Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Evernote Online Workshop with The Principal Center

Hello everyone! I wanted to let you know that I'm doing a Webinar on how to use Evernote in Education with The Principal Center in November. All of the details are below. If you are interested in registering, follow this link.

This is going to be a great 3-hour workshop where I will cover all of the different ways that Evernote can impact your life as an educator. I have spent countless hours working on the ins and outs of Evernote and developed a system that makes my life easier every day. Isn't that what every teacher is looking for in a web tool? If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a tweet (@TheNerdyTeacher), an email (onenerdyteacher@gmail.com) or visit the site.

Here is the information from The Principal Center

November 13 & 15, 2012
3-4:30 PM Pacific/6-7:30 PM Eastern (Two 90-minute sessions)

Both live sessions will also be recorded and sent to participants afterward

What can Evernote do for your classroom?

We've heard for decades about the paperless world that was supposedly coming. Paper may be here to stay, but the digital tools we've been waiting for are here, and they're more powerful than we could have imagined. Learn about the 21st century tool that's changing the way educators manage their information, from lesson plans to student work to class newsletters. 
Nicholas Provenzano, a high school English teacher and instructional technology expert from Grosse Pointe Public Schools in Michigan, has fully incorporated Evernote into his professional practice, from lesson planning to managing student work to communicating with families.


In this in-depth workshop, he will show you how using Evernote in your classroom can enable you to:
  • Get more organized, without having to spend more time on organization
  • Keep track of documents and notes, such as lesson plans, handouts, and access them on any device - even your phone
  • Search for any text, even inside photos and handwritten documents
  • Share plans, assignments, or other information with colleagues, students, or parents, wtih a single click
  • Collect student work electronically and maintain secure online portfolios for each student
  • Avoid the clutter and time-consuming management that comes with maintaining paper lesson materials or hundreds of electronic files from year to year
  • Maximize the benefits of technology for your teaching, even if you don't have the latest gear
  • Provide accommodations for students and increase communication with families
  • Let students do their homework from their smartphones, wherever they are
  • Use cutting-edge accessories to make your work easier

Workshop Format

This workshop consists of two 90-minute sessions, which will be held live on our online webinar/workshop platform. Participants will be able to ask Nick questions during and after each session, and the recordings will be posted for download after each live session. Participants who aren't able to join the live sessions will be able to ask questions via our online forum, where we will respond and share additional materials to support your use of the strategies in your classroom.
If you would prefer to access all three hours of content in one sitting, you can simply download the presentation recordings after the second session.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The 1:1 Dilemma #edchat

I had a chance to attend another great edcamp this weekend (EdcampOU) and I sat in a session on 1:1 computing. A district very close to mine passed a bond and will be rolling out iPads to all of their students (Grades 1-12) in the coming year. Teachers were given them first and are being trained on how to use them. It was an excellent session run by Chris Stanley(@StanleyTeach).

I have a 1:1 situation in my classroom with a class set of iPads. While it has been an amazing experience, there are limitations when five students are sharing 1 device over the course of the day. For some of my students, this is the only access they will have to a computer for the entire day. I also do not get to leverage all of the power of the iPad because some apps require storage on the tablet. Despite those issues, the 1:1 experiment has been a huge success in my opinion.

The conversation about 1:1 spilled over into Twitter and one of my district's administrators, Aaron Johnson (@i2_sing_america) and @kevinozar joined the conversation about supplying students with the devices and what do we do about teachers that are resistant to adopting the new pedagogy that comes with the new tools. These are great questions and here are my thoughts on them.

I think the one that drives me the most batty, is the reluctant teacher argument. Yes, there are teachers that do not like change. That is a fact. Are there that many reluctant teachers that an entire district should not move forward with a 1:1 program? I doubt it. Even if there are, it seems to me that the situation is an administrative issue. If an employee refuses to use a new tool despite adequate training and support, that is when the boss steps in and uses appropriate measures to get them on board.

Now, notice I said adequate training and support. That really is key. I think most teachers are reluctant to change because they have had too many new programs and tools thrust upon them without adequate training and support. I would love it if every teacher could grab and iPad and start to lesson plan like a pro, but that is not happening. I have had the iPads in my class for almost a year and I'm still on a learning curve. Worse yet, I've been supplying my own training and support through Twitter. Now, if my district were to move toward a 1:1 model, I would be in an excellent position to support students and staff. That is a bonus. One person's pain can turn into another person's salvation when it comes to technology integration. Without proper training and continues support after the training, 1:1 programs, and all new pedagogical initiatives, will fail miserably.

