Wednesday, February 29, 2012

#NothingButPositiveTweetsThisWeek Part 2

It's been a couple of days since I decided to start my week of positivity. Here are some things that have stood out to me.

  • People assume that many of my tweets are sarcastic. Much of this has to do with my sarcastic nature, but all of my tweets have actually been from an honest and positive view. 
  • Being positive has made me look at situations I want to share with people and find the bright side. After being at a board meeting for close to three hours, it would have been easy to send a flurry of tweets complaining about the pacing of the meeting. Instead, I was positive about local government and people being passionate about their positions. 
  • I've seen the positive attitude spread to others. It is so nice to see the positive tweets of others over the course of a couple days. I really hope that more people tweet positive things going on around them. 
  • I think I've been more pleasant to be around. A student I saw today said, "Wow, you are really excited about Gothic Lit." I am excited about it and it was cool that a student, one I do not teach, saw my excitement about a unit I'm teaching through literature. 
I think staying positive in the face of adversity is a tough thing to do and there is always a place, a small place, to be negative. I don't want negativity to define me as a teacher. I need to start thinking about the way things can work instead of the reasons it will not work. Being positive for a week is great, but I need to focus on bringing that thinking to every aspect of my life after the 7 days are up. 

How is positive thinking, or the lack of it, impacting your daily lives?

Have a great day everyone!


Monday, February 27, 2012


I've been scrolling through my Tweeter feed the let few weeks and I have been struck by the number of negative tweets out there. I'm believe there are many things that are going wrong in the world of education and I'm not telling people how I think they should use Twitter, but I thought about trying a week of nothing but positive tweets. I want to only focus on all of the good things that are going on in education in and around me. Sometimes, the only way to show people the good we are doing is to show them. We can point to data, numbers, bar graphs and other things, but first person accounts of the awesomeness in the classroom can be a very powerful thing.

I want to extend a friendly invite to all of my friends out there to join me in a week of positive tweets only. They can be about the cool things going on in your classroom or a friend's classroom. You can send a positive tweet about an app or article that you read that you love and want to share. There are plenty of people out there focusing on the problems of the world, let's take a week to recognize all of the positive things happening. Feel free to use the hash tag, #NothingButPositiveTweetsThisWeek, if you want to help collect the positive messages in one awesome spot for people to read. Thanks!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vonage App - Review


I have been able to play around with the Vonage Mobile app since downloading it last week and I have to say I'm pretty impressed. Here are some of my thoughts on Vonage Mobile.

  • Easy to use. I downloaded the app, plugged in my phone number and email address and was ready to go after verifying my phone number with a text message. 
  • Vonage Mobile asked my permission to go through my address book, unlike other apps. 
  • The user interface was simple. Everyone in my address book that had the app, showed up in a special tab. This saved me time so I didn't have dig around for certain contacts. 
  • The text messaging was quick and seamless. 
  • The call quality was wonderful. I did not have any break ups or static. The calls work wonderfully over the 3G Network and the Wifi network in my house. Absolutely no issues in this area. 
As I think about the Vonage Mobile app, I think I have the same thoughts that everyone has regarding calling apps. "Do I need to get all of my friends to download this app to make it worth it?" The short answer is no. When I think about who I call the most, I know it is my wife. I would say that over 50% of my calls are to her. The majority of my texts are as well. If I get her to use the app only when talking or texting me and I do the same, my phone usage is cut in half. Long term, that could be huge savings. If I convince the next highest person on my list to join up, that could cut it even further. I do not see this app replacing all of the traditional cellular calls I make, but it could make a huge dent in my pricing when I change my contract. I could see a new contract in my future around the time a 5th Generation phone hits the market. 

One of the great things about my PLN, is that it has grown well beyond the US. I have connections with people from all over the world and I want to reach out to them from time to time. Some ask about Skype and the price comparisons between the two apps when it comes to international calls. Well, I have an awesome graphic for that. 

Vonage Mobile beats Skype in almost every category when it comes to making International calls. It's hard to beat that.

If you are looking for a free way to cut back on your phone and texting, talk to the people you call and text most and download the Vonage Mobile app. You will be a much happier person when you cell phone bill arrives. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Twist Flexible Digital Microscope - A Review

Learning Resources sent me a Twist Flexible Digital Microscope for the purpose of this review. 

I received the Twist Flexible Digital Microscope in the mail yesterday and have had a chance to play around with it and share what I think with all of you. First, I want to go over some of the specs then I'll tell you how it handles. 

