Monday, August 31, 2015

Belly Rumblings #EdChat #T2T

My stomach is so queasy right now. I go back to school next week and have students in the room the week after that. After 14 years, you would think I would have this under control. However, I look at this as a good sign for me. This is how I know I care deeply about education. I'm nervous about the students I'm going to have in the classroom. I worry about my lessons and if they will need to be drastically changed or tweaked. All of this runs through the mind at the end of the Summer. 

For all of the teachers out there, I want you to know that this is not a bad thing. We all go through this. We are so passionate about what we do, that we get nervous because we want everything to be perfect for our students and our school. This is important to remember as the school year gets rolling and those butterflies vanish. Don't let the start of the year get to you. If you are stressed, look to your colleagues and PLN for support. I wouldn't be able to make it without them.

Have a great year!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Yes! @Storybird Gets It Right

Storybird is an awesome web based app that allows users to create they own picture books. I've featured them in sessions over the years on how this can help engage writers.

Storybird recently announced that they are ditching their Freemium model and all tools will be available for educators. Here is the full post from Storybird. 

Storybird gets it right. They see that things are tough and are doing something that helps teachers and students. If you haven't checked out Storybird lately, take a moment and see what I can do for your classroom. 

Stop Worrying About The Apple Watch

I've seen comments here and there about how teachers are worried about the Apple Watch and that cheating is going to be harder to detect if kids have them. Please stop blaming devices.

Want to make it harder for kids to cheat? Try assessing in a more meaningful way. Multiple choice tests that can be passed by tapping an answer to a friend should be tossed. It's no different than kids using a phone to cheat on a test. If the phone can provide the simple answer, there is something wrong with the test, not the phone.

Look at more project based learning assessments and presentations in class. Have students demonstrate understanding beyond the recalling of memorized then forgotten facts. Get them out of their seat and show everyone what they know.

If students are more engaged and are showing what they have learned, the fear of the Apple Watch or whatever tool comes along will be a thing of the past.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Little Things #EdChat

The school year is starting for some and just around the corner for others. As I get closer to having students in my classroom, I start to reflect on the different things I can do to make my class an environment that supports learning. These are some of the simple things I have done over the years that can make a difference in the classroom this year.

1. Greeting at the door - I used to use the passing time between classes as a catch up time at my desk. My head buried in papers as kids got themselves situated. I have found that greeting students at the door with a smile, wave, or a high five is a great way to start a class with positivity Another bonus of this was the students in the hallway that I did not teach that would stop in and say hello with their friends. They felt welcomed into my classroom even though I was not their teacher. That is really a true sign of creating a comfortable environment.

2. First 5 minutes - I like to spend the first 5 minutes talking to my class. This is not a set time limit, but it is around 5 minutes. I go from table to table and just talk to the kids about their day, sports, video games, or anything else that is not class related. I learn so much about them during this time. I get to engage with them in normal conversation and set a very relaxed tone. When student know that you care about them outside of the papers you need to grade, they are more at ease in the classroom and are far more likely to participate. Spending a few minutes at the start of class can buy the teacher a full year of student investment in the classroom.

3. Remind them - When I first heard of Remind, I was not interested. I really did not want to send my kids text messages. They should be able to remember things on their own. I decided to give it a try with one class and I haven't gone back. Just a text reminder here and there has really helped my students stay on task. Some of those students that do not have a great track record of doing their work or bringing in paperwork can not get a text message to remind them.

4. Take in a game or a show - Finding the time to attend student events is something that all teachers should try to do. There is always a great big smile waiting for the teacher who shows up at a student event. Kids like to know that teachers are invested in them. Parents also love to see teachers at these events as well. Freeing up a couple of hours once a month to see your students play a game or perform on stage can really make a difference for your students. If you have done this once, you know what I'm talking about.

I know these 4 things are not revolutionary ideas and many of you do some or all of these things, but I think it is good to remember these ideas and share them with others.

Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Hugs and high fives,


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Using @IdeaPaint In The Classroom

I've long been a fan of IdeaPaint. Covering my desks with this paint has been great in allowing me to look at lessons in a different way. I've come up with a few fun ways to use the desks for class that I wanted to share with you.

1. Note-taking - This is a simple one to start. I allow my students to use the desk to take notes and then just take pictures using their iPad or phone to add to their Evernote account. For some, it is way easier to write out their notes and draw arrows to connect ideas to one another. Kids love to take their notes and doodle on the desk. Some might say that this can all be done in a notebook, but this helps save paper and the kids can keep all of their notes safe in a digital space. Kids sitting at tables will sometimes collaborate on note-taking and share notes they have written on the desks. It can create a nice collaborative environment for students in class.

