Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Maker Mentality Podcast #MakerEd #MakerMentality

Hello Makers!

I've been thinking about starting a new podcast for quite some time. I had fun with my NerdyCast and people asked if there was a chance for a new episode down the line. I thought I would try something new and have a Maker focused show that allows other great MakerEd folks share some tips, tricks, and tools on MakerEd! I'm using Anchor to house all of my episodes, but you can find all of them on other podcasting platforms as well. Here is a list,

Google Podcasts
Pocket Casts

I will be recording and posting based on the availability of my guests. I like this format because it allows people to binge listen if they want. I also promise to keep episodes in the 15-20 minute range. That is tough for me because I like to hear people share awesome things, but I want to make these podcasts episodes be digestible for the average listener. Here is an embedded widget that has the most recent episode, so feel free to listen right here if you want.

If you have ideas for guests or topics, please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or by leaving a comment below. Thanks for all of your support and I can't wait to hear all of the amazing things Makers are going to share on the podcast!

Hugs and high fives, 


Exploring the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset

I’ve been very lucky to partner with Acer Education to explore the possibilities of the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset in the classroom. Personally, I wanted to take a look at this tool from the perspective of the Makerspace. How can the headset help students create and learn? Here’s what I think after exploring the Acer WMR Headset and Windows 10 for the past three weeks.


It’s important that you have a device that can run WMR. I’m using an Acer Aspire 7, which handles all the games and apps I’ve thrown at it with ease. The Aspire 7 is an incredible gaming laptop that is perfect for the headset. If you need a device, this is the one you need to get. You can find out more about the Acer Aspire 7 here. If you’re interested in the specs for the Acer WMR Headset, you can find them here. Next, make sure you have the latest, updated version of Windows 10. The headset will not work with an older version. Once you have updated everything, all you need to do is plug in the HDMI cord and the USB cord, and the app will open on the computer. Follow the directions, and you’ll be up and (virtually) running in a matter of minutes.

The Acer WMR Headset does not require an exterior camera to be set up around the room. It uses the headset and the computer to locate where you are in the physical world so it can communicate your location to the digital world. Two controllers fit nicely in your hands and allow you to control the virtual world with ease. They both require two AA batteries. I think I’ll be buying some rechargeable batteries to keep up with the controllers and headset. I could see going through lots of batteries with how awesome this headset is for students.


You start in a virtual lobby that gives you access to the Windows 10 Store. You can buy games, apps, videos, and all types of media. I was able to click a couple of times and download Minecraft easily. It’s a bigger file, so it took around 10 minutes to download. Once it does, you are ready for the world of Minecraft VR.

This is the regular version of Minecraft, not the Education Edition. However, there’s an option to turn on the Education tools in the settings, so you can do cool chemistry experiments. Here are just a few of the pictures I took while wearing the headset and some of my son having his mind blown by being able to build in Minecraft in VR.

I was able to explore some other apps as well: Galaxy Explorer and HoloTour.

Galaxy Explorer allows you to zoom through the galaxy and check out planets and other celestial bodies. It’s an awesome free app that gives you just a taste of what’s possible with the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset. HoloTour lets you take a tour of Rome and Machu Picchu. You can explore ancient ruins and learn about culture and life in ancient times. This app gives you a deep immersive experience, with people walking around you as the tour guide explains the buildings and structures you see. You feel like you’re there. I recommend using earbuds with the headset because they allow you to go one step deeper into the realm of VR.

I really wanted to test the limits of the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset, so I decided to buy Skyrim and see what the computer and headset could do with a heavy-load game. For those who aren’t familiar, Skyrim is one of the biggest video game titles of the past decade, and it has won numerous awards. You are an adventurer who sets out to save the world from a dragon threat. There are monsters and elves, ogres, trolls, and so much more. It’s a truly amazing game. Passing the Skyrim test is no easy task, so I was curious how the headset would hold up.

It was incredible! The sound and visuals came through wonderfully on the headset. I was able to move without any stalling of the computer. No choppy movements or game freezes. The game ran as smoothly as it does on my PlayStation. I was walking around, swinging a sword, and casting spells with my hands. It was a crazy experience to have in VR, and one that was simply mind-blowing. Here is an image I was able to snag while playing.

