Sunday, November 28, 2010

What is an A worth?

As the first half of the school year winds down, I have a some students that are anxious to bring their grade up in my class. They have come to me asking for extra credit assignments to comp,eye over the weekend. When I asked them why the have this sudden urge to bring their B up to an A, all of them (8 students) said their parents promised some type of monetary reward. 

Growing up, I had friends that were rewarded for good grades. Some received $20 per A. When I asked my parents about this sweet deal, they laughed and said getting good grades is an expectation. They do not pay me to do something I'm expected to do. 

At the time, I was annoyed by their answer. I worked hard in school and thought I should be rewarded for that hard work. In sitcom like writing, my reward was a solid work ethic that payed off in college and in my career. Some of my friends that were paid for their graded had a hard time finding motivation once the cash flowed stopped. 

Education needs to be a priority for students. Students should want to learn because it important. Giving money to children for good grades is sending the wrong message. Cash incentives will only get kids to work hard enough. They will not learn, they try to get A's. 

Fight the urge to reward students with money. If a child is doing well, reward them with more responsibility. Reward them with the positive attention it deserves. When I create an awesome lesson for school, I do not get cash. I get a "job well done" from the boss. The results of hard work are the best reward. That is what kids need to learn. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

What Has Justin Bieber Taught Me About Education?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Super Secret Project is ready!

My 5th Hour Freshmen English students wanted to create a special project for the students of Van Meter High School. My other classes were working on various projects to introduce the students of Van Meter to Michigan, Detroit and our city of Grosse Pointe. They thought it would be cool if they gave a tour of the school but did it with a Lip Dub. I supported the kids in their project, but told them this project would be on them to organize and execute. For two weeks, the kids broke into groups and worked on various parts of the project. Some students were in charge of props and others were in charge of getting permission from the administration to film at school in the morning. A couple of students had their math class figure out the distance that could be covered during the length of the songs that were chosen! It was so exciting to see the students work on something they were passionate about. My only rules were that everyone participate and that they write a short reflective piece (That can be found here). Please feel free to comment on the Kidblog; the kids would love to receive feedback from other people. The kids worked hard and what you are going to see is the completed video. The students are still editing to come up with a directors cut with bloopers, credits, etc. More than anything, this truly shows what students can accomplish when they are give the chance to be creative. I hope you enjoy the video.

The songs in this video are Happy Together by The Turtles (Covered by Simple Plan), Our Time Now by the Plain White Tees and Here It Goes Again by OK GO.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why I blog...

I received this email today,

I am a brand new, first year teacher over at Mason.  I just wanted to let you know that I always read your blog and navigate around to find new things for my second graders to do on the computers during center times, computer lab times, and free choice times.  I really appreciate the time you put into developing and updating your blog.  At just 23 years old I am a technology advocate in my classroom and am not afraid to use it!  Anyways, I'm sure you wonder sometimes if anyone is even looking at it for all the work you put in.  Just wanted to let you know I am!

I was late with my Tech Tuesday update this week. I sent it out at 7pm on Tuesday. I was just having a busy day and it slipped my mind. I thought about not sending it out this week. I didn't receive a single email from anyone in the district wondering where the update was, so I assumed nobody missed it. According to my analytics, around 60 people read my school tech blog. That's less than 10% of the staff in my district. This email reminded me why I do what I do. I didn't start the blog to change all of the teachers, just to help the ones that want to learn. I will be keeping this email with the collection of nice parent/student emails and letter to remind me of why I blog and teach.

If you are a teacher and you enjoy the blogs and tech pieces you read, please let the authors know through the comment portions of their blog, by sending them a tweet or send them an email. As you know, compliments go a long way for teachers.

Have a great day everyone!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Project PLN - Issue 3

Here is Issue 3 of Project PLN - The Administrator's Issue

For December, we are looking for educators to share with us their favorite web-tool and how they use it in the classroom. This is a great chance for you to brag about that awesome lesson you created using an amazing web-tool. Do not be modest! Toot your horn over the holidays. Thanks again for all of your support.

