Thursday, December 29, 2011

The @19Pencils Search Box #EdChat #ElemChat

Getting the most out of your 19 Pencils Search Box

Now that 19 Pencils offers a great search tool to place on your blog or wiki, there are many great things you can do with them. Here is just one of the fun and engaging ways you can utilize this new tool from 19 Pencils.

Even though students might think differently, teachers do not know of every website out there. Nobody could ever play with every website and provide feedback for the students. Now, the 19 Pencils search engine can allow students to do some of the searching on their own.

A teacher can create an assignment where students use the search tool as a way to find sites on their own and provide feedback to the class. This would be a great way to teach some Internet searching skills and website evaluation.

By providing a rubric or form for the students to follow, the kids can search for great sites using the 19 Pencils search engine and then provide feedback on the form. Students could then use the form as a guide to a class presentation describing the site they found and how it would be helpful to the students in class. This simple assignment can help students grow in many different areas.

For teachers, student feedback is so important. Students will be able to review sites and let the teacher know what they think is valuable and that is the best feedback a teacher can get.

By using the 19 Pencils search box, a teacher can feel safe knowing that the websites that pop up a re appropriate for students to review and utilize in their learning.

We hope you enjoy the search box and the new pieces of 19 Pencils we continue to add to make this the best teacher tool in your belt.

Happy New Year!

19 Pencils is a paid sponsor of The Nerdy Teacher

Alien Buddies - A Review #Edchat #ElemChat

My friends at Artgig Studios sent me a copy of Alien Buddies and I love what they have done.

This interactive game is a fun way for young kids to learn their numbers and letters. The app is broken into three parts.

The Matching game is a fun way for users to practice their numbers, letters, shapes and colors. The user drops the alien into the spaceship to match the object in the belly. Point pointing and dragging, the aliens are easily dropped into the spaceship and they fly away. Each game allows the user to break down the learning by capital letters or lower case ones. Numbers sets can be larger or smaller. I like that it allows the user to adjust the challenge level. The Matching game also has a listening portion where the user needs to listen to what is needed. I like this because it goes beyond sight memorization.

I also love the Dot to Dot portion of Alien Buddies. It allows the user to trace their finger from number to number to create a picture. It looks great and it is easy to use on the iPad. It will really help young users on their sequential thinking and their fine motor skills. A very simple game that the kids will love to play. After completing each picture, the user is awarded a sticker to be used on the sticker pages. 

At the end of the Matching game and the Dot to Dot game, the user wins stickers to be used not the sticker portion of the app. People love earning badges or stickers and this is a nice way to encourage users to keep playing. Another cool part of the stickers is that the user can take a picture of their masterpiece and it will be saved to the camera roll. It was very nice for me because I use Photostream and that allowed the pictures to be sent to all of my iDevices. 

The app allows the user to wipe out all of the awards completed games so it can be used over and over again. It is a nice way to keep kids interested and working on these important skills. 

Overall, I'ma big fan of this app. For $0.99, it is a great deal. I can't wait until Leo is old enough to start playing with Alien Buddies

Artgig Studio sent me a copy of this app for the purpose of a review. 

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thank a Collaborator

As the year winds down, I always try and take the time and think about what I was able to accomplish. This year, more than others it seems, was all about collaboration. I have had a chance to work with some of the most amazing people and I thought it would be crazy for me to keep my praise and thanks all to myself. I worked with some awesome people and here are just a few, in no particular order, that I want to show some love. If we worked together and I do not have you listed here, please do not feel sad. I love working with everyone I collaborate, but have to limit the post as best as I can.

Kelly Tenkely -Project PLN

I know I have written more than my fair share of posts about her awesomeness over the past couple of years, but that is because she is constantly awesome. Even though she has started a school (Yes, you read that right. STARTED A FREAKING SCHOOL.), she has still helped me co-edit Project PLN. It has been a tough year filled with deadlines and extension, but we couldn't be prouder of what we have shared with all of you. Project PLN has always been about sharing and we have loved what people have sent in. As we get ready for the December/January Issue, I know that I would not be able to pull this off without her. Kelly, thank you for being a great collaborator and an amazing friend. I would work on any project with you. Just ask.

