Friday, August 30, 2013

Share your school spirit with @FordDSFL on Instagram #drivingschoolspirit

I was selected for this sponsored post by Hay There Social Media.  All opinions expressed are my own.

I have been asked to share an awesome program that I feel is very important. As a HS teacher, I get to work with some amazing students that are getting ready to drive. Sadly, too many teachers have lost students to driving accidents that could have been prevented with proper training.

Ford Driving Skills for Life is a program by the Ford Motor Company Fund, the Governors Highway Safety Association, a panel of safety experts to teach newly licensed teens the necessary skills for safe driving beyond what they learn in standard driver education programs.

They are reaching out to teens, educators and parents during this spirited back to school time to have them share great examples of school spirit using the @FordDSFL tag on Instagram and the #DrivingSchoolSpirit hash tag.

If you are a Michigan Educator, Parent or Student, please get the word out about this awesome program and share your pictures on Instagram to show the world how spirited your school is all year round. Make sure to tag your photos on Instagram with @FordDSFL and #drivingschoolspirit and they could be included in a round-up for some special recognition during the Friday Football Frenzy season by Local 4.

For more information on Ford Driving Skills for Life please check out the links below.


Anything that can get the word out and create better drivers is something all of us should be invested in. Because a bad driver is not just risking their lives, they are risking the lives of everyone on the road. Please help get spread the word and share this post and the site with friends, family and other educators. 



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

20% Time In My Classroom #edchat

I'm really excited to get started with my 20 Time set up in my classroom. I've talked to teachers in my department and many of them said they are going to find a way to use in their class for the second semester. I've used tons of great resources to make this happen and have tweaked things to make it fit my teaching style and my students. My students are Grade 10 Honors English. Here are some of the big bullet points for #GP20Time.

  • Students will have every Friday to work on a project that is new to them and they are passionate about. Only 20 Time work can be done on Fridays. 
  • Students will write a weekly blog post updating the world on how their project is doing. 
  • Students will do a small presentation to the class at the end of the first semester to update the class on their work. 
  • Students will do a final "TED" style talk at the end of the second semester to the class and any others that wish to attend during school. 
  • Some students will be selected by students and staff to present at a "TED" style event after school hours that will be open to the community and streamed live. 
  • (My personal favorite) Failure IS an option. 
These are the rough basics for 20 Time in my classroom. Students will choose a mentor to help guide them through their project, but the vast majority of the work will be up to the students. I'm very excited to see the different types of projects students will come up with and all of the amazing things they will accomplish. 

If you are interested in doing 20 Time in your class, please check out these resources. They were a huge help to me. 

20 Time in Education - Watch the video and check out the site!

I'll be tweeting about my adventures in 20 Time and you can follow them on the hash tag #GP20Time. You can always check my blog for all of the 20 Time goodness by searching the #GP20Time tag on my blog. Thanks for stopping by and please share any experience you have had with 20 Time in the comments below. 



Monday, August 26, 2013

Things I Will Not Be Missing In My Paperless Classroom.

As I head into the new school year, I'm not scrambling for my old lesson plan book or looking for notes in some long buried folder. All of my work is saved in Evernote and I will be sharing the work with my students on the second day of school. As I was sitting and thinking about all of the things I was going to need to start the year, I was struck by the number of things I will not need now that I'm as paperless as I can get. In no particular order, here are the things I will not miss in the upcoming school year.

1. Milk Crates

I will not miss these guys at all. Carrying one or two of these down the hall, down the stairs and into my car only to have to make a return trip the next day was a pain in my butt. The amount of effort to jam as many notebooks or binders into these guys was just too much on some days. Carrying over 50 pounds of paper and projects to and from my car was a chore. Granted, I think my body is missing the upper body workout in carrying these guys, the stress of moving them around. These plastic guys will not be missed. 

All of my student work will be on or saved in their Evernote notebook that can be shared with me and acts as an e-portfolio. I do not have to take anything home with all of  my work and their work saved in their notebooks. Nice. 

2. Binders

I mentioned these guys above and they make the milk crate problem even worse. Not surprisingly, milk crates were not designed to hold binders perfectly. Students also use infinite number of sizes for their binders, so it's playing a complicated game of Tetris to fit them all into multiple milk crates. Also, despite being told not to have multiple subjects in the binder, I still am asked by students to hurry and return theirs when I'm done because they have their Science and Spanish notes in there. Ya, the joy of binders in the English Classroom. 

