Monday, March 29, 2010

Tip of the Hat to the Great Educators at Grandville High School

I've been meaning to blog about this video for a few weeks, but life always seems to get in the way. Please watch the video below created by the students of Grandville High School in Michigan. Also, here is an article the Detroit Free Press had on the school and the video.

I can't stop watching this video. It brings a huge smile to my face to see kids doing something they love and will never forget. The school got behind a crazy idea and supported the students in their endeavor. How many times have we, as teachers or administrators, told students that they cannot do something because it is a bit out there. I consider myself a pretty open minded teacher, but there are still times I tell kids to scale it back. After a week of state mandated tests, Grandville High School thought it would be nice to let their students dance and have some fun. I showed the video to my students and their first reaction was, "Why don't we do something like that?" Other students instinctively replied, "The Principals would never let us do that!" I told them if they never ask, they will never know. It got me think though. Why do the students feel like that? Is that an environment created by the staff of a building or by the students themselves?

I want to give a huge high five to Grandville Administrators that supported their student body to make this crazy video happen. You have helped create a memory that these students will never forget. We forget that school is not just a place for book learning. School should be a social experience for everyone involved. Not just certain groups of students that will always participate in the few programs offered, but for all of the students. Making every student feel a part of the school is not an easy task, but shouldn't that be the goal for all schools? Thank you Grandville for reminding me what a school can look like when the leaders listen to the students and support their ideas.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Scribble Maps = Geography Fun!

A few teachers from my PLN suggested that I take a look at Scribble Maps. I cannot thank them enough for encouraging me to look around. If you are familiar with Google Maps, this will not be a problem for you to use. The website uses Google Maps and allows you to draw on the map you have focused on. You can draw by hand, create circles or boxes, create text and even add images. This is a great way to use the SmartBoards in the classroom. Take a look at my example. You can save them for later editing or you can save them as JPEG's so you can add them to other documents like this:

Here is one I just did of my High School. It only took me 5 Minutes to draw, save and upload this picture.

You can do all sorts of things with this program. They have Terrain Maps, Satellite Maps and Hybrid Maps that you can use for different lessons. I know many teachers are always looking for different ways to incorporate their SmartBoards into their lesson plans and I think this is a good tool to use with the students. This could also be used in other classes as well. In English, I could see using this to show the students where the story is taking place and adding my own visuals to the map. Perhaps a map showing East and West Egg and adding different pictures from The Great Gatsby so the students can see where the story takes place. You have as many options as you can think of with this cool tool. Take a few minutes and take this tool for a test drive. You might be surprised at the different ways you come up with to use this in your classroom.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mission Monday 5/29

Here is the new #MissionMonday for all of you educators out there. Spring is in the air and that means cleaning time in my house. During my Spring Break, I will be doing some cleaning and organizing of various rooms and the garage. I was making my to do list (Editors note: Replace I with my wife.) and I realized that I have tons of teaching materials in digital folders. I realized that I needed to do some Digital Spring Cleaning.

Take a look through some of those old files on your computer and see what you can do away with. As teachers, we are natural pack rats. We hold on to tests or assignments we have not given in years. I still have my first exam I wrote in 2002. It is a terrible exam. I have no good reason to hold onto it. It will meet its demise next week. There are some classes that I will never teach again that I have many files on. I have plenty of Digital Spring Cleaning to do over my break.

So, your #MissionMonday, if you choose to accept it, is to do some Digital Spring Cleaning of your home and work computer.

Enjoy your week everyone!

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fotobabble Fun

I've been meaning to write a post on Fotobabble for a while. This is a very simple site that allows people to record voices over pictures. You can take pictures yourself, upload them and share them with friends. You can also take some other pictures from Google Pics or Flickr and record your voice over them as well. This could be great for students to narrate photography projects or other classes that have a visual requirement for a project.
There is also an iPhone app that allows you to take pictures, record your voice and share the creation on Facebook, Twitter or Text. I added it to my iPhone and it has been fun taking pictures and sharing them with friends. Here is a picture that I took at Grosse Pointe South's Artfest of Bartleby by K. Peabody. It's based on a character from the Graphic Novel Bone by Jeff Smith.

Using Fotobabble is fast and easy. It shoul dbe added to your toolbox of fun things kids can use to spice up a presentation. It could be a nice addition to a lecture you give in class. Think about the many different ways you could use it.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thoughts on Teaching in America Today

I found this in my email box this morning and thought I would share it with all of the teachers out there. It speaks to my early post, Weeds. Pass this along to everyone that is feeling the grind of teaching. It's important to know that we are not alone.