Shannon M Miller and Shawn Hyer - The Epic Romeo and Juliet Project

I can't even believe we were able to pull it off. Seriously, it still seems like a blur. Without their help, I never would have been able to put together the most amazing plan I have ever conceived and will ever implement. Shannon brought Shawn and I together and we were able to create a project that will stand the test of time. Students will talk about this project at reunions and I have the DVD to share with them. I am so proud of that DVD, I have a copy in my Firebox that I use to store birth certificates, passports and other important documents. That is how much that project means to me. Thank you Shannon and Shawn for your dedication to a crazy idea that inspired students to take Shakespeare and make it their own.

Kelli Fimbinger and Jeff Nardone - The Tower and

Two years ago, Jeff asked me if I would be interested in helping him start an online version of the schools national award winning weekly newspaper. He assured me that I would take care of the tech end and he would handle the journalism end. Since Jeff is a fun guy to work with, I said yes with little hesitation. Due to some scheduling issues, I was not able to run the class and this new teacher to the district came in and was given the class. It was the best decision the district has made in a long time. Kelli is an amazing person to work with on The Pulse. She is a great English teacher who has pushed me to be creative and fun in my lessons and an amazing sounding board for class issues. Jeff invited me into the world of journalism and showed me how a paper is made. It can be tough to fit into a well oiled machine like The Tower, but The Pulse was able to win an award in our first year and we are going for the top award in online journalism this year. This would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of Jeff and Kelli. I couldn't think of working with anyone else on these projects.

I have had the chance to work with on a consulting basis. I do this from time to time to help sites with what teachers want or need. I've worked with a handful of groups, but these guys have been amazing. They have taken criticism well and want to know what teachers and students really want, not what can we sell them. In a world where there are many "educational" business, these guys are dedicated to making a good product for teachers and students. I do not speak for groups that I do not support whole heartily, so believe me when I say 19Pencils is legit and with your time.

Tim Gwynn - #EduBro

Tim is my brother from another brother and my chief source of comic relief when things get lame. We put together the best event at ISTE11 and will be planning an even more epic event for ISTE12. I plan to keep it classy in San Diego and I wouldn't do it without my #EduBro.

I love writing for these guys and gals. I have had the chance to hang out with the workers of Edutopia and they are some of the coolest people in the world. I love getting a chance to write for them and share my thoughts on tech integration. Writing for Edutopia is exciting because it forces me to write a bit differently than I do for this site and I think it is important to do that for a writer. Also, I get to tell people I write for George Lucas. That's never a bad thing to share with Star Wars geeks.

Edcamp Detroit 

Michael, Karen, Linda, Chris, Melanie, Mary and company all played a major part in bringing Edcamp to Detroit. I never thought it was going to happen until that Saturday rolled around and things got started. I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. People showed up, filled out the board and shared. Edcamp fell the same week and the end of my Epic Romeo and Juliet Project, so my brain was all over the place. The Edcamp crew came together and made sure that everything went smoothly. As we start to gear up for Edcamp Detroit 2012, I know that my crew can accomplish anything we set our minds to. Bonus, I will not be expecting a child next May either. That actually leads me to my last collaborator.

Jennifer Provenzano - Wife and Chief Collaborator

I know I said that this was not in a particular order, but that is kind of a lie. My wife has been my best and most important collaborator this year. Any idea I have had has run through her first. Her views are invaluable to me. I can't imagine having accomplished any of the above without her support. Most of all, we collaborated on the most beautiful baby in the world. As collaborations go, he by far is the best finished product.

Thanks to everyone that has risked working with me this past year. I encourage everyone to take a moment and thank the people you loved working with this year.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Social Media in Schools #EdChat

Today, an article was published by the New York Times about the use of Social Media in schools and how some districts are imposing very restrictive guidelines for their staff. I was interviewed for this article a couple of months ago. I talked with the reporter for close to an hour and this is what was published.

