Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Teaching Internet Search Skills--Boolean Operators

The following charts hang in my classroom to help students with searching online. I find 5th graders to be very receptive and an ideal age to introduce such skills.

In this post, I am going to write about the Boolean Operators demonstrated on the left. These examples show what happens if you were searching online for info about Ants and/or Bees. 

Adding the words AND, OR or NOT to your search will produce different search results. The green shaded parts display the amount of page hits (often too much or too little) that might be produced by using NOT, AND or OR.

An actual example from one of my classes was a 5th grader searching for sea life. Each child has an assigned animal, and this particular student had trouble finding swordfish info after just typing swordfish in the Google search box. She kept getting many pages with swordfish food entrees instead of animal facts. I suggested she try some of the Boolean tips we learned. So, she tried:

  • "swordfish NOT food" (the idea was to bring up sites that had swordfish but not food). It lessened the amount of food results , but still not enough animal facts.

  • then, we tried "swordfish AND animal" as well as "swordfish AND facts for kids" which brought up sites that displayed results that contained both sets of words. It had fewer, but more accurate, page results. She was able to get the most information using the AND.

  • if we had put "swordfish OR sea life" it would have brought up way too much information about sea life that did not even address swordfish.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Microsoft Excel for Grades K-3

I think many of us shy away from using Excel with lower elementary grade classes. It seems like a big task but broken down into small chunks it's not so bad. I recently created "Excel for Little Ones" which is an interactive activity for this age group, and it has been very successful in my classes. 

"Excel for Little Ones" teaches about cells, cell addresses, worksheets, rows, columns and entering data. Students work through the 6 worksheets by pressing "Next" and "Back" links. This lesson is designed for students to complete in 30-40 minutes.

As far as using these with the different suggested age groups (K-3) I recommend the following:
  • For Kindergartners, I find it best to use at the end of the school year when there keyboard and letter recognition is improved.
  • For third graders, this is a good beginning Excel activity for those students who have not had any experience with Excel (particularly new students who come without Excel experience).
Once students complete this activity they will be able to create basic charts. You can provide endless data for charts for extra practice!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spring Cleaning in the Computer Lab

We've made it through the winter--if you live in the Northeastern part of the U.S., congratulations for surviving a difficult season! Time to open those classroom windows again and do some spring cleaning. 

Cleaning a computer lab can be time consuming and monotonous with all those cables and equipment to work around! A small vacuum comes in handy to suck up the dust that gathers. But, grime and germs take a little more work. Here are some tips for friendly products you can use to clean your lab and computer equipment:

Desks and Tables:

The greener the better. No need to buy fancy expensive products. You can find green products in most grocery stores. There are also many suggestions for making your own cleaners online. I have used the following vinegar solution for years at home and now at school.  

Keyboard and Mouse:

Rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball. Be sure not to soak the cotton ball with enough alcohol to drip out of it. You don't want want it soaking into the keyboard or mouse.

Turn your keyboard upside down and shake it gently to release any crud that may be hiding inside. Use a small paintbrush to sweep between the keys.


Be careful with your monitor when it comes to cleaning products. Standard window cleaners can be quite harmful. Stick with a commercial cleaner designed for use on computer screens.


Ugh! The most dreaded of least for me. Dreaded, but important. Below is a link to a good article on how to clean the inside of computers:

How to Clean the Inside of Your Computer by Ed Rhee

Happy least it's Spring!