Thursday, May 26, 2011

Student Projects Rule

I wanted to share this student project with everyone I know. I had my students read The Catcher in the Rye and they needed to create a project for the final assessment. I had many different version of Jeopardy this year, but this project by one of my students was simply amhjazing. Please take a minute and watch this video. If you haven't read the story, it will not make sense, but for those of us who have and love Holden, this video is perfect. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How about some good news for a change?

Recently there has been some press coverage about my high school. You can find more information here from the Detroit Free Press. This post is in no way meant to defend the actions of these people. However, I do want to address the sad fact that schools only seem to make the news when something bad is going on. No wonder people think schools are failing and filled with terrible teachers when that is the only information they are provided. As educators, we know there are a million success stories every day. They happen before our eyes when a student finally “gets it”. Where are those stories?
I understand that news is now a business and ratings are everything. Stories about kids or teachers doing good things do not draw viewers. What does that say about us as a society that we don’t seem to care about the good news and only want the juicy bits? I decided that I wanted to share some of the great things that have happened this year in my school. I ask all of the educators out there to try and do the same. Find some great things that have happed this year and write about it. If we can’t count on the mainstream media to share these stories, then it is our job to do it. Let’s show everyone that there are great things going on in our schools. There are bad things that do happen, but those numbers pale in comparison to the great things.

1. Hannah Meier ’13 wins the Girls National Indoor Track & Field Championship in the mile with a time of 4:48.50. Her sister, Haley Meier ’13, came in 17th with a time of 4:59.

2. The Girls Ice Hockey team won their third State Championship in four years with a 6-2 win over Ann Arbor Pioneer.

3. The Gay-Straight Alliance was reformed after a 2 year absence from South.

4. The Tower won 40 awards from the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, including a Spartan Award and an All State Journalism Staff honor given to Paula Freidrich.

5. 8 Gold Key Portfolio winners including Mellissa Bryan, Zoe Carter, Kelsey Horn, Alexandra Kern, Bridgett Blondell, Paula Freidrich, Erika Long, Mary Magee, Natasa Kopcak, and Savannah Melcher.

6. DECA won a record 72 awards at State Competition.

7. The volleyball team recorded the most wins in program history with an overall 34-11-5 record. The team was named the All-State Academic, an All-America Team, and was led by First Team All-Region and All-Conference Ann Buslepp and All-Conference Mary Kate Kramer.

8. The varsity football team advanced to the state playoff semifinals, the farthest they’ve advanced in program history.

9. The Choir was named the All-State choir and included five of the state’s top composers.

10. The Tennis team advanced to the State Quarterfinals and finished the season in the state’s top ten.

11. 6 Students were selected by the Detroit News as outstanding graduates from the class of 2011.

These are just the 11 things that two students gathered in 24 hours. There are many more great stories out there and I challenge the media to share more of these stories with the community. Educators, I hope you will take the time and share some of the awesome things that have happened this year in your school.

Special thanks to Sam Metry and Alex Knuth for compiling this list on your own time.

Special shout out to friends out there that are having a tough time. Remember all of the great things that have happened in your schools and be proud of what you have accomplished. This is not an easy job and we all do the best that we can. :-)

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Friday, May 20, 2011

Change Brings Frustration

I have been working on a committee this past school year that has been tasked with improving the way that technology is used in the district. I’m lucky to work with many passionate teachers, parents and administrators as we look at different ways to take the influx of tech in our buildings (Smart Products) and get the most out of them. It’s a tall order, but something I think can be accomplished.

The frustration comes from the fact that we all want the same thing, but do not have a clear path on how to get there. We want to great a district that is a leader in educational technology. We want our students to be 21st Century learners. We don't have the money. So, we need to find ways to accomlishour goals with little or no money.
One of the things I was tasked with doing was using my PLN to gather information on how other people support the integration of technology in their district. I talked to many awesome people and pulled together what I think would be the best solution to our problem. Here is the presentation I put together.

I truly feel that adding 3 people to focus on teacher training is the best way to move forward. By providing the support for the teachers, we can then move the conversation to reviewing the curriculum to see how we can change what we do there with our new skills. As a district, we cannot move forward if our staff is not trained and our current system is not sufficient. If we are not moving forward, we are getting left behind.

I was not given the chance to give my presentation, but was told the money isn’t there to hire 3 more people. I understand that completely. These are tough times and adding staff is not something districts can do. However, the conversation was still about training teachers and having them prepared to use the technology that is being deployed. How can you expect to train teachers with trainers? When teachers in my district are asked what they want, they say training. When the one teacher trainer was asked what is effective, he said training in small groups. So we want everyone trained, but have no money to train. What do we do next?

Ideas were thrown out about a Tech Czar that would create a vision of technology for the district, create surveys, compile success stories and spearhead the charge for a new tech bond in the district. The idea has merit, but I’m not sure adding an administrator is what we need. That doesn’t solve the training problem and will end up telling us what we already know; teachers are ready to learn and use technology, they just need someone to work with them.

