Monday, February 20, 2023

Burn Notice - Supporting Yourself When Burnout Is Near #EdChat

As we hit the mid mark of February, many teachers are starting to feel burnout creeping up on the them. Some might already be dealing with it. Burnout is very real and very serious for teachers. There are some things you can do to keep it from overtaking you and negatively impacting your classroom.

1. Create and Maintain Boundaries - Establish your working hours and stick to them. Do not check your email after a set time and do not engage is work during those off hours. You need and deserve the time to rest your brain and body. Whether you have a family at home take care of or just yourself, you need the time to not be connected to school. Consider deleting your school email from your phone if you need to really disconnect. That time is yours and it is precious.

2. Explore Personal Professional Development: Burnout is not always linked to just being tired. Sometimes the burnout is a result of not feeling challenged or excited about what you are doing. Exploring PD that can change your practice and offer new approaches could invigorate you and your classroom. When you get to chose the PD, you will be fully invested in learning and growing. Find a conference and connect with like-minded people to fill your bucket again. These are wonderful ways to fight off burnout. 

3. Reach Out to Others - Some schools have a mentoring system in place, but many do not. If you do not, find your teaching partner and reach out to them. It doesn't have to be a full therapy session, just express some of the feelings you are having and ask how they deal with them. Sometimes that teachers has been hoping someone would say something for weeks and the both of you can connect and work through this together. If you are comfortable, find and speak to a therapist. A trained professional can help you navigate complex feelings connected to your burnout. Feeling better with who you are and where you are at can make the classroom a much better place to be for everyone. 

4. Change The Scenery - Sometimes rearranging your classroom and moving things around can be a huge help when it comes to burnout. I used to change my space every marking period. It was good for me and it was good for the students. The room can feel very stale after just a few months. Shuffling the seats and changing the decor can really add a bit of positive energy into the room. While this might not be a long-term fix, getting students involved could make it a fun projects that adds a smile to your face. 

5. Focus On Wins - Do not forget to spend some time focusing on your wins! We can often get bogged down by the loses and the frustrations dealing with rules, regulations, admin, etc. that we forget that we are doing some awesome things. Did you have a struggling student that finally had a lightbulb moment after you offered a new approach? Did a quiet student finally feel comfortable in your class to share their thoughts? Did your lesson land how you had hoped? Celebrate those wins. Celebrate them with yourself or share them with friends and family. We want to celebrate the wins of our students because we know it can help with their self-esteem. It applies to teachers as well. Shoutout yourself and, while you are at it, shoutout your peers. Catch them doing something awesome? Let them know. Here are student say they loved something a teacher did in their class? Drop them an email to let them know. Whenever I do this, the smile on the teachers' faces are worth it.

Burnout can take out the very best teachers. We all need support systems and ways to process our emotions. Some of us do woodworking, play video games, garden, paint, or any other host of things to keep us grounded and in a better place. It is not easy, but we need to take care of ourselves if we want to be able to take care of our students and, more importantly, the family we have at home. 

Hugs and High Fives, 

The Nerdy Teacher

Friday, February 17, 2023

Rubber Duck Debugging With Your Students #CSforAll #EdChat

I was working with my students on the Sphero Delivery Service Coding Challenge I had created. Students need to code their Sphero through the delivery route to deliver a package to the main office. They are provided the map below to guide their coding. 

Each square represented a carpet square in our common area. The students needed to do the math to figure out how far the Sphero needed to run at the correct speed to navigate the delivery route. Here is an example of what it looks like. 

Many students had no problem taking their time and working through their code. One even figured out the twist to the code that required the students to increase their speed or time of movement at the end because the final stretch was slightly up hill. 

However, others were stuck in very early parts of the coding. They had trouble going step by step because they were trying to do it all in their head. Despite suggesting to them they should write it out to see what it looks like, they refused to do it on their own. They wanted to talk through their code with me. When you have a full class of students all trying to code, you don't have as much time to debug every single line of code for every single student. The students that did start to walk me through their code would always catch the mistake before I said anything. They just needed to walk through it with someone. 

That is when I remembered something I had heard about a while back called Rubber Duck Debugging. Here is a link that walks through all of the history behind RDD. I realized that I need to order a bunch of rubber ducks for my students to help guide them through their code. Even better, I found blank rubber ducks they could decorate however they want! At the start of the next trimester, every student in my Innovation and Design classes will be given a rubber duck to decorate and serve as their coding mentor. Here is my rubber duck I will be using in class. 

This is a fun way to work through code that students and teachers will love! Give it a try and let me know how it goes! I will share student designs as they are created.

Hugs and High Fives, 

The NerdyTeacher

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Using @MakeyMakey To Explore Circuits and Conductivity #MakerEd #SciChat

Students have had a fun past few days building their own controllers for games they coded on MakeCode Arcade. Makey Makey has been a wonderful tool in my Innovation and Design class as well as our Science classes. They can very helpful when it comes to teaching the concepts behind open and closed circuits and conductivity. Here is a link to some great lessons that Makey Makey have created to help introduce students and teachers to Makey Makey and how they work.

Here is how I approached the project with my students in case you want to replicate this in your class. 

Step 1: Recall what circuits are and what conductivity means if they have already studies it or introduce the concepts and ask students to guess what they mean.

Step 2: Introduce or reintroduce the concepts of circuits and conductivity to students. Here is a great lesson from Makey Makey I used with students. 

