Friday, August 31, 2012

The Beginner's Guide to Using Evernote on the iPad

Well, I've done it. I went and published a book. You can read all about the process here if you are interested in how I used iAuthor to make this happen.

I've been using Evernote for a while and I usually hear that most people have no idea how to use it on their iPad or why they should use it. I thought I would create a little book that walks people through using Evernote on their iPad.

I used Evernote to map out my ideas and Skitch to take screenshots of Evernote and annotate them for the book. Once I had everything in place, I went to iAuthor and pieced everything together.

I still have plenty to learn on using iAuthor, but I feel I created a simple to use guide for people interested in using Evernote on their iPad.

The book is currently priced at $2.99. The profits that Apple does not take will go toward future nerdy endeavors, @BabyProvenzano and #EduBros ISTE Event Planning.

Thanks for all of the support that you have given me over the years. I would not have thought I was capable of doing this if it were not for all of the kind words from my PLN.

I really hope you enjoy the book and please share any ideas, suggestions or mistakes I made through email.

Thank again!

You can find the book in the iBookstore or follow this link!

The Nerdy iAuthor

I have been slaving away this summer on a couple of projects. Well, I've been slaving away at many different projects, but two involved book writing. I'm no stranger to the world of book writing, but I have wanted to give iAuthor a try and had some ideas that were finally ready to get on digital paper and this summer was a good time to start.

I thought it would be fun to create a guide to using Evernote on the iPad using Evernote and Skitch. I loved how easy it was for me to write and edit photos using Skitch and then use Evernote to sort out my ideas. It was a great planning process. Once that was done, I figured I would jump into iAuthor to see how it all worked out.

I have never been one to read directions. I've gotten better with age, but I still prefer to learn by doing no matter how frustrated I may get. Well, iAuthor was pretty easy to pick up as I went. As you can tell, the Evernote book is nothing more than images and text. I wanted it that way. I knew I needed to start off doing something simple before I tried to tackle something more complex like embedding video and have interactive pages.

I was able to create new chapters, add a picture and move the picture around to where I needed it. Scaling the photo was very easy and little bars appeared to let me know if everything on the page was even. The OCD in me was very happy to see those. They probably saved me hours of adjusting to make things look just right.

I was able to adjust the font size and color without much hassle and hyperlinking was a breeze. I was a bit surprised at how easy it was. I was looking at my book take share without much problem. Well, that changed when I was "done".

Since I did not read the directions, I didn't know that the book would look completely different in portrait mode. I designed for landscape and didn't think to look at what happens when you flip it. Ugh. I needed to go back and work on the font and spacing of all of the images and text so they could be seen because Apple rejected the first edition because of those problems.

I will say that the iBookstore team was SUPER helpful. That is not sarcasm either. Their team answered all of my emails promptly and directed me to the right spot on the directions to help solve my problem. It took me a couple of hours to correct everything, but I was able to re-submit the book and have it ready to go. It was not as bad as it could have been.

The weird part of putting the book together was pricing. My initial thought was to make the Evernote Guide free. I thought I could just create something and place it on the iBookstore without having to charge anyone or pay anything. Wrong.

Every book needs an ISBN. In the United States, they are freaking expensive. $150 for one ISBN for one book or $250 for 10 ISBNs for 10 books. Buying in bulk is obviously the way to go. I bought the 10 because I knew I was going to need another one so I might as well as pay $250 now so I can have 10 books down the line. This fee changed my thought process on a free book.

I have the price set for $1.99 USD for the first month and it will jump to $2.99 after than. Seems like a small price for a book that will have unlimited updates when Evernote rolls something out. I will have to sell a ton of e-books to make the money back, but it's really not ALL about that. It's about sharing something with people who might need a little extra help using an awesome tool.

Overall, I liked using iAuthor for my Evernote book. There are tons of bells and whistles I have not explored yet, but will be looking into as I finish my next book. If you are thinking about writing your own book, iAuthor is a great option to try out. Nothing in life is free as they say, but you can have a book of your very own to share with the world if you want it.

P.S. I'm not ready to say exactly what my new book is about, but let's just say it's about Everything I Have Ever Learned. :-)

- You can find my Evernote Book "The Beginner's Guide to Using Evernote on the iPad" here!

An "Easy" A - #EdChat

Deep down, whether some teachers will admit it or not, we have a fear of being considered the "easy" teacher. Nobody wants to be the "easy" teacher. It suggests that students are not really learning and they can take a class without worrying about the course load or the rigor.

