Monday, July 30, 2018

Exploring Project Based Learning - Podcast

A couple of months ago, I was able to be a guest on the Reading Horizon's podcast, Podclassed. I shared my experiences with Project Based Learning over the years and how Makerspace can play a very helpful role in supporting Project Based Learning in the classroom.

This episode also has a mother and daughter from my school who share their experiences with PBL and why think it is an important aspect of overall student learning. Also joining this episode is John Larmer, the Editor-in-Chief of the Buck Institute for Education. He shares his thoughts on the value of PBL as well as his extensive work on spreading PBL to as many schools and classrooms as possible.

Take a moment and listen to what everyone had to share about Project Based Learning on Podclassed by Reading Horizons.

If you want to check out other episodes of Podclassed, just follow this link

Saturday, July 21, 2018

It's About More Than A Computer Board #Picademy @Raspberry_Pi

I just wrapped up a week of Picademy in Atlanta. Picademy is a two day professional development event hosted by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It's a "free face-to-face professional development programme that supports educators throughout their digital making and computing journey". After completing the two days of awesome PD, each member becomes a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator (RCE).

 I was lucky to be part of the first North American cohort a few years ago.

It would be easy for me to talk about it being the best PD I have every received. I'm not sure I would have written my Makerspace books if I had not attended Picademy and had the support of the community as I explored digital and physical making. Here is a GIF that still makes its rounds within the Pi Foundation that shows how much I really loved the event.

I wanted to write about the community of Raspberry Pi and how it impacts teachers around the globe. Some people do not know this, but The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a non-profit. They make these awesome computers and strive to make sure that every student has access to Computer Science. That is an amazing goal, but it is the people that truly make it so phenomenal.

For the past few years, the Raspberry Pi team in North America has grown from 2 people to 5 people. All of the events that have taken place are because of these amazing and hard working people. I have been lucky to work with them in different ways to support their mission. With the support of the amazing UK team, the North American team has done a tremendous job of creating a community of educators that, not only learn so much, but actively work to share what they have learned with other teachers and students. Teachers from across the country connect to support learning for themselves and also their students. That is such an amazing thing to create and the entire Raspberry Pi Foundation should be proud of this. 

As I said earlier, I just finished the Picademy in Atlanta and I have helped with other events in the past as well. I took some time to reflect on why I commit the time and energy to do a week long PD event. The answer came to me and it was quite simple, I love being part of the community that Raspberry Pi is building and helping grow that community as a facilitator is a great experience.

Every time I help with an event and work with teachers and/or students with Raspberry Pi, I get to learn more myself. The selfish part of the entire thing is that I get to continue to grow and learn as a physical and digital maker. It is something that is so important for my Maker Mentality. I always want to try and learn new things and teaching teachers is a great way to explore.

The community that is continuing to grow around Picademy and the Raspberry Pi Jams, is something that I am very lucky to be part of in my educational travels. Educators talk about finding their tribe and I believe you can have different tribes that support you in different ways. NErDcampMI is a tribe that nurtures my literary side and the Picademy tribe nurtures my Maker Mentality side.

I want to say thank you to Philip, Matt, Courtney, Ben, Dana, Andrew, Christina, Carrie Anne, Russell, and everyone else that has allowed me to be part of the Pi team in one way or another. You kindness and generosity has allowed an amazing community to grow and I'm thankful to be part of it.

If you want to know more about, check out the link. If you want to know more about Raspberry Pi in general, check out their redesigned site.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Find Your Passion" Research #EdChat

