Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The #EduBroAwards v2.0

We are the awards show Education deserves, not the one that it needs right now. 

The #EduBroAwards are back and better than ever! Please take this brief pause to collect yourself and keep reading. 


Good. Now that you are slightly more calm and tad bit more collected, I will go over the fine details of how the #EduBroAwards work and why they have come back. 

The #EduBroAwards show was conceived as a way for people to celebrate one another after a long year of working hard, sharing, caring and generally being awesome. There are too many awards shows that focus on the few when we should all be celebrating the many. That is what makes our awards show so special and different from all of the rest. We want everyone to be recognized for how truly awesome they are. We have unlimited awards to give out and we can't wait to see the craziness that ensues when we hold out live Google Hangout to hand out the awards. 

The Awards Ceremony is tentatively scheduled for Thursday December 19 at 8:30PM EST

Things the #EduBroAwards will be about:

Having fun
Veiled references to 90's pop culture
Not so veiled references to 80's pop culture
Too many inside jokes
Kyle Pace's hugs
Steven Anderson's height
Bow ties
Boy Meets World
Girl Meets World
All other things that ARE awesome

Things the #EduBroAwards will NOT be about:

Fashion from the 1830's
Saying mean things about Finland, students or parents
All other things that are NOT awesome

Here are how the #EduBroAwards are going to work this year:

  • You can create your own award and nominate anyone you want.
  • You can create your own award and nominate yourself.
  • Someone can be nominated for more than one award. 
  • Everyone will win something.
  • Here is a list of the award categories we have created.
    • Best Mustache/Beard in Education
    •  Best Hug Giver
    • Twitter User Most Likely to RT a Post They Didn't Read
    • Best Twitter Avatar
    • Best Title to a Blog Post
    • Best Educational Road-trip
    • The Daniel LaRussa "You're The Best Around" Award
  • All nominations must be made in the comment box.
  • You must identify yourself in the comment. No Anonymous comments.
  • You must nominate yourself for one of the awards created or one you have created. 
  • Tweet your nominations with the #EduBroAwards tag
  • Nominations end Friday November 29th.
Awards Show
  • The #EduBroAwards will be held using a Google Hang Out that will be streamed on YouTube
  • Nick and Tim will host the awards after Miley Cyrus backed out and Tina Fay and Amy Poehler were unavailable. 
  • Every award will be presented live on the show. If you were nominated, you get to hear your name read out by Nick or Tim. 
  • Badges will be available after the ceremony is over. 
  • The show will be funny. 
  • Casual attire is encouraged, but formal attire would be way funnier.
The last thing we want to say before you start filling the comments with nominations is that this is supposed to be a fun event. We love our friends and we want to recognize them in a way that is not a competition focused on self promotion or popularity. We want to do something fun and the #EduBroAwards are just the thing to put a smile on people's faces. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Have you turned on the music? #20Time

As I watched the clip on Friday, I was struck with a question,

How many teachers turn the music on for their students?

My students have been working on their 20 Time projects for a couple of months now and I can see, for many of them, the music is on every Friday. They are all smiles as they explore their passion projects, write on their blogs and comment on others. 

I have a young girl who wants to create a fashion app, but was distressed because it was going to be too expensive to hire someone to code it for her. I took a few minutes to sit down and show her some websites on coding and told her she could learn to do it herself. She is pumped to be coding and has pledged to become a hacker by the end of the year. :-)

Other students are diving deeper into their projects are are starting to see some results from their hard work. They are finally over the first hump of 20 Time and can really start to appreciate the hard work they are putting in for their projects. 

I am happy to say that 20 Time has turned the music on in my classroom and my students are dancing. 

Are you going to turn the music on for your students?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Doxie Flip Review

I was sent a Doxie Flip for this review.

I was really excited to get my new Doxie Flip in the mail. I knew immediately that this would be perfect in my classroom and will help me save everything I do in class, but most importantly, it will help my students save everything as well. 

There are so many different ways to use this mobile scanner in the classroom. Here are some that standout. 