Overall, I can see the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset as a nice addition to my Makerspace for many reasons.

  • It’s not just a consumption device. The Acer WMR Headset allows users to create as well as consume content. Minecraft alone is enough to warrant a device if you’re looking for a way to immerse students fully in the world they are building. The VR arts apps are really great as well. The more artistic students could spend some time with the set creating stunning masterpieces.
  • It’s so easy to set up and use. For teachers and students with different technology skill levels, the Acer WMR Headset is super simple. Plug it in, put it on, and follow the onscreen directions. It’s nice to have a tool that’s simple for both students and teachers.
  • Standing, sitting, or moving—it doesn’t matter. The headset will let you sit and be in the VR world, or you can set up a perimeter that allows you to physically explore the space in the virtual realm.
  • The headset can handle the power of a labor-intensive game. The computer is doing the heavy lifting, but the headset needs to keep up with the graphics and sound as well, and the Acer WMR Headset does it perfectly. I have spent hours playing Skyrim and Minecraft, and I have yet to have a single issue.

These are just a few of the reasons I am in love with the Acer WMR Headset. As I continue to look for ways to make my Makerspace diverse for all learners, this addition is sure to allow students and teachers to take their learning to the next level. I think this image of me using the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset says it all.

Before I go, I want to share an awesome contest that is possible because of a partnership between Acer and Microsoft Education: the STEAM Lab Makeover giveaway. The grand-prize-winning school will receive 10 Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headsets, in addition to 10 Acer Aspire 7 laptop computers. To enter the contest, all you need to do is tweet @AcerEducation and tag #AcerGivesBack with your reason why your school deserves to win. That’s it. It’s super easy! The terms and conditions can be found here.

While this post is in partnership with Acer and they provided the Acer WMR Headset, that doesn’t mean I did not absolutely love the headset and think it will blow the minds of students in the Makerspace.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Transcendentalists and the Maker Mentality #EdChat #EngChat

One of my favorite parts of teaching American Literature was the Transcendentalism unit. American Literature was taken by Sophomores and I thought the this unit was perfectly placed to help these budding adults figure out the world around them. For those unaware of the Transcendental movement, it was a philosophical movement in that started in the 1830s that focused on the value of the individual and the power of imagination and creativity. They were opposed slavery and supported women's suffrage. They were a progressive group of thinkers for the time. These transcendentalists included Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Margret Fuller, and Henry David Thoreau. These are some of the most well known and accomplished writers in American Literature and they all were strong believers in the Transcendental ideal. 

As the next school year draws near, I'm always drawn to these authors and some of their most famous lines. The more I read their work, the more I see the connections to the Maker Mentality. Transcendentalists believed in all of the tenets of what I think makes up the Maker Mentality. 

Being inclusive, an artist, a dreamer, a hacker, a storyteller, fearless, passionate, and true are all elements of transcendental beliefs and they also come together to form the foundation of the Maker Mentality. Here are some quotes that connect to the Maker Mentality,

"If you have knowledge, let others light their candle in it." - Margret Fuller

One of my favorite parts of the Maker Community is the willingness to support one another. Makers need to be inclusive group that welcomes everyone and supports them as they go on their making journey. The Maker Mentality supports inclusivity because we grow as learners when we surround ourselves with diverse ideas. 

"Very early, I knew the only object in life was to grow." - Margret Fuller

Such wise words from Margret Fuller here. Quite simply, we are destined to grow and we need to support that in our life. The Maker Mentality is about learning and understanding. Trying new things, failing, and then trying something again. Everyone has to be open to learning new things and growing as people to truly get the most out of life. 

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." and "Imitation is suicide." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the tenets of the Maker Mentality that matches up perfectly with Transcendentalism is the idea of being true to yourself. As makers, it is so important that who you are shines through your creations. Spending time trying to be someone you are not will reveal itself in the work. We are all someone special with amazing ideas. If we are not ourselves, we are killing ourselves. Be who you are and the world will be a better place. 