A new article has come out and it shared the research done on the idea that people just need to "Find their passion" and how it is terrible advice. In the educational world, the phrase, "find your passion" has been shouted from the rooftops as a way to engage students and teachers in the learning process. Many people have built mini empires on driving this narrative for teachers and students. The phrase can actually be quite complex and do tremendous harm if not unpacked for students and staff, but many people don't want the long and dirty answer regarding the value of passion in schools. "Find your passion" is not about waiting until lightning strikes with that one thing you have just discovered. It doesn't work that way. I never would have grown to love coding, physical computing, and Raspberry Pi if I did not stick with it and let the passion I have for it grow organically. It was a process. The idea that your will just find that one thing right away is mythical. Now, some people pick up a paint brush, solve a math problem, or strum a guitar for the first time and are hooked, but that is not the vast majority of people. As a teacher, I have grown more passionate about the profession over the years because I became dedicated to growing as a learner. I have been an advocate for Makerspaces and Genius Hour/20 Time. I am an advocate for finding things that you are passionate about or might be passionate about and exploring them. Genius Hour/20 Time for my HS students was an opportunity for students to explore areas that interested them. Some of them found out they were very passionate about these projects at the end and others recognized that this area was not something as interesting as they had hoped. You can't even call it a failure because trying something out and realizing it is not for you is just how life works. The problem stems from people showing up on PD day, standing in front of a large group of teachers and just telling them to tell their students to follow their passion and for teachers to follow their passion and walk away with the check in hand. No real strategies on how to do that or what that means in the grand scale of the school or district. Poor administrator support makes it even worse. Teachers are all pumped up, but have no real idea what this means and this can harm students in the long term. Passion needs to have a tempered approach that allows all educators and students the opportunity to try things and see where it takes them. Helping students and teachers develop passions as they explore the world is an amazing thing to do. Makerspaces and libraries are perfectly poised to be a space that supports learners as they explore the world and find what they are passionate about. As long as we all accept that it can change and evolve over time, then I'm all for "Find your passion" being in education. If not, then we have another empty platitude that puts money in the pockets of people and leaves teachers and students in the dust to figure it out on their own.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The #NErDCampMI Effect

The very first thing I want to write is that Colby Sharp and his crew of amazing Nerds have put on one of the very best conferences I have ever been part of in my entire life. Seriously, I am angry at myself for missing the past several years.

I have been meaning to attend NErDCampMI for a number of years, but things have come up. I really wanted to make sure I attended this year, so I blocked off the second week of July to make sure I would not schedule anything that might cause me to miss the event. I am so glad I did!

While I have spent countless hours writing about technology, Makerspaces, Project Based Learning, Raspberry Pi, and the like, I have always been a literary nerd at heart. My path has taken me away from the literary conversations I have always loved having. I have only been out of the English classroom for one year, but I could tell how badly I missed literary conversations after just chatting with a few people.

I submitted a session, because I have to present wherever I go. It is a disease. Anyway, I presented a session on Graphic Novels and had a nice conversation with the people that attended. I shared Bone, Watchmen, X-Man, and some of my other favorites. It was nice to discuss Graphic Novels and their role in literacy with other educators. The hour went by quickly we were all having so much fun with our discussion.

I tried to get into a Maker session and it was too jammed to find a spot. Instead, I found a spot in the lobby and started to have some fun conversations with educators and some authors/illustrators. We were just a few nerds sharing what we love to read and how we can use our love to instill the love of reading with our students. It was magical.

The end of the first day allowed attendees to wait in lines and meet the many authors that agreed to attend and share. I was excited because I needed to get Dav Pilky's signature in my son's Dogman book. It was my number one goal. Number two was meeting Judd Winick. He is the amazing author of the Hilo series. Leo has fallen in love with the series and I needed to meet Judd and get the book for Leo. Personally, I wanted to meet Judd because used to watch him when he was on the Real World San Francisco back when the Real World was an honest social experiment. He made a book, Pedro and Me, based on his friendship with Pedro Zamora. It was a book that was a big deal for me growing up and is still worth a read. Anyway, I was able to get both signatures and both of the authors, and really all of the authors I encountered, were amazing.

A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

Day two was an unconference and I ran a session on the Hero's Journey in pop culture and how to connect that to literature. It was a packed session where I was able to discuss Star Wars, Disney movies, and The Catcher in the Rye. As an added bonus, Judd Winick came to my session! It was so cool to have conversations with all of these educators. Of course, it was awesome to listen to the Nerd Talks and Pernille Ripp made me cry with her talk. She is one of the most passionate educators I have the pleasure to call friend. Just spending time talking with her lights a fire inside of me to dive deeper into my reading and writing. She is a good friend and I'm lucky to know her.

By the end of the event, I was exhausted. This was the best type of tired I have had in some time. ISTE drains me physically. NErDCampMI was draining intellectually. I was given so much to think about and I made so many more connections in just two days. I couldn't be happier to have had this opportunity to meet great educators and authors. The NErDCamp Effect is the feeling of growth and inspiration after spending two days in Parma, MI.

Colby Sharp and company did an amazing job bringing everyone together and you can bet I will be back next year. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Be More Than a Hashtag

I've been on an off social media since ISTE. One of the things I have seen is more asinine tweets that either take veiled shots at teachers or are just nonsense.

