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Nick LaFave | @nflafave

Nick LaFave | @nflafave

Nick is an Environmental Science teacher in a 1:1 classroom at Clover High School and was previously the 2012-2013 Clover School District Teacher of the Year. With 18 years of teaching experience, Nick is an Apple Distinguished Educator, a National Board Certified Teacher, a former department chair, and a PolarTREC Teacher. Nick is the author of a weekly blog, Nick’s Picks for Educational Technology, which provides tools to help teachers incorporate more technology in their classrooms. An Ed Tech speaker and consultant, Nick’s sessions strive to give teachers the confidence they need to help integrate technology into their curriculum.

Posted by on in Education Resources


Google Chrome is more than a fast browser. It can become a game-changing part of any teacher's workflow when used with the right extensions. With new extensions added daily, you can find one for nearly anything at the Chrome Web Store

The extensions highlighted below were the first five I installed after recently switching to a new computer. They are essential to my daily workflow as a teacher, and I also recommend all of them to my students.   

One Tab

onetab browser extension

I typically have at least five tabs open at any given time; often times that number is closer to ten.  While my multi-tab browser is fairly reflective of how my mind works, it isn't exactly a great thing for browser speed.  That's where OneTab comes in handy. OneTab is able to close all of my tabs with just one click, and neatly leaves me with a list of the sites I had open.  Any, or all, of these tabs can be restored with just one click.  I can save the list or share it as a web page.  I can now speed up my browser without fear of forever losing the great sites that I happened upon.

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

Banning Laptops in The Lecture Hall

I've been hearing about big changes in education since I started teaching nearly 20 years ago. In recent years, I've actually been seeing some real innovation that has challenged teachers to move beyond the same model of instruction that we have been using for centuries.  My optimism faded a bit, however, after reading an article from The Globe and Mail, "Professors Push Back Against Laptops in the Lecture Hall."  The article provides another example of educators trying to force students to conform to our outdated models of instruction rather than adapting instructional methods to the needs of students and the changing world around us.  


If 85% of Your Students are Off Task...

Change the system to fit students.If I found out that 85 percent of my students chose to focus on something other than my lesson, I'd have to take a hard look at my lessons and ask why students weren't engaged. The Globe and Mail article tells the story of a professor who assigned a graduate student to sit in the back of the lecture hall to see what was on the screens of students during class. When he found out that 85 percent of his students were using their computers for something unrelated to his class his reaction was to ban laptops.  A professor friend of mine once told me, "The problem with universities is that they think they are the universe." Perhaps this is nowhere better exemplified than in the persistent resistance to change.


The Teaching Equals Learning Illusion

When we find out that students are engaging "in 'high-tech ‘doodling’  – sending e-mails, exchanging instant messages, surfing the Web" many professors react by banning laptops.  I'm glad that professors didn't ban pencils back when I was low-tech doodling in college.  Are we confusing compliance (copying notes and looking attentive) with learning?  Maybe it's time to look at why students are doodling -- whether it is with a pencil or a laptop.  
For those who would rather force students to conform to outdated ideas of what instruction is supposed to be, maybe we should look to Harvard's Eric Mazur who described his success as a teacher as "a complete illusion, a house of cards."  When Dr. Mazur became frustrated by a lack of basic understanding by physics students, he didn't blame the students, instead he looked at what wasn't working with the delivery of instruction.  Quoted in Harvard Magazine, Dr. Mazur explains,  “The students did well on textbook-style problems. They had a bag of tricks, formulas to apply. But that was solving problems by rote. They floundered on the simple word problems, which demanded a real understanding of the concepts behind the formulas.”  More interested in learning than teaching, Mazur shifted to an interactive pedagogy.  With active learning, students don't simply make note of new information, they are required to apply that information.  

Remove Distractions or Provide a More Engaging Experience? 