- Nick and Kelly

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Edublog Award Nominations

Here are my list of nominations for the Edublog Awards There are so many great people out there that I learn from each and every day. Here are some that I could not live without.

Best individual blog - - Kelly Tenkely - @KTenkely

Best individual tweeter - @ShellTerrell - Shelly Terrell

Best new blog - Upside Down Education by Amanda Dykes @AmandaCDykes

Best resource sharing blog - The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness - - Michael Zimmer - @MZimmer557

Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion - #edchat

Best teacher blog - Philly Teacher Mary Beth Hertz @mbteach

Best librarian / library blog - Bright Ideas Blog - - @brightideasblog

Best School Administrator blog - A Principal's Reflections - - Eric Sheninger

Best use of a PLN - Connected Principals - #cpchat

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2010 MRPA POWershop

Hello Parks and Recreation friends! I'm so honored to have been asked to share my thoughts on Social Media and how it could help you. Below you will find the presentation I will be using and some other videos and information to look at if needed. Thanks again and I hope you enjoyed the presentation.

My Presentation

edcamp Philly


Please leave a comment if you have any questions and I will be happy to get back to you. Thanks for stopping by. :-)

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Everything I learned about education I learned from watching Saved By The Bell

Yup, it's finally here. The post many of you have been waiting for since I started my "Everything I ever learned" series 8 months ago. This post has been festering in my head like a zit on Craterface Coburn. Since I did not have any Beldicil handy, I figured I would type up the post on my plane ride to Iowa and back from Kansas City. I hope you enjoy it.

*Editor's Note* Before you start writing nasty comments, let's set a few things straight. This Saved by the Bell post includes story lines from Good Morning Ms Bliss despite the fact it was set in Ohio at JFK Junior High. It was packaged with SBTB and had episodes introduced by Zack. The trip to Hawii and the Jessie's Dad's wedding are also included. The College Years did not happen. They just didn't. The SBTB Wedding in Vegas is in the canon. The New Class did not happen. Nope, not at all. Let’s get started.

Ms. Bliss

I had a hard time picking out one episode to show her greatness. There is the awesome episode where she pranked herself and framed Screech to teach the kids about the legal system that really sticks out to me.  She engaged her students in a way they, and I, would remember for years. I do a mock trial to this date because of how cool that entire episode was to me. Having kids learn by doing is so important and Ms. Bliss did this with many of her lessons. She even brought technology into the classroom for one very funny episode.

Miss Bliss really wanted to teach the kids about the stock market and decided to use something called the Internet in class to have students buy and sell stocks. Zack came up with a crazy get rich quick scheme and purchased a whole bunch of stocks on margin and then the stocks tanked. While I do not recommend that teachers allow students access to their e-trade accounts, it was so cool to see a teacher using a computer in the classroom and actually allowing the kids to use it for real world learning. Real world application is something all teachers should try to keep in mind as lessons are planned. If a student can see how the skill can be used, maybe they will be more engaged.

Miss Bliss was a hard worker that always pushed her principal, Mr. Belding, to accept the different ways she would use to teach the class. She was progressive and passionate. She cared about all of her students and strived to help all of them be who they were. I like to think that I have a little bit of Miss Bliss in me and that makes me feel good. (Note: I do not suggest dating a student's parent like she did with Zack's Dad. That would just be weird.)

Principal Richard "The Big Bopper" Belding

"Woa woa woa, what’s going on here?" The calling card of a person who seemed to never know what really was going on in his school. Mr. Belding is probably not the best example of a principal at first glance, but he really does some things that are worth noting. In his dealings with Ms. Bliss, he supported her crazy ideas because he knew that she got results. Her methods were different, but her success at getting Zack and the gang to learn important Social Studies concepts was never in question. That trust in a teacher as an expert in their field is important. That type of support is something many teachers do not feel. As schools and districts move more toward cookie cutter testing, teachers are not encouraged to try new and different things. "Teach to the Test" seems to be the mantra for many admins across the country. Supporting different ideas from veteran teachers should be encouraged, but also monitored. Mr. Belding did a good job of doing both. Well, after his initial freak out.