Should school districts pay for students to have devices? This is the question I have changed my position on at different times over the past couple of years. I believe that BYOD cannot work because of the digital divide. I also think it can't work because it now asks a teacher to have an elementary understanding of how many different devices and OSs work. That sounds like a logistical nightmare for any teacher.

Computers, iPads in this case, are starting to become the norm in the classroom. In my district, it is an accepted expectation that work is completed on a computer and submitted to teachers electronically. It has been that way for almost 10 years. As the makeup of our district has changed, that expectation has slowly changed. There are students without access to computers at home and struggle to complete work before or after school. As a teacher, I make the accommodations I need to help those students succeed, but they will have trouble all year and some teachers are not as accepting as I am. As a school, we offer supplies to students they cannot afford on their own. If a student doesn't have pen and paper, don't we offer it to them to use? Are computers entering the same category? We give all of our students email addresses, how can they use them if they don't have access? We are moving students to Google Apps for Education, what's the point if they can;t use the tools outside of class. (Yes, GAFE isn't awesome on iPads, but maybe we go laptops. Don't let that be the sticking point in this post.)

I think it is becoming the responsibility to provide access to all of the students in an effort to give them the computing skills they will need outside of the classroom. If a student is only given pencils to do their work, they will not be prepared when they go to college or have to fill out online job applications. I know funding is a nightmare and their are logistical issues that have to be dealt with, including adequate bandwidth to handle the traffic, but should these be the roadblock to providing the best education possible for our students?

What are your thoughts?

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Power of the Table #edchat

This was the type of classroom I taught in for a number of years,

I needed to be up front and all of the students had their personal desk space and were tiny little islands that I would watch over from my position in the from of the class. There were a number of reasons that students needed to be organized this way, but the one most often given was, "Kids will cheat, copy or misbehave if they are sitting so close to one another." Ugh. 

It took me many years to break from this theory. By doing away with all multiple choice exams, the fear of copying work is gone. Project based learning has eliminated that fear completely. 

I know arrange my desks in groups of 4 or 5 and I couldn't be happier. What I think some teachers fail to see is the power of the table. When students are isolated at their own desk and are asked to participate in class, they are scared. I see kids that sit at tables that act far more comfortable in class because they do not feel like they are alone. It is so funny that we encourage group work and table work at a young age, then we make a switch to an independent learning environment and we really shouldn't be surprised that some students do not adjust well to this. 

The table allows students to work together in a collaborative environment. Some teachers suggest that tables encourage talking and student can become too disruptive. That is not the fault of the table, that is the fault of the teacher and their classroom management skills. I could argue that my students are more on task at tables because they have others next to them that can help them stay focused or redirect them if they are lost. 

I tend to get more out of my struggling students when they are sitting in their groups and working at the tables. In the past, struggling kids would relish the fact they could sit quietly in their own desk and hide. Tables are not for hiding. They encourage students to collaborate and share ideas. It is the perfect remedy for students that are having a hard time connecting in class with the content. Sometimes they need to hear other students walk through the process to get it. 

Evernote has been great for the table work as well. Students have been designating notetakers and sharing the notes in a shared notebook for all of them to access as well. There is added pressure for the notetaker to get the notes right so the rest of the group doesn't suffer. This attention to detail has created a wonderful learning environment where students in a group offer support while others are taking notes. Different tables work together and share information easily as well. Table work has turned out to be more organized than the "All desks equally apart" approach to class environments. 

I advise all teachers to consider the table approach to their class. It is a great way to get your students working together. If I had the money, my classroom would look much more like this, 

How do you set up your classroom?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

20/20 Technology

I always tell my students not do to what I'm about to write, but it serves an important purpose in this piece.

If I asked you these questions, would you be able to answer them?

What is the technology vision for your school district? School? Classroom?

Could your building principal answer these questions? How about your Superintendent?

If you do not know the district's or school's technology vision, how can you create one for your classroom? If the principal cannot tell you the district's vision, how can he create one for the building? These are very serious questions as teachers look to integrate technology into the classroom. What is the goal or the purpose of using these tools in the classroom. I think there are teachers that can forge their own path in using technology in their classroom, but there are many teachers out there that need guidance and they should be looking to a building technology vision that should be supporting the overall district vision of technology use.

