Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Tradition

A couple of years ago, I created a digital story to demonstrate to students how their imaginations were much more vivid than any movie or picture they could see. The project was the launch for the Creating Digital Story unit, and my hope was to inspire creativity in students when they made their own story.

In honor of Halloween, I showed my story to each of my classes. I want to share the story with you in honor of Halloween.

If the video does not show, click here to access the link.

Science Fair Kickoff

My school was treated to a Science Fair Kickoff Presentation hosted by Mr. And Mrs. Flanagan. They brought in example projects and conducted live experiments to inspire students participating in this upcoming event. They captured the attention of the student body with activities such as Zombie Foam,  male vs. female taste test, and the Leaf Blowing Toilet Paper contraption. Science came alive for the students, and the Flanagans' presentation was fabulous!

Halloween Sounds Playlist

Today, while programming code for Angry Birds, I am letting the students listen to a variety of Halloween sounds and songs in the background.

If you would like to access my Playlist, click on the link.

2014 Halloween Freebies

While searching for Halloween activities, I came across a post describing all of the free deals available for Halloween 2014. After scanning the list, I wanted to share the post on my blog. I had no idea you could do all of these awesome things on Halloween!

Honestly, who doesn't love free??

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Time Management for the Smartboardless

I have found that the students respond very well when they have a definitive time frame of expectations. In my two 6th grade keyboarding classes, I would give time remaining prompts. The students seemed less agitated knowing that there was a concrete stopping point during typing.

I realized that as I was walking around monitoring, it would be difficult for me to keep an eye on student performance and an eye on the clock. I had an inspiration during my second class - I would find a timer I could display on my board.

The title seems misleading, because what does a Smartboard have to do with a timer? More importantly, why does a computer tech class NOT have a Smartboard? Even further, WHAT IS A SMARTBOARD???


The only question I can address is Smartboards and Timers. Smartboards are interactive and allow the teacher to stand in the front of the room and manipulate the presentation. One of the tools built in to a Smartboard is a timer feature, and by having a board you can activate the timer while up moving around. I have a project shining on a wall, and my presentation station is on the opposite wall (and restrictive.)

In my search for a timer to use (on Windows 7) I came across and their suggestions for computer timers.

I downloaded the Orzeszek timer, and used it with my class. It is an easy to use program that needs to be cut and pasted onto the desktop. When you click on the timer, a frame appears that allows you to type in the time frame you need to measure. It immediately begins a count down, although there is no warning sound upon completion of time. This timer serves its purpose for my need in the classroom, and so far I am pleased with the results.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Check Out Books At Home For Free

My son is an avid reader and loves spending time in the library. However, due to his school and band schedule, we are unable to go as often as I would like.

During his last visit, they signed him up for the e-book program available through the library. Princeton Public Library is affiliated with WV-Reads, one division of OverDrive.

He received an email, and is setting up his account to be able to check out books on his iPad. I will do followups about the program and his progress, but I encourage all students (and adults) to take advantage of this free service!

Powtoons instead of PowerPoint

As a computer technology teacher, I am always looking for new ideas to present to my students. I think PowerPoint has it's advantages, but since Microsoft office is now an additional fee for new computers, I was looking for something outside the box.

Enter Powtoons.

I created a free teacher account through a promotional event going on this year. I was given 60+ student accounts to use in my classroom, and I could purchase 30 more for a $5 addition. I loved the idea, but did not know when I would find the time to learn how to use the site.

I found a Youtube video that presents Powtoon creations step by step. I let my class follow along, stopping after each set of steps so that they could manipulate their own creation. You can follow the link or try viewing the video below:

The students caught on quickly, and soon we were making advanced Powtoons that they could upload to Youtube. If you want to create a single account, there is a free option that has a more narrow selection of choices.

Guarantee Your Students A Job!

In this economy, positive employment news is a welcomed change to the dismal outlook facing our children. Finding opportunities to earn livable wages seems like a distant memory, and guiding kids towards careers is a narrowing path.

Computer Science is a growing market, and with the ease of technology access for young people, programming should be at the forefront of skills taught. I was blown away by the Stats that were provided one the site. When the national discussion of rankings by our American students as compared to other nations falls short, why is Computer Science not important in schools?