"Nicholas Provenzano, 32, who has been teaching English for 10 years at Grosse Point High School in Michigan, acknowledged that “all of us using social media in a positive way with kids have to take 15 steps back whenever there is an incident.” But he said the benefits were many and that he communicated regularly with his students in an open forum, mostly through Twitter, responding to their questions about assignments. He has even shared a photo of his 6-month-old son. On occasion, he said, he will exchange private messages about an assignment or school-related task. He said that in addition to modeling best practices on social media use, he has been able to engage some students on Twitter who would not raise their hand in class. 

He also said social media networks allowed him to collaborate on projects in other parts of the country."

There are a couple of things I want to point out before I go into more detail on Social Media in Schools.

1. I teach at Grosse Pointe South High School in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI
2. I'm not sure why my age was really important to the article, but I am 32.
3. When I talked about exchanging private messages, I was referring to DMs of Twitter. Some students feel more comfortable asking, what they deem dumb, questions through a DM. They feel more comfortable asking those in private. No different than staying after class to ask the question once everyone leaves.
4. Yes, I have shared a photo of my beautiful 6 month old son (now 7 months old). I'm not sure exactly how that point fits in the paragraph, but I think I was trying to show that while Twitter can be a great place to connect and discuss school related issues, it is also nice to be able to show students you are a person too.

These are just a few of the things I wanted to clear up regarding the article that I was quoted. For the full article, you can find it here.

As for Social Media use in schools, here is what I think.

When it comes to Social Media, like any tool, there needs to be a clear goal in mind. Using Facebook or Twitter because the kids do is an awful reason if it is the only one. I chose to use Twitter with my students because I saw it as a way to connect with my students outside of the classroom. It is also an avenue for me to connect with parents. I created an account that is for my school only. @MrProvenzano is an account I openly use with my students, parents and other teachers in the district. My twitter account is on my syllabus and my school web page. I embed the feed onto my site as well so anyone can see the tweets that go out. I also use the hash tag, #MrPAmLit to specify class content. Over the past couple of years, it has been a great communication tool. My students have used Twitter as a back channel for class discussions and to ask me questions after school hours. It has been a great experience for me and my students. It is only possible because I put some strict guidelines in place.

I told students that I would follow them back on Twitter, but may choose to un-follow them if they use language or discuss topics I deem inappropriate. I have a discussion about digital footprints and the words they use could come back and haunt them no matter how well they think they are covering their tracks. I've only had to un-follow a couple of students because their language was just too foul. Sometimes I will say something to a student about an errant F-Bomb in a tweet and they are always apologetic and promise to be more mindful. I support their first amendment right to tweet what they want, but I always tell them people are allowed to think what they want based on their tweets. It's all about the modeling.

I know it is easier to block everything and punish harshly. I feel that is the response of lazy administrators. I say sit down and get your hands dirty and create a policy that works for parents, teachers, students and the district. Social Media is a new territory that needs to be explored in education, but like all new territories, it must be explored with caution and open mind.

Please feel free to share your thoughts below. 

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Crowdsourcing an English Curriculum #EngChat #EdChat

Hello everyone! I’m working on a proposal to drastically change the Grade 10 Curriculum. Currently, our curriculum starts with Puritanism and ends with Catcher in the the Rye or Death of a Salesman. Our “newest” book is over 60 years old. It is getting harder and harder to engage reluctant readers to texts that are further and further away from who they are. I’m looking to bring in new texts that students can identify.

What I want to do is move our 2nd semester that generally starts with Huck Finn and move it to the first semester an start the 2nd semester with all new texts. The main focus on the Grade 10 Curriculum is coming of age. Despite being an avid reader, there are plenty of things I have not read or heard about that would be a perfect fit for this curriculum.

Here is where I need your help. Please suggest literature (Poetry, short stories, novels, essays, fiction, non-fiction, media, etc) that would be perfect for grade 10 students. Here is the criteria for the selections.

Must be American Authors (This is an American Literature Class)
Must have been published post 1960
Must be age appropriate for 15-16 year old students with varying reading levels

Feel free to add your suggestions to the Google Doc and I will be able to put together a list of suggestions for my district. Thanks for all of your help and support.

