Author Archives: TechnoHella

TechnoHella

About TechnoHella

Hella Comat, Curriculum Writer - Hella Comat is a dedicated professional, who has taught in the education system for more than 30 years. As a pioneer of technology integration in Ontario public schools she was one of the first teachers to introduce the internet, video conferencing, web design, and multimedia learning activities to teachers and students in the Halton Board. To inspire teachers to use technology, she has led sessions for the Touch Technology program, ran workshops at education conferences, and sat on numerous advisory committees related to technology-issues. In recent years she taught the Computer in the Classroom course, at York University. Her lifelong commitment to teaching and learning was acknowledged when she was honored as the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in Science, Technology, and Mathematics. Hella's contribution to the blog includes entries about the importance of technology integration. Drawing from her in-depth knowledge of technology in the classroom Hella writes about teaching strategies and useful resources that can benefit your practice. In addition, she provides innovative lesson ideas that you can implement into your own curriculum.

iPads and TechnoKids Projects

With so many different devices being used to teach technology skills, we are often asked whether iPads and TechnoKids resources are a good fit. The simple answer is Yes! But… there are cautions and qualifications. Here are a few common questions.

ipads and technokids

Which TechnoKids projects can I use on an iPad?

TechnoKids has over 25 projects that iPad users can complete. To determine which options are best for your students, view the TechnoKids Project Matrix. Any TechnoKids project which has a version for Google Docs can be done on an iPad. In addition, some Office Online, Internet, and Programming projects can also be completed but with slight modifications.

Should I use the iPad Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps?

TechnoKids has many projects for Google applications. If students have a Gmail account, they can access all Google apps online from Google Drive. TechnoKids has lessons that use Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Drawings, Sites, and more.

For the iPad, Google has created specific apps for Docs, Slides, and Sheets. While these apps are easy to use, they are limited in their features. They won’t work for TechnoKids projects. For example, in the Slides iPad app, a user can create a slide show, apply a theme, set slide layout, present, and share work – but not much else. The limitation in features, means that TechnoKids instructions will not match.

In most cases the Google iPad apps are a bare bones, disappointing alternative to the full app. The iPad Google apps are best used to work offline, make edits to a file, or to view a completed document. In our opinion, they are too ‘light’ to create an appealing, powerful project from scratch.

But there is a solution….students you can still use the full version of Google apps on an iPad. Keep reading!

How do I access Google apps on my iPad?

The best way to access Google apps on an iPad is through a browser. Open Chrome (recommended and must be installed) or Safari and go to Google Drive. From that starting point, all TechnoKids instructions will match what you see on your screen.

This method is highly recommended for accessing Google apps on iPad. Students get complete versions of Docs, Sheets, and Slides with all tools. As well, they can also create projects with Forms, Sites, Drawings, and more! And, all Google apps are free.

Can I use Microsoft Office versions of TechnoKids projects on my iPad?

Yes, students can use the Office Online version of a TechnoKids project. As is the case with Google projects, you will be working online through a browser such as Safari or Chrome. Like Google, you must have a Microsoft account, but it’s free too.

Please note, if students must work offline, Microsoft does offer apps for the iPad similar to Google’s. These include Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The apps can be used with a Microsoft account, but I would caution teachers to first check the instructions in the TechnoKids project that is being used. Note the similarities and differences as some tools may be unavailable in the iPad app. Using an iPad app for Microsoft Office is likely only a workable alternative for TechnoKids Primary or Junior projects which have fewer features than the more advanced titles.

Which TechnoKids programming projects can be done on an iPad?

TechnoKids has many programming projects that can be completed on an iPad. Some require slight modifications in instructions.

technowhiz

TechnoWhiz uses Scratch Jr. This free app is perfect for use on an iPad with its touch screen and drag and drop features. Teaching young students to code? Scratch Jr is definitely an ideal starting point.

technotales

TechnoTales also uses Scratch Jr. and is an ideal follow up to TechnoWhiz. Students design an animated fairy tale as they use visual programming blocks to learn coding basics.

ipads and technokids

TechnoCode uses Scratch. This is a great next step after Scratch Jr to spark an interest in computer science. Instead of an app, Scratch 3 is used online. Just sign up for a free account and you will be programming games, puzzles, mazes, animations, stories, and more.

technoturtle

TechnoTurtle, which is a beginner’s Python programming project, uses the Turtle library. To use it on an iPad, use the website Trinket and your Google account. You can input the code and see the result beside it on the screen.

technopython

TechnoPython, a new project that teaches Python programming to middle and high school students. It can be done on an iPad. You will need to download Python for an iPad. To learn more visit Python.org.