I have signed up my school to participate in the Computer Science Hour of Code Week December 8 - 14. I wish I could have the whole school participate, so we could be considered for the $10,000 prize awarded in each state. We simply do not have the resources to facilitate every student getting on the computers to complete an hour of code during that time frame. offers many different courses of study, all free to teachers and students. If you would like to check out the activities, or sign up to be a part of this recognized week, you can click on the Code avatar to access the site.

A Great Blog and Even Better Resource!

I have been in technology for quite some time. I have found that not all technology is right for every teacher. I follow a blog written by a high school teacher named Richard Byrne called Free Technology for Teachers. I have found so many useful suggestions from his blog, and want to give him a shout out.

Most of the things I write about have been attempted in my school setting. If it is something I discovered from his blog, I will give him credit at the end. I suggest you visit his page and look at everything he has available, because he is truly the technology guru. I am adding a link to his site so that others can use his resources!

Thanks Richard Byrne!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lessons Learned

I tell my students every day that I learn as much from them as they do from me. 

I used my school money to purchase an iPad for the students to use on the website. I had taken notes on the Note App, and was trying to find a way to upload the notes so they could be erased before the students took the iPad. 

While helping a student with his math, I did everything possible to save the note in another location. I configured email with no luck. I downloaded Google Drive and hit a brick wall. The cloud would not work at school.

After all of my unsuccessful attempts, I put my head in my hands out of desperation. The student looked up at me and said something so profound I was speechless.

"Ms. Mutterback, why don't you just take a screenshot and save the picture on your iPad?"

I learned a valuable lesson today. We can all arrive at the right answer, but the routes we take to get there may not always be the same

Secondary History App

I downloaded a free app called Congressional Moments, produced by The Center on Congress at Indiana University. I was immediately awestruck by the ease of use, and when I played one of the videos available, I knew I had found something teachers could benefit by using in class.

History will come alive with the addition of authentic resources from this app. I recommend this iPad app for anyone teaching history to students.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Free Online Activities Matched to Content

Last year, I discovered a site that became a staple within my teaching practices. The site gave me a access to a wealth of content that I could utilize to build learning paths for my students in an online format. Teachers can create classes and track student progress once a student has created an account with the site. is a site that has online games and activities for many different subjects, and teachers can build learning paths that can be assigned to their classes to focus students on activities directly aligned to what they are teaching. The whole site is free, which is the magic word to almost every teacher. Parents can be sent a code so that they can access their student's accounts, and the fact that students cannot communicate with each other makes the safety factor even more appealing.

Comprehension Units

It is difficult for teachers to purchase libraries when funds are in short supply. We are often scrambling to find sites students can visit that will provide reading activities to use in the classroom. Common Core is now in effect, and finding any material aligned with Common Core standards is always beneficial to the time-strapped teacher.

Readworks is a site that provides reading activities aligned with common core. They have released a set of of online books that are common core aligned, and separated by grade level.

With the K-5 stories, you are given a Lexile Score, Read Aloud Lessons, and sometimes given Paired-Text Questions. With the 6-8 Novels, you are told which areas of comprehension will be covered by the novel. Make sure to bookmark this site to access wonderful stories to enhance your teaching!

Chart Go

Our students had an amazing presentation on Friday afternoon by Mr. and Mrs. Flanigan. The school held a kick off for the "Science Fair." While presenting information helpful to students organizing their Science Fair projects, the presenters also conducted mini experiments in front of the student body.

One of the sites mentioned during the presentation was ChartGo.

ChartGo is a site where students can input their own data and create a chart for their Science Fair project. On the left, you will find different types of charts that can be created on the site. After selecting the type of chart you want to create, simply fill in data cells to demonstrate your findings. At the bottom, simply click CREATE CHART and you will generate a professional looking chart for your project. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Lifesaving Algebra Calculator

Common Core has brought many changes to the math curriculum that we all grew up learning. Students in 9th grade in West Virginia now take MATH 1. The curriculum is a hodgepodge of algebra, geometry, and other types of math meshed together in what can only be described as "Math on Meth." 