Links to book reviews would be very helpful as well. Thanks again!

Google Doc Link

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

iP@d Pilot/ #PBL Update 2.1 #Edchat

I received this email today and I had to share it with all of you. The name of the students has been changed.

I did not have time to stop by (too see class presentations), but wanted to let you know Zach Morris stopped by to show me his (project) - he was really proud of it. To see a kid who would basically have nothing to do with school last year so engaged and pleased was exceptionally cool!

Could I get your assignment/rubrics for this and any other tips on how to do it logistically? Very cool project and makes the challenging topic/readings very accessible. Nick said being able to do the project made the "challenging reading" worthwhile. Made me smile :)

The students were creating Transcendentalist Societies using their iPads and this student had been working hard all week. While this says something about the iPad project, it also says something about Project Based Learning.

Sometimes, the right project at the right time can have a profound impact on a student. This email will be stored in a folder for years to come.

I hope everyone is having a great day.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's About Positive Reinforcement Stupid! #EdChat #Education

My students have been working very hard on their projects the past couple of weeks and I am very proud of their work. I walk around and look at what they have completed and I have been very impressed. I make it a point to talk to every student in a group and ask them what they are working on and pass along a positive comment. The comments do not need to be life changing, but sometimes, just sometimes, the smallest compliment can mean the world to a students.

I once had a student that was working on a project with a group of students. This student was in charge of drawing a symbol for their group. This person was not a terrible artist, but they were not going to win an art award any time soon. I walked around and was talking to groups when I notices the picture this student was working on. I asked them what the picture meant and told them I really admired their drawing because I can barely draw a stick figure correctly. They chuckled and went back to work.

Months later, students were working on another project and this student was drawing for their group. I noticed the picture was significantly better than the last one. I commented on how great the picture looked and how I jealous of them I was they could draw like that. They smiled again and went back to work. At the end of the day, the student stopped by to show me their sketchbook and I was blown away at the artwork. It was months of drawings. Some were rough, but others were beautiful. I told them I was impressed and asked them how did they get to be so good. The student said I encouraged them to.

The student said my compliment months before was the motivation for them to dedicate their spare time to drawing to get better. They loved to draw, but wanted to be better and my compliment was the first time outside of their family someone said their work was good.

This happened years ago and I have no idea what this student is doing now and if it involves art. I hadn't thought of this student in a long time, but something another student was working on sparked the memory. Sometimes I forget the power our words can have on students. A simple compliment provided the motivation for a student to pursue their passion. How many students are waiting for that one compliment from their teacher? When was the last time you sat down with a student and compliment their work?

Sometimes a little conversation can go a long way. Remember that the next time you are walking around your classroom and see a student working.

Positive Attitude
by DuneChaser

Friday, December 9, 2011

Update 2: iP@ds in my classroom #EdChat #EdTech #PBL

This is Update 2 for my iPad project. Here is my first update.

My students have spent the past two weeks working on their projects. They are working in groups to create the ideal transcendental its society. The first few days with the iPads was more of a "What can we do we these?" experience for the kids. They logged into apps and took pictures using Photobooth. It was overall silliness at times, but I knew that was going to be the case, so I let them have fun. I really think that is important to remember. Some of these kids have never used an iPad outside of the Apple store and they should have a chance to play with them within the context of school and learning. I want them to see the iPad as a tool to explore the world, not just as another computer to do menial tasks.

After the playful period, students began to do serious work. Kids were using SketchPad Pro to design crests and flags for their community. They also used it to create detailed maps of their society. Some students utilized Pages to create the groups rules and job descriptions. It was great to see them working hard and collaboratively. It was a surreal experience at times. There were instances where it was dead silent as students all worked on various parts of their projects. I'm excited to see the work two students are going to present after writing a rap and using GarageBand to create beats to perform to. It's something that would not have been possible before. One of those students actually came in to school early in the morning to work on the iPad. He said it was the most fun he had ever had writing before. You cannot ask for better feedback than that.

