Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ross Boss Projects: Pinball Wizard #AdobeEduAwards

This might be one of the coolest teacher made Science sites I have ever seen. I am not a Science teacher, so it takes something special to really pull me in for Science content and this is simply amazing.

Ross Cooper submitted this website he created using Adobe products to the Adobe Education Exchange. By using Flash Professional, Illustrator, Photoshop; Ross was able to create an interactive site for a STEM unit in which fourth grade students learn about electricity & magnetism and force & motion. As the students learn, they build pinball machines! Did you read that? The kids will be creating these digital pinball machines and learning about important Science content. If I had a chance to do this in school I might be a Science teacher. Well, that or a Pinball Machine Repairman. :-)

I had a chance to play around on this awesome interactive site and I loved every second of it. I see that this would be super engaging for boys and girls in 4th grade as they cover these topics in their Science class. Ross has done an amazing job using these Adobe tools to create a one of kind interactive website for students to use in class or at home. I truly had no idea that this type of project was possible using Adobe tools. I really need to dive into CS5 and see what I can do.

Ross has a chance to win some great prizes because he decided to share is awesome lesson with teachers on the Adobe Education Exchange. He is currently in first place in the Cross Curricular Category and would love it if you would vote for him if you like what he has created. You could also be in the running for great prizes. Join the Adobe Education Exchange and submit a lesson. Pass it around to your friends so they can join up and vote for your lesson. Check out my last post for more details.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Adobe is a sponsor of The Nerdy Teacher

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I just finished my homework! #engchat

I just finished a blog for my American Lit class today. It took me some time, but I got it done. It was homework assigned by Mr. Provenzano about lies we tell to protect ourselves. I liked the topic and I hope I have comments from others on what I wrote.

No, this isn't a guest post by a student of mine, I actually finished my own homework assignment. I decided I was going to do my own homework this year. I promised my students if I assigned it, I would do it. I do not do busy work, so if I think it is important for them to do, I will do the same assignment.

It has not been super easy, but I like the motivation to do the work. If I can't finish by the due date, how can I expect the same from the kids.

You can follow my American Lit blog here. I told the students that I will not always complete the fulls assignment, but provide some tips and tricks to help them on their writing assignments. For certain opinion based assignments, I intend to model what I want from my students. That is what I did for my last assignment.

The feedback from the kids has been ok. I think they are waiting for me to give up and go back to assigning busy work like they have received from other teachers in the past. That is great motivation for me to keep working and get these assignments done.

This new adventure has really made me take a different look at how long I give students to complete work. If I'm going to need a few days to complete an assignment, the students are going to need the same amount of time. That has made my lesson planning much easier than in the past.

The more I work on this blog, I wonder how much homework teachers would give if they were expected to complete it. Goof food for thought.

Have a great day!

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Movie Poster Parody Project #AdobeEduAwards

This might come as a bit of surprise, but I love movies and I really love parodies. I love teaching satire and parody to my students in American Literature. It's always great to show kids that their is humor everywhere and what they think is funny is really a literary device. Here is an awesome project submitted to the Adobe Education Exchange that is a great tool to help teacher parody.

In a lesson submitted by Brett Keener and it uses Photoshop to have students create parodies of movies posters they find online. The most important part of this lesson is that students create an original poster that is based on an actual movie poster. Students are not supposed to just paste their picture over the face of an actor.

The lesson is designed for students with moderate Photoshop experience and is for students in high school.

I really like this lesson because it allows students to find movies that they like and have fun with it. The get to stretch their creative muscles and learn a little bit about parodies. There are some great parody posters out there that could be used as examples. Here is one of the examples that Brett shared on the Adobe Education Exchange site.

Ha! I love it. A fairly simple use of Photoshop that allowed the student have a bit of fun. As a teacher, I'm always looking for different ways to engage students in the content other than standing and lecturing. I think this lesson is a great example of how a teacher can utilize technology is a different way to teach a simple literary term.

Brett has a chance to win some great prizes because he decided to share is awesome lesson with teachers on the Adobe Education Exchange. You could also be in the running for great prizes. Join the Adobe Education Exchange and submit a lesson. Pass it around to your friends so they can join up and vote for your lesson. Check out my other post for more details. Good luck!

Adobe is a sponsor of The Nerdy Teacher

Sunday, September 25, 2011

#ProjectPLN - The Best Issue Ever

For our October Issue, we want to focus on the best parts of education. Now, that could be the best lesson you have ever taught or learned. It could be the best tool you used with your students. It could be the best book on education or website dedicated to education. We want to hear from our PLN about what is the best of everything out there. If you don't share, who will?

Please send all posts to We would appreciate it if each post had a bio and a picture so everyone can get to know the awesome person sharing the great resource.

The deadline for submissions is Sunday October 2 and the issue will go live on Tuesday October 4. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.


We can't wait to hear from all of you.

Nick and Kelly
Project PLN Co-Editors

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Creature Creation with Photoshop #AdobeEduAwards

Hello everyone! I wanted to share another great resources submitted to the Adobe Education Exchange. This is a fun project that uses Photoshop to put together creatures designed by students.

This lesson was submitted by Jeremy Dearinger and is intended for high school students with intermediate computer skills. On the Adobe Education Exchange, you can find this submission and the attached PDF that walks teachers through the lesson.

My favorite part of this lesson is that it really allows the student to create their own creature regardless of their artistic talent. There were no rules on what the creature had to look like or what it needed to be doing. The lesson allows the students full creative control over their creature. That type of ownership is so important on projects like these.

I love the use of Photoshop for this lesson. Students can sketch out their work, scan them into the computer and use all of the tools Photoshop has to offer.

