Introducing Students to Computer and Internet Safety

As educators, we are often at the forefront of teaching internet and computer safety to the students in our care. Where do you begin? As part of coursework toward my Technology Facilitation degree, I was part of a group of educators who created a song called “It’s All About Safety” using the music from Meghan Trainor’s ” All About That Base.”

It was so much fun to create! We wrote lyrics that cover everything from posting to social media to using correct posture at your computer. Take a look and leave some feedback! Without further delay…I give you Casey K, Jennifer W. and A. Dahl, It’s All About Safety.


Free (or Low Cost) Websites and Apps for PreK and Kindergarten


Image credit: “Kids with Education Tablet Computers” by Intel Free Press

A coworker came to me with a specific request:

“Can you create a list of apps I can give parents for my preK and kindergarten students to use at home?”

While curating the list of resources below, I tried to gather resources compatible with Android devices, PCs, and Apple devices. Most are free, a few are under $2.00 to buy. It is by new means an exhaustive source, but does offer a good place to start if you would like to share educational resources with your preprimary and primary students.

Disclaimer: While most do not, some of the apps/links use in app purchases in order to be offered “FREE.” Before allowing your child/student to use a device like a computer, cell phone, or tablet, please remember to turn off in app purchases in your settings if possible, or set your settings so that a password is required to make in app purchases. I can not be held responsible for accidental purchases made by children when using any apps or websites listed below. 


iPhone/iPad apps

Sight words

Writing and/or Recognizing Letters

Phonemic awareness

General (Shapes, numbers, letters, etc.)

Android Apps for the Google Play Store

Sight Words

Writing and/or Recognizing Letters

Phonemic awareness

General (Shapes, numbers, letters, etc.)

Hopefully this list can be used as a resource for your younger students (or children)!

Reaching Multilingual Learners with BrainPop and YouTube

As a teacher in a school with a high population of diverse learners, I am always looking for ways to support student understanding of concepts. I know I am not the only educator who strives to get my students to “get it.” I am lucky enough to have had students who received special education services, students who received ELL services, students with highly able plans, students considered below grade level and students who were well above grade level. In the inclusive classroom, you have to find a way to reach everyone.

Before I begin, let me say I do not work for BrainPop or YouTube.

In the past, I have used BrainPop like many teachers have. My school provides subscriptions to our students. I head to and have my students explore or watch a specified video and complete the quizzes or other activities. In that capacity, it is a great resource. However, using BrainPop in that way just scratches the surface of its capabilities.

I work in a school with a high population of students who receive ELL services, most speaking Spanish. Contrary to what many believe, most of our teachers do not speak Spanish, including me! I teach STEM, science and social studies. All subjects are rich in content vocabulary. One thing I like to do is find coordinating videos through Brainpop and Brainpop Español.

In an upcoming economics lesson, I will be teaching about supply and demand. I will introduce the concept through BrainPop videos. Through a quick Google translation, I was able to figure out how to say “supply and demand” in Spanish. I then found the cooresponding videos on Brainpop (Supply and Demand) and Brainpop Español (Oferta y Demanda). (Note: You will need to log in to your BrainPop account to watch these movies).

First, the entire class will watch the video in English. Then, the class will choose to watch it again in the language of their choice (English or Spanish) rewatching, pausing, and rewinding as needed and taking notes to understand the vocabulary words (like:  supply, demand, consumer, etc.). In the past, I have noticed that my native Spanish speakers will write the English and Spanish translations next to each other. Sometimes they will also annotate my notes or worksheets with the Spanish translations of vocabulary.

Videos that took me a few extra minutes to find, allow me to scaffold my instruction in a way that helps to reach my learners in a meaningful way.

BrainPop is a pay services and I know that every school doesn’t provide for it’s use. YouTube on the other hand is free. Another method that I use to support student understanding is to change the language on my closed captioning on YouTube videos.

I try to always choose videos on YouTube that have closed captioning. This allows me to play the closed captioning on the screen as students view the video. This is helpful for student comprehension (especially for students who need to see the words to understand or need help spelling new vocabulary words). I then give students the option of watching the video again with English or alternate subtitles (like Spanish or French if those languages are represented in your class). This may mean having alternate “watching stations” in the classroom. I have created a 2 minute video that explains how to change the closed captioning on YouTube videos. It is super easy to do and offers an easy way to support learners who are literate in another language.

The video Fabulous Food Chains: Crash Course Kids #7.1 was not created by A. Dahl. It was created by Crash Course Kids. 

Are You Keeping Up? The Evolution of Technology in Education

As an educator embarking on this journey to become a technology facilitator, I wondered about how technology use has changed and evolved over time. I feel that every teacher has the opportunity to infuse the use of technology (read: facilitate) into their curriculum in many ways. Are you the teacher still grasping on to old technologies when newer, more efficient ways of engaging students is at your fingertips? Take a look at “Then vs Now: How Technology in Schools Has Changed Over Time.”

