Monday, April 17, 2017

Having Heart: A Quick Book Recommendation

I have been reading over this interesting book by Timothy K. Kanold called 
Heart!: Fully Forming Your Professional Life As a Teacher and Leader and I wanted to share a couple of things that stood out to me. 

The first chapter is all about happiness. What role does happiness play in our daily lives, what can we do to see the happiness around us, what happens when happiness is gone, and other ideas that we, as teachers, do not stop and think about as much as we should. Sometimes we are so focused on the happiness of our students, we forget to take a look at how we are feeling. 

As you read through the book, there are questions you are asked to consider and they write your thoughts down in the book. I like this because it is asking the reader to fully engage in the book and become part of the process. Each chapter has these spaces and it is wonderful to dive deep into a book and dive deep into your own psyche. 

Another interesting aspect of the book is the piece on Engagement. It asks people to be fully engaged in the moment, not engaged ahead. It was interesting to think about when I reflected on my engagement. Am I truly engaged in the moment or living in the next moment? Are the students fully engaged or are they preparing for something else? 

The book also touches on the energy aspect of engagement. A fully engaged person will be very tired in my experience. I had an amazing class the other day where kids were designing and students were discussing the novel and I was with them every step of the way and I was exhausted by the end of class. My full engagement leaves me a shell of human emotionally and physically. The reflection pieces in this chapter are perfect at getting to the core of your tiredness. 

There is so much more in the book and I would highly recommend picking it up. I'm very happy my friend shared a copy with me and I hope you will read it as well. You will not regret it. 

Hugs and High Fives!


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Technology Does Not Magically Make Teaching/Learning Better

There is a myth out there that integrating technology in your classroom makes you a better teacher.

It is important to be clear that there is so much more to technology integration than having students stare at a screen. There are too many people out there that think that teachers want the newest technology because it will automatically make test scores soar and make all students smarter. That is not how it works.

Having access to technology offers opportunity. That is the most important thing that technology brings to a classroom.

It is up to teachers to take the opportunity and see what they can do to transform their classroom. Just having it is the first step, not the only step. The tool is only as useful as the skills of the person using it.

A brand new circular saw could help a craftsman build a house, but a person who has never held one before could loose a digit. While technology integration is less perilous, the concept still applies here. A skilled teacher craftsman is needed to get the most out of the tools they are given to craft the best lessons for the students. Teachers are craftsman and they just want access to the best tools to make their job a little bit easier for everyone involved.

From the student perspective, technology also offers them opportunity. One of the biggest opportunities is great access to information. Digital copies of materials are now readily available for almost everything read in class. Now, just because the story is accessible online, does not mean that they are going to understand it more, but they will have easier access which could allow them to read it more than once or listen to it while they read with text to speech software. It gives students the opportunity to access the information it different ways which can lead to better understanding. Great teachers show students how to get the most out of these opportunities.

Another opportunity for students is demonstrating knowledge. I remember when there were students who had a family video camera and they were able to create the coolest projects with access to this new technology. Students who had the passion for visual storytelling were able to demonstrate understanding using video. There are plenty of new tools released every week that allow students to express their ideas and thoughts on anything they are covering in class. Again, the opportunity to use them is not enough. It is the understanding of how to use these tools effectively that matters most.

What makes a teacher, any teacher, better is using any tool to get the most out of their curriculum and their students. Just having access to the tools is not enough. It is how an educator leverages the tools to create a learning environment where everyone can excel.

- Hugs and High Fives

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lunchbox Raspberry_Pi Computer #MakerEd #Make52

I woke up Sunday and thought it would be cool to put a computer inside my lunchbox. I'm not sure the exact reason why I wanted to, but I wanted to. I'm sure I saw something on the Internet about doing this months ago and it worked its way through my subconscious and out of my brain on Sunday morning. 

