Monday, July 17, 2017

#MakerMonday Featuring @littleBits #MakerEd

Happy #MakerMonday everyone! I wanted to start something on my website to support those educators that are always looking for cool things for their library or Makerspace. 

A Makerspace is NEVER driven by stuff. A Makerspace is ALWAYS driven by people. The people that are part of the Makerspace community should decide what is in there based on their interests. If you are an educator looking to stick a Makerspace, I hope you have talked to your students first and asked them what they are interested in making. That should be what guides you in making your purchases. 

Featured: littleBits

Focus: Engineering, Coding, and Electronics

Grade: K-8

What is littleBits?

"littleBits makes technology kits that are fun, easy-to-use, and infinitely creative. The kits are composed of electronic building blocks that are color-coded, magnetic, and make complex technology simple and fun. Together they’re interchangeable in millions of different ways to empower kids to invent anything - from a sibling alarm, to a wireless robot, to a digital instrument."

Mission Statement: "Our kids spend more than 11 hours with electronic devices every day, but most of them don’t know how they work, or how to make their own. At littleBits, we believe we have to empower kids to be creators and inventors with technology, and not just consumers of it."

Info from their About Us Page

Personal Thoughts:

I've been a fan of littleBits for a couple of years now. I have loved introducing them to my 6 year old son. He has had so much fun creating with them. The potential is nearly limitless and that is what I love about them. 

I think littleBits is perfect for a classroom Makerspace or a large library Makerspace. The more access to the bits the students have, the more likely they are going to play and create amazing things. 

These bits are durable and can be used and used over and over again. They are like LEGO in the way that you can build one thing and then take it apart to build something else when the next fun idea hits you. 

The directions for the projects you can build that come with the kits are very well done and I love the graphics. They are visually pleasing and easy to understand. You don't really need to directions because using littleBits is pretty intuitive. My son was able to figure out what all the bits do and make his own push button flashlight. 

littleBits is constantly pushing to make new bits that appeal to more people. I love the innovative approach they have to electronics. 


littleBits has an amazing online community where students and other inventors can share their creations and provide step by step guides to recreating their gadgets. 

They worked with Makey Makey and they have create a Makey Makey bit that can take your physical computing to the next level.


Ever since I saw this TED Talk by Ayah Bdeir, I've been a huge Fanboy. The more you learn about her mission to bring open source electronics to as many people as possible, the more you will fall in love with littleBits. 

Last year at ISTE, I had a chance to meet Ayah Bdeir and it was an amazing moment. Being able to meet someone who inspires you to keep making and to help as many children make as possible is always a great thing. 

littleBits is a great tool for a Makerspace that needs something to support budding engineers. With their new kit that dives into Coding, littleBits can crossover for those students who want to write code and they can work with the students that want to build the physical aspects of the project. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Share Your #semicolonEDU Story July 14

July 14th is #semicolonEDU day. It is a day for teachers to talk about Mental Health issues in education. My post from a couple of years ago details the start of #semicolonEDU and my post from three years ago details my battle with mental health issues.

Mental Health issues should not be ignored in education. An estimated 3 million adolescents had a major depressive episode in 2015. That's 12.5% of all children aged 12-17. Almost 10 million adults have dealt with it as well. That's 4% of all over 18 people. Those numbers are simply scary. However, they can be less scary if we embrace these issues and talk about them. The more that people are open about mental health issues, the easier it is to erase the stigma associated with mental health. We need educators and students to know that it is ok to talk about it and share those experiences. Without talking openly, people will hide and think they are alone. As an educator, I can't let that happen.

I'm asking for everyone to do one of the following:

a. Share a picture of a semicolon drawn on you in support of #semicolonEDU and share it on social media using the hash tag.


b. Share a picture and a story if you feel comfortable. The more stories out there, the more people will talk about and feel comfortable sharing their mental health battles.

I hope all of you will share this story and offer support for those willing to share their battle.

