“I see more teachers trying to connect with others from all over the world. Knocking down the walls of the classroom can be a very powerful thing to do. Connecting students with the world can only help them in the long run.” – Nick Provenzano, USA

“Teaching can be a lonely profession in some schools,” says Nick Provenzano. “You teach all day in your classroom and enjoy brief encounters with colleagues in the teachers lounge or passing quickly in the hallway.  There isn’t a lot of time to have a meaningful conversation about education and learning.” But rather than just accepting this fate, Provenzano decided to do something about it.  In addition to blogging on his multiple award-winning blog, The Nerdy Teacher, Provenzano created and co-edits Project PLN. “Project PLN has found great success in allowing teachers from all over the world to share their thoughts on important educational topics,” says Provenzano.

And he didn’t stop there. “Edcamp Detroit is an unconference inspired by similar events organized around the country,” says Provenzano, who is President of Edcamp Detroit. “Our goal is to bring educators together to share their passion and ideas for better learning in an open format. It’s a conference for educators, by educators, and anyone who shows up at the event can sign up to host a session on any topic they choose.”

It’s this sharing of ideas, building of community and encouragement that has made the difference for Provenzano – and undoubtedly, for so many other teachers. “I would like to think that my sharing on my blog has encouraged other teachers to share what they do and try new things,” he says. “Sometimes innovation is just trying something new to see how it will impact the students. All teachers tweak borrowed lessons from others, so I hope I have impacted other teachers in that way.”

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

I see more teachers trying to connect with others from all over the world. Knocking down the walls of the classroom can be a very powerful thing to do. Connecting students with the world can only help them in the long run.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

It’s all about patience. Making connections on Twitter or through blogging is a great way to meet new people and expand your learning.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

Currently, my students are using Evernote to store all of their work so they can have an e-portfolio to access all year and it also allows me to go paperless in my classroom. Also, my students will be using blogs as a way to express themselves creatively. Creative writing is an important part of all of our lives and I want to foster that in my students.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

Sometimes the focus is on standardized testing and not learning. I have to focus on learning and let the scores do the talking. While a student might learn new things and improve their reading and writing levels, test scores do not always reflect the learning the student has done all year.

What is your country doing well currently to support education? 

Not much.

What conditions must change in your country to better support education?

Funding needs to be increased to support students, teachers and schools. We can only play the game of “do more with less” for so long.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

Allowing teachers to be involved in the process of solving the problems we face in education. There are too many people making decisions that have never been in the classroom.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Look to the teachers around you for support. We are all in this together and we need to help each other out.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

Teachers becoming more connected is a great trend that is helping students. As more teachers work to grow their knowledge base, it is only going to help students in the long run. A trend hurting students is high-stakes testing. It does not promote collaboration when these scores are linked to teacher evaluation. It is a dead end in education reform.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

If it had to be a piece of hardware, it would have to be a mobile device. Students need to have access to information so they can learn anywhere at anytime. This is a huge part of 21st century learning.

About Nick Provenzano

  • Birthplace: Michigan
  • Current residence: Livonia, Michigan
  • Education: Teaching Degree from Wayne State University and Masters in Educational Technology from Central Michigan University
  • Person who inspires me most: My wife
  • Favorite childhood memory: My Dad bringing home our first computer. A Macintosh.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): California for some work related to my site, TheNerdyTeacher.com
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? Every day in class. My students are awesome.
  • Favorite book: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Favorite music: Pearl Jam
  • Your favorite quote or motto: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt”
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