Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Great Tablet Experiment

The Great Tablet Experiment

Yesterday I posted that I was Done Waiting. I refuse to just talk the talk, so I'm going to start walking the walk. 

In a perfect world, next year would find me teaching 2 sections of Honors American Literature in the morning and working as a tech integration specialist the second half of the day. I'm still hoping my district will follow through and post that position. 

With two classes in the morning, I would love to get my hands on 65-70 tablets for those students. These tablets would be used by the students all year in all of their classes. I want to help them integrate the tablet into their school work and their lives. Most of all, I want to show my district, and other districts, the value of mobile devices in education. 

Where to start? Well, I'm going to need a way to fund these tablets. I will either need a generous donation from a company that makes tablets,  generous donation from a company that can afford to donate the tablets, or multiple donors working together to bring the tablets to my classroom. 

I've never taken on a task like this before and I'm kind o excited to start reaching out to groups and companies to show them what is possible when you have a vision to improve education. 

If you have any suggestions as to where I should start, please drop me a line. If you are a company that would be interested in helping bring tablets to my classroom, please send me an email at

I'm very excited to start sharing this new project with all of you.

- Nick

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Done Waiting

I'm on my flight back to Detroit from #ISTE11 and I have had some time to reflect on the my time here.

This past school year has been the busiest of my professional life. I chose to take a completely different approach to the way I presented my lesson. I incorporated technology in ways I never thought were possible. I made connections with educators all over the world so my students could look at literature from different points of view. It was a ton of work and it was a success. It might have been my best year of teaching and I know I can do better.

I also spent time providing professional development to teachers in my district. I showed many how to use their Smartboards, Prezi, Skype, Blogs, Twitter and many other tools.

I kept up a blog sharing web resources with teachers across my district. I kept this blog updated twice a month on my own time because I felt it was important to connect with as many teachers in my district and share the amazing things I find every day.

I also worked on a technology committee that was supposed to come up with a new technology plan for the district. Our goal was to become a leader in educational technology that other districts would look to as an example of excellence. In my opinion, we ended the year exactly where we started. We want to be a leader, but we have no plan. (No plan that has been shared with me at least and I was at every meeting.)

Early this week, I read that my school board passed the budget for next year. I read that technology was cut. Ugh. I know that budgets are tough to put together and other important areas are cut. I'm not going to say that technology is more important than other areas. I don't understand how a district can expect to be a leader in educational technology when they cut money from technology. This is an area where you cannot do MORE with LESS.

I was told there was going to be a posting for a part-time tech integrationist. I was told to apply for it when it gets posted. I fear that posting may never come. Teacher after teacher has told me they want more help, but my district has failed them again if they choose not to post this position and continue to cut funds. Every idea proposed by myself or others are met with, "we do not have the funds." So, I'm done waiting.

I'm done waiting for others to make decisions that will impact the students in my class.

I'm done waiting for the possibility of funds in the future.

I'm done waiting for the plan that never seems to come.

I'm done waiting for someone to step up and lead.

I'm done waiting.

I'm going to go out and use the connections I made to get the tools I need for the students in my classroom.

My new project is going to be getting tablets for my students. Which students you ask? All of them if I can swing it. I'm going to do it because I'm tired of waiting.

What are you waiting for?

Monday, June 27, 2011

10 Things I Hate About You (#ISTE11)

10 Things I Hate About You (#ISTE11)
I hate the way you introduce me to people that challenge my thinking.

I hate the way you make me want to change the way my district works.

I hate the way you introduce me to new tools I want to integrate into my class right away.

I hate the way you connect me to educators from around the world.

I hate the way you allow me to spend time with people much smarter than me.

I hate the way you create an environment for me to speak up and share with others.

I hate the way you allow me to grow with each new session.

I hate the way you provide space for me to connect in the hallways with presenters.

I hate the way you force me to make new friends that I might not see for another year.

But most of all, I hate the way I don't hate you at all.
This post is inspired by one of my favorite movies, “10 Things I Hate About You”. 

