Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Find Your Passion" Research #EdChat

A new article has come out and it shared the research done on the idea that people just need to "Find their passion" and how it is terrible advice. In the educational world, the phrase, "find your passion" has been shouted from the rooftops as a way to engage students and teachers in the learning process. Many people have built mini empires on driving this narrative for teachers and students. The phrase can actually be quite complex and do tremendous harm if not unpacked for students and staff, but many people don't want the long and dirty answer regarding the value of passion in schools. "Find your passion" is not about waiting until lightning strikes with that one thing you have just discovered. It doesn't work that way. I never would have grown to love coding, physical computing, and Raspberry Pi if I did not stick with it and let the passion I have for it grow organically. It was a process. The idea that your will just find that one thing right away is mythical. Now, some people pick up a paint brush, solve a math problem, or strum a guitar for the first time and are hooked, but that is not the vast majority of people. As a teacher, I have grown more passionate about the profession over the years because I became dedicated to growing as a learner. I have been an advocate for Makerspaces and Genius Hour/20 Time. I am an advocate for finding things that you are passionate about or might be passionate about and exploring them. Genius Hour/20 Time for my HS students was an opportunity for students to explore areas that interested them. Some of them found out they were very passionate about these projects at the end and others recognized that this area was not something as interesting as they had hoped. You can't even call it a failure because trying something out and realizing it is not for you is just how life works. The problem stems from people showing up on PD day, standing in front of a large group of teachers and just telling them to tell their students to follow their passion and for teachers to follow their passion and walk away with the check in hand. No real strategies on how to do that or what that means in the grand scale of the school or district. Poor administrator support makes it even worse. Teachers are all pumped up, but have no real idea what this means and this can harm students in the long term. Passion needs to have a tempered approach that allows all educators and students the opportunity to try things and see where it takes them. Helping students and teachers develop passions as they explore the world is an amazing thing to do. Makerspaces and libraries are perfectly poised to be a space that supports learners as they explore the world and find what they are passionate about. As long as we all accept that it can change and evolve over time, then I'm all for "Find your passion" being in education. If not, then we have another empty platitude that puts money in the pockets of people and leaves teachers and students in the dust to figure it out on their own.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The #NErDCampMI Effect

The very first thing I want to write is that Colby Sharp and his crew of amazing Nerds have put on one of the very best conferences I have ever been part of in my entire life. Seriously, I am angry at myself for missing the past several years.

I have been meaning to attend NErDCampMI for a number of years, but things have come up. I really wanted to make sure I attended this year, so I blocked off the second week of July to make sure I would not schedule anything that might cause me to miss the event. I am so glad I did!

While I have spent countless hours writing about technology, Makerspaces, Project Based Learning, Raspberry Pi, and the like, I have always been a literary nerd at heart. My path has taken me away from the literary conversations I have always loved having. I have only been out of the English classroom for one year, but I could tell how badly I missed literary conversations after just chatting with a few people.

I submitted a session, because I have to present wherever I go. It is a disease. Anyway, I presented a session on Graphic Novels and had a nice conversation with the people that attended. I shared Bone, Watchmen, X-Man, and some of my other favorites. It was nice to discuss Graphic Novels and their role in literacy with other educators. The hour went by quickly we were all having so much fun with our discussion.

I tried to get into a Maker session and it was too jammed to find a spot. Instead, I found a spot in the lobby and started to have some fun conversations with educators and some authors/illustrators. We were just a few nerds sharing what we love to read and how we can use our love to instill the love of reading with our students. It was magical.

The end of the first day allowed attendees to wait in lines and meet the many authors that agreed to attend and share. I was excited because I needed to get Dav Pilky's signature in my son's Dogman book. It was my number one goal. Number two was meeting Judd Winick. He is the amazing author of the Hilo series. Leo has fallen in love with the series and I needed to meet Judd and get the book for Leo. Personally, I wanted to meet Judd because used to watch him when he was on the Real World San Francisco back when the Real World was an honest social experiment. He made a book, Pedro and Me, based on his friendship with Pedro Zamora. It was a book that was a big deal for me growing up and is still worth a read. Anyway, I was able to get both signatures and both of the authors, and really all of the authors I encountered, were amazing.


A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on


Day two was an unconference and I ran a session on the Hero's Journey in pop culture and how to connect that to literature. It was a packed session where I was able to discuss Star Wars, Disney movies, and The Catcher in the Rye. As an added bonus, Judd Winick came to my session! It was so cool to have conversations with all of these educators. Of course, it was awesome to listen to the Nerd Talks and Pernille Ripp made me cry with her talk. She is one of the most passionate educators I have the pleasure to call friend. Just spending time talking with her lights a fire inside of me to dive deeper into my reading and writing. She is a good friend and I'm lucky to know her.

By the end of the event, I was exhausted. This was the best type of tired I have had in some time. ISTE drains me physically. NErDCampMI was draining intellectually. I was given so much to think about and I made so many more connections in just two days. I couldn't be happier to have had this opportunity to meet great educators and authors. The NErDCamp Effect is the feeling of growth and inspiration after spending two days in Parma, MI.

Colby Sharp and company did an amazing job bringing everyone together and you can bet I will be back next year.