Again, having students use their Evernote accounts to save all of their work, I do not need them to keep binders to store assignments. All of that work is saved in a notebook that is shared with me. I can pop in and look at their assignments whenever I want. If something is missing, I can send them an email or talk to them in class. 

3. Paper Jams, Low Toner, Copier Lines, and PC Load Letter

I have wasted countless hours waiting in line for the copier, fixing the jams others have left and trying to figure out how to replace the toner in the new copier. My prep time has been used fixing copier problems. I feel like I am the only person that would take the time to fix these issues. Special note to those that walk away. If you make copies, it jams and you try to sneak off, try not putting your name on your crappy worksheets. Makes being anonymous very difficult. 

I have cut all of that junk out of my life and I can now use my prep time for actually prepping lessons. I have scanned all of my work into Evernote. Every document I have ever created that will be used in class is saved in a note that is either just for me or will be shared with students. I share everything digitally with my students. It is either in a public notebook or shared through email. I no longer have to run to make one extra copy for the kid who lost it or missed school for some reason. everything is accessible digitally. This allows me more time to focus on instruction. Although I loved the accolades from peers for fixing the paper jam, I would rather work in the comfort of my own room not covered in toner.  

4. Lesson Planner

I love that they still make these with these covers. Nothing says professional teacher like the one room school house on the most important notebook you own. I used to have these plan books that had all of my lessons for the year. Everything I wanted to do would be written in pencil one week at a time. If I was daring, I would plan for two weeks. However, it was inevitable that I was going to miss a day, a lesson was going to run long or short or some other thing would throw off the entire schedule. I would then have to go in and draw arrows or leave notes on what to change for next year. 

After the year was over, I would place the lesson planner in a secure location to be taken out to use as a guide in August as I plan out the year. That was the plan. It never worked out that way. The planner never had the most important notes I needed for the lesson. My notes seemed great, but my gibberish handwriting and shorthand made it nearly impossible to figure out what the heck I was trying to tell myself. I would grow more and more frustrated and eventually just decide to go with what I had before and make the changes on the fly. Ya, great idea. 

I moved all of my lessons plans into Evernote and now I have everything I need when I want it wherever I am. I can make full notes on Evernote if lessons need tweaking and I can do that on my iPad, computer or iPhone. I never have to worry about leaving the planner at home or at work. Those days are the worst for a teacher. The internet would need to shutdown worldwide for that to be a problem. Even if that did happen, my Evernote notebooks are always available offline, so that problem is solved. As long as my device has power, I can still use my lesson in the post apocalyptic Thunderdome Bartertown scenario.

5. Lost Work

No giant Smoke Monsters eating work in my class. Work is completed saved in one of two digital spaces and is available whenever student or teacher wants it. When work was done solely on paper, the lost assignment was something that was to be expected. It would get eaten by a dog, swallowed by a kitty or destroyed by a rock monster. These are very real possibilities in the world of paper assignments. By moving everything to the digital realm, my students have their assignments on the ready when they want to learn and review. I do not have to spend time on conversations on why something is missing or coffee stained. The work will be there until deleted and then deleted from the garbage. Evernote and allow my students a safe place to store their work from every possibility, including roaming polar bears on tropical islands. 

These are just a few of the things that I will not be missing this upcoming school year in my nearly paperless classroom. What would you be happy to say goodbye to if you were paperless?

If you want to start your Evernote journey now, follow this link to sign up!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

#DoctorWho and Education on #NerdyCast

Here is a great vlog on Doctor Who and education. We talk about teachers and their need to regenerate once in a while and what we can learn from our own companions (students) on the educational journey. Enjoy the vlog with special guests +Matthew Winner and +Sherry Gick.

Monday, August 19, 2013

nErD Talk with Nick and Dan - #NerdyCast

Here is the first episode (I hope their are more), of nErD Talk with Nick and Dan. Today we talked about Batman, Batman: The Animated Series, Lex Luthor, Graphic Novels and many other Comic Topics and how they relate to teachers and students. Enjoy and share with your friends. Later this week we will have a Doctor Who conversation with +Sherry Gick  and +Matthew Winner.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why #NerdyCast? #EdChat

I have received a few questions about why I have decided to start an entire YouTube channel for NerdyCast. The answer is not because I have so much extra time on my hands, it's because I felt there was a void that could be filled with a fun educational channel that explores the other parts of education that are not openly discussed.

There are so many of us that are passionate about "nerdy" things. We can be Trekkies or Wookies, but we love something and want to find ways to share it with other passionate teachers and our students in the classroom.

I look to provide content that covers all things we geek out about and some ways they can be incorporated in the classroom.