From Michigan Public Radio

MP3 Link
Teacher: Stop Blaming Us for Budget Woes

Keith Kindred (2010-03-25)
SOUTH LYON, MI (MICHIGAN RADIO) - I'm a high school social studies teacher recently proctored three days of state mandated tests. The rules kept us from doing anything else while the students took the tests except watch them bubble in their answers. No reading, no grading papers -nothing.
I like to daydream by nature, but my idea of torture is being forced to do nothing for hours, so instead I thought about all the work I had to do but could not. I also thought about my golf swing and I thought about health care reform and what President Obama should have done differently.
But mostly I thought about all the anger directed at my profession these days. I thought about the ubiquitous teacher bashing I witness in the mainstream media and wondered what we have done to deserve this.
Part of me gets it completely. The economy, especially here in Michigan, has been in free fall. The first people to lose their jobs in the The Great Recession were from the private sector. They resented those of us in the public sector who were still working - especially those with summers off.
Well, if it makes you feel any better, it was only a matter of time before we public servants would feel the effects of the deepest economic downturn since World War II. We're losing our jobs now, too.
But before you wallow like a happy hippo in a pool of schadenfreude, you should know this: The United States will need more than one million new teachers over the next twenty years. That's on top of the more than three million public school teachers we have now.
In response to this demand for teachers, I propose the following: Why don't all the teacher-bashers become teachers themselves? After all, our job is easy, our pay is extravagant, and our Cadillac health insurance is the bees knees.
We teachers, we're just livin' it up and the club has a million projected vacancies! Actually, there will be even more openings because, as we veteran teachers know, half the people who enter the profession will leave within the first five years.
You might discover, however, that teaching is not as easy as you think. I worked for a wholesale lumber company for seven years before I was a teacher and I used to tell people that there is more pressure in business, but way more stress in teaching. However, in this new era of testing madness, now we teachers get to enjoy copious amounts of both stress and pressure.
Five times a day I face 30 or so students who look up at me and give me approximately 30 seconds to persuade them to cooperate with my lesson. All this testing, by the way, simply makes that harder to do, but if I'm successful, it can be a wonderful class period and a rewarding endeavor. If I'm not, and even the best teachers are often not, it can be a physically and emotionally grueling day.
Funny that so many people leave such a cushy job, isn't it? Ten extra credit points to the first one to explain why.
In all seriousness, the anger and scapegoating directed at teachers reveals a gulf between what the public thinks it knows about our jobs and the challenging reality we face. I know you went to school yourself, but there's a world of difference between the student and teacher point of view.
I've been a teacher for nearly twenty years and I've never seen so many of my colleagues disillusioned and beleaguered. I can't claim to speak for every teacher, obviously, but ask others and I'm certain they'll agree that both morale and job satisfaction has never been so low.
For those of us who still have jobs, we're grateful and lucky to have them, and in Michigan anyway, the compensation is generally more than fair. But if you think this job is easy, or that we became teachers for the prestige or the pay, you don't know us - or our profession - at all.
There's plenty that needs fixing in America's schools, and teachers need to accept their share of the blame. But you could fire all three million of us and you know that wouldn't solve such a complex problem as the state of America's education system.
Despite your apparent resentment toward us, deep down, I think you know that's true.

© Copyright 2010, Michigan Radio

If you are not in education and read my blog, please tell the educators in your life how important you think they are. Right now, we are not feeling the love. Have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


According to, Weed is defined as follows:

1. a valueless plant growing wild, esp. one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop.
2. any undesirable or troublesome plant, esp. one that grows profusely where it is not wanted.

For those of you who do not know, I'm teaching in a district where the teachers do not have a contract. We have been negotiating to come up with an equitable contract that is best for the district, teachers and the students. I'm not going to get into the logistics of the negotiating process, but I do want to comment on what one School Board member was overheard saying. One board member, who has been screaming for pay cuts up to 22% for some teachers, was heard saying that Teachers are the weeds of the district. Now, he claims that the comment was taken out of context. I'm not sure what context being called a weed is ok, but many of us were very hurt by this comment.

According to the definition, a weed is a valueless plant. Statements like that make me feel valueless. I'm up and at school by 6:50am to get ready for school that starts at 8:00am. I chaperon dances, advise student clubs, tutor outside of school hours, mentor at-risk students, run a tech blog for the district and a host of many other things that have significant value to my school and the lives of students. I do not have to do any of those things. I do them because I know that students need the support of their teachers to be successful in school. What role do you, Mr. School Board Member, actually play in their education? How many times have you been in my building? Have you even been to all of the buildings in the district. A little bird has told me no. If you pull us out of the district, what is going to grow in it's place?

Mr. School Board Member, we are not the weeds of the district garden. We are the gardener. We work hard to cultivate the minds and bodies of your children to ensure they will grow just right. We plant the seeds of success in our students. The seeds of knowledge, the seeds of integrity, the seeds of hope, the seeds of inspiration, the seeds of dreams, the seeds love and so many more. If you remove the gardeners, what do you have? Are you going to plant the seeds? Do you know how to plant?

We were hired to do a tough, back breaking job. Every year, the state gives us less support and fewer tools, but we are expected to produce an even better crop than the year before. For years, we have produced some of the best students in the state and I'm proud to be a part of that. There is only so much you can take away from teachers before it does impact the students in the classroom. You hired some of the best gardeners in the state, why turn your back on us now? Have you thought about what your garden is going to look like when you get rid of all of the master gardeners?

While I was at the board meeting last night, I was almost moved to tears at the supportive Tweets from my PLN when I passed on the "weeds" comment. I know that what I do every day matters because there are people around the world that do the same thing and I know they matter. I have value because I see the kids smile when the realize they learn something. I have value because students run to me to let me know they got into their first choice of college. I have value because graduates come back and thank me for project that taught them Mood and Tone. I have value because without me, who is going to teach these children? Is it you Mr. School Board Member?

Monday, March 22, 2010

#MissionMonday for March 22

Today's #MissionMonday is "Treat yourself to something nice at the end of the day. As educators, we deserve nice things too."

It's not news that our jobs are not always easy. There are a million different things that are going on and we need to get them all done by the end of the school day or take all of it home. The economy has hit many areas very hard and education is an area that always loses the economic battle. I'm going to be spending tonight with my fellow teacher picketing the school board before the meeting because we are not happy with their suggested 14%-20% pay cut they are offering us in the new contract. Not cool.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the stress of things and forget to treat yourself to something nice. Our concern is focused on our students, other teachers, the district and our families. Take a moment to treat yourself to something nice. Maybe it is a cupcake or a cookie. A massage you have been putting off could go a long way. Remember that we are only useful to our students and loved one if we are happy, healthy and relaxed.

Have a great week everyone. Remember to "Teach the Crap out of those kids!"

Saturday, March 20, 2010

10 Weeks and No Tests VIII

The Gatsby Projects are in and here are some of the Student Created Assessments. Here is a selection of Prezi's, Glogs, Youtube videos and On-line magazines. I'm very proud of what my students have created and they all really showed me a deeper understanding of theme and symbolism in the story. I was able to assess their knowledge of the book easier this way than a standardized test.

While some students would have preferred to take a MC test, most of my students really loved the projects. They were excited to be able to express themselves and I was excited to see some of the things they were passionate about. A few complained about having to use technology in their project, but later admitted it was easy and fun to use. Enjoy the projects!

The East Egg Journal

Create Your OpenZine

The Gatsby Times

Create Your OpenZine

Here are some Great Glogs! Please check these out.

I hope that you have enjoyed following my journey with No Tests for 10 Weeks. There were many times I thought that this was not going to be possible. There were days where the students had not done the reading and I had to think of ways to encourage reading and check for reading without going to tests.

