Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Everything I Know About Technology Integration I Learned From Watching 90's Nickelodeon Part 1

This, like many of my tech integration posts, originate from silly twitter conversations. I was sitting on the coach with my wife, @jenniferpro, and I was struck with this vivid memory of the the show Hey Dude. Within minutes, my mentions icon lit up with people talking about that show and a whole host of other shows from SNICK (Saturday Night Nick) and other afternoon Nick shows. I realized that I had finally reached that point, along with the rest of my generation, where we all of this shared cultural/media experience. Our humor and ideas stem from memories we had of shows that made us laugh (Clarissa making fun of her brother Fergeson), cry (Kelly dumping Jeff for Zach. I mean, WTF!?) and shreak in terror (Are YOU Afraid of the Dark?).
My first tech integration post was on my love of cooking. I wrote my next one after finding out that certain tech people I know (cough cough @Ktenkely cough cough) had not seen Star Wars. I was horrified by this fact and thought I would write a post about how those movies can teach us about tech integration in the classroom. People tolerated my silly comparisons and started to suggest other movies for me to write about and it's been crazy since then. I decided to focus on a time period of my life when I was in love with television in a way that might not have been healthy. I know everything about these characters and the shows they were on. I was by no means a couch potato. I played Soccer year round and was even in plays during my Senior Year in HS. These shows left a mark on my brain because I felt they were written for me. Technology in Education is the responsibility of every teacher that wants to give every student the chance to learn and grow as a person. Every teacher should want to knock down walls and prepare kids for the global community. my posts are designed to reach out to teachers that are on the fence and need a push to our side. The tech side. My next installment is geared for that generation that did not think anything was weird when Sam climbed the ladder into Clarissa's room whenever he wanted. It's for a generation that wanted to form their own Midnight Society to exchange stories of horror. It for a generation that was ok dealing with the fact there were two kids in the same family named Pete. This post is for us. (P.S. Other people can enjoy this, but you might not get all of the jokes that are not very funny, but will have many of us ROTFL with tears in our eyes.) Enjoy!

Everything I Know About Technology Integration I Learned From Watching 90's Nickelodeon Part 1

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

The first video is the intro that I grew up remembering and loving. The next clip is from the first episode and I realized I hit the jackpot. The video is about PLNs. The Midnight Society gets together once a week to share stories about a topic they all love. They come from different backgrounds and different schools, but they have this one shared passion. "Are You Afraid of the Dark" was about finding people with like interests and sharing their creativity with one another. Don't we do this every Tuesday with #edchat?

Developing your PLN is an important part of tech integration. Teachers need to find like minded people so they do not get burned out or beat down by others that might not be on board with tech in their building. My PLN comes from all of the world from many different types of schools, but our shared desire for educational reform and tech integration has brought us together to share ideas on how to accomplish a common goal. As a teacher, it is my job to find the best ways to reach my students to ensure they are prepared for college and the rest of their lives. I think some of the tools I have discovered and the tool shared with me are helping me do that.

When it is the turn of someone in the Midnight Society to tell a story, all eyes are on them as they spin a yarn of terror. In my PLN, I know I have a captivated audience that is looking to change the way they teach to help their students. When someone else is telling their story, I become a part of the captivate audience. It is a great group to be a part of because so much sharing and learning take place.

It might be hard to nail down completely, but it is possible that The Midnight Society might be the first documented PLN. It's not surprising though. Kids have plenty to teach us about working together and learning. Funny.

Clarissa Explains It All

I would be a liar if i did not admit to having a crush on Clarissa Starling aka Melissa Joan Heart. What wasn't to like about her. She was super funny, had an awesome sense of style, had a cool room with a computer and disliked her brother as much as I did. We were the perfect match. Ahhhhhhhh. Any way, I found an episode for you to watch if you would like. I will make a couple of references to it in this part of the post. I remembered everything about this episode the second it started.

Make Connections with Technology

As I said, there were many thing to love about Clarissa and how she explained it all. I'm sure I didn't realize it at the time, but there were some great elements to the show that engaged me as a viewer. If you watch the first 50 seconds of this episode, Clarissa is talking to you. She was directly interacting with the person watching her on TV. I felt this was such a cool thing. I loved it when Zach did it on SBTB (Saved By The Bell) and I liked it when Clarissa did it as well. This engagement had me hanging on every word. I felt a personal connection that I didn't get with other shows. I realize that this style of communication has become a part of the way that I teach and the way that I feel tech integration should happen. 

