Monday, March 31, 2014

Boogie Board Sync 9.7 eWriter #EdTechChat #EdChat

Note: Improv Electronics sent me this Boogie Board Sync for the purpose of a review.

Here is the new Boogie Board Sync and I have to say, it looks beautiful. It is sleek and easy to hold. Very lightweight and simple to use. Watch this video that will explain the ins and outs of the new Boogie Board Sync.

The idea behind the new Sync is very simple. It will help eliminate the need for paper in a variety of ways. For the person that loves to just sit and sketch out ideas and doodle their thoughts, the Sync is the perfect tool for you. All of your ideas can be saved and shared directly into the cloud. As a big time Evernote user, I love the Sync because all of my brainstorm sessions can be jotted down, synced to my phone, and shared to Evernote when I'm ready. I can also share my ideas through other social media outlets if I choose. I love that flexibility in my tech tools. More and more companies are starting to catch on that users want to create AND share their ideas easily. The Boogie Board Sync 9.7 allows me do to that. 

I tweeted out one of my notes yesterday from the Boogie Board Sync and it was very simple. I just wrote a few notes and sent it out through my Twitter account. I can now send my friends hand written notes through Twitter. That is pretty neat. 

The one feature I absolutely love is the live drawing feature. My handwriting will appear on my iOS device while I write on the tablet. What I love most about this is that it could be wonderful in the classroom. Imagine connecting the iOS device to an Apple TV and projector. Everything I write can be shown to the class, saved on the device, and later uploaded to Evernote for students who might have missed class. The tablet could easily be passed to other students so they can share their ideas as well. I could see that as being a huge deal in a Math or Science class. 

The Boogie Board Sync will run you $99.99 on Amazon right now. I think this is a fair price for all of the things it can do for a teacher in the classroom and with students. 

Even though I'm a tech guy and I love to type away on devices, I still do tons of planning on paper, but now I do not have to do that and that makes my planning much simpler and less wasteful. I recommend giving the Boogie Board Sync a look if you are trying to find a solution to your note taking problems. A Boogie Board Sync with a free Evernote account can really help you get organized.

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


Friday, March 28, 2014

#20Time Making a Difference #EdChat #GeniusHour

I've taken a little break and I'm ready to get back to being The Nerdy Teacher. 

I'm very excited to share with you some updates on a couple of projects my students have been working on for 20 Time. 

First is Kitty M who has been working very hard to raise money so she can climb Mt. Kilimanjaro this summer. Just another simple summer for your average teen. During her process, Kitty has done some awesome fundraisers, but the one that stood out to me was her most recent idea. She declared this Friday as "National Find Your Mountain Day." The point of this day was for students to by shirts to support her goal and to wear them on Friday so people can share what their "mountain" is with others. She has sold almost 100 shirts and I'm proud to be wearing mine. Here is a photo of some of the students in my 2nd hour that have been supporting Kitty and her project. 

She has seen over the course of her project that she believes that it is important for everyone to find their mountain and try and climb it. Her project went from just being abut the goal she wanted to accomplish to about also encouraging others to accomplish their goals. This is something you hope to see with #20Time and I'm excited to see what Kitty will do next with her project. You can follow her blog at Kitty M 20 Time Blog. Leave her a comment and encourage her progress. What is your mountain?

The next student I want to brag about is Maddie M. Maddie wanted to start a fashion Vlog on YouTube. She is passionate about fashion and make up and wanted to share that with the world. Fast forward 6 months and Maddie has been asked to join Seventeen Magazine's YouTube Network. I met with the parents and reviewed the contract with Maddie and they had a lawyer look it over and Maddie is not part of Seventeen! Here is a link to her blog, Moments with Maddie,  and below is a recent video. 

If it were not for 20 Time, Maddie would not have been able to take the time and focus on something that she was passionate about. This is what 20 Time is all about. Not about being recognized by a major publication, but giving students the chance to do something meaningful with their life and see what happens. Not all of my students are going to have this type of development for their project, but anything is possible when you give students a chance to explore what matters most to the. 

Lastly, I had Parent/Teacher night last week and I had a chance to talk to parents and ever single one thanked me for 20 Time. Every one. They were excited about what their child had chosen and how excited their kid was about the project. That was awesome to hear and gives me energy for the rest of the school year. 

