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!