Ugh. I guess the hashtag makes this an important tweet. Pernille has already written an amazing take on this tweet and you should take the time to read it. I have talked with teachers in my building that feel this type of guilt on their own and to have Marzano double down on that guilt is simply reckless. Too many administrators use his words as Bible truth in education. His thoughts are used in evaluations that give teachers anxiety that hurts their overall emotional health and doesn't do any favors for them in the classroom. Being absent from the classroom for too long can cause this type of empty thinking.

When I choose to leave my classroom after teaching 15 years of HS English, I wanted to make sure that the job I took would allow me to still be in the classroom with teachers. I want to be able to co-plan and co-teach. I was able to to do that with MS students and it was amazing. I learned so much about teaching in the MS and how these students think. It is very important to stay connected if I'm going to share thoughts on teaching. It seems to make sense, but we also live in a country where the Secretary of Education has zero educational experience.

Then I saw this tweet in the morning,

This tweet received 26 likes. Similar empty tweets have received hundreds of tweets. Again, is it the hashtag that makes this important? What does this mean? Going all in is a terrible poker strategy. Do you go all in on a bluff? Do you wait until the perfect set of cards to go all in? Are students the cards? If you wait for the perfect had to go all in, are the other classes (previous hands) missing out because you did not feel they were goo enough to go all in? Look at all of the questions that this ridiculous tweet creates. This isn't even the good type of tweet that is supposed to make you think about your practice. I am thinking this is supposed to be some empowering and uplifting tweet. 

This is not the only tweet out there guilty of being hot air. Teachers are starting to push back against the nonsense and let these people know that their tweets are not helping educators, but hurting them. I'm sure they will only address these ideas when they notice book sales starting to dip, but it is important for teachers to expert more from each other. We need to push these people to dive deeper into their thoughts. If they require you to buy their book for continued conversations, then you know where they stand. 

Please do not be afraid to push back against anyone on Twitter that is trying to sell you something are tell you how to be a good teacher. Being a good teacher looks different in every educational environment around the world. Anyone that tells you there is a definitive way to be a good teacher is someone that is not in the classroom or has a very flawed view of what teaching really is. 

To anyone out there that has felt the guilt of what you do as a teacher because of these types of tweets, please know that there is a great community on Twitter that is supportive of the different ways that everyone teachers and just wants every teacher to know that there is room to grow as a professional online that is more that empty tweets, book hashtags, and pretty quotes on sunset backgrounds. 

For those sending this nonsense out there, be more than a hashtag. 


Dr. Marzano has replied to the criticism of his tweet. Here is the embedded tweet he sent. 

It is nice to see that Dr. Marzano has seen how his tweet might be viewed by others, reflected on it, and has decided to take full charge of his twitter account moving forward. I applaud him for doing this and I look forward to see his tweets on education to learn, and maybe push back a little. ;-)


Some people could not let things go, so I felt the need to go on a Twitter rant to fully explain what was missed in this blog post.

Here is 1/10.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Filling the Heart Meter

I have had a few days to think about ISTE 2018 and something struck me. While I might feel tired in the short term, my heart meter is full! I can't help but think of the many hours play Zelda and the stress of not having a full life meter to face the big challenge ahead. The end of the school year for me tends to leave me with a blinking half heart and that annoying beeping noise to remind me my health is low. In The Legend of Zelda, to regain all of your hearts, you need to find a fairy. Well, no magical sprites could be found at ISTE, but I did find my tribe and my Heart Meter filled all the way up. 

I used to dwell on how much the conference took from me, I never stopped to think about what the time with my friends was giving me. I get to hang with them, share stories from the year, joke around, give huge hugs, and just enjoy the company of some of the most amazing people I have ever known. 

Everybody needs to find the things that refill their heart meter so they can face the challenges that lie ahead. For me, connecting with my tribe at ISTE is what I need. Seeing new tech, checking out sessions, and connecting with vendors are interesting parts of ISTE, but can be done throughout the year if I really wanted. Seeing all of these amazing people in one place for a few days is a once a year thing. I can't imagine missing this. Every teacher needs to find the thing that fills their Heart Meter. For me, meeting my friends at ISTE is the best way to do that. 

These are a few of the pictures from the adventures of ISTE 2018.