An extension of this that I see as an English teacher is having students write the story of their creature. I would have students write about it's life and history. An original story to accompany the creature would great and students could share it on a personal blog.

For Science, I could have student research ecosystems that this creature would live and where on the food chain it sits. Researching the impact of an invasive species into a new system could also be part of the project.

I think this lesson is great for many different disciplines and could be the start of a much longer unit. I think it is vital to work in more creativity into the curriculum to allow student the chance to try new things and connect with content in different ways.

If you love this lesson, you should join the Adobe Education Exchange and rate this lesson. Jeremy is in the running for some great prizes and needs your votes to make it to the finals. If you want to chance to win great Adobe products, all you have to do is join the Adobe Education Exchange and submit your awesome lesson and share with the rest of us. I can't wait to see what you have to share.

For more information on the Adobe Education Exchange Contest, please check out a previous post

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Adobe is a sponsor of The Nerdy Teacher

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Take Action! A New Approach to the Research Paper #AdobeEduAwards #EngChat

As an English Teacher, I'm always looking for new and different ways to approach the traditional parts of my curriculum. One of parts of the curriculum that has been a constant struggle to get kids excited about it the research paper. Year in and year out, students do not like the process and the end product. I have integrated more tech and have moved to social bookmarking to help students share resources, but it still ends in a standard paper. I see the value in the paper, but I have always wanted to change it up but have never been able to think of a different way to do it. Well, thanks to Erika Veth and her submission to the Adobe Education Exchange, I think my prayers have been answered.

Erika submitted this awesome lesson to the Adobe Education Exchange and is currently in first place in the Higher Ed Cross Curricular category. Here is what had to say about her lesson,

As an English composition instructor, I realized that students needed to do something more engaging than writing a boring research paper. So, I broke the final research project into three parts: A descriptive portion, a research portion, and a persuasive portion. For the final part, students had the opportunity to replace the written persuasive aspect with a form of digital media--video, audio, or web. Finally, though students could choose their topic, I stipulated that it had to be about the natural environment. It worked wonderfully!!

Here is an example of a video one of her students created for a research lesson on Native Alaskan hunting rights.

 I simply love this. I have been toying with the idea of having a media portion on my final exam. I wanted student to watch a video and write about what they saw. This takes my idea one step further and has the students create the media to convince a person of something based on the research they have conducted. The research paper is not part of my curriculum in American Literature this year, but I might have to work it back in and use this idea. 

On the Adobe Education Exchange, Erika has posted PDF files that explain the lesson in more detail. If you want to check out this lesson, I encourage you to join the Adobe Education Exchange and check out this, and many more amazing lessons.

Erika has a chance to win some great prizes because he decided to share is awesome lesson with teachers on the Adobe Education Exchange. You could also be in the running for great prizes. Join the Adobe Education Exchange and submit a lesson. Pass it around to your friends so they can join up and vote for you. Check out my last post for more details on the contest and how you can participate.

Adobe is a sponsor of The Nerdy Teacher

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I know that I'm a terrible teacher and that's why I'm good

Rotten Apples in the Driveway
Rotten Apple

The past couple of days, I've had conversations with some friends about teaching. We shared our thoughts on how we feel like we are just bad teachers. We work so hard, but we feel like we are not getting through to all of the students. We think our lessons are not as good as they can be. We are constantly thinking of the "better way" that we could have handled a situation in the classroom. We question everything we do in and out of the classroom. We are as hard on ourselves as we could be. Harder than any administrator could be on any of us.

On the drive home, I was thinking about how terrible I was that day and it hit me. Maybe I'm not so bad. Every time I'm hard on myself, I'm reflecting on my teaching. I'm constantly thinking of ways to improve my lessons and my interactions in class. I connect with my peers and walk through the day to see what I missed. I collaborate in an attempt to improve my craft. I do all of this while talking about how terrible I feel.

I feel that a teacher needs to feel that they are a tad bit terrible to become better. If you think you are a perfect teacher, where do you grow? Is it possible to become a perfect teacher? I do not think so. I feel like I'm the best teacher I can be in the given circumstances. I always give everything I have into my lessons and my classes. Some days I will feel like that was not even close enough to what my kids deserve. That drive to make me better is something I can appreciate. It's ok to feel terrible if you use that as a driving force to become better. Being bad should not be a crutch, but a step stool.

For all of the terrible teachers out there, know that you are not alone. I'm terrible, but I'm good because of it.

For K and all of the other terrible teachers out there.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Nerdy Troll?

 The following is a tongue-in-cheek response to a few posts:

I read a post by Josh Stumpenhorst entitled, "What I Really Want to Tell Parents and Teachers". It was in response to other pieces written by two others. The first was an article titled “What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents” by Ron Clark and the other was titled “What Parents Really Want to Tell Teacher: What You Do Hurts Our Children” by Laurie A. Couture. I had read and possibly tweeted the Clark piece, but I had not read the Couture piece until today. After reading her piece, I finally realize that I'm a terrible teacher and possibly not even human at all. Possible a troll of some sort.

I want to touch on some of the points Couture made that made me feel so trollish. 

"As 'trained professionals', you seem to be ignorant about the basic functioning of the human body. You deny our children their right to eat when hungry, causing their blood sugar to drop and putting them at risk for fatigue, nausea and mood instability. You deny our children their right to use the toilet when needed, causing them intense pain and desperation and putting them at risk for urinary and gastrointestinal dysfunction and damage. You deny them  hydration, causing them to dehydrate and putting them at risk for headaches, mental fog, lethargy and medical problems. You deny our children physical activity at their will, causing them distress and putting them at risk for hyperactivity, challenging behavior, inability to focus and obesity, weakness and medical problems. You also act oblivious as to how preoccupying and awkward sexual development can be in a school setting for our teen boys and girls, putting them at risk for shame, distress and early sexual activity."