Hugs and High Fives,


Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Path to PBL and Making in the Classroom #MakerEd #PBLChat

I've always thought that PBL lead very naturally, for me, to Making and Makerspaces. As I thought more about it, the two concepts can both be approached the same way in the classroom. That is good and bad though. There are approaches that some call PBL or Making, but fall a bit short for me. There are three steps to PBL and Making that should be explored by educators looking to introduce these practices in the fall.

Step 1: Teacher Controlled

Project Based Learning

Having student create exactly what the teachers has asked for is Teacher Controlled PBL. It is not true PBL. It is having students follow a recipe and just being compliant. Very little creativity is allowed or needed to complete the task.


Having students work in a Makerspace creating exactly what the teacher has asked is not true Making. It is follow directions and doing as they are told. It's not very fun and the students might appear engaged, but they are just going through the motions.

Step 2: Teacher Influenced

Project Based Learning

This version of Project Based Learning has the teacher putting some constraints on the project or adding specific aspects that must be addressed in the project. This is closer to pure PBL, but the teacher still has too much say in the process.


Teachers sometimes put out tasks or ask students to complete projects with broader guidelines in the Makerspace. A teacher influenced Maker project is close to pure Making, but it still has too many teacher fingerprints.

Step 3: Teacher Free

Project Based Learning

The purest form of Project Based Learning is Genius Hour/20 Time. This is the purest form to me because it allows the student to choose what they want to learn and how they are going to demonstrate what they learned when they are done. The student is in full control of their learning from start to finish and the teacher provides whatever support the student might need along the way.


Pure Making is exactly the same thing. Word for word, it is the same. Students use the Makerspace to explore their passions and share what they have made and what they learn in ways that work for them. The teacher acts in a support fashion if needed.

I want to stress that Step 1 and 2 are ONLY bad if that is the only way that PBL and Making are approached. If educators stop and Step 1 or 2, the students are not getting a full PBL/Maker experience. Teachers should start with Step 1 and model the process of creating the project with the students. Next, Step 2 allows the students to see how choice can come into play for projects. Lastly, Step 3 allows the students to explore learning on their own and the teacher provides support as needed.

Like all things in education, this is not the end all be all approach to Making or Project Based Learning. This is what I've noticed over the past few years of using PBL and Making in my classroom and school. Do you have something to add that I missed? Is there another step? Share it in the comments.

Hugs and High Fives,


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Year of Making Part 1 #MakerEd #Make52

Back in January, I decided to challenge myself to make something new every week. I didn't focus on what I was going to do each week, I just let the week happen and saw what I had created at the end of the week. I've been sharing all of my creations on Instagram with the tag #Make52.

As I look back at the things I made each week, I saw a group of projects that came from a natural passion to Make something. I never felt pressured to build something or create something for the world to see, I just made what I wanted when I wanted. I have a space in my basement that is my workroom and it is filled with various tools and I just go in and take a look at what is there and an idea strikes me. From there, I get started and I hopefully Make something that works.

This is why creating Makerspaces in schools or classrooms is so important for students. There needs to be a place for kids to go and be inspired. A place where students can just get started Making. As educators, we need to create these spaces and to implement the mentality. The Making Mentality is key to inspiring students. The Mentality is what will drive students to build and create. I am inspired by the create Makers I see daily on Twitter and Instagram. As educators, we need to be that inspiration for our students with the things we Make and share. Here are 26 things I've made this past year. I look forward to the next 26 creations.

A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

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A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

HUE Animation Studio Fun! #MakerEd

Hello Everybody! - Dr. Nick Riviera

I've been meaning to upload this demo for some time, but have been slammed with a myriad of things that there is not enough space on the Internet to dive into. However, now that school has come to a close, I have the time to share the awesomeness of the HUE Animation Studio.