So, I went downstairs to my basement and my Makerspace and got to work. I grabbed pieces from around my workshop area and realized I had everything I needed. Within a 90 minutes, I had a working Pi powered Lunchbox Computer. Here is an Instagram post with full pictures. It is perfect for my #Make52 Challenge this year. Check out other posts I've made on Instagram for each week of #Make52.

My dream is that schools will be designed/reorganized to support students with similar desires or impulses to make. Public school is so important because it can offer all students a chance to chase their dreams and make anything a reality. How, as teachers, can we make this possible?

A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on


Nerdy Project Thoughts:

I ordered a two keyboards. One is a Bluetooth collapsable keyboard and another is a rollup keyboard. Both will fit in the lunchbox, but I'm not sure which one will actually work best long term. I can use the other keyboard for another project. 

I'm actually typing this post on the lunchbox right now. It works great and I couldn't be happier. However, like most projects, there are some things that I would tweak for a second time around.


I would re-think the tether system I used to keep the lid in the open position. I've added some hot glue to keep the screws and the fabric in place, but where I connected them doesn't fully work for me. I tried placing the fabric on the side, but the screws I had stuck out too far and would not allow me to close the lid. 

My lunchbox is a little stinky. I never noticed it before, but it's a bit stinky. That is an easy fix with some cleaner, but I did not notice it until after I finished the project. 

There is still room for the Thermos. I would be awesome if the Thermos could be turned into the batter source. If I could have room for the Thermos and the keyboard, that would be amazing. I will have to wait and see after the keyboards arrive in the mail. 

Share any thoughts you might have on the project below and maybe it will be something I can work into the current project or the next one I build. 

Hugs and High Fives, 

@TheNerdyTeacher

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Finding A Teacher/Maker Balance #MakerEd #EdChat

Feeling pretty good today. Another moment to sit and think about stuff. I know, super specific right? I've been thinking about my Maker journey lately. I've been so busy with teaching, grading, and travel, I have not had time to dive into some Maker projects that have been sitting in my workspace for a few weeks. It can be a bit frustrating not working on things you are excited to Make, but that is part of the full-time teacher deal.

I'm still getting tons of great feedback from people all over the world who have purchased my book. It is very humbling to hear from someone from the UK that has loved my book and it has inspired them to create a space for their students. However, I feel like a bit of a fraud when I have not had much time to support more own making our the Makerspace because of papers to grade, projects to assess, etc. I get stressed when I do not have the time I want to commit to helping every student that wants help. I'm not sure if this is a normal feeling for others, but I also do not know how many other educators are full time HS teachers trying to balance an awesome learning environment in the classroom for 150 students and an environment for Making in a high school of over 1600.

I feel the obligation for the students that sit in my class, but I also built a Makerspace for students to connect and pursue things that matter to them. Have I failed because I can't do both at the level I feel is needed? Is this just a normal part of being a teacher that does as much as they can to support learning? It's frustrating.

Life is about balance and I'm committed to finding the balance that will allow me to support the Making culture in the school and the learning environment in my classroom. It's a lofty goal, but I feel like it is a worthy one because of the positive impact it can have on students.

Hugs and High Fives,

Nick

Friday, March 24, 2017

More Than A Programming Club

Yesterday was the weekly meeting of the Programming Club I advise. It's a small collection of students who want to learn to code and create something fun. I tend to sit back and let the students organize their ideas and chime in when I think they need a suggestion here or there. This post is not going to be about forming a Programming Club or the different types of programming. This is about the value of this club, and any club, for all students.

The students gathered in my room and could not stop joking around between ideas for the RPG game they want to create. Discussing current memes and inside jokes, this group was happy to have time in a space to just be themselves. The students were comfortable and all smiles. This is key for any club.