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Is your level of technology proficiency tied to the way teachers incorporated technology in the 1930’s (via movies and television shows)? Even if you use a big, fancy interactive whiteboard, are you using it to its full potential, or are you using it to replace a film projector, overhead projector, or TV screen? Is your interactive whiteboard  just a high tech replacement for the standard whiteboard introduced in the 1960’s or worse…the chalkboard, invented in 1801?

According to, computers for student use became prolific in classrooms in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. SMART boards came about in 1999. Kids were using games for learning on classroom computers in 1985. As educators, we shouldn’t be using technology the same way they did 15-30 YEARS AGO. You. Must. GROW!

So how is technology being used?

(Find more at  How Are Students Really Using Mobile Devices on Daily Genius by Katie Dunn)

Through the use of technology we have the opportunity to engage learners in new ways. We can use the technology available in its most basic  ways OR we can make it work for us and our learners. How are you using your interactive whiteboard? Do you need ideas? Here are ways to use technology available in classrooms across the country for more than their most basic capabilities.

Here are a few places to get great ideas for taking technology use, in your classroom, to new heights:

Screencasts-A Doorway to Possibilities

When it comes to using technology to figure out how to do something I do not know how to do, I am the queen of the web search. I will use my computer or my smartphone to look up a tutorial (usually video) to walk me through the step-by-steps of how to complete whatever the given task may be. For example, when I wanted a refresher on crochet stitches after not using the skill for years, I was off to YouTube for a quick search…30 minutes later, I’d partially finished my first cute mouse baby bootie for a friend’s soon-to-be little boy.  The internet is a resource we often go to, without hesitation in our daily lives.

When my quandaries are more of a computer-based or technical nature, I go to the web once again…to hunt for screencasts.  Screencasts allow us to get first person tutorials as if we were sitting at the computer with the person teaching it. They offer video of the screen of the instructor as they go through the steps of a given task in real time, often with recorded audio for oral instructions throughout the process.

Not only do I use screencasts to learn things myself, but I also use them to teach my students. When I am out and have a substitute, I have uploaded screencasts of the whole group portions of my lessons to my class portal. This allows for the continuity of teaching style and vocabulary my students are used to. It also allows for substitutes, who may not be as tech savvy or do not know the specific methods and strategies students are learning, to teach the computer-based lessons I need completed in my absence. I have taught my students where those lessons will be and how to access them in my absence, it’s win-win!

I also use screencasts when I am in the classroom with students. When I foresee that a few students may have trouble with setting up a document or completing a computer-based task, I create a quick 30 second to 2 minute long screencast so they can refer to it if needed. The best part about it is that students who don’t need it get started right away, those that do need help watch the screencast without my intervention and get started as well. In the meantime, I am able to provide small group scaffolding to students who need it. I have even used screencasts to record quick tutorials for staff at my school, like how to set up your laptop to print to a satellite printer and hold the document until you get there to print it out.

So how do you get started? First, you will need to have access to a computer, preferably one with a microphone. Then…well the easiest way to teach you how to screencast is by posting a screencast! I am not one to reinvent the wheel, so here are two different screencasts that explain two common screencast creators readily available.

Using Screencast-o-matic:
Using, Chrome-based, Screencastify:

Are Teachers Instructional Designers?

What is instructional design?

According to, instructional design is “the process by which instruction is improved through the analysis of learning needs and systematic development of learning materials. Instructional designers often use technology and multimedia as tools to enhance instruction.”

Merriam-Webster gives a simple definition for teacher: “a person or thing that teaches something; especially : a person whose job is to teach students about certain subjects.”

I think it is safe to say that educators that incorporate technology and multimedia into the planning of instruction, the deliverance of instruction, and the assessment of instruction are instructional designers. Teachers today, who incorporate 21st century skills into the very design of their teaching, are by definition instructional designers.

Do not misunderstand me, just because you add a video to instruction, does not represent an adherence to the principles of true instructional design. The incorporation of technology should improve instruction. It should allow for analysis of the learning and the impact of that instruction. So as we ask ourselves if we are instructional designers, we must also ask:

  • Is the technology we incorporate meaningful?
  • Is the technology we include an enhancement to the instruction?
  • Do we use the technology chosen because we want to or because it is the most effective way to instruct our students?

As an educator, I must constantly evaluate the effectiveness of my instruction. Finding the delicate balance between creating engaging lessons, lessons that are enhanced by technology, yet not overwhelmed by it, is the name of the game!. As I embark on that journey, I have to look more to the processes that make up instructional technology in order to truly do it justice. In the text we are using, Instructional Design for eLearning by Marina Arshavskiy, so many processes and models are being introduced. Right now, I think ADDIE will be at the forefront of our discussions.  I am looking forward to the learning…

Just something to ponder. Instructional Designer Pedagogy Word Cloud from