It forced me to really evaluate my lessons and explore what I was really trying to teach or assess. I was surprised to see that I wasn't sure why I was doing what I had always done. With a new lens to view my lessons, I was excited to see the new ways to attack my students with the literature I had been covering for years.

I highly suggest that all teachers try this experiment. You don't have to do it for 10 weeks, but maybe one unit. I think it is good for all teachers to take stock in their lessons every once in a while. I want to constantly evolve the way that I teach because I know that the students are in a constant state of change. I look forward to seeing how this experiment is going to influence the rest of my teaching.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dropbox: A Must For All Teachers

One of the biggest problems I have dealt with a a teacher is the inability to access information from my work computer when I'm at home or files on my home computer when I'm at work. I'm constantly emailing documents I create in one place so I can work on them more or use them in another place. Another way to transfer information is to use the Flash Drive. Sometimes I would forget it at home or leave it at work. I know I have talked to other teachers and they have said access to school files from home would be great. Well, I don't think the school will be opening up their servers to teachers anytime soon. Dropbox is the answer to all of our file sharing problems.

I've heard some of the teachers in my PLN talk about Dropbox, but I really didn't think twice about it.  Crawling around the web the other day, I stumbled upon Dropbox and finally decided to give it a look. I'm angry at myself for waiting this long to investigate. The days of Flash Drives and Emailing documents are over. All of my school documents are only a few clicks away. Below is a video you should watch to give you the ins and outs of the system. below I will give you some of the key points that have me excited and some thoughts about how I could use it in the classroom.


I hope you liked what you saw. Once you jump on their website, they have another great video walking users through the Dropbox process. Here are some of the things that really got me excited about using Dropbox as a teacher.

  • I no longer have to worry about transferring documents from one computer to another. If I create a test at home, I only need to save it to the Dropbox Folder. Once I get to school, I only need to log-in to to download the document and use in class. 
  • Sharing is easier. We have shared folders in the district, but many of us do not use them for one reason or another. Most of what I do is created at home. Once I create it there, I email to school, make copies and that's that. With Dropbox, I can create folders for each unit I tech and share them with the teachers in my Department from the luxury of my home computer. There is no need for extra steps. Once a folder is shared with other people, they will be able to access it whenever they want. Again, teachers are no longer chained to their computer in the classroom and that is a huge plus. 
  • I can create folders for work and for personal use. Sometimes I want to share a bunch of pictures from a trip. I can place the pictures in the folder and share it with family and friends. Too often, pictures are all over the internet for people to see, but this can allow people to actually keep copies of pictures taken at events. 
  • iPhone access! I downloaded the Dropbox app and can have access to all of the same documents on my phone that I would see on the computer. I can double check to see what documents I have access to from anywhere in the world. If I decide to make a document accessible to the public, I do not have to wait to get to a computer to do so. I can also take pictures from my camera and post them in the shared folder. On a trip, family and friends could view pictures as I take them instead of having to wait until I get home to upload them to a site like Flickr
  • I can share individual files with anyone I want. If I really don't want someone to look at my entire folder, I can store the document (Word Doc, Picture, Song, etc) in a public file and it will create a special URL link I can send to anyone I choose. Click here for an example.
The last point is very exciting to me. In theory, I could create public folders for each of my classes and share documents with my students from any computer I want. hey could be assignments, news articles, pictures, etc. Not only that, student could share documents with me through a public folder. This could be the last step in my attempt to create a paperless classroom. Now, any assignment I want, can be turned in to a public folder for me to grade. I'm sure there will be bugs to work out, but this could be a valuable tool as teachers look for ways to make important class information available to students no matter where they are. 

Lastly, Dropbox is not for teachers only. Any person that uses multiple computers will find this helpful. Think about the times yo have wanted to work on a document, but it was on the "other" computer. With Dropbox, those problems are now gone.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Everything I ever needed to know about technology integration I learned from watching Ghostbusters

I know this is a bit early, but I had some time and I thought I would bust this blog post out. In the next couple of weeks, I will be checking my Student Created Assessments and working on a research project for my Masters class on Assessments. As Bart Simpson would say, “Oh, the ironing.”

I had a blast typing this one up because it was really tough and forced me to really look deep into tech integration and how to best accomplish it for teachers and students. The quotes are not in movie order, just the order I thought of them and found them on Enjoy the post and let me know what you think. I will have a poll up shortly to have my PLN vote on my next movie topic.

Dr Ray Stantz: You know, it just occurred to me that we really haven't had a successful test of this equipment.
Dr. Egon Spengler: I blame myself.
Dr. Peter Venkman: So do I.
Dr Ray Stantz: Well, no sense in worrying about it now.

There is nothing worse than going to a presentation and realizing that the presenter does not seem to have a firm grasp on everything they are presenting. Imagine giving a presentation and not being able to answer many of the question posed to you about a new piece of technology. It is crucial that all teachers play with new tech and see how it works before trying to convince others teachers to use it. One bad presentation and teachers may never consider using it for their class. Worse yet, they may give up on all technolgy if it is a really bad presentation. So, please do not make the same mistake Ray made by not fully testing the equipment before going out into the public with it. You might not get as luck as they did.

Dr Ray Stantz: I think we'd better split up.
Dr. Egon Spengler: Good idea.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Yeah... we can do more damage that way.

Working together is a great idea when it comes to tech integration. The more people you have on board, the more likely you are to convince others to join in. Presenting to a large group might be the easiest way to spread the word about new pieces of technology, but it might not be the most effective way to convert the non-tech users. Think small and work together. Get a group of like-minded teachers and work together to convince smaller groups of teachers. Fill a computer lab with a few “ringers”. They can show struggling or reluctant teachers how easy it is to learn and use the new tool you are presenting.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Hee hee hee! "Get her!" That was your whole plan, huh, "get her." Very scientific.

Very simply, planning is very important to proper technology integration. I’ve been very excited about using new tools in the classroom, but I needed to wait and use them in the right place. Not all of my lessons plans will accommodate every Web 2.0 Tool I come across. Proper planning needs to be done to ensure I get the best results out of the lesson, the students and the tech tool.

