Sunday, June 30, 2013

What's Your Passion?

So this post has been mulling in my brain a lot lately.  This summer I've already been able to attend two amazing conferences, iPadPalooza and ISTE.  At both those conferences there was a focus on technology and bringing technology seamlessly into the classroom.  I learned so much at those conferences and connected with amazing people, but it got me thinking....have we lost just a little piece of being a teacher?

Ok let me try and explain.  I love technology.  I have been introducing my students to new forms of technology and ways to learn since I first started teaching 6 years ago. Heck I even started a "Technolgy Training Company" for teachers. Technology is so important to have in the classroom.  When our students leave our class everyday they are entering a world where technology is everywhere!  If we aren't using technology within our class, and not only using it, but if we aren't having students CREATE and SHARE with technology then, as teachers, we are doing a serious disservice to our students.  But that's for another blog post....

As I attended some great sessions and talked to some amazing people I began to think, "Some of these people are so passionate about bringing technology into the classroom, but what am I passionate about?"  And I began to look back at what I've been trying to accomplish with students.  And it lead me to one conclusion.

I am passionate about technology in classrooms, yes.  But what I am even more passionate about is reminding my students that they matter and that each and every one of them holds an important place and value in this world.

I grew up often wondering if my life mattered.  If I really made a difference anywhere.  And I admit, there are still days where I think "Is what I'm doing really making a difference??"  But when I was in Jr. High I met a guy, my youth minister, who was the first person (outside of my family) who made me feel like maybe I did have something important I could do.  Maybe I was more than just a body of flesh and bones.  That moment, when someone I hardly knew, took enough time to invest in me and make me feel valued, literally saved my life.  And from that moment on, I was positive I wanted to become a teacher.  Not necessarily because I loved teaching a particular subject, but because I wanted to work with kids, from all walks of life, and find ways to remind them that they all matter and that they each have an opportunity to change the world.

The best feeling in the world for me is not when I see a student learn something new, or when I get to bring a new piece of technology into my classroom.  To me, the best feeling in the world is when a student comes up to me at the end of a school year and tells me, "Mr. Nesloney I've never had a teacher believe in me or give me as many second chances as you did.  Thank you for reminding me that I matter".

Over the past 6 years of my career I've tried a lot of different ways to do this...from doing character education programs in my class (even though it had NOTHING to do with math).  We spend the first entire week of school doing nothing but building relationships and playing games.  I constantly call my students my family and remind them that a family fights for their own and I am going to take care of them and protect them while they are in my class.  I started "Guys Lunch" to eat with my male students once a month and discuss what it means to be a respectable young man.  It's always been my goal to remind each and every one of my students that no matter what anyone has ever told them, or whatever they've ever felt like, they DO matter.  And if they think they matter to no one else in the world, I want them to know that every day they enter my classroom, and even after they've left my class they will always matter to ME (and really, they do).

I've laughed with my students, I've cried with  my students, and I've gone to their baseball games, ballet recitals, and more.  Not because I necessarily wanted to, but because over 15 years ago, someone did that for me. And to this day I still remember that moment in my life when someone cared enough about me to remind me that I was important this world.

So I close this post asking "What's your passion"?  What impact are you looking to have on your students?  Are you just looking to bring in the next amazing piece of technology, or just to get all your students to pass, or are you interested in building relationships.  Relationships that will change a child's life and impact more than we could ever imagine.

So as many of you spend your summer soaking in the sun, relaxing with family, attending conferences/trainings, or planning for next year, I encourage you find some time to plan on ways that you can just connect with your students and build those deep relationships from day one.  Build a classroom that grows trust, safety, love, and one that values every student as a part of your family.

Feel free to leave a comment and join the conversation below!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

ISTE 2013 - Everything Changed

So I left ISTE 2013 today.  Man what an exciting, invigorating, exhausting, and somewhat life changing experience I had these past 5 days at ISTE.  Before I jump into my week I think it might be best if I give a little background information about myself to help you better understand why this week made as big of an impact as it did.