Step 3: Let students play with Makey Makey and let them figure out what is and is not conductive. Students are given brass brads, Play Dough, paperclips, alligator clips, and an arcade button. They access all the apps that Make Makey has to try and get the Makey Makey to work. 

Step 4: Students use pencil and paper to design the controller for the game they created in the previous lesson. If your students have not created a game, you can let them choose from the games found on MakeCode Arcade. 

Step 5: Students build their controller and test it on their games. 

Step 6: Students post their work to their digital portfolio. 

Here is an Instagram post that showcases some of the controllers that students made. 

One of the things I added to the project were my homemade alligator clip buttons. I took alligator clips, cut them in half, and soldered the wire to a button. Now the students can just clip the alligator end to the Makey Makey to make a button work. The Instagram post below will show you how I did it. 


What is great about this project is how the students have to work through the creation of circuits to make their controllers work. They explored different ways to make it possible to touch the ground and their other conductive items to complete the circuit. Other students figured out that buttons completed the circuit for them when they attached them to the Makey Makey and the ground. The goal of every project in my class is to get students to think about their design and the different ways it is possible to complete the task. Using a Makey Makey to create a controller is a wonderful way to reenforce important Science concepts while giving students a way to creatively demonstrate their understanding of circuits and conductivity. I encourage you to give it a try in your class.  

Monday, February 6, 2023

Stop Freaking Out Over ChatGPT #EdChat

My feed has been swamped with all of these posts proclaiming that ChatGPT is great for education and that it will bring about the demise of education. Every take in between has been given as well. I've been around long enough to have seen this reaction with multiple tools over the years. There are plenty of people out there that are going to tell you how to use ChatGPT in your classroom or how to check and see if your students are using it to complete assignments. Much like the Force, it can be used for good or for bad. It is not all one or the other. 


Rather than spend a bunch of time coming up with a variety of reasons about why teachers should not worry about ChatGPT, I just had ChatGPT come up with the reasons for me. 

  1. Lack of personalization: ChatGPT, as advanced as it is, cannot replace the personal touch that a teacher brings to the classroom. A teacher’s ability to understand individual student needs, emotions, and learning styles cannot be replicated by a machine. ChatGPT may provide a quick answer, but it cannot provide the human connection and personalized support that students need to learn and grow.

  2. Limited scope of knowledge: While ChatGPT has been trained on a massive corpus of text, it is not perfect and may not always provide accurate or up-to-date information. Teachers, on the other hand, undergo extensive training and have a deep understanding of their subject matter and the curriculum. They are able to provide students with a comprehensive and well-rounded education that goes beyond just answering questions.

  3. Importance of critical thinking and problem solving: Teachers play a crucial role in fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills in their students. They do this by encouraging students to think deeply about concepts, ask questions, and engage in discussions and projects that require creativity and innovation. ChatGPT, while it may provide answers to questions, cannot facilitate the kind of hands-on learning that helps students develop these important skills. Teachers should not worry about ChatGPT as they provide a level of education and support that a machine simply cannot match.

I will throw in another reason why people should stop freaking out about ChatGPT. 

Teachers were very concerned about essay writing with the introduction of the Internet. There was this fear that students would not create an original essay every again. I always found this funny, because any teacher worth their salt can identify a plagiarized paper from a student they have had in class for a small amount of time. It is not that hard to see that a student who has written at or slightly below grade level is writing at the college level out of nowhere. While taking credit for the student's writing advancement would be nice, teachers know it came from somewhere else. Either too much "help" from a parent or from an online source. The way this was addressed in many classrooms was more in class writing assessments. Will some students beat the system and submit work they did not do? Of course they will. Students have been beating the system as long as there has been a system. The overwhelming majority of students follow the directions, do the work, and are honest about it.

The big issue that many teachers do not want to look at is WHY students would choose to be dishonest with their work. Finding the root cause might require teachers to look inward at their curriculum and overall classroom learning environment and that can be much scarier than the thought of AI taking over the teaching profession. Food for thought. 

I used AI to create an image of what AI looks like in a dystopian world. Here it is. Kind of nuts right?

Hugs and High Fives, 


Thursday, February 2, 2023

Student Podcasting with @Soundtrap #MakerEd #PBL #ELA

6th grade students had the opportunity to create their own short podcast episode to share their thoughts on a book they think other should read. These book talks are around 2 minutes long and allowed students to create some intro music using Soundtrap tools. You can find the Podcast, Stevens 6th Grade Ideas, on Spotify

The students set up their Soundtrap account, chose a book they liked from this year and had to record two versions of their Book Talk. The first version was an off the cuff take. They just needed to talk about the book and cover a few common points. The second version required the students to create a script to guide their Book Talk. Once they had both recorded, they were able to choose which one sounded better to them. From there, they created some intro and outro music and let their teacher know they were done. Stevens listened to the podcast episodes and uploaded each one to Anchor which pushes the podcast to Spotify. The lesson took three 70 minute blocks to complete. The first block was a short assignment with Soundtrap that had students create a ringtone so they could get used to the program before embarking on their podcasting adventure. 

Here are a few of the book talks you can listen to from my page, but I encourage you to head over to Spotify and listen to many of them and share them with your students if they are looking for new books to read. 


Thanks for listening and sharing. The students are very excited to share their thoughts with the world. 

Hugs and High Fives,