I realize that it was easy for Belding to be involved in the day to day activities of his students because the school population was just over 38 kids, but it should not be ignored. Mr. Belding worked hard to be there when the students were doing something interesting or exciting. He was an active participant in the school's events. Whether it is a Ski Trip (The one Zack could not go to because of his grades and he got the waiter from The Maxx to play his Dad and Belding and he only really wanted his Dad's attention.) or a White Water Rafting Trip (Which was supposed to be chaperoned by Mr. Belding's brother Rod, but he bailed to hook up with some flight attendant named Inga. Also, the brothers Belding had the names of Dick and Rod. Just sayin'.). Anyway, Mr. Belding was always there for the kids and he loved his school. It is too easy for some principals to hide in their office and only see the ones who need punishment. Belding was a visible principal that was involved in the every day activites of the students and staff. He might not have alway gotten along with Mr. Tuttle, but he let the teachers do what they thought was best.

Mr. Tuttle

Mr. Tuttle was a jack-of-all-trades. He taught Glee Club, driver's training and business class. Mr. Tuttle was also the head of the teacher union at Bayside. He had a great sense of humor and interacted well with the kids. Despite his failed aspirations to become principal of Bayside High School, he worked hard to provide a fun learning environment. He was actualy one of the few teachers that liked Zack despite his crazy schemes. He supported the quiet Violet Bickerstaff when she showed the rest of Glee that she had an amazing voice. He was a very kind and funny teacher.

The thing that I liked about Mr. Tuttle is that he was always willing to work with what he had. That Glee club was terrible, but he gave the kids the best experience possible. As teachers, we often do not get the dream class. We get a collection of students with varied skills. We must always be committed to doing our best to reach as many students as possible. I'm not sure if I would use a golf cart in the school for drivers training, but then again, I'm no Mr. Tuttle.

Terrible Testaverde

Terrible Testaverde. The name invokes fear in every student at Bayside. TT was the social studies teacher that gave notes so quickly, it caused Jessie's paper to catch fire. He was known for his difficult tests. As a student, I didn't like him. He did not seem like a very fun teacher at all. He seemed to be all about tests. As a teacher, I don't like him for all of the same reasons. I understand that you should not judge a teacher based on one unit or test, but his stand and talk approach to instruction is something that kids do not respond to. Speaking at kids is not a good form of instruction, especially at his pace. There are times where we will need to give notes and talk to the students, but teachers need to change it up and try to reach the students in the class that respond to other delivery methods. Zack had such a problem with TT's teaching, that he tried to use Screech's new found future telling ability (Gained whe he was struck by lightening on Zack's roof) to discover the three questions on the huge exam that would determine their grade in class. Nothing like three questions having such a huge impact on a student's grade. I almost do not blame Zack for trying a crazy scheme. He ends up failing because cheaters never prosper, but Belding should be ashamed to have a teacher like Testaverde at Bayside. That is not learning going on in the classroom, it's rote memorization. Blech!

The Gang

Kelly Kapowski bugged me. I had a crush on her, but I was not a fan of the way that she led Zack on, used to toy with Slater and then cheated on Zack with stupid Jeff. I was glad that her heart was broken when she saw Jeff dance with the other girl at The Attic. Ok, I'm better. I've needed to get that off my chest for a few years. Having said that, there is something to be said about Kelly's actions and the state of education in America. Follow me on this one.

Kelly was a master at getting attention. Whether it was during her bid for Homecoming Queen or dancing with Slater to win the Dance Contest, she needed the attention. She went to great lengths to get Johnny Dakota to look at her. It was only on her terms though. I see this in many of our politicians today. When a politician is running for office and needs attention, education is always the place to turn. There will always be people that will feed into the "education is broken" rhetoric just like Kelly could count a Zack to pull crazy stunts to make her happy. The attention getting can be cute for a bit, but it eventually drives everyone insane. It actually drove AC to Jessie of all people. Politicians need to pick a side of education and work on making it better all of the time, not just when they need the attention for some votes.