  • True 1.3MP resolution
  • 15 fps frame rate
  • Focus wheel
  • 6 LED lights
  • Measurement software
  • SEN switch jack (adaptation for students with special needs)
  • Gooseneck measures 15.75"

Here is a video that explains more of what the Twist Flexible Digital Microscope can do for you and your students. 

I was always a lover of science growing up and still am. I check out the Science section of Zite on my iPad every other day because I like learning and exploring new things. I never went into Science because the Math aspect of certain parts of Science killed me. Anyway, the thought of playing with a  digital microscope made me very excited. I quickly plugged the USB into my Mac, downloaded the software from the disc and was off and running. Within minutes, here is what I was able to capture. 

This is a close up of my EduBeard

These are two of my eyelashes on a sheet of white paper. 

What the software also allows you to do is take measurements of the objects using the software that comes with the Twist Flexible Digital Microscope. Here are some screen shots of the MicroCapture tool that allows you capture the images you want and the MicroMeasure tool for all of your measuring needs. 

Smile eyelashes!

Measuring the length of my eyelashes.

I was able to easily move the flexible neck of the microscope and look at the skin on my hand, the hair on my face and the fibers on a plain white sheet of paper. I was beyond impressed with the camera and the detail provided. These are the tools I wish I had access to when I was in school. This tool can make a Science class so much more exciting. 

Since the tool runs through the computer, it would work very well on IWBs. A teacher just needs to connect the Twist Flexible Digital Microscope to their computer connected to their IWB and they can easily work the MicroCapture and MicroMeasure software from the board at the front of the room.

When I get back from break, I'm taking this awesome tool directly to the Science teachers to let them play with it and integrate it into their classes. I'm not sure how a Science class could function without a tool like the Twist Flexible Digital Microscope. At $119.99, I think it is a great value for all of the fun things that can now be viewed by an entire class with just one microscope. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

You're invited to a Twitterview with @Adobe! #ADSC

You’re officially invited to the Adobe Digital School Collection Twitterview on Friday, Feb 24, from 10:00 – 10:30 a.m. PST. Meet product evangelist Johann Zimmern and learn more about the Adobe Digital School Collection.  Join in and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $150 Amazon gift certificate (North America residents only)!

Adobe Digital School Collection empowers students to create projects and classroom presentations that include polished photos, compelling movies, and media-rich documents and ePortfolios, and includes the recently announced Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and Adobe Premiere Elements 10 software, as well as Adobe Acrobat X Pro.

If you’re not familiar with Twitterview, the process is simple.  Join the discussion on Twitter (@AdobeEDU) and include the hashtag #ADSC when you tweet.  If you can’t make it on the 24th, please leave your questions or remarks in the comments section of this post or send @AdobeEDU a Twitter message in advance and we’ll make sure Johann answers it.

Don’t forget:  North American residents will automatically be entered for a chance to win a $150 Amazon gift certificate when you join in the conversation. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What I Saw In My Classroom With #PBL - #EdChat

I just wrapped up my Mock Trial of Mark Twain in my American Literature classes. I wrote about here and here in case you do not know what I'm talking about. Without a doubt, these kids did the best job with this project in all of my years doing it. You can check out the stream #MTTrial

From Teresa Evangeline's Blog

I know I have written about the value of Project Based Learning before, but watching my students rise to the occasion was something spectacular. Here is what I saw:

I saw students give impassioned opening and closing statements defending Mark Twain while others chastised him for his foul language and terrible sense of humor.

I saw students researching their characters from Huck Finn and played the roles perfectly during questioning and cross-examination.

I saw students dedicated to an argument, even if they did not personally believe it.

I saw students in the jury diligently taking notes and arguing their points during deliberation.

I saw a Twitter stream that had students supporting their peers and engaging their teacher in the back channel.

I saw a student quote Twain from memory in the face of harsh cross examination from the prosecution.

I saw students ask if they could do another trial later in the year.

I saw learning beyond what any teacher could ever hope to see from a project.

I saw engagement.

I saw fun.

I tweeted that I was seeing learning in a way that no bubble test could ever quantify. I believe that with my entire heart.

I encourage all of you out there to look at your lessons and SEE where PBL could fit for you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Epic #MTTrial (Mark Twain Trial) #EdChat

Today was the first day of trial for Mark Twain in my American Literature classes. Mr. Twain has been charged with the crime of racism and my students are holding a trial to determine if he is guilty or innocent. Student are running the entire trial and I advise when asked. It has been an awesome experience. You can follow the tag #MTTrial for live updates of the trial during 1st - 3rd hour.