"To be great is to be misunderstood." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love this quote because it speaks true throughout history. Some of the most important achievements in human history were done by those who were told their ideas were wrong or impossible. These visionaries could have given up and stayed in line, but they chose to be different. It is so important to be fearless when told things are wrong because being misunderstood puts you in great company of some of the most amazing makers of all time. Their belief in the tenets of the Maker Mentality led them to achieve wondrous things. 

"All good things are wild, and free." - Henry David Thoreau

There is such tremendous value in the free spirit in the Maker Mentality. We need to create spaces where students and teachers feel comfortable being uninhibited to create whatever their heart desires. A makerspace needs to be the spot in a school that allows for all learners to create freely and express who they are. 

"The world is but a canvas to our imagination." - Henry David Thoreau 

I just love these words and I have a feeling they may end up on a wall in our new and expanded makerspace. The Maker Mentality is about expanding the thinking of everyone. It encourages everyone to see the world in a way that allows them to see the creative genius all people have inside. The world is our canvas and we have the ability to create whatever we want to address the world in ways that are meaningful to use. 

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." - Henry David Thoreau 

I will end with quote because it is the bit of advice I want to give to all of the teachers out there getting ready to go back to school or are just starting this week. We have the amazing opportunity to live our dreams in our classroom and help students find their dreams. We want all of the students to be able to live the life they have imagined. It is not easy for everyone and it might take more work on our part to support different students, but we can do it. This is not just follow your dreams, it is "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams." Be proud of who you are and what you know. Use that confidence to create a space in your school that allows all students to feel welcome and safe. Safe to express who they are, try new things, fail fantastically and fearlessly, hack ideas, to dream, to be passionate, to be artists, and to tell their story. If you can create this environment in your classroom, you've nailed the Maker Mentality and can call yourself a transcendentalist. 

(Editor's Note: There are many different aspects of Transcendentalism, but the ideals of being an individual and embracing the creative side of our nature are aspects that stand out to me. As to Thoreau as a maker, the guy built a cabin in the woods because, "I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." That sounds like a maker to me.)

Monday, August 6, 2018

Tinkering in the ELA Classroom #EdChat #EngChat

Makerspaces are a great place to allow students and teachers to tinker with projects, but they are not the only place. There needs to be an element of tinkering allowed in every class if we want students to feel comfortable trying new things and seeing what happens. Tinkering can have a great place in the ELA classroom if teachers allow students the time to do it.

Back in my earlier teaching years, I was very strict with my deadlines with students. Assignments were due when I said they were due and no excuses would be accepted. It takes years in the classroom to fully understand that life happens for students and not everything is going to be done on the set, and sometimes arbitrary, deadline. The students submitted their work, I graded it, and we moved on to the next lesson. It is how I was taught and how it just "worked" in our ELA classrooms. However, the minute I started to allow students to tinker with their papers, I was getting amazing work and my students were becoming stronger writers more quickly than ever before.

The notion of tinkering is play around with something to see how it works, to make it work if it is broken, or just see what is possible with an idea. Too many classrooms still expect one and done essay writing and that mentality does not allow for students to try different approaches to ideas. While teachers may allow for rough drafts, they do not really allow for experimental thinking on ideas. Students just go through the motion to produce the paper they are sure the teacher wants. I used to ask students to take positions that were contrary to class discussion, but then I would not give them the time to flesh out what those ideas might be. Not only did I not give them the time, I did not model how to even do it. How could I expect them to do something I had not even demonstrated in class?

There needs to be time and space given to students to tinker with their writing. Allow them the opportunity to come up with an off the wall thesis and see what they can do with it. Let them explore different narrative devices in their story. Let them go out and write the craziest short story written in the second person that has ever been written. Give them the time to explore the written language and see what they can do with it. You will find that they realize many of the writing conventions you tell students to avoid are worth avoiding. Learn by doing is not a new idea. I'm not re-inventing the wheel by encouraging teachers to give students time to write. However, viewing this part of the writing education as tinkering might be what works with your students.