It's often easier to find a scapegoat than to adapt to a rapidly changing world, but we are doing a disservice to our students with such an inflexible way of thinking.  You can remove laptops from the classroom, but the doodling will continue, it just might not be as easy to see from the lectern.  In fact, I can personally attest that the doodling and off task behaviors were present long before laptops came on the scene.  Before laptops, it just wasn't as obvious to professors that their students weren't actively engaged in learning.  

b2ap3_thumbnail_Any-teacher-who-can-be-replaced-by-computer.jpgIn the time of Google and YouTube the educator who views their primary role as the dispenser of knowledge, has been replaced. They've been replaced by the very machines they are banning.  Back when teachers were the primary source of information for students a teacher-centered classroom may have made sense, but with virtually unlimited access to information at their fingertips, it's time to rethink the way we approach teaching today's learners. Technology will never replace great teachers but as David Thornburg, building on the words of Arthur C. Clarke, said "Any teacher who can be replaced by a computer should (and deserves to) be." 

Some have cited studies that tout the advantages of taking notes by hand, and I am in no way discounting that.  I'll also acknowledge that laptops may not be beneficial in all settings.  So I understand the desire to ban laptops, but please don't ban laptops without first looking at why students are tuning out your lectures first. 

Featured image courtesy of Greg Pearson

"The System" comic courtesy of Unearthed Comics

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Posted by on in Education Policy


Anyone who has read Scott McLeod’s blog knows that he is not afraid to challenge the status quo.  A few weeks ago, he challenged his readers to join in answering: When it comes to education, what are 5 things that we have to stop pretending?  The response has been inspiring.  So, I’m happy to join in with my 5 below.

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending…

  • that we can talk about “21st century classrooms” as though they are something of the future
  • that technology is a supplement and not a necessity
  • that it’s more effective to ban social media in schools than to embrace it as a tool for learning
  • that today’s students want to be taught in the same way we were taught
  • that all digital natives are digitally literate

You can join in by posting 5 things on your blog and sharing it using the #makeschooldifferent hashtag.  You can share the URL of your post in the comments on Dangerously Irrelevant.  Check out the running list here.  You are also welcome to share in the comments below.

In keeping with the challenge, I’d like to hear the thoughts of David Dulberger, Allison Rae Stewart, Nick Grantham , Rae Pica, and Alice Keeler

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Posted by on in Education Technology


eduCannon logo www.eduCanon.com

EduCanon is a great way to turn video lessons into an interactive assessment tool rather than just a means of delivering content.  Teachers can embed questions directly within any video from a number of popular sites including YouTube, TeacherTube, Vimeo, and Kahn Academy.  Students are given immediate feedback, and they can rewind to review content. You can also see who actually viewed the entire video because students can't fast forward within lessons, making this a great way to hold students accountable for lessons in the flipped classroom. 

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Free accounts are limited to Multiple-Choice and Check-All-That-Apply questions.  Teachers can also insert a "Reflective Pause" to add additional text, links, pictures, or other content.  Additional question formats and features are available with premium accounts.  

If you're making lessons for the flipped classroom, or just want a way to make interactive instructional videos take a look at eduCannon. 

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Posted by on in Education Technology

After 17 years in the classroom, I understand how difficult it can be for teachers to keep up on the rapidly changing world of educational technology on top of all of the other responsibilities that come their way. That's why I’m excited to join EDWords to exchange ideas with fellow educators.  My goal is to share resources with everyone from the novice to the tech enthusiast.  I’ll share classroom tested technology resources that are intended to solve problems and make your life easier, while increasing opportunities for creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration in your classroom.   My hope is that these concise posts will help teachers incorporate more technology in their classrooms, preparing our students to be digitally literate citizens.

Understanding that teachers are busy, I’ll share new EdTech resources with a brief description as to how it can help teachers improve instruction and student learning.  I hope you’ll follow these posts (you can subscribe below) and join the conversation in the comments.  I look forward to sharing and learning.

 During presentations and workshops, I'm often asked how to edit YouTube videos (without the hassle of complicated editing software).  My first EdTech resource, TubeChop, is an easy way for teachers to put together the parts of a YouTube video they want their students to watch.  Read more below:



TubeChop is the simplest way I've seen to clip parts from YouTube videos and share them with students.  Want to show just a small clip from a video?  It's as easy as:

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