This blog has primarily been used for me talking about my Flipped PBL Classroom, and you can scroll through past posts to read all about that.  But I've kept this blog very professional.  I've never really delved much into who I am personally.  I've never really seen the need to.  And I always express myself best in written form, so I figured it'd be best to tell you a little about me.

I'm very good at putting up a facade.  I've been told quite a few times I'm quite the actor.  But throughout my life I've struggled with making deep friendships, or even friendships where I felt truly cared about or understood.  Now that's not to say I haven't had some great friends!  I HAVE!  But I've had very few close friends.  I've always sort of felt like an outcast, misunderstood, and often felt like I went unnoticed.  I was not the "social butterfly" some may see me as today.  And there are still days where I struggle with insecurities. I don't tend to share my personal life or my personal struggles because I have this voice that tells me "no one really cares".   Many times I don't feel like I've earned any right to speak in front of other educators about what I'm doing.  Many times I feel uncomfortable in front of educators who are doing what I consider to be extraordinary things, because I feel like I won't quite be as good as them.  I know this is a fault of mine, and a fault I'm very aware of.  I know I should never compare myself to others and I know I'm doing great things!  It's just a thought that gets in to my head still!

Then came Twitter.  I've been on Twitter since about May of 2012.  I got on it because my Assistant Superintendent at the time told me that I was doing incredible things and that I should be sharing those ideas with more people and he said Twitter was a great place to start.  It was very difficult for me at first because I've always taught behind a "closed door".  I didn't want anyone to see what I was doing because I'm a boundary pusher.  I'm someone who is always looking to do non-traditional things in my classroom to connect with my students and to grow them into the best person possible.  And sharing on Twitter terrified me.  But I decided to give it a shot anyway....and man I am glad I did.  Over the past year I've built some pretty great relationships with people via Twitter.  Relationships/Friendships that were completely virtual.  I had never met these people in person and yet I was sharing ideas, gaining even more ideas, and just connecting in ways I'd never done before.

As I began to get active on Twitter I began to hear about different local conferences and as I heard about them I decided to attend them. And that is when I began to meet many of my Texas Twitter Friends in person.  It was a very invigorating experience and one that kept me from quitting my job.

So throughout the last year I've met tons of amazing Texas educators.

Then I heard about ISTE, and that it was supposed to be this incredible learning experience where people come in from all over the world and lead sessions and that it would be the perfect opportunity for me to attend sessions and learn from people from all areas of education.

But what's funny, is that is how ISTE is described to the public.  To come join in and attend tons of great sessions and seminars led by some of the "best in education".  And ISTE does have a lot of really great sessions.....but here's the humorous part....I didn't attend even one session (besides the Ignite sessions and the Keynotes) and I feel like I learned more than I ever have in my life.

How could I learn so much without ever attending a session?  Connecting with others.  I spent the entire last five days connecting with people I've been interacting with on Twitter.  But now, thanks to a conference like ISTE, I was able to make those face to face, in person, connections which were mind blowing (and now due to those connections, our conversations on Twitter will be even more meaningful).  I met TONS of people who really made ISTE memorable.  Now I admit, when I first came to ISTE my number one goal was to get a picture with all these people I considered Twitter Rockstars.  I know some people I talk to don't like that I call them "Rockstars"....but what that means to me is that that is someone on Twitter who I really respect and who I think has amazing tweets and ideas.  So yes, when I first got to ISTE, my plan was just to get pictures with all these people I had never had the opportunity of meeting before.  And I got a LOT of really great pictures....

But then something interesting I started to meet some of the people, I started to see them as a little different then the 140 characters I had been communicating with before.  I was beginning to see personalities more clearly and see the more personal side of some of my Tweeps.