Teaching writing was always my weakness as a teacher. It was always a personal goal to make my writing instruction better. It took me a while to understand that it was not about doing more, it was about giving my students more time to explore what writing looks like to them. By allowing students to tinker with their writing as part of the process without being worried about grades, I started to see growth in my students. That, of course, is the whole point of writing. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Exploring Project Based Learning - Podcast

A couple of months ago, I was able to be a guest on the Reading Horizon's podcast, Podclassed. I shared my experiences with Project Based Learning over the years and how Makerspace can play a very helpful role in supporting Project Based Learning in the classroom.

This episode also has a mother and daughter from my school who share their experiences with PBL and why think it is an important aspect of overall student learning. Also joining this episode is John Larmer, the Editor-in-Chief of the Buck Institute for Education. He shares his thoughts on the value of PBL as well as his extensive work on spreading PBL to as many schools and classrooms as possible.

Take a moment and listen to what everyone had to share about Project Based Learning on Podclassed by Reading Horizons.

If you want to check out other episodes of Podclassed, just follow this link

Saturday, July 21, 2018

It's About More Than A Computer Board #Picademy @Raspberry_Pi

I just wrapped up a week of Picademy in Atlanta. Picademy is a two day professional development event hosted by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It's a "free face-to-face professional development programme that supports educators throughout their digital making and computing journey". After completing the two days of awesome PD, each member becomes a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator (RCE).

 I was lucky to be part of the first North American cohort a few years ago.

It would be easy for me to talk about it being the best PD I have every received. I'm not sure I would have written my Makerspace books if I had not attended Picademy and had the support of the community as I explored digital and physical making. Here is a GIF that still makes its rounds within the Pi Foundation that shows how much I really loved the event.

I wanted to write about the community of Raspberry Pi and how it impacts teachers around the globe. Some people do not know this, but The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a non-profit. They make these awesome computers and strive to make sure that every student has access to Computer Science. That is an amazing goal, but it is the people that truly make it so phenomenal.

For the past few years, the Raspberry Pi team in North America has grown from 2 people to 5 people. All of the events that have taken place are because of these amazing and hard working people. I have been lucky to work with them in different ways to support their mission. With the support of the amazing UK team, the North American team has done a tremendous job of creating a community of educators that, not only learn so much, but actively work to share what they have learned with other teachers and students. Teachers from across the country connect to support learning for themselves and also their students. That is such an amazing thing to create and the entire Raspberry Pi Foundation should be proud of this. 

As I said earlier, I just finished the Picademy in Atlanta and I have helped with other events in the past as well. I took some time to reflect on why I commit the time and energy to do a week long PD event. The answer came to me and it was quite simple, I love being part of the community that Raspberry Pi is building and helping grow that community as a facilitator is a great experience.

Every time I help with an event and work with teachers and/or students with Raspberry Pi, I get to learn more myself. The selfish part of the entire thing is that I get to continue to grow and learn as a physical and digital maker. It is something that is so important for my Maker Mentality. I always want to try and learn new things and teaching teachers is a great way to explore.

The community that is continuing to grow around Picademy and the Raspberry Pi Jams, is something that I am very lucky to be part of in my educational travels. Educators talk about finding their tribe and I believe you can have different tribes that support you in different ways. NErDcampMI is a tribe that nurtures my literary side and the Picademy tribe nurtures my Maker Mentality side.

I want to say thank you to Philip, Matt, Courtney, Ben, Dana, Andrew, Christina, Carrie Anne, Russell, and everyone else that has allowed me to be part of the Pi team in one way or another. You kindness and generosity has allowed an amazing community to grow and I'm thankful to be part of it.