The same can be said about using the tech with other teachers. Make sure everything is planned out as best as you can to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Prepare the same way you would for class. As teachers, it is easy to get flummoxed when presenting new material to students, but we shouldn’t get so stressed out when presenting to other teachers. Proper planning will prevent being chased out of the Library like Ray, Egon and Peter were.

Dr. Egon Spengler: There's something very important I forgot to tell you.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Don't cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?
Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.
Dr. Peter Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, "bad"?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Dr Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

Make sure that all parts of a new tool are explained before students or teachers dive in. The last thing we want is for them to make a big mistake or encounter problems that leave a bad taste in their mouth. Sadly, one bad experience could turn them off to different forms of technology later on.

Dr. Peter Venkman: We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!

This positive attitude is important when trying to convince other teachers to use new technology in their class or showing students the importance of using Web 2.0 Tools. Show the passion you have for technology and you will be rewarded. Peter was excited about catching his first ghost and he wanted everyone around him to know it. The great thing about Peter is that he was the Showman of the group. The rest of the team needed him to spread the word and get everyone else in NYC excited about having his or her ghosts busted. Teachers need to approach tech integration the same way. Be excited and sell the web tool to everyone in the room. If you are excited, they will be excited. That’s when sharing and learning can take place.

Dr Ray Stantz: Listen... do you smell something?

I’m not sure how this fits in with tech integration, but this is one of my favorite movie quotes of all time. I mean, what the heck does that even mean? I assume Ray knew what he was talking about, but the statement confused Peter and Egon. I guess it’s about communication. Communication is always important. Whether it’s about Ghost Busting or tech integration. ;-)

Janine Melnitz: You're very handy, I can tell. I bet you like to read a lot, too.
Dr. Egon Spengler: Print is dead.

Well, this says it all. Back in 1985, Egon knew were the world was heading. As an English teacher, it is hard for me to hear. However, I like to think that print has just evolved. Tech is where most of our reading takes place. I read the paper on-line. My Kindle allows me to read many books at once without taking up space and killing trees. Showing the other benefits of using tech in the classroom might persuade more teachers to ride the tech train. I tell teachers about the amount of paper and copying time I save by using programs like Livebinders to store documents and they are amazed. Sometime the tool is not enough to convince people. Showing them the benefits of using the tool long term might help win more people over.

Dr. Egon Spengler: I have a radical idea. The door swings both ways, we could reverse the particle flow through the gate.
Dr. Peter Venkman: How?
Dr. Egon Spengler: [hesitates] We'll cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: 'Scuse me Egon? You said crossing the streams was bad!
Dr Ray Stantz: Cross the streams...
Dr. Peter Venkman: You're gonna endanger us, you're gonna endanger our client - the nice lady, who paid us in advance, before she became a dog...
Dr. Egon Spengler: Not necessarily. There's definitely a *very slim* chance we'll survive.
[pause while they consider this]
Dr. Peter Venkman: [slaps Ray] I love this plan! I'm excited to be a part of it! LET'S DO IT!

Sometimes it’s a good thing to go against traditional thought for a great cause. Stress this to teachers that are considering using tech in their lessons. Some of the best decisions I have made as an educator have been the ones that have gone against traditional thought. Currently, I have students creating their own assessments for The Great Gatsby because I have sworn off traditional assessments for 10 weeks. Teachers have scoffed, but I have seen some of the most creative ideas the past couple of weeks. Kids are talking and sharing ideas on how to express the themes from the story in their projects. They are more involved in the learning process now than they were for other books. No longer are they memorizing facts and spitting them back out. They are taking information and creating new ideas with them.

New Technology should be approached in the same way. Think of lessons that you currently teach and consider approaching them from a completely different perspective. Have students involved in the process. They might show you a tool or two that can change the way you teach. Do not be afraid to go against the standard. That is how true innovation comes about.

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria.


Dr. Peter Venkman: Ray has gone bye-bye, Egon... what've you got left?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Sorry, Venkman, I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.

Some teachers will feel this way when new tech is being introduced. It is up to the teachers with the tech experience to explain and calm these teachers down. Rally the tech troops and work together to calm the nerves of the un-tech teachers. For students, be prepared to answer plenty of questions from the class and possibly the parents. People are scared of the unknown and it is the job of the teacher to reassure everyone that it is going to be ok and the new tech is not out to get anyone. For some, their world of teaching is ending, but it’s important to show them that new teaching world that is replacing it is not that scary.

Dana Barrett: You know, you don't act like a scientist.
Dr. Peter Venkman: They're usually pretty stiff.
Dana Barrett: You're more like a game show host.

Sometimes when a teacher presents new tech, they will have to act like a game show host and not a teacher. Make the new tech seem exciting and very rewarding. In college, I was required to take an acting class or be in a school play to fulfill my education degree. I loved this idea, because it really weeded out the people who could not speak in front of a group of people. Teaching is even tougher than performing on stage because at least the audience wants to be there. That cannot always be said about the people sitting in the classroom. I ended up being in a one act and I loved it. I understood that I needed to put on a performance in every class that I taught to get the kids excited about the material. If I’m not excited, why should they be? The same is true about integrating new tech into the classroom or the building. If you want other teachers to use a new piece of technology, you need to sell it to them. They need to feel the energy you felt when you first used it. Share that experience with them.

Dana Barrett: That's the bedroom, but nothing ever happened in there.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What a crime.

This is a stretch, but there is nothing worse than underutilizing tools. As a teacher, we have access to some amazing tools on the Internet and it is a crime for teachers not to use them. Using these tools can make education better for everyone. Students will love them if they are given the chance to use them and create. Parents will love them because they will see their children passionate about assignments and using the computer for something other than Facebook. These are wonderful tools that can improve education. As teachers, we need to advocate to the rest of the world about the importance of using these tools to help our students be prepared for the future.

Winston Zeddemore: Ray, when someone asks you if you're a teacher, you say, "YES"!

OK, so I changed the word “god” to “teacher”. That is how I feel though. I love telling people that I’m a teacher and I love that I’m a Nerdy one at that. Using tech in the classroom is something I deem important for my students. I see some of them growing and learning in different ways. I’m sure there were teachers that lifted their nose at the thought of using overhead projectors or even using electronic mail to communicate with parents. Now, they cannot live without them. As new tech comes and goes, it is important that we stand up and say, “Yes, I’m a teacher and I’m going to use anything possible to teach my students.”

