Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Making in 2016 #MakerEd

I have been cleaning up my Makerspace at my house and I've come across some of the fun things I've made over the course of the year and I thought I'd share my favorites. These are not in a particular order, just the ones that come to mind.

Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces

This is a still something that blows my mind. I wrote and had my book published and it has received a wonderful response. I'm still blown away that schools are using it for book study, it reached #1 in STEM Education, and people are tweeting me pictures of them using the book and quoting the book. This is one of my favorite things I've made this year.

Nerdy Pi

I made my own handheld Retro Gaming System! To top it off, I hacked the design case to make headphones work and printed a wood case! I love this project so much!

Pi Zero in a Nintendo Mint Can Running RetroPie

I was in Denver for ISTE and found a candy store that had a bunch of novelty candies. I saw this tin and thought it would be fun. I got home and was looking at it on my desk and saw the Raspberry Pi Zero sitting there and thought I could put them together. This was a fun and easy project I did just to see if I could do it. For a total cost of under $20 (The SD Card cost the most), it is a great deal.

Nerdy 9000 with Amazon Alexa

This was a project that looked interesting, but I was not sure if I was going to be able to pull it off. I wrote about the entire process on my site and you can make your own if you want.  It was something I never thought I would be able to do, but the confidence in building other pieces really gave me the motivation to give it a go and it is great. The Nerdy9000 lives in my classroom and answers all of my questions.

Poltergust 3000 from Luigi's Mansion

This was a true test of my Daddy Maker skills. Leo wanted to be Luigi from a video game he plays. The Poltergust 3000 sucks up ghosts. Mom took care of the costume and I set out to make the vacuum. With a couple of watch batteries, wire, a button, a switch, a box, and some LEDs, I was able to create a very cool prop for Leo that he has played with long after Halloween.

Death Star Ornament

I was just playing around with some wires, a switch and an LED and I thought it would be cool to make an ornament. I found a cool file on Thingiverse and made this mini ornament. Learning to make this year really helped me understand basic electronics, circuitry, and other areas of STEAM. I did this without much trouble at all. 

Yoda Night Light

This was another, "I wonder if I can..." I could and it was fun. Here is my post with all of the info on making one of your own.

Nerdy Photo Booth

This was a tough one for me and I really needed some help from the online community to make this happen. I'm glad I stuck with it because it has been a blast to use in class and at home. This was also the first code I ever published to GitHub. It was the day I felt like a true "Coder". Here is the full post with code if you want to make your own.

Old Rotary Phone, Raspberry Pi 3, and AirPlay

This was just pure silliness. I was wondering if I could turn the headset into speakers and the rest of the phone into an AirPlay using Raspberry Pi. It turns out I can do that and I even had it turn on an off by lifting the receiver. I also added an on/off light. I really nerded out over this. Full info here.

I've made tons of silly things and fun things and cool things. The best part of everything I have made is that there is something I learned that helped me with the next project. I hope everyone takes time in 2017 and tries something new. I did and am better for it.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

In Defense of the Holiday Party #EdChat

Over the past couple of weeks, I've seen a few tweets and posts about alternatives to the classroom party before going on Holiday Break. There were some nice suggestions about making the day about learning and growth, but isn't that what every other day has been about up to that point? 

I look at a Holiday Party as a chance to relax and celebrate the longest stretch of the year without a significant break. It is a great time to recognize the accomplishments and celebrate the school year. Having some food and drinks while music plays and students get to relax and just connect with their peers. 

At my school, students have 7 classes a day and can be hit pretty hard with the level of work and exams the last week before break. Having a day to look forward to that allows them to just take a breath after a long stretch is a nice thing to give to students. School can be about fun and play and connections for one day of the year. 

For next year, think of the Holiday Party as a chance to celebrate your students and the work they have done, instead of a "waste of time" or "loss of learning". 

Have a great Holiday Season everyone!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Design for the Holidays with @DremelEdu #MakerEd

As a Dremel Idea Builder Ambassador, I love coming up with fun and different 3D based projects. The holiday season has always been a time for young students to create gifts and beautiful projects at school to take home or decorate the classroom. While there is still plenty of great things that can be done with construction paper and glue sticks, having students work with 3D Design software and the Dremel 3D40 can bring an extra touch to the holiday season. Here are some fun examples you can bring to your classroom:

  • Ask students to work in groups and design their own holiday/Winter scenes. They can design snowman, candy canes, snowflakes, and so much more. This is a perfect project to help students work on planning and collaborating with peers to create one cohesive project.
  • Set up a fun Secret Gift Exchange in class. Students can pull names from a hat that have something they would like to have designed and made for them. Students will put their own spin and interpretation on the request and give the present to the student before the holiday break.
  • Gifts for friends and family at home. This is just a fun opportunity to give students a chance to design something for the home. Maybe it is an ornament for a tree or a just a gift to say “Happy Holidays”.

What is great about these projects is that they help students work on their collaboration skills and the design process. The more time students can have working with others and trying to plan and execute ideas, the more comfortable they will be later in life. As a teacher, it is key to have students work with others, brainstorm, problem solve, compromise, and see their plan executed. These soft skills come in handy throughout their life in school and their future careers.