If you want to know more about Picademyraspberrypi.org, check out the link. If you want to know more about Raspberry Pi in general, check out their redesigned site.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Find Your Passion" Research #EdChat

A new article has come out and it shared the research done on the idea that people just need to "Find their passion" and how it is terrible advice. In the educational world, the phrase, "find your passion" has been shouted from the rooftops as a way to engage students and teachers in the learning process. Many people have built mini empires on driving this narrative for teachers and students. The phrase can actually be quite complex and do tremendous harm if not unpacked for students and staff, but many people don't want the long and dirty answer regarding the value of passion in schools. "Find your passion" is not about waiting until lightning strikes with that one thing you have just discovered. It doesn't work that way. I never would have grown to love coding, physical computing, and Raspberry Pi if I did not stick with it and let the passion I have for it grow organically. It was a process. The idea that your will just find that one thing right away is mythical. Now, some people pick up a paint brush, solve a math problem, or strum a guitar for the first time and are hooked, but that is not the vast majority of people. As a teacher, I have grown more passionate about the profession over the years because I became dedicated to growing as a learner. I have been an advocate for Makerspaces and Genius Hour/20 Time. I am an advocate for finding things that you are passionate about or might be passionate about and exploring them. Genius Hour/20 Time for my HS students was an opportunity for students to explore areas that interested them. Some of them found out they were very passionate about these projects at the end and others recognized that this area was not something as interesting as they had hoped. You can't even call it a failure because trying something out and realizing it is not for you is just how life works. The problem stems from people showing up on PD day, standing in front of a large group of teachers and just telling them to tell their students to follow their passion and for teachers to follow their passion and walk away with the check in hand. No real strategies on how to do that or what that means in the grand scale of the school or district. Poor administrator support makes it even worse. Teachers are all pumped up, but have no real idea what this means and this can harm students in the long term. Passion needs to have a tempered approach that allows all educators and students the opportunity to try things and see where it takes them. Helping students and teachers develop passions as they explore the world is an amazing thing to do. Makerspaces and libraries are perfectly poised to be a space that supports learners as they explore the world and find what they are passionate about. As long as we all accept that it can change and evolve over time, then I'm all for "Find your passion" being in education. If not, then we have another empty platitude that puts money in the pockets of people and leaves teachers and students in the dust to figure it out on their own.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The #NErDCampMI Effect

The very first thing I want to write is that Colby Sharp and his crew of amazing Nerds have put on one of the very best conferences I have ever been part of in my entire life. Seriously, I am angry at myself for missing the past several years.

I have been meaning to attend NErDCampMI for a number of years, but things have come up. I really wanted to make sure I attended this year, so I blocked off the second week of July to make sure I would not schedule anything that might cause me to miss the event. I am so glad I did!

While I have spent countless hours writing about technology, Makerspaces, Project Based Learning, Raspberry Pi, and the like, I have always been a literary nerd at heart. My path has taken me away from the literary conversations I have always loved having. I have only been out of the English classroom for one year, but I could tell how badly I missed literary conversations after just chatting with a few people.

I submitted a session, because I have to present wherever I go. It is a disease. Anyway, I presented a session on Graphic Novels and had a nice conversation with the people that attended. I shared Bone, Watchmen, X-Man, and some of my other favorites. It was nice to discuss Graphic Novels and their role in literacy with other educators. The hour went by quickly we were all having so much fun with our discussion.

I tried to get into a Maker session and it was too jammed to find a spot. Instead, I found a spot in the lobby and started to have some fun conversations with educators and some authors/illustrators. We were just a few nerds sharing what we love to read and how we can use our love to instill the love of reading with our students. It was magical.

The end of the first day allowed attendees to wait in lines and meet the many authors that agreed to attend and share. I was excited because I needed to get Dav Pilky's signature in my son's Dogman book. It was my number one goal. Number two was meeting Judd Winick. He is the amazing author of the Hilo series. Leo has fallen in love with the series and I needed to meet Judd and get the book for Leo. Personally, I wanted to meet Judd because used to watch him when he was on the Real World San Francisco back when the Real World was an honest social experiment. He made a book, Pedro and Me, based on his friendship with Pedro Zamora. It was a book that was a big deal for me growing up and is still worth a read. Anyway, I was able to get both signatures and both of the authors, and really all of the authors I encountered, were amazing.

A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

Day two was an unconference and I ran a session on the Hero's Journey in pop culture and how to connect that to literature. It was a packed session where I was able to discuss Star Wars, Disney movies, and The Catcher in the Rye. As an added bonus, Judd Winick came to my session! It was so cool to have conversations with all of these educators. Of course, it was awesome to listen to the Nerd Talks and Pernille Ripp made me cry with her talk. She is one of the most passionate educators I have the pleasure to call friend. Just spending time talking with her lights a fire inside of me to dive deeper into my reading and writing. She is a good friend and I'm lucky to know her.