This post has been the hardest one to write. I love “Ghostbusters”. It is one of my favorite comedies and overall movies. However, this movie really lends itself to the physical comedy and timing. There are some very quote worthy lines, but some are not as funny when pulled out of context. I hope this one lives up to the standards over the other posts. I’ll have a new poll up later this month so the masses can vote on the next movie topic. I’m always open to other movie suggestions if you have them.

Thanks to all of my readers and I look forward to all of your comments.

P.S. Here are a couple of gems for you to watch. Look for the awesome cameos in this video. What were these people thinking?

This is for the truly Nerdy Teachers out there. I loved this cartoon growing up.

Word cloud made with WordItOut

#Mission Mondays

"Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays?" - Office Space

We have all felt the dread of a Monday morning. The kids do not want to be there and it seems to take a little extra nudge to get them back on track for the work week. I will readily admit that I find myself dreading Mondays just like the kids do. I look at all of the things I need to accomplish in the week and count down the minutes until next Friday during more stressful days. To help combat this, I would give my self a Mission for the week. Something that has a positive effect for a student, a group of students, or other teachers. Some of you may have seen my #MissionMonday hash tag and RTed it. Thanks. For those who have not seen it or have ignored it, it is a great way to look at the week in a more positive light instead of the stressful 5 day forecast.

The #MissionMonday missions are never very hard or complicated. They are not going to revolutionize the world of education, but they can make a difference in a teacher's or student's life. One Monday I suggested that teachers stand in the hallway and say hello to students you have not taught. I teach in a High School of 1600+ students, so I was waving and smiling plenty that week. Some of those students probably thought I was out of my mind, but I think that some of the other students were happy to be recognized in the hallway. Too often students become wallflowers in our schools and a simple hello can go a long way.

Another Monday was designated to calling a parent with good news instead of bad news. Parents and students have been trained to expect bad news in note form or by way of telephone. I went out of way to note some good things about some of my students and let the parents know in email or through a hone call. Needless to say, many parents were speechless at first, but very happy to get the call. The kids were highly embarrassed on the outside, but I'm sure they were thrilled on the inside.

These little missions have allowed me to find the positive aspects of my job when the mounting stress of a work week try to overcome me. Start small if you are busy. These Missions are not meant to make your life more complicated, but a little more focused on the positives in our lives.

Join me in making the educational work week a better place by re-tweeting my #MissionMonday Tweets or even starting your very own. Sometimes a little push from the PLN can make a big difference in a teacher's day and that difference can have an impact on an entire school. Together, we can change the world of education and it might start with one little mission.

Good Morning PLN, Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to help fight the Monday blahs that teachers and students feel every week. This will not be easy, but I feel you are up to the task. As always, should you or any of the PLN be tired or stressed, the *rest of the PLN will be there to support you. Good luck.

*Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This was the original line at the end of the Mission Impossible statement. I really wanted to make a comment about Arne Duncan here, but I wanted to end the speech on a more of a positive note.

Friday, March 12, 2010

10 Weeks and No Tests Update VII

This is a quick update on my class experiment. I was discussing the student created assessments with my American Literature students and I wanted to know how the projects were going. The majority of them said they were going well and it was a nice change of pace from the regular multiple choice tests they normally receive. One students said they did not like the student created assessment project at all. When asked, they said, "I would rather just take a tests. It's easier to just tell me what is on the test. That way I can study my notes and take the test and get a good grade. You could have just read the cliff notes and do a project." I was a little surprised by this response. This students is one of the best I have this year and they were a little annoyed by he whole process. I told this student that someone could just as easily read the cliff notes and take a MC test or just be really good at guessing having never read the book. I continued to say that at least with a project, the student who didn't read would be forced to work with the information and create something new instead of filling in ovals and moving on.

I'm not sure if this student is convinced, but it did show me something really sad about the educational system as a whole. Even our best students look at testing as just a way to get the grade and move on to the next subject. They don't see assessments as measuring anything substantial. It's that mentality that is hurting the entire educational process. As teachers, we need to stress the importance of varied assessment in the classroom. Think about why you give the test. Is it because it's easier to grade? Is it really the best way to assess the student's learning?

On a slightly different note...

One of the parts of my American Literature class is vocabulary. I give a Word of the Day every day (duh) and have given a test on them after they have received the 25th word. It's not their favorite part of class, but many of the words are later scene on the ACT or the SAT and students always thank me afterward. One of these tests is abut to fall during my No Tests time period and I now have to think of another way to assess their knowledge of these words. This problem has been a blessing. I came up with multiple ways for students to use these words instead of just memorizing them for a test. I could have students visually represent certain words and present them to class. I could have them create crossword puzzles or have them work in groups and come up with some type of Photostory using all of the words. There are so many different possibilities I'm truly excited about revamping a process that has worked fairly well over the past 7 years.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ISTE 2010 Here I Come!

Heck ya! My principal and department chair came up with the funds to send me to ISTE 2010 in Denver. This will be first trip out West. I'm very excited to see some of the great presentations and I hope to meet up with some of my PLN. Below you will find the events I scheduled for the conference. If you are going or plan on going, please drop me a line. I'm flying solo on this trip, so I'll need some buddies to hang with and explore the streets of Denver. I'll release my flight and lodging details as soon a they are made.

12:30 - 3:30 Workshop
Sup223B Web 2.0 Tools

8:30 - 11:30
MA307L SMART Lessons
I'll be leaving early to get to my next session.

11:00 - 12:00
BM107 Digital PLN's

11:00 - 12:00
BT202 Cell Phones On

8:30 - 9:30
BW301 Wikis

If you plan on going to the conference, please drop me a line and we can organize a Tweet-up and plan world domination. I mean, share sound educational practices.

The Sad State of Detroit Public Schools

This is my 50th blog post and I wanted it to be about something a little more serious than the usual Movie/Tech posts. I've been thinking about this editorial I read last week about the President of the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) and I decided this would be a great place to share my thoughts. In an article in the Detroit News, Laura Berman shines a light on a very interesting aspect of DPS. It turns out that Otis Mathis, the President of DPS, cannot form a coherent written sentence. Click here to read the full article, but here is a snippet of an actual email that Mathis sent out to supporters. This is not corrected for spelling or grammar errors. This is exactly as it was mailed out.

