Oh no! The server is down! Now what will I do with these kids?

Those are words that no Technology Specialist or Facilitator ever wants to hear.  Luckily, I haven’t heard (or said it myself) for years now except for some extremely short events of less than an hour.

That wasn’t the case twelve years ago, though.  I was working as a Technology Facilitator at a middle school when the server went down for six school days!  The staff really scrambled and made it through, but I really felt for the business computer teachers.  What do you do when you are supposed to be teaching keyboarding to six classes a day?

There are slide1very few engaging low tech/no tech activities out there when this happens.  The server might not even be down but the tech specialist might be asked to vacate the lab for some sort of testing or training and end up holding classes in an empty classroom.  Add in a few unruly kids, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!

That very possibility lead to the development of these “no tech” games.  Inexpensive and requiring very little prep, “Scoot” games have been a staple in academic classrooms for years.  So far we have made two versions, “Elementary Digital Citizenship” and “Word Processing,” both aimed at elementary classrooms.  Simply cut apart the cards and place them in order around the room and duplicate the student answer sheet.  This “old school” game is a lot of fun, complete with giggling, as well as an excellent way to review and assess what your students may need in terms of remediation.

If you’ve never played Scoot, here’s a great blog post from the “Learning Resources”  blog.


We’ve included thirty stations in each game that will keep your kids busy and engaged.  Even if everything is running smoothly, Scoot can serve as a great review, substitute teacher activity, or a break and opportunity for your students to get up and move!

Tell us, what are your strategies to make it through these kinds of situations?


Computer Lab, Computer Skills, Instructional Technology, Life in the trenches, School, Word Processing

Rockin’ Out!

One of my jobs as a Technology Specialist is to help teachers brainstorm and plan how technology can make their lessons more engaging for their students.  We have a fair amount of laptops and desktops at our school, plus 600+ iPod Touches and a cart of iPads for checkout.  Although we are fortunate to have more than many schools, classroom teachers are so overwhelmed with the demands placed on them.  To add to that load, students must take a Science End of Grade Test in the fifth and eighth grade in addition to the traditional Math and Reading test.  Being at a high poverty school, the word “test” is almost a dirty word because that is how hardworking teachers are measured and many put emphasis on scores, not academic growth.  In additon, no one measures how students learn to be emotionally stable, productive citizens through the hard work of the instructional and support staff.

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox and back to science.  A fifth grade teacher and I got together to try to come up with an unit on the Rock Cycle that her kids might actually like.  She was a true novice when it came to technology use, not to mention totally terrified!  She provided me the content and I had to plug that content in to our available resources.

After many hours, I came up with several stations where students could work with a partner or small group and rotate through them.  Some stations used iPads or iPod Touches, while others used laptops.  All the stations could be deployed with any one of the three devices we used. After a few days, they were asked to create a Popplet to show the relationships within the cycle as well as the terminology.

The stations included:

Introductory Video that everyone watched together
Station 1      rock bookWhat are Igneous Rocks?
Station 2     Where are Igneous Rocks in the Rock Cycle and
collect 3 pictures
Station 3     What are Sedimentary Rocks?
Station 4     Where are Sedimentary Rocks in the Rock Cycle and
collect 3 pictures
Station 5     What are Metamorphic Rocks?
Station 6     Where are Metamorphic Rocks in the Rock Cycle
and collect 3 pictures
Station 7      Play an online Rock Cycle game
Station 8     Play a Rock Cycle Sort card game
Station 9     Go online to learn more
Station 10   We Will Rock You! music video and lyrics
What do terms can you hear?

Each student was equipped with a booklet to record information as they made their way through the rotation.
preview one-rock

After rotating through all the stations, each student had a collection of pictures and information to use to create a Popplet,  which is available on the iPad or on online for free.  They created their Popplets, bouncing ideas

preview 2-rockoff of each other in terms of organization and appearance. Each student project was evaluated with a rubric that was provided to the kids before beginning their project.  You can see an example below.

The teacher I worked with was nothing short of amazed!  She had never seen her kids so engaged and happy as they worked.
At the end of the year, our End of Grade Science scores had improved over the previous year.

Secretly, I’d like to think I had something to do with that!

I’d love to hear how you have used technology to make your science lessons more effective!


If you would like to learn more about this activity, visit my TPT store here by clicking on the picture:



Instructional Technology, Internet Activities, iPad, School

Are you ready?

Are you ready for the new school year?  I’m not sure what happened to summer but it’s gone for many of us!

As always, I had great plans to get so many things done around the house such aback to schools tackle that closet that drops all kinds of things on top of my head every time I open the door, but I failed again.  No surprise–that seems to be the story of every summer and my kids are grown so I can’t blame it on them!

With some new furniture to make seating more flexible for the computer lab, there is a ton of work to be done!  No more big tables shoved up near outlets as the desktops have made their way to classrooms and the lab is equipped with laptops.  New furniture means new decor and different colors–no more blah, basic beige and blue.

There isn’t a ton of decor items out there for a computer/technology lab compared to let’s say, kindergarten and first grade, so I’ve begun to make it myself!   It’s bright and cute, plus instructional because of the terms used.  Want to take a look?

Click on the pictures to find out more!

Technology Terms Alphabet                          Hardware Word Wall

Slide1 Slide1

How are you getting your classroom or lab ready?

We’d love to hear about it!


Computer Lab, Life in the trenches, School

A Great Bulletin Board Idea…

bulletin boardNormally, I’m one of the more reserved type of teacher which is unusual for an elementary school.  Most of my co-workers are very touchy-feely, warm, and cuddly in a very good way.  I’ve acquired some of those traits over the years to some extent, although sometimes my grouchy self will say, “There are a whole lotta nice people, but nearly as many kind people.”

It’s very easy to plaster on a smile and be nice.  It’s truly a gift to have a kind heart, both as an adult and a child.  When I saw this bulletin board on my Facebook feed, my immediate reaction was that it would be great for a hallway or a classroom.

On further reflection, I think it might be even better to be posted in the staff lounge or mail room.  As teachers, we all need to be kind to each other–we have one of the toughest jobs in the world.  I know how a first year teacher feels when she is crying from frustration or a veteran teacher feels from the lack of respect from their students.

How can you practice a random act of kindness for one of your co-workers?


Life in the trenches