Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gamification #NerdyChat

I'm a teacher. I'm also a gamer. Sadly, that does not mean I know a thing about gaming in education, or Gamification. It's something I have seen talked about on Twitter and I've seen blog posts on Zite, but it's something that I've been interested in, but have never really found the time to fully explore.

The people of AT&T Aspire contacted me recently and wanted to start conversations with teachers on using technology in education. After some talks, we came up with this hash tag #NerdyChat to spur conversation on utilizing technology to impact students. AT&T has recently formed a great relationship with GameDesk to bring gaming to students. Here is a video explaining their project.

This is the type of thing I needed to be successful at Math. I had the hardest time listening to lectures and taking notes when it came to Math. It just got scrambled in my head on the way to my hand. My parents bought me MathBlaster for the Mac to help with Math. It was a step in the right direction, but was not helpful when it came to high school Math. If I had something like what GameDesk has created, I might have been more engaged in my Math classes.

I am a proponent of technology in education and trying things out to see if they can make the difference in just one student passing. There will be plenty of people that will just say, "Teach them the way I learned. It was good enough for me and it will be good enough for them." There have been times I have thought that way and I all I met was resistance in my classroom. This new idea might be something that helps engage students in Math in a way that might not be possible with traditional teaching methods.

This is just one example of what gamification could do for students, I am interested in what others have to say on the subject. I am new to this arena and really need to hear from my PLN on the implications of the gamification of education. Are you for it? Against it? Join me while I host #NerdyChat Thursday June 7th at 7pm.

If you are interested in gamification, check out these links that were shared with me when I asked my PLN for help. These are awesome resources. 

@mbteach - http://www.diigo.com/list/mbteach/Gaming-in-Education

@dsamuelsperetz - http://gamification.org/ - A wiki for all things gamification

Infographic shared to me by @WandaMcClure

Gamification of Education

Monday, May 28, 2012

Where I am and how I got here

As the end of the school year draws to a close, I like to reflect on everything that has happened and how it has impacted me as a teacher. Today, I really wanted to write about how Social Media has impacted me over the best couple of years.

I started on Blogger and Twitter in January of 2010. I had no big ideas or grand schemes, I just wanted to have space to call my own and share what I thought was interesting. It was going to be a place for me to reflect on my teaching and experience with technology. Getting involved in Social Media turned out to be so much more than that.

That is the interesting thing about Social Media. It can really take on a life of itself and that is not a bad thing. Twitter introduced me to some of my best friends in the world. There are people I have connected with that have provided me with crucial feedback that has helped me strengthen my lessons and take whole new approaches to education. These educators, too many to name here, have made me better at my job. They have impacted students across the country because they have impacted me. I hope I have had the same effect on them and their classes.

Without Social Media, I never would have heard of edcamp and would have never decided to start edcamp Detroit. Edcamps, for me, are the perfect extension of my experience with Social Media. I viewed Twitter as a place where educators got together to discuss what they wanted. They connected over topics that were relevant to them so they could be better. Edcamp is a physical representation of that idea. Teacher get together to discuss and share ideas that are important to the them. Just like no two twitter conversations with be exactly the same, no edcamp will be exactly the same. With two edcamps under my belt, I'm very proud of what they have been able to do in Metro Detroit. Providing a space for teacher to improve their craft is awesome and I'm proud to say I'm part of that.

I never thought The Nerdy Teacher would become a "thing". I am humbled when I get new followers and am still blown away when someone leaves a comment on my blog. I still view myself as "just another teacher", but maybe that is the power of Social Media. While tweeting and blogging have taken me to some really cool places, the main aspect of sharing my thoughts is always there. It's what I'm doing right now.

I'm often asked by friends how I got so many followers or how I connected with certain people and it is always difficult to explain. I always hem and haw because I'm just as shocked as they are, but it always comes down to one thing. I'm just being me. Twitter allows me to nerd out about the things I like and connect with people that are just as passionate about the same nerdy things. I no longer have to feel like an island in my building because I'm doing things differently. Social Media has allowed me to connect with like-minded educators all over the world. We help guide each other in uncharted waters as we take risks to better prepare our students for the world ahead. Social Media has made this possible in way that traditional professional development could never achieve.

Social spaces aren’t about followers. They are about connections -- and my connections make me a better teacher and a better person every day. That is why I find value in using these spaces as a professional and encourage so many more to enter these spaces. Don't be there just to be there. Be there to become better.

I look forward to another year of connections and experiences because of my uses of Social Media. If you are not connected, you are not growing in the 21st Century.

Monday, May 21, 2012

#NerdyCast Episode 3 with @PernilleRipp

In this episode of #NerdyCast, I have the distinct pleasure of chatting with Pernille Ripp. I have been a huge fan of Pernille's writing for a while and she is on my "Must Collaborate With" list. I love her honesty and passion for teaching. I feel comfortable saying that she is my favorte native Danish teacher. Her school is lucky to have her and we are all luck to have her as part of our PLN.

