Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Proud of @GPSouthHS Teachers

Today, students were given their schedule forms to consider classes for the next school year. It seems early, but planning a schedule for 1700 students takes time. As teachers, it is our job to tell the students about the classes available and guide them to the correct choice. It's a fairly simple process, but it is one that could easily be glossed over in favor of instruction.

During my prep period, I had to run around the building for various reasons and I saw something that just made me smile and reinforced my belief that I teach with the best staff in the world. I saw teachers in the hallway and in their classrooms sitting with students and discussing their educational options moving forward. Teachers were giving their students the individual attention they needed to help them make the best choice for the next year. These are classes of close to 30 students at times, so to give the students individual attention can be tough. It did not seem to phase these teachers though. They had their forms our and were ready to have a frank discussion with the students.

I'm sure this happens in other schools, but it was so awesome to see all of these teachers working on the same thing with all of these different students. This personalized  attention is key to helping students achieve the success they are capable. Those small conversations can be a difference maker for our students. I think it is something that we should all try to remember. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

About Asking For Help #ECET2

I spent time this weekend with some amazing educators from across the country. ECET2 was a great experience. I walked away with many different ideas I look forward bringing to my classroom and school. There was something that struck me while I was in the edcamp session.

The session was cool and set up mini sessions at tables. I was with Meenoo Rami, Pernille Ripp, and Ann Leaness. We thought it would be a good idea to do a session on literacy. I'm always looking for ways to encourage students to read and improve reading skills for all of my students. I asked one questions that led to a conversation filled with resources and great ideas, "What can I do to get my male students to read more?"

As I sat there listening to all of the great ideas that were being shared by teachers, I was struck at how long it took me to ask this question. I'm friends with some of the most amazing educators in the world who work hard on sharing literacy strategies. These are people I talk to on a regular basis. We chat education and anything else that comes to mind. Yet, with these amazing experts surrounding me, I never once thought about asking them for help. It really made me think about why.

It is so tough to admit not knowing something. It's tough to admit that there are things that I can be better at. It's tough to admit to yourself, much less put it out there on the Internet when you need support. As I work to be a better teacher in so many other ways, it can be tough to admit areas where I still need to grow. I find it weird that there are some things I choose to ask for help with and others I will keep hidden. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I'm an English teacher and I'm afraid to admit a weakness is that field, but non-English areas I feel it's acceptable to ask for support. It has given me something to think about.

As I look inward and figure all of this out, I hope to become better at asking for help from others.

Hugs and High Fives,


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Learning at #ECET2

I've been hanging out at #ECET2 for a a day now and it has been a wonderful experience. I've had a chance to connect with old friends and make new friends and share great stories. #ECET2 is a wonderful idea to bring teachers together to celebrate the work they are doing and promote teacher leadership. 

This has been a very positive environment for all teachers and it has been great to see teachers feel so empowered and embraced. You can tell that this is very out of the ordinary for them. It's sad to think that these teachers, most teachers probably, do not feel appreciated on a regular basis. I'm very lucky to have been given a opportunity to attend this event by the people who invited and my building principal that allowed me to come. I would encourage teachers to find a local ECET conference near them or reach out and try to organize your own in your state. It has been a wonderful experience so for and I cannot wait to see what else I will learn over the next 24 hours.

Hugs and hug fives,


Monday, January 25, 2016

Innovating with TED-Ed #EdChat #TEDEdChat

This past year, I've been very lucky to be part of an wonderful group of educators put together by TED-Ed. The TED-Ed Innovative Educator cohort has been an amazing experience for me. I haven't written much about it, but I wanted to change that today.

As part of the cohort, we needed to come up with an innovative project. This could involve students, staff, or both. I was really stressed over this. I always just come up with ideas and see how they go. Creating something that is supposed to be innovative from the start was just something foreign to me. I was not sure where to go with the project, but I knew who to turn to.

My cohort and the leaders from TED-Ed making this group happen this year have been amazing. They have been supported of me through my stress of choosing a project and trying to get it going. They have also been an amazing support group for when school and life get crazy and I needed a place to share. As a group, I feel like we have really come together and helped each other when we needed it. I've met some awesome people and have made some great connections. We are spread out all over the world, but our love of teaching knows no borders.

When I finally needed to come up with something, I decided to give my students the chance to be innovative in my innovative project. I was taking over a new class that needed some tweaking. The one tweak I brought to the table was to give my students one day of the week to work on an innovative solution to a problem. The first quarter focused on solving a problem they encountered in their daily life and the second quarter revolved around a problem in the community or the world. It was a but like 20 Time and Shark Tank combined.

I had students design their own earbud wraps so they would not get tangled in their pockets. I had a student create a knee brace for a specific condition she was dealing with in sports. I had another student spend their time trying to design a submersible that would clean the ocean and run on the garbage it collected. Two students worked on an app that would connect people who wanted to adopt dogs to shelters in their area. The list goes on from there. These students were highly engaged in their work and really loved what they were doing. One project is even going to be piloted in our district after the student presented their bathroom pass scanning creation that runs on Raspberry Pi! It was great to see students working on things that they created on their own. Their excitement has led me to get my hands dirty with different tools as well. It has been a great experience for teachers and students.

Now that the semester is over, I can reflect on the the project and I can see all of the places I would change the implementation. To some, this might cause extreme amounts of anxiety. It will probably cause me some, but I know that my TIEs will be there by my side to help me in any way they can.

Interested in applying to be an Innovative Educator? There is some time left! Sign up closes January 29th. Fill out the application here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Failure Fun #MakerEd #EdChat

I've been on a making binge lately. My wife called it my new obsession. She's right. I'm obsessed with taking ideas and using the tools available to make it happen. I've been playing with Raspberry Pi and I have written about playing with it and using for gaming and computing. I ordered a small 7 inch screen for my Pi because I wanted to create a portable device. Here is the screen with the Pi and the controller connected.

A photo posted by Nick Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

It's not practical to walk around with all of this, so I needed to come up with a solution to my problem. I took some measurements, drafted some ideas on paper, slept on the design, thought some more, and finally started to print out pieces I designed on Tinkercad. Here are some shots I posted on Instagram.

The most important thing I can say about this very rough draft is that I screwed up big time in many different ways with this project. My measurements were not as accurate as I would have liked. I had to print some spacer bard on the front and on the side (The red bars). Trying to print the large part in black in one piece was a mistake and one of the pillars broke off on the front. I used Krazy Glue to bind the pieces together, but it just looks messy.

I've learned so much from this experience. I know where my mistakes were and how to correct them (I think) so the next version will be better. I have a better understanding of Tinkercad and my printer. I even have some better ideas on to improve the design and possibly change it to function like a briefcase so the screen is fully protected if I travel with it.

The best part about these failures is that I get to share them with my students. I've been very open about my work trying new things out and I have a group of students that see me most morning to talk tech and design. Some of them have started their own Pi projects and are excited to see where things are going with my projects as much as I am excited for updates on their projects.

As an educator, I feel it is important to share those failures with students and to let them know that it is just a step in the process. I have learned that my public failures can help me and others see that trying something new can lead to great leaps in learning. I want to lead my example for my students and I'm very lucky to have the chance to do that using these tools.

I'm having the most fun failing in a very long time. It's a love a learning and problem solving that has kept me going. I want to make sure that school is still a place that inspires students the same way.

Hugs and High Fives,