What do you “hate” about ISTE?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Why is the Department of Education Terrible at Social Media?

I want to note that this is not a post about policy. There are many things many of us take issue with regarding current and past policies made by the administration, but this post is not about that. I want to discuss the Department of Education's social media presence. For this piece, I chose 3 key areas of SM and wanted to see how the Department of Education used them. I chose Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


I love YouTube. I plan on using it more next year to place screencasts and other goodies for students, parents and teachers. I've used it to create viral videos for ProjectPLN in the past and for uploading projects for my grad classes. It is very versatile as a medium. Sharing information quickly across the country is a huge benefit of YouTube. It allows the user to "speak" directly to the masses. President Obama does an excellent job of utilizing the power of YouTube. Why is the Department of Education terrible at YouTube?

Notice in the top right corner the number of page views they have. 116,615 views. Let's assume they have been active since the Administration took over. That is an awful number. Their biggest video seems to be the one featured in the picture above. Over 3,000 views for a very hot topic. Still, that's only a little over 3,000. Such an issue should have tens of thousands of views with a crazy number of comments. Videos of cats playing with string have more views and comments than this. Where is the disconnect?

There are some videos of State Teachers of the Year. That's cool. I feel that I'm pretty connected to the web and follow all of the Department of Education sites, but I have never seen a tweet about any of this. I saw tons of posts, stories and videos on the raid of that man's home supposedly put in motion by the Department of Education, but I don't see much from them. If they have an agenda that is not very popular (they do), then they need to use sites like YouTube to reach out and explain what they are thinking and why they are thinking it. Allowing people to see and hear what you have to say about various issues is a benefit of YouTube. Users could then create videos of their own and share them with the Department of Education. Examples of innovative lessons could be shared using YouTube. There is so much they could be doing, but they have very little. They are missing a golden opportunity to reach a vast audience interested in education. Until the Department gets their act together, most people will watch Charlie get his finger bitten again.


Teachers are all over Facebook. It is a great way to connect with my friends in a format longer than 140 Characters. Business do a great job of creating pages for people to view and see their latest products. Celebrities have created fan pages that allow people to see what they are doing and keep abreast of the latest news. Facebook allows anyone and everyone to be connected and share ideas. It's a wonderful tool for educators. Why is the Department of Education terrible at Facebook?

Wow, 3,648 likes. Well done. They are so close to surpassing Gaga. The Department of Education links their blog to their Facebook page and that seems to be it. Very little engagement with users of any kind. Some people will like a post and may even comment, but most do not. In age where people are spending hours a day on Facebook, the Department of Education is dropping the ball here. Facebook gives them a chance to reach, parents, students and educators in a place they are already connected. Sending out blog updates is almost as annoying as getting updates on people virtual farms. Teachers are expected to engage students in the classroom with dynamic lessons, yet the Department of Education uploads blog post after blog post.

Joining the YouTube account and the Facebook account would be a good idea to start with. All of these social media tools should be working together to give users a complete experience. A person should feel connected with their government. Social media allows this to happen when done correctly. Look at these other pages by the Department of Education,

Another 3,000 plus outing for two very important pages. We see more engagement from users on these pages, but the comments are not very supportive. Why is the number so low? There has to be more than 3,000 people that agree or disagree with the current policies of the Administration. It would almost seem that the Department of Education is afraid to directly engage educators. President Obama promised more openness in government. He said technology is the wave of the future and we need to better prepare our students. How can this be expected of educators across the country when the Department of Education seems confused on how to effectively use the technology themselves? Maybe Twitter is an area the Department of Education excels.


I love Twitter. It has made me a better teacher. It has challenged my thinking and tell everyone I know that they need to sign up. Twitter has become a space where educators have gathered to share their thoughts on all things education. Daily chats have been set up, by educators, to discuss content specific ideas in education. This has been a grassroots effort by passionate educators to make positive changes in education around the world. Where are the arms of the Department of Education in all of this? Those are crickets you are hearing. Many efforts have been made by many educators to get the Department of Education involved in various Twitter chats, but nothing has come of it. So, why is the Department of Education terrible at Twitter?