We spend time talking about Blogging, students, fashion and our mutual love of zombies. Please check out her blogs  "Blogging Through the 4th Dimension" and her fashion blog "poor og rich" You can also follow her on Twitter at @PernilleRipp. Pernille is a dedicated educator who I thank for taking the time to chat with me and I hope to have her as a guest again in the near future. You can check out my podcast on my PodOmatic site or iTunes

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Teaching from the (un)comfort of my home

The rest of this week will be spent at home with my foot elevated. I will save you from seeing the picture of a very bruised and swollen foot. I came down on a student's foot during a school volleyball marathon Sat night and the doctors think it is broken or I have some ligament or tendon damage. I'll know more later int he week.

Despite the injury, I was determined to still teach my class. I'm not the type to to just sit and do nothing. I went to school and set up my class laptop so a sub could turn it on and Skype would open and log in. I'm going to teach class using Skype.

After the first day, things went swimmingly. I had a few minor connection problems that were resolved with a re-call, but that was it. The students could hear me and I could hear them. We were able to discuss elements of the Harlem Renaissance with ease. The sub collected work and passed out other work for them to do for the night. It was pretty seamless.

The students do not have the iPads right now because I wasn't able to figure out a way to mangage the cart while I was gone. It is a minor problem that I should be able to solve later this week.

I had some of the students using the #MrPAmLit hash tag as part of a backchannel, but it wasn't actively used on the first day. I think most of the students were focusing on me and not their devices, which is a good thing. Hopefully they will get more comfortable using it as we do it more.

I like the fact that I can Skype from home and have thought about it's use if I were to travel for conferences. Skype and webcams are not standard throughout my district, but this little experiment is a good reason why they should be to some degree. I'm not a fan of spending money to make every room the same if the teacher does not need the tool, but I think it might be a good idea to reach out to teachers to see if they would be interested in having Skype in their room to connect with other educators, authors, experts, etc.

I'll keep everyone posted on how the Skype from home experiment pans out.

Have a great day everyone!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Was a Teenage Bully

I recently read in an article where a person apologized for "hijinks and pranks"  that may have gone too far. The high school "hijinks and pranks" this person were talking involved pinning a student to the ground with the help of friends and cutting this person's hair. After reading the article, I was furious. This wasn't a silly prank on a friend, this was bullying. This was assault. I was itching to write a post about what a terrible human being this person is and how everyone should shout this person down. Then my shame came back to me.

I was a teenage bully.

When I was a freshman in high school, I picked on a kid pretty hard. Why? I'm not entirely sure. As I look back, it was probably because I couldn't stand up to my bully, so I decided it was easier to just pick on someone else. I had told a teacher I was being tormented by another student and I was told to stick up for myself. That is how things were handled at the all boys Catholic school I attended. That's how it's supposed to be, or at least, that is what the 14 year old Nick thought.

I wasn't a bully very long though. My bully ended up leaving school at the end of the year and the student I bullied left as well. I went about the rest of my high school career without much of a blip on the radar.

I'm embarrassed about this small time in m life. I have only told a few people about it and it recently came up in my #NerdyCast with Lyn Hilt. It's a part of my life I want to forget, but really embrace. It's a part of me that will never go away and will never be trivialized. I did it and I will never be able to take it back. I can at least own up to it and try to speak out for those who can't speak for themselves.

The thing that angers me the most about the article is the suggestion that the act of holding a kid down and cutting his hair is thought of as a prank. It is not a prank. It was an act of bullying. We all have done things we are ashamed of as kids growing up. It's part of growing up. The real act of a man is admitting the mistake, showing remorse and being a better person. I don't see that in the apology I read. Suggesting that act is horseplay sends the wrong message to everyone that it's ok to pick on kids if it's in jest. It's not.

As a high school teacher, I'm continuously haunted by my actions. Whenever I see anything remotely like what I did for that short time Freshmen year, it brings back painful memories. I use those memories to be a better person and help those become better people. I wish the person in this article did the same thing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Letting Go of Control #PBL

I've been watching my student projects roll in this week and I have been above impressed. I love to see kids have the opportunity to be creative and share their talents with the rest of class. Here are a couple of things my students have created with this project.


Gatsby Graffiti with QR Codes - Video

Gatsby Grille - Evernote Pics

I have even more Prezis and videos coming in later this week. I'm really happy with the way that this project is turning out.

I've been so proud of my students and they work they have done this year and I wonder why more teachers are not embracing projects as a way to assess learning. Based on conversations I have had with other teachers on this topic, it seems like control is a big issue. With open ended projects, teachers have less control and some have a hard time with that.