Math 1 replaced the previous Algebra class that 8th graders could take if they exceeded a host of criteria. My son qualified for this class, and after two days of homework, I knew I was quickly out-witted. I delved into my bag of tricks and started searching for ANYTHING that would help me understand his homework. 

I found a site that has turned out to be a LIFESAVER. The site works flawlessly on an iPad, and all I had to do was open Safari and access the site. I did try accessing the site on a laptop, but for some reason the answers had characters inserted that I did not understand.

Select the tab at the top which represents the type of math you will be checking. Each drop down has characters and functions that can be added when typing in a problem. You can submit to provide an answer, and if you want to see actual steps you can purchase the ability from the site. I wanted to check my son's work, and this site provided me with the ability to do so. Mathway has enabled me to become a functioning parent in this new math world.

Friday, October 24, 2014

PhotoMath - Smart Math Calculator

My son is currently enrolled in Math 1, the Common Core redesigned Algebra class. I have not taken a math course since college, and the change in math practices left me unable to help my son with his homework.

I recently saw an ad for a new app that bills itself as the "Smart Math Calculator." I downloaded the app, which was free much to my surprise. The app website provides this description of PhotoMath:

This app is available on both iTunes and the Windows store, but an Android version will not be available until 2015. Watch this video about PhotoMath and see if the app may benefit you!

Create Word Clouds with K-5

As a former technology integration specialist, I can say with certainty that many sites claiming to be primary grades friendly end up being a nightmare in actual use. If you are familiar with Wordle, you will love the site I will show you. has provided a program that allows primary age students the ability to create a word cloud demonstrating a concept. In addition, ABCYa  has many other games aimed at primary and intermediate grade students. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Classroom Playlist

One of the positive reinforcements that my classes using the contract have earned is the right to hear music when they are working quietly. Knowing that current hits include subject matter not appropriate for the classroom, I reached down into my bag of tricks and created a playlist of songs that would expose the students to different time eras and different kinds of music. If you would like to see the songs I have on this list, please click on the link below. As time goes on, more songs will be added.

Math Trick - Multiply Using Lines!

I recently saw this on my Facebook feed. I have tried it out several times, and so far it has worked. If you have a student that has trouble with multiplication, watch this video and see if this is something that might be beneficial to them!

How to Win Students and Influence Kids

I recently attended a training on classroom management. In layman's terms, the training gave us ideas on how to promote acceptable student behavior. While the behavior in my classes is usually excellent, I wanted to hear additional tips that I could add to my repertoire of strategies.

Students need to feel that you care about them. Point Blank. If they think you want them to succeed and be the best that they can be, you will have more latitude to shape their behaviors. I cringe, however, at some of the maligned attempts to foster this type of environment. Please give me a moment to get up on my pedestal so that I can provide a clear description of what I mean.


I have seen this boundary crossed, and the results make life harder in school. You must maintain a boundary with students so that you are not perceived as their equal. If you allow students to think you are "on THEIR side," then you are pitting yourself against other teachers, and other standards of practice. Eventually, this group of students that you have empowered begin to view themselves as superior to other students and teachers. Not all empowerment is bad; when students are empowered with the knowledge that they have the tools to succeed in life, you have done a great job educating kids.  However, teachers who empower students with the idea that they are "above the law" destroy the character of those impressionable kids. I have 20 years in this profession, and although the place may change, the results stay the same.

All students must be held accountable for their actions. If you allow students to "use your authority" to evade consequences, then the students learn that they are held to a lesser standard of conduct. Let me provide an example:

You are the yearbook sponsor for your school. When selecting students to be in yearbook, you include both students who are hard workers as well as students who are the children of your friends. On picture day, the yearbook members are taken from classes to help you with the event. Students are told that they will be sent back to class if they are no longer helping with pictures.

While taking pictures, a few students start playing around instead of doing their part to assist with the flow of the process. These two students were picked not due to their work efforts, but because of your friendship with their parents. If you do not send these two students back to class (as you clearly defined prior to picture day), then you have empowered those two students in a negative manner.