TechnoHTML teaches students to become web designers using HTML and CSS. You will need an HTML editor for the iPad. Visit the app store to see what is available and free. I would recommend trying out one or more of the free apps to see which works best for you.

How are TechnoKids PDF Workbooks annotated on an iPad?

When using an iPad, students will need a PDF app or account with an online PDF service. This will allow them to type answers, highlight text, and make notes in TechnoKids assignment sheets. If you are looking for a free option, TechnoKids recommends KAMI, which is a free online service that works with Google Drive. See our next post Annotate a TechnoKids PDF on an iPad to get specific directions.

What are the drawbacks to using an iPad and TechnoKids?

  1. Any project that requires writing more than a few sentences is inconvenient on an iPad without an external keyboard. TechnoKids intermediate projects such as TechnoNewsletter and TechnoBiography have students write extensively, so an iPad would be a deterrent to producing one’s best work.
  2. A smaller screen does not allow students to have TechnoKids pdf workbooks open on a split screen while they are completing a project in another app. Instead, they must toggle back and forth between screens. That may be a source of frustration for younger students. A solution would be to print the workbook.
  3. Internet access is almost a necessity. As mentioned above, most apps work best and have the most features when used through a browser.

What are the benefits to using an iPad and TechnoKids?

  1. School districts have embraced the portability, ease of use, and affordability of iPads as compared to desktop computers. Parents have also valued iPads as educational tools as well as sources of entertainment for their children. As a result, iPads are commonplace, and many students are very familiar with using them. They know the touch screen gestures to open, close, move, drag, tap, and more. What they do not know is often intuitive and easy to figure out.
  2. Collaboration, a valued strategy, is easy with both Google Docs and Office Online. Students can readily work together, edit each other’s files, and share finished documents.  
  3. iPads and TechnoKids projects, in either Google Docs or Office Online versions, can readily be used for both physical and virtual classrooms. Whether it’s the ideal device is a debate that will continue. But in a time when educators must contend with online learning using a variety of devices, an iPad will definitely work well!
ipads and technokids

Distance Learning Hints for Success

The challenge of teaching in a digital classroom is unquestionable. This is especially true for most educators who suddenly had to adjust with very little preparation. Distance learning, in various forms, is here to stay. But here are a few tips for making that change easier yet still maintaining the quality of learning.

distance learning

Keep it simple

  • Encourage indepth, project-based learning; avoid short daily worksheets.
  • Pose real-world problems and have student investigate solutions. Assessment will be more efficient with fewer but more extensive results. Students will feel their work is authentic and worthwhile.

Set a home base

  • Have an online place and time where students know you’ll be regularly available. Microsoft Teams, OneNote Class Notebook, and Google Classroom are some of the digital meeting spots especially created for education. Here teachers can communicate, distribute, and grade assignments. TechnoKids offers step-by-step support for setting up a Google Classroom and Class Notebook with specific instructions for sharing TechnoKids files.

Adjust expectations

  • Modify the long-range plans or learning objectives that were designed for a physical classroom. In place of specific outcomes, develop a general expectation that students can readily achieve.
  • Look for activities that can be easily done online and let go or reschedule those that are difficult to do remotely.
  • Encourage students to complete projects in the learning style that works for them. They may prefer to make a video or create a slide show presentation instead of writing a report.  

Be flexible

  • Allow for student choice. If your school or district has proposed an app that a student finds frustrating to use, find an alternative. They may prefer or are familiar with another alternative. The great variety of devices available for students, from desktop computers to tablets or maybe even smartphones are a huge challenge to accommodate. But students may feel more comfortable or be able to work better using what they know rather than what the school provides, whether it’s a device or a software application. It is the final result that counts!
  • Use a variety of teaching strategies. Keep instructional videos to a minimum. Engage student involvement with polls and questions. Ask for feedback from your students as to what they find most effective.
  • Encourage creative thinking to keep students engaged.
  • Invite students who have technical expertise to be coaches to help support and troubleshoot with their peers.

Prioritize individual connections

  • Promote regular group chats, discussions, and even individual communication as needed. What students miss most about not going to a conventional classroom is the social interaction.
  • Propose group or pair projects to encourage collaboration. Take advantage of technology to highlight the ease and benefits of teamwork. Allow students to edit each other’s work and share their finished documents online. Establish commenting guidelines and etiquette to offer encouragement and helpful advice. TechnoDebate and TechnoBlog are TechnoKids projects that promote collaboration and digital citizenship.
  • Assign reflection journals to let students know their feelings are important. Respond with specific, personalized feedback.
  • Ensure students receive routine positive reinforcement and can consistently achieve some level of success. They need feedback to optimize their engagement in online learning.

