Sunday, February 28, 2010

Common PowerPoint Mistakes

Thanks to Tech 221 for the find and the share.

Life After Death PowerPoint from EMT Media on Vimeo.

This is too funny. How many students or teachers do you know that do some of these things. 


Prezi Meets Gatsby Part II

Here are all of the links to my Gatsby Prezis. My kids commented that they really liked the change of pace and some even said they are going to "mess around" with Prezi for some of their future projects. Feel free to use these and edit these as you see fit. It's all about the sharing tweeps! If you use it, let me know how it goes. Thanks for your continue support.

Themes, Symbols, and Characters Prezi

Chapter 1 Prezi

Chapters 2 and 3

Chapters 4, 5 and 6

Chapters 7, 8, and 9

Have a good time teaching one of America's Greatest Novels.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Everything I Needed to Know About Technology Integration I Learned From Watching...

I've gotten some funny feedback regarding my Star Wars Tech post and thought it would be funny to keep it up once a month. I'm a huge movie guy and have seen some of the best movies ever made. How Monster Squad did not win an Oscar is beyond me. Anyway, I placed a poll on the right so people can pick their favorite movie option. There are some good options there, so be careful with your choice. I look forward to writing about tech integration in a way that makes it a little more accessible to teachers everywhere. Pass it along.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Passion in Education

I would really appreciate it if you would cruise over to and read my guest blog post there. It is all about the need for passion in education. Understanding student passion and using a teacher's passion to make changes in the classroom.

I've been away from my desktop at home and have been unable to thank all of the people who have made my blog and tweets possible. Heck, I'm typing this on my iPhone right now. A month ago I celebrated 1 month of blogging and thanked all of the people who have supported me and commented on my posts. That lists has grown so large, there isn't time or space enough to thank them all. To all of you, thanks. I hope I have been as supportive of your work as you have been to mine.

To all of my new follwers, I hope to live up to the expectaions that Edutopia set. @Edutopia , thanks for the kind words. You do great work and I'm happy I could help. Tell George I'm always available to write if he needs me. :-)

To all the teachers and educators that are new to Blogging or Twitter, stick with it. You will learn so many great thing from so many great teachers from around the world. I can't wait to start sharing with you.

I promise to DM all of the supportive educators the next minute I have open at my home computer. If I only had an iPad, I could have solved this problem already. :-)

Tweet you later everyone.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Prezi Meets Gatsby

Here is a Prezi I put together about the themes, symbols and characters of The Great Gatsby. The kids liked the presentation format and it was a nice change of pace from the standard PowerPoint and SMART Notebook software. Take a look and tell me what you think. I think I will do one for each chapter of the book.

Here is a Prezi for Chapter 1. This does not contain all of the information for Chapter 1, but they are great starting points for conversations.

Try it out at!

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Everything I Needed to Know About Technology Integration I Learned From Watching Star Wars

Yes, I'm going there. I wouldn't be The Nerdy Teacher if I didn't. People seemed to really like my Cooking and tech integration piece, so I thought I would reach out to the non-cooking crowd and offer them something they can relate to. For those of you who have not watched Star Wars, please seek help. Whether you are a "nerd" or not, Star Wars is a part of mainstream pop culture and it's important to at least be aware of the allusions that are made day to day. If you refuse to watch Star Wars, then you are nothing but a no good Nerf Herder.

Final note, these quote are drawn from the Original Three Star Wars Episodes (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi). The next three installments do not exist as far as I'm concerned. Maybe the last hour of Episode Three, but there will be no Jar-Jar references found below.

A long time ago, in a blog far far away...

"Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope." - Princess Lea, Episode IV

I think the most important step in tech integration is knowing when to ask for help. A teacher cannot be expected to be an expert on everything in the classroom. If you are interested in adding some new tech to the classroom, don't be afraid to reach out and ask for support. Look within the district and see if they offer any classes that you might be able to attend, or look for other teachers in the building that might be willing to lend you a hand in implementing new forms of tech in the classroom. It's not going to be easy, but it's better than sitting around and watching the world go by or getting caputred by the Imperial Army with plans to the Death Star.