 I'm a ELA teacher, so I guess she is right when she says that I don't know the intricacies of the human body. As a troll, my hygiene is not very good and I probably should not be in charge of making sure others are well hydrated or fed. I figure it's not my job to dictate what these human children eat and drink. The energy drinks they consume by the caseload seems to be ok when they enter my classroom, so I let it go. I also allow the students to consume high quantities of sugary goodness whenever possible. As a troll, my dental hygiene is not great. I just figure the human parents will educate their kids on good eating habits.
As a troll, I do like keeping kids in their desks. Imprisonment was actually a minor of mine in Troll Academy. (We are Nationally Accredited) I take much pleasure in watching my human students sit around tables and working on projects they selected. Watching the toil as they struggle to learn something new is exciting. It's almost as pleasing as grinding bones into bread. (Double Minored in that)

In regards to the Awkward teen boys and girls, Trolls actually have to do very little in that realm. Teens are awkward all on their own regardless of the setting. 

"You take our children away from us. They will be children for less than two decades out of a long adulthood, but you steal those critical years from us. Our children are touch and love starved all day in school. Your academic training taught you the vital importance of parent-child attachment and how a disruption can cause psychological problems. But you disrupt the parent-child bond by infringing upon our family time, causing emotional disconnection to deepen with each year. You subordinate children, causing them to form and focus on toxic peer networks. You can do little to protect our peer-tormented children because you have set yourselves apart from children, like another species. By the time our children are in their mid-teens, they are so depressed, angry and overwhelmed with busywork, pop-culture escapes and peer expectations that society has to write books to try to convince us that “pulling away” is natural in the teen years when in fact, it is not."

One of my favorite parts of the day is when I go door to door and place those human students in my sack and cart them off to school. Once there, I proceed to sit them in their desks and make them feel awkward around the opposite sex. After lunch, I place them in cliques and encourage infighting and backstabbing. (Almost majored in backstabbing, but changed last minute.) By the end of the day, I pass out "Catcher in the Rye" to all of the humans and instruct them to read it at home, ignore their parents and act as much like Holden as possible. Being a Troll is awesome.
"You treat our children without respect, empathy, compassion or love unless they behave according to your rules and expectations. You seem oblivious to their pain, vulnerability and distress."

It's almost like she cut and paste the 3rd rule from my Humiliation 101 textbook. If I do not do all of those things by the time I'm evaluated by an administrator, I might not get the extra merit pay of a lamb.

Being a Troll is not an easy job. We get no respect from the community and constantly questioned for low test scores and high mortality rates. I can't teach on an empty stomach people. As one of millions of Trolls out there, I know we work as hard as we can from dawn to dusk doing the jobs that the humans trained us to do. If they humans do not like the system, start a new one and higher non-Trolls. (The Troll Union will kill me for saying that, but it's true)
I would like to thank you for taking the time to read the rambling grunts of a Troll. I hope I am lucky enough to have one of your delicious children in my class one day. 


Sometimes, sarcasm is the only way for me to respond when I'm a bit overwhelmed by venomous writing. I understand that she was talking about the education system, but she wrote it in such a fashion that it attacked classroom teachers. I hope she honestly does not believe that teachers are going out of their way to injure students. If so, I feel bad for her because that is a miserable way to spend your life. I would suggest that she check out #SchoolDidAGoodThing posts. There are some amazing things schools have done for students that would not have been possible without them. 

I think the current educational system is a disaster and it needs to be changed. I think parents need a strong voice in changing the system. I think blaming teachers for being in a system they did not create, a system they were trained to work in and a system that currently does not value the opinion of the classroom teacher is misguided. For real change, teachers and parents need to stand side by side and arm in arm. If that were to happen, they would be a force so strong, even a Troll would shake in his loin cloth.

Get out of your room!

Hey. You. The new teacher sitting in your room at lunch. What are you doing? I see that you are grading papers and eating lunch, but why are you doing it by yourself? That's a terrible excuse. We all have a ton of papers to check. You cannot lock yourself up in your room at lunch every day to get work done at the expense of being with other teachers. Before long, your room will become a prison. 

For all of the new teachers out there, get out of your room. It's ok to have a working lunch once in a while, but not every day every week. There are people in your department that want to talk with you and share ideas. It's the only time during the day that you will get to be around adults, so take advantage of it. Sometimes it is just nice to sit around and not talk about content. The school year is long and it can be tough to try and navigate it alone. Get out of the room and see what you can learn.

This advice is coming from a guy that spent a very lonely first year getting work done, but having no idea who his colleagues were.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Acadam Helps Students Find Tutors

A friend passed along a link to this site that is set up for students to find tutors and for teachers to find students to tutor. I wasn't sure what to think of it, but once I sat down and looked at the site, I thought it was pretty cool.

According to their About Me page,

Welcome to Acadam, a website that puts students and tutors in touch.

With Acadam, students can create tutor requests explaining the areas they need help in, getting immediate replies from tutors in their e-mail. Parents and students alike are also encouraged to browse the Tutor Directory to find the tutor that they feel best suits their needs.

Public profile - Remember a full profile is more attractive to students

Tutor Directory - Thousands of tutors ready to help!

Tutors create individual profiles that showcase what subjects they teach, their availabilities, and much more. They are pinpointed on Google Maps with their range of travel, making it easier than ever to find a tutor near to you. Have you found the perfect tutor in a different city? No problem! With Acadam’s convenient Virtual classroom, students and tutors are now connected worldwide.