Engage Students in Remote Learning

For more suggestions and tips to deal with online learning, see our previous blog How to Engage Students in Remote Learning. In the post, we have included specific resources that help educators teach technology skills in a virtual classroom.

How to Engage Students in Remote Learning

project-based learning

Teaching is a wonderful yet demanding task when students are physically present in a classroom. But it’s a whole other level of challenge when they’re learning from home. Online learning or virtual instruction has been available since the beginning of the Internet. This model has primarily been used by colleges, universities, and corporations. However, in recent months due to school closures many teachers have been offering their classes remotely.

There are strategies educators can use to not only deal with this new situation, but also transform the education model to inspire students. This article outlines factors to consider when teaching in a virtual classroom and provides links to helpful resources to support learning.

Design Meaningful Lessons to Engage Learners

A challenge to remote learning is designing lessons that spark student interest. Often it can seem like school has become one boring worksheet after another. To overcome this hurdle engage students with real world connections. Design lessons that pose authentic problems and offer topics to which students can personally relate. As they investigate these issues and propose solutions, students are more involved and motivated.

Project-based learning is the essence of all TechnoKids materials. At first glance, this instructional approach may seem too difficult to implement using a remote learning model. However, each TechnoKids technology project includes lessons that have step-by-step instructions with illustrations that explain how to complete a task. Resources such as sample files, provide examples of completed work. As well, templates jump start creativity. TechnoKids makes it easy to support learners as they complete meaningful tasks from home.

Empower students with challenges to explore real world issues in your virtual classroom. Hook student interest with role playing. As they recognize relevance, students are inspired to learn. Two projects that are an ideal fit for middle or high school students are:

meaningful projects
  • TechnoWonderland: Students become marketing executives for an amusement park. They solve a variety of challenges as they develop technology skills.
  • TechnoTravel: Students play the role of a travel agent. They construct a travel advertisement to promote a weekend getaway.

Provide Activities for Multiple Devices

Another hurdle to overcome when lesson planning for a virtual classroom is access to technology. At school, typically the hardware is standardized so that everyone has the same device. However, when working from home, students have a variety of devices.

Teaching in an online classroom is similar to a BYOD program. Students could have desktop computers, laptops, or tablets such as Chromebooks or iPads. Or perhaps, they only have access to smart phones. As well, the operating system varies. It could be Windows, Mac, or Android.

Curriculum should allow students to achieve success using any hardware configuration. The challenge is to offer assignments or projects that are open-ended enough to be successfully completed using any computing device.

remote learning

TechnoKids projects will work with a wide-range of hardware and software. Teachers can download multiple versions of the same lesson from TechnoHub. Assignments are available for Google Apps, Microsoft Office Online, Office 2019, Office 2016, or Office 2013. This allows teachers to provide instruction that will work on any device. Everyone in the class can be learning the same thing, using different technology. Two popular projects that are ideal for remote learning are:

  • TechnoToon is a fun digital story-telling project. Students can create their animated cartoon using a browser such as Chrome or Safari and Google Apps, or Microsoft Edge and Office Online, or a desktop version of Microsoft Office. There are many options.
  • TechnoNewsletter has students create a fan club publication. They can use Google Docs, Microsoft Word Online, or Microsoft Word 2019, 2016, or 2013.

Differentiate Instruction

A further challenge to teaching remotely can be meeting the needs of all learners. Not all students are the same. Each has unique abilities. A child may have a learning disability or English as a second language. This requires teachers to modify tasks to accommodate individual needs. This can be done ahead of time, as part of curriculum planning, but is often done in the moment – which can be difficult when teaching virtually.

In a school setting, when a child raises their hand, the teacher can provide assistance immediately. The educator can assess the student’s needs and then apply a different approach to explain a concept or adjust expectations. This personalizes learning.

Moreover, when students are working from home, visual cues that show frustration are no longer present. This prevents the teacher from instantly making the necessary modifications to meet the needs of the learner.

When learning remotely, one way to accommodate all learners is to use lessons that have activities with varying degrees of difficulty. All children receive the same assignment. However, students can select from a list of choices. This allows them to complete the task that suits their ability.

TechnoKids projects provide a range of tasks that support all learners. One project that offers a wide-range of activities to differentiate instruction is TechnoCode:

  • TechnoCode sparks an interest in computer science. Students create games, puzzles, mazes, animations, stories and more using Scratch 3. Teachers and/or students can pick and choose activities. Younger students may just complete the first three sessions. Middle school grades can continue on to the computational thinking challenges of Sessions 4 to 6. Assignments include challenges with varying degrees of difficulty.

