Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What risks are you going to take? #EdTech #EdChat

For some educators around the country, the last day of school has come and gone and they are enjoying a well deserved break. For others, we are counting down the final week or two and trying to get everything covered  before it's over. Summer vacation is ahead, but there is something to think about.

What risks are you going to take next year? You have completed a school year, but did you try something new? Did it work? If it failed, are you still going to take another risk? The summertime is perfect for reflecting on what worked and what didn't. The biggest changes sometimes come from those are willing to take the biggest risks. Will you spend some time this summer thinking about the  best risks you can take to support the students or other teachers in your building?

Reflect and grow this summer.

The students and other educators in the building need you to come back with ideas on how to support all of them. I know you can do it and whatever risks you take will be in the best interests of all the stakeholders.

Have a great Summer and I can't wait to hear about all the amazing things you have planned for the the next school year.

Hugs and High Fives,

The Nerd Teacher

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Your Summer of Making #MakerEd #EdChat

When school is out, there is nothing better than just sitting back and relaxing without having to worry about school or the classroom for 2 full months. Said no teacher ever. 

Summertime has always been a time for teachers to explore new areas of learning and see how they might impact their classroom, school, or district. I have taken the Summertime in years past to learn how to use Raspberry Pi, play with Arduino, and have fun with robotics. It has been a perfect time to explore areas that interest me without the pile of paperwork I receive as an English teacher. 

For educators out there looking to dive into Makerspaces, but have not had time to do so in the school year, than I would encourage you to check out my book. I know it is a biased suggestion, but the response I've received from teachers around the world has been amazing.

Educators have picked up my book to start their Makerspace journey and shared great stories. Schools and entire districts have used my book to help guide them as they bring Makerspaces to their educational environment. 

Here are just a few things people have said about my book:

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, Educator and Author of Courageous Edventures

"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 is the author of "The Innovator's Mindset", and a global Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant.

"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 PhilbinDirector of Education at @Raspberry_Pi, Author, @thePSF & @CompAtSch board member, Founder @GeekGurlDiaries, Chair of @CASinclude, Google Certified Innovator

"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 RichardsonProduct Evangelist

If you have any questions about my book, Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces,  or anything Maker related, do not hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter or email. There are bulk discounts available for 20 or more copies, so please email if you would like to get a set for your school or district. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Failing in Public #MakerEd

This weekend was a big day for me. I had a very epic failure building a PiGRRL 2. I was very excited as I worked on the project because it is always fun to build something and I had pieced together all of the components. I shared my excitement on Instagram.

All I had to do was assemble the case and it was ready to go. Well, that did not happen. As I tried to screw the case together, the battery shifted and I was actually screwing into the Lithium Ion Battery. That is not a good thing. Here is the end result.

I shared this with the my students and one student said, "Aren't you embarrassed?"

It was a funny statement to me because I've shared my wins and loses on social media for a number of years. For my students, they are used to sharing only the positive aspects of their life on Instagram or SnapChat. The idea of sharing a complete epic failure is a little foreign to them.

For Makers, showing others the success can be fun, but the failures can inspire. Too many people watch something being made and shared and think they can't do it. I was one of those people. Perfect projects can scare off potential Makers. This could be adults or children. Sharing our failures is key in advancing the overarching idea that Making is about Success and Failure. We learn from our Failures. We grow from our Failures. It's good to remind others of this.

Have fun Making and Failing everyone!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

3D Design in Language Arts #MakerEd

One of the questions I get about 3D printing and design is, "How do you do this in a Literature class?"

On the surface, 3D design in ELA does not seem to make sense, but it is all about a teacher's approach to assessment. I am a supporter of Project Based Learning. I set my students up in a way that allows them to demonstrate understanding of concepts that are meaningful to them. Part of that is introducing them to various tools that can help them demonstrate that understanding. 3D design is just another tool for students to use.

We were wrapping up our unit on To Kill a Mockingbird and I asked my students to demonstrate understanding of a symbol and how it is connected to a theme we discussed in class. For this unit, I showed students how they could use Tinkercad to design and the Dremel Printer to print their project. I gave them a few days in the Makerspace with the Chromebooks so they could get used to the program and brainstorm ideas for their project. Not all students chose to use 3D design for their project, but many did.

For those that did, many of them came up with these amazing designs and wonderful explanations as to why they chose them. They were able to go into detail on how they designed their symbol and how it related to one of the themes covered in class. They were all very proud of their designs and loved showing them off to others. It was also great watching students figure out the different parts of Tinkercad and then helping other students along the way.

One student put in tremendous effort to create something that was awesome and wonderfully detailed.

She wanted to talk about the good and evil conflict in the story and created an angel and devil on the shoulder of a person. The details made it very difficult to print the way it was designed and I'm still trying to figure out the best way to print it. I might help her deconstruct it and print in in pieces. Anyway, this was the first 3D design this student every created. When I told her that she could do this at home for dun and print at school, her face lit up. She just discovered a new passion she did not know existed. 

Here is the chifforobe that Tom was asked to chop by Mayella. 


Another intricate design from a first time designer. 

This design is taking symbols and creating something brand new that had meaning to them based on their reading of the book. 

A student created a gavel to represent the justice system in the story and wanted to make it as real as possible. 

I told him I would print it using the wood filament I have at home so he could stain and paint it. Here is what it looks like after he took it home. 