I bring this up because, as a school, we were given reports on our grade distribution over the past three years. One of our school goals is to close the gap between the number of Ds and Es we give out compared to the As, Bs and Cs. I like this goal. We have other goals that focus on raising test scores on the state exam, but this is something that strives to move all students up in all subjects areas. The goal is to do this without lowering standards. It is an excellent goal that I think can make a big impact on our students.

I sat down and looked at my numbers and was not surprised at what I saw. I tend not to fail many students and have a handful of Ds each year. Over 3 years, I failed or passed with a D less than 5% of my students. While I am proud of this number, I want to see that shrink even further. I never feel good about failing a student and need to continue to find different ways to reach the students who have given up before we have even started.

I tweeted my fear about being an "easy" teacher and a student replied, "You are an easy teacher because you do not give tests." I think that is an interesting response. Since I am project passed, kids find that easier than sitting and taking a multiple choice exam. Does that make me an easier teacher? A worse teacher? Better? I'm not sure how to really answer this.

If you do a good job as a teacher, shouldn't the class be easy? Shouldn't more kids pass than fail or scrape by? Is it feasible to have all students pass with a C while maintaining the rigor? I'm not sure it is possible, but it never hurts to keep trying. If that makes me an "easy" teacher, I guess I will have to be ok with that.


- @TheNerdyTeacher

Monday, August 27, 2012

Using My iPad in the Classroom This Year (Redux) #edchat

Two years ago today, I wrote a post about how I was going to use my iPad in the classroom. It was simply titled "Using My iPad in the Classroom This Year". To my surprise, it is my most visited post of all time with over 37,000 page views. That is about 20,000 more than my second most read post. I thought it would be fun to do an updated post having used the iPad in my class for two years. Now that I have a class set of iPads, the number of apps that I use or will be using has changed and I thought I would share that with everyone.

Safari - FREE

This is still a go to app. My students are always encouraged to look up things on the internet when they have questions or need to do research. It is fast and simple to use. There are very few problems I have encountered with using Safari and will continue to use it happily.

Evernote - FREE (or Premium Account)

This should not come to much of surprise for those that read my blog on a regular basis. I've had decided to embark on an Epic Evernote Experiment that will use Evernote in many different ways with many different pieces of hardware. I will be sharing all of the reading material for the entire school year on Evernote as well as having students use it to take notes in class and create e-portfolios. I will be using it for all of my lesson planning and storing of different bits of information I think I will need later using the web clipper tool. This app will allow me to move away from the word od space eating filing cabinets and allow me to focus more time on instruction and innovation and not copy making. I upgraded to the premium account because of the added benefits of sharing, editing and space and I couldn't be happier. 

PS Touch - $9.99

I'm not much of an artist or a big whiz with Photoshop, but I have used this app multiple times on the go to create and or edit photos for presentations. It is easy to use and provides an tutorial on how to use all of the different aspects of the app. I would love to see all of the amazing things a real photo-editing pro could do with this app. I cannot afford to put this app on all of the student iPads, but I do let students use it when they really want to get their hands dirty with some photo-editing magic. If you love to tinker with photos, then this is the app for you. 

Blogger - Free (iPhone/iTouch Only)

This app is only available as an iPhone/iTouch app, but it works just fine on the iPad. Students will be using their blogs to respond to different visual prompts throughout the year and this is a great app to do that. It's free and easy to use. Students can log in and work on their post or just copy and past it over from their Evernote account. I really want them to create an iPad specific app, but I also want Google to create a Google Drive editing app, but that doesn't seem like it is going to happen any time. Anyway, Blogger is a nice addition to the iPad and I use for some of my posts when I'm on the go. 

I will be working this new app and web-based program into my classroom this year. The apps are free, but there are different levels of subscriptions you can purchase to use the service. It allows the teachers to have guide students in lessons while they follow along on their device. My class is a class of iPads, but it could work for BYOD where students have iDevices and Android devices. It looks like a great way to have students follow along in class, participate in the polls and questions on the tablet and increase engagement in lessons. I think Nearpod is going to be a really cool addition to my classroom. 