Guiding students through the design process will help them for future projects, but other areas of learning as well. A student needs to design their essays and their solutions to complex experiments in Science. The entire process is replicated over and over again in many different content areas and students will be better prepared to to tackle more complex issues later in life if they learn the process at an early age.

The beauty of 3D design is that it allows for students to work with shapes to create great items. Working with shapes and understanding how different shapes can come together to create objects is a cool way for students to deconstruct the world around them and build it back up in a digital format. The students will also be able to work with basic measurement in the design process as well as the final product. Students will need to measure and draw prototypes so they can see what their final print job might look like if the sizes are correct. Understanding spatial size is a nice skill for students as they get older and need to make purchases for their own spaces. Seeing how that all comes together using Geometry and measurements in small 3D design projects.

Whenever you have a chance for students to work in the 3D world to create amazing items from their own imagination, students will learn valuable skills and that is why having a Dremel 3D40 can offer so much to a classroom and school. The more you use it with students, the more students can grow in their content areas as well as the “soft skill” areas. I hope everyone has asked for a new printer this Holiday Season.

Here are some pictures of a design my son made that I printed for him to give to a family friend. Note: I stopped the print when it got to the lettering and replaced the filament so I could have red lettering and center to the flower. It was easy and it adds a nice touch.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


The world has been a crazy place over the past few weeks and I have found myself mired down by the negativity. It is so easy to get there. Being negative is easy. Focusing on the positive is not. I wanted to change that and I thought I would focus on sending out good vibes on Twitter and through personal text messages to friends. If the timing is right, I will give them a call. I hope others will join me in sharing the awesome of others and try to fill up our little corner of the Internet with good things while still fighting hard against the bad things.

Find a couple people each day that are awesome and share it on social media using #ShareAwesome. Hopefully they will follow your lead. I do believe we all can make a difference and a nice tweet can snowball into bigger and nicer things.

Hugs and High Fives,


Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Chromebook Classroom Book Review

Chromebooks are becoming a larger part of the educational technology world and there are plenty of educators that have lots of questions about these devices. I use a Chromebook at school to organize my day and work with all of the Google Apps we use in class, but I still feel like I do not get the most out of it. That's where The Chromebook Classroom by John R. Sowash comes in.

The book starts off with the basics: Why Chromebooks? Figuring out why to go with Chromebooks and what Chromebook to go with is an important issue for teachers and administrators looking to make the change to Chromebooks. The book covers the value of different sizes of screens, touch screen capacity, durability, and the value of using Chrome as the main browser. Better yet, John provides a nice chart on the best type of Chromebooks for the different grade level of student, administrator, and secretaries. These simple insights are very helpful for people who are not sure where to start when considering Chromebooks.

Another nice part of the book shows how to move from a Microsoft world or an Apple world to Chromebooks. There is a great chart that shows which Chrome OS alternatives there are for the iOS Apps that you might have on your iPads. There was some great apps that I did not know existed that are great replacements for some of the things I have done on my iPad.

On the technical end, there is a great and helpful chapter on Chromebook management. As a classroom teacher, that does not directly impact me and the Chromebook I use, but this is perfect for the IT department and those teachers that will be responsible for managing the Chromebooks. Device enrollment, configuration, sign-in settings, update settings, and more. These are the back-end items that are key for the implementation of a Chromebook environment.

The book ends with specific lessons on using Chromebooks in K12 classrooms. There are examples of apps that support large and small group projects, individual projects, mini lesson stations, note-taking, and much more! My favorite would be showing how to create a collaborative study guide at the high school level. This looks perfect for my class and I can't wait to work that in to my lessons.

For all educators that are looking to move to Chromebooks in the classroom, The Chromebook Classroom is the book you have to get. Check it out on Amazon!

You can also reach out to John on Twitter and on his website

Monday, November 28, 2016

What Teachers Can Do #EdChat

President-Elect Trump has nomintate Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. This has angered teachers because of her complete lack of experience in education. She was never a teacher and does not have any type of degree in education. However, that is nothing new. We have had people in this position that have never had educational experience. President Clinton and President GW Bush appointed people without ed backgrounds. This is problematic. There are things Teachers can do to address this.

Contact your Senators and let them know that you have a major problem with someone who advocates taking money away from public schools and sending it to charter schools will little or no track record of success. You can find your Senators by clicking this link. Call and leave a message. Get your friends and family to call and leave a message. Emails can be deleted. Tying up phone lines for hours at a time to hear how upset people are going to be is how you get the attention of those in power. Let them know how this will impact your vote in coming elections.

In the classroom, we will continue to do more with less. This is nothing new for many of us. We have seen budgets cut and have still done our very best to provide the best education possible for our students. We need to make sure that we offer a safe environment for all students and all of the tools possible to prepare them for the world ahead. We need to teach them all of the things that a bubble test can never assess, but still prepare them to fill in ovals while speaking out about this dreadful over-testing practice seen in out schools today.

We still have a voice if we choose to you it. I encourage you to use yours to let your Senators hear what is truly important in education and to let students know that you will always be there to support them.