"Do or do not, there is no try." - Master Yoda, Episode V

Master Yoda was wise beyond his 900 years. This bit of advice applies to all walks of life. Tech integration is not something you can "sort of" do. I'm not saying that you have to go all in and have every piece of tech you can lay your hands on. I'm saying that you can't try it once and give it up. It needs to be an ongoing process of trial and error. I view trying as doing something and giving up. Doing is a continual effort to make something work or happen. Keep fighting to find the right tech for you and your classroom. Not everything is going to work, but keep doing and you will find the right fit.

"When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the Master." - Darth Vader, Episode IV

When I started teaching, I was given a mentor to help guide me through the first few years of school. As time went by though, I found myself offering tips to my mentor regarding lessons I'm using or this new piece of tech that I discovered. Before long, I realized that I was helping many other teachers with different aspects of technology. It was such a interesting experience. I was sharing what I learned with great teachers (I'm not just saying that because they might read this later). It was a way for me to offer them something that was different than what they had offered me in the past. The problem with Darth Vader was that he was intent on replacing Obi-Wan. The goal should not be replacement, but mentoring. Mentoring can be a two way street if done correctly. Everybody has something to offer, it's important to listen.

"I find you lack of faith disturbing." - Darth Vader, Episode IV


Luke - "I can't believe it."
Yoda - "That is why you fail" - Episode V

Be confident! As a teacher, you need to be confident in front of your students. If they sense any sort of weakness, they will eat you alive. Take your time and understand the tech you want to use. Play with it at home or during your prep hour to make sure that know all of the ins and outs of the tech. Also, be prepared to say, "I'm not sure, but I'll check on that for you." You need to have faith that you are going to do a good job and that you will be able to help students learn to use the tech to improve their learning.

You also need to be confident when explaining new tech to your fellow teachers and admins. Show them how to use it and how it worked in your classroom. faith in yourself is an important thing to have and that can be passed to others as they try to learn new things. If you do not have faith in yourself, you might choke like an Imperial officer who has displeased Lord Vader.

"We seem to be made to suffer. It's our lot in life." - C3PO, Episode IV

Poor C3PO. He seems to be the brunt of jokes and finds himself in the most precarious of situations. He means very well and wants nothing more than to help the people around him. As a teacher, it feels like we are C3PO. We work hard on lessons. Making sure they are current and relevant. Fixing the parts that didn't work even though they worked wonders last year. The thought of adding something entirely new to the classroom feels like torture. It was stressful for me to even think about doing something new and untested in my class. Technology needs to be treated like a fun new adventure that is going to make life easier in the classroom. Finding new ways to engage students in learning should never be viewed as a burden. That should be the goal of every teacher. If you want teachers to love the new tools you have discovered, you need to present it in a fun and exciting way. Look beyond sending links to teachers. That is going to feel like work and is most often deleted.Think of ways that you can introduce new tech to teachers in a fun ans engaging way. Now teachers will not feel like they are suffering when new tools are introduced to them.

"Fear is the path to the dark side." Obi-Wan Kenobi, Episode IV

You cannot fear tech integration. Technology is changing education and it's important to embrace it. Many teachers were bothered by the introduction of the computer and email in the school system. They thought it was not important and that they could live without it. Now, they could not imagine doing any of their work or communicating with others without computers and email. The point is, shying away from new technology is not going to solve anything. Embrace the bits and pieces that you think can make a difference in your classroom and share that with others. With this strategy, you will stay far away from the dark side.

"Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy." - Han Solo, Episode IV

Tech integration is not going to be a walk in the park. For some of us, we can take a new site or tool and use it like we created it. For others, it will take many hours of tinkering to understand the basic functions of the tool. We know, as teachers, that students learn thing at different rates. Teacher are no different. With patience and hand holding, any teacher can understand and use all of the different types of tech out there. As long as teachers understand that the process will not be as simple as using a chalkboard, they will not be as easily frustrated when learning new tech.

"Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force." - Darth Vader, Episode IV

The last, and best quote, comes from Lord Vader. I think this speak volumes about technology integration. Some might read this quote and think that it suggests that tech is bad and unneeded in the classroom. I look at the quote and think that it speaks about something different. The Force is our ability to teach. The best teachers have it and use it everyday. If you do not have the Force, no amount of new tech is going to inspire your students. A IWB or cool new website is worthless without the Force. My slate and websites are great, but they are helpful because I use what I've learned as a teacher to make the effective and relevant in my classroom. As a teacher, it's important to not just use the tools, but to teach with the tools. As we all know, the tech can fail at any moment and all that is left is our wits to guide us. Teaching will always trump and new form of tech on its own. Remember this when you are introduced to a new piece of tech. How will you use the Force and the tool together to make you classroom a great learning environment for all.

These are just a few thoughts on Technology Integration. Take and leave what you want and share with others. Thanks for stopping by.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How to Convince Teachers to Tweet

My school blog has been going over very well with my school. Some are even sharing it with other teachers in other buildings and districts. I couldn't be happier. I've received tons of requests for information on subjects and web2.0 tools. I think it's time to introduce some of the more tech savvy teachers in my building to my PLN.

I was thinking about using one of our late start Monday meeting times to work with teachers interested in using Twitter for their educational needs. I'm hoping to get some Admins in the room. I have an idea, but I would love your feedback and/or suggestions.

We have about 45 minutes to meet in the morning in our departments to discuss department issues or meet with other teachers to discuss school items. I. This short period, I would love to show them the power of the PLN. I would start a hashtag (#GPSouth) and ask my Tweeps to give one good reason why teachers should use Twitter. By doing this, I could show them some quick Twitter tips while great info comes pouring in.

The next step would be to allow a teacher to ask a question and see how quickly the information can be accessed. I was thinking the whole process could take 20 minutes and I could use the rest of time answering any questions they might have.

What do you think? Is this a good/realistic idea? I've posted links to articles about Twitter, but, lime kids, I think they need to see it in action. Would you be willing to lend me a hand one Monday morning in mid to late March to hopefully expand our PLN? Do you know of any better way to convince teachers and Admins to jump on the Twitter train? Please leave a commen with any thoughts or ideas. Thanks.

P.S. I wrote this on my iPhone at the Savannah Airport. Please I've any grammar and/or spelling errors. Thanks again. :-)

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Location:Airways Ave,Savannah,United States

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tom Sawyer Wordle

Here is a Wordle of The Advenutres of Tom Sawyer

Wordle: Tom Sawyer


Monday, February 15, 2010

Twitter for Teachers

Here is a great document on using Twitter for teachers. Take a look around and consider sharing with others. Thanks to Tech 221 for sharing this link.

Twitter handbook for Teachers

Alfie Kohn Chat

Wordle: Alfie Kohn Live Chat Wordle

Great Math Help!

As a person who has struggled with Math his entire life, I can appreciate the frustration some students have as they try and grasp the math. I remember Math Blaster being very helpful as I struggled with all sorts of math problems and it made Math fun and interesting. I moved away from using the computer as a means to help e with my Math and I'm not sure why. There are many great sites out there that students can use to help them with their Math skills. One great site that does more than just provide answers to students is

WebMath is part of Discovery Education which offers help for many disciplines. According to WebMath,

"Webmath is not a database of questions and answers, or an online math testing site. Webmath is a math-help web site that generates answers to specific math questions, as entered by a user of the site, at any particular moment."

Answers to problems are given in real time. The steps used to solve the problem are also given to show students how the answer was reached. The process is important to solving the problem and the website makes sure the students sees the process when it provides the answer. 

WebMath offers Math help on many different parts of the Math world.

WebMath also offers a quick pull down menu so students can jump to specific content area they are having trouble understanding. 

The slide down menu offers help for graphing, fractions, calculus, geometry, radicals, ratios, and all other things Math related. 