Skype - FREE

Skype is a wonderful app if you want your students to communicate with students across the country or one county over. Many students have their own Skype accounts and use it to chat with their friends. As a teacher, I have use Skype to bring experts in to speak to my teachers and administrators as well as connecting my classes to other students. It is a wonderful tool to use in class and one that more teachers need to consider looking at including in their lesson plans. 

iMovie - $4.99

I really encourage my students to make videos because they can be fun and educational. This is a great app that students have loved to use in class. I love that it can allow the user to quickly upload to YouTube when the video is completed. It does take some time to get used to the editing features, but it is worth it when the students create some fun and different projects. The iPads allow the student to be mobile and record in different locations, so iMovie allows them the freedom to edit where they are comfortable. For the video minded students, iMovie is a must for the classroom. 

Twitter - FREE

I use Twitter on a regular basis in both my professional life (@TheNerdyTeacher) and my school life with students (@MrProvenzano). I encourage my students to use Twitter to create a backchannel during class discussions using specific hashtags. The biggest question I get is about students who might be off task and I can only say that if my students are off task, it's because my lesson is boring. A student will not pay attention using any means necessary if they are bored, it's not the app, it's the lesson. Twitter has been used well by my students and I encourage teachers to see how they might use it in their class. 

There are some of the apps I will be using and have used the past couple of years. Feel free to share your favorite apps in the comment section and we can all learn some new things. Thanks for stopping by!

- The Nerdy Teacher

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

#ProjectPLN Fall Issue: Back to School Tips #edchat

Check out for some great articles by your PLN on getting ready for the school year. Please share it with everyone!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Classroom Mismanagement

"Never let them see you smile the first week of school. After that, you can ease up. It's easier to be tough and lighten up than be nice and lay down the law." This is one of the first pieces of advice I remember about being an educator and dealing with classroom management.

Classroom Mismanagement seems like a better term to describe what I was told. Even at the time, I thought it was weird, but, what did I know. I was just a new teacher struggling to keep my head above water. I'm not sure any teacher knows what they are doing with classroom management during that first year. All of the books in the world cannot prepare anyone for becoming the leader in the classroom of 30 teenagers for 48 minutes 5 times a day. I really want to share the advice I wish I had been given to all of you out there stressing about school starting and classroom management.

1. Remember the individual - As much as it is easy to lump all students into one mold, it is crucial to remember that each student is different and need to be talked to in that way. Blanket punishment or blanket edicts from the teachers never work. There are some standard classroom rules that will apply to the majority of students, but there will be many that need to altered for certain students.

Example: A classroom rule that requires a student to raise their hand and ask to to go to the bathroom is a standard rule that applies for the vast majority of students. Except the student that has certain medical issues and can't wait to to be called on. They get to get up and go without making a big scene.

2. Things do not need to be fair, just equal - This was a tough one to understand as a first time teacher and it is something that only comes from experience. Creating "in stone" rules, as stated previously, can only cause problems when things need to be changed for certain students. Often, students will say that it is not fair. I have learned that there are many things in life that are not fair, but my job is to make it as equitable as possible. I make sure to tell students that certain situations might not seem fair, but they will always be equal.

Example: Johnny has an essay due on Monday like the majority of class. George is allowed to turn the essay in on Tuesday because he needs to use the school's computer to finish his essay because his house does not have one. Only George and I know this information, so it appears that is not fair to the other students in class. However, we know that the "extra time" is to help George keep up with the rest of class.

3. Let the kids have a voice - I try to make time in the first semester to let the students create some rules for the class. It's a great way to create ownership in the classroom. If a student breaks a rule they created, their is a sense of responsibility there. No arguments over consequences or fairness because the students were the ones that created and implemented the rules.

Example: Students tend to set rules regarding late work. It is always an interesting conversation when students rationalize why late work should be accepted and what expectations teachers should have of students and assigned work. Most of the time, the "late work" rule they come up with is what I have traditionally created on my own.

4. Keep them in class - The gut reaction of some teachers is to send the disruptive student to the principal. This is the worst practice when it comes to dealing with students. More often than not, that is exactly what the student wants. It is ok to send the student in the hall for a minute and give the class something to discuss while you talk to the student. It is important to find out what is going on with the student. I have learned more from my "disruptive" students by talking to them in the hallway than I ever could by pushing them off on the admins. Also, when you have to send a student to the principal for a serious matter, the admins take it very seriously because you never send students down.

Example: Timmy decided to say inappropriate things during class discussion multiple times after being warned. He was asked to step in the hall and wait for me. I handed the class discussion over to a student leader in my class and went into the hall to find out what was going on. Turned out the student wanted to get kicked out of class because they hadn't read and heard there was a quiz at the end of the hour (there wasn't). He thought he could use the extra time to catch up. He hadn't read because his grandmother was in the hospital and had to take care of the family while the parents were gone. We talked and everything was great the rest of class.

