Monday, September 24, 2012

Student Blogging 2.0 #EdChat

One of the new things I have brought to my class this year is Student Blogging. Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you are thinking that blogging is nothin new to my classroom. Well, I'm having students do something a little bit different this year.

Last year, I had students respond to curriculum related questions on their blog and use it as an e-portfolio for their essays. While it worked well, I felt like there were better alternatives. I now use Evernote for e-portfolios and have decided to use the blogs as a personal space for my students.

My students have plenty of practice with writing formal essays and ACT prep, that I really felt they needed a place to express their creativity. Too often, kids are told they are not good writers and that ruins their drive to write anything. My hope is to foster their writing by giving them a space to respond to visual prompts however they want. So far, the kids have been awesome.

Their first task was to write an email to 1 million people. Thy could write about anything they wanted. For some of my honors students, they had trouble because they are not used to having an open ended assignment, but they were able to pull through. There next post will be on "hacking" any part of school. I always give at least two weeks to complete a blog post and I make sure the topic has nothing to do with the content being covered in class. I'm finding my visual prompts here.

The last part of my new student blogging adventure is very important when it comes to student buy in. I needed my kids to view blogging as an important task. To do that, I promised my students I would write every single blog post I asked them to write on my own teacher blog. I told them I would never give them "busy work" because I'm too busy to do it myself. The kids were shocked at this promise and were ready to get to work. My blog post, always completed before I assign it to the students, also provides solid modeling for my students who are not sure where to start.

Long term, I look to connect my students with others to share writing and ideas. I hope students will become more comfortable and post video and personal art. Some are interested, but it will take some time to get there. I'm excited at the work I've seen so far on their Blogger blogs and can't wait to read some more.


Every student created a Blogger blog using their school Google Accounts.
I add every student blog to my Google Reader and place them in class marked folders.
I read and comment on every blog post a student writes.
Students have two weeks to comets each new post.
Students are allowed to respond in any way they want. That could be through video, pictures, song or any other way they want.
Students are encouraged to "own" their blogging space by personalizing their site.
Parents were told about the blog at Back to School Night .

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Vote The Nerdy Teacher into #SXSW #EdChat

I'm really excited to have the chance to speak at SXSW about everything I'm doing with Evernote in my classroom. I think it is a great chance to talk to people from all over the country about the positive things technology can do for teachers and students. As much as the panel will be about Evernote, it will be about changing the traditional approach to education.

In just a few weeks of using Evernote in my classroom, students have been excited about the access it gives them to the information they need. They are no longer bound to the notebook or the giant textbook to get their stories or notes. They can utilize Evernote to access the information they need when they want it wherever they are. This is crucial as more and more students rely on mobile technology for most aspects of their daily life.

I would really appreciate it if you could create an account and vote for my panel so I can this Epic Evernote Experiment with others.

To vote, go to this site, create an account and vote for me! Share with your friends!

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Friday, September 21, 2012

Epic @EvernoteSchools Experiment Update #3

We are in our third week of the EEE and things are going pretty well. I have had some students encounter problems with saving work on Evernote from home. They told me there were some error messages and some of their work was lost. Like most things tech, not everyone is going to have a perfect experience every time. I told them to write down as much information as possible the next time something goes wrong and send it to me so I can send it to Evernote.

There is something valuable to be learned when tech behaves badly. Kids need to be reminded to save work regularly and have back ups just in case. The vast majority of my students have not had any problems using Evernote or saving information, I just hate seeing a few struggle because of technical errors outside of their control.

Students started taking class notes this week and reading stories on-line. It has been a really great combination for my class. I have had multiple students tell me that they used their personal devices to access the stories, the notes and write their responses all away from their home. Kids are really investing in the time and energy it takes to learn the new system and are finding the places to integrate it into their lives. As time goes by, more students will become more comfortable with the system and do some cool things with their accounts.

I have two teachers that have started to use Evernote in my building since introducing the system to them and I have another two that are interested in moving their notes, lessons, assignments, etc to Evernote as well. It is so exciting to see teachers excited to learn new things. The two that are already using it have expressed utter joy at being able to easily share information with students and staff. It really has changed they way the approach the classroom.

Things I've seen with Evernote:

  • Student took a picture of my notes on the board after I was done to add to their Evernote account
  • Student took down the email address of the students at his table to contact if he was out for the day
  • Students sharing notes to other that have missed school
  • Students wrote their entire essay in Evernote and then submitted it to
  • Students typing up blog posts on Evernote and then posting them to their Blogger Account. 
These are just a few things I have seen the past couple of weeks. I can't wait to share more of what the kids are doing. 