Virtual Classroom - Acadam's virtual classroom connects students worldwide

Invoice - Tutors are able to create and manage their invoices through Acadam.

I love the fact that it is designed with the students AND the teachers in mind. Every person has a specific need and Acadam allows the students and tutors to create the system that works for them. By being a central hub for teachers and students, it makes connecting that much easier.

I personally do not have the time to tutor students, but I do have friends that do tutoring after school. Our teacher contract forbids us from tutoring students that are in our district. What Acadam does is set up teachers to reach out to students who live outside of the district who need tutoring help.

I also like the fact that Acadam does not take a cut of the fee that tutors charge. The price of tutoring is set by the student and the tutor. By cutting out the middle man, students can get great tutoring service for a cheaper price.

Another cool feature is they do have a virtual classroom for tutors to offer online tutoring for students who might not live close enough to travel. This is a great idea and I think it could be great on those wintry days where travel might not be possible or safe. I think this is an excellent feature for teaches and students to consider.

If you are thinking about tutoring students on the side, I would suggest that you check out to see if it fits your needs.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

7th and 8th Grade ELA Project Wants You! #EngChat

I'm so excited and I just can't hide it. This is going to be my first project connecting one of the teachers from my district with teachers from around the world.

A friend contacted me and wanted to know what type of fun things she could do with her students. I told her about Skyping, Pen Pals, etc. with anyone in the world. She just needed to give me to go ahead and I would find her some people to work with on fun projects.

My teacher is a tech newbie, but she is excited to work, very smart and one of the coolest teachers I know. I can't wait to see what she can do with the help of my PLN.

I know I tweeted out for volunteers and got a nice response, but I want to organize a bit better for her when I pass the on information. If we get jammed with volunteers, I might not be able to connect all of you with her, but worry not. I will find you a teacher to work with. Heck, it might be with each other. :-)

Please fill out the form if you are interested in working with a 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts teacher from Pierce Middle School in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan.

Thanks PLN!

I've closed the form because I had over 30 teachers signed up. I passed the form on to those my teacher is not working with in the hope they will connect and do great things.

Extreme Home Makeover (Dreamweaver Edition) #AdobeEduAwards

Hello everyone! I hope the start of the school year is goign well. I have a nother awesome project to share with you that utilizes Adobe's Dreamweaver and Photoshop.
Extreme Makeover (Dreamweaver Edition) is a project conceived by Brett Keener that has students design a livingroom, bedroom and garage for a Dreamweaver site.

Brett submited the project to the Adobe Education Exchange in the hopes of winning some awesome prizes. If you are interested in submitting your lessons that use Adobe products, read this post for all of the details.

I love the idea of this lesson. It really allows the students the chance to be creative and design something fun. Here is a screenshot of one of the student's designs.

I'm a huge Superman man, so this student would have received an "A" right from the start. Here are two other student examples here and here.

Brett is currently in first place in the Digital Arts/Media category and would appreciate a vote. If you love this project and want to help Brett win, join the Adobe Education Exchange and vote for Brett. It is that simple. Once you have signed up, take a look at the other awesome proejcts that teachers have shared and consider sharing one of yours.

Adobe is a sponsor of The Nerdy Teacher

Monday, September 12, 2011

Arne and Me

If you want to know how I got a chance to interview Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, please read my Random Thoughts post that provides some background information.

Last week, I was lucky enough to be take a student and meet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. I was invited by the Department of Education and they were kind of enough to make room for a student from our school newspaper at my request. We were able to get 10 minutes with Secretary Duncan and here were his comments. My student will have his interview and story ready in a couple of weeks and I look forward to sharing it with you when it is ready.

Question: What role can technology play in education today?

Secretary Duncan - "Technology can help us figure out ways to do more with less."

My thoughts: I think this makes sense for those of us dealing with funding issues. As we look at budgets, we need to start looking at the money we spend year in and year out and how tech alternatives might help save money in 2 or 3 years even if it costs more now.

Secretary Duncan on the value of mobile technology - "Access to content and information 24/7, not just 6 hours a day."

I think this is a great point as more and more schools look at the value of cell phones in the classroom. Secretary Duncan talked about a school called Tech Boston. At this school, students did their homework on their cellphones. Cellphones are a tool that crosses all demographics and can be utilized for educational purposes. My school switched to a policy that allows teachers to choose to allow cellphone use in class. If they want it, they place a green go light on their door. If they do not want cellphones, they have the red stop light on their door. I have only seen 3 green lights. One of them is on my door. There is a tremendous amount of information found on cellphones that can be used to connect students if they are shown how to access it. I think this is an area that really needs more exploring and promotion.

Secretary Duncan on iPads - "Our move from print to digital...we need to do whatever we can to accelerate that transition."

Secretary Duncan points to South Korea and their goal to be completely paperless in the next few years. He stressed that the US can either lag behind or become leaders. I agree with this sentiment. In my district, I look at it the same way. We can either sit back and see what everyone else is doing and try to play catch up, or we start looking ahead and become a leader.

Secretary Duncan on Education and Technology - "Education moves far too slowly." "Education has lagged other sectors (Business, Social, etc.) and we have to change that."

I couldn't agree more with this statement. It always seems that education is the last one at the party. Everyone is already wrapping up and heading to the next big event and we are just getting started. I would love to see us getting the party started for once. Sadly, there are too many people stuck in the old way of doing things making it very hard to make any positive strides in changing education. Not just changing education and the integration of technology, but other forms as well.

Question: How do we pay for it?

Secretary Duncan on technology funding - In these tough economic times the focus needs to be on "re-allocating existing funds." Migrating textbook funds to technology. The federal government spends $2.5 million dollars on Professional Development that the majority of teachers feel is ineffective. It's "time to re-think spending."