I've had HUE Camera for a number of years. It has been an excellent camera for my computer when computers did not come with a built in camera. Then I heard about the Animation Studio and had to play with it. My students had done stop motion projects in the past and I thought this is something that would be nice in the Makerspace. I sat down and dove into the software and this is what I created in 20 minutes.

This was so much fun! If I had more time, I would have done an entire Simpsons scene with voices and everything. I could download audio as well and import it into the video if I wanted the theme music playing or actual character voices. 

The kit comes with a Book of Animation that walks the users through various projects. One that I will try at home with my son is the melting Ice Cream. Time laps photos of melting ice cream and played in reverse is a cool effect of having ice cream born from a puddle of goop. Lawn Skating is another fun project that will get you outside to take some fun videos.

Hue Animation Studio was such an easy program to pick up and use. I did not read any of the directions and the UI was very intuitive. I took the pictures, added the audio, exported the video, and uploaded to YouTube. I only needed a laptop, the kit, and someplace to point the camera. For only $70, this is a great deal for a camera and the software. If you are looking to add a but of animation to your classroom or Makerspace, you have to check out the HUE Animation Studio. You will not be disappointed. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

It's Not Just The Space, It's The Mentality #MakerEd

This week has been a whirlwind of writing for me. This will be a third post in a day that should go out on Tuesday or Wednesday. I've just been inspired to write. Also, I've finished my grading and finally have time. :-)

I've been thinking about Makerspaces lately and the role they have been playing  in my educational adventures. I have been advocating for schools to look into Makerspaces as a way to promote this creative spirit. I believe that a space can help support ideas that students have and can draw reluctant learners in to try new things, but the mentality needs to be the focus. I started to think really hard about what makes up the Maker mentality to me. I'm sure there are people that have come up with a list of things that define the mentality, but that does not apply to everyone. Making is about creating your world and I think that includes what the Mentality is for you and your learning community. Here are some things that I think make up my Maker Mentality:

1. Be a Risk Taker - Be willing to try new things that are completely different for you. Don't be afraid of what might happen or how it might end. Take those risks and do it with a smile.

2. Be Fearless - If you are going to take risks, you need to be ok with failing. The bigger the risk, the bigger the potential failure can be. Don't let fear be the blockade. Go for it and try again if you fail.

3. Be Passionate - If you are going to do something, give it your all. You will only let yourself down if you are not willing to commit all of your being to pursue what matters in the world. If you are going to Make great things, Make them with the passion found only in your heart.

4. Be Inclusive - Making is for all people all of the time. People can only be as great as the community they surround themselves. Different cultures, life experiences, ideas, and so much more can drive you to create amazing things.

5. Be a Hacker - Take things and think of different ways to use them. Remix and remix and remix again until you create something new and beautiful. Some of the best things in the world have been created by just changing things that already exist.

6. Be an Artist - We are all artist, we just use different mediums. A wired Raspberry Pi that will send you weather updates is a work of art to you and those who can appreciate the work that goes in. The Arts are part of STEM and you are the artist. Your creations make the world a more beautiful place. Never forget that.

7. Be a Dreamer - Dream big and dream often. Then take those dreams and make them a reality. If you want to remix the world, you need to dream it before you do it. Your dreams are only limited by your inaction.

8. Be True - Most importantly, be true to yourself. Making is about expressing feelings and ideas in ways that are meaningful to you. Stay true to that person, but be open to change and growth. A Maker will grow and become something different if they are open to the community. As long as it is true to who you are, everything will be just fine.

I'm sure others will have ideas that are different than this, but these are things that are meaningful to me and have become a part of the Maker Mentality with my students. Below is a quote that hangs above my door that really encompasses much of the Maker Mentality for me.

If you want to know more about setting up Makerspaces for your district, school, or classroom, please email me, pick up my book, Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces, on Amazon, or send me a tweet. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Using @Evernote to Organize Your Educational Life #dChat

I've been a huge fan of using Evernote in my classroom for many years. I've documented the use in many different blog posts. I thought I would do a quick revisit to share how I have been using it lately.