 Kids flourish with clearly defined, consistent expectations. When looking at the rosters for upcoming classes, I realized quickly I needed to be on top of classroom management. The first day, I told the classes expectations that I had for their daily performance. I discussed these behaviors with a stern voice, providing examples of what I needed to see each day.  As they left my room, I could see that they had lost their equilibrium, and their usual behavior was in a state of unbalance. The second day, I reviewed the goals of the students. On this day, however, I told each class that I knew they were going to be my favorite. We created a "contract" that would outline what they thought actions a teacher demonstrating respect would exhibit. Then, the students created a list of behaviors they thought would garner the right to have a party at midterms. You can see one of the class charts below:

The contract was signed by every student in blue pen, and hung on the wall. To my amazement, the two classes that created contracts have become my favorite classes! It takes time and reinforcement to encourage those positive behaviors, but it is well worth my sanity to take the time out each day to praise them for their hard work and respectful manners.

Monday, October 20, 2014

School Spirit

In the hustle and bustle of covering massive amounts of content, we tend to forget that we are working with KIDS.  It would be lovely to think that the math concept that we poured our heart and soul into teaching would be the lasting memory of these kids, but the memories that these young ones will retain are of the things that occur outside of our instruction. Teachers sometimes forget that they were once, too.

We recently ended "Spirit Week" for our school. One day, we had hat day. Another day was wacky Wednesday, where students wore outfits that creatively expressed their interpretation of crazy. The students got to have a pep rally the day before our Homecoming game, and the culmination of the week was a dance held on Friday.

My 6th grade students in first period designed and created my door. I think they did an outstanding job!

Although I think our Spirit Week was fantastic, the purpose behind my post is much different. If you want kids to "buy in" to our school environment, you must provide them ways to create a vested interest in the day to day happenings. For some of the kids that darken your doorway, their life at school is the only chance they get to redesign who they want to be. Some of the kids that come to school have lives that require them to grow up too quickly, so it is vitally important that we allow our students time to "be kids."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Phoenix Rises From The Ashes

A while back, I struggled with some "realities" that were definitely not fair, and could best be described by saying STUNK. No matter how deeply it offended my moral convictions, nothing I could do would change it. I decided I could either ensconce myself in the muck and mire of the situation, or refocus my priorities and concentrate on the things that really mattered to me.

I am proud of the progress that has evolved from this change in my way of thinking, and want to give a shout out to the kids working so very hard on one of the many projects that have brightened my mood and improved my days. This site is designed and maintained by 8th graders, and the fact that these students are writing articles OUTSIDE of any Reading or Writing class is such an accomplishment. Is it perfect? Not by any means... Do they have pride in what they are doing? Beyond measure... Do I want to hear any criticism or critical commentary on mechanics, structure, or creation? My retort comes in the form of a question... Do you enjoy your head enough to risk me biting it off?

Copyright and Kids

As a Computer Teacher, I feel it is vitally important to teach kids about Copyright and the law. Kids have technology at their fingertips both at home and at school, and most middle school students are well versed in traversing the internet.

Students must understand the importance of Copyright, and what their rights may be in consideration of "Fair Use." Here is a quick Youtube video that provides an explanation about Copyright and Fair Use.

I have started a website for my 8th grade students called "Tiger's Telegraph." It was important for them to understand Fair Use in regards to photos or images they wanted to incorporate in their posts. 

I found a site that I have posted for students that outlines Fair Use for images.

The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons

This site discusses rules for Copyright, and even gives image websites that can be used in consideration of Fair Use. 

Please make sure you discuss Copyright with your students in class, or even as a parent to your own children. You may save students future grief and heartache by addressing this important concept now.

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Position - New Ideas!

I have moved from being a Technology Integration Specialist into teaching Computer Technology to grades 6 – 8. My reasons for changing are vast, but to post in layman’s terms: I REACHED MAXIMUM BURNOUT. I lost my passion and my drive, and I needed a change to fulfill some intrinsic desire to torture myself. 

Everything I post from this point forward will be from an end user’s standpoint. If I post it, I have probably just attempted it with one of my classes. It took me a year of getting into the teaching grove to find  my footing; however, great things are starting to come together and I am excited to share.