2. Creative Writing - This has been a fun lesson I have done with my students from time to time. I would have students draw on there desks. Anything they want. It doesn't have to be anything specific. I can just be random shapes or images. I then have students change seats and then add to the drawing. I will do this a few times until the final student gets to the seat. They are instructed to take a picture of the image on the desk and create a one paragraph short story based on this image. The stress for the lesson is imagery. Kids get a kick out of the lesson and students like to read the story based on the image they created. It's great for sharing and getting kids thinking about imagery in a way that is right in from of their face instead of in a story that are trying to understand.

3. Group Planning - IdeaPaint has been huge when it comes to project planning for my students. I'm a big PBL guy and I really want to see my students plan out their projects. IdeaPaint covered desks all the group to bring their desks together and draw out their plans. I've tried having them use Google Docs in the past, but this is much better when they are all together in class. They can take pictures and add it to the GDoc when they are at home. There is something powerful about a group hunkered down over a desk and collaboratively working on a project.

4. Essay Writing - I have found it much easier to help students work on essays since I have covered their desks with IdeaPaint. Google Docs is nice to use to help students with their writing, but sometimes, you just need to sit next to them and rewrite a sentence together. I will have students write a thesis statement or a topic sentence on their desk and I will come around and review their work. I can take my marker and eraser and make edits to their work with them. This allows them to see the corrections on their desk and then they can snap pictures of it and add them to their Evernote account. It's much better for the students to sit and work with the teacher at their desk than just having a note placed on a Google Doc. I have found that this approach has really helped my struggling writers.

There are so many other ways that teaches can use IdeaPaint in the classroom. Math teachers love having students work out problems on their desks and foreign language teachers have students conjugate different forms of words on their desks. Teachers can quickly come around and check the work and make any corrections as needed. This helps create a paperless environment that allows students to make mistakes and erase them.

I highly recommend all teachers to check out IdeaPaint and consider adding it to your classroom. It's a great way to engage students in a different way and open up some creativity in your lesson planning.

As a special Back to School Special from IdeaPaint, use the code "NERDYTEACHER" to receive 20% off your purchase! The offer is good through August 31st. Give them a shoutout of thanks on Twitter at @IdeaPaint.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Keeping iPads Safe with @GriffinTech Survivor Cases

Keeping your devices safe is something all of us think about as we travel to conferences or move around at work. A bump here or a drop there could be the difference between a scratch and a complete shatter job. There are plenty of cases out there, but over the years, the one case that has always been perfect for my clumsiness has been Griffin's Survivor All-Terrain Cases. I've used a Griffin case on my iPhones for many year and I have not has a single piece of damage on my phones. My phone has be dropped from all manners of heights and slammed against various surfaces without a single crack. It has kept my iPhone safe and I expect nothing less from the iPad version of the Survivor Case.

The instructions for putting the case together around the iPad comes in the box and are easy to follow. There is a hard shell for the back, a rubber exterior that wraps around it, and a clear cover that snaps over the top. These three pieces ensure that the iPad is safe and secure. 

Griffin has tested these cases in crazy conditions and it meets or exceeds Military Standard MIL-STD 810G:

6.6 ft drop onto concrete
7.8" per hour rainstorm
1 hour in a 40mph sandstorm

I really do not hope to face any of these conditions when I'm in the classroom or at home on the couch, but I'm sure it can handle whatever regular life can throw at it. I do have a 4 year old son, so I'm pretty sure that he can give it a run for its money and my iPad will be nice and safe. 

They have cases for other devices as well. Galaxy Tab and the Galaxy S5 can have max protection using Griffin cases. Check out all of the different cases that can be used to protect your device. 

If you are looking for a case to keep your iPad nice and safe this school year, I suggest you take a long look at the Survivor All-Terrain Cases

You can also reach out to Griffin on Facebook and Twitter. 

Twitter: @griffintech

Griffin Technology sent me the cases to check out and review, but that doesn't mean they are not amazing cases!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

New #NerdyCast Featuring @DesignSaunders

#NerdyCast is back and better than ever. This episode features David Saunders and we chat about comics, Makerspaces, and a number of other Nerdy things. You can follow him on Twitter @DesignSaunders and check out his blog Design Saunders.

You can listen to the podcast here or download it from iTunes.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Some Thoughts on Classroom Management #T2T

As the school year starts for some around the country and approaches like a shambling zombie for others, inevitably getting closer no matter how fast we run, I was thinking about Classroom Management. I'm not sure why I was thinking about it because I never really think about it. My classroom just sort of runs. It's kind of odd really. I've seen so many posts on how to run the classroom and classes that are designed to give the new teacher all this tips and tricks to running an efficient classroom. Some seem helpful and others seem way off. 

In my 14 years of being in the classroom, I have only sent one student, maybe two, down to the office. This was a number of years ago. He created an unsafe space with some language and the flipping of a desk. I sent the student down and the secretary asked him who sent him. He proceeded to rant about how I was so unfair and that he didn't do anything wrong. The secretary looked at him and calmly said, "Mr Provenzano never sends anyone to the office. Never. If he sent you, you must have done something worth the trip."