I'm glad to give up my classroom for an hour or more after school every Thursday so these students can get together, nerd out on the current games they are playing, talk about the plot and design of the game they want to create, and just have a good time. As teachers, it is important that we create spaces for students in our classroom where students feel good about sharing their thoughts, even if it is a minority opinion. Choosing to advise clubs is another step teachers and school can take to support students and give them a place before or after school where they can explore topics that matter to them. These clubs could be chess, yoga, checkers, basketball, video games, comic books, or any other type of club that lets students come together and see there are other students that love the same thing they love. Making those connections can help some students get through some very tough times.

While taking time out of a teacher's day can be tough, I'm happy to give these students an hour of my time after school so they can just be kids doing something they love. I want to create the best environment for all of my students during class and after school. Advising a club is one simple way to do that. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Parent/Teacher Conferences and Student Relationships

Tonight (or yesterday by the time this is posted) was Parent/Teacher Conferences at my high school. They take place after teaching all day and we meet with parents from 5-8 at night. It makes for a long day. On top of that, the wifi crashed and I was not able to pull up specific grades for the students. I was stressed that it was going to be a long night.

What the night turned out to be was very light on student grades and more about relationships. I was able to focus more on the connections I had with students, what I knew about them outside the classroom, and where I think they were heading as a person, not just a student. I could see the reactions from the parents were much different than the times that focused on their grades with only minor commentary on the student as a person. By being forced to flip the focus, I found much more to talk about and to connect with parents. I've always lamented that the parents I see most often are the parents of students who are already excelling in class. I realize now that those parents are not there to just hear that their son/daughter is amazing, but to see how they are as a person in class.

As a father who son is now in Kindergarten, I can see that. I know how Leo is doing in school and I have a handle on what he is and is not learning. When I meet with his teacher, I am going to want to know about his interactions with peers, his behaviors in class, whether or not the teacher knows my son. It will be the most comforting part of the meeting. I need to keep this in mind when I'm ready to take out the digital gradebook and focus on the numbers and not the person.

I've told my students that they are more than a letter grade year after year. It's time for me to remember to reinforce that with the parents during conference time.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Refocusing

It has been too long since I've posted on here. No excuses either. I just cut my reflection because I was busy. That's not to say that I have not had ideas and reflection in my head, I've just told myself I've been too busy and nobody would care anyway. The "nobody would care" part is such a silly excuse and a huge cop-out. Reflection should always be about inner growth. If that reflection leads to great understanding worth sharing, that is awesome, but that is not always the case. The core of my blogging has always been about getting ideas out of my head and onto digital paper.

I need to refocus and reflect more on my site. I have my Anchor channel which is a nice and quick format to share ideas. There is always time if you make the time and I need to do that more. Look for more rambling reflections in the coming days and weeks and I try to refocus on my practice and reflect out loud.

Hugs and High Fives,

NP

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Education/Innovation on @Anchor

I'm excited to announce the launch of Education/Innovation on Anchor.FM

Anchor describes itself as, "It’s like radio, but bite-sized, interactive, addictive, and way more fun."

It's an amazing format that takes the idea of podcasting and makes it accessible and interactive. Instead of having 30 minute episodes once a week, a person can jump on the app, shares some quick thoughts, and other users can call in and leave their thoughts. I've been looking to do podcasting again,  but the work behind running a full podcast can be too much. Anchor allows me to share all of my nerdiness is simple and easy to consume chunks. It also allows my friends to share their ideas as well. 

Anchor is free to use and easy to sign up on your iOS or Android phone. You can favorite other great stations and check them out. I've found one called Star Wars Explained

This is a perfect platform for me to nerd out over Star Wars and then call in and leave my thoughts. Long term, I think this has tons of applications in the classroom and I look forward to exploring that down the line. For now, check out my station and call in if you have something to add. I look forward to your thoughts and hope you will create your own station for me to enjoy as well. 



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Makerspaces and You #MakerEd

If you want to know a bit more about Making and Makerspaces, this is the post for you! I wanted to share just a few tips with anyone out there that is interested in exploring the world of Making for themselves or their students. 