I'm getting anxious as their TEDx Talks get closer, but I'm confident the kids will be great because "Failure is an option". 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

If I Had A Sledgehammer - Thoughts on Learning Spaces #EdChat

During my time in Los Angeles this past week, I had an amazing opportunity to visit a couple of spaces that made me drool. I was given a tour of YouTube Space LA and Soulpancake offices. After seeing how they design their work areas and why they designed them that way, I just want to take a sledgehammer to my 80 year old room and start from scratch. (Don't worry South, I would never do that. I just wish I could.)

I've actually written about Learning Spaces before on my blog after I visited Evernote's office. Check this post for some similar thoughts.

Sadly, I do not have any pictures to share because I did not take any. I was so blown away by the spaces, I got lost in the tour and was just soaking everything in. I will do my best to share what I saw and explain the value I see in the design for classrooms.

First, I want to talk about the YouTube Space LA. This is a large aircraft hanger that was converted into a workspace. It was gutted and space was created for all aspects of video creation. Rooms were designed for filming, hair and makeup, viewing rooms, post production equipment, and anything else you might need to produce a top notch video. The lobby is something that stood out to me. It was a general meeting area filled with chairs and couches of all shapes and sizes. Everyone could just get together and connect. There is a large video wall that is showing social media mentions of the Space and featured YouTube content as well as a large screen opposite that can be used to show other videos to larger groups. The space is designed to be flexible. They do not know what they might need to use the space for on any given day, so everything can easily be moved or shifted based on a specific need.

This is not how schools are designed and they should be. Too often, teachers are stuck designing lessons based around a very rigid physical environment. Student desks are not conducive to collaboration. Have you ever tried to work as a group in the single module desks? It is awful. Rooms need to be designed in such away that allows for students to work solo if they need to or work in groups. I have desks that are separate from chairs, so students can easily move them around when they need to get to work on various projects. The more flexible the classroom can become, the more creative students and teachers can be because they can now create in environments that foster that innovative spirit.

The office area of the Space was designed in a similar fashion to Evernote's offices. Cubicles cannot be found in these areas. Everyone shares an open room with their work stations. They have desks that can be adjusted that allow people to stand and work or sit when needed. There are smaller conferences rooms that people can use for meetings or some quiet space. Again, the space allows for people to make it what it needs to be for them and their current situation.

The common room is the kitchen that has all of the snacks that a person could need to keep them going through the day. This is a great place for those informal gatherings that can lead to amazing creations and ideas. I would love to see these spaces created for teachers. I know there are some lounges for teachers to meet in schools, but are they fully stocked with snacks and drinks for teachers? Are they designed to be inviting for teachers to have impromptu collaboration? Can you bring your laptop to get work done or jump on a Google Hangout to connect with another teacher across the country to collaborate on a project?

I also saw the idea of collaboration spaces at the SoulPancake office. YouTube Space LA and the SP offices are very different in many ways. Size alone stands out as the biggest difference, but the philosophy of work spaces was still there despite the fact that the scale was different. There is a space for the big meetings and there were some work stations scattered around the small office, but the central hub of the workflow as the main table next to the kitchen area. My friend Georgia said that she had a tiny area in the corner that was her desk, but she mostly worked at the table to connect with everything going on in the office.

When I first arrived at the office, all of the energy was centered around this table as final plans for a project were being sorted. At the end of the visit, for different people were sitting around the table working on various projects and sharing stories and ideas. It was a place for free flowing communication and collaboration. While the size of the SP offices could fit into the YouTube Space LA over 20 times, the idea of what is important in a workspace is still there.

There is so much more I could go into about the value of a green space and incorporating natural elements to breathe life into a work space. The draw for teachers to leave the classroom for startups and other companies that embrace these ideas makes sense when you spend just a few hours in these offices. Their is a great energy and feeling when people are passionate about their work and have an environment that supports that passion.

Space needs to be set aside to allow people to create and collaborate. The majority of the classrooms around this country were built to support a now antiquated style of industrial education. I hear time and time again about the need to change the way students approach problems and the value of collaboration. Yet, schools still give the same environment that does not support those goals. While it can be very difficult to change some schools due to their age, conversations need to start about how to support environments that foster creativity and collaboration. Here's a thought, why not ask the students?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#ASCD14 - Conference Wrap Up

Another ASCD Conference has come to a close and I am very impressed with how everything turned out this year. There were some things that stood out to me more than others, so here is my take.