Here is a short video that sums up what I think #NerdyCast is about. Remember to subscribe so I can reach 100 subscribers. Live shows on YouTube are available after 100!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Schools Need More Zach Morris and Less Jessie Spano #NerdyCast

Welcome to the first #NerdyCast. I'm really excited to bring the show back to its roots in being a bit more funny and still about education. For those that have followed the move from iTunes to the other place now here, thanks.

Here are my thoughts on school from the perspective of Zack Morris and Jessie Spano. I wrote a post about it some time back about all of the characters, but this video focuses on these two specfically. Click here to read that older post after the video if you want to see what I think about Kelly, Lisa, Screech and the rest of the SBTB crew.

If you like what you saw, make sure to subscribe to the channel. After 100 subscribers, Tim and I can do live broadcasts on YouTube. We want to do something awesome for the #EduBro Awards and a live show on YouTube is part of the plan. Thanks for watching and I hope you will be back soon. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Being a nerd in the classroom #edchat - Thanks @WilW

Please watch this video first so the rest of the post will make sense. 

"It's not about what you love. It's about how you love it."

I saw this video when it first went around a few months ago and I have been meaning to write about it for a while. There are a couple of things that this video made think about and I wanted to share it with all of you. 

First, I have been a nerd all my life, but only really outed myself a handful of years ago. I grew up playing sports. I played soccer and did all of the "regular" guy things guys were supposed to do. Secretly, I played board games and D&D with my brothers and online. I loved games like Mystery Mansion and Gunslinger. There were so many different games we used to play as brothers I cannot even begin to list them all. I remember being embarrassed to tell my friends that I played these games and I never wanted to be associated with the types of kids that did play those games. It was lonely at times when I couldn't' discuss the fact that Batman had his back broken by Bane in the comics or how awesome Batman The Animated Series really was for older kids. It wasn't until I was much older, perhaps my late 20's, that I decided that it didn't matter anymore. So what that I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and continue to read the series in comic form. It's damn good storytelling. I cannot wait to start playing some of the boardgames that Wil shows on TableTop. (If you have no idea what this is, please check it out if you love boardgames. The people are hilarious and the games are interesting.) 

I think of this now because I have a 2 year old son and he is getting into the things I like. He loves his superheroes and is in love with the Muppets. We would spend hours watching old episodes on YouTube and he loves the most recent movie. A small part of me worried about raising a son that others might think of as a nerd or that he might be ostracized for liking things outside of the norm. I watched this video and it made me think about what really matters. I want Leo to love whatever he wants no matter what anyone says. The last bit of advice also was spot on, "I want you to be honest, honorable, kind..." These are words for everyone, not just nerds, should live their life by. 

The second thing this video made me think of was my classroom. I strive to create a classroom environment that is welcoming to all of my students. In a class of 30, I will get 30 different personalities, but I want them all to feel like they fit in. This past school year, I really found myself speaking up on behalf of my Whovian students who tried to make a literary comparison in class to the 11th Doctor. There were snickers, but, not only where those students correct in their comparison, it was the best one I heard all day. Schools can still be a harsh environment for students to express who they are without fear of criticism. It is not easy, but teachers can help make it better. I am going to be adding this video to my Transcendentalism Unit. I play songs from different artists about being and individual and show Steve Jobs' speech from Stanford for the unit. I will be happily adding this video to that unit to further demonstrate the raw awesomeness of being yourself and not letting others dictate what you like. 

Thanks Wil Wheaton, Thoreau would be proud. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

StudyBlue to the rescue! #EduTour

A huge shut out to StudyBlue for hosting our final PitStop in San Francisco. We are going to be in their offices downtown and I can't wait to see where these awesome people work.

StudyBlue is an awesome tool that allows users to create notecards, flashcards and other notes and then share them using social media. The Twitter and Facebook integration is great because it allows for easy sharing for students and that is very important to them.

The other aspect of StudyBlue that is really nice is that it is accessible on the go using mobile devices. Our students are more and more mobile than ever before. They want to access their information when they want wherever they are. StudyBlue makes that possible with their mobile apps across platforms. It doesn't matter if kids are on iDevices or Android, they can share their notes and flashcards with just a couple selections.

I really see this as a big deal for students in my high school who are always getting ready for their big AP exams and other tests. These notes are very helpful to have if they have down time between classes or during lunch. They do not have to run to their locker or worry about losing their notebook because their flashcards and notes are saved in StudyBlue.

I really look forward to exploring this tool more during the school year and will really encourage my students to give it a try in my class and others.