No matter how much money your district may or may not have, a vision for the future is important to allow for planning. I'm starting to see many school districts start to make purchases without establishing a long term vision and that is a recipe for disaster and wasted dollars.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to ask the leaders in your district if there is a vision for technology use. If not, ask them when it will be ready. If they can't answer that, then you have a bigger mission to possibly undertake.

Does your district/school/classroom have a vision? Want to share it here? Leave it in the comments section.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Evernote for Collaboration #EdChat

My students are working on their first project this year. I'm a big fan of Project Based Learning and have my students multiple projects over the course of the school year. The addition of iPads in my classroom has really allowed me to expand my projects to areas not possible before. The addition of Evernote has really made a positive impact on the flow of project creation.

The students are creating Student Declarations of Independence. The are following the structure of the American version written by Thomas Jefferson. Working in groups of 4-5, they are outlining student rights and their complaints against the Crown (me or the school). It's a nice project I have used over the years and have moved digital recently. The biggest obstacle students always faced was trying to collaborate outside of the classroom. Emails and flash drives would be shared as they try and piece together all of the different parts of their document. Google Docs could have been a viable option, but our students do not have their accounts active and they do not know how to use them. Evernote solves this problem.

Through Evernote's Shared Notebooks (a Premium Feature), students can share notebooks and edit them from their accounts. This allows students to work on their parts of the project and add them to the shared notebook when they are ready. Students no longer need to worry about emails or flash drives. All of the work is safely in their Evernote account for them to access wherever they are.

We have had some sharing issues due to some spam blocking on our school's email server, but that is an issue on our end that is being corrected. Long term, sharing of notebooks will be a positive step in my effort to increase collaboration in my classroom.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ambassador Nerdy Teacher #Evernote

This might not come as much of a surprise to anyone who has read my blog or seen my Twitter feed, but I'm kind of obsessed with Evernote. My life is ruled by notes and notebooks. Most people would be  concerned about my above and beyond affinity for their program, but the folks at Evernote granted me Ambassador status today. I did a little research on what Ambassadors get for hold such a title and here is what I found.

From Wikipedia "An Ambassador is an official envoy; especially, a highest ranking diplomat who represents a State and is usually accredited to another sovereign State (country), or to an international organization as the resident representative of his or her own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment.[1]"

That sounds about right. I like being referred to as an official anything, but an envoy sounds really fancy. I was even more excited when I saw this photo on Ambassadors,

Hans Holbein the YoungerThe Ambassadors, 1533. The life-sized panel portrays
Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve, the ambassadors of Francis I of France.
All I need are my robes to be in Evernote Green and I'm ready to go. 

I also read (Probably saw on Law and Order) that Ambassadors don't have to pay parking tickets. That is pretty sweet. I think that bad guy from Lethal Weapon 2 (Language Warning) was an Ambassador, but I promise to be like that guy. He was weird and a bit creepy. 

All joking aside, I'm really honored to be working with the Evernote team to help get teachers, students and schools on board with using Evernote. If you have questions, suggestions, tips or other Evernote related comments, please feel free to send me an email or a tweet and I'll help you out.

You can find out about my Ambassadorship and others here.

Have an awesome day!

Ambassador @TheNerdyTeacher

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The First Five Minutes #EdChat

I've been paying close attention to my time management this year. I was curious how I used my time at the start and end of class. I want to be as efficient as possible and those times of a class period could run smoother.

I found something very interesting after looking at my classes for about 6 weeks. The first five minutes set the tone for the entire class. Here is what I'm talking about.

One approach had me jumping into the material the second the bell rang. I started rattling off the things we were going to cover for the day and all of the stuff they needed to have out and ready to go. I also would take attendance during this time. I was always amazed at how chatty all of the kids were and how many of them were not quite ready to go when I was.

I was very annoyed that my students couldn't get their crap together and be ready to go when I wanted them. I wanted to know what the problem was. I went to one of many meetings that teachers go to and I was just struck by something. What meetings start exactly on time discussing the business at hand? The first five minutes or so is all pleasantries. As adults, we like to talk and catch up on things going on in our lives. Depending on the meeting, some people might not have seen each other for days or weeks. Those five minutes are crucial to catch up, settle down and get in the right frame of mind for that meeting.

Why do we treat students differently? Some of these students haven't seen each other since the day before. I have found that by letting these students have these first five minutes has actually increased the work we get done. I walk around the room and talk with the students. Those five minutes allow me to engage and personally tell each table what we will be doing. I take attendance as I walk around and talk to the students. By the time that five minute catchup period ends, the students are ready to go.