I really wasn't planning on asking a funding question, but he was talking a great game about getting technology in schools, it seemed like the logical followup question. I think it is time to seriously re-think the way that money is spent across the country. I've seen what some PD budgets look like recently and I am blown away. I truly have no idea where that money is spent because I have not gotten nearly that much value in 10 years of teaching. Some of the best PD I have received has been free or darn close. Edcamps (Click for info on Edcamps) have provided an amazing amount of PD at zero cost. Twitter and blogs I read have provided a better source of PD than sessions I have sat in during school in-service time. I think it is time for districts across the country to really evaluate the impact their PD budget  has had on their staff.

Question: Teachers are being blamed for the woes of public education. What would you say to a college student who was considering a career in education?

Secretary Duncan on teacher pay - "We should double starting salaries for teachers. Start at 60 - 65 thousand. Great teachers topping out at 130, 140 and 150."

Well, he is not going to get much of an argument from me on this one. He joked that teachers didn't get into teaching to be millionaires. He's right. I'm lucky to be teaching in one of the better paying districts in one of the better paying states. Teachers in my district can start at wages that are topping out points for teachers in other states. Where the heck do we get the money to double or triple what teachers are currently making? If you watch Fox News, all teachers are overpaid as it is.

I think it is a very easy thing to say. I think all mail carriers should make $200 thousand a year. It's nice that I say it. Mail carriers will love that I think it, but what does it really mean? If Secretary Duncan really believes that all teachers should make that minimum and top out at $150K, let's see some legislation introduced. Let's see some funding to support it as long as it is not linked to more test scores. Words are great, but this is something where actions would speak much louder.

Secretary Duncan on Teachers - "Anyone who thinks teachers are the problem, I think they fundamentally do not understand the challenges they are facing."

What happened in Wisconsin and in Michigan in regards to teacher rights was terrible. Teachers were under attack and I waited and waited to see Secretary Duncan or the President step up and say something. I wanted them to do something. Anything. Believe me, I wanted to ask Secretary Duncan on why he did not have a more vocal voice during these stressful times for teacher, but I didn't want to become antagonistic in front of my student and I wimped out. :-)

I think it is great that Secretary Duncan believes this, but I think he needed to be on the news every day during those dark days in Wisconsin. He should have been at the Capital with those teachers fighting for their rights. Those days were the perfect chance for him to speak up for teachers and talk about how they should be getting paid more, not less. I feel that is an area where he let teachers down.

Secretary Duncan's Final Thoughts on Teachers - "Teaching is not for the feint of heart. If you want to make a difference in the community, if you want to make a difference in the lives of young people, there's nothing more difficult, rewarding and inspiring than becoming a teacher."

Damn straight.

My final thoughts:

I reached out to my PLN for some questions and I was able to get a couple of them in, but I didn't have the time to get to some deeper questions. I know my questions were a bit softball, but I felt there is a time and place for everything and being a guest on his bus after having been allowed to bring a student would not have been the best time to put him on the spot.

Secretary Duncan was a gracious host who was happy to talk to my student and answer his questions and mine. I would have loved to asked him questions about Merit Pay, Charter Schools, Arts funding and do much more, put there just wasn't enough time. Maybe that is something to consider. There is so much that is ailing the education system, could a ten minute interview ever cover it all?

I want to thank my friends at the Department of Education for making this interview possible. They were able to give a student a once in a lifetime chance to interview the Secretary of Education, meet the Governor and meet the Mayor of Detroit. That authentic learning experience is going to stick with him for years.

I had a great time and had a chance to have a wonderful experience to share with my PLN.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Secretary Duncan's comments and my thoughts on them.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Friday, September 9, 2011

Random Thoughts

I'm starting a new type of posts that I'm calling Random Thoughts. These posts are going to be a compilation of thoughts that are too long for Twitter, but too short for their own post. I feel like this year is going to be filled with great and exciting things, but they might not fit in a specific post. Feel free to share your random thoughts to me in the comment box.

As part of my random thoughts series, I will post a random picture from a random Google Images Search. Enjoy!

Why the heck are you not blogging or on Twitter?
Yesterday I was able to take a student to meet the Secretary of Education. Actually, my student didn't just meet Secretary Duncan, he was actually given a 10-15 minute interview. My student was also able to meet the Governor of Michigan, the Mayor of Detroit and the Superintendent of Schools of Michigan. For an eighteen year old aspiring journalist, this was a huge score. What does this have to do with blogging or Twitter? Everything.

At the end of June, I wrote a post entitled, "Why is the Department of Education Terrible at Social Media?" At this point, I had actually been in touch with @EdPressSec Justin Hamilton and had some nice discussion about teacher involvement in policy. After my post went live, he connected me to Cameron Brenchley from the Outreach part of the DOE and we have been working on some cool things. Cameron was the one who worked hard to get me a spot on the bus to interview Secretary Duncan and worked even harder to get my student there.

My main point is that this would not have been possible if it were not for my blog or my Twitter account. My social media presence allowed me to connect with people that allowed me to set up an amazing learning experience for my student. There are still people, some in my own district, that think that social media does not have a place in schools. If an interview with the Secretary of Education, who is pro technology in education btw, doesn't convince people to use Social Media, I do not know what will.


A friend pointed out I had passed the 10,000 Follower mark. I laughed and wondered what 8,000 bots are doing following me on Twitter. The number of followers is awesome, but it's not about the number of followers. When I started 2 years ago, I never set out to get a certain number. I just kind of let that number roll on with out much of a thought. I want newbies out there to never be intimidated by the number of followers a person might have. To be honest, some of the most helpful people actually have the most followers. Maybe that's the connect.

