Special Report
School & District Management

Teacher Tech Leaders: Nicholas Provenzano

By Madeline Will — June 06, 2016 3 min read
Students in Nicholas Provenzano’s Digital Seminar class at Grosse Pointe South High School in Michigan learn programming to control humanoid and spider robots.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Step into Nicholas Provenzano’s high school English classroom and you won’t see a dusty chalkboard or students scribbling in notebooks.

Instead, his classroom is mostly paperless. He has a set of iPads, and most of his students have been taking notes with Evernote for four years now. The app, which students can use to organize and access their notes, has been a game changer, he said.

Excitement creeps into Provenzano’s voice when he talks about new technology in the classroom. He’s 36 and has been teaching in Grosse Pointe, Mich., for 15 years, and during that time he’s experimented with countless digital learning tools.

"[An English class is] not where you typically think of finding 21st-century technology in an all-inclusive environment,” said Moussa Hamka, the principal of Grosse Pointe South High School. “You go into his class, and he’s really embraced the role of technology.”

Provenzano was one of the first teachers at his school to build a web page for his classroom, to replace the bulky television in his classroom with an LCD projector, and to pilot the use of iPads in the classroom.

“I’ve always been one step ahead in trying new things,” he said. “I’m an early adopter.”

Provenzano has made a name for himself in the ed-tech community through his blog, The Nerdy Teacher, where he shares resources and insights he’s learned in his classes. He has more than 54,000 Twitter followers.

He has also created a “maker” space in his school’s library. Initially, he was hesitant that this project was outside his subject-area domain. Then he read more about the maker movement and its emphasis on STEAM— science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

“I’m an English teacher, I’m the A, and I need to show people that,” he said.

Hamka said the maker space serves as an “open-air environment” where students can access the latest technologies, like 3-D printers.

Provenzano is currently writing a book about the maker movement to explain the benefits to teachers from all fields. For example, the maker space is where students introduced him to Raspberry Pi, a programmable computing device.

See Also

A resourceful elementary teacher brings digital tools into her classroom to boost problem-solving and collaboration skills.

Teacher Tech Leaders: Erin Klein

Now, he’s a Raspberry Pi-certified educator and has even hosted a competition in the school’s maker space, where students used the Pi to address an identified problem, learning coding and app creation along the way. He’s seeking to introduce Python, a programming language which also can be used with the Raspberry Pi, into his English classes.

Technology, Provenzano said, can help students reach a higher level of learning. But that’s not to say frustrations and failures no longer occur.

See Also

A former math teacher is driven to give all students, regardless of zip code, more opportunities to use technology to ‘create to learn.’

Teacher Tech Leaders: Rafranz Davis

“I could write a book about all the things that don’t work,” he said. “You’ve designed an entire lesson using the iPad, and then the WiFi crashes, and you have a very expensive paperweight. But [all teachers] are good at adapting on the fly.”

Provenzano is also a technology-curriculum specialist at his school and coaches fellow teachers on tech integration. Hamka said he led the school’s transition to Google Apps for Education and hosts lunchtime training sessions.

Provenzano credits technology with boosting his own professional development. He shares resources with teachers across the country through his online network. “I’m a better teacher because of this community,” he said.

He has leveraged those virtual connections into speaking gigs at education conferences and consultations with both districts and technology companies.

Provenzano said he’s learned that when it comes to tech use in schools, “there are pockets of amazing things going on.” But overall, the country has a long way to go, he said.

Tradition meets innovation in Nicholas Provenzano’s classes at Grosse Pointe South High in Michigan.

There’s a major divide between the haves and have-nots in education, he noted, pointing to the struggling Detroit school district, just 20 minutes from Grosse Pointe. “When you’re talking tech, you’re talking money,” he said. “There’s no way around that.”

Most of Provenzano’s projects have been funded through grants—he’s lost track of how many he’s applied for.

Technology, he said, can be a great equalizer. To prepare students for careers, Provenzano said schools must do a better job of teaching critical thinking and problem solving. In this sense, coding is an urgent need, he added.

“Coding is the new foreign language,” he said. “That’s the thing that kids will have to know to do anything in any job create things, build a website, make things work.”

Related Tags:

Coverage of trends in K-12 innovation and efforts to put these new ideas and approaches into practice in schools, districts, and classrooms is supported in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York at www.carnegie.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Medicaid Changes Could Provide a Big Boost to School Mental Health Services
A new law could make it easier for schools to bill Medicaid for services like counseling and health screenings.
6 min read
A boy sits on a small wooden chair, leaning over a small wooden table to color as he talks to a woman who sits across from him on a low grey sofa.
mmpile/E+
School & District Management Opinion Start the School Year With Purpose. Here Are 5 Priorities
Despite the challenges educators face, they know how to improve schools for students and teachers, writes an education professor.
Tyrone C. Howard
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration of public school opening for a new school year
sangaku/iStock/Getty
School & District Management School Leaders With Disabilities: 'It's Important to Share That You're Not Alone'
Educators say their own experience gives them insight into the needs of students with disabilities and how to support them.
14 min read
Joe Mazza, 44, the principal at Seven Bridges Middle School in Chappaqua, N.Y., was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. He says the diagnosis has informed his leadership, allowing him to engage with students and parents who face the same neurodevelopmental disorder. On June 24, 2022, he starts his day in the Media Studio as fifth-grader Anna Villa prepares for the morning newscast.
Joe Mazza, 44, the principal at Seven Bridges Middle School in Chappaqua, N.Y., was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. He said the diagnosis has informed his leadership, allowing him to engage with students and parents who face the same neurodevelopmental disorder.
Christopher Capozziello for Education Week
School & District Management Opinion You're an Educator. What Can You Stop Doing This Year?
Teachers and education leaders often feel stretched for time. Here are 9 ways to rethink your schedule.
5 min read
CartoonStock 543822 CS458303
Cartoon Stock