Hugs and High Fives,


Monday, November 21, 2016

Nerdy 9000 with @Raspberry_Pi and @AmazonEcho #MakerEd #ImAMaker

This weekend, I thought it would be fun to attempt to turn my Raspberry Pi in to an Amazon Echo. A number of people have tweeted at me since this started to be shared around the Internet and I thought I would give it a go.

Here are the supplies you will need to get up and running:

Raspberry Pi 3 with the current Jessie build (Other Pis will work, but the built-in wifi is a huge time saver.
USB microphone
External speaker that can plug into the Pi
HD monitor, keyboard, and mouse to set up the Pi

After gathering the supplies, the next part was to work through the programming. Here is a link to the Github page that will walk you through the programming of the Raspberry Pi. The programming was simple as long as the directions are followed as they are written. One misspelled word or misplaced comma will cause errors. Take your time and you should have the code up and running in about an hour. I opted to run the voice recognition software so it would respond to "Alexa". It is possible to dive deeper into the code to have it respond to other programmed words, but I have not gotten there yet. Maybe during the Holiday Break.

Here is the first video after I got it up and running. No case or anything, just the program working as it should.

Once it was working, I knew that I wanted to do more than just have a Pi and a speaker sitting on my desk. I thought about HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It would be very cool to have something like that to connect the Alexa Pi. I jumped on Thingiverse to see if there was anything out there and I found a design from Makerperson that I could totally tweak as needed.

I shrunk the design a little bit to make it shorter and not as thick. I also edited the HAL out and replaced it with Nerdy instead. I knew I wanted to add an "eye" so I printed half a sphere to fit in the whole. I drilled out the back, wired up a red LED, connected the wires to the Pi, wrote a script to have the Pi turn on the light for Pin 26, and I was good to go.

Here is a the printed case, added "eye" and attached red LED.

I let it sit for a little bit and thought it needed something a little bit more. It would be awesome if the light faded in an out. I did not want it to blink, but do a slow fade in and out. This was a bit outside my skill set, so I need to do some searching of the Internet to find the write code to do what I want. I found some helpful instructions on, that walked me through the process. I had to rewrite the code to make it work for just one LED, but that was nice practice. It was fun to learn about GPIO.PWM.

Here, I was able to make the LED slowly pulse or breathe as it awaits instruction.

This might seem like a project that is too complex to tackle, but it is doable. If you eliminate the 3D printer, you can still have the system set up and do exactly what you need it to do. You have unlimited possibilities when it comes to creating a housing for your new Amazon Echo. If you are looking for a fun project, check this out and see what you can do with your next Raspberry Pi.

Looking to learn more about Making and Makerspaces for you and your school, check out my book Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces for nerdy tips on getting started.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I Wish I Did Not Have To Teach Huck Finn #EngChat

Ever since I've started teaching Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I've longed for the day that I would not have to teach it any more. It's not because I think it is a terrible book. Actually, I think it is one of the most important pieces of American Literature ever written. I still wish the day would come where I don't have to teach it.

I say this because Huck Finn is a beautifully written piece of satire on race and white society's view of race, and it is still very relevant today. I long for a day that the book is no longer needed to draw parallels to modern society where easy comparisons are made. I hope every year we will get a step closer to viewing the book as an example of the archaic times we used to live. For every year I thought we were a step closer, we took steps back.

A surface reading of the text would have some claim that Huck is a wonderful example of a white person standing up for what is right and protecting Jim, the runaway slave. That is the easy view. It's the view that makes most people feel better about themselves. "Huck can't be racist, he has a black friend!" This is far from the truth. Huck Finn, the character, is racist.

We can have the debate, and we do in class, about whether or not Huck's racist view of the world is his fault or is he just a product of his society. At what point is a person maturation can you no longer claim it is how you were raised? When do you become responsible for your beliefs, and not the beliefs of your mothers or fathers? These are the tough questions we tackle in class because they are still relevant. The minute the book not longer connects to the world we live in, I will happily retire it. Sadly, we are not there yet and I'm not sure when we will get there.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is still a challenged book in this country and that is sad. We need to be having these conversations now more than ever. We need to own our history, discuss it, and look to the future. Twain was not a perfect person, but he wrote a book that still makes every person think about their lives, their privilege, and how we can move to make the world a better place.

I take pride in the fact that I have the honor to help students navigate this text and I hope I can do Mr. Twain's book justice. If I don't, I might be stuck teaching the book until I retire.

Hugs and High Fives,


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Why Does A Makerspace Die? #MakerEd #ImAMaker

Since my book came out, I've had the opportunity to talk to teachers from all over the world about Making and Makerspaces. I found myself saying something over and over again when asked about creating spaces in their schools or classrooms.

"Makerspaces will die if the culture of Making is not there."

Building a space in a classroom or library is awesome, but students need to understand what is possible in these spaces. Teachers need to know what they are capable of doing with access to a Makerspace. Administrators need to know what they can do with PD now that a Makerspace is available.