By the end of the event, I was exhausted. This was the best type of tired I have had in some time. ISTE drains me physically. NErDCampMI was draining intellectually. I was given so much to think about and I made so many more connections in just two days. I couldn't be happier to have had this opportunity to meet great educators and authors. The NErDCamp Effect is the feeling of growth and inspiration after spending two days in Parma, MI.

Colby Sharp and company did an amazing job bringing everyone together and you can bet I will be back next year. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Be More Than a Hashtag

I've been on an off social media since ISTE. One of the things I have seen is more asinine tweets that either take veiled shots at teachers or are just nonsense.

Ugh. I guess the hashtag makes this an important tweet. Pernille has already written an amazing take on this tweet and you should take the time to read it. I have talked with teachers in my building that feel this type of guilt on their own and to have Marzano double down on that guilt is simply reckless. Too many administrators use his words as Bible truth in education. His thoughts are used in evaluations that give teachers anxiety that hurts their overall emotional health and doesn't do any favors for them in the classroom. Being absent from the classroom for too long can cause this type of empty thinking.

When I choose to leave my classroom after teaching 15 years of HS English, I wanted to make sure that the job I took would allow me to still be in the classroom with teachers. I want to be able to co-plan and co-teach. I was able to to do that with MS students and it was amazing. I learned so much about teaching in the MS and how these students think. It is very important to stay connected if I'm going to share thoughts on teaching. It seems to make sense, but we also live in a country where the Secretary of Education has zero educational experience.

Then I saw this tweet in the morning,

This tweet received 26 likes. Similar empty tweets have received hundreds of tweets. Again, is it the hashtag that makes this important? What does this mean? Going all in is a terrible poker strategy. Do you go all in on a bluff? Do you wait until the perfect set of cards to go all in? Are students the cards? If you wait for the perfect had to go all in, are the other classes (previous hands) missing out because you did not feel they were goo enough to go all in? Look at all of the questions that this ridiculous tweet creates. This isn't even the good type of tweet that is supposed to make you think about your practice. I am thinking this is supposed to be some empowering and uplifting tweet. 

This is not the only tweet out there guilty of being hot air. Teachers are starting to push back against the nonsense and let these people know that their tweets are not helping educators, but hurting them. I'm sure they will only address these ideas when they notice book sales starting to dip, but it is important for teachers to expert more from each other. We need to push these people to dive deeper into their thoughts. If they require you to buy their book for continued conversations, then you know where they stand. 

Please do not be afraid to push back against anyone on Twitter that is trying to sell you something are tell you how to be a good teacher. Being a good teacher looks different in every educational environment around the world. Anyone that tells you there is a definitive way to be a good teacher is someone that is not in the classroom or has a very flawed view of what teaching really is. 

To anyone out there that has felt the guilt of what you do as a teacher because of these types of tweets, please know that there is a great community on Twitter that is supportive of the different ways that everyone teachers and just wants every teacher to know that there is room to grow as a professional online that is more that empty tweets, book hashtags, and pretty quotes on sunset backgrounds. 

For those sending this nonsense out there, be more than a hashtag. 


Dr. Marzano has replied to the criticism of his tweet. Here is the embedded tweet he sent. 

It is nice to see that Dr. Marzano has seen how his tweet might be viewed by others, reflected on it, and has decided to take full charge of his twitter account moving forward. I applaud him for doing this and I look forward to see his tweets on education to learn, and maybe push back a little. ;-)


Some people could not let things go, so I felt the need to go on a Twitter rant to fully explain what was missed in this blog post.

Here is 1/10.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Filling the Heart Meter

I have had a few days to think about ISTE 2018 and something struck me. While I might feel tired in the short term, my heart meter is full! I can't help but think of the many hours play Zelda and the stress of not having a full life meter to face the big challenge ahead. The end of the school year for me tends to leave me with a blinking half heart and that annoying beeping noise to remind me my health is low. In The Legend of Zelda, to regain all of your hearts, you need to find a fairy. Well, no magical sprites could be found at ISTE, but I did find my tribe and my Heart Meter filled all the way up. 