Dropbox has been a great tool for my students. Signing them up to accounts at the start of the year is one of the best things I did this year. Without pushing, students created their own group shared folders and have been putting all of their work there. Students have been able to upload photos and videos from the app to work on at home. Dropbox has allowed the students to quickly and easily share all of their work. I also noticed that students have created folders for other classes as well, so I know they are really enjoying the program.

Kids have spent the past two days filming and editing using iMovie. I've only had to help a couple of groups with some user issues, but students have mostly figured out how to use the apps on their own. I think that is something that has always stood out about the iPad. The device itself and many of the apps are very easy to use and understand. It has allowed the students to spend more time on creation and that pays off when it comes to learning. I really look forward to sharing some of the projects with all of you once they have been presented in class.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Adobe Digital School Collection is Awesome! #EdChat

I’m really excited to be talking about great new offer from Adobe. The Adobe Digital School Collection (ADSC) is a bundle offered by Adobe that includes Adobe Acrobat X Pro, Adobe Premiere Elements 10 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 10. I was able to get my hands on the software and I am very excited by what I saw. One of the things I have tried to do in my classroom is foster an environment of creativity and collaboration. One of the things I have seen in my classes over the years is that my kids have great ideas for projects and they want to get those ideas out, but they did not have access to the tools to do it. The ADSC would be great in a computer lab for students to engage in content creation. My students could take create pictures and/or video and use Photoshop and/or Premiere to create some amazing projects.

One of the things that might make an educator hesitant to introduce new software to student and staff, but there are many great resources for educators to pull from to make using the new software much easier to handle. The Adobe Education Exchange is a great place to see lessons other educators have created using these products. I have spent some time on the Ed Exchange and I have seen some really awesome lessons. Those lessons can serve as jumping off points for lessons new teachers to Adobe. All new software will take some time to get used to how it works. but there are great resources available to support any educator that might need the extra help. Here are some how to video highlights for each of the programs:

ADSC is only available through licenses of 50 or 100 seats. The 50 seat licenses costs $2,000 and the 100 seat licenses cost $3,500. That might seem expensive, but if you look at how much each one of these three programs would cost on their own, it is an amazing deal. I love the idea of having my students use these tools to creatively present their projects in any way they want. It will take some time for the students to get used to using the software, but kids are fast learners when they have an opportunity to be creative. I very much encourage all of you to check out ASDC and see how you might use it in your school with your students. Click here for more information on Adobe School Digital Collection.

Stay tuned for more information on the Adobe Digital School Collection.


I was sent a copy of the software for the purpose of this and future reviews.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Monday, December 5, 2011

Quick Hit - Saving Documents from iP@d to Dropbox #edchat #edtech

I wanted to share with everyone a way to save Pages and Keynote files from the iPad to your Dropbox account. Here is a link to the document I shared with my students on Dropbox.

Basically, you create a document using Pages or Keynote and email to yourself. You go to your email through Safari and access your email. In the email, open the document and it will take you to a new tab. From the new tab, it will give you different programs you can open the document in. Choose Dropbox and it will let you save the file in an existing folder or you can create a new one. The PDF is a bit more detailed, but it works every time. Give it a try.

Everything I Learned about Education I learned from Christmas Cartoons

It's been a little bit since I have written one of my favorite types of posts and I thought the holidays would be the perfect time to share what my favorite Christmas Cartoons have taught me about education. Here are 5 of my all-time favorites in no particular order.

Frosty Snowman

I have always had a soft spot for this cartoon and will go out of my way to watch it when it is on TV. The part of the show that stands out to me is the Magician with the magic hat that brings Frosty to life. To me, he represents all of the worst things about some teachers. He tells the kids to never question an adult and to do what he says because he is older. Kids to him, are an annoyance. The possibility of Frosty coming to life is not possible and the kids are crazy for even thinking it possible.