Jessica "Mama" Spano is an example of everything that is wrong with our students today. She was obsessed with grades. She was so obsessed with grades that she became "addicted" to caffeine pills! (Lamest addiction ever) She was stressed out over her SAT scores and was afraid she might not get into Stansbury (The Harvard of the West). Her whole life was predicated on what she received on tests. She was by no means the smartest kid in the school. Screetch had her beat and on Valedictorian of Bayside for that graduating class, but I'll write about that later. Jessie was the student council president, worked for KKTY Bayside, was a swimmer and played Snow White in the school play. She had extra curricular activities, but I start to wonder if she truly cared about these things. Was she only concerned about using them to go to college? Is that the only reason why students do anything anymore? Students need to be taught to learn and explore, not how to to get into college. If our goal is to produce a bunch of Jessie Spanos, we are heading in the wrong direction.

Lisa Turtle was a very creative young lady. She had a keen eye for (90s) fashion and was able to express herself while creating Buddy Bands. In today's standardized test culture, where does she fit in? Would she ever be able to hold a fashion show senior year at The Maxx that would later be ruined by Screech because he saw her kiss Zack? Talents like hers need to be supported over time, not tested away. That is really all there is to Lisa Turtle accept that for one episode, her last name was pronounced (turtle-aye). Weird right?

Albert Clifford (AC) Slater was the pleasant jock of the group. My biggest issue with him is that he pursued Kelly even when she chose Zack, but settled for Jessie. The Jessie relationship was doomed because settling for something never works out. I see this in education today. Many teachers want Kelly (Project Based Learning, No Grades, etc.), but settle for Jessie (Common Assessments, Standardized Tests, etc.). As we continue to strive for change in education, it is important that we never just settle for what we have. We have to pursue what we want if we truly believe in it. Albert Clifford taught me that. Well, that and that you can never have too many belt loops on a pair of acid washed jeans.

Screech was the lovable nerd. He was the smartest person in the school, but lacked any confidence outside of asking Lisa out time and time again. Much like Slater, I give him credit for trying to get Lisa despite all of the setbacks. Once he realized she was a pain after she talked through the entire Zombie movie, he moved on to something better. Violet Bickerstaff was a good companion for Screetch. She truly brought out the best I him. Even though Screech would always hold a candle for Lisa, I feel he moved on. Sometimes, I really want to use a certain tool or do a certain project with my class, but I can't seem to get it to work right. I know of too many teachers that try for too long to make something work. As they spend that time on something not meant to be, they could be missing out on something much better. I often wonder about all of the Violets I passed up while longing for Lisas. It is ok go to keep a special spot in your heart for that one project, but try not to miss out some other exciting new ideas that are just waiting to be discovered by you.

Another thing about Screech that really stands out to me was something that happened during the last season. Jessie was stressing over the title of Valedictorian. It is something that she had longed for since she was a little girl. Jessie is the example of a grade and test driven student. Her reaction to her SAT scores only supports this further. It turns out that Screech had earned a higher GPA than Jessie. When Screech was told of this, he passed on the award because he knew it was more important to Jessie. All of the drama that ensues afterward aside, Screech's action speak loudly in education today. An award was not important to him. He didn't work hard because he wanted an award, he worked hard because that is who he was. We never heard that the robot he created, Kevin, was built for Science class, he was built because he wanted to. If Screech was really concerned about grades, he never would have paired up with Zack time after time. Screech was all about the experience of learning. He enjoyed high school and the people around him. Screech and Jessie are different in many stereotypical ways, but from an education standpoint, teachers should strive to create more Screeches and far fewer Jessies.

