Monday, April 17, 2017

Having Heart: A Quick Book Recommendation

I have been reading over this interesting book by Timothy K. Kanold called 
Heart!: Fully Forming Your Professional Life As a Teacher and Leader and I wanted to share a couple of things that stood out to me. 

The first chapter is all about happiness. What role does happiness play in our daily lives, what can we do to see the happiness around us, what happens when happiness is gone, and other ideas that we, as teachers, do not stop and think about as much as we should. Sometimes we are so focused on the happiness of our students, we forget to take a look at how we are feeling. 

As you read through the book, there are questions you are asked to consider and they write your thoughts down in the book. I like this because it is asking the reader to fully engage in the book and become part of the process. Each chapter has these spaces and it is wonderful to dive deep into a book and dive deep into your own psyche. 

Another interesting aspect of the book is the piece on Engagement. It asks people to be fully engaged in the moment, not engaged ahead. It was interesting to think about when I reflected on my engagement. Am I truly engaged in the moment or living in the next moment? Are the students fully engaged or are they preparing for something else? 

The book also touches on the energy aspect of engagement. A fully engaged person will be very tired in my experience. I had an amazing class the other day where kids were designing and students were discussing the novel and I was with them every step of the way and I was exhausted by the end of class. My full engagement leaves me a shell of human emotionally and physically. The reflection pieces in this chapter are perfect at getting to the core of your tiredness. 

There is so much more in the book and I would highly recommend picking it up. I'm very happy my friend shared a copy with me and I hope you will read it as well. You will not regret it. 

Hugs and High Fives!


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Technology Does Not Magically Make Teaching/Learning Better

There is a myth out there that integrating technology in your classroom makes you a better teacher.

It is important to be clear that there is so much more to technology integration than having students stare at a screen. There are too many people out there that think that teachers want the newest technology because it will automatically make test scores soar and make all students smarter. That is not how it works.

Having access to technology offers opportunity. That is the most important thing that technology brings to a classroom.

It is up to teachers to take the opportunity and see what they can do to transform their classroom. Just having it is the first step, not the only step. The tool is only as useful as the skills of the person using it.

A brand new circular saw could help a craftsman build a house, but a person who has never held one before could loose a digit. While technology integration is less perilous, the concept still applies here. A skilled teacher craftsman is needed to get the most out of the tools they are given to craft the best lessons for the students. Teachers are craftsman and they just want access to the best tools to make their job a little bit easier for everyone involved.

From the student perspective, technology also offers them opportunity. One of the biggest opportunities is great access to information. Digital copies of materials are now readily available for almost everything read in class. Now, just because the story is accessible online, does not mean that they are going to understand it more, but they will have easier access which could allow them to read it more than once or listen to it while they read with text to speech software. It gives students the opportunity to access the information it different ways which can lead to better understanding. Great teachers show students how to get the most out of these opportunities.

Another opportunity for students is demonstrating knowledge. I remember when there were students who had a family video camera and they were able to create the coolest projects with access to this new technology. Students who had the passion for visual storytelling were able to demonstrate understanding using video. There are plenty of new tools released every week that allow students to express their ideas and thoughts on anything they are covering in class. Again, the opportunity to use them is not enough. It is the understanding of how to use these tools effectively that matters most.

What makes a teacher, any teacher, better is using any tool to get the most out of their curriculum and their students. Just having access to the tools is not enough. It is how an educator leverages the tools to create a learning environment where everyone can excel.

- Hugs and High Fives

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lunchbox Raspberry_Pi Computer #MakerEd #Make52

I woke up Sunday and thought it would be cool to put a computer inside my lunchbox. I'm not sure the exact reason why I wanted to, but I wanted to. I'm sure I saw something on the Internet about doing this months ago and it worked its way through my subconscious and out of my brain on Sunday morning. 

So, I went downstairs to my basement and my Makerspace and got to work. I grabbed pieces from around my workshop area and realized I had everything I needed. Within a 90 minutes, I had a working Pi powered Lunchbox Computer. Here is an Instagram post with full pictures. It is perfect for my #Make52 Challenge this year. Check out other posts I've made on Instagram for each week of #Make52.