I used to dwell on how much the conference took from me, I never stopped to think about what the time with my friends was giving me. I get to hang with them, share stories from the year, joke around, give huge hugs, and just enjoy the company of some of the most amazing people I have ever known. 

Everybody needs to find the things that refill their heart meter so they can face the challenges that lie ahead. For me, connecting with my tribe at ISTE is what I need. Seeing new tech, checking out sessions, and connecting with vendors are interesting parts of ISTE, but can be done throughout the year if I really wanted. Seeing all of these amazing people in one place for a few days is a once a year thing. I can't imagine missing this. Every teacher needs to find the thing that fills their Heart Meter. For me, meeting my friends at ISTE is the best way to do that. 

These are a few of the pictures from the adventures of ISTE 2018. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Maker Mentality - Order Today! #MakerEd #ISTE18

Book Birthday!

After over a year of writing, editing, designing, and re-writing, my new book, The Maker Mentality is on sale today!

This book is designed to help schools change their culture to one that is more supportive of Making in general, but also creativity, innovation, the Arts, and so much more. Here are some of the very nice things other educators have said about The Maker Mentality. 

Founder and CEO, littleBits

The single most important aspect of The Maker Mentality for me is learning fearlessness. Not irresponsible fearlessness, but fearlessness with humility. You become fearless about failing, fearless about admitting you don't know something, fearless about trying something new, fearless about combining ideas or materials that have never been combined before, fearless about sharing, fearless about making. All the most exciting things I have learned have come from embracing my fearlessness and I believe we can do great things if we empower our kids to be fearless.

Author of "The Innovator's Mindset", Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant

Nick writes a book that is not only practical and has tons of ideas you can implement in your classrooms, but he does it in a fun way that makes this book far different from the traditional education book, with funny and inspiring stories throughout the text.

Author of Courageous Edventures

Nicholas has done it again! He has written another funny, engaging, and practical book that is perfect for all educators looking to improve their learning environment for students and staff. Filled with pop culture and personal stories, The Maker Mentality is the perfect book to explore what it means to be a school dedicated to the Maker ideal.

Principal at Whitt Elementary in Wylie ISD

Knowing the energy and effort that Nicholas has put into this book, I am confident that any level of Makerspace explorer will benefit from his guidance and support. Knowing that he is actually DOING the work allows me as an administrator to share his resource and feel like my team will be able to hit the ground running. That's a gold mine as a principal!

Media Specialist, Tampa Preparatory School

The Maker Mentality is about more than just makerspaces.  It is a culture, a concept that is made up of qualities that you will want to cultivate in your teaching practice, whether or not you have a makerspace in your school.  This book is full of great advice for ALL teachers and administrators. It includes enough witty pop culture references to keep you entertained throughout.

Co-Founder, Breakout EDU

Nerdtastic! This is a wonderful and practical exploration of how to become and to help foster the mentality of Making! Nicholas Provenzano has taken his expertise on the topic, experience as a classroom teacher, and truly rich and quirky sense of humor and love of pop-culture to craft a book that is perfect to the beginner and those who might not yet believe that they can. It is fun, full of great ideas, and all-around great! Now you know - and knowing (er - Making) is half the battle.

Learning Evangelist, Web20Classroom

As Makerspaces continue to invade learning spaces it will be important to understand their purpose, their limitations and all that is possible. Nicholas is a leading expert in helping all educators understand why having a “Maker Mentality” is more than just allowing students to use 3D Printers or learn coding. It’s a mentality that needs to be fostered in every student (and adult) so that they understand where true innovation comes from. This book isn’t just for those exploring Makerspaces. It’s for every educator and leader.

Maker Extraordinaire

The Maker Mentality is real. In addition to being chalk full of ideas and support for makerspaces in schools, it addresses the very real obstacles educators face head on. Acknowledging that this shift in learning is not easy, Provenzano drives home the “why” and gives practical strategies for adopting the “maker mentality” systemically.