Kids have some of the most amazing ideas and teachers should be asking them their opinion more often than not. The Magician, like all bad guys, are driven by greed and they do not want anything to do with children. I know some of the teachers. These are people that are just in it for the paycheck at this point and kids are a constant bother. Frosty showed me the fun kids can have when they are allowed to be a little bit silly. Beware of becoming a Magician and, under not circumstances, throw a way a top hat. You never know how magical it might be.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 

Now, I know this is not technically a cartoon, but the claymation is amazing and it is too great not to write about. I think this is the easiest show to write about for this post. Rudolph being an outcast is something all of us have felt once in our life time. I actually want to focus on the Misfit Toys.

When you look around your classroom, it is sometimes very easy to identify those Misfit Toys. These are the kids that haven't found their place in school. Our job as teacher is to help those students find the place where they will excel based on the talents they have. They might be suggesting they take an art class after watching them doodle in their notebook or leaving a book of comic design on their desk. It could be letting a student rap part of his assignment after hearing him rap during lunch. Everyone is a Misfit Toy at some point in their life and I think a teacher is a person in the perfect position to help those students find their passion. I had some special English teachers that pointed me in the direction of Drama my Senior year and I'm eternally grateful. An education student pointed me towards education in college. Students are often looking for just one person to show interest and help them. They are very much like the Misfit Toys. As a teacher, let's play Santa and find a place for these kids. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas

This lesson is very similar to the Misfit Toys idea. This sad little Christmas tree just needs some love to truly show everyone what it could really be. There are students around the country that are waiting to be loved, but they are being taught by Charlie Browns. These teachers are good intentioned, but they need a little help. Sometimes, we need to help those students who are not in are class because they might have someone who just doesn't know how to reach them.

There are also plenty of Lucy's out there as well. These are people that are focused on the bells, whistles and buzz words surrounding education, but have failed to see what the real meaning of education is supposed to be. Linus reminds everyone about the meaning of Christmas and I think it is important for teachers to try and remind everyone that education is about students, not test scores, politicians, technology and the other things being talked about right now. Be a Linus for your school and advocate for the students who cannot speak up for themselves. 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I want so badly to write a paragraph that is all about Michigan Governor Rick Snyder cutting the education budget this past year, but that would be too easy.  Instead, I want to focus on the ending of the cartoon that gets me every time.

The Grinch thinks that he will ruin the morning of all the little Whovillians (sp?). However, the sun comes up and the entire group is up and singing. He is shocked and confused. He was sure that Christmas was all about presents and the roast beast. His hear then grows three sizes and he brings all of the presents back to town.

I look at lesson planning the same way. Some people are obsessed with technology and the role they want it to play in their class. (This coming from the guy with the class set of iPads) I'm an advocate for technology in the classroom, but not at the expense of the lesson. Lesson planning needs to be at the core of every class. My lessons are designed with the skills and content in place first, then I see how technology can enhance it. Some are trying to build lessons with the technology first and the content and skills second. While I would be sad if a Grinch came in and took all of my toys away, I would still be happy to have my job and teach my students because I know my content is strong with or without an iPad. It's ok to want the iPad or Smartboard, but remember that the lesson is the real important part of the teaching day.

Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire 

Christmas would not be the same without The Simpsons. This was their first full length episode after doing shorts on the Tracy Ulman Show. I was only 10 years old, but I remember watching this and becoming addicted. It's as funny in 2011 as it was in 1989. Bart gets a tattoo and Marge needs to spend the Christmas money to get it removed. Homer did not get the bonus he thought was coming, so he gets a job as a Santa. He ends up gambling the money away at the dog track looking to hit it big. As they walk through the parking lot, the dog he bet on, Santa's Little Helper, is kicked out by his owner and joins the Simpson family. Homer brings the dog home and everyone is happy.

What did I learn from this? Well, some of the best things come when you least expect it. The best part of my job are the little surprises that happen every week. The student that learns something new about themselves or the student who makes a connection to our readings and their life. The little thank you note from a parent or student for something I didn't realize was so important. When life is at its lowest point, nice things are bound to happen and that is why I love teaching. The Simpsons provide me joy every day. Some may say they have jumped the shark, but they still get me laughing a few times an episode without fail. Their first full episode was the beginning of an amazing show.