The wonderful thing about Twitter and other Social Media is that it allows people to knock down walls and talk to a person from anywhere in the world. Clarissa did the same thing when she addressed the camera. She as able to knock down the fourth wall and make viewers from all over feel as if they were directly interacting with her and the show. That is what technology can do for teachers and students. It allows all of us to come together and feel part of something much larger. As a teacher, my goal is to engage students on a one on one basis as much as possible. If a student can feel like they are the center of your attention, they are more likely to listen and learn. Technology allows students to connect with others. That ability to be interactive is what students crave today, just like I did when I was younger. 

As a teacher, strive to bring that connection to the classroom. Let students reach out and talk to others beyond the fourth wall of the classroom. You might be surprised at what they learn and how they remember it.   

Technology Helps the Visual Learner

Another part of the first 50 seconds of this episode, as well as many different parts of other episodes, was the fact that the show often had crazy graphics that would pop onto the screen when Clarissa was explaining something. Here, we see her showing us what drives people. A fun little pie chart slowly appears with labels. As a visual learner, I know I was drawn to the pictures on the screen. It's a simple trick that ensured that the show had my undivided attention. 

Technology can be used the same way in the classroom. Teaches that are still using the"stand behind the podium and talk for 50 minutes" style of teaching are not only not helping a portion of their class learn, they are actually hurting a portion of their class. If a student only encounters that style of teaching, it can turn them off to that subject or all subjects. The tools are available to make lessons more interactive and accessible to this generation and it is up to the teachers to reach out and help those students who need visual learning. Teachers do not need to rewrite all of their lessons, but they should consider adding visual elements to some of their lectures. Funny pictures, cartoons, graphs and other visual stimuli could help students make connection to the material. Tech allows the art challenged teachers (ME!) find images and use them in class. Try to impress this point on teachers that have not might the jump to visual presentations yet. It's hard to believe, but there are still many teachers out there like that. 

Computers Are Cool!

The writers on Clarissa Explains it All knew that computers were cool and their target audience would think the same. Little did they know that their target audience would be leading the charge of technology advancement in the classroom. At the 11:44 mark in the above episode, Clarissa creates one of many different video games to show how she is going to accomplish one of her wacky plans. Her BFF Sam is always at hand to see the game. Clarissa was doing something that I try to convince teachers every day to do; teach using computers. Kids love computer. Kids want to use computers. Use computers to deliver information and then let them use it to create content. This was something true in the early 90s when this showed aired and it is even truer today. 
Computer can be used to teach anything out there. It only takes a teacher to sit and work out the plan of attack like Clarissa did. Sam saw what she was trying to do and students will see it as well. It seems sad that in 20 years, some people have not moved in this direction despite the attitudes of multiple groups of students that have moved through the system. Computers might have been seen as a fad, but should be no excuse now. Students want computer content and teachers should start to incorporate this tech into the classroom. 

The Adventures of Pete and Pete
"Sick Day"

Here is one of many funny episodes of The Adventures of Pete and Pete. There are many great things to say about this show. One of them is the many great guest stars that showed up from time to time. The episode above had LL Cool J, Chris Elliot and Bebe Neuwirth. That is a nice group of actors for one random episode. Other guest starts include; Adam West, Steve Buscemi, Selma Blair, Janeane Garofalo, Debbie Harry, Michael Stipe and even Iggy Pop! That is a great collection of talent. Pete and Pete are brothers with the same name and they get involved in crazy adventures. After watching an episode for the first time in a while, I was struck by some important messages I could take away from it.

Take Chances

The one thing the Pete brothers always seem to do is take chances. No matter what anyone tells them, they will try and do something. In this episode, Young Pete decides to fake sick and take a look around town. He is told over and over again that the first cardinal rule of a fake sick day is to never leave the house. Despite the warning of Ray the Meter Guy he goes outside anyway. His risk almost got him busted by his mom, but he ended up making a new friend.

Integrating new technology into the classroom can be a crap shoot. You can plan all you want, but you nver really know how it is going to turn out and I think that scares some teachers away from using tech in the classroom. As far as I am concerned, learning is all about taking chances. You might make a fool out of yourself standing in front of class of 30 teens when something you planned fails. On the other hand, you might inspire a class of 30 teens when your lesson knocks them on their butt.