I'm sure many teachers out there think that students will just use this to get the answers without doing the work. Well, that might be the case for some students. However, even those students will be practicing the process as they copy down the steps to the answers. So even if they are just copying, they are seeing the process over and over again. That type of practice can lead to learning even if they realize it or not. Also, other students will use the site to help them learn how to solve the problems instead of just looking for the answer. 

This is a site you can share with your entire class or just a few of your struggling learners to help them work on Math when they are at home and have nowhere else to turn.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

99 Polls

99Polls is a quick and easy way to get information. In under five minutes I was able to create and post a poll to my blog about Twitter and Teachers. You sign up for free and get started. Your homepage collects all of the data from your poll. This is great if you have polls set up on your blog, school homepage and any other locations. I love to get feedback from my students about lessons that I have taught, but I always feel they hold back because they do not want to offend me. It is really important to assess your own lessons, but feedback from the students is something teachers should not shy away from. The harshest criticism can help create the best lessons.

Try using this simple site to gauge the learning of a particular lesson one day. You might be interested is the response you get from your students. This is just another great and easy way to make the classroom a better place.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Michigan Tweeps Unite!

I love my PLN! The Blogging Alliance organized by Kelly Tenkely is awesome. I've learned so much from these wonderful teachers and their blogs. I would love to reach out and try to grab more of my fellow Michiganders and share some ideas with you. There are many issues that are facing the world of education right now, but there are some that are unique to Michigan as well. We are all "Racing to the Top" and trying to get our students ready for the MME and ACT. I'm sure many of us have wonderful ideas that we are using in our classroom to get are students ready for these tests. There are great grants out there that we should share with one another as we all feel the budget crunch. Twitter and our logs are a great way to reach out to the world, but we shouldn't forget about our Mitten Shaped Backyard.

If you are a Michigan Tweeter and/or Blogger, please leave a comment with your Twitter id and/or blog. If you do not want it that public, drop me an email at

Feel free offer any suggestions or tell me that someone has already organized the Michigan Tweeters. Thanks again.

Friday, February 12, 2010

60Second Recap

I found this site today and I have to share it with everyone. As an English teacher, it is tough to get students to read "Classics". They complain about the language and want to know how this will ever be important. I spend countless hours coming up with lessons to intorduce the novel in a fun way in the hopes to hook some of the reluctant readers. 60Second Recap is a great site to use to really help students get a handle on what the story is about.

Here is their Mission Statement:

"60second Recap™ wants to make the great works of literature accessible, relevant, and, frankly, irresistible to today's teens. Through 60second Recap™ video albums, we seek to help teens engage with the best books out there ... not just to help them get better grades, but to help them build better lives."

I love this mission statement. It really expresses the goal of all literature teachers. I watched the first video on Hamlet, my favorite Shakespeare play, and was very happy with what I saw. Hamlet, played by Jenny Sawyer, is taking the online quiz, "Are you Mad?" It gives a nice bit of information about different aspects of the play. There are videos on Motif, Theme, Plot, Symbols, and the Characters in the play. It was a very well put together piece that I cannot wait to show to my students and the other teachers in my building.

60Second Recap currently offers recaps of some great pieces of Literature. Here are just a few:

Animal Farm
Brave New World
Fahrenheit 451 (On my Top 5 All Time List)
The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn
The Catcher in the Rye (On my Top 5 All Time List)
The Great Gatsby (On my Top 5 All Time List)

There are many more great pieces of Literature that get the 60Second Recap treatment. I strongly encourage all Literature teachers to give this site a look over and use them with your students.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Math Tools For SmartBoard Users!

Here is a link to Vanessa Cassie's blog. She blogs about great uses for the SmartBoard and here is one the Math Teachers should love. It's a tool bar for Math Teachers. Take a look at her blog and explore the different things you can do with a SmartBoard and the software. She's also on Twitter. @VanessaCassie Follow her and you can have some great conversations and learn some cool tips like I have.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Creating Art Without The Mess!

I learned about this site from @Ktenkely on her website iLearntechnology. It's an interacitve site that allows you to create Jackson Pollock style paintings without any of the mess. This is great fun on the Smartboard. By clicking the mouse you change to a random color and splashes of paint appear as you move the mouse across the screen. is a wonderful site that art teachers can use that will save you a big cleanup in the future.

