Chicago Bulls and I went to Whitney Young High School and now I go to Northwestern University where I study computer science. I am the Co-Founder of a platform to teach students programming.
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FREE Virtual Math Manipulatives for Chromebook and Computer Users

Saturday, November 25, 2017 / Leave a Comment

FREE Virtual Math Manipulatives for Chromebook and Computer Users

FREE Virtual Math Manipulatives for Chromebook and Computer Users

Base ten blocks, spinners, geoboards, fraction circles...These are all types of math manipulatives that teachers have readily available to help teach mathematical problem solving and reasoning. These physical objects help engage our learners through a hands-on approach. I love any and all hands-on activities.

However, these physical objects come with a price tag. They also require clean up time and a little detective work. You know, where have all of the purple bear counters disappeared to? 

Once again, I love any and all hand-on activities. But I also love virtual manipulatives. Just to clarify, virtual manipulatives are different from interactives. Virtual manipulatives are open ended and do not prompt students to answer certain questions. YOU, the teacher, get to decide on the problems students answer using the manipulatives. YOU also can give students the opportunity to form their own mathematical problems using virtual manipulative representations. I like how these tools give students the ability to create mathematical representations and then write or type their thinking all on the same canvas. They even can save their work to their device to share with YOU and their peers.

Dreambox published THIS article that discusses how virtual manipulatives have "unique characteristics that go beyond the capabilities of physical manipulatives."

There are lots of iPad apps for math manipulatives (ex. Schoolkit Math). Some of the web tools mentioned below come in the form of iPad apps. But let's take a look at a few FREE web tools for our Chromebook/computer users.

Glencoe Math

One of my FAVORITE virtual manipulatives websites is Glencoe Math by McGraw Hill. I posted this quick little video on my Facebook page and Instagram account that got some action:

There are TONS of different manipulatives and story boards for PreK-8th grade.

This was created from a work mat & manipulative combination

McGraw Hill

McGraw Hill has another small selection of virtual manipulatives.

Students can select to show a notepad that they can type in number sentences and various types of math problems.

The Math Learning Center

The Math Learning Center has web apps (these also are availble as iPad apps and Chrome extensions) that are fabulous.

Example from the Number Line Tool

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

iTools has several easy to use math manipulatives for a variety of grade levels:

Taking it a Step Further:

Since virtual manipulatives give students the ability to save their work (you can always take screenshots if the app/website doesn't have a "save" option), have them take it a step further by sharing their work with one another. By engaging in collaborative learning, students are exposed to a variety of different ways of thinking. We all know there isn't just one way to solve a problem! Regardless of the type of device students use they can share their canvas by posting it to Google Classroom, Seesaw, a virtual wall (Padlet, BoardThing, Dotstorming), make a video to post to Flipgrid, add to a collaborative Google Slides presentation, upload to their blog/website, etc.. They could even add their creations to a digital notebook to document their learning throughout the year.

Like everything else we do, balance it key. Switch it up! Keep students engaged by using hands-on manipulatives one day and virtual manipulatives another day. 

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Adding Images to Google Drive Projects UPDATE

Friday, November 17, 2017 / 2 comments

Adding Images to Google Drive Projects UPDATE

Update to Adding Images to Google Drive Projects..alternatives to the "take a snapshot" option can be used. This post lists free web tools as well as Chrome extensions and apps that are available.

Google recently updated how we insert images into our digital work. A few things have been added and something I use quite frequently has been eliminated. When you click the mountain image icon a dropdown menu populates instead of a new window. Here are all of the current options:

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10 Ideas for Using the Free Telegraph Web Tool in the Classroom

Sunday, November 12, 2017 / Leave a Comment

What is Telegraph?

Easily create simple websites with the free web tool, Telegraph! Come read about 10 ways you can use the digital tool in the classroom. No logins required!

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Bring Images to Life with the Animate Anything App

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Bring Images to Life with the Animate Anything App

Bring Images to Life with the free Animate Anything iPad app. Great alternative to Chatterkid and YakIt. Students will love using this app for a variety of technology projects!

Recently I was looking for apps similar to FaceTalker (which does not work with the latest iOS) that have a longer recording time than the 30 second limit in the Chatterkid app. I found Animate Anything that reminds me a lot of Photospeak.

Animate Anything will allow you to animate any portrait or object and add a voice recording (from what I can tell there is no recording limit!). You can add eyes and lips as well as change the pitch and speed of your voice recording. This app is currently FREE and is rated 4+.

Classroom Uses

There are so many ways we could use this app in the classroom! Some ideas include but aren't limited to:

  • Bring historical figures to life
  • Bring book characters to life
  • Give objects a VOICE (great writing lesson!)
  • Bring math manipulatives to life to explain a problem
  • Have a science experiment explain the scientific process
Here is an example of bringing a portrait to life:

Great for THIS Hand Turkey Tales project:



Animate Everything will allow you to save your videos to the Camera Roll as well as upload directly to Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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5 Reasons to Use Picture Books to Teach Digital Citizenship

Friday, November 3, 2017 / Leave a Comment

5 Reasons to Use Picture Books to Teach Digital Citizenship

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Student-Centered Vocabulary Project for Your Word Wizards

Saturday, October 28, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Student-Centered Vocabulary Project for Your Word Wizards

Expand your student's vocabulary knowledge with this engaging, student-centered vocabulary project called Word Wizards. Free project directions and grading rubric can be downloaded in this post!
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5 Ways to Use the Daily Wonder App in the Classroom

Friday, October 20, 2017 / Leave a Comment

5 Ways to Use the Daily Wonder App in the Classroom

5 Ways to Use the FREE Daily Wonder iPad App in the Classroom. Based on R.J. Palacio's book, Wonder.

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10 Free Text to Speech Web Tools for the Classroom

Saturday, October 14, 2017 / Leave a Comment

10 Free Text to Speech Web Tools for the Classroom

Are you looking for FREE text to speech technology web tools that do not require downloading software and can be used on Chromebooks, laptops or computers? There are a lot out there. Here is a list of 10 different easy to use text to speech (TTS) tools students can use to assist with text read alouds as well as their own writing. TTS technology is also a helpful tool for ELL students and  those who struggle with dyslexia.
10 FREE Text to Speech Web Tools for the Classroom. No software required and can work on Chromebooks, laptops and computers. TTS technology can help ELL learners, children with dyslexia as well as any child who has difficulty making meaning from text.
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5 Reasons to Use DIGITAL Choice Boards in the Classroom

Saturday, October 7, 2017 / 8 comments

5 Reasons to Use DIGITAL Choice Boards in the Classroom

When I was a classroom teacher I loooooved using choice boards. Students felt like they had some type of ownership of their learning when they got to choose which activity they wanted to complete for the day. Furthermore, choice boards allowed for me to personalize learning.

5 Reasons to Use Digital Choice Boards in the Classroom: Personalize learning with digital choice boards and activities. Great way to integrate technology into the classroom while providing a rich learning experience for a variety of learners. Digital differentiation!

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Use Writing Sparks to Inspire Student Writers

Sunday, September 24, 2017 / 4 comments

Use Writing Sparks to Inspire Student Writers

Writing Sparks is a free online resource that teachers and students can use to inspire creative stories, news articles, poems and opinion pieces. I recently learned about this website from first year teacher, Ginny Neal Snead from Georgia, who tried it out with her fourth grade class and loved how easy it was for everyone to use.

Use Writing Sparks to Inspire Student Writers: Writing Sparks is a free webtool teachers and students can use to help with the writing process

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