I felt there was a diverse set of sessions across each day. There were so many choices that it was hard to choose which session to go to on any given day. That is a good problem to have. This issue can be dealt with by being active in the backchannel and following tweets using the #ASCD14 tag during the conference. This allowed me to see everything that was going on each day while I was busy with panels and other fun ASCD things.

I loved that there was an edcamp session at ASCD. It was very well attended and people were very excited about what edcamps can bring to the PD world. I'm glad ASCD has embraced the edcamp movement into their session because more PD for teachers is good for everyone in education. The edcamp team that put the session together did a great job.

The Keynotes were amazing. I had not seen Dr. Q (Russell J. Quaglia) before. He was funny, engaging and smart. It is one of the best Keynotes I have seen. He would be a perfect fit for ISTE. He had the audience from the start of his talk until the very end. He seemed to understand his audience and that is something you do not see all of the time from speakers. You need to check him out because he was just awesome. 

Jane McGonigal was perfect. A smart and funny talk that spoke to the gamer in me and should be required viewing for all students who feel like their passion for gaming is constantly tossed aside as pointless in the education world. Her examples of the power of gaming and what it can do for people were powerful and interesting. I was very much engaged in everything she had to say and so was the rest of the audience. She spoke at ISTE last year and I missed the session and I'm very sad that I did. She has a fresh perspective on learning and education that is valuable as we try to change education for our diverse student population. 

I mentioned this in an earlier post on ASCD, but it feel it is worth mentioning again. The vibe was just different this year. Again, it might have been the weather we had (amazing) that kept many of us frozen folks from the North in better spirits, but I think it was something more than that. As a teacher, you will sometimes just have a class that is the perfect chemistry to do amazing things. It is the luck of the draw and it could easily have turned out the opposite of that (we have all had that). I think that is what made this conference seem different. There seemed to be the right mix of educators that were their to learn, educators that were there to share, and a conference that was perfectly designed to bring those two groups together. 

Next year, ASCD will be in Houston and I'm excited to see what they have in store for all of us after a wonderful 69th Annual Conference. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

#RunWithRiley - A #20Time Post

I started to get back in shape after a long layoff due to minor injuries over the years. I got a Fitbit and run 6 days a week. I wanted to do this because I wanted to keep up with the little tornado in my house. Part of my inspiration came from a student who decided she wanted to run a marathon for her 20 Time Project.

Here is a link to Lauren's blog

Here is what she said about choosing her project.

"Every time I go a little farther than I have ever ran before I just prove to myself that I can do whatever I want."

When she chose her project, I told her I would be there at the finish line to cheer her on. I intend to keep that promise with a bit extra thrown in. A few weeks ago, Lauren asked me if I would run the marathon with her. I laughed and said there would be no way I could get ready for a Marathon by May. She told me she wanted me to join the relay team that would be running along with her for parts of the marathon. She needed 6 people and wanted to know if I would join. I said yes, then asked the class who wanted to join us. 2 cross country runners said they would do the 10K portions of the marathon with her. The kids barely hesitated when I asked. It was awesome.

I look at this relay I will be running with Lauren as the perfect metaphor for 20 Time. My role during this run is to stay by her side and support her in her project. I will be doing that in a very literal sense on May 4. 20 Time is all about supporting students and the dreams they are chasing. As teachers, our job is to help them with that chase and provide them with the tools to make it possible. 

I ran my first 5K the other day on the treadmill and I shared it with Lauren on Twitter and created the tag #RunWithRiley. I would love if this tag could be used by all of my friends out there running to show support for Lauren and her goal. You can use the tag or send her a tweet to @RaurenLiley. Let's all be there to support a student doing something awesome. 

Thanks everyone!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

#ASCD14 Thoughts on Day 1

I'm excited to be back at ASCD this year. The warm weather alone is something that makes this event awesome for this frozen Michigan kid. Here some of the takeaways form the first day.