“If you saw Sunday's Free Press that shown Robert Bobb the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, move Mark Twain to Boynton which have three times the number seats then students and was one of the reason's he gave for closing school to many empty seats.”

This is the man that was elected to run the failing school system. He was selected in a 10-1 vote to be named President of the School Board. Otis admits that he does not have a strong command of the English Language when it comes to writing, but he is a strong leader. He graduated from Detroit’s Southwestern High School with a .98 or a 1.8 depending on who you ask. After serving time in the Navy, he went to Wayne State University. For the next 15 years he failed the English Proficiency Exam. He actually sued the school to remove it in the early 90’s. In 2007 Wayne State dropped the exam and he filed for a diploma and finally graduated. These facts are not contested by Otis. These are not rumors. Here is another snippet of an email Otis sent. Again, no corrections have been made.

“Do DPS control the Foundation or outside group? If an outside group control the foundation, then what is DPS Board row with selection of is director? Our we mixing DPS and None DPS row's, and who is the watch dog?”

Before I rail on DPS and how they have failed the children of Detroit, I will give full disclosure. I went to Private Catholic School from Kindergarten until my Junior year of College. I finished my Undergrad work at Wayne State University and passed the English Proficiency Exam on my first try. I currently live and teach in the Suburbs of Detroit. I did spend the first 10 years of my life living in Detroit and lived there when I finished up my teaching degree. I’m a huge supporter of Detroit and think it can become great again. Now, on to my thoughts.

You have to be kidding me Detroit. Yes, I’m talking to the city as a whole. What other city would tolerate a person running their School Board that cannot put two sentences together in the written form. You need to expect better things from your leaders if students are supposed to follow. No wonder the system is in such a mess. How dare you sue Robert Bobb (The Emergency Finial Manager appointed by Gov. Granholm) because he is not qualified to make educational decisions for the School District. Are you serious? You placed Otis in charge over Tyrone Winfrey, a University of Michigan academic officer. Do you seriously wonder why parents are fleeing your district?

I would do anything at this point to get my kids out of there if I found out the School Board President communicated like this. I do not believe that he is an example of how a special education student can pull themselves up a be a success. It shows the glaring failures of an educational system that allowed a student with that poor of a track record graduate high school on time. Not only that, what does his writing ability say about Wayne State University. He went to school before computers were all over the place. Are you telling me that he never had to write a paper for any of his classes? Sign me up for that program then. Maybe that is why he was a counselor for Wayne State. That’s right, according to the article, he was a counselor there. He couldn’t even pass a simple test, how can he be hired as a counselor?

As teachers, we are expected to go above and beyond to reach each and every student that walks into our classroom. Shouldn’t we all expect more from the leaders at the top? As a student, are you going to listen to the School Board President tell you about the importance of going to class when you know he skipped HS regularly and was still elected to an important position? Parents, is this the guy you want driving the car as he attempts to turn around the lowest performing big city in the country? I feel sad for those students who are stuck in DPS. It’s not their fault their school system is terrible. I hope Robert Bobb keeps working to get rid of the scams and bad people to create a functioning educational system again. It’s not an easy job, but it might be easier if he had the right leaders in place.

From The Detroit News:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Great Sites for Teachers and Students

I cut and pasted these items from my school blog. If you click the titles it will take you there. Thanks to all of the wonderful teachers that shared these resources with me. Let us all keep up the great work and share everything we find.  

Great Science Resources
Cell Biology Animation is a great site for 3D pictures of different aspects of Cellular Biology. Here is a great example of DNA Transcription. These are some great little pieces that could help the visual learners in the classroom.
Science Experiments - This site is filled with wonderful resources for science students and teachers. There are links to research sites, an experiment blog, science videos, and much much more. Take a look around and see what it has to offer.

Here is a great article about using Twitter in the classroom. The article is geared more toward College education, but it could prove very useful in HS classrooms as well. Using technology to engage shy students is a great idea. I have found success in using Wallwisher in my classes to motivate and encourage the shy students to participate. I'm a Twitter advocate, as you may have noticed, and I really think it can help students. Maybe yelling at students to put their cell phones away is a thing of the past. What do you think?

Mashable Article
Here is a link to a wiki called New Tools Workshop. You will find great videos on how and why you should use Google Docs in the classroom. You will also find many other great online writing tools to use in the classroom. There are some good sites on citation that English teachers should check out. There is a nice collection of Vocabulary sites that teachers of all grades could use. Explore the different sites and see if there is anything that works for you. I will take a deeper look at some of the sites and blog about them at a later date. 

I know I have spent plenty of hours on PowerPoint creating Jeopardy games for various units. Now, there is a site that can make Jeopardy games easy and fun to use. Jeopardy Labs allows you to create the games and store them on their website. You no longer have to worry about sending large files over email or carrying a flash drive around. This would be great to use with a IWB in the classroom.

Here is a great example of a Jeopardy Game of To Kill a Mockingbird. I have students that are using the site to create a game for The Great Gatsby. It is just another way to change up the learning environment for your students. See what great Jeopardy games are already there and considering adding your own and sharing with the rest of your department. Over time, a department could create a nice collection of review games to use in the classroom.

I feel bad that the I've excluded the Foreign Language Department from my Tech Posts. I sent some Tweets out yesterday and have a host of wonderful sites to offer you. Take a look at these sites and let me know if they are helpful.

Here is a great webpage from Sra. Bivens. She uses this with her class and has links to other helpful resources that students could use. Seeing how my Spanish Education stopped in 1994, I leave it to you to navigate the page and explore the contents. Warning, it does have music that plays when you enter the page. I was rocking to Shakira. :-)

Here is another great collection from Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1). He has orgaized an entire directory with links for German, French, Chinese, and Spanish. He added the German section just for me and you. Please check out the rest of his blog for excellent resources. Since I'm not a master of these languages, please explore these sites and let me know what you think. If you find any that are helpful, let me know and I will give them a spot on the blog. Here is the page.