It broke while he was painting and staining, but he said that it could be a symbol of the broken justice system found in Maycomb that led to Tom's death. 

There are so many other great projects that students spent time on to show they understood To Kill a Mockingbird and some even found out they had a skill for 3D design. 

In the end, the questions is not, "How do you do this in a Literature class?" The real question is, "How are you giving students the opportunity to demonstrate understanding beyond a poster board, power point, or multiple choice test?"

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fidget Spinners and the Lazy People Who Ban Them

Can everyone just calm down for a minute. Honestly, the country is in the middle of serious issues of Health Care, Constitutional Crisis, and impending teacher shortages. Despite these very real issues taking place, schools and districts are going out of their way to ban little plastic spinners. 

I'm not going to waste time explaining why ADHD kids may or may not need them or how they can be great instructional tools for students interested in design. That doesn't matter. What matters is that educators are wasting time obsessing with the spinners. 

My students have them in class. Instead of freaking out over them, I told them they can use them as long as they were not disruptive to the learning environment. That means they are not spinning them on their desk making noise and tossing them to friends. This is the rule I have for everything in my class. 

Tell the students to use this tool, like any other tool, appropriately in class and everything will be fine. It's that simple. Banning things you do not like because you are too lazy to take the time to instruct kids about the proper use in the classroom is one of the varied reasons kids do not like coming to school. Let them have their short fad and move on to the next thing. 

I'm sure some of the teachers so annoyed by the spinners where huge Pog fans and brought them to school t trade with their friends in class. They were also annoyed when they were dismissed by their teacher as annoying. Don't be those people. Be the teacher you hoped you had while you were hoping to convince your friend to trade you that ALF Pog. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How You Are Doing Making is Wrong

At least, that is what some people would have you believe.

My click bait title is not what I believe.

Making is a journey. Everyone takes their own path in exploring new ideas and the right way is the way that works for you and for your students. You are the expert in your classroom. Read different blogs and different books and collect the ideas that will help you be a success in your classroom.

Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces was written to share the things I did that worked for me in the hopes that others will pick up the things that would work for them and toss the things that didn't. It is not a "this is the right way and this is the wrong way" approach. I have opinions on what I think is best, but that does not make it law.

I have always had issues with the way some ideas are shown to be the solution and everything else is wrong. At least until the next thing comes along and replaces that one. It is the natural order of things for ideas to come and go, but social media has revved up the rhetoric. Watching a Twitter thread become a referendum on something you do in class can be very intimidating. It's important to remember that those people are not in your room. You are the expert of your room.

For those of you out there that are interested in starting to Make and bringing making to your school or classroom, don't stress about what others might think is right and wrong. Do your research, find the things that you think will work, implement them, and fix the things that didn't work how you hoped. This is the natural cycle of trying new things and failing. You will get it right over time. I trust you. Most importantly,

Don't forget that you are the expert for your class.

Hugs and High Fives,


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Internal vs External Ideas #EdChat

I've been involved in some interesting conversations lately regarding the value of internal versus external support. To clarify, I'm not talking about solving IT problems, I'm focusing on the instructional and pedagogical side of education. 

There are good arguments on the value of turning to your own school or district when exploring new ways to engage students or change the curriculum. These educators know your building and district and can make suggestions with an understanding of how it will play out. It is a safe decision that will bring what is expected. For those that think that new ideas can be had internally, I guess my question is why haven't they been heard yet?

The other side is the outside influence. There is something valuable to having someone from the outside come in and bring a fresh perspective to current state of things. Even the best intentions of educators in a building and district can get wrapped up in their own thoughts and fail to see things around them. A new view can help evolve current models of thinking and bring forth change that might not be possible. 

As I look at both sides, it is easy to see why some might think it is a this or that situation, but it's not. This is what makes being a connected educator so amazing and helpful. I have found that sharing what is going on with a lesson or with my curriculum with others outside of my building and districts has opened up ideas I would not have seen on my own and might not have been reached internally. 

I have also reached out to my colleagues for their thoughts on different pedagogical issues and they have pointed out more nuanced things that work well with our students that an outsider would have a hard time knowing.  

I think if you are looking to fresh ideas and a new perspective on something, going for the external point of view is a great way to get it. If you are looking for something specific for your students, then a veteran of the building or district would be a great person to connect with to hear their thoughts. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the value of internal vs external ideas. Leave a comment or shoot me a tweet. 

Hugs and High Fives!


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Depression Lies #EdChat

Depression lies. That's what it does. It will say anything and everything. It will take the smallest events and turn them into emotional catastrophes. For someone battling Depression, it takes all that they can to fight the lies. 

Depression lies, but it also will make people lie, 

"I'm fine"

"Don't worry about me"

Students work very hard to wear the right mask at school and in front of friends and family so they can keep their scars, emotional and physical, from public view. We have to let them know that they are not alone. 

It is important to support friends, family, and our students who are dealing with Depression. Sometimes it is just letting them know you are there for them if they need help. 

The school year is coming to an end and teachers are close to burnt out and students are gearing up for the stress that comes with AP Testing and other end of year assessments. Please take a moment to check in on your friends, colleagues and students to make sure they feel supported. We battle Depression every day and knowing our friends and family are there helps us ignore the lies Depression continues to tell. 

Hugs and High Fives,