This is the main Twitter account for the Department of Education. They are pretty good at sending out education related information, but it mostly about what they are doing. I'm ok with that. The department is large and they are trying to reach out to as many people as they can. I have found some useful links from time to time, but they do not engage educators as much as I would like to see. Here is a good account that should be used to participate in the various chats.

I'm not sure how they structure the Department of Education, but I would like to think that they have departments or people in charge of the various content areas in education. A person/department for Science Education, Math Education, English Education, Special Education, etc. If this is the case, they should be jumping in the various Twitter chats to see what people are saying. This is how the Department could really gain insight as to what teachers are doing and thinking about. If they do not have people dedicated to these areas, how do they divide the work?

This is the account for the Press Secretary. This guys has been working hard and takes a ton of heat. We need to remember not to shoot the messenger. He is paid to pass along information that his bosses tell him to pass along. His job is not to engage educators. When he does, it ends badly. Screaming at the Press Secretary of the Department of Education on Twitter is not going to accomplish anything. He does not follow many educators because his job is to pass on information to news outlets. I think that it is a good idea to have someone from the Department of Education to engage educators on various topics, but the Press Secretary should not be the one that does it. They need to focus on other issues.

Secretary Duncan has a Twitter account! It took a couple of years, but he is tweeting. He is not tweeting with any regularity and he only follows 34 people. This bothers me. He is the Secretary of Education. He is the "leader" of all things education related in this country and he only follows 34 people? My 1 month old follows more people than that. How can he "hear" anyone if he is not listening? Duncan has had an uphill battle since he took over the post. He is not a teacher. That is something that many teachers have a hard time accepting. To overcome this issue, he should be reaching out to educators across the country as much as possible. Twitter, along with other social media tools, allow him to hear from all walks of life. Most people just want to be heard, but the current system employed by the Department of Education is failing to do this. Secretary Duncan needs to find the right places and times to engage educators in meaningful discussion.

Secretary Duncan has been invited to participate in #edchat, but it hasn't happened yet. I will chalk it up to scheduling issues. Secretary Duncan has a chance to engage educators in a forum that will allow him to speak directly to passionate and engaged educators. There is a large group of educators out there that want to be engaged and want to understand why things are the way they are. When a politician, any politician, is hesitant to engage a constituency, people assume they are afraid and have something to hide. This is the reputation the current Secretary of Education is building for himself. I personally do not think he has something to hide, but I do feel like he is avoiding confrontation. I do not always like what other people have to say on various topics, but I always give them a chance to speak up because there might be a chance I will learn something else. Education is one of those areas where everyone has to listen to all of the different ideas because we are all about ideas. Secretary Duncan needs to engage educators on Social Media and Twitter provides the best opportunity to do so in real time.

One basic fact of education is that there is not cookie-cutter solution to what ails us. Every district and even school within a district has various issues they are dealing with every day. Social Media could allow Secretary Duncan, and the entire Department of Education, a chance to hear from these educators, parents and students. The failure of the Department of Education to effectively use Social Media is a huge issue that should be addressed.

Final Thoughts

I have no idea who runs the social media aspect of the Department of Education. At times, I feel there are too many cooks in the kitchen with different menus in mind.

The only way the Department of Education can start to get people on board to support their ideas, is to effectively communicate their ideas to the populace. The Department of Education needs to sit down with someone and develop a plan for Social Media. Instead of going head to head with Diane Ravitch, (a battle they are losing) look at connecting with her and use Social Media to promote healthy conversations, not media based sniping. A solid plan of attack can help create a dialogue in which everyone learns and everyone wins. Hiring a Social Media consultant, preferably someone who has or does work in education would be a smart move to changing their Social Media reputation.

My one hope is that this post will be read by people at the Department of Education and take the advice to heart. This post is really an effort to help you make a positive change in the way you communicate with educators across the country. There are many parents. students, teachers and administrators that want to hear what you have to say, but you need to start speaking the language of Social Media if you want your message to be heard.

Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts on the use of Social Media by the Department of Education.

If you would like to contact me, please feel free to send me an email at or send me a tweet at @TheNerdyTeacher

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My #ISTE11 Preview

I head off to Philadelphia on Friday to attend my 2nd ISTE Conference. I figured I would share some random thoughts with people who might be attending their first ISTE.

- Sessions are awesome. 

      - Try to stop by and see a few while you are there. Here is a link to my 3 sessions I will be involved with this year.
      - My first presentation is on Monday at 11:00. I will be doing a poster presentation on Live Blogging in the classroom. I will talk about how I used it and how you can use it in your class.
      - My second presentation will be right after this one at 12:45. I will be part of a panel that is a giant game of Family Feud. I'll be working with some big names in ed tech for this one;  Joyce Valenza, Steve Dembo, Gwyneth Jones, Chad Lehman, Shannon McClintock Miller and Matthew Winner are going to be there! This is going to be a crazy good time, so you are going to want to get there early to reserve a seat.
      - My third presentation is about Project PLN. Project PLN is the e-zine I created with Kelly Tenkely (@KTenkely) that brings blog posts together from teachers from all over the world. Our goal is to connect more people in the PLN world. I do not intend to spend 2 hours talking about Project PLN. This poster session is going to be a group discussion about the value of teacher blogging. If you are a blogger are thinking about blogging ore even dead set against blogging, I would love to have you over to hear your thoughts.

- Hallways can even be more awesome!

Sessions can be very helpful, but if you ask anyone who has attended the conference, they will tell you that some of the best learning happened in the hallway between sessions or while they were charging their pieces of tech. I am one of these people. If you cannot find a session that excites you, wander around and find a comfortable spot to blog in and review what you have learned so far. Use Twitter to make a shout out to see if there is anyone interested in meeting you for a coffee to talk shop. Find someone you follow on Twitter and see if they are available to talk. Do not feel like yo have to fill every moment at ISTE with a session.

- Blogger's Cafe

I loved hanging out at the Blogger's Cafe. It is another great place to meet new people or people from Twitter you have "known" for a while. I like to spend time here working on blog posts that sessions or conversations have inspired. Stop by and say hello.

- Vendors

I'm excited to meet up with some of the great Ed Tech companies that I have connected with over the past year. I know their avatars and have shared many laughs over Facebook and email, but I cannot wait to meet them in person and talk shop. I encourage you to take some time and stop the various booths and say hello. I plan on stopping by to see; EasyBib, TechSmith, Edutopia, Adobe, HerffJones, Glogster and a few others that will turn up as the conference rolls on. These vendors have done great things for me and my students and I cannot wait to thank them in person for their hard work.

- Meals

Yes, I like to eat, but the food is a close second to the real value of meals. Hanging out with new and old friends is so much fun. People need to take the time to have a good meal and re-charge their batteries, but do not do it alone. Find a friendly group of people and join up with them for meals. This is the time to make connections that will stretch beyond ISTE11. My meals at my conferences are some of the most memorable parts of my trips. Great resources are always shared over a dinner table. Trust me.

- Share!

Please share what you learn on Twitter or your blog. We cannot attend every session and we cannot talk to every person. We count on the kindness of everyone else to share great pieces of information. I can't imagine I will sign up for 3 presentations for next year. I feel like I will be missing some great presentations while sharing with others. I need you wonderful educators to let me know what I'm going to miss. I will be clearing my Google Reader tonight so I can start fresh and read about the great things happening while I'm busy.

Lastly, HAVE FUN! This is a cool conference filled awesome people that share a common love of education. Look to connect, share and have fun. It will change your life. See you there. :-)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

@Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended - A Review

This is my pond!

I'm very proud of my pond. I dug it out all by myself. I built the waterfall and laid all of the stone. It has been a labor of love that I can enjoy and work on over the entire summer. I wanted to share the picture with all of you and I wanted to let everyone know that this was my pond. There was a very easy way to do that.

