Technology Education Know-How

Helping Teachers Teach with Technology

Parent Newsletters in Email

Friday, August 29th, 2008

It’s that time of year where teachers start sending home newsletters.  It’s becoming more popular to send those newsletters home in email than on paper copies.  You know the whole save the trees thing.  I’m going to share with you three bad parts of this and then a resolve. 

Bad #1. Not every parent has the program or fonts that you used to create your nifty little newsletter.  When they get it they can’t open it or the fonts have turned to gibberish, so they can’t read it. 

Bad #2. If you send your news letter in the most popular format .doc then the parents can edit and make changes to your news letter.  (A good reason to keep your original on file!)

Bad #3. Again, if you use a .doc file parents are able to see all the little red and green squiggly lines.  Not that any of you make mistakes, but if you did it’s like BROADCASTING “there is a mistake here . .  . . hey hey look over here. . . I’m a mistake look at me!” 

Resolve. Use a converter and convert that .doc file into a .pdf file.  Anyone can read these.  If they don’t have the program to view the .pdf file they can download it for free.  You say, “What if they don’t have internet access?”  Well, good point!  If that’s the case, they can’t get their email.  So, you’ll want to print it for them and send it home.  😉  I know that was smarty wasn’t it.  Sorry! 

Here is an online converter that I have found to work perfectly with Word and Publisher files.  You simply brows for the file on your computer and click the convert button.  It automatically opens your new .pdf file.  All you need to do is save it.  Note:  Be sure to use the save button in the PDF area not the file save of Internet Explorer. 

I hope you find this tip helpful.  If you have other ideas about this please leave a comment so everyone can benefit.  Thanks for reading!

A Web Browser for Autistic Children

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

I’m certain that if you teach long enough you will have an Autistic student in your classroom.  Once you have one, you will see why this tool is so awesome!  Read on or go directly to check it out here,

Here is an excerpt from the web page about the Zac Browser.

                ZAC is the first web browser developed specifically for children with autism, and autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), and PDD-NOS. We have made this browser for the children – for their enjoyment, enrichment, and freedom. Children touch it, use it, play it, interact with it, and experience independence through ZAC.

ZAC is the zone that will permit your child to interact directly with games (a LOT of games) and activities (focused on MANY interests) that cater specifically to kids who display the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders, like impairments in social interaction, impairments in communication, restricted interests and repetitive behavior. ZAC has been an effective tool for kids with low, medium and high functioning autism.

ZAC focuses on the children and their interaction – But we also provide an excellent forum for parents, caretakers, teachers, and others to share their experiences, tools and resources and to unite as a caring, compassionate, and extremely knowledgeable community. It is said that “it takes a village to raise a child”, and that is exponentially true for raising a child with autistic spectrum disorders. The power of your experience yesterday is going to be instrumental in helping someone successfully tackle the circumstances of today.”

 Take a look at this video showing and telling about the new browser.

This is definitely worth taking a look at.  I hope you find it useful!

Amazing Space Activities

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

This week I would like to introduce you to Amazing Space at

Amazing Space has lots of amazing tools and resources for teaching about the solar system, space and observation tools.  Here you will find videos, diagrams, images, lesson plans, and student activities that involve exploration, history and new found knowledge.   If nothing else this is a great place for your students to start their research, and I’m sure you’ll find some useful tools and information as well, I know I did. 

I enjoyed getting to see images from the Hubble Telescope like this one of the Whirlpool Galaxy and the Companion Galaxy. 


Wow! Along with that image comes a complete lesson plan.  Click here for the complete lesson plan.     

I hope that you enjoy exploring this site of exploration!  Leave a comment giving suggestions of how you used it, plan to use it, or other related sites of interest. 

Captivating Ideas for Writing with Cartoons

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

After blogging about this before I’m sure you know by now that I’m a big advocate for using cartoons to get students writing.  So, here we go again with more detail and more ideas.  provides an easy tool for creating short comic strips.  You can choose to have a 2, 3, or 4 window comic strip.  Students can email or print it out for their teacher.