I let my students play with the site on the IWB and they loved it. They loved the randomness of the colors and how there was no "wrong" way to create the painting. I recommend using this in any class where you might have some time to allow your students to explore their creative side without needing a smock. :-)

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Tech Integration Help

Tech Integration for Teachers is a great site for teachers that want to start including different types of technology into their classroom. Do not feel overwhelmed by all of the information. Scan through the different parts and pick and choose the tools that interest you most. You never know what you might find.
The page is for all skill levels, so even the techies will find something they never thought of using in the classroom. This site is just one of many out there designed to help teachers get comfortable integrating different forms of tech into their lessons.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Posterize Anything was sent to me by a fellow teacher and it looks like a winner. It's a very simple 3 step process.

1. Upload the image of your choice.

2. Decide how big you want the poster to be.

3. Download your poster as a PDF.

The website chops up the picture into seperate pages that you can print our and assemble yourself. Student projects or class rules could be turned into larger posters you can hang in your room. Have a look around and let me know what you think.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Sunday, February 7, 2010

No More Tests Update II

I was having a discussion with some teachers about my 10 Weeks Without Tests earlier this week and was bothered by one of the comments. One teachers said, "It sounds like you have the kids doing you job." The comment was made near the end of lunch and I didn't have the time to fully refute that statement. I was compelled to make a few comments about the educational value of using the same dittos in the classroom since 1983, but I decided to take some time to develop some sound reasons for  trying this in class. For my fellow teacher and those who are wary of student created assessments, here are some answers to your questions.

"Isn't this just an excuse to make your job easier?"

As an English teacher, I know the definition of "easier" and it does not apply to to student created assessments (SCA). First, the placement of SCA in a class is a difficult process. I had to look at my different lessons and see where SCA would most benefit the students and fit the time allotted for each lesson. The organization of the SCA needs to be very detailed. You might have a student create a video, another might paint something and another might sculpt an interpretation. All of these assessments need to be organized in such a way that will allow you to grade them and allow students access to them for peer comments.

Teaching students how to create meaningful rubrics is also important and time consuming. As teachers we know how tough it can be to create a good rubric. Teaching students how to self-evaluate is an important concept for students to learn, but they will not pick it up in a 15 minute review in class. It will be a course long process were students will learn abut the important parts of an assessment and how they can reach the goals they set for themselves. By using SCA in class, I've actually added another item (rubrics) to teach to my kids.

Using SCA for a class will actually require more work upfront for the teacher, not less.

"How can you help a student who created their own assessment?"

I'm not an artistic person. I came to grips with this fact at an early phase. If you need a stick figure, I can help. If you need a straight stick figure, I am of no use. Helping students with assessments is not about assessment itself, it's about the information the student is trying to share through the assessment. I can talk to a student as they work on a computer graphics representation of the theme of a novel without telling him what colors to use or shapes to create. It's about listening and providing leading questions to allow the students to answer the questions they came up with in the first place. The discussion alone is more valuable than a MC test. If the student can verbalize their work to help me "see" their work, that is huge. A student needs to understand a concept very well to be able to explain it to another person. That alone shows knowledge. Again, I might not be able to help a student carve a representation of theme out of oak, but I can help the student understand the nature of the theme and listen as the student shows me their interpretation. It's shared learning.

"Don't all students need to learn to write essays?"

Yes, students need to learn how to write. As an English teacher, I still teaching writing and assign essays. Writing is a skill that students need to master to be prepared for later in life. SCA do not replace all assessments in the classroom. The replace those assessments that were created to make the teacher's life easier when it came time to see if a student memorized information or could pick one answer out of a field of four options. It's important to find the right place to put all lessons and assessments to make sure students get the most out of them. If I need to assess my students essay writing skills, I will have them write an essay. However, if I want to assess my students understanding of essay structure or format, what's wrong with letting a student create a song or poem explaining how to use proper MLA Citation in a research project?