I got my hands on the Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Master Collection and will be playing around with all of the different parts of it during the course of summer. I decided to start with Photoshop because it is the program I am most familiar with using. Having said that, I am terrible at Photoshop. I base that on the fact that I have hard time making things look the way I want them to. However, I was surprised to find the 5.5 version to be easier that I remembered.

I thought it would be fun to alter the picture above to see what I could do with the program. First, I wanted to get rid of the stone flower in the lower right hand corner.

My Pond without the stone.
It was a very simple process and was happy with what I was able to create. I wanted to try something a bit more complicated, so I decided to try and copy and paste some tougher images from the pond. I thought the beavers on the left side of the pond would be fun to clone and move around.

My Pond with the Beavers on the waterfall and to the right of the falls.
Piece of cake! I had no problem taking the beavers and moving them to the top of the waterfall and to the right of the waterfall as well. They blend in very nicely and did not have to do any crazy techniques to accomplish this task. I just highlighted, copied, pasted and dragged to where I wanted them. I couldn't have been happier with the ease of this minor project. I can't wait to start using this for some invitations and website design.

How I plan to use this at school:
I was co-adviser to the school's first online newspaper, The Tower Pulse. In our first year, we were awarded a Silver at the state journalism competition. A silver is the third level of award at the conference. We were complimented on many different parts of The Pulse, but we had room for improvement.

One of the areas that really held us back from receiving the highest honor was our multimedia. We needed more images and video.Since this was our first year, we did not have the resources at our disposal that we would have liked. I was able to secure funding for a Mac, but we lacked solid photo editing software. The Tower had Photoshop at their disposal, but they ran their work on PC and we had a Mac. Students would work on PCs to get the images they wanted, then come up stairs to work on the site with the Mac. It was a tough process for the kids.

Now, with the Master Suite, I'm excited to see what the kids can create with this, and the other Adobe products. I saw what the students were able to create on the PC using an older version of Adobe Photoshop and was blown away. I cannot wait to get the kids in front of the Mac with the newest version and have them teach me a thing or two about photo editing.

Personally, I will continue to play with Photoshop because it is very user friendly and I can have some fun with pictures of my baby boy. If you are looking at getting photo editing software, Photoshop will not disappoint at all. I highly recommend Adobe Photoshop Extended CS5.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Be Confident in Who You Are: Middle School Confidential: A Review

Be Confident in Who You Are: Middle School Confidential – by Annie Fox with Illustrations by Matt Kindt

Full Disclosure: I was given a free copy of this e-book for the purpose of a review.

I am a huge comic book fan. I created a graphic novel course in my high school because I knew there were a number of students in my school that were reading these types of stories and I wanted to help them get the most out of their reading. Graphic Novels appeal to readers in a different way than traditional texts do. With the advent of e-readers, like the iPad, comic books are now more accessible to the average readers. One graphic novel, Middle School Confidential, does an excellent job of telling an important story for students in Middle School.

One of the reasons I love this app is the way it integrates sound. Chapter 1 is entitled: Do You Like The Way You Look? It takes places in the driveway where some kids are playing basketball. As you move from panel to panel, you can hear the sound of a basketball bouncing on the concrete. When the scene shifts to a local pool, you can hear the sounds of the crowd talking and having a good time. You can even hear the sound of a page turning when you go from one page to the next! I know it seems small, but to a young reader, it is cool to actually hear what is going on in a scene while reading the dialogue.

Each chapter is about certain part of growing up that all of us had to deal with at some point. Self image is a big one in those pre-teen/early teen years and I like the way this story addressed these issues. Each chapter provided a different situation where kids were dealing with real life issues and talked about their feelings. Whether it is about making assumptions, freaking out at friends, dealing with stress and the other issues kids deal with daily, this graphic novel does an excellent job of walking the reader through these situations. After each chapter, there is a nice bit at the end that sums up the story.