5. Call/email with the good and the bad - This is one that I always need to work on for my classes. It is so easy to get "too busy" when it comes to talking to parents. There is nothing worse than only talking to them when there is something wrong. It is important to reach out and share the small victories students are having to let parents know that their student is important. I need to do more of this and it is one of my personal goals this year.

Example: Shelly was not the strongest English student, but tired hard in class. When it came to creative writing projects, she was always excited and worked very hard despite her limited skill set. After one very nice assignment, I made sure to email the mom a copy and suggest that she convince her daughter to enroll in creative writing class the next year. The mom responded that she had no idea her daughter liked to write and could write like that. She was very thankful.

These are just some of the things that stand out to me now that I wish someone would have shared with me in college or my first day orientation. Please share this with any new teachers out there with that "deer in headlights" look. Classroom mismanagement does not have to be the way to go. The PLN is here to help.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

.@Evernote For The Busy Administrator #EdChat

One of the big issues administrators need to deal with are regular teacher evaluations. Having talked with many admins, this is a very time consuming part of their job and many use different systems to evaluate teachers. I think Evernote is a perfect tool for admins to use while making their evaluation rounds.

Evernote allows the user to create specific notebooks that store the notes users create. A notebook could be created for a specific teacher and notes on that teacher can be entered into that notebook. On the day of the evaluation, the admin can arrive a few minutes early and take some pictures of the class setup  and save them directly into Evernote. The observation notes can be stored in Evernote and then later shared with the teacher before the follow-up meeting. A new note could be created and the follow-up meeting's notes could be stored and then later shared with the teacher as well. All of the information regarding the observation would be saved on Evernote and would be accessible from any device with the app or an internet connection.

This teacher's notebook would fill with different notes over the course of the their career. If the admin retires or leaves, the notebook can be shared with the next admin who takes over the observation duties. Evernote is also perfect to add those informal observation notes. If the admin sees something awesome the teacher did in class or the hallway, a quick note can be added to their notebook on that teacher that can be shared with them later that day. On the other side, if the admin notices something that needs to be addressed, it can also be added to the notebook and talk to the teacher about the specifics of the incident.

I also see Evernote as a great way for admins to store all of their meeting information. One of the main reasons it is so hard to get time to talk to an admin is because they are always in meetings. These meetings span from budget issues to discipline issues. Evernote is great for keeping many different notebooks for different topics. No longer are multiple notepads needed for different topics. The camera can be used to take pictures of handouts received at meetings or the Doxie Scanner can scan them into Evernote after the meeting. All of these different notebooks would be available at all time on a personal device or an internet enabled desktop.

The days of running around with different binders filled with tons of paper are over for the busy admin when they sign up and use Evernote. Any leader that is looking for a better way to organize their professional life needs to take a long hard look at integrating Evernote into their daily routine.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

#NerdyCast Episode 6 with @ShellTerrell #EdChat

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is the special guest for Episode 6. This is a speical Connected Educators NerdyCast for the month of August. Listen in as she talks about the value of being a connected educator, the importance of educational technology and talking with markers in her mouth.

Thanks to Shelly for taking the time to chat and please check out her blog to see the amazing things she has going on. You can also connect with her on Twitter at @ShellTerrell

Here is the link to the Podcast and here is the link to iTunes. I would really appreciate comments or feedback on these podcasts. Thanks for listening and sharing!

The @Boogie_Board and the Epic @EvernoteSchools Experiment #EdChat

I am happy to announce that ImprovElectronics is now part of the Epic Evernote Experiment. The Original 8.5" Boogie Board and Boogie Board Rip are going to be exciting additions to the Experiment. I first heard about the Boogie Board at the Evernote workshop at ISTE this past summer and was very interested in what it could do for me as a teacher and my students. I was very impressed with the presentation I saw in the exhibit hall and knew I had to try one of these out.

The thing that really caught my attention with the Boogie Board Rip was the compatibility with Evernote. The ability to take handwritten notes and add them to notebooks with tags is a great feature. It really takes the Boogie Board to a whole new level. Here is one example of a handwritten note I created.