So rather than just sit here and list every Twitter Rockstar I met and talk about who I was freaking out about meeting, I thought I would take a different approach.  There were a few people this week who really had an impact on me.  Who made me feel like I mattered.  Who made me feel important, and who made me feel like I had a voice worth listening to and a personality worth getting to know and who I felt like was really interested in connecting with me on a personal level.  Which as I started out writing, is something that hit me hard.  So I decided instead of writing about ISTE as a whole, I would just write a little bit about a few of the people who really impacted me the most this week......(**side note: As I stated before I met a TON of great people, but these people listed below are just a few of the ones that helped remind me that I matter).

Amber Teamann (@8Amber8) and Erin Klein (@KleinErin)

I had met Amber before at EdCampDallas back in October.  But I hadn't seen her since then.   And with Erin I had met her via Twitter and Google Hangouts, but never in person because she lives in Michigan.  And I'd only talked sporadically with either of them on Twitter, but I put these two together, because both of these women have an incredible ability to make every person they come in contact with feel like they are the most important people in the room.  The first time I met/saw both of them at ISTE they came running up to give hugs and tell people how excited they were to see them, and the best part was that it felt completely genuine.  I don't think either of these women realize the impact they had on me (mainly because I never told them, haha), or many others, but both of these women were a constant reminder that you matter.  And I felt important and valued every time I was in their presence.

Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy)

Jimmy is a principal out of Iowa.  I had interacted with him on Twitter mainly in the #IAedchat.  He was a guy I was excited to get to meet.  Little did I know how excited he was to meet me too.  I remember talking to someone else I had just met while I was in the Bloggers Cafe.  In the middle of my conversation with this guy, Jimmy comes over and says "excuse me, Tech Ninja Todd?  I have to interrupt and take you over here for a second, there are way too many people who want to meet you!"  Jimmy was loud, boisterous, funny, entertaining and yet completely genuine.  Every second I spent hanging around Jimmy this week (which sadly wasn't too much!) I ended up leaving with a big smile.  He has this great ability to make anyone laugh.  Jimmy also introduced to some other great educators that he and I had both connected with.  Jimmy is definitely someone I am looking forward to continue getting to know via Twitter.

Paula Naugle (@PaNaugle)

Ok I have to say, Paula may be one of my favorite people I've ever met.  This amazing woman greets you with a big hug every time she sees you. She's honest, blunt, tender, kind, and oh so passionate about education.  Many times when you meet someone who has been in education for a while you tend to see their passion die down.  Paula has passion and energy that can far outlast ME!  I loved spending every second I could with Paula and often I felt like I was a Paula Groupie haha.  My favorite memory of Paula?  Oh there's two.  The first is where she filmed my ignite with her phone, put it on YouTube, and tagged me in it.  When I saw her later that evening she said "What's up?  I posted a video of your ignite and tweeted you and you can't even respond??"....I didn't know what she was talking about, I had never received a tweet.  Well come to find out Paula had tagged @TechToddNinja, NOT @TechNinjaTodd.....oh man the laughs that came out of that one....My second favorite memory is Paula asking to borrow a napkin from our table to blow her nose, then she asked if we needed it back.  Gross right? haha well I decided to Tweet out that Paula did that and that I should have taken it back and sold it on Ebay!  And what's great is Paula laughed hysterically about that tweet!  She has an amazing sense of humor and is another person I can't wait to learn even more from!

International Friends

John Goh (@johngoh) is a Principal in Sydney, Australia.  I've interacted with him often on Twitter.  He saw me posting all these pictures with people from Twitter and decided to tweet me "Where are my Australians!?  All I see are Americans!".  So he challenged me to find some Australians.  Well just so happens I found not only some Australian teachers, but Australian teachers that are from HIS school!  So that was a really neat experience to get to connect with them!

Jessica Allen (@jessievaz12)

Jessica is from Santiago, Chile.  We had briefly interacted on Twitter before, but connected a little randomly at the HackEd conference on Saturday (before ISTE actually began).  And for the rest of the week we kept running into each other.  Jessica is energetic, passionate, and super creative.  She was such a blast to be around that every time I saw her or she saw me we had to stop each other and just talk.  I loved getting to know her and hear a little of her story.  I can't wait to interact with some classes from Chile now!