One of my final take-aways from reading this graphic novel is that this should not be just given to kids to read. This is something that should be read WITH kids. These short stories are a great jumping off point for deeper discussions. That’s what I like most about the app. It allows for more conversation and that is what some kids need most of all. The chance to talk about many of these issues with another adult might be just the thing a kid needs, and Be Confident in Who You Are: Middle School Confidential provides that opportunity.

Uses: I see this being used in a couple of ways. First, it would be wonderful for parents to use with their own children. Read a chapter a day for a week and have conversations about what is at the core of each chapter. It is always great to read with your kids and even better if the kids can walk away with something important. The other use would be in the classroom. If a teacher has an iPad, they could download the app and connect the iPad to the projector and speakers to play the app for class. Now, the entire class can experience the story and can partake in the class discussion.

Price: $3.99 – This might seem a bit much, but the story and the conversations that can come from it are priceless.

About the Authors:

If you have an App or other product that you would like me to review, please send me an email at or seem my About Me page for more information.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Blog on Blogging

Hi everyone! It has been so long since I've posted. A little baby in the household will change up your schedule a bit. Thanks to my wonderful wife and mother-in-law, I've been able to get school work done and get a bit more sleep.

Yesterday was my first #edchat in (what seems like) ages. The topic was blogging in the classroom and as teachers. This is an area I am very passionate about so I was able to jump in for a about 30 minutes before a diaper needed changing.

I'm still shocked that teachers do not see the value in blogging. There is so much value in giving a student a space to share their ideas. It seems very simple. I know teachers that have students write in journals, but scoff at the idea of using a blog. What's the difference? At least some trees can be saved if the students went digital and the teacher wouldn't have to carry home 100 journals to read and review. Sadly, some teachers just do not want to change and try something new.

That's where teacher blogs come in. As teachers, we have to share our stories with others. We have to show everyone what works and what doesn't. We have to be an advocate for our profession. Blogging allows me to see what other teachers are doing and incorporate it into my class. I hope that other teachers have read my blog and use some version of my ideas in their classroom. By sharing our ideas, we can encourage others to sign up and start their students blogging. I regularly share the blogs of many of my PLN members in my district tech blog. Teachers, like students, can tune out one voice. However, if you present them with a chorus singing the same tune, they might just sign up.

There were some posts a couple of months back about edubloggers being self-promoters. I wrote a post i never published that was in favor of self-promoting. I'm a self-promoter because I think I do some pretty cool things in class and I want to share that with others. Self-promoting can be obnoxious, but as teachers, who else is promoting the good things that are going on in our classrooms? If I didn't write about my Freshmen Romeo and Juliet project, who would? Teachers should never be ashamed to share what they do in the classroom and pat themselves on the back.

Blogging is also a great way for me to reflect on my teaching. I can look back at some of my older posts and see what my thoughts were on a particular lesson. That type of reflection is priceless as I strive to become a better person and perfect my craft. Using blogs with students could allow them to reflect on their work. Writing this right now, I just realized I could have had my students use blogs to reflect on their essays after they got them back. Right there, is a "real time" example of blogging as a reflection tool.

Blogs are awesome because they are versatile. I can use a blog for many different reasons. Another teacher can use the same blog space for their work. (Just had another idea. What if I set up joint blogs with another teacher in a different subject and had students use one blog for English and Science or English and Math? Hmmmmm. Real time typing examples!) See, blogs make you think!

I suggest teachers share the blogs they read with non-blogging teachers and suggest they starting writing over the summer. Maybe a couple of reflective pieces on the school year could get them started. If you co-teach or team teach, suggest using blogs as a way to share ideas for the next year. There are ways to get more teachers blogging. Once those teachers are comfortable sharing their writing with others, they will feel better about asking their students to do the same.

I hope everyone is doing well out there. I have some things in the cooker that I hope to drop sometime after ISTE11. Stay on the look out for "Everything I learned about education I learned from watching "Can't Hardly Wait". It should be pretty awesome. :-)

- @TheNerdyTeacher