There is an idea out there that students need to be told what to do and how to do it when it coes to projects. For some students, they have no idea what to do when told they can be creative because they have never been given the freedom to do what they want. It's terrible when I have to help a student find their creative passions again. Sadly, I feel like some students never recover.

What is the reason behind the control issues? Why is it so important for some teachers to be "The Teacher"? I've known some teachers who really enjoy the power trip that being a teacher can be at times, but they do not tend to last very long in the classroom. There needs to be a reason and I think it might be failure. It seems that the fear of failing is what leads most teachers to avoid change. It ironic that by fearing failure, those teachers are failing their students.

I used to believe that the best project was the one I created and the student that followed all of the directions was the student who did it the best. I also used to think that giving weekly multiple choice tests was the best way to "make" kids do the reading. When I moved to projects, I thought they had to be very structured so the students would "learn" what they were supposed to and I could assess their learning easily following the rubric I constructed. Silly me. The projects were ok, but they lacked creativity and passion. I started to give options and started to get better projects. The last step was to give them just a couple of requirements (Explain 2 themes and 2 symbols) and let them create the project and the rubric with some guidance on my part when asked.

By giving up control, I didn't lose control of the class, I empowered the students to take control of their learning. It's a lesson I wish I had learned years ago and I hope to share with as many people as possible.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gatsby Graffiti and Animation

My students created "graffiti" to put in display to teach students about themes and symbols found in "The Great Gatsby". These pictures demonstrate the power of PBL and technology.

Here is a video with some close-ups of each work. 

Another group asked if they could download an app for their iPad because they really wanted to do animation for their project. I was out of money for apps purchasing, so I picked up an iTunes card and used it to upload the app on her device. The student in the group worked on this for a week. We are working on adding the song she wants soon. The app was Animation Desk. 

There are many more projects I can't wait to share with all of you. Stay tuned for more great work. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

From The Mouth of Babes #edcampDetroit

This is what I called the student panel session at #EdcampDetroit. A few weeks ago students at my school asked me about edcamp Detroit and asked if they could go. I wasn't sure at first, but then I thought a student panel could be interesting. I told them to come down and we would see what happens. I couldn't have been happier with the decision. (Note: I have not actually taught any of the students on the panel and nobody from  my school was in the audience. This led to a very open and honest discussion about what the students like and did not like.)

There were some great things discussed during the 1 hour session:

I asked the panel what they expect from a teacher when they walk into class on the first day and the overwhelming response was making connections. The kids wanted their teachers to be human and just talk to them. One of the said, "We have the whole year to learn, tell me about your summer." This stood out to me. It is something that I strive very hard to do and I was glad to hear that students value that in a class. They want to see that teachers are human and that they value what happens to their students outside of the classroom.

Kids have an assumption that a teacher will know how to use the technology in their classroom. They said, "If it is standard in every room, the teacher should know how to use it. There is nothing worse than watching a teacher struggle with technology." This says something about teachers and the professional development in my district. I'm sure it is the same in many other districts across the country though. Teachers need to embrace the technology in the classroom. Students have come to expect a certain level of competence and it is our duty to meet that level.

Students love Project Based Learning and what to know how the skills they are learning apply to real life. "Just tell me why I will need Geometry. When will I need it? Give me real life problems." The students were very passionate about this topic. They do not want to sit in class and just take notes day after day. They want a dynamic class that allows them to explore the content area with a purpose. They found value in Project Based Learning.

"I don't learn the same way you learn." Kids were adamant about having teachers try to teach them the way that they learn. They acknowledged that it would be tough to do with every student, but it would mean so much to them if they felt they could learn at their pace or in a style that allowed them keep up and understand the material.

The final question of the session was, "What is the one thing you wish teachers knew about you as a student?" I loved the answers that the kids gave for this one.

"I want to come to school. I want to learn. I want them to engage me." I smiled big time when I heard this. It is the simplest thing a teacher can do. Engage your students. They really do want to be there. They want to learn. The only thing we have to do is engage them. How many students are written off as lazy or problems by some teachers when it really is the teacher to blame for not engaging the students? Our kids are looking to us and we cannot let them down.

"Teach me more than just lessons, I want life lessons." Just another fabulous answer from my fabulous students. They recognize that the role of the teacher is so much more than just getting through the curriculum. They seem to get this better than some teachers. Reach out to the students and be part of their lives. Let them know that you care and it can make a difference. They are expecting it.

I loved this session and the kids were excited afterwards. They asked if they could come back next year and do another session. One student asked if it could be called, "Return of the Babes". :-)

I would like to thank Sam, Megan, Annabel and Tori for giving up part of the Saturday afternoon to take part in edcamp Detroit. They were everything I expect from Grosse Pointe South students. I am very proud of them and can't wait to have them back next year.