I made this cartoon with this new tool.  short, quick, and easy


Why Comic Strips:

1.       Comic strips are about good writing not good pictures. 

2.       It helps them hewn their skills of knowing their audience. 

3.       It helps them focus on important content and story line.  (key story elements)

4.       It gives them a strategy to order the sequence of events. (beginning, middle, and end)

5.       Students will learn how to infer ideas to their readers.

6.       The student must know the Plot, Scene, and Characters to write a good comic strip.

7.       Students will use “voice” as their character develops. 

8.       Students will learn how to write dialogue correctly.  (bubbles mean quotation marks)

9.       It makes the student think outside the box. (no pun intended)

10.   While using their higher order thinking skills they will learn to analyze and think critically.

Strategies for Using Comic Strips:

1.       Have a collection of quality comic strips for your students to analyze. 

2.       Discuss character development. Who? What were they like? Why are they that way? Look at the “voice” of the character. What is their personality like?

3.       Discuss the story line.  Does it have a plot?  What is the point?  Did it communicate?

4.       Discuss the setting.  Where? When?

5.       Have students create a scrapbook of their favorite comics.

a.       They should collect different styles. Funny, Serious, Political, etc.

b.      Have them do some research about the history of the comic they like.

6.       Start with a sequence of pictures or drawings and have the student fill in the script.  This takes the focus off of the drawing and puts it on the content.

7.       Have the students stick with their character for several comics.  This will give them a chance to develop the characters personality.

8.       Keep the comics short.  This is not a comic book project.  At least not yet.

9.       Have the students use their characters and write a full length story based on their comic strips.  You’ll be surprised as to how they turn out.


After reading this post, take a look at these TEKS and just imagine how you can use comic strips to teach these.  If you aren’t in Texas and you are reading this take a look at your state’s writing standards.


If you have other ideas please leave a comment.  I’ll add it to the list.  This list is not exhaustive nor is it the only way to teach writing.  It’s only one of many strategies that I have used. 


After writing this post I felt like I may need some supporting documentation, so I turned to good ol Google.  Here are some links to what I found.

Wish I had this when I needed it!  It’s full of templates, ideas, samples, tools, and a rubric.


Here is a Comic Strip Template from Microsoft.

Free Resources

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

As a teacher I’ve always loved free resources. I have found several resources for you to use in your classroom. Some of these resources will actually send you products to use (free) and others are online (free). Check out each one to see how you can utilize and adapt it for your classroom.

I have used several of the items below in my own classroom, so they can be useful.


They provide Free Videos and printable resources for teaching. It is sponsored by major corporations. Look and see!

Early Grades K-3

Provides lessons, printable, and even some video lessons. This page is worth exploring!


This is a nice site for when you are dong lessons on farms, plants and environment. It provides everything from videos to lessons.

You can use this site for resources on food cycle, health, science and plants. Lots of games, printables and just good ol information.

Older Grades 3-5



This is a must see for our 5th grade teachers. Order your free CD for your class!!! It incorporates Math, Science, Social Studies, English  


I ordered this CD. It is awesome!

A wonderful place for science resources for all grade levels. GO GO GO!!!



On of the best yet!!! FREE educational comics for your students. Most of them offer up to 35 complementary copies. You can get other books as well. Some of the books only offer one complementary copy, and some are available only by download. It’s wonderful for those of you who will be studying money, history and/or government. 


I have ordered from this as well. Yes, it’s free.

I hope you find something that is useful for you!

Charts, Graphs, Percentages and Decimals

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Charts, graphs, percentages and decimals are a part of the TEKS in most of our grade levels. Here is a fun and easy activity that you can do with your students using Microsoft Excel. is a site that can tell you how many people in the US have your first or last name or the combination of the two. This data makes for interesting classroom graphs and charts. The data can also be used in teaching percentages and decimals.

An example would be:

With 3 billion people in the US, 3,017,684 of them have the last name Smith. What percentage of the US population is a Smith? .100589% or .00100589

Another example would be: Reading Charts and Graphs

Who in our class has the most popular last name?

What’s the difference between Smith and Lee?

ETC. How Popular am I?