1. If you want your students to Make, you need to Make.

You have to be ok with trying new things and seeing where the adventure takes you. I've learned to code a Raspberry Pi and Arduino. I've made some very cool, crazy things, and practical things as I honed my Maker skills. You do not need to be an expert in all areas, but start to dabble and learn alongside your students if they are trying something new. It's a great experience to learn something brand new from scratch. Start Making to create new Makers. 

2. Create a Safe Place for Failure

The biggest thing I've learned about Making is that you are going to mess up. Things are not going to work the first time and some things might not work at all despite the hours put in. Students need to know that it is ok for things not to work right away. If you are Making with the students, they will see that failure is part of the process. People say, "You have to fall down a few times before you ride a bike successfully". In the Maker world, you are going to burn a few finger tips before the solder is in place. 

3. Have some fun

When it comes to choosing projects, have some fun. Go out there and find something that just looks neat. You will learn many valuable skills along the way no matter what you choose, so you might as well choose something interesting and fun to you. Make: and Instructables are great places to start looking for fun projects. If you are not having fun Making, something is terribly wrong. 

These are just a few things I've learned over the course of my time Making. I'm always learning something new and exciting. You can keep up to date on my crazy Making projects on Twitter or Instagram. If you want to dive deeper into Makerspaces and want to set up a space in your school, check out my book, Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces. It's perfect for someone who is just getting started in the Maker world and needs a good "how to" guide to get them started. 

My book has also been used by schools and districts as a book study. If this is something you might want to bring to your school or district, send me an email so we can set up a time to chat and make it happen. 



Thursday, February 2, 2017

Solving Everyday Problems #MakerEd #Make52

I have often been asked about the "need" for 3D printers in school. Most people think that it would just be better to just order what you need instead of trying to make it. That is where I disagree.

I like to challenge my students with projects that force them to consider everyday problems. In my technology class last year, my favorite assignment was asking students to identify an issue in their life and design a solution. This project allowed for students to work on something meaningful to them and to create a viable solution. It gives them the drive to really tackle the problem.

Here is my example:

Swinging Baby-Gate Problem


Here is a baby gate door we installed on the second floor to keep my little guy from going down the stairs. It also keeps the two little dogs from going up and getting stuck behind the gate trying to get back down. It has been a minor annoyance, but one that I wanted to address. 

I could have went out and purchased a door stop, but I thought it would be the perfect project for me to design something and print it using my Dremel 3D40.


Took my measurements and started designing on Tinkercad.


    


I spent some time getting the measurements just right and tweaking it over and over again as I learned to become more proficient using the program. It was a decent amount of work to get the angle just right on the triangle. My high school Geometry teacher would be proud.  Once I got the shape just right, I wanted to personalize it.



 I thought adding my initials to the doorstop would be a simple way to personalize it. I used the letter features and was able to use them to carve out my initials on the doorstop. Once I had it in place, I was ready to print.


It was not good. Not long enough and just didn't look like right. So, back to the drawing board.



Thinner and longer was the key. A couple of measurement adjustments and I was back in business. 


After a short print of about 35 minutes, the doorstop was ready for action.



I added a little tack to the bottom of the doorstop to keep it in place and place on the wall when not in use. This was a fun project that would be perfect for the classroom or Makerspace.

Step 1: Ask students to identify a problem that could be solved with the proper design.

Step 2: Have students work on the design.

Step 3: Print a prototype.

Step 4: Solve the problem.

I can't wait to see what you and your students can come up with to solve your problems.



Sunday, January 29, 2017

What do we do? #EdChat

On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order banning travel from specific Muslim countries for 90 days and prohibiting refugees from entering the country for 120 days. That signing brought protests around the country and responses from other countries. This is the #MuslimBan many have feared. 

As educators, we cannot hide from the world around and teach from the textbook. Depending on where you teach and the support from your administration, it might not be wise to dive into this political dumpster fire at the start of Biology class. So, what can we do?