On the way to work, I had an idea that is a compromise to the ideas that were shared at this two-hour meeting. Since we cannot hire three people to act as full time Technology Integrationists, maybe we can take the positions we currently have and adjust what they do. I propose two part-time TIs and one fulltime Tech Czar.
I see two 0.5 positions of Tech Integrationists. They would be responsible for the following,

1:1 staff support – The TIs would go to schools and teach staff how to use the tools AND how to integrate them into their curriculum, departments, etc.

Larger group PD – The TI’s would be responsible for running larger PD sessions for buildings. These times would be checked out by administrators in advance.

Maintaining a blog – Each TI would be responsible for grade levels (K-6 and 7-12) and their blogs would focus on tools that are helpful to those areas.

Online Support – TI’s would create screencasts and videos on how to use specific tools so that teachers can learn on their time how to use everyday tools.

These are the big ideas to start. As the school year moves forward, there will be other ideas that will come up that could be added to their responsibilities, but since they are .5, we do not want to overload them with work because they still have class responsibilities as well. Also, it might be a good idea to have one .5 be set for AM and another set for PM. It would allow for a TI to be available all day.

The Tech Czar

One of the ideas that came out of the discussion was that we need someone to create the vision and take the steps that are needed to see it thought. I feel this person needs to be a teacher in the district. The TC will have 2 responsibilities. One of the responsibilities will be an extra TI. For .5 of the time, they will work in the buildings across grade level like the TIs do. The other .5 will be responsible for the following,

Work with 389 to establish a clear vision of tech today and for the years to come.

Work with the GPFE to provide them with information they need for fundraising.

Working with TIs to organize schedules.

Maintain a site that will be the “Home Base” for training videos and examples of what teachers are doing across the district.

Visiting other districts to see how they set up district wide support networks for staff.

Attending conferences to get the latest on training, staff development, hardware, software, best practices, etc.

Identifying current teachers in the district that are tech leaders and utilizing them to support teachers in their building.

Surveying staff across the district to get a specific idea of the training that is needed.

Focus on creating a network in the district that supports tech learning by using the experts in our district.


The current model does not meet the needs of our district. Trying to solve a problem with a broken solution will not accomplish our goal. It is time to look at how we do things and try something different. Our committee said one of our goals is to become a leader in educational technology. I think that is an admirable goal, but to accomplish that, we have to be willing to do things we haven’t done before. Leaders lead by making tough decisions. Decisions need to be made if we truly want to move forward.

There are many teachers in the district that are doing great things and want to support others teachers, but need the support from the district.  However, if a system of support is not set up soon, these teachers are going to lose hope or move to other places that support innovation. If homegrown talent is not cultivated,  it could be lost to other districts. That would hurt the district more than anything else. Now is the time for action.

These views are strictly mine and not the views of my school, department or district. I’m just a teacher that is passionate about helping a school system realize its dream of being a leader in the educational community.

Have a warm and fuzzy day!

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Where I've Been...

Where I've Been...

Warning, this post has nothing to do with edtech or pop culture specifically. This one is more of a personal post. 

Well, this has been a crazy week and a half. Some people know what has been going on and have followed the tweets, but I know others are also busy and have missed the story. I thought I would just fill everyone in on the craziness. 

The craziness started at 4am on Saturday May 7th. The night before I played in a charity volleyball tournament at my school and my wife was staying with her mom in case she went into labor early. Saturday was the inaugural Edcamp Detroit at Wayne State University and I could not sleep. I was sore from Volleyball and just anxious to see all of the hard work pay off.

Edcamp was awesome and I truly need to write another post on it's awesomeness. We had over 100 educators attend and many of them said it was the best "conference" they had ever attended. With the help of some awesome people, Edcamp Detroit was a huge success and people are excited to see what next year will bring. By 7pm, I was exhausted and ready for bed. The wife and I had a nice Sunday planned before we would go to the hospital to induce labor on Monday. @BabyProvenzano had other plans.

At 2am, I get the nudge every expectant father fears. The water was broken and we needed to rush to the hospital. After 20 hours, Leonardo Nicholas Provenzano was welcomed into the world. He was a little out of it due to some blood pressure drugs the wife was on. I've never been so nervous in my entire life. My wife was a champ and would need to be over the next few days.

Leo was a bit Jaundiced and needed to be wrapped up like a Glow Worm. He is the cutest little thing in the world. I'll share pictures on here when I'm at a computer, but I'm typing on my iPhone right now. After a few days, my wife was discharged, but Leo needed to stay. It made for a hard night home. 

We were finally able to take Leo home Thursday and we spent our first night together as a family. He is a perfect little guy. Only up a couple of times and went back to sleep after a bottle. I was bummed because I couldn't stay the next day with him.