Below are screenshots from my phone. My phone is the number one tool I use to access Evernote. It is super convenient as a classroom teacher to have all of my lessons at my fingertips.

Here is a screen shot of some old lesson plans. I love to write things down and then snap a picture to save it in Evernote. If I want, I can always annotate the picture in Evernote.

Here are some lesson plans on my The Catcher in the Rye Unit. I type up what I want to focus on based on the kids discussion and go from there. The nice part of having everything stored digitally with Evernote is that I can add or change anything I want as needed. Since I spend time reflecting after each unit, I can make changes or add notes to make the lesson stronger. Since everything is accessible on my phone, I love adding ideas to unit wherever I am when I'm inspired. There have been times when I've been waiting at the Doctor's Office or in line somewher and I added a new idea to Evernote. 

I love Evernote because it can hold all of my lesson plans in all of my classes. After teaching 15 years, that is a ton of lessons. Organizing everything into Notebooks is simple and the search feature allows me to find anything that does not jump out at me right away. Evernote truly keeps me organized and cuts the paperwork clutter down to nothing.

I can quickly add a notebook or jump to the notebooks I have been using most lately. Little details like this make using Evernote a seamless part of my day.

If you are looking for a way to become more organized and move away from your paper dependency, check out Evernote and sign up for a free account. I guarantee you will upgrade after a few months. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Going to #ISTE2017? Here are some tips. #EdChat

It is that time of the year and people are getting ready for ISTE. There are some of you that this might be your first time and others might be coming back after an extended break. Having been to ISTE for the past 8 years, I would love to share some tips with all of you to help make it the best experience possible.

1. Wear comfortable shoes. You will be putting miles on your feet over the next few days and you need to take care of your feet. While wearing nice shows while you present or go out after the conferences is nice, you need comfy shoes to walk the halls and the exhibit hall. If your feet are sore after a day, the next couple will be painfully difficult to get around.

2. Stay hydrated. This is particular important for ISTE this year. For those of you who do not know, but Texas gets hot. San Antonio will be very hot at the end of June. Keep hydrated. Drink water all the time, especially if you will be drinking non-water drinks at night. You will not be able to concentrate and you will feel like a hot mess if you are not properly hydrated.

3. Eat. This one seems silly, but it is so easy to get wrapped up in the day and not have a good lunch or breakfast. You need energy for the day and these meals will help you get through the hustle and bustle of a conference. Eat healthy and carve out time to do it. Enter it into your planner and follow it. Your tummy will thank you later.

4. Find Kyle Pace (@KylePace) and give him a hug and tell him it is from The Nerdy Teacher. 

5. Do not be scared to say hi to people you follow on Twitter. We are all educators and are dedicated to making education better for all. Just because someone has more followers than another person, does not make them more important than everyone else. Say hi. Ask a question. Connect. This is why we are at ISTE, so don't be afraid to do it. Maybe avoid talking to them in the bathroom. :-)

6. Find time to unpack. I don't mean your suitcase, I mean what you learned that day. Find a quiet spot and just reflect on what you saw and how you might bring that to your school, district or classroom. Make some notes to yourself so that you can look back at them after the conference and remember what you were thinking when everything was fresh in your mind.

7. Check out the conference sessions and try to plan accordingly. I'd love it if you came to my sessions. I'm doing some fun sessions on student engagement, Makerspaces, Raspberry Pi, and the Maker Mindset. However, these might conflict with some other amazing sessions that are going on at the same time. Look at the schedule and add the sessions that interest you most. If there is more than one session you want to attend, see if there is a friend going and get their notes. There is never enough time to see everything, so it is important to plan ahead so you do not miss everything.

8. Visit the vendors. I always like to take time to visit the vendor hall and check out anything new and to just say thanks for the cool and innovative things they have brought to the classroom. I always end up with a couple of new gadgets I want to bring into the classroom or want to explore. They vendors help make ISTE possible, so please stop by and check them out.