Here is a blog post from What Ed Said that talks about making Foreign Language more engaging. It's a quick read with some very interesting ideas that may actually apply to other classes as well. 
I hope you found these sites useful. Drop me a line if there is anything you are looking for but can't seems to find. I might know a guy. :-)

Monday, March 8, 2010

10 Weeks and No Tests Update VI

Today I collected student proposals for their self assessments. Here is a list of some of the assessement ideas that stood out to me.

One students will be creating fake Facebook pages for 5 characters from The Great Gatsby and use posts and gifts to show theme and symbolism.

Many students will be making collages and using online presentation tools to narrate their collages after they create them.

One student will be creating a mix tape of songs dedicated to various characters that will also be linked to a Prezi or other presentation tool to explain the song choice.

A group of boys will be using Halo 3 for the XBox and create and alternate ending. They will place images in the game to represent the symbols and themes.

A pait of sisters are going to create a flag that represents two symbols and themes from the story.

One student will be creating greeting cards that characters would have sent each other over the course of the novel.

A children's novel based on The Great Gatsby.

A series of comic strips retelling the story.

A student will be recording a song and performing it for class.

One student will be using Openzine to create 3 magazines for the story.

One student will be using Glosgster to create a collage for the story.

A couple of board game proposals.

8 minute television interview featuring Daisy and Jordan.

A Paper Mache mask to demonstrate symbols and themes.

There are a few more that will be trickling in, but those were the ones that really stood out. Some students are sticking ot the tried and true PowerPoint, but I hope they will consider other tools after they see what the other students use during our presentations. Look for a new post next week with links to some of the student work to see how they meet their own expectations.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Everything I Ever Needed to Learn about Technology Integration I Learned from Back to the Future.

It is now time for the second installment of Everything I Ever Needed to Learn about Technology Integration I Learned from… The following quotes come from the first movie since many of the same lines are repeated in all three. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote and play a part in this silly venture by me. Here are the quotes and what I learned from them in no specific order.

George McFly: Last night, Darth Vader came down from planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn't take Lorraine out that he'd melt my brain.

I love helping other teachers integrate technology into their lessons. When teachers come to me and ask questions and want to know if there is anything out there that can improve what they already do, I get excited. However, there are still many teachers out there that do not and will not use new forms of technology in their classroom. Marty decided to scare his father into asking his mother out on a date. In schools, I’m not sure that fear is the best approach in getting teachers to try new things. Fear is what is usually keeping teachers away from new technology. I find it best to identify those teachers that might be resistant and slowly show them different ways new technology can be implemented into their lessons. Sometimes it takes only one piece of technology to get a teacher hooked and looking for other ways to spice up their lesson plans.

Marty McFly: Wait a minute, Doc. Ah... Are you telling me that you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?

Dr. Emmett Brown: The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?

I find it funny when I have conversations with teachers and they talk about the great technology they use in the classroom and it turns out they have been using the same PowerPoint presentations since 1999. I agree with Doc Brown when he says, “…why not do it in style?” Go out and look for the best and the brightest technology out there and find a way to integrate it into the classroom. I recently moved my note taking lectures to Prezi and my kids love it. Last week, I added Wallwisher to my Prezis. I understand that this is not the path for everyone, but teachers should not be satisfied with the run of the mill. Go out and make a splash when you use technology.

Lou: You gonna order something, kid?
Marty McFly: Ah, yeah... Give me - Give me a Tab.
Lou: Tab? I can't give you a tab unless you order something.
Marty McFly: All right, give me a Pepsi Free.
Lou: You want a Pepsi, PAL, you're gonna pay for it.

Knowing your audience is important when it comes to convincing teachers to include more technology into their lessons. If you do not have common ground, they may have no idea what you are talking about. I saw this play out at my school recently. I started a blog for my school to identify helpful sites for teachers and students. My first post was about how to use the blog and I ended it with suggesting that teachers add my blog to their RSS Feed for easy following. I was hit with a bunch of emails asking me what RSS meant and how to use it. My follow up post was explaining RSS Feeds and how to use them. I forgot that not all of the teachers in my building knew all of the same terminology I did. I understood how frustrated Lou must have felt when this young kid was talking gibberish. I think it’s important to remember that frustration as I talk to other teachers.

Dr. Emmett Brown: I'm sure that in 1985 plutonium is available in every corner drugstore, but in 1955 it's a little hard to come by.

As I search for goodies on the world wide web, I often get frustrated when I find great sites, but my school blocks them for some unknown reasons or we do not have the correct plug-ins to view them. Also, I have sent some great sites to teachers that do not have the ability to look at them at home because their home set up is not able to handle it. High-powered technology is great for some teachers, but sometimes I need to remember to find the basic tools that all teachers will be able to use and try at home. Try to remember that all districts, sadly, were not created equal and we should try to find sites and new technology that is accessible to all classrooms.

Marvin Berry: [on the phone, as Marty plays "Johnny B. Goode"] Chuck. Chuck. It's Marvin - your cousin, Marvin BERRY. You know that new sound you're looking for? Well, listen to this.

Sharing is important. New technology does not search for teachers; teachers need to actively look for it themselves. Let’s be honest, some teachers are just not going to look for it. When I started this blog, my Twitter account and my school blog, it was because I wanted to share the great sites I found with the teachers of the world. If you find something that you think other teachers would like, do not hesitate to share it with as many people you want. If Marvin Berry never picks up the phone, think about all of the great music we would have missed.

Marty McFly: [following] What-what the hell is a gigawatt?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if there is something new out there. Even though I think of myself as a tech savvy person, I have told myself it’s ok to ask questions of other people. Whether it’s on Twitter or another person in my building, if I have a question, I will ask. Even if you are the “tech guy/gal” of your building, don’t be afraid to ask questions of others.

Marty McFly: I guess you guys aren't ready for that, yet. But your kids are gonna love it.

Some teachers look at new technology and don’t understand how it will affect their lives. However, they need to understand that the new technology is not about directly impacting their lives, it’s about introducing new ideas to students who might take those tools and create amazing things with them. Teaching students with the same tools I was taught with is not going to help prepare them for college. (Side Note: I graduated HS in 1997 but never used email at school because we did not have it and never used the computer lab because we didn’t have one. Teachers didn’t even have computers in their room. I received a great education without them, but why would I want to go backward when I could have my students move forward?) It’s important to convince reluctant teachers that using new technology in the classroom is not about making the teachers better; it’s about preparing the students. (Side Note 2: My amazing wife, @JenniferPro, said this quote would be perfect for the post and she was right. Thanks!)