Making is a culture. It is an awesome inclusive culture. All are welcome to Make and try new and crazy things. This is a culture that needs to be supported in all levels of education. District admin need to support building admins that are looking to try new things and support student growth and student focused ideas. Building admins need to let their teachers know that it is ok to take risks in the classroom and to try new things that allow more student freedom and self expression in the classroom. Teachers need to create lessons that give students the opportunity for my choice and ownership in their learning. When all of these things happen, you will see a culture of Making take over the school and a Makerspace thrive.

Just putting in a space with fancy gadgets and labeling it a Makerspace is set up to fail. Teachers that are passionate about the space need to receive support from admins to keep the idea going. This will allow them to connect with other teachers and bring them into the fold. The more teachers that are planning on using the Makerspace, more students will interact with the space and seek it out on their own. Without support, Makerspaces die and money is wasted. Sometimes, it is important to just let teachers go and create amazing things and trust them to do a good job. Micromanaging never works. The same is true for teaches as well. The more that we try to micromanage student assignments or projects, the less invested they are in the final product and the sense of ownership vanishes.

Learning about Makerspaces is the first step in creating one,  but the long term goal needs to be creating the culture of Making in the school and trusting admins, teachers, and students to create the best space possible for all learners. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

What are you waiting for? #EdChat

I found myself saying this a bunch the past few weeks. We've been discussing Transcendentalism the past few weeks in my American Literature class and we focus on the importance of the individual and what conformity means in today's society. I'm always a bit saddened by some of the defeatist attitudes of students when confronted with the idea to change who they are and follow their passions. At the high school level, some students already feel like it is too late to explore what matters to them or to stand up for their beliefs. It hurts my heart hear such young people think this way. Some students say that they want to follow their heart. I always shoot back,

"What are you waiting for?"

I make it a mission to encourage students and offer support to them in thinking about making changes. The words of Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman are bookended by the songs of Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Katie Perry to show the students that finding who they really are is still very relevant today. We discuss social media and the illusion of perfection we often try to portray to the world around us, when a student suggested it is the imperfections that make all of us special and beautiful. I'm constantly reminded of the words of Emerson,

"Trust Thyself" and "Imitation is suicide"

These simple aphorisims are so important to remember and so difficult to follow. We strive to please the world around us and are afraid to follow our heart. We need to create a world where our students are not afraid to believe Emerson and be free of the fear societal judgements.

As I think about encouraging students to find out who they are outside the influences of society, I think about teachers who have trouble finding their voice and identity in the classroom. It took me a few years and a great friend and mentor to help me find me. I'm not sure I'd still be teaching if I hadn't found me. For the teachers out there still looking to find who they are or want to show their real self to the classroom, I will say to you what I said to my students,

"What are you waiting for?"

Hugs and High Fives,


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Connected in a Crisis #DigCit #DigCitSummit

The other day, my school had a lockdown. It started during the last few minutes of the school day, so it seemed odd for it to be a drill. Standard procedure has the teacher shut and lock the door, pull the shade, and move students out of possible view of the door. Students are to remain quiet and stay off their phones. It turned out that this was not a drill. A student claimed to have had gun in their backpack.

Thankfully, the student did not have a weapon. While we were locked down, I was keeping students quiet and had to keep telling them to put their phones away. We do this to prevent students from sharing information on social media that could possibly aid an assailant and to prevent wild rumors from going around that could cause other problems. Rumors spread anyway.

When the lockdown was called off, a student of mine proclaimed he knew what happened. He said someone had been stabbed across the street at a local market, the assailant ran into the school, and they had a gun. I told him this was ridiculous and that he should not have been on his phone. The principal came on the PA and explained what had happened shortly after the lockdown was called off because rumors had gotten out of hand in the brief 20 minute window. How wild? Local news stations were reporting the false information as fact. Take a look at this article.

A student started a random rumor on social media because they thought it would be funny and it was reported as fact. Less than 20 minutes and the message had spread throughout the community. Parents were scared. They needed to find out if it had been their child stabbed. The police had to check to see if this were true or not. Time and energy was wasted on this wild goose chase while a potentially serious situation was unfolding in the building. This is why Digital Citizenship needs to be stressed.

I took the first part of every class I taught the next day to explain the seriousness of these false tweets and posts. Explaining to the students that misinformation in a crisis could lead to loss of life really shook some of them. The look on some of their faces told me they had never even thought about it.

We want to be connected during a crisis to let our loved ones know that we are safe. That is one thing, but spreading rumors is another. This was a terrible situation that needed to be used as a teachable moment. Posts have consequences and a crisis is not the time for jokes or rumors.

I hope teachers will take this story and share it with your classes if/when you talk about Digital Citizenship. Our posts have power. We must remind our students and remember this ourselves.

Hugs and High Fives,


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fear Leads to the Dark Side #EdChat

“Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” - Master Yoda

This quote stands out to me when I think of education and change. One of the biggest road blocks to change is fear. When I see teachers angry about change and hating on new ideas, it leads to fear. Fear that they cannot teach in the new model, fear they will look stupid trying out the new ideas, and just general fear for that their every day teaching lives is going to be thrown into chaos. However, we need to fight our fear or succumb to the Dark Side.