Unblocked Sites

My school district decided to unblock some sites that had been blocked in the past. YouTube, Flickr and Google Images were the big ones. I would love to take the credit for making this happen, but it was a decision made by the whole group and I want to give them the props they deserve for supporting this change in policy. It was one of my goals, but it would not have been possible without their support. If you are reading this, thanks and I hope to keep thing moving.

My Throat is Killing Me

Am I the only one that gets a scratchy throat the first few days back at school? IS that a bad thing in the sense that I'm talking to much and I should do more listening the first couple of days back? I'm really going to think about that next year. Really. I left a note for myself to think about it.

Blogging and RSS Feeds

I helped my Am Lit students set up their blogs and their RSS feeds. I will share the class wiki so people can look at their blogs once we get rolling. If you are interested in connecting our classes for some blogging projects, leave me a comment and we can chat.

I think that is it for now. Have a great night everyone!

- @TheNerdyTeacher 


Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Epic Day of Epicness: A Recap

As the poet Ice Cube once said, "Today was a good day" I feel that statement undersells what happened to me day. I promise I will go into more details with separate posts on these various events, but I just wanted to share everything thing with my PLN.

1. I picked up a student and took him to see a panel discussion with Governor Rick Snyder; state Superintendent Mick Flanagan; Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts; Keith Johnson, the president of the Detroit Teachers Union; Sharlonda Buckman, executive director of the Detroit Parent Network; Dan Varner, the executive director of Excellent Schools Detroit and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

2. My student and I rode on the #EdTour11 bus from Detroit and had a chance to interview Secretary Duncan for about 10 minutes. (Look for a post from my student on and a future post on how this all came about in the near future.)

Today, @nickthenerdy teacher & his student, HS paper edit... on Twitpic

3. Had a tech meeting where I requested the following unblocked for High School and Middle School students:

YouTube (High School Only)
Google Images

4. Twitter and Facebook are pending. We have some policy language regarding Social Media that needs to be addressed. I will be tweeting out Twitter requests asking for policy languages from districts that allow Facebook and Twitter.

5. Funding for my iPad Pilot was approved and the order will be placed in the next day or so.

6. My wife made chili for dinner and it was really good.

This was all on my 3rd day on the job as tech guy. I really hope that it isn't downhill from here.

I still have tons of work to do, but I need to thank some people.

I wanted to thank Justin Hamilton for connecting me to Cameron Brenchley. Cameron made it possible to have my student on the bus for a once in a lifetime experience.

I want to thank Secretary Duncan for taking 10 minutes out of his hectic schedule to answer questions of a high school teacher and teenage journalist.

I want to thank my wife for supporting me on all of the things I have done and been part of the past couple of years.

Lastly, I want to thank all of you. My PLN made this possible. When I started this blog and Twitter account 2.5 years ago, I never thought it would take me to a face to face meeting with the Secretary of Education. Thanks for all of your support and I promise to keep doing whatever it is that keeps you coming back. I look forward to sharing today's events in more details in the coming weeks.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Everything I Ever Learned About Education, I Learned From Watching "Stand By Me"

Stand by Me is one of my favorite movies of all time. It has an amazing cast that make a great story even better.

I stumbled upon the movie last night about halfway through and stopped to finish. Even though I was tired, I had to watch. Gordon was just finishing up the "pie eating contest" story. As a young kid, that was my favorite part. It had a "barf-o-rama" in it. As a young kid, that made any movie an instant classic. However, it was the scene that follows that really hit me hard for some reason last night.

Here is the quote from the movie,

Gordie:Maybe you could come into the college courses with me.
Chris:Yeah right, that'll be the day.
Gordie:Why not? You're smart enough.
Chris:They won't let me.
Gordie:What do you mean?
Chris:It's what everyone thinks of my family in this town. It's what they think of me. I'm just one of those low-life Chambers kids.
Gordie:That's not true.
Chris:Oh wait, it is. No one even asked me if I took the milk money that time. I just got a three day vacation.
Gordie:Did you take it?
Chris:Yeah, I took it! I mean, you knew I took it. Teddy knew I took it. Everyone knew I took it. Even Vern knew it, I think. But maybe I was sorry and I tried to give it back.
Gordie:You tried to give it back?
Chris:Maybe. Just maybe. And maybe I took it to Old Lady Simmons and told her, and the money was all there. But I still got a three day vacation because it never showed up. And maybe the next week, Old Lady Simmons had this new suit on when she came to school.
Gordie:Yeah, yeah! It was brown and it had dots on it.
Chris:Yeah. So let's just say that I stole the milk money, but Old Lady Simmons stole it back from me. Just say that I told this story. Me, Chris Chambers. Kid brother to Eyeball Chambers. Do you think that anyone would've believed it?
Chris:And do you think that that bitch would have dared try something like that if it had been one of those douchebags from up on the view, if they had taken the money?
Gordie:No way!
Chris:Hell no! But with me?... I'm sure she had her eye on that skirt for a long time. Anyway, she saw her chance, and she took it. I was the stupid one for even trying to give it back.
[begins to cry]
Chris:I just never thought a teacher... Oh, who gives a fuck anyway? I just wish... that I could go some place... where nobody knows me. I guess I'm just a pussy, huh?
Gordie:[comforting] No way. No way.

Quote from

I was truly moved by this scene. There are a couple of things that I take away from this movie. 
How many times have you heard a teacher assume the worst about a student because of who their older sibling happened to be?  I can honestly say I have done it in the past and have been much better as I have gotten older. I used to hate following my older brother in school. He was the smart Math and Science guy and I was the English and Social Studies guy. Besides our subject strengths, we are just very different brothers. Those are things that should be embraced. 