The most important thing educators can do is be present. Students need to know that we care and we are there to support them as they try to unpack the complex emotions they are experiencing. We need to be as empathetic as possible for our students. Educators around the country are going to be working with students who might not be sure their family will be allowed to come back to the United States. They are afraid to leave because they might not be allowed back. Educators need to make sure that schools continue to be safe havens for all students. When a teachable moment arises, it is imperative that we jump on it and help students understand what is happening in our country.

Outside of school, you need to contact your representative. Check out Who Is My Representative, enter in your zip code and it will give you representatives. Call every day. Write every day. Show up at town hall meetings. Our government needs to hear your voice to ensure that proper checks and balances are being followed. As a country, we are going to have our ups and downs, but it's how we, as a nation, respond to the downs that define us. 

#Resist 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

GIF Camera Fun #MakerEd

For those who have been harrassed on my Twitter feed with tons of random GIFs, here is the post that explains what I was doing for the past couple of weeks.

In a recent edition of MAKE:, I saw this really cool project for a GIF Camera using a Raspberry Pi Zero. You can find all of the details for that project here. It took me a few hours to wire everything up, but it was pretty easy to do with the soldering skills I've picked up over the past few projects.


I used my Dremel 3D40 to make the case for the camera. I have a spool of glow in the dark filament that I thought would be fun to use for this project.



I had fun with my camera and posted a few GIFs of students being silly.


I started to tinker with the idea that it might be cool to add different lenses to the camera, but I could not find anything that would just clip over the camera lens the way I needed. So, I started designing.



I designed over and over again and used the Dremel 3D40 to print many different prototypes until I finally found the right size for everything.


Here is a link to my Tinkercad file and here is the lens kit I bought from Amazon.

This was just another fun project that would be great to bring into your Makerspace. Total cost without the lens kit is around $50. The most expensive piece was the Pi Camera. You can tons of fun with the design of the case and hack that as needed and possibly add other features for more advanced makers. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll reach out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A @Snapchat Project Based Learning Attempt #EngChat #PBL

I wanted to change things up for my students the week before finals and after we finished the Mock Trial of Mark Twain. My students have been doing plenty of writing, so I was looking for something a little different. Instead of coming up with something on my own, I asked the students. During our discussion, Snapchat was mentioned and an entire project grew from there.

The thing that I decided to focus on with Snapchat is that it offers a very specific point of view. The user can quickly share their thoughts on anything and any situation. They can add effects to add emphasis or even context if needed. This ability made me think about Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because the story is told strictly from Huck's point of view. What if the other characters could share their point view on events from the story? This is the foundation for this assignment.

My students are currently working on this assignment and are pretty excited about it. They are limited in time (two days), but are working hard to share their characters point of view. The students have already created accounts and their "Story" will be posted Friday morning and last for 24 hours. They will also download them and post them to YouTube so we can view them later. I encourage you  to follow these accounts to see what they create.

Boggs' Death                                     Freeing Jim

        Huck_Finn17                                      WhatThe-Huck
                                     Willbury.Madi                                    Tom.Sawyer17                             Col.Sherburn                                      Fun_Jim

Wilks Con                                        Royal Nonsuch

                     HuckFinn1995                                  TownsPeople84                       
Joanne_Wilks                                    HuckBoi_Finn
KingLuvsCash                                   DukeOfTheBilge

Here is the assignment if you want to see where I started. I think that this assignment can be used for many different stories that use first person point of view, but it not limited to that. Other stories written in the third person could still use the same assignment. I also think that history classes can accomplish the same thing. How might soldiers engaged in the same battle on opposite sides view the outcomes? There are plenty of possibilities if we are willing to go beyond the norm when creating project ideas for students. 

I do not know how this is going to work out in the end, but I thought I would share it and see where this takes us. This project might be refined based on your suggestions or it might lead to a different project altogether. Stay tuned for the Snapchat stories going live on Friday morning.