One simple way to use the Doxie Flip is to save your photos or scan handwritten notes. The can be placed right on the screen, close the lid and scan. It works the same way large scanners will accept this guy will go anywhere you want. The SD card is perfect for those that want to scan on the go and upload to your favorite tablet. Taking high quality scans does not have to be a time consuming job waiting in line at the copier/scanner. Keeping the Flip on the desk for some quick scanning is perfect for those trying to organize their paper life. 

Sometimes we want to scan things, but there really isn't a good way to get that page or drawing. The Flip has a lid that can be removed and a see-through bottom to allow you to see what you are scanning. 

I know that some people will suggest that the camera on their phone can do all of these things. They would be kind of right. Yes, a camera on your phone or tablet can take pictures, but it cannot get the high quality image that a scan will. Also, the scanner rests right over the item being scanned and it will not be blurry because you were slightly moving your hand. While a phone can get the job done, the Doxie Flip can get it done right. 

With my IdeaPaint coated desks, I look forward to having my students use the Flip to scan their notes and designs on their desks and save them to Evernote using the SD dongle connected to the iPad. The Flip can also be connected to you home computer where you can save your scans can be uploaded to your favorite cloud based network (Evernote for me!). Here are some other creative examples of using Doxie Flip

Here are some info on the tech specs.

The Doxie Flip is a great product that has a nice place on my desk for all of my quick scan needs and creative ideas that need capturing and saving. It is perfect for sharing in a classroom or a department because the SD card access and quick upload to devices. For $150, the Doxie Flip is a great price for an excellent tool. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Add Some Soul(Pancake) to the Classroom #edchat

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to visit the YouTube Headquarters and talk education with a variety of people over the course of a couple of days. I met many great content creators who were interested in finding out ways to help students and teachers understand complex ideas through the use of video. There were so many great people out there who are making awesome videos, but were not getting the attention I feel they deserve.

Running a YouTube channel can be a thankless job. Most people watch a 4 minute video and assume that it took just that long to put together. That could not be further from the truth. It takes days and weeks to put together a good 4 minute video that will be watched by only a few thousand people and then they start all over again. Some videos are watched more than others, but the same process is repeated over and over again because they want to educate. There is a great place for these videos in the classroom and I decided it would be nice to feature some of these content creators and their channels on my site every couple of weeks.

The first channel I want to feature is one that I have used in my classroom and will continue to do so as long as they keep making awesome videos.


Most people know SoulPancake due to the very popular Kid President videos.

This pep talked was passed all around the world and shown in schools all over the country. It is a great video and it makes me smile every time I watch it. There is so much more to SoulPancake though. They have so many different parts to their channel that should not be overlooked. Here are just a few things that are worth sharing with your students or your staff. 

This is one of my new favorite series on SoulPancake. The host takes actual research conducted on Happiness and sets up scenarios to see if the research hold up to testing. What you see are thought-provoking moments that are great for classroom discussion and replication. The video below is one I plan on doing with my students this year.

I get choked up every time I watch this video. It is touching and it makes me wonder how often we miss a chance to express our thanks to the people around us. I can't wait to see what this will look like in my classroom. Try to watch this and not cry. Here are some videos that people sent in recreating the letter writing and the phone call. 

Here are a couple more videos that are perfect for the classroom. 

Take a Seat - Make a Friend?

Talk to You 10 year Old Self

This is still not everything that SoulPancake brings to the table. 

"A series following Zach Anner, a self-proclaimed religious idiot, and his journey to learn more about faith and different religions!"

"Our narrative series in which characters struggle with life's questions in both a comical and heartfelt way. Written and directed by award winning filmmaker Ben Shelton of SheltonFilms (recently of the web series "The Daly Show")."

"Our series documenting the struggles and uplifting stories of terminal illness."

These are just some of the awesome things that SoulPancake is doing on their YouTube Channel. If you check out their Twitter feed (@SoulPancake), you will see they pose some interesting questions that could be great conversation starters in class as well. A recent questions they posed was "Can good come from pain?" 

Take some time and take a look at all of the awesome things SoulPancake is doing and see how they might fit into your classroom. 