Inspiring and motivating! Nicholas empowers ALL teachers to activate and harness their inner artist to model the maker mentality inside all of us.

Maker at Large

This book opens up the education world to dreaming to create your future. Anything can happen when you let your students explore. Like any episode of the A-Team, give the students materials and let them explore. This book will guide you through the process of becoming a maker and developing the mentality to push your student like a Sith Lord pushes their apprentice.

I'm super honored to have had Colleen Graves write a foreword for the book as well. If you are interested in getting your copy of The Maker Mentality, head to Amazon quick while supplies last!

Hugs and High Fives,


Monday, June 18, 2018

Where is @TheNerdyTeacher at #ISTE18?

I thought it might be cool to use Adobe Spark to create a list of my sessions, playgrounds, and other things I will be doing at ISTE for those that might want to stop and connect during the conference. Take a look and reach out if you want to chat!

Where is The Nerdy Teacher?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Codey Rocky in the Makerspace

I've been using Makeblock since I picked up the mBot a couple of years ago. It was such a fun robot to build. This is why I was excited to hear that Makeblock had launched a Kickstarter for their next robot, the Codey Rocky.

It is very easy to be skeptical of the videos posted by companies showing all of the amazing things their product can do, but I can tell you that Makeblock is not exaggerating what the Codey Rocky can do. Here are some of the standouts from using it in the Makerspace at school and seeing students interact with it out of the box. 

The mBlock 5 is their software that is based on Scratch and can interact with Scratch made programs. Block based coding has become the standard for entry level coding for beginners and it is nice to see Makeblock continue that trend. The cool part is that you can switch to Python coding with the click of a button. I love this option because it is perfect for instruction as students move away from block coding and gain experience using text based coding.

I was able to quickly download the software on my Mac and start dropping the code in with the blocks. The code is quickly uploaded to the Codey Rocky through the USB connection so you can see what you coded right away. I did a quick blinking code to get eyes opening and closing and it worked great! You can have the Codey Rocky move and use the sensors on the code and all you need to do is code, upload, and get started. Using the buttons on the Codey Rocky is the easiest way to test the code you have written and then move on to the sensors once you have a strong understanding of how the code works as written. 

Makebklock also provides 16 lessons for students and teachers to explore to help guide them on their journey exploring the Codey Rocky. The lessons run the full range of sensors that the Codey Rocky has and really gives the user a full experience of what the device can do. 

I mentioned the sensors above and they are sweet. Of the 10 sensors, the sound sensor, light sensor, and IR color sensor were the most fun to play with for the students. All of these sensors are accessible through their app that is available on all mobile and desktop platforms. 

The thing that stands out to me about the Codey Rocky that makes it a great addition to a Makerspace is that it allows students to be creators, not just consumers. They can write the code and direct the Codey Rocky to do what they want. As they become more comfortable adding sensors and working with Python, I can see students in the Middle School transitioning to Raspberry Pi and starting to build their own robots and use sensors with those creations. 

I highly recommend that parents and teachers give the Codey Rocky a look over when they are considering great tools to help student learn and create with code and hardware. I'm excited to see what my students have in store for the Codey Rocky next year when they have more time to create.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Students Share The @WonderWorkshop Cue and Sketch Kit

Good morning everyone! Today I am sharing the last video of the school year from the Knight's Forge Maker Show. The students spend a few weeks learning how to code and draw with the Wonder Workshop Sketch Kit and the Cue robot. I had so much fun watching them problem solve the code and trying to get the Cue to drive and use the markers to make objects. Here are just a few shots I shared on Instagram.

The students worked very hard on understanding how the Cue works with the Sketch kit and figured out how the Cue was able to move the pen up and down. The spent extra time on the video and this is really well done.

It has been awesome to watch them grow over the past few months as they have explored the different tools that are available in the Knight's Forge Makerspace. They have started talking about a mentor program for incoming 5th graders to help students interested in joining the team next year. I'm very proud of all of the hard work they have put in and can't wait to see what they come up with for the next school year.