Update:

Here are the videos that students uploaded to SnapChat for the project. The students shared them and then dowloaded them and then uploaded them to YouTube. We encountered a few hiccups along the way, but the students did a great job problem solving and then provided wonderful feedback on the project.

Hiccups:

When uploading snaps later, they upload in the order they were taken, not the order of the upload. This means the students will need to create snaps in chronological order next time.

There was some discrepancy on whether or not you have to follow someone back so they can see their story, but it was determined you can adjust your settings to address this issue.

Some students uploaded their stories the night before instead of the morning of and that threw off the 24hr connection of the entire group. That is fine the students said because you can always re-upload the story again after the 24 hours has passed if needed.

Feedback:

Students said they enjoyed the project as a nice diversion before Finals.

Students said it was fun, but not as in depth as the Mock Trial.

Students would be interested in trying it with other stories. Maybe Huck Finn did not lend itself to this specific project. The Great Gatsby was suggested as another possibility.

Videos:

Here are a few of the videos from the project. Some of the Snaps are not in the correct order due to the hiccups mentioned earlier, but they are a valiant first attempt at something brand new to everyone involved.

The Wilks Brothers Con




The Royal NonSuch

Thursday, January 5, 2017

#ConnectedEd in 2017

I was talking with friends about the value/need of being a connected educator and it lead me to this tweet. 
Big picture question: What does it mean to be a connected educator? Do you just have to read some tweets and snag an idea for your classroom? Do you need to be part of the amazing Global Read Aloud? I wonder what level of engagement would be required to be considered a connected educator.

Slightly smaller picture question: Are students really missing out if a teacher is not a connected educator? Students are very connected as is, so are the missing anything when the teacher is not connected to other classes? There are plenty of amazing educators out there that are not connected educators and their students are doing great. Are those teachers "failing" their students by not being connected?

What do you think? Do schools need to encourage more of their teachers to become connected educators? Are students at a disadvantage if their teachers are not connected? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Exciting Giveaway with @Makerspaces_com & @HueHD

Giveaway! 

I've partnered with Makerspaces.com and Hue to kick off the New Year with a fun giveaway. If you are looking to get started with Making in 2017, my book and the Animation Studio from HUE is an excellent place to begin. There are going to be 4 winners and each winner will receive a signed copy of my book, "Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces" and an Animation Studio from HUE. Click below to enter the contest and share with your friends and colleagues. 





Giveaway Rules:

Contest will run from 1/1/17 to 1/31/17 at 11:59 pm ET.
Open to all residents US & INTL
There will be (4) winners chosen at random from the list of entries received.
The winners will be announced in the Makerspaces.com newsletter on 2/2/17



Sunday, January 1, 2017

#Make52 Challenge

Happy New Year!

I'm always looking for something to challenge me in the new year. During the first week of my break, I've had a chance to tinker again and it is such a fun experience coming back to things after being buried in work. I wanted to challenge myself to try and make something once a week. What I will make will really be up to what I'm feeling like that week. Some of my projects might just be hacks or upgrades of older projects, or they might be something brand new. They might also have nothing to do with technology at all. I might take some time to color and make things pretty. No matter what it is and how it ends up, I will share it on my blog, Instagram, or Twitter. The more complex the project, the more likely I will provide a detailed reflection here.

I would love to see others join me in this fun adventure and #Make52 in 2017. Making can be whatever you want it to be, so have fun with it. Making is the simplest doodle and the most complex sculpture. I want the world to see that Making is all around us and we are all Makers.

Write a post or add the tag #Make52 to a tweet or Instagram post so we can all share in the Maker fun this year. Hugs and High Fives!

Week 1: PiGRRL Zero

I attempted making this some time ago, but had some serious problems with the USB connection to the micro USB. It would cause the entire system to short. I spent some time today taking it apart and fixing the wiring. Once I had that squared away, I printed a new back to the case and closed everything up. I now have sound for my NerdyPi 0.