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What Would I Hack? #edchat

I'm having my students write about this on their blog. I have found amazing writing prompts on Visual Writing Prompts that I can't wait to share with my students. Thanks to John T Spencer for sharing this one. What would you hack if you could?

From John T Spencer from here

On your blog, please answer the following question. Please make sure that you create a title for your post before you publish it.

For me, the part of school I would most like to hack woud have to be the learning spaces. I know that we are in this beautiful, but old, building, but I would love to have more room for my students to spread out and learn in different ways. Having desks in a row facing the teacher is an antiquated approach to education that needs to be left by the roadside. Learning spaces are so important as schools look to change the way instruction is delivered to students. Tables and comfy chairs are needed to allow students the ability get comfortable and collaborate.

I would also love to change the library as well. It needs to be a more fluid learning space where students can sit and work on their laptop and read quietly in a corner. Our library is heading in that direction and that gets me very excited. The room consuming labs need to be done away with and 1:1 computing needs to replace them so this room can be used for collaboration by students AND staff.

There are certain aspects of where we study and do homework that could be valuable additions to the learning environments of school. I think it is the best place to start hacking.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What is instructional technology?

My school is working to improve student achievement in many different ways. One way is having teachers join groups with a specific focus. The group I joined was for instructional technology. I feel like I know a thing or two about this topic and was excited to work with my staff.

The group did not go in the direction I had hoped. There seemed to be more of a focus on tools teachers used (Gradebook, attendance, email, etc) and less on tools teachers use with students.

I think that Instructional Technology should focus more on the teacher and student use and less about teacher only use. Am I wrong in my thinking? I felt like my group was more focused on the other kind of tech. There is time for that help for teachers, but I felt the group should focus more on how technology can help out students and not just ourselves.

Please share your thoughts.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Epic Evernote Experiment: Week 1 #edchat

The Epic Evernote Experiment is off and running. I walked my students through the sign up process and they were all able to create accounts without a problem. The kids were excited when I told them about the uses of Evernote for note-taking and the e-portfolio. Here are some of the things students said were frustrating with using traditional paper notebooks.

"Spilling coffee or pop on my notebook can destroy a year's worth of notes."

"Sometimes I bring the wrong notebook to class and then I have notes for different classes in multiple notebooks."

"Searching for specific notes for a certain test or essay can be tough."

I showed the students how all of these issues can be resolved by using Evernote. Notebooks, tagging and cloud storage allows students to take their notes and access them wherever they are. The students really jumped on board with this concept.

The kids also seemed interested in the e-portfolio aspect of Evernote. They all created their portfolio notebooks and I explained they would be saving all of their completed work here to be reviewed later. This is the only part of Evernote that will be required of my students. I have strongly encouraged my students to use Evernote for note-taking, but I don want them to use something they are not comfortable using. Plus, if they change their mind later, they can use the Doxie Scanner to move their notes into Evernote later.

I was able to take the links of the notebooks I want to share with students and email it to them at their school accounts. Trying to share through the email function of Evernote worked, but was blocked by my district's spam filter. A small hiccup, but nothing that wasn't quickly resolved.

The students will be using Evernote on the iPads on Monday for the first time, so I look forward to seeing them navigate the app. It's early in the experiment, but I like what I have seen from my students so far.

I'll keep you posted as the weeks go by.

If you are interested in getting started with Evernote on the iPad, you should check out my e-book from the iBookstore.

Monday, September 3, 2012

One Last Piece of Advice... #EdChat #BackToSchool

Many of us that have not started school yet, will be going back to the front lines on Tuesday. I wanted to share one last piece of advice for all of the new teachers and veterans out there.

By rikkis_refuge
Be yourself.

You are going to get tons of advice on how to act with the kids or work with your colleagues. The best thing you can do is just go there and be who you are. You got hired because of who you are, so let the school see it. Kids can see right through the phony, so give them the original and go from there.

Once I decided to let me nerd flag fly, my classroom became an even more fun environment for my students and me. I love letting the geek out and sharing stories with students and it encourages them to be themselves as well. It's the best thing you can do for yourself and your students. It might even inspire some of your fellow teachers to come out from behind their cloud and shine bright with who they really are.

Take a moment between making your first set of copies and standing at the door to greet your new students to think about who you really are and how you are going to share that with your building this year.

Good luck and have fun!

- @TheNerdyTeacher