My dream is that schools will be designed/reorganized to support students with similar desires or impulses to make. Public school is so important because it can offer all students a chance to chase their dreams and make anything a reality. How, as teachers, can we make this possible?

A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on


Nerdy Project Thoughts:

I ordered a two keyboards. One is a Bluetooth collapsable keyboard and another is a rollup keyboard. Both will fit in the lunchbox, but I'm not sure which one will actually work best long term. I can use the other keyboard for another project. 

I'm actually typing this post on the lunchbox right now. It works great and I couldn't be happier. However, like most projects, there are some things that I would tweak for a second time around.


I would re-think the tether system I used to keep the lid in the open position. I've added some hot glue to keep the screws and the fabric in place, but where I connected them doesn't fully work for me. I tried placing the fabric on the side, but the screws I had stuck out too far and would not allow me to close the lid. 

My lunchbox is a little stinky. I never noticed it before, but it's a bit stinky. That is an easy fix with some cleaner, but I did not notice it until after I finished the project. 

There is still room for the Thermos. I would be awesome if the Thermos could be turned into the batter source. If I could have room for the Thermos and the keyboard, that would be amazing. I will have to wait and see after the keyboards arrive in the mail. 

Share any thoughts you might have on the project below and maybe it will be something I can work into the current project or the next one I build. 

Hugs and High Fives, 

@TheNerdyTeacher

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Finding A Teacher/Maker Balance #MakerEd #EdChat

Feeling pretty good today. Another moment to sit and think about stuff. I know, super specific right? I've been thinking about my Maker journey lately. I've been so busy with teaching, grading, and travel, I have not had time to dive into some Maker projects that have been sitting in my workspace for a few weeks. It can be a bit frustrating not working on things you are excited to Make, but that is part of the full-time teacher deal.

I'm still getting tons of great feedback from people all over the world who have purchased my book. It is very humbling to hear from someone from the UK that has loved my book and it has inspired them to create a space for their students. However, I feel like a bit of a fraud when I have not had much time to support more own making our the Makerspace because of papers to grade, projects to assess, etc. I get stressed when I do not have the time I want to commit to helping every student that wants help. I'm not sure if this is a normal feeling for others, but I also do not know how many other educators are full time HS teachers trying to balance an awesome learning environment in the classroom for 150 students and an environment for Making in a high school of over 1600.

I feel the obligation for the students that sit in my class, but I also built a Makerspace for students to connect and pursue things that matter to them. Have I failed because I can't do both at the level I feel is needed? Is this just a normal part of being a teacher that does as much as they can to support learning? It's frustrating.

Life is about balance and I'm committed to finding the balance that will allow me to support the Making culture in the school and the learning environment in my classroom. It's a lofty goal, but I feel like it is a worthy one because of the positive impact it can have on students.

Hugs and High Fives,

Nick

Friday, March 24, 2017

More Than A Programming Club

Yesterday was the weekly meeting of the Programming Club I advise. It's a small collection of students who want to learn to code and create something fun. I tend to sit back and let the students organize their ideas and chime in when I think they need a suggestion here or there. This post is not going to be about forming a Programming Club or the different types of programming. This is about the value of this club, and any club, for all students.

The students gathered in my room and could not stop joking around between ideas for the RPG game they want to create. Discussing current memes and inside jokes, this group was happy to have time in a space to just be themselves. The students were comfortable and all smiles. This is key for any club.

I'm glad to give up my classroom for an hour or more after school every Thursday so these students can get together, nerd out on the current games they are playing, talk about the plot and design of the game they want to create, and just have a good time. As teachers, it is important that we create spaces for students in our classroom where students feel good about sharing their thoughts, even if it is a minority opinion. Choosing to advise clubs is another step teachers and school can take to support students and give them a place before or after school where they can explore topics that matter to them. These clubs could be chess, yoga, checkers, basketball, video games, comic books, or any other type of club that lets students come together and see there are other students that love the same thing they love. Making those connections can help some students get through some very tough times.

While taking time out of a teacher's day can be tough, I'm happy to give these students an hour of my time after school so they can just be kids doing something they love. I want to create the best environment for all of my students during class and after school. Advising a club is one simple way to do that.