These are the five shows that have meant the most to me as a child and as an adult. I look at them now and I can't wait to share them with my son. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What is the point of an English class anymore? #EngChat

The most fun I have in class is when my kids are having discussions about literature and relating it to the world around them today. Isn't that why we read? Isn't that why authors write? Are English classes today becoming test prep course for state exams? If my students uses one too many run-on sentences but can explain the complexity of Twain's satire in Huck Finn and compare it to Saturday Night Live's view of the Presidency, does that make them a bad student? Does that make me a bad teacher?

The reason I ask is because of a conversation I had with some English teachers online the other day. They were stressing the importance of being common in all of their classrooms and making sure all of their exams align with their state exam. Now, I understand the importance of preparing students for the state exam. However, are we preparing them to be thinkers? When I look at the world around me, I make constant comparisons to literature I have read. When I hear about a school district banning a book, I think of Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury. When ever some talks about trying to relive the past, I can't help but think of Gatsby and the green light. TV uses literary allusions all of the time and a part of me smiles when I see those connections because I feel like I'm part of an inside joke the writers put there just for me. Are our kids going to feel the same thing if texts are only used to teach specific skills to prepare them for state exams? 

What about teaching the beauty of reading? Why not focus on the value of making connections? These are parts of life that are valuable to people long after they are done taking tests. Am I wrong in wanting to show my students how scary The Hunger Games is when we look around the world and see laws and governments that are seen in the story? Does it make me a bad teacher? What is the point of an English class anymore?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Thursday, December 1, 2011

iP@ds in my classroom - Update 1 #Edchat #EdTech #Education

Here is the first of many updates on how the iPads are being used in my classroom.

The students were finally able to get their hands on the iPads on Monday (November 28). The first day was spent mostly on the ins and outs of how the iPads were to be used. I showed some of the basic features of the iPad and let them take them for a spin. They were excited to see what they could do and spent time taking pictures and playing around with the free apps.

I showed them how to log into Dropbox and Evernote and how to log off those apps as well. Since these are shared devices, it's important that the apps used allow for user sign in and sign out. I reminded the kids to log off any students that forget to do so and see me if there are any notifications that pop up. The kids were excited and we did not have any major problems on the first day.

The next day, the kids were diving deep into their project (Creating a Transcendentalist Society) and started to encounter some problems using Dropbox. Dropbox allows user to upload video and photos to their account using the app. However, the app needs permission to find your location to do so. All of the settings were set to prevent new apps from using location services. I had to convince my IT guy to give me the restrictions password so I can trouble shoot issues like this. It's important for the pilot teacher to have access to the restrictions password to solve these little problems. It took me a chunk of time, but I was able to fix all of those problems for Dropbox and future apps.

The next issue that came to light was the lack of email. We did not have email addresses linked to the iPad accounts and it quickly became apparent that without email, the iPads were not effective at sharing information quickly. I convinced my IT guys to put the same email account on the iPads and we hope to block the incoming mail to the account. Now, my students can quickly share their notes from their Notes app, photos, video and Evernote. Email accounts are necessary to quickly and easily share information. 

I spent the first week creating a system for where the apps go on each iPad. The most common apps were placed on the front page, apps that were more Language Arts were on the second page and the last page will be all Science (I'm piloting with a Chemistry and Biology teacher). Breaking up the apps this way will allow the kids to find what they need quickly. I also showed them the search feature in case they can't find the app right away. App organization might take time to set up, but it will save the student time in the long run. 

I'm still waiting for the grant money to come in so I can buy the apps that I really need. The free ones are good for now, but my kids want to do serious photo and video editing and the free apps do not provide the umph they need. Try and wait to roll out the iPads until you have all of the apps you need. 

The kids still have all of next week to work on the project and I have not had any problems with the usage. I've actually heard students tell others to stay on task with the iPad. That made me smile.

I'll be keeping regular updates on my site on the apps I use, the policies put in place and anything else that comes up regarding the iPad pilot.

Have a great day!

- @TheNerdyTeacher