AJ Juliani (@AJjuliani) and Amanda Dykes (@AmandaCDykes)

I got to meet AJ through Jimmy Casas and Amanda through Scot Floyd.  Both these guys kept me laughing and kept pushing me out of my comfort zone (which I appreciated!!).  AJ was really dangerous with a camera, and a guy who was constantly cutting jokes and making me feel more comfortable and Amanda actually got me to do a VERY small amount of dancing at the EdTech Karaoke party.  Now if you know me at all you know the two things I never do are dance and sing, so it was quite the big deal.  These guys definitely helped me break down some of my own walls and just learn to loosen up a little and laugh more.

Andrew Vanden Heuvel (@avheuv) Ashlie Smith (@smithsciencegms) and Ryan Vanden Heuvel (@TechSavvyClass)

I met these three through Erin Klein.  They were some of the most welcoming and flat out funny people.  They made me feel part of their "group" from the first moment I met them.  I never felt judged, excluded, or anything.  Andrew took time to ask me to talk to him about my education story of where I've been and all, which really meant a lot to me.  And Ashlie and I connected about finding ways to better each of our Flip PBL Classes and Ryan was just flat out funny!  I enjoyed my time with these and can't wait to go visit them in Michigan.

Jayne Clare (@TeachersApps) and Jayme Linton (@JaymeLinton)

These are two of my "20 to Watch" buddies.  Jayne is an amazingly creative and energetic woman.  And Jayme is someone that I connected with quickly at 20 to Watch back in March.  We haven't had time to chat much since March, but Jayme and I hit it off right away again.  Jayme is so much fun to be around and someone who defintely has quite a few creative ideas.  She's so down to earth and geniune.  I can't wait to collaborate some with her college classes this fall.

Remind101 (@Remind101) and Sophia (@Sophia)

I was able to spend a good amount of time with some of the Remind101 team (above) and some of the Sophia team.  Those two companies have some really amazing people working for them.  They're geniune and just want to better education.  It's so great to see some really amazing people behind some of my favorite companies.  My favorite experience with them though was at the EdTech Karaoke party.  It was near the end and I had had a seat and Brett (co-founder of Remind101) came over sat with me and we got to talk.  BUT the cool part was that we really talked on a personal level.  We shared family stories, talked about struggles we both had had in our lives.  It was such a real conversation and a type of conversation that weirdly enough I didn't have with anyone else at ISTE.  I will seriously cherish some of those moments because it was such a cool experience.

Jake Duncan (@duncanbilingual) Martha Lackey (@lackeyM)
 and Wendy Sanders (@Kenya75)

Jake, Martha, and Wendy are three of my Tweeps in Texas.  Now I have a lot of AWESOME Tweeps like Rafranz Davis, Andrea Keller, Carrie Ross, Jon Samuelson, and many many more.  But for whatever reason these three above and I spent almost the entire week together.  None of us had spent a good amount of time together before this week.  I seriously consider these three, three of my best friends now.  We laughed so hard together, and had so much fun.  I think I got to see a "real" glimpse of each of them and there was never a moment where any of them made anyone feel unimportant.  There was so much excitement with them and they were so inspiring to be around.  I truly will cherish the memories I have of these guys and can't wait to see them more around Texas in the coming months!!

Brad Waid (@TechBradWaid) and Drew Minock (@TechMinock)

I can honestly say I have never hit it off faster with two people then I did with these two guys.  I had just found out about them on Twitter about a week or two ago.  I saw they tweeted out that they were going to be in the Blogger's Cafe on Sunday at 10am showing some Augmented Reality stuff.  I showed up, met them, checked out their stuff, and we seriously hit it off and spent the rest of the week hanging out.  These guys made me laugh like no other and are two guys I can see being friends with for a long time to come.  Like I said before I have never hit it off with anyone right off the bat like I did with these guys.  Brad has the most infectious personality and Drew as this quiet yet not quite personality haha.  They were loud, they were ALWAYS full of energy, and always the center of attention (Brad is quite the salesman even though he's never actually selling anything).  These guys made me feel like I was part of something, and I had only "met" them a week or two ago.  We created new hashtags (#batteriesneverdie and #sip5hourenergy) and we're already working on a trip for my wife and I to come spend some time with them in Michigan and their families.  These guys seriously had some of the strongest impact on me and really helped me break away from some of my insecurities (and they probably don't even realize it!).  I owe a lot of my fun memories to these two!