I had to go back to school on Friday because I couldn't be gone for 5 days in a row. It was a long day and I'm sure I was short with students. I still haven't slept well since in a week and I had a ton on my plate. I needed to check assignments, enter in grades and lesson plan. Missing school is not easy for teachers. Being at school while a newborn is at home is even harder. The one thing that helped me get through the day was some kind words from staff and admins about edcamp and a quote in the New York Times for an article on Social Media in the classroom.

I have received tons of feedback and people from all over have contacted me about the article. Heck, I've been asked to be in a documentary on tech in the world today and will be flying out to my school in June to interview me. @eolsonteacher and are going to collaborate on something fun over the summer. It's been super crazy and I am trying to keep all of the plates spinning, but sometimes plates fall. 

Saturday we had to take Leo to the Doctor to check his BR numbers for Jaundice. Jen wasn't feeling well, but we chalked it up to having a baby a week ago. The appointment went well, but Jen was going in the other direction quickly. 

Jen spiked a fever and was rushed to the hospital. We have been here since then and she has been given lots of drugs and a blood transfusion. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law have watched over Leo and have done a wonderful job, but bad luck is a nasty person.

I've started to feel badly and threw out my back this morning. Apparently, hospital room couches are not designed for surgically repaired backs. Also, my sister-in-law's son was playing and he accidentally knocked a glass light fixture from the ceiling onto his face causing him to be rushed to the hospital to receive 30+ stitches on his face. Yikes. 

...and where I'm going.

During this crazy time, I've also been working on a new tech plan for my district. A bunch of great teachers are working on re-doing the way we do tech. I'm excited about this process and want to see positive changes. I'm pushing for tech integrationists. Our district needs them and I want to be one. It's not a secret. I can't be an English teacher and the district's go to tech guy. I will only have time to do one. Either way, I will be happy. I just need to know which it will be. 

I'm excited about the summer and all of the cool things I've got ahead of me and my family. I want to thank my amazing PLN for being supportive during this process. You made me smile when I was freaking out. You made my wife feel the support when times were tough. I'm sure you will provide plenty of giggles for Leo as he gets older. 

See you guys and gals around! 

- Nick

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tech Made My Days Easier

My bed at the hospital.
My bed for the past couple of days.

This is my first post as a Daddy and it feels pretty good. I wanted to talk about how awesome it has been to have my iPad2 and iPhone4 during this whole process.

The live tweeting of the labor was a fun way to pass the time as everything progressed. I made sure to ask the wife and only did it when I could not be doing anything else. I received a ton of positive feedback and equally silly responses from those that were following #BabyProWatch2011. @BabyProvenzano was even able to get Chris Pratt (@prattprattpratt) from NBC's Parks and Rec to send @JenniferPro a tweet of encouragement! Twitter helped spread the information of the birth of my son faster than making individual phone calls.

The camera on my phone and iPad made spreading images of the most beautiful baby boy in the world very easy. Using Instagram, I was able to post pictures to Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. Sharing information quickly is key and I was able to show the world Baby Leo in an instant. The hospital's robust wifi definitely makes all of these things much easier. Also, my wife couldn't come down to the nursery, so I was able to share all of the cute pictures and video with her. That really made her smile and feel better.

As I visited Leo in the nursery, it was nice to have the iPhone to take pictures, but it was nicer tin have it to play him music. I played "Let it Be" by the Beatles for him while I fed him. It was that or "Closer" by NIN. JK. It was just a very cool moment of Dad, baby and good songs. A lasting memory for sure.

I've also been able to deal with school emails when they pop up. I will not have to worry about a crazy inbox when I return. Students have been good at avoiding silly emails. I was able to clear unnecessary emails as they arrive. It will save me tons of time when I get back.

Lastly, my Freshmen have been a bit goofy since I left. It's as if their collective IQ drops off a cliff the minute I leave. They had forgotten all of the basic essay steps I taught them and I was emailing constantly with my sub. This morning, I received an email from the sub asking for clarification on the assignments. She understood it, but the students had questions. I was ready to grab my iPad and start a Skyoe session while wife and baby napped. Sadly, the lab my students were working in is not set up with a webcam. This is a problem that will be addressed when I get back. Instead, I grabbed my phone, looked up the library lab phone number and had the sub put me on speaker. Whle talking, I pulled up the research paper assignment sheet from Dropbox and walked the kids through the assignment again. I took questions and put out fires from the comfort of the waiting room.

When I bought the devices, I never thought about how handy they wouldnbe while caring for my wife and newborn at the hospital. These pieces of tech made it possible to make connection to friends and strangers. I think that's what makes tech so great! The possibilities are endless when you can reach out and share with everyone whenever you want. Tech can be about making connections. I will never forget that fact.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

#edcampDet - Quick post camp thoughts



- NP