9. Vote with your feet. This staple of edcamp is important at ISTE. Time is limited and you do not want to waste it in a session that is not what you hoped. Get up and go. You will not be offending anyone. You need to get the most out of your time at ISTE and sitting in a session for an hour not learning anything is not a good use of your time. This is why it is good to have a backup session for each time slot in case you have a bad one. If you can't get into a back up session, go to one of the lounges and connect with others. Some of the best learning happens in the hallways.

10. Go out and have fun! After each day, there is fun to be had at many of the restaurants around the convention center. It is a great time to connect and talk about the things you have learned and make new friends. Some of my closest friends were made at ISTE. Getting together and celebrating an end of a school year and the cool things you have learned is a must. Do that with other great educators at the end of each day and you will have a great ISTE.

If any other veteran ISTE attendees have other tips, please add them to the comment section. I hope all of you will take the time to stop and say Hi if you see me. I'd love to connect with all of you and learn something new.

Hugs and High Fives,


PS - Seriously, ask Kyle Pace for a hug. It's the best part of ISTE. :-)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What risks are you going to take? #EdTech #EdChat

For some educators around the country, the last day of school has come and gone and they are enjoying a well deserved break. For others, we are counting down the final week or two and trying to get everything covered  before it's over. Summer vacation is ahead, but there is something to think about.

What risks are you going to take next year? You have completed a school year, but did you try something new? Did it work? If it failed, are you still going to take another risk? The summertime is perfect for reflecting on what worked and what didn't. The biggest changes sometimes come from those are willing to take the biggest risks. Will you spend some time this summer thinking about the  best risks you can take to support the students or other teachers in your building?

Reflect and grow this summer.

The students and other educators in the building need you to come back with ideas on how to support all of them. I know you can do it and whatever risks you take will be in the best interests of all the stakeholders.

Have a great Summer and I can't wait to hear about all the amazing things you have planned for the the next school year.

Hugs and High Fives,

The Nerd Teacher

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Your Summer of Making #MakerEd #EdChat

When school is out, there is nothing better than just sitting back and relaxing without having to worry about school or the classroom for 2 full months. Said no teacher ever. 

Summertime has always been a time for teachers to explore new areas of learning and see how they might impact their classroom, school, or district. I have taken the Summertime in years past to learn how to use Raspberry Pi, play with Arduino, and have fun with robotics. It has been a perfect time to explore areas that interest me without the pile of paperwork I receive as an English teacher. 

For educators out there looking to dive into Makerspaces, but have not had time to do so in the school year, than I would encourage you to check out my book. I know it is a biased suggestion, but the response I've received from teachers around the world has been amazing.

Educators have picked up my book to start their Makerspace journey and shared great stories. Schools and entire districts have used my book to help guide them as they bring Makerspaces to their educational environment. 

Here are just a few things people have said about my book:

I've never had so much fun reading a professional book, ever. Somehow each chapter is equal parts hilarious, gleeful, inspiring and practical. I would recommend to this every educator I know and even parents and students. This is a book you can come back to again and again to laugh learn and make each time in a new way. - Jennie Magiera, Educator and Author of Courageous Edventures

"Nick Provenzano has written an awesome guide to 'making', that not only makes it accessible to everyone, but is an awesome and fun read. His mix of personal anecdotes tied into powerful examples of how to get started and move forward, make this book an awesome addition to a collection for all educators, not just the ones looking to start a 'make space'. Awesome read!" - George Couros is the author of "The Innovator's Mindset", and a global Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant.