My students are playing characters from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as well as the Lawyers and Jury. The spent a week in class on their iPads diving into the text and researching Twain's past. The prosecution in all three classes made strong cases that Twain was very racist and using satire as an excuse does not cover the language and ideas he portrays in his stories.

I think the part I love most about this trial is the case the prosecution has to create. I know that many of the students on the prosecution do not actually believe that Twain is a racist, but they dive deep into the text to prove their point. They are not awarded points based on winning or losing, they just love tackling this very controversial issue. Every year I do this project, someone working on the prosecution makes a very sound argument that makes me think. This year was no different.

My students nailed the opening statements and hammered witnesses on cross examination. It was one of the best first days of trial I've seen with this project in the 10 years I've done it.

The students used their iPads to keep all of their notes and present evidence. It was an easy part of their case and they said it was nice having the device handy to share information with other lawyers and witnesses on the case. The iPads made for a nice addition to this project and made the work flow a bit smoother.

I'm excited to see what the defense has in store for Tuesday. They always seem to have an easy case going into the trial, but the Prosecution's case always puts them on edge because there are always things they did not think of for their case.

One of the reasons I love this project is that it gets kids thinking about a very important topic in very different terms. To this day, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is banned in school districts across this country and parents do want this book taught to their children. My kids have a chance to debate some of these ideas in a class setting that allows them to really wrap their brains around it. Over the years I have had Guilty and Not Guilty verdicts because students approached the cases in so many different ways. I wish some adults would approach topics like this the same way. It would make society a little bit nicer, if not smarter.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Vonage Mobile


Can you imagine a future where your smartphone comes with unlimited data, but without a calling plan? Living in this brave new world doesn't mean you have to abandon voice communication. The new Vonage Mobile app for iPhone and Android brings this new reality closer with free worldwide talk and text to all other users of the app. Whether your phone is connected over 4G, 3G, or Wi-Fi, your entire address book is only a tap away. Just remember that calls still use a portion of your data plan.

Vonage Mobile certainly isn't the first smartphone app to provide free calling and text messaging from mobile phones, so what make this different? Unlike Skype for iPhone and Android, which maintains a separate address book, Vonage Mobile integrates your existing address book -  which means free app-to-app calls and text messages are available without needing to reconnect with people who already provided contact information. And the Vonage Mobile multi-invite function lets you invite anyone (or everyone) from your contact list with one simple text. Skype requires you to search for users and invite each person one at a time.

Vonage Mobile doesn't limit calls to people with the app, or even to people who have a smartphone. You can call direct from Vonage Mobile to virtually any phone number on the planet. You can dial internationally without needing to activate special services with your mobile carrier. And most importantly, you can do this with the address book on your phone and your existing mobile number.

There is a cost associated with calling phones directly, but according to Vonage, the app offers international calling with per-minute rates that average 70 percent less than major mobile carriers and 30 percent less than Skype. This savings estimate is based on per-minute rates to the top 50 countries called. Billing is also more convenient, with payment integrated directly into your iTunes or Android Market account, instead of maintaining billing in a separate login.  

Vonage combines exceptional call quality with an integrated phone experience to offer a more complete calling solution.  Unlike other free voice apps, which often echo badly or sound like you're talking on tin can, when calling app-to-app Vonage delivers what they call 'high-def' voice quality, which is much better than a standard cell phone call.

To see a demo of the app, go check out the "Magic of Vonage Mobile" video on YouTube at the following link:

For those of you playing along at home, here is a quick feature recap:

·      Free domestic and international calls and texts to anyone with the Vonage Mobile app.

·      When calling a landline or phone directly, you get international calling with per-minute rates averaging 70% less than major mobile carriers and 30% less than Skype.

·      In-app credit purchases are tied directly to your iTunes or Android Market account.

·      Inviting multiple people right from your address book via SMS or email is easy.

·      Vonage Mobile automatically identifies contacts who already have the app.

·      Your mobile number double as your caller ID (so your friends won’t be surprised by an unfamiliar app-assigned number)

·      Works on Wi-Fi and 3G/4G worldwide.

If better call quality to any of your existing contacts isn't enough to make you try out Vonage Mobile, there's just one more thing you should know. Vonage is currently offering free calls from virtually anywhere in the world to the United States, Canada, or Puerto Rico. There are a few circumstances where free calling may not work, like business calls, premium and special service numbers, and satellite phones, but for the most part, free really means free. You also need to stay under 3000 minutes per month, but who talks that much anyway?

Download Vonage Mobile now and check it out on your iPhone or Android phone. Invite your family and friends so you have someone to text or call, then let us know what you think. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

hearAll - Assessment Recorder from Learning Resources

Learning Resources sent me a hearAll for the purpose of this review.