Vibe: There seemed to be a different vibe on the first day than I remember from last year. A high energy and connected feeling that Chicago did not have. Maybe it was the weather that added an extra bounce in each step, but it was something I could sense. I don't want to understate the value of this vibe though. I think it helped the participation level in the sessions I attended. People were wide awake, full of energy, and ready to learn. The open spaces that ASCD utilized allowed people to connect and feed of the energy. This was very nice to see and something I hope continues for the next couple of days.

Connected: There seemed to be more connected educators at the conference this year. I have watched the #ASCD14 stream and it is filled with great resources and comments from people that are attending the various sessions and those jumping in with ideas from home. I helped out +Elana Leoni and +Kyle Pace with their #SavedByTwitter session and helped a small group of educators start using Twitter for the first time. I showed them how to use hashtags, take and send photos, create lists, and search for amazing educators to follow. Having more connected educators is always a good thing. The more that people can be exposed to good ideas, the more that those good ideas can lead to great ideas. ASCD has done a great job at promoting the value of connected educators this year. I hope it is something they continue to support in the future.

Authors: I was able to meet some of the authors of ASCD books and pick up a copy of their books. Here are some of the books I have started to thumb through that you might be interested in reading.

The 5-Minute Teacher - Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes writes a nice book for the "arias" series about maximizing classroom instruction for teachers. Mark provides some simple ideas that any teacher can implement in their classroom right away. I recommend this book for teachers looking to tighten up their class time.

Short on Time - William Sterrett

This book focuses on making the time to lead and learn as a principal. This short book from the "arias" series from ASCD offers some great tips for principals that are looking to grow as a professional. There are always good books out there for teachers on how to make time for learning, so it is nice to see something that can support those administrators that want to grow, but cannot find the time.

Causes & Cures in the Classroom - Margaret Searle

I had a great conversation with Margaret about dealing with students in the classroom and really looking at what the root of classroom issues were. Her book provides great resources and flow charts on how to handle various issues with students that are acting out in class. The book breaks down the various types of issues and how to address them.

Day one was a great day and I really look forward to seeing what the next day hold. Make sure to follow #ASCD14 for more tweets and great ideas for the next two days. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thank You and a Quick Thought #MACUL14

I wanted to write a quick thank you to everyone that attended my sessions at #MACUL14 yesterday and today. I am always so humbled when I see all of the people that want to hear what I have to say. Everyone has been so nice and awesome over the past couple of days. It really does recharge the batteries to know that this state has some of the most passionate educators I have ever met. I'm sorry if we did not have time to connect or it was very brief. For people that know me, they know I love talking and meeting people, but there are not enough hours in the day to meet all of the tremendous people here. As you wrap up your last day at MACUL, remember this,

If you want to see what happened in my sessions on #20Time and Digital Tools to Support Reading and Writing, check out these links.


Digital Tools to Support Reading and Writing

Here is my Quick Thought:

Stay passionate. Your students will thank you for it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

#NerdyCast - @GoogleGlass in the classroom #Edchat

Here is a new #NerdyCast video with my thoughts on +Google Glass and wearable technology in the classroom. I would love to hear your thoughts on wearable technology in schools. Good for teachers and students or a privacy nightmare?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below or on the +NerdyCast page. Have a great day everyone!


Monday, March 3, 2014

#20 Time for the win! #edchat

I asked my students to share their thoughts on #20Time on their blogs this weekend and this was one of the responses. I feel like I have done my good deed this year. 

"There are many things that I like about the 20 Time projects. My favorite part since the beginning was being given the opportunity to choose any project to work on for an entire year. At first, I thought this would be super easy. As the year progressed, the project got more challenging. This opened a whole new door in my creative mind. Since I started projects in 1st grade, I have never been able to do what I wanted to do. My teacher usually made up all the requirements. The projects usually had to do with books I have read, history I have studied, or complicated science experiments. This project was totally different. Although I have enjoyed the freedom of choosing a topic, it was very difficult to come up with what I wanted to accomplish in an entire year. One of the biggest influences during this was my teacher. He always kept my class motivated! He explained that it was acceptable if the project failed in the end. As an honors student, I do not hear that very often. Honors students always have so many expectations to live up to. It is assumed that we always have to succeed in everything we do. My teacher said it was ok to fail at things sometimes. We learn from our mistakes. The biggest success stories are built on a foundation of multiple failures. I learned a very good lesson. I will remember that throughout my life."

#20Time #FTW