Their is high risk and high reward when you take chances in life. We can all stay inside and do what everybody says is the standard, or we can try to do something new and exciting. We can take a step forward and be a part of the change in education. It is not going to be easy and we might stumble from time to time, but taking chances is the only way we are going to improve an educational system that has been stuck inside for too long ignoring the exciting world outside. I will happily take chances like Pete and Pete any day if I think it can help my students. Are you willing to take a chance with me?


One of the things I always loved about this show was the way everyone always worked together to accomplish their crazy goals. No matter how silly something seemed, Pete could always count on Pete to help him through it. Both Pete and Pete had friends that would also help them be successful when they needed them. This concept of teamwork applies everywhere in life, but for some reason, teamwork is not always evident in schools.
Teaching is a very singular act. I stand up and teach the lessons that I have created or tweaked all day. I have my classroom and my students that take my tests. Most lessons are designed with the single student in mind. Some teachers do not even consider group work during the year. Students need to learn the material and be tested on it by themselves. This is not a model to be used all year. Students need to work together to accomplish goals and be successful. Teamwork is key and tech integration can play a huge part in this process.

Tech integration can help allow students to work together in the learning environment. Twitter allows students the ability to work with students from all over the world. Blogs can accomplish the same thing if set up properly. Wikis can be another great tool to allow students to collaborate on projects. The days of having students just move their desk together to talk abut an idea are past. Allow students to take out the lap tops and create a web page with students from another class or even another school. Students want to work with one another and there is not reason to keep them separated.

Teachers also need to work together more. I thought I was pretty good at reaching out to other teachers in my district and sharing things that I find useful. Since I became an active blogger and tweeter, I realized that my sharing was extremely limited. I know share ideas with teachers from all over the world. I get great ideas from Germany, Italy, Colorado, Texas, California, West Philly (Born and raised in the playground where I spent most of my days...) and so many other wonderful places. By working with others and using technology I have become a better teachers. I can say that without any hesitation. As teachers, one of our goals should be to continue to grow as a learner and tech integration is the way that teachers can continue to grow. It might be hard to work in teams, but if two brothers who share the same name can do it, the all of us should have no problem.

Here is the end of Part 1 of the post. I still have plenty of other shows to write about, but I thought this was a good place to stop. Please feel free to comment on this post and offer any insight. If you feel I have missed something or you want to add your thoughts, please feel free to post a comment. I love to hear what everyone has to say about these silly posts. I hope you enjoyed this post.


  1. Great post! I of course enjoyed the part re: Clarissa the most :) But I like the point about connection/knocking down the 4th wall--that's something i'm still trying to/struggling to work on. Hopefully it will get easier with experience :)

  2. I feel left out. I never saw these TV shows.:(

    They look terrific. Love the one about the PLN because My PLN also comes from all of the world, different types of schools, and a shared desire for educational reform and tech integration.

    I am so indebted to my PLN. I have learnt so much in such a short time frame. these things I learn I can then share with others. Connect, Collaborate and Communicate. that is what my PLN does for me.

    Thankyou for being part of my wonderful PLN.

  3. Awesome! I'd never considered Clarissa and The Midnight Society in thay way before! You're asolutly right. :)

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  5. #1. Cannot believe you called me out in front of all my fellow geeks as one who has never watched Star Wars!?! ;o)
    #2. Fantastic post, brought back fun memories of TV and helped me realize how much these kinds of shows prepped me well for the world I am living in (wonder if I can say the same about my schooling?)
    #3. You talk about Clarissa's computer, I remember being completely in love with Zach Morris and thought he was the coolest because he had is how cell phone (remember the brick?!
    #4 I now am singing "In West Philidelphia born and raised, on the playground where I spent most of my days. Chillin' out relaxin' all cool and all shootin' some b-ball outside of the school..." Fully hope you will do a Fresh Prince post :)
    #5 Talking about computers that showed up in TV, remember Doogie Howser MD? Thought it was SO cool that he always typed out his reflection on the day at the end of the show. Every time I visited my Grandma, I would type for hours on her type writer so I could be like Doogie. Ha ha!

  6. love love love this.
    Looking forward to the next installment!

  7. Epic, just as I had hoped! I love it.

    The Clarissa stuff was spot on and very well said. It actually got me thinking about a few things with visual engagement.

    The Pete and Pete stuff brought back so many memories. You had some great insights. Of course I had to watch the other 2 parts of the show. In part 2, I liked the conversation on the bus between Pete and bus driver Stew. Pete was talking about Glenn and said "Things just look different on a sick day." I think technology can be like that for many students. It has a way of opening things up and making them see ideas in a new way.

    Well done. I can't wait for part 2!



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