Despite my love for all things tech, I do find myself doing initial brainstorming on paper. I use post-its, computer paper or anything else I can get my hands on. Most of my initial brainstorming takes place on paper. I really wanted to find something that could replace that, but nothing really worked for me. The stacks of brainstorming paper would just be a hassel to keep track of during the planning phase. The Boogie Board Rip is a great tool to replace all of the different scraps of paper. I can do all of my planning and then save it to Evernote when I'm done. That is an awesome time saving addition to my job. 

I can also see students really using the Rip for their school needs. I can see students really utilizing this during the brainstorming phase of their essay writing and project planning. This lightweight and easy to carry device can really save students lots of time and energy in the note-taking world.

The 8.5" Boogie Board is a nice tablet for students and teachers looking for a tablet to jot down ideas or think out problems. 

I'm a fan of this little guy. Too many times, I've seen students tear paper out to just write a few ideas down and then discard. This tablet can allow students to do that and nto waste any paper. Working out math problems can be done without the constant use of different sheets of paper. Some students need the practice of doing various problems over and over again, and this tablet allows students to do that without the waste. 

I can also see these being used for projects or class games where students can write their answers down and share with the class. These tablets can be used in many different creative ways. I can't wait to see what my students and other teachers can come up with when I get these in their hands. 

As of August 1, the Rip is now $99.99! An even better deal!

I'm really excited to have the Boogie Boards as part of the Experiment and I can't wait to share the awesome experiences with them in my classroom. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Using @Evernoteschools for Lesson Planning #EdChat

Since I started this Experiment to use Evernote in every aspect of my classroom, I wasn't really sure what I was going to discover. I was sure there would be some way that Evernote was not going to meet my needs and I would be forced to add another tool to my chest while I continue the experiment for the school year. One way I was weary of was lesson planning. I have used the the traditional planner book for years and it has always been very good to me. I could easily flip back and see what I what I did the year before as I planned the upcoming school year. I'm not a big fan of trying to fix things that are not broken, but I figured I needed to give it a try in the name of the Experiment. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

Here is a shot of my desktop version of Evernote. I have created lesson plan notebooks for each class I'm teaching. Within those notebooks, I've created notes for the individual units I have created for the school year. For each unit, I do not place dates, because I want the flexibility to move units around as I need to. 

Within the notebooks for the specific classes, I have scanned and uploaded various assignments I had in paper form only and added them to new notes. For assignments I already had in digital form, I copied and pasted them into new notes. This was a very simple and smooth process. I now have every document I need to teach a full year of school. 

Since all of my students will have Evernote accounts, I can easily share the assignments with the students in specially created notebooks. I can take a note, copy it and place it in the shared notebook when I assign the work. No handouts, copies or lost work. It will be there for the students the moment I place it in the notebook. There will be a tremendous amount of time saved by not having to pass out assignments to everyone at the start or end of the class. 

I have also created notebooks that contain notes on tech tips for using the various tools. The students will have complete access to any and all information when they want and where they need it. Simple things like this will save everyone involved some time when it comes to troubleshooting. As the school year moves along, I will be able to add new notes to address issues that come up along the way. 

One of my favorite parts of lesson planning in Evernote is the ability to tag my notes. 

If I want to see all of the different essay assignments for first semester, I just need to search tags for "Essay writing" and "First Semester." Only those notes will appear in the search field. I can narrow the search down as much as I want. It is awesome. I was never much of a tagger when it came to using Evernote for personal use, but for lesson planning, it would be stupid not to tag everything. My notebooks are only going to grow over time, so tagging makes sense when I want to find something to edit it or even share it. Tagging is going to save me so much time down the road. No longer will I be digging through a filing cabinet looking for "that" assignment. A quick search of my tags will have it ready in a flash. 

As I look at the set up, I have to say the best part is the fact I do not need to re-invent the wheel a year from now. It took me hours to sit and plan out an entire school year for three classes, but it is worth it. I will not have to do it again. I will have to tweak assignments and I might remove or add readings, but the bulk of my content is saved for life. 

Another nice bit is that my lessons are available on my iPhone, iPad, home computer and anywhere I have Internet access. If I want, I can download all of these notes and access them when the Internet is down. I've spilt drinks on my lesson planner before, it was an awful experience. Now, it's not a problem. 

If you are looking for a new way to approach lesson planning, please take the time to explore how Evernote can change and improve the way you prepare for the school year. You will not regret it. 

I look forward to sharing with you more of the cool things I discover and the Epic Evernote Experiment continues. 

- The Nerdy Teacher