Provide a Flexible Pace

Another consideration when teaching remotely is scheduling the pace of instruction. Students may not have access to devices throughout the day, as parents or siblings could be using the technology. This restricts the ability to complete assignments in a timely fashion.

Be accommodating in setting timelines and goals. Ideally, activities should be flexible and allow each student to progress at their own pace. There are great resources that allow teachers to personalize learning. OneNote and Google Classroom let you set assignments for individual students. You can pick and choose what and when to give to each student according to their needs and progress. TechnoKids offers support and step-by-step instructions on how to set up a Google Classroom or Class Notebook.

TechnoKids projects are ideal for self-paced learning. Two projects that students will enjoy are:

  • TechnoBookmaking has a collection of templates to publish a tiny picture book, a flip flap story, a riddle book, an accordion book, and many more. Mix and match! Complete as many as you want, in any order you want.
  • TechnoRestaurateur has students take the role of an entrepreneur developing a new franchise. Depending on which learning objectives teachers select, they can choose and omit assignments. For example, if spreadsheet skills are important, include all of the calculation and graphing activities and leave out the floor plan and logo designs.

Host Class Discussions that are Interactive

distance learning

Class discussions are an integral part of the learning process. Students can express ideas, ask questions, gain knowledge, and develop a fresh perspective. When instruction is delivered online, instead of in-person, the experience is somewhat different. However, technology provides unique ways for students to communicate with one another.

Face-to face instruction using online tools such as Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams allows everyone to connect. The etiquette requires that only one person can talk at a time, or else it is difficult to hear. Although, this is the case in the regular classroom, it is even more important in a virtual setting.

To keep everyone actively involved in the discussion, teachers can ask questions that are responded to using the built-in chat feature. This gives everyone a chance to share their ideas. You can ensure that students know that their perspective and individual viewpoints are valued by posting emoticons to individual comments. For example, a thumbs-up, smiley face, or animated sun are some ways to respond to contributions.

Another way to invite others to share their opinion is to offer polls. By keeping instruction interactive you can verify that everyone is participating. Moreover, this will help students to feel part of the conversation, which makes them less likely to tune out.

Another way to engage learners is to share your screen. This allows you to demonstrate a concept or clarify a misunderstanding. If using a TechnoKids project, it is a simple way to show the steps to complete an assignment. For example

  • In TechnoBudget, students budget for a shopping spree. They organize the items using a spreadsheet. By sharing your screen you can demonstrate how to create formulas and graph data. In addition, you could have students justify their purchasing decisions in a lively online discussion.
  • In TechnoMap, students produce an interactive map. There are significant differences between creating a map using Google Slides, Microsoft PowerPoint, and PowerPoint Online. A virtual discussion is a great way to clarify the task, help students select a version, and answer questions. You can model sample maps by sharing your screen.

Invite Student Input and Welcome Personal Choice

Since online learning can be alienating to some learners, inviting student input is more important than ever. Students enjoy having choice. They like their opinions and interests to matter. For many, it gives them a feeling of empowerment. It also is motivating, because the assigned task is personally meaningful.

To simplify teaching in a virtual classroom, have students complete the same assignment. However, let them choose their topic. Everyone is learning the identical skills, but with different content.

Most TechnoKids projects allow students to pick a topic, area of personal interest, or unique and creative focus.

  • In TechnoEarth, students become environmental stewards. Each student picks a topic of personal, local, or international concern. Then they design an interactive infographic to create a powerful call to action.
  • In TechnoSite, students build a website. They choose their own areas of interest as the topics for the web pages.

Collaborate with Others

What students are missing most when they aren’t in a classroom is social interaction. Compensate by assigning work that requires students to work with others. Their level of engagement will grow, as will the essential skills of effective communication and accountability.

Many TechnoKids projects make use of the collaboration tools available through technology.

  • TechnoDebate has students work with a partner to take opposing positions on a controversial issue. They work together to prepare an animated slideshow to support each side, respond to arguments with a rebuttal, and answer audience questions online.
  • TechnoBlog allows students to express their opinions and expertise as they post a series of articles. Peers read, write, and comment on their work to develop digital citizenship skills.
  • TechnoQuestionnaire invites students to design questions to research opinions of a sample group of their classmates on an authentic issue. They analyze the results and present their findings to their peers.