 I got to meet so many other amazing people.  People like Kevin Honeycutt, Susan Bearden, Sue Gorman, Stacy Hawthorne, Sean Junkins, Adam Bellow, George Couros, and more than I could ever remember or type out here.  I truly felt like I was surrounded by the game changers in education at all times!  Plus it was super cool to be mentioned during Adam Bellow's Keynote speech!  Talk about feeling honored.  

ISTE is not a conference I will soon forget.  I am excited about next year and come Hell or High Water I will be in Atlanta!

I am a better educator all ready for the connections I was able to make and the exciting plans we are all already setting in place to collaborate even more.  I was also able to break down some of my walls and build even stronger relationships than 140 characters would ever allow.

None of us are amazing on our own.  Each of us become amazing teachers when we learn with each other and from each other.

Please feel free to leave a comment about what I've written or better yet, please share YOUR favorite part of ISTE!  I would love to hear about it!!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

ISTE - Day 1 - HackEd UnConference ISTE Preconference

So yesterday was my first experience ever with ISTE (the international technology conference).  Now granted ISTE didn't start yesterday for "normal" people, but yesterday was when they held ISTE Unplugged, or the HackEd Conference.  It was very similar to an EdCamp model.  And man I had a blast.

So I left my house at 4:30am yesterday to make sure I could drive up with enough time.  Parked, got here too early haha, and sat in a room TRYING to get Wifi.  I still can't understand why these giant technology conferences can't figure out Wifi issues, but I tweeted out that I couldn't connect, and within minutes someone from ISTE had tweeted me back asking what room number I was in and that they were working on.  So that at least provided me a little hope, and it got me kind of excited/freaked out they were paying that close attention to the ISTE feed.
Then people started arriving, and as more and more arrived in the room I began to get more and more star struck.  Ok now YES I realize that all these educators who have huge presences online are just like us, I get that, but still they're rockstars in my eyes and I was dying to meet every one of them.  I can proudly say I got to meet Kevin Honeycutt, Sue Gorman, Ginger Lewmann, Peggy George, Paula Naugle, Jerry Blumengarten, Susan Bearden, George Couros, Adam Bellow, and Jessica Allen!  NONE of those educators are from TX which is the coolest part about ISTE, getting to meet and connect with people from litterally ALL over the world.

The "sessions" I attended yesterday were "Connecting Globally", "Social Media in Schools", "Google Glass" and "Minecraft in EDU".  I learned soooo much just having discussions with these people.  My favorite by far though was the Social Media in Schools one because the discussion became some passionate and everyone agreed that to prepare for social media we need to teach social media to kids, so unblock it! Awesome to hear people like Kevin Honeycutt, Adam Bellow, Paula Naugle and more share how much they believed in teaching social media.  My favorite quote of the day was "Our kids are playing on a social media playground with no one on recess duty" from Kevin Honeycutt, so true.

During lunch I got to get my free Microsoft Surface tablet....and no I still haven't taken it out of the box yet...I know, I know.  Then I got to have lunch with Martha Lackey and Lisa Carmazzo and some friends, that was fun too!

I also got to play a little with Google Glass, and while I loved trying them on and playing a little, I don't think I would purchase them with the technology they have now, I just didn't see a "need" for it.  And the concensus in our conversation was that, as of now, there is def not a use for it in education.  Now if they continue to add tech into it (which they surely will) I will be more than happy to re-address this conversation.