The quote does a nice job outlining what happens when new ideas are brought to some teachers. At first, they are angry that there is something else for them to learn and use in the classroom. They move to resent and hate the new idea or tool because they are being told to use it. The students will suffer because the teacher has decided not to embrace these ideas or the teacher will suffer because they are being left behind. It all starts with fear.

A Jedi needs to face their fears. A truly great teacher must face their own. This could be trying a new cloud based tool or the Socratic Seminar in their class. It could be anything, but facing fear can lead to many great things. The environment also needs to bet set in such a way that allows for trial and error with support. Luke had Yoda to guide him while he faced his fears and it is important for schools and districts to offer mentoring and coaching for all teachers willing to take on new ideas and face their fears. Asking anyone to go it alone is cruel and leads to the Dark Side.

Moving forward, take a look at your environment. Does it support facing fear and taking risks? Do you have a coach or mentor that can support you on this journey? Can you support someone on their journey? The Dark Side is a place too many teachers end up because a system of support was not in place for them and the allure of easy path is too hard to overcome. I believe that all teaches have the ability to be a Jedi. What are going to do today to make that possible?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hack The Book Contest! #MakerEd #EdChat

So many amazing people have reached out and shared how much they love "Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces" over the past week. It has really blown my mind. I love hearing how people have connected to the pop culture nerdiness of the book. My favorite part of the book is where I ask people to Make. This is what I really want to see from people that have bought my book. I thought a fun way to encourage people to share their Maker awesomeness is to create a little contest. The winner will receive a brand new autographed copy of "Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces" and a Raspberry Pi 3*! Here are the guidelines for the contest.

On page 90 of the book I wrote,

"Hack this book! I want you to think of a way to use this book in a way that I never conceived. This can be something crazy or something tiny and simple, but I want you to stretch your hacking muscles in fun and creative ways."

Once you have hacked your book, you need to do 4 things:

1. Take a picture and share it on Twitter and/or Instagram.

2. Tag me in the picture (@TheNerdyTeacher on Twitter and TheNerdyTeacher on Instagram).

3. Add the hashtag #ImAMaker and #MakerEd

4. Share a link to my book on Amazon.

For those who bought the Kindle version, you can show me a cool hack using your device and that would count as well.

You can enter more than once if you have come up with multiple ways to Hack The Book! The best Hack will win the Raspberry Pi 3 and the signed copy of my book.

The contest will end on Sunday October 30th, so get hacking!

Thanks for everyone that has shared their Making stories with me so far and I can't wait to see the great things all of you are going to do over the next few weeks.

Happy Making!


*Raspeberry Pi does not endorse this contest, I just thought it would be a cool prize to give to a budding Maker. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

#Makerspaces and ELA #MakerEd

I received a great question on Twitter today and gave a short Twitter response, but I thought I would write a more detailed response.

For me, Makerspaces and ELA make perfect sense. The reason for that is because I do not believe that they are for STEM courses alone. Makerspace advocates need to make sure they leave room for the "A". Of course, the "A" stands for Arts. For me, that includes English Language Arts.

Makerspaces are places that allow students to create things and explore ideas they interest them. It can be very easy to leverage this in an ELA environment if teachers are ready to embrace project based learning. PBL is where you can get students Making and fully using the Makerspace.

I love to give students the flexibility to demonstrate understanding using a variety of projects that they create. A Makerspace will give them a location to meet and create with peers.  These might be 3D designs, quilts, Raspberry Pi programs, green screened videos, and so much more. The Makerspace gives students an opportunity to explore and that is what makes PBL so exciting. Teachers do not have to drop a Makerspacce in the middle of their class and expect students to create in ELA. Makerspaces needed to be offered to students as a chance to push themselves when it comes to demonstrating understanding. With more access to tool, the more likely students will be to try new things. They will be even more likely if the teacher is willing to model some of the cool tools available in their own classroom.

Makerspaces are just another tool that teachers can use to allow students to create. In ELA, I encourage students to use it to demonstrate understanding. How would you use a Makerspace with your classes?

Interested in creating your own Makerspace for your school or classroom? Check out my new book, Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces and get started today!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces Available Today! #MakerEd

Today is the day! I just can't believe that my Makerspaces book is available for purchase on Amazon right now. It was a labor of love that I'm so happy to share with all of you. If you buy the book and you really liked, it would be awesome if you could write a review on Amazon to let others know what you thought. Also, feel free to share out the Amazon link with the tag #IAmAMaker.