I'm a firm believer of handling my own business. I tell the students that. If something goes on in my room, I'm going to be the guy that deals with it. The simple reason I give them is Respect. It's all about that one idea. If there is an issue, I will be the one to address it and we will work together to rectify the situation. I've always felt that the minute I send a student to the office, I'm sending a bad message to all of my student. 

"You're not worth dealing with."

Letting students know that they are important and that they have a voice in class is one of the best ways to show respect to students. By doing this, you will not have many problems in class. Students want respect and will sometimes act out to get it. If they are already feeling the respect, they will not act out. 

Again, there are instances where you need the admins involved and their support is crucial in setting students up for success. However, sending a student to the hallway or asking them to hang back after class for a quick chat has solved more problems and created a stronger classroom than sending students through the revolving door of the office. 

As you start your year and are thinking about classroom management, think about how respect plays a part in your class discussion those first few days. If you can establish that, everything else will just fall into place. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Setting The Tone #edchat #T2T

I was sitting in the backyard planning out the first couple of weeks of the school year. There is always so much to think about. Which stories do I want to start the year exploring? How soon do I want my students writing their first essay? How quickly will I have to change all of my plans based on the makeup of my class? I sat staring at my Moleskine trying to decide how I wanted to start my first day of school. The traditional items popped into my head:

Go over the class syllabus.
Talk about my background as a teacher.
Discuss all the classroom procedures.
Assign seats?

I kept thinking about these common aspects to start the class and they did not sit well for me. The first day should be a reflection of the entire year. My classroom does not look like any of those traditional starting day items. I'm about projects, students sharing, laughing, being silly, and exploring learning for everyone. The tone that is set on the first day of school should mirror the class you want. If I want my students to have more ownership of the classroom, I should turn over some of the first day to them. If I want them to explore learning, I should let them explore. If I want a collaborative environment, I should let kids collaborate. This made me very excited to engage my students in a different way.

I then thought teachers coming back to the classroom to start the year. Are they going to sit in meetings and be told the rules of the school year? Is it going to be power point after power point of information that could probably be shared in an email?

Setting the tone for students is important and setting the tone for teachers is equally important. If we want students to get up and move around to learn and be excited about class, we need to do the same for teachers. We need to start the year off with some excitement and get things going in a positive way. Let the test scores and data sit for a day or two. Jump into something fun and exciting that lets teachers explore and connect with one another. Setting the tone for teachers will help set the tone for students.

This year, I will have my students build marshmallow towers. I've done this before and the students got a big kick out of it. They laughed, explored possible construction options, researched, and came together on the first day of class. It was a shared experience that they all joked about throughout the year. I look to put this in place again. Not time for the syllabus or classroom rules on the first day. Just letting my kids take over and build a tower with marshmallows. Once I've set the tone, everything else will fall into place.

School is right around the corner!

How are you going to set the tone to start your school year?

Hugs and High Fives,


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Power of "I Don't Know..."

In the Fall, I will be taking over a class called "Digital Seminar". I've never taught this class. As a matter of fact, nobody in my building has every taught this class. It has run successfully at the other high school for a few years as a pilot and I was asked to start the class at my school.

It is always stressful to start any school year, but starting a school year with a class that you have never taught is an extra layer of stress most could do without. I'm confident in my skills to support students as we explore the digital realm and I have some fun ideas for projects and creations, but there are going to be times where I do not know something. It is bound to happen. It's how I respond to not knowing that makes all the difference.

At the High School level, students know if you are full of it. They just do. If I try to give a BS answer to something I am not sure about, a couple of things will happen.

1. The students will fact check me on their phone and possibly call me out. I encourage kids to fact check me all the time. I would rather be wrong and have students get the correct info than  be "right" in their eyes and fail them by not giving the correct information.

2. Students will not respect a teacher that cannot swallow their pride and admit they do not know something or that they were wrong. Respect is very important in the classroom. Kids need to know that you respect them. Admitting you are wrong or that you do not have the answer earns respect.

Just saying, "I don't know" is not enough. It is easy to say that and move on. However, we would not accept that response from our students and we should not accept that from ourselves. "I don't know" should always be followed by "but let's look that up".

We have the ability to have the correct answer in front of us in an instant. Use the technology to be correct, learn something, and then move on to the next thing. Modeling to the students what to do when you do not know something will show them what is expected of them when they do not know the answer to something.

We need to guide our students through the educational world. Not knowing something is the foundation of learning. Teachers need to be more comfortable letting their students know when they do not have the answer so they can see that learning doesn't stop when they graduate. Life long learning means admitting that there are always things we do not know. Show that to the kids and they will be better in the long run.