Expectations are a running theme in the movie. Gordon has these expectations placed on him with the death of his all-star brother. His parents were downright terrible to him. His brother was the only one that encouraged Gordon to be Gordon. The dream sequence Gordon has before the above quote takes place has Gordon's Dad saying it should have been Gordon who died. This sadness and feeling of inadequacy are things that many young adults feel and this movie nails it. 

On the other side of the tracks, you have the Chambers family. Eyeball Chambers is a local thug who had developed a nasty reputation. His younger brother Chris is a good kid trying to deal with the bad reputation. The quote above is heart breaking. He did take the money, but tried to give it back. We are led to believe that the teacher pocketed the money and bought a new skirt Chris' quote, "I just never thought a teacher..."is the part that hit my heart. 

I think some teachers truly forget the impact they can have on a student. It might seem corny, but a teacher can still be that beacon of hope in a very dark life a student has to live. Chris is devastated at the fact that a teacher could be possible of something horrible like this. Stealing money from a kid is horrible, but is it any worse than assuming a student is dumb or bad? 

Showing no faith or confidence in a kid is worse in my opinion. Gordon was the only person that believed in Chris. Chris fought his way out of poverty and a bad family reputation to become a lawyer. His death is tragic. 

The next time you have a student who might have a reputation, do your best to bury it and get to know who the real person is. You just might be the one person they look up to and that could be the difference between another lost soul or a future lawyer. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Quick Hits #EdChat

One of the things I love to do is review products, but with school starting, I just do not have the same time as I once had. I decided one cool thing I could do would be write a bunch of quick hits.

A quick hit is a very brief overview of a site I think is worth your time. A few sentences on why I like it and why you should check it out. I'm starting with a few cool things here, so I hope you like them. I encourage you to go and explore these sites/apps on your own.

Here is a great site that allows you do great things with pictures and words. Using templates, you can create word mosaics like this one.

You can also do Photo Frames, Poetry Blender and Sketch Pad. I could have countless hours of fun using this site and students could as well. I will be having my students blog regularly this year, and will be a site that I will be directing them to. 

ImageChef also has an app called Framed! I'm not screaming, that ! is part of the name. A fun mobile way to use ImageChef on the go. It is $0.99 and worth a look. 

Chopsticks Culture

Here is a fun little app that shows the English and Chinese names for various foods. It is a fun and simple app to challenge your friends and yourself as you try and learn Chinese. The app could also be helpful if you are traveling and need to the exact name for a Chinese dish. The app is $2.99 and might be worth picking up if you are trying to learn Chinese. 


Present.Me is an exciting tool that should be able to find a place in your classroom. This is a free tool (There are paid options that give access to more tools) that allows the user to record their PowerPoint presentation and share it with others. The free account allows for 15 minutes of recording time. I think this is the right amount of time for any classroom presentation. A student shouldn't need any more than this.

I really like the idea of having students record their presentations and posting them so others can see it. Making presentation a bit more social will widen the audience and hopefully motivate the students to do a better job.

I definitely recommend checking out Present.Me to see if it is what you are looking for in online presentations.

Report Card Comments

Here is an interesting site that allows a user to use pre-made report card comments or upload their own. Here is a video that shows how the system works.

I like to give personalized feedback to my students, but this could be a nice way to get some of those common phrases I find myself writing over and over again. I think this is worth checking out, especially when it comes to report card time.

Sunday, September 4, 2011 Review Follow Up #EngChat #Edchat

Back in April, I did a review of It is a tool I have used in the past and will continue to direct my students to use in the future. There are some exciting new things going on with Easybib that I wanted to share with everyone as the school year gets underway.

One of the things I had really wanted to see back in April was an app. Well, Easybib has answered with a great app for the iPhone. Here is a video that explains what this great app can do.

I love the scanner option. Students still use books and this is a quick and easy way to get all of the citation information needed from a book. I am also a fan of the search feature. Allowing a user to search by title and ISBN is a fantastic way to allow the most accurate citation possible if the bar code is not available to be scanned. 

The app allows the user to switch from MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles, allowing all users to find the correct citation they need. Once the citations have been found, they can easily emailed to yourself for inclusion on the paper the user is writing. 

Easybib has also rolled out their Research Engine. What this great tool does is show a user what resources have been cited on a particular topic. 

For example, let's say a student is writing an essay on the Death Penalty. After typing in "Death Penalty" into the Research Engine, a list of the most common cited pieces related to the Death Penalty will show up. Follow this link to see for yourself.

I love this feature. It can be tough to help every student find all of the resources they need when they run into roadblocks. Easybib does a great job helping those students find material that others have used. Now, I would still tell my students to use their best judgement when evaluating websites for information, but it is great practice as they learn to sort through the good, the bad and the igly of the internet. 

Research Engine is still in Beta, so I look forward to exciting new changes that will appear as time goes by. I highly suggest you check it out and provide them with feedback to make the site better for all users in the future. 

Another neat feature is the connection of Google Docs to your Easybib account. 

In Easybib, you can create a specific project for the essay/research you are working. Now, you can connect a Google Doc to the project to seamlessly move the citations to the essay. I am a fan that allows the smooth transition of information. Instead of transporting the info to a Word document then cutting and pasting it to a Google Doc, I can cut out the middle man. (Watch out Microsoft) Google tools are finding their way into more and more online sites and this is another example of the positive impact of integration. This is a great edition to the the Easybib family of tools. 
Lastly, Easybib has real time citations. The number of citations is staggering and it is kind of cool to see what other people are currently researching. 