After the HackEd, I headed over to a interview/focus group meeting with StudyBlue, FINALLY heard about their product from people who are using it, and man I am so going to be using it next year for my math vocabulary.  Love it!

Then I got invited to a dinner hosted by Dr. Roland Rios.  Finally got to meet him and he was so cool, and so nice to open his house to us and serve delicious homemade fajitas.

Here are some sites/apps I wrote down yesterday (you can check my twitter @TechNinjaTodd for more info and my instagram toddcnesloney for more pics)
video in video app
hopscotch app
c-span in the classroom
password corral
digital dossier video on youtube

Here's to another day of learning coming up!  Talk soon, first up is a digital photo walk!

Monday, June 17, 2013

New Endeavor - EduAllStars

Well I am SO excited to announce a new endeavor I am undertaking with two of my friends; Stacey Huffine (@TechNinjaStacey) and Chris Kesler (@iamkesler).  It's a new podcast series called EduAllStars!

At least twice a month (maybe more) we will be interviewing different people in the education field to hear their stories and to give them a platform to share what they're passionate about in Education right now.

We have some HUGE guests coming up!  Our first guest, for this Friday (6/21) is Olympic Gold Medalist Steve Mesler (@SteveMesler).  He's a TED-Ed Educator, Speaker, Writer, and co-founder of Classroom Champions (

So please join us in this journey!!  Keep up-to-date with everything via our Twitter account @EduAllStarsHQ and our website (which has links to the podcast and much more!!)

Our first podcast (a brief intro) is already up!  Let me know what you think :)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Final Week!

So school is officially over!!  Man it has been an incredible year.  There have been so many positive things that happened this year for me and my class.  I can't even begin to start thinking about them now!  But man did this last week really test me.  Due to many unforeseen circustances I had to be extremely flexible this last week and take on way more responsibilities and jobs then i'm used to!  Let's just say I slept really well at the end of this week!

I'm also excited to announce that next year I'll be a teacher for the Classroom Champions program that partners classes with Olympic Athletes.  I can't wait to see what's going to come of that!!

So here goes...


Monday was a blast.  Jean Marki (@jmmarki) had the brilliant idea of ending the year with a "Passion Day". The week before the students signed up to present (for 20 minutes at a time) about things they were passionate about.  It was so cool to see them share their passions with their classmates.  Some of the sessions I sat through were about box turtles, Star Wars, building card towers, drawing, ballet, hunting, and playing the piano.  And that doesn't even begin to describe the plethora of choices students had.  They really did such a great job.


Then on Tuesday we had Teacher Passion Day.  Our sessions were about 45 mintues in length and as teachers we just did things we enjoyed and the kids could choose who they wanted to go to.  Each teacher led two different kinds of sessions to offer more choices for students and we got some of the Title teachers involved as well.  The kids had the choices of Art, Coding, Crochet, Kick Ball, Duck Dynasty, Stepping Stones creation, and more!  The kids really had a blast having choice of where they wanted to go and just have fun with their teachers.


Wednesday was our last day of school.  We started the morning off with our annual Auction.  All year long the kids can earn "cash" for doing different things and at the end of the year they can use that "cash" to buy donated items.  It's a blast to see how much money kids will spend on the craziest things.  For example we had a package of lip balms that went for $800 while this awesome bean bag type chair went for $2,100 (the highest costing item).

After the auction we just spent time eating and talking with our students.  To say I'm going to miss these students is a huge understatement.  Every great thing that has happened to me this year has been because of the hard work of my students.

Finally in closing I thought I'd share a video I made.  I worked with 9 students to record an interview of their year in the Flipped PBL Classroom.  After getting all the right permission forms back, and finally finishing editing it, I'm happy to share that video with you guys here!

My blog during the summer will probably change more into a reflection blog as I present at many different school districts and attend lots of conferences as part of The 3 Tech Ninjas (

Thank you for following this blog all these months!  I look forward to lots of great things ahead especially as I enter Year 2 of a Flipped PBL Classroom and try some more crazy ideas!