Needles – What are you, chicken?

Needles (played wonderfuly by Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) does a great job at getting Marty to do what he wanted by calling him a chicken. Marty got into that car accident with the Rolls Royce and lost his job because he couldn’t ignore the name-calling. A simple, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” could have prevented all of his problems. I know that there are some teachers in my building that are not as open minded when it comes to using new technology in their classroom and delete my tech emails without even opening them, but I’m not going to let that dictate how I work. I will continue to send out the updates to help the teachers that want the help despite their silly comments.

Doc Brown: If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

This is just a great bit of advice from Doc. It applies to anyone in any field. I know I have said this to my students over the years and I truly believe it. Marty wants to become a Rock Star and with the help of the lyrics of Huey Lewis and the News, he can be a success. When I set out to use a new piece of technology I tell myself it is going to be a huge success and I will deal with any obstacles that arise. Think about Doc Brown the next time you plan to integrate new technology into the classroom.

I had a blast writing this post and I look forward to writing my next one. Thanks to IMDB for providing the exact quotes I needed. For the next post,  just remember one very important question, "Who you gonna call?"

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

10 Weeks No Tests Update V

Here is how I've decided to work in Wallwisher into my daily lectures with Prezi instead of using daily quizzes or chapter tests. I use my Gatsby Prezis to lead the discussion while I have students open to a page of links to various Wall I created for specific questions.When I come to an important part of the presentation, I tell students to click on a certain question and respond to the question. Once everyone has responded, I call on students to read a response another student posted. Here are a couple of examples of what students put together.

The kids loved this. When I asked them what was good about taking notes this way, multiple kids from different classes said it was nice to "hear" from different people in the class instead of the same 4 or 5 students.  Another student said it was nice to be able to see some other ideas when he was stuck and trying to figure out the best way to start. many said they liked feeling apart of the note giving process. They were creators instead of copiers. If that is not a ringing endorsement of what I was trying to do, I'm not sure what is.

I've decided to create Wallwishers for each class so they can post questions and answers to help one another as they start to work on their final assessments. One students apologized for not reading today, but said she got the gist of some of it because she spent some time online looking up information for hr final project. Ha!

I teach three sections of American Literature, so I will need to create a separate wall for each class and for each lesson. Maybe I should have all three classes work on the same wall. Tell me what you think about that.

Lastly, I've noticed that the students are more relaxed when they don't have the looming threat of a test over their head. It's nice to have students that are a bit more calm when it comes to learning. It makes the process a bit smoother for everyone involved.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any tips or suggestions as I head into the final weeks of this experiment.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Low Morale Fighting Force

It seems like we all seem to know teachers in out building that is dealing with low morale. Well, it's time to stop talking about it and make a move. Join the Low Morale fighting Force. We might even get T-Shirts! If we are not going to help these teachers, who is going to? I challenge all of you to find that teacher and tell them how great they are and offer your ear for a few minutes and let them know they are not alone. We need to stick together and help each other so we can help the students. Positive attitudes are just as contagious as bad ones. Spread the good vibes and they will spread to others.

If this is a larger school issue, think about planning a trip to the local drinking establishment after school on Friday and raise a glass to your hardworking staff. We have all heard about the student who only receives a smile from a teacher all day and the impact it had on them. Think about the teachers that work all of the time and never get told they are doing a good job. If yo have to start with one teacher at a time, start there. All it takes is one pebble to start the ripple in the pond. Are you going to be that pebble?

If you are on board with this, leave a comment sharing how you helped fight low morale in your school.

Let the power of our PLN fight low morale around the world!

10 Weeks No Tests Update IV

I know I just posted Part III, but there is another update to my no tests initiative. I introduced the Student Created Assessment to my American Literature Students today and they were pretty excited. "So we will not have to take some big MC test at the end of the book?" Also heard, "I can create any assessment I want to show you what I've learned. What's the catch?"

The kids were shocked because they were not sure what I was up to. They are not used to having the power of assessment in their hands. Once I walked them through the requirements (You can see them here on my Livebinder) there was a burst of ideas from the various students. Here are just a few of the ideas they came up with that I am really excited about.

Someone suggested creating a facebook page for the characters in the story. Something like the ones people created for Hamlet and Star Wars.

Create an infomercial for the book explaining the benefits of reading the book.

Creating a sculpture that represents the themes in the story.

Photo montages depicting important aspects of the story.

Re-writing the book as a graphic novel.

2 minute movie recap or a trailer for a new movie version of the book.

These are just a few of the great ideas that students came up with during a 19 minute class period. (We had a half day for Staff PD) Tell me that filling in bubbles is "better" for our students. I'll keep everyone posted on the projects as they come in. Proposals are due Monday, so I should have a better idea about what I'm going to see.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

10 Weeks No Tests Update III

It's been a few weeks and I have been very tempted to give tests to my students to make sure they keep up with their reading. I had to fight those urges and think of alternative ways to assess their reading in class. This was not a very easy process. I tossed out adding more discussion questions because I did not want to add to that work assignment load. I thought of something kind of neat that seemed to work in class.

I had each student write down one question they had about the chapters they read from The Great Gatsby and turn them in. I used the questions in class to lead discussion. It was nice to see that many students had the same questions. It allowed me to see what some of the big issues were and address them to the entire group. Also, it was good for students to see that they were not the only ones that had the same question.

After it the class was over, I could see that the students who did not do the reading still learned from the conversation that was had, instead of being lost in the discussion. Also, they will be motivated to do the reading, some of them at least, so they can have their questions answered if they have any.

Also, I see that Wallwisher would be great with this assignment. I could have everyone go to the blank Wall and post their question anonymously. This allows students to ask any question they want and they can actually see that others had similar questions.  It's a simple use of tech to keep kids engaged during a class discussion on any topic for any class. Think about using Wallwisher for your next class discussion. I'll let you know when I try it next.