Look at what these amazing educators had to say about "Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces"

I've never had so much fun reading a professional book, ever. Somehow each chapter is equal parts hilarious, gleeful, inspiring and practical. I would recommend to this every educator I know and even parents and students. This is a book you can come back to again and again to laugh learn and make each time in a new way. - Jennie Magiera - Jennie Magiera, Educator and Author of Courageous Edventures

Your Starter Guide To Makerspaces makes any Hufflepuff feel like they can tackle the maker movement with the brains of a Ravenclaw, confidence of a Gryffindor, and cleverness of a Syltherin. - Emily Gover - Spirit Animal, Edtech Nerd & Librarian

In Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces, Nicholas Provenzano creates a practical and personal look at how to get started with the maker mindset. Chock-full of nerdtastic pop-culture references, the book practices what it preaches and even invites the reader to make content and hack the book itself. While not taking itself too seriously, this book serves up some seriously useful content and new ideas on Makerspaces. - Adam Bellow Co-Founder Breakout EDU

"Interested in STEAM education and even starting a Makerspace in your community, then this book should be on your reading list! Whatever your subject specialism it will give you new perspective on your lessons and maybe even get you thinking a little more nerdy." - Carrie Anne Philbin - Director of Education at @Raspberry_Pi, Author, @thePSF & @CompAtSch board memeber, Founder @GeekGurlDiaries, Chari of @CASinclude, Google Certified Innovator.

“When teachers ask me how to get started creating a makerspace, this is the book that I will point them to. What I love is that through his humorous yet personal "nerd alerts" and the embedded reflective "maker thoughts" that help frame thinking at the end of each chapter, readers will not only feel a connection to Mr. Provenzano the teacher but also create a pathway towards authentic making in the best possible way...with their purpose in mind. “ - Rafranz Davis - Exec Dir of Prof & Digital Learning

"Nicholas is a pioneer. His experience, enthusiasm, and good humor make this book a fun and indispensable resource for fostering meaningful making in your school." - Matt Richardson - Product Evangelist

“The Nerdy Teacher has done with this book what all good makers and educators do in their classrooms and communities. He took a deep, wonderful topic and made it accessible to everyone by scaffolding the content to offer timely and relevant content to everyone, regardless of experience or prior knowledge. Oh, and the pop culture references and whimsical drawings are awesome, too!" - David Saunders - School Library Maker &

“The best part about "Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces"... is it the awesome tips? The pop culture references? The stories? It's all of these things but what makes the book most special is how Nick's voice can be heard throughout it encouraging me to try new things, think big for students, and not to be afraid to step out of my comfort zone. This book is for anyone who's toying with the idea of Makerspaces and hasn't yet taken the plunge. Nick's positive demeanor and warmth shine through every word.” - Sherry Gick - Associate Director of Innovative Learning
Five-Star Technology Solutions

“Nick Provenzano writes the perfect book for anyone interested in Making but don't know where to start. Your Starter Guide to Maker Spaces lowers the barrier to entry and proves that we are all Makers.  The guide is more than a book, it's a companion that new Makers can turn to on their creative journey. We are entering a brave new world in education and Nick is one of the voices proving that more is possible.” - James Sanders - Co-Founder Breakout EDU

"Nick Provenzano has written an awesome guide to 'making', that not only makes it accessible to everyone, but is an awesome and fun read. His mix of personal anecdotes tied into powerful examples of how to get started and move forward, make this book an awesome addition to a collection for all educators, not just the ones looking to start a 'make space'. Awesome read!" - George Couros - George Couros is the author of "The Innovator's Mindset", and a global Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Going Wireless with @littleBits Gadgets and Gizmos 2nd Edition #EdTech

I'm just going to write it. I freaking love the 2nd Edition of the Gadgets and Gizmos set by littleBits. Simply put, they have outdone themselves by creating a Bluetooth bit that allows your to wirelessly control your creation. Here are some of the standouts.

The Invention Guide is sleek and easy to use. It's also free! Take a look at it here. I have always been a fan of their graphics and layouts. Their real world analogies even help me wrap my brain around a concept at times. It has all of the inventions one could need to get started with the kit.

The big changes in the the GGK is the addition of the Bluetooth bits. This bit works through the littleBits app (available for free on iOS and Android) and uses your phone to connect to the bit and tell it to do what you want it to do. You simply hold your phone up to the bit and the phone will recognize it and the fun begins. Here is a video that shows how it connects.

The app is updated and runs smoothly. I never had an issue connecting the bits to my phone. I brought it neat and it grabbed the bit right away. I was using the Beta of the app and is was great!

I've never been one to dive into directions and see how things are supposed to be used, so I started playing with the bits and seeing what I could come up with. It wasn't long before I had created my own Bluetooth enabled vehicle. After a little bit of trial and error, I was able to get both Bluetooth bits in the correct spot, set up my ball caster on the baseboard, connect my wheels and my 2 DC motors together for a fun gadget and gizmo adventure using Bluetooth.

I was flying around the room in no time and having a blast. Leo was a huge fan of the bits and loved the idea that you can control things from the phone. He had an idea to create something for Halloween that would scare people coming to the door for candy. I love that kid. All kidding aside, the logistics of Leo's idea is now a possibility because of the Bluetooth bit. Almost anything you want to do is possible with the Bluetooth bit.

The downside of playing with the kit connected to my phone was that I was not able to take pictures or video of my vehicle in action because the app was connected to my phone. I will have to use the iPad to take pictures of Leo driving it around and I'll post them to Instagram this week.

If you are looking to dive deeper into littleBits and see how much fun your students or children can have with them, I strongly encourage you to pick up the Gizmos and Gadgets Kit 2nd Edition. You will not be disappointed. 

littleBits did send me a review kit for the purpose of this post, but that does not make it any less awesome for me and for all of you. Seriously, go out and get it!