Zack Morris

I feel that no matter what I write, I will not do justice to my TV childhood hero. He was everything a young kid wanted to be. He was cool, dated the hottest girl in school, he had an awesome phone he carried around and he was involved in crazy schemes that always seemed to work in his favor. As a high school student, I realized how silly everything he did was and that Bayside was not a "real" high school. Now, I really look at Zack and see a student that really responded to one type of learning over all others. Zack was a Project Based Learner. Whether it was Buddy Bands, Screech’s Spaghetti Sauce, the school pond that was damaged in an oil spill or the host of other projects he was involved with, Zack excelled in those projects. Those lessons allowed Zack to dive into the material and create using ideas he was passionate about. The classes he hated the most were the ones where he needed to sit in his desk and take notes. Not being able to collaborate with his peers was the worst way to reach Zack.

I look at Zack and I see his silliness in students today. When I moved away from lecture based lessons and started using more PBL, I saw an increase in student participation across the board. Kids were excited to be part of the learning. Working with their peers gave them a chance to show off their knowledge to others. Isn't that what Zack was really doing? He needed a chance to show others that he wasn't the goofball everyone thought he was. With a little structure, Zack could have created some amazing school projects if he was given the room to grow. Belding tried very hard to harness Zack's energy by giving him chances to create things for the school. The video yearbook is a good example. The school store is another. KKTY is yet another example. When Zack was given a chance to really show what he was made of, he came through. Granted, he made calendars of the swim team and used the video yearbook as a dating service, but he helped set the radio station up to save The Maxx (with Slater's help) and exposed the sexism in Bayside's wrestling program.

Think about the students in the classroom that are very much like Zack Morris. Are teachers writing those students off as silly kids that just need some ADD meds to calm them down? Have I dismissed a student because he didn't fit my idea of a student years ago? Many people forget that Zack nearly aced his SAT. He was not a dumb student, he was a student looking for the right motivation. When a teacher gave him the chance to shine, he did. Students like Zack usually go on to do amazing things when they get out of the educational system and are free to explore what they are passionate about. Let's not make those students wait until after high school or college. Let’s give them a chance to be Zack now before it is too late. I never thought I would say this, but I would take a class full of Zacks over a class full of Jessies or Screeches any day.

I could have easily written an episode by episode recap and explained the educational meaning behind each, but the characters are really what made the show happen. Zack's report on being Native American or the gang attempting to film a horror movie that gets Screech hunted by the government are good examples of education and what it should be for students in the classroom. I really loved diving into the memories of old episodes and what they meant to me then and now. I've really wanted to write this post for a while and I'm glad I finally had the time to share it with my friends. I hope I have a chance to share even more with you in the future.

You know, I've always been a huge fan of The Simpsons....                                                           

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'm a Tool - #edcampKC Thoughts

I'm a Tool - #edcampKC Recap

As I sit in the KC airport without access to a bathroom, I thought now would be a good time write a little reflective post on my journey this weekend.

I have never been to an edcamp before, so I was excited to see how everything worked. I'm organizing edcamp Detroit and had many questions for the KC group. To sum up the event, it went really well. Everyone knew what was goin on, sessions filled up and people were excited to share. I had planned on presenting on blogging in the classroom, but I found out Kristina, Becky and Shannon were going to discuss blogging as well. They invited me to join their group and discuss blogging from a HS perspective. It went really well. I couldn't be luckier to have those amazing women in my PLN.

I engaged in many conversations with people from all over the MidWest. Answered questions about my Blogger's Cafe and how I run my classes. I picked the brains if some very smart educators in an attempt to make my classes better. I love being surrounded by people that all have the same goal.

One of the ideas that seem to come out of many of the conversations was the tools we can use as educators to make education better. Blogging I'd a wonderful tool that we talked about, Russ talked about Evernote as an amazing tool in the classroom and others shared what they use. At the end of the Blogging Presentation (Which you can watch on U-Stream at the edcampKC wiki) I encouraged people to contact me with questions and I would be happy to help. I almost stopped myself when I said, "I'm a tool." Everyone got a good chuckle, but it is a very accurate statement. As teachers, we are the best tool for other teachers to use. We help eachother grow and become better. It is that simple to me.

I am often asked by other teachers in my building, "How much do you make/charge to work with these other teachers?" They give me weird looms when I tell them I do it for free. I guess I could charge teachers or districts to work with them, but right now I just help teachers here a d there I've developed a connection with. I do not mind being a tool for others to use to help improve themselves and their classrooms. I never signed up to be a teacher for the money, I signed up to make a difference. Edcamps make a difference and I'm glad to be part of that group.