I have learned so much about my students from talking with them and sharing ideas. These five minutes have become a fun part of my class and my kids like the talk time as well. Those connections I have made during those five minutes have made a lasting impact on student engagement and relationships. It is something I really encourage all teachers to look at implementing in their class.

How do you start your class?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

#ProjectPLN November Issue

We are now accepting submissions for the November Issue. We have decided to label it the “Sharing Issue”. There are many great lesson plans, resources and tools out there and it is tough for teachers to find the time to look for them. We want Project PLN to be a place where people can share their awesome lesson plans or resources with everyone out there.
If you think you have something awesome to share, please send an email to ProjectPLN10@gmail.com and we will add it to the November Issue. Please follow the guidelines for submissions below so we can quickly and easily load your posts to the site.
Please email the article or link to the article to ProjectPLN10@gmail.com
Please include a small bio that includes your blog, Twitter handle and other information you would like to share. A picture is encouraged, but not required.
It may be a piece you have published on your blog already. A good idea is still a good idea even if you had it a few months ago.
Please submit posts by Monday November 5. We expect for the issue to go live on Tuesday November 13.
Thanks again for all of the support you have given Project PLN over the years.
Nick and Kelly
Co-Editors - Project PLN

Monday, October 8, 2012

#Evernote as an E-Portfolio #EdChat

One of the things I'm doing with Evernote this year is having students use it as a way to store all of their work in class. I am slowly rolling it out this year because I'm asking my students to learn many different tools and I do not want to overwhelm them.

I chose my Freshmen to try the full E-Portfolio idea because I only have one class of them and it is a small class. Here is what I set up:

I had each student create their Evernote Account.
I had each student create a notebook and name it with their name followed by E-Portfolio. (ex. Nicholas Provenzano E-Portfolio)
In class, I had the students share the folder with me and give me editing rights.

By following these steps, I have access to all of their work stored in their e-portfolio. Every assignment they do is now accessible when I want to look at it. This has been great for checking in work.

The other day, I sat down and looked through their work and I wanted to leave comments. So, I created a new note and labeled it "Mr P's Comments". In there, I label a date and share my thoughts on their work so far. If I wanted, I could record a voice message for them. When the students see this, I am going to encourage them to leave their comments below mine and we can start a private dialogue on their work. I can do this from any device connected to the Internet. Awesome!

I'm really excited to see where this can take me. I had student take pictures of their in class essays and save them to their e-portfolios. It blew there mind when I showed them their essays were now searchable in Evernote! It was pretty cool.

I will keep you all posted on using Evernote in the classroom!

Email me if you have any questions.

The  Beginner's Guide to Using Evernote on the iPad - $2.99 in the iBookstore

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Epic @Evernoteschools Experiment Update #4 #edchat

Last week was a fairly simple week. Kids come in, get their iPad from the cart and log into Evernote. It's become a solid routine for my students. I still need to remind some of them to log off, but it's much better now than is was a couple of weeks ago.

My classroom has a Smartboard and I use the Notebook software to take notes. It's nice because I can save the notes as a PDF and upload them to a shared notebook in Evernote for my students to access. One day, my computer decides it doesn't not want to open Smart Notebook and kept crashing. This happened right before I needed to use it with my Freshmen. Say what you want, but Freshmen to not respond well when plans change on the fly.

At first, I wasn't sure what to do. I had everything ready to go on the Notebook file, but couldn't access it. Normally, I would just write on the chalkboard, but the Smartboard covers my chalkboard, so I could write there. I looked over to my desk and saw my IPEVO Document Camera and my Livescribe Pen plugged in and it clicked. I will use both of them to accomplish the same thing with Notebook with an added bonus. Recorded audio!

I told the class we were going to try something a little different and I needed them to pay close attention and speak up when called to answer a question. I took out my trusty Livescribe Notebook, turned on the document camera connected to my computer and displayed on the projector, and started recording a lesson in front of the class. It was awesome!

I did about 10 minutes of notes and conversation and stopped the recording. After class, I uploaded the Pencast to Evernote and shared it with my students by placing it in the shared folder. It was an awesome and really smooth process.

I couldn't be happier with the way that turned out. I will be doing more of this in the future, but next time, it will planned in advance.

Have any questions about using Evernote in the classroom? Send me an email or a tweet and I will help you out.

Want to use Evernote on the iPad, but are not sure where to start? Check out my book on the iBookstore and you will be an expert in no time!