Lost? #EdChat

"Not all those who wander are lost" - Tolkein 

As a teacher, you know that moment when you are in the flow. Lessons are moving along, you know so much about your students, you are making adjustments on the fly, and everything feels right. You only know this feeling after teaching a few years. You expect to be clunky or rusty at the start of the school year, but after a few weeks, things are great. Sometimes teachers start in a slump and I'm no different.

I know I'm not alone. There are many teachers out there that seem to be in the same place, but are too afraid to admit that they are not in stride yet. I want to remind those people that teachers are not robots and we have off days or even weeks. As I have thought about writing this post for a few days. the quote from The Lord of the Rings trilogy stood out to me. I felt lost, but was I?

There are so many external factors that can influence any teacher in the classroom, it crazy to think that a slump will never happen. It is how you deal with that slump that is key. I think of athletes who enter slumps and they will do 1 of 2 things.

1. Change everything they are doing to get of the slump.

2. Be patient and trust in their skills to bring them back to form.

My knee jerk reaction is to change everything and get going, but I think trusting my skills is the better way to go and that is the advice I have for all of you. Trust in the skills that got you here and reach for support as needed. We are not lost, we are just taking an extended detour to our destination. I like to go with what Gandalf said,

"A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisly when he means to." - Tolkien

Safe travels friends!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Things Learned at the Singapore #GAFEsummit with @EdTechTeam

I'm sitting on a flight fro Singapore to Tokyo at the moment with one of my best buddies, Adam Bellow, right next to me. This is the first leg of a 23 hour trek home. I assumed I would be so tired after a weekend of presenting and countless hours traveling to be part of the Singapore GAFE Summit, but I'm not. My mind is racing with possible ideas and future projects with educators on the other side of the world of me. I wanted to share some takeaways from this trip that I think can be helpful to those that are considering attending any EdTech Team Summit.

1. A very special shout out to my district for letting me attend and present at this conference. I had to miss class and that is never a fun thing to do. However, I have made some amazing connections, got some great ideas from the Singapore American School's library and Makerspace that I would love to see implemented in the space at our school. For admins out there that are hesitant to send teachers out of the classroom to attend conferences, know that the short term investment of a sub and lost teacher instructional time is easily made up in the long term benefits of new ideas, innovation, connections and so much more that can be brought back to your school and/or district.

2. Meeting new people that I'm angry it has taken me this long to connect with over edtech and nerdy culture. I was able to connect with Jessica Loucks. Stop everything you are doing and check out her Twitter account and follow her. Besides being super funny, a pop culture wiz, and filled with great energy, she killed an Ignite talk at the end of the conference. She compared improv to teaching and I was struck at how accurate the analogy was. I was annoyed that I never saw that connection myself. I look forward to connecting with Jessica on future projects and silly events in the future. I know that this connection will make me a better educator.

I also connected with teachers from Singapore and Vietnam. Two are expats from Michigan and are Language Arts teachers. I look forward to finding ways to connect our students through some sort of project. I already know who I am going to connect with regarding a 4th grade class for some fun projects and writing.

These connections are so important as we stress the need for global connections in learning. We need students to stop seeing just "me" when it comes to world, and start thinking "us" more often. Attending this summit is going to help me do that.

3. I learned so much about cultural awareness during these few days of travel and engagement. I had never gone further east than San Francisco and I have never travelled further East than Prague. This was the furtherest away from home that I have ever been and it was amazing. I would like to think that in my travels I strive to understand the culture I'm in and learn as much about it as I'm there, but diving into the Asian Culture is something I have never had to do before and I was uncertain of what to expect.

Talking to teaches at the Summit really showed me how similar their teaching environment is in some ways, and how different it can be at times. No matter if the students are one district over or 13 hours in the future, learning is still learning and sharing what works transcends most cultural boundaries. Sharing teaching strategies with teachers from India, Singapore, China, and other schools was a nice view of the teaching profession and how much we all strive to provide the best education we can for our students. I think it so important to have as much diversity in cultural experiences to help create more well rounded learning experiences.  

4. Taking risks is so important in teaching and attending a conference outside your comfort zone is a huge risk that can pay off in huge ways. Whether it was trying new things to eat (Jellyfish head, soft shell turtle, chili crab, deep fried tentacle, various mystery items), changing your Ignite session last minute to focus exclusively on Zack Morris, navigating Tokyo or Singapore without any electronic support, etc, is really exhilarating and can impact you as a teacher. Taking risks to do something you thing will be fun and engaging for yourself will allow you to try that for your students.

5. Relationships are always key. I had some amazing conversations with people during this trip. They were deep and thoughtful. Sometimes they were about education as a whole and how we are going to change it, other times they were about presenting at conferences and the impact it has on the classroom. Sometimes we just quoted random movies, had nerd arguments over specific fandoms, and just bonded in a way that lets me know these people are there for me if I need anything. Adam, Jennie, Jessica, Mark, Molly, Jay, and James, I could not have asked for a better group of people to spend time with in Singapore, or any country for that matter. You are all amazing educators and I feel truly blessed to have presented with you. I hope I get a chance to do this again.