I wasn't sure what to think when I took the hearAll out of the box. It didn't seem super impressive just looking at it, but like most things, I was wrong to judge a book by its cover. Once I took the hearAll out  for a spin, I was very happy with what I was able to do with it.

Here are some of the things I really like about the hearALL:

- The hearAll has four microphones built in to the device to make sure it captures sound from all locations.

- A quick charging USB connection saves a teacher the hassle of batteries. A complete charge will last for 4 hours. Great for a school day with periodic use.

- Connections to PC and Mac.

- 128MB of flash memory with up to 3 hours of recording space.

- MP3 and WAV file compatibility.

- Pocket size

I get to work with many different types of teachers as a tech guy and lately, I've been working with speech teachers and speech therapists. I see the hearAll as an amazing device that could really help them in their every day job.

One of the speech therapists I work with really wants to record students reading stories and share them with the parents. She has had groups of students sharing a old microphone as they read from a play. It works, but it is complicated as the kids pass the mic around and pause until they are ready to say their lines. With the hearALL, the device could be placed in the middle of the table and the students could read their parts easily. The microphone on the hearALL is strong and the recordings sound great. This could be a huge plus for these teachers.

The hearALL is priced at $99. That might seem expensive, but over time, this will be a very wise investment. The ability to record, save and share student voices has many different applications and a creative teacher and school could get many different uses out of the hearALL.

Should I Stay or Should I Go

This past year, I have spent my time teaching American Literature in the morning and teaching teachers technology in the afternoon. I fought hard for this position and I have loved working with teachers across my district. I knew we had amazing teachers in every building, but getting to see them in action, is a very different thing all together.

The downside of all of this is having one foot in the classroom and one foot in the administration building. I strive to be the best at what I do all of the time. It causes more stress than I probably need, but I find it hard not to give my all in something I do. Because of this, I'm running myself ragged. As I constantly reinvent my curriculum to meet the needs of my students and keep content fresh, I find myself playing catchup in the tech job. As I dive into my tech job looking for sites and tools to help teachers and buildings, I find myself playing catch up in the classroom. Trying to be effective in two places might make me slightly less effective in both. Is that possible?

Their have been rumors of my position as a tech guy going away, becoming full time or changing completely. I've suggested there should be a head of the technology arm of the district that is only focused on tech, so that could happen. I have opportunities outside of my district to explore as well. The big question for me is whether I want to leave the classroom or not and if I do, I need to answer the question of "Why".

I love being in the classroom and working with my students. I love the creative element as I plan new lessons and projects. I also wonder if I have done all I can in this world. There are always new projects, but will I ever create another Epic Romeo and Juliet project? Every year there seems to be an additional crazy parent that I, or others in my department, need to deal with that kills the joy of teaching. Is that something I want to keep dealing with year after year? Will being an administrator make me happier?

I have had a chance to work with amazing teachers and develop some forward thinking policy. I have ideas to move my district forward in technology and love presenting at conferences and sharing my ideas. This might be the world I'm best suited for right now, but I still need some time to think.

I would love any thoughts from my PLN you would like to share here on my blog or through email.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What's your "Why"?

Recently, I've been working with my students to look deeper into the texts we are covering. They are pretty good at looking at the surface of a theme, but were having trouble seeing more. I told them to look for the "Why". Why is the author writing that way? Why is this theme important to you? Why is this supposed to make you feel sad? The "Why is what I feel education should be all about. I might tell you something has meaning, but I want you to ask me "Why".

I wonder how often we ask ourselves this question when going over our lesson plans. Is the answer good enough? Is the answer going to make education better for everyone in the class? Is it going to make a better teacher? Administrator? Asking why is something people might stray from as we become more experienced, but I think the longer you do anything, the more you need to ask why. Why: Because I think the answer changes all of the time.

The power of "Why" can have a dramatic impact on person's life if they know when to ask it and what to learn from it.

I hope people will read this post and ask why.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Friday, February 3, 2012

19 Pencils ls Looking for Help #ElemChat

I'm helping out some friends at who are looking for Elementary Teachers. Please read below. 

Are you a K-6 teacher that enjoys exposing your students great web sites when you can find them? 19Pencils would love to get your feedback on what helps you make the most of the web. 19Pencils strives to make content for you and your students easy to discover and easy to manage but it's your input that can help make it even better.

Do you want to be able to assign specific activities to your students? Do you want to be able to provide easy access for parent's to your web resources? We want to know your thoughts.

Follow this link for more information.