Overall, I'm very excited about the new editions to Easybib. I love that they are working to improve their site and make citation more of a social event. The sites that stand still get passed by. Easybib is working at making citation better and more accessible for all users. I will continue to be a fan of Easybib and I highly recommend using it with your students. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

F in Exams - The very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers - by Richard Benson

I was able to get my hands on a copy of "F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers" by Richard Benson and I couldn't be happier. 
The book has some hysterical examples of terrible answers that we have all seen from time to time. The book breaks down the terrible answers by subject. Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Math, Business and Technology, Psychology, History and Geography and English are the chapters filled with hilarious wrong answers.

You might have seen some of these examples floating around the internet, but the collection offered many I had never seen before. Here are a couple of examples,

Q. What is the highest frequency noise that human can register?

A. Mariah Carey

Q. What does "terminal illness" mean?

A. When you become ill at the airport.

Q. Explain the phrase "free press". 

A. When your mom irons pants for you. 

These are just a few of the examples found in "F in Exams". Some of the funnier examples are when students have completely given up and have decided to draw something awesome. I was that kid. When in doubt, try and make the teacher laugh and hope you get a bonus point or two. 

Listed at $9.95 on, I would suggest this book for people looking to get a fellow teacher a back-to-school present. We have all seen answers like this and I know I will flip through this book when I'm having a long day to remind me there is always someone who has it worse. :-)

Share one of the craziest things a student has given as an answer in the comment portion of this post and you will be eligible to win a copy of the book. Good Luck!

Full Disclosure: I was given a book for the purpose of the review. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What can education learn from DC Comics?

I am a comic book nerd. I'm especially a DC nerd. Recently, DC Comics decided it was going to re-start 52 of their comic titles at issue #1. To non comic book nerds, this is a huge deal. Going back to square one means erasing decades of history. For example, Superman is not married to, or even dating, Lois Lane. A character who used to be Batgirl before the Joker shot and paralyzed her, is back to being Batgirl and running around like nothing happened.

DC Comics says they have done this to streamline their stories and attract new readers. They felt the histories and back stories to many of their characters were so heavy, that new readers were intimidated to start reading. Personally, there were titles I never picked up because I felt I had to read 20 years worth of back issues to understand the plot of this month's issue. From that standpoint, I understood what they were trying to do. They went out and got the best writers and artists and told them to build the best stories you can for our readers. That is to be applauded. Trusting the experts to create amazing content. Good for them.

Another thing DC Comics is doing is embracing the digital realm. They are releasing their books in the stores and to digital devices at the same time. In the best you had to wait weeks before a title would be available. Now, you can download and read right away. I love this. I got home and downloaded Justice League and read it right away. DC Comics feel that comic book shops are getting hard to find and they can be intimidating to new readers. Digital downloading opens up their product to a whole new audience.

The relaunch of the 52 began yesterday with the release of Justice League. It is awesome. The art is amazing and the story is going to head somewhere exciting.

Now, what can this DC Comics have to do with education? Everything. I feel that the state of education is in the same place right now. There is so much baggage being carried around by trying to maintain the status quo, we are scaring away people from education. We can no longer try to fix what ails the system one book at a time. Much like DC Comics has done, it might be time to relaunch education as a whole. Really strip it down to the bare bones and go back to what worked best and look at the ways we deliver our content.

I know that is easier said than done, but how long can we try and fix a broken system until we get to the point where we stand there confused with our hands in the air. I do not claim to have all of the answers, but I have lots of questions. How long do we wait until it is realized we need a wholesale change and not a bunch of minor fixes?

I applaud DC Comics for taking a major risk in starting from scratch. I am hopeful to see some amazing stories in the near future and I hope their actions lead to more changes in comics across the board.

As for education, do you think we need to start from scratch or can we still save the system we have?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

The Nerdy Teacher: Technology Curriculum Specialist

Isn't that a fancy title?

As of yesterday, I am the new part time Technology Curriculum Specialist for Grosse Pointe Public Schools. I'm very excited to get the job and I can't wait to get to work. My main focus will be working with teachers across the district on integrating technology into their curriculum. I will spend days with individual teachers as I learn their teaching styles, suggest great tools that match their style and help them build lessons using those tools. I feel like I get to be a student and a teacher at the same time as I learn new things from different curriculums and help teachers learn about great tools that my PLN shares on a regular basis.

My blog will switch in focus a bit as I will write a bit more on working with staff in my district on tech integration. I will still be reviewing cool apps, tools and other great things I stumble upon, but now I will get a chance to view tech integration from a different side and I look forward to sharing what I learn along the way with all of you.

Since the tech job is part time, that means I will still be in the classroom part time. I couldn't be happier with this set up. I feel like I need to be in the classroom so I can actually use the tools with students to better help the staff in the district and my PLN as a whole.

I will be teaching 3 classes American Literature this year. I'm excited because I love American Lit and have taught it for years. I'm sad because I will not be teaching Freshmen. That means I will not be able to follow up The Epic Romeo and Juliet Project with another movie. I can honestly say I watched the movie the kids did twice this summer and am still blown away by what they were able to accomplish. I loved working with Shawn Heyer and Shannon Miller from Van Meter and I look forward to working with them again. Without them, none of the last year would have been possible.

I have some fun ideas I intend to bring back with some fun tech twists when I dive into the American Lit curriculum. One involves putting Mark Twain on trail for writing vulgar and racist material. Stay tuned for that project. I have a feeling the trial might be U-Streamed. :-) That's all I'll give away about that project and others currently in the cooker.

I want to thank all of you for the support you have given me over the past couple of years that has given me the confidence to think I can do this job. I am sure I will be bugging you often for advice and stress reduction.

Thanks again and I look forward to sharing my new adventure with all of you.

- @TheNerdyTeacher