Traveling to conferences is not an easy thing, but if you can find a way to do it, I encourage to take a risk, pack a bag and see the amazing things that can happen if you are willing to open up and try.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Flexispot Workstation

Even though I ditched my big Teacher Desk a couple of years ago, I was still stuck with my teacher work station. It connects the computer, phone, printer, etc. and I cannot get rid of it. This is where I can sit to take attendance or enter in grades. It is sort of a mess and I have never liked the setup, but I just figured that I did not have other options. I was wrong though. 

I was able to put a Flexispot on top of my work station and move items below it to open up some room and allow me to stand and work if I want.

As you can see, the Flexispot allows the user to adjust the height so you can use it while sitting or standing. There is a nice spot for a portable device to sit, like I did with the iPad, there is a keyboard shelf that holds my keyboard nicely, and there is plenty of room for the monitor, mouse, and pencil holder. I could move my Chromebook there if I needed.

I am able to raise or lower the Flexispot by pressing two handles on the side. It will glide up or down to fit my needs. My items are secure on the top and do not budge as I move it. You need to make sure your wires have enough slack to move up and down. I learned that the hard way the first time I tried to bring it up. :-P

I've been using it for a few days and I have liked the ability to just stand and do attendance or address an email very quickly from another teacher. Also, it is much healthier to be standing than sitting all day. I do not sit much through out the day, but what little sitting I did do, has been nearly eliminated by using the Flexispot.

If you are looking for a change to your classroom desk situation or your home office setup, the Flexispot would be a nice addition to get you working on your feet in no time. Check it out on Amazon to see the great reviews and find the Flexispot that is best for you.

Flexispot did send me one for the purpose of a review, but that does not make it any less awesome and helpful in my classroom. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Learning Fun With @WoWeeWorld Robots

I've been luck to be able to play with a couple of cool robots the past couple of weeks from WowWee. They are the Coder MiP and the Codji. While I thought they were cool, the most important opinion was that of my awesome son Leo. He loved them and I will do my best to explain why he thought they were so cool. I will start with the Coder MiP. 

This little robot packs quite the programming and hardware punch. You might not think that by just looking at it, but it really does. The Coder MiP has the following features that are worth noting.

Beaconsense - This allows the robot to know its surroundings and the situations it is in. 

Gesturesense - It can sense movement in front of its eyes. 

Sound Detection - Coder MiP can be activated by the clap of your hands if you want. 

Gyroscope and Accelerometer - It stands up right on its wheels and can be given directions on how fast to go. 

I was not sure how the Coder MiP was going to balance itself on those two wheels, but once it was connected to my iPad via Bluetooth, it stood straight up without an issues. 

Coding the Coder MiP might sound like a hassle or a tough task, but it is a simple block coding system that is similar to Scratch. Leo, having had used Scratch in the past, simply starting moving the blocks around on the screen to get Coder MiP to do what he wanted. There is also a free drive mode, but Leo really preferred to code the robot to see what he could make it do. Here is a video of Leo using the Coder MiP. 

He had so much fun trying to figure out all of the different things he could make the Coder MiP do. There are plenty of different sounds that the Coder MiP can be instructed to perform and the movements allow for 360 turns and pauses between actions. It is a very simple system for young students interested in robotics. Leo learned about the cause and effect relationship of actions placed in code. Having it try to do a spin before coming to a complete stop caused it to fall over. Adding the pause button would allow it to make the turn the way he wanted. It was fun watching him figure it out on his own. 

The Coder MiP comes with a ramp and a serving dish which can be fun as kids learn to program and complete tasks using the Coder MiP and these extra tools.

The Coder MiP charges using a micro USB and you can get a little over an hour with constant use after a full charge. The app shows you the battery level and is free to download.

If you think that your students or children are not ready to dive into block coding, then Codji is a great place to start. Codji works on using emoticons (Emojis) to send instructions and elicit reactions from the robot. The app has many different features that Leo very much enjoyed plating with during the day. 

In the picture above, Leo is guiding Codji through a street. This is level one and Leo just needed to move him over two spaces. Leo had to count the spaces and select the right arrow twice to move the robot on the screen. As the levels increase, the paths become more difficult and require adding turns and movement in other directions. Leo liked trying to solve the maze each time. 

Here is a screen shot of the driver mode. You can take Codji out for a spin and have emojis show up on his screen/face. Leo loved to use the Devil emoji and have another emjoi stick his tongue out at me. 

This part of the app required Leo to watch Codji's face for an image and repeat the sequence on the app. This was easy at first, but it does get difficult the further along you play. It was a nice challenge for Leo to think about the Sequence of things and how to remember them.

The Codji runs on three AAA batteries and works best on a flat hard surface. Our carpet was ok, but the traction on hard floors is much better.

I think both of these robots from WowWee make a fun addition to any home or classroom looking to introduce students to a very simplified version of robotics. These are they types of toys that can really spark an interest in students and have them excited to follow a more in-depth path to robotics down the line.

WowWee did send these robots to me for the purpose of a review, but that does not make them any less awesome to me or to Leo.