As my plane gets ready to board passengers, I'm sad I have to leave my friends who I learned so much from in such a short time. I am excited to take that knowledge and help students and other teachers improve the education around them. I'm ok with being a tool. Are you?

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Friday, November 5, 2010

November Blogger's Cafe Update

November Blogger's Cafe Update

I wanted to give everyone a little update on how the Blogger's Cafe was going.

The Good

Well, it is still going very well. I still have students that are excited about blogging and want it to be their turn every day. I have even let some students grab an extra laptop and blog because they have done such a good job in class. If it is a student's turn, but they are out sick, all arms are raised to replace them on the stage. It is just so exciting to see kids pumped to take notes and share them with the rest of the class.

The Bad

My laptops provided by the school stink. Some of them literally take over ten minutes to load up at times. They are slow moving and their battery life is next to nothing since they are 5 years old or older. Some kids have lost work when the computer just shuts off for no reason. I know this happens to many of us from time to time, but in a 48 minute class, these things can be brutal. I need to keep searching for grant money and begging the school board for cash to give me the tools necessary to really engage my students fully in the digital learning world. I know, there are schools and teachers that do not have a single computer and I should not complain. I'm lucky to have what I have, but it is not wrong to want to provide more for my students. If you know of someone who is handing out grants, please direct them my way. I've got some great ideas to share with them.

The Blah

I had a parent express a concern that their child, who struggles with typing and dyslexia, should be possibly excused from blogging because they could be embarrassed by their typing mistakes when seen by peers. I would never want to place a student in a position where they could be embarrassed, but asking a student to take notes twice a month is not a crazy expectation as far as I'm concerned. Less writing will not make the student a better writer. All blog posts can be typed in MS Word first and edited later. I understand the want to protect kids from embarrassment, but it is also important to have kids work on things that are tough so they can improve. As the semester has progressed, I've seen improvement in student writing on the blogs. Nothing huge, but little things that show they are adjusting and learning. As a teacher, that is huge. I guess that should go in the Good section. Oh well. ;-)


Things are going very well. I like what I'm seeing from the kids and would love to expand the number of bloggers. An ultimate goal would be to have all of the students take notes and share them online in one space. A parent donated a couple of comfy chairs for the Blogfer's Cafe space and the students like them very much. I've commissioned three school artists to crest some paitning to hang on the walls. I'm excited about their ideas and I hope to have those by second semester.

That's it for now, stay tuned for another update in December.


Van Meter Log 1

Off to Van Meter...

I've been very excited about my trip to #edcampKC for a while. I've had it circled on my calendar for months. Well, it's been in my iCal for months. I'm excited to see how the #edcamp runs since I'm planning #edcampDetroit. All of the info I can walk away with will be very helpful. Plus, with my buddy Kyle being there, I will be able to get all of my questions answered.

I'm also excited to be spending the day in Van Meter, Iowa. They mythical school district we have all heard and read about is somewhere I've wanted to visit since I met the VM crew in Denver at ISTE. For those who do not know, my Freshmen English students have been working with students from VM this year ovn various blogs and projects. The goal at the end of the year is to put together a joint production of Romeo and Juliet. That is a lofty goal, but we have some great students and wonderful technology that can make this possible.

I've never been to Iowa or Kansas City, so I'm a little excited to see a bit of each place, but I'm really excited to see how education works in other places. It is so easy for teachers to forget that education is truly different everywhere in the country. I really hope I can take this great opportunity to see how another part of the country tries to educate their students. I hope I get to not only see how different things are, but I really want to see how similar all students and teachers really are. We might take a different path at times, but the goal is the same. I just can't wait to see the road that these teachers take their students on.

I'll be tweeting and posting like mad these next few days, so please keep an eye out on so e cool information coming out of Van Merer and Kansas City. I'll talk to you crazy education loving teachers later.

- @TheNerdyTeacher