Provide Self Assessment Tools

Working remotely can make some learners disengage. To encourage fundamental personal skills such as responsibility, self-direction, and self-confidence, include tools that allow students to measure their own progress. As students rate themselves, they develop critical thinking and problem-solving techniques. These tools can be checklists, rubrics, journals, or marking criteria. They help students consider what they have learned and how to do better.

checklist

TechnoKids projects all include a variety of assessment resources for both teacher and student. Most student workbooks have checklists both at the end of the project and often throughout each stage, such as a research outline or a planning organizer.

  • TechnoTurtle uses the Python Turtle Library to teach basic programming and ignite an interest in computer science. Each session has Review Questions. Students complete a variety of checklists as they create a Mad Lib and a Carnival Game. They reflect on their learning by answering questions for a coding journal.
  • TechnoAdvertise has students play the role of an advertising executive design a variety of publications. They review checklists for a product catalog and advertising flyer before they submit work for evaluation. Marking sheets for the five publications are provided for self-evaluation as well as teacher assessment.

Turn Learning into a Game and Celebrate Achievements

Gamification, the use of game-like concepts, can be used to stimulate learning, celebrate successes, and simply add fun to curriculum. Teachers know the value of stars, progress bars, and any type of positive reinforcement. As adults, we collect loyalty points to get rewards such as coffee, groceries, or travel miles. In the absence of a personal touch, certificates and badges given online can remind students that they are progressing and that their efforts are recognized.

remote learning

TechnoKids projects reward students for their efforts. Every title includes a certificate of completion and a parent letter outlining technology learning objectives that have been achieved. As well, projects include many encouragements for students and strategies to add fun to schoolwork.

  • TechnoInternet is a series of lessons that teach Internet safety, search strategies, digital citizenship, and more. Included in the resources is a map on which students can track the places they have visited: e-Library, e-Playground, e-Media Center, and more. When finished, they receive an Internet Citizenship Card.
  • TechnoTrivia teaches students to build a quiz with a variety of questions, an answer key, and feedback. Planning, research, communication, and analysis skills are developed through a fun, game-like activity.
gamify

The Power of an Infographic

As an alternative to report writing or giving a presentation, an infographic is a compelling way for students to demonstrate their learning. Due to its visual nature, an infographic portrays facts, data, images, and a call to action in a convincing and appealing format. When we teach students the tools for designing their own infographics, they acquire a variety of essential skills. Here’s a list of the values of teaching students how to build an infographic.

infographic

Apply Research Skills

In order to present the facts and images that are fundamental for an infographic, students need to build search skills. In a couple of recent blogs, we outlined some tips for teaching explicit strategies for online research. Limited reading and scanning skills, irrelevant sites, advertising, and biased websites are stumbling blocks to students finding reliable, appropriate results quickly. If we teach them how to search, they will achieve greater success in finding trustworthy information fast. Making an infographic is a great way for students to boost their search skills.

Develop Digital Literacy

An infographic can be designed for almost any subject area. Topics in science, geography, visual arts, history, and language arts can all be expressed using images and brief text. Multiple technology skills are developed:

  • graphic design
  • digital citizenship
  • online search strategies
  • communication and word processing
  • web-based publishing

Promote Critical Thinking

An infographic has very limited text. When creating this type of document, a student needs to evaluate all the information and determine which facts are most important and engaging. An infographic has different sections, so they need to organize the layout in a logical way. Finally, the headings of each block of information must be interesting to capture audience attention. Therefore students must synthesize, paraphrase, and describe the topic in brief but intriguing titles. These skills are in the top two levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, evaluation and synthesis, where students master the most complex learning tasks.

Inspire Creativity

Infographics are lots of fun to create! Choosing layouts, picking color themes, drawing icons,
listing fun facts, making an image carousel, and displaying surprising numerical data are just some of the elements to design and construct. Students find it highly motivating to make an original infographic. Spark the interest of students from Grades 6 and up with a novel assignment. Inspire them to make unique infographics that both demonstrate their learning as well as inform others.

Develop Real World Communication Techniques

An infographic presents a topic using universally recognized symbols and images. Text is brief and enticing to attract and hold the viewer’s attention. Students need to understand the topic, but they also have to convey it in an authentic way that will captivate readers. An infographic is likely to be web-based, so it should mirror contemporary media. There is a lot of information to compete with, so it must be accurate and convincing. The student isn’t writing a report for the limited audience of one teacher. It is being written for the public. Quality, grammar, vocabulary and tone are critical with a global audience.


Learn How to Create an Infographic with TechnoEarth

technoearth icon

TechnoKids’ newest project, TechnoEarth, instructs students how to build an infographic about an environmental issue. They play the role of environmental stewards as they design an interactive infographic about an important problem. They learn how to outline the cause, harmful effects, stakeholders, location, and solutions using a highly engaging format. Learn more about TechnoEarth here.