Give it a try!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Livescribe 3 Review

I was sent a Livescribe 3 Smartpen for the purpose of this review.

Here is a video introducing the new Livescribe 3 Smartpen.

I was really excited to get my hands on the new smartpen after I saw the video. I loved the idea of seeing my writing appear on my iPad to be instantly moved over to my Evernote notebook when I was done. I was also interested to see how well the software could ready my writing and transfer it into text.

First, the connection to my iPad was quick and seamless and the writing popped up on the screen with only a slight delay. I was able to connect my iPad to AirPlay and project my tablet. This allowed me to move the iPad and the notebook to anywhere in the classroom. Instead of having the traditional document camera where the teacher sits and writes for the class to see, the Livescribe notebook can be passed around and students can do the work on their own, record their voice as they walkthrough the work and then have it all saved for playback later.

All of the pencasts can be saved directly into Evernote into shared notebooks so students can access them from their own accounts wherever they are. Here is an example of a pencast I shared to Evernote. The sound is great and it captured everything I wanted without a problem.

For me, the goal of technology in my classroom or professional life is to sometimes make everyday tasks a little bit easier. Those few minutes saved here and there can add up and allow me to focus on  other things that need to get done. 

By having the pen connect directly to my iPad or my iPhone, it allows me to directly send the notes to my Evernote account and share them with my students or save them for review later. If I want to convert my notes into text, I can simply swipe the the portions I want changed and save the notes that way as well. My hand-writing is pretty rough, but the software did a very good job reading my writing. I was very happy with that aspect of the software. It did not disappoint. 

I really see this smartpen being very helpful in Math and Science classes as teachers are working through problems for the class to see and recording the work for students who need to go over it again at home or were absent for the day. Combining the iPad, Livescribe 3 and an AppleTV makes the most sense for a classroom looking to project to the class, record the work and share with others. That can all be done at once without the hassle of uploading and downloading. 

I had the $149.95 Livescribe 3 Smartpen and it was just perfect for me. I look forward to using it in my classes, sharing it with my journalism students for interviews and taking notes at conferences. The extra $50 for the portfolio, extra pages and ink cartridges is worth it if you will be using the pen regularly. 

If you have been thinking about getting a Smartpen, but were not sure when to do it, now is the time. It is a great pen and I can't wait to see it in action over the course of the school year. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

More Than A Teacher

Last weekend, my friend Jeff Nardone passed away. He was the school newspaper adviser. While he was out fighting the good fight, I worked with another great teacher to make sure the paper lived up to the award winning expectations he left. To honor him, we have worked day and night to create a 16-page tribute edition and have asked for written thoughts from his friends, colleagues and former students. We have also put together a story on our website and collected all of the tributes and created a special post for them. You can see all of them on our web edition here. You can also read some nice pieces in The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press on Jeff. Our state organization MIPA (Michigan Interscholastic Press Association) created a scholarship in Jeff's name to help students attend their summer camp that Jeff loved being part of over the years. 

As part of putting together a special edition, I had to read every single one of these tributes from people that were impacted by Jeff over the course of 20 years at Grosse Pointe South High School, East Detroit High School, MIPA and really anyone that knew him. The thing that struck me most is that very few were about his abilities as a teacher. Not a single person wrote about the amazing multiple choice tests he created or his ability to match his curriculum to the state standards. The letters were about a man that was passionate about what he did and how much he clearly loved his students. These letters focused on a the connections he made with people every day and how warm to everyone around him. After reading the letters, a person might not even know that he was a classroom teacher. The truth is that he was much more than that. He was a mentor, a leader, an advocate, a father, a son, a dad, a jokester, and most importantly, to me, a friend. 

There will never be enough space in all of the internet to express my grief and share the amazing stories that made Jeff the man I admired and aspired to be. If I only make a fraction of an impact on my students, friends and colleagues, I will have done a great job. I will strive every day to be the man he knew I could be long before I knew it myself. I will never be able to thank him enough. 

From my tear stained keyboard, I write goodbye to a man that gave me the confidence to be me every day. For that, I'm forever in Jeff's debt. 

Miss you buddy.