"Interested in STEAM education and even starting a Makerspace in your community, then this book should be on your reading list! Whatever your subject specialism it will give you new perspective on your lessons and maybe even get you thinking a little more nerdy." - Carrie Anne PhilbinDirector of Education at @Raspberry_Pi, Author, @thePSF & @CompAtSch board member, Founder @GeekGurlDiaries, Chair of @CASinclude, Google Certified Innovator

"Nicholas is a pioneer. His experience, enthusiasm, and good humor make this book a fun and indispensable resource for fostering meaningful making in your school." - Matt RichardsonProduct Evangelist

If you have any questions about my book, Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces,  or anything Maker related, do not hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter or email. There are bulk discounts available for 20 or more copies, so please email if you would like to get a set for your school or district. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Failing in Public #MakerEd

This weekend was a big day for me. I had a very epic failure building a PiGRRL 2. I was very excited as I worked on the project because it is always fun to build something and I had pieced together all of the components. I shared my excitement on Instagram.

All I had to do was assemble the case and it was ready to go. Well, that did not happen. As I tried to screw the case together, the battery shifted and I was actually screwing into the Lithium Ion Battery. That is not a good thing. Here is the end result.

I shared this with the my students and one student said, "Aren't you embarrassed?"

It was a funny statement to me because I've shared my wins and loses on social media for a number of years. For my students, they are used to sharing only the positive aspects of their life on Instagram or SnapChat. The idea of sharing a complete epic failure is a little foreign to them.

For Makers, showing others the success can be fun, but the failures can inspire. Too many people watch something being made and shared and think they can't do it. I was one of those people. Perfect projects can scare off potential Makers. This could be adults or children. Sharing our failures is key in advancing the overarching idea that Making is about Success and Failure. We learn from our Failures. We grow from our Failures. It's good to remind others of this.

Have fun Making and Failing everyone!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

3D Design in Language Arts #MakerEd

One of the questions I get about 3D printing and design is, "How do you do this in a Literature class?"

On the surface, 3D design in ELA does not seem to make sense, but it is all about a teacher's approach to assessment. I am a supporter of Project Based Learning. I set my students up in a way that allows them to demonstrate understanding of concepts that are meaningful to them. Part of that is introducing them to various tools that can help them demonstrate that understanding. 3D design is just another tool for students to use.

We were wrapping up our unit on To Kill a Mockingbird and I asked my students to demonstrate understanding of a symbol and how it is connected to a theme we discussed in class. For this unit, I showed students how they could use Tinkercad to design and the Dremel Printer to print their project. I gave them a few days in the Makerspace with the Chromebooks so they could get used to the program and brainstorm ideas for their project. Not all students chose to use 3D design for their project, but many did.

For those that did, many of them came up with these amazing designs and wonderful explanations as to why they chose them. They were able to go into detail on how they designed their symbol and how it related to one of the themes covered in class. They were all very proud of their designs and loved showing them off to others. It was also great watching students figure out the different parts of Tinkercad and then helping other students along the way.

One student put in tremendous effort to create something that was awesome and wonderfully detailed.

She wanted to talk about the good and evil conflict in the story and created an angel and devil on the shoulder of a person. The details made it very difficult to print the way it was designed and I'm still trying to figure out the best way to print it. I might help her deconstruct it and print in in pieces. Anyway, this was the first 3D design this student every created. When I told her that she could do this at home for dun and print at school, her face lit up. She just discovered a new passion she did not know existed. 

Here is the chifforobe that Tom was asked to chop by Mayella. 


Another intricate design from a first time designer. 

This design is taking symbols and creating something brand new that had meaning to them based on their reading of the book. 

A student created a gavel to represent the justice system in the story and wanted to make it as real as possible. 

I told him I would print it using the wood filament I have at home so he could stain and paint it. Here is what it looks like after he took it home. 

It broke while he was painting and staining, but he said that it could be a symbol of the broken justice system found in Maycomb that led to Tom's death. 

There are so many other great projects that students spent time on to show they understood To Kill a Mockingbird and some even found out they had a skill for 3D design. 

In the end, the questions is not, "How do you do this in a Literature class?" The real question is, "How are you giving students the opportunity to demonstrate understanding beyond a poster board, power point, or multiple choice test?"