"How is this going to help them prepare for the ACT/MME?"

(The MME is the Michigan Merit Exam. All students have to take it their Junior year in high school. It is currently paired with the ACT. So, all students in Michigan get one free shot at the ACT their Junior year.)

How does it directly prepare the students for that specific test? It doesn't prepare them directly.  Students have plenty of experience taking MC tests. The have been filling in ovals with No. 2 Pencils for years. I think that is why Kindergarten teacher stress coloring in the lines. It's preparing them for a life of test taking. However, if a student is sitting in the desk reading a passage and they have to decide what the theme or allusion is, they might be able to think back to the project they created regarding theme or the song another student preformed for class where he identified all of the allusions. Those connections will have a longer impact on a student than writing an essay about a specific theme.

For essays or MC tests, students have very little interaction with the work other students complete. I usually have a peer editing stage to essay writing, but that only exposes the students to one or two other papers. SCA has the chance for many students to view and experience the learning process of another students. Now, instead of covering the content in one way, they have seen it in multiple ways that can have a lasting impact on the them. In that way, it can prepare a student for a standardized test.

"How is a painting of a theme or song about motif going to help a student in college?"

I actually heard this statement. Information is not only retained through the memorization of facts. I ask you to watch this video and tell me this had no influence in your educational life. I still use it today and I'm a 30 year old High School English teacher.

I'm sure there will be more questions from other teachers as this experiment moves forward. Feel free to send me questions or post them below for everyone to debate. I don't claim to have all of the answers, but this has been something that has made people talk. As an educator, what more could I ask for?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Have You Taken The Next Step?

I started The Nerdy Teacher because I wanted to share my thoughts and finds with the world around me. I couldn't be happier about the connections I've made and the things that I learned. I started using new strategies I picked up in class and I could see the results. I was happy, but I felt something was missing. I was sharing some of the new ideas from you great people with some like minded teachers, but the learning stopped there. We would share ideas and get excited about the success in the class we saw. I soon realized that I was leaving out the bulk of my school. I just assumed that they would not be interested because they never speak up about tech in the classroom. I realized that I was approaching the situation from the wrong direction. I needed to take the next step.

Some students do not ask questions because they know enough on the topic or don't care. Sometimes they do not know the right question to ask or they are so lost in the material they have no idea where to begin. The fear of being the only one with the question is always there as well. With that is mind, I decided to create a brand new blog geared specifically for my High School. We do not have anything like it in the district, so I saw a need and decided to fill it. I spent last weekend pulling some posts from here and creating some new one for the various subjects and launched it on Monday.

I was very nervous about how it was going to be received. I was afraid that some might see it as being a know-it-all or pushy tech teacher, but it was well received. I got compliments and good natured ribbing about the site and was hit with a few emails asking if I could focus on this topic or that topic. People offered to post their ideas as well. It had been great after only a few days. If I can get just a couple of teachers on board with what we do, they might be able to convince others to do the same. Teaching one Teacher can lead to Teaching many Teachers.

How are you using your blog to help the teachers in your building or district? Have you taken the next step?

Here is the link to my HS Blog

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Monday, February 1, 2010

No More Tests Update

Here is my first update on the No Tests for 10 Weeks Challenge. I wanted to give the students an option for their final project on Art Spiegelman's Maus I and II. Many decided they wanted to do an essay and some decided to do PowerPoints. Here is a picture of what one student came up with that is pretty cool.

Gavin O. 

Gavan decided to create a sculpture influenced by the stories that he read. He typed out a page and a half explaining the art. He created a Mobius Strip out of metal and used barbed wire to create a Star of David and a Swastika. He explained that the Mobius Strip symbolized the perpetual nature of the violence and how it affected the characters in the long run. Both symbols were used inside the sculpture because the two icons will forever be linked by the violence and the barbed wire symbolized the concentration camps. Even the stand had symbolism. He said the stand symbolizes an heirloom. The Holocaust is something that is passed down from generation to generation and should not be forgotten. 
Now tell me that a 50 Question Multiple Choice Test would better assess this student.