I am so excited to announce that I have just launched a new website: geniushour.ca
After talking with Hugh McDonald
the other day, we decided it would be great to have a place online where Genius Hour (or 20% time, innovation week, etc) teachers could cross-blog their stories and share in one space! A place where the Genius Hour community can come together to share our stories and adventures.
And so, I bring you geniushour.ca
Please check it out, comment on the stories from our contributors, and consider becoming a contributor by sharing your story/blog entry! We would love to have you!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to become a contributor!
On the first Wednesday of each month a bunch of fantastic educators get together on twitter
for a chat
about Genius Hour
. The past two chats have been amazing! We had a lot of experienced #geniushour teachers and a lot of newbies too! It was a great mix! We had great conversations, but it was moving so
fast that I thought I would summarize some it.
We talked about assessment and giving feedback. Most agreed that they did not grade Genius Hour projects, but instead provided formative assessment only. After re-reading over 50 pages of archived tweets, here are some highlights:
- 1. Hugh McDonald reminded us of the wonderful creativity rubric that Denise Krebs made a couple of years ago. Hugh and I both use it with our students so that they have something to self-assess with and also as a jumping off point for their blog-refections. We love it!
- 2. Many teachers talked about blogging as a way for students to reflect on their projects, the experience and what went right/wrong. It also provides, as Greg Miller reminded us, the opportunity for peer feedback as well.
- 3. A lot of teachers, Joy Kirr included, also mentioned the importance of informal conversations with students during Genius Hour. She has meaningful, one-on-one chats while students are learning!
- 4. John Stevens talked about using google docs as a method for giving feedback. He also uses google forms for students to submit project ideas. Check that out here.
- 5. Jas Kooner and some others mentioned that they like to give written feedback to their students. She also spoke about the importance of peer-feedback. Many chimed in and agreed. I would love to see any documents/links regarding the way in which people do this. In my class, we comment on each others' blogs as a way of giving peer-to-peer feedback. Any other ideas? Comment below!
- 6. My students also reflect on their Genius Hour projects on their ePortfolios (in the same way that they reflect on every subject). Some students have done great step by step reflections! This way you can track their progress and chat about it with students whenever you have time.
- 7. Lindsey Bingley explained that she gives students "oral feedback, through short conferences during Genius Hour". Sitting down with students for a few minutes to quickly conference is also something that Hugh and I do with our students. This is probably the easiest way for me to touch base with all my students.
- 8. Julie Jee talked about doing monthly journal entries with her high school students.
- 9. Rory Newcomb talked about framing her feedback in a 5-4-3-2-1 format. She blogs about it here.
- 10. Robyn Thiessen told us that her students fill out an action plan each week where they write about what they plan to do and then they self-assess afterwards. She also reminded us of the Global Genius Hour Project and that it can be used for students in other classes to give feedback to each other. Great idea!
There you have it! 10 ways to give feedback. Do you have any others? Comment below!
A lot of us shared that we struggled to find the time to connect with every single student. I liked Angela Maiers
' advice: "Commit to 5 min a day - make a schedule five learners in five minutes everyday, non-negotiable". This was echoed by Kevin Ashworth
when he said that he will often quickly conference with students about Genius Hour, during non-genius hour time! Chris Kesler
suggested having students reflect from home, if time is an issue in your classroom!
Another interesting point of discussion, brought up by Troy Cockrum
, was that of bringing in mentors; parents or community members who could assist students with their projects and provide insight. This is something I am definitely going to look into! This year, Hugh and I had students with skype with some experts for Health and Career class. Why not have them join for Genius Hour too? I love it!
We also talked about ways in which students can share their projects. Some common responses:
- Ted Talk style speech about what they did/learned
- iMovies and other videos documenting their journey
- Show their model/creation/invention and talk about it
- Powerpoint, Keynote and other slide shows
- Create a website or page on their existing website
- Picture collage/photo journal
Thank you all for participating in the chat and for giving us some things to think about when we implement our next round of Genius Hour.
PLN, did I miss anything? Please comment below! Would love to hear from you!
A few days ago I attended a district dinner for teacher-bloggers and those interested in blogging. Let me start with a thank you to the school district for putting on events like this. I feel so fortunate to work in SD36, a place where innovation and sharing is encouraged!
So, over the course of the evening we heard 2 speakers. Jordan Tinney
, deputy superintendent, and George Couros
, a visiting administrator from Edmonton and dear friend of the SD36 community. It was a pleasure listening to these 2 educators as they shared their stories of engaging in social media and blogging, mentioning both the dangers and benefits of both. George ended the evening with 2 questions: Why did you become an educator? And what legacy do you want to leave?
The first one seems pretty straight forward to me...I know why I went into teaching. But the 2nd one was surprising to me...never before had I considered the notion of leaving a legacy. And I still am not sure about this question. So let me start with the first question:
I had an amazing Grade 2 teacher, Ms. Mary MacDonald. Honestly, it was so long ago that I am not clear on all the ways in which she was inspiring, but I do know that throughout my elementary years, I always looked up to her. I think she was one of the few teachers that made me feel special and made me feel like she truly cared for me. We made a connection. And so I always had this idea in my head that I wanted to be just like her.
Later, in Grade 7, I had another amazing teacher, Ms. Colette Leisen. I didn't get to spend that much time with her as she was our Art teacher (so we probably only had her 2 times each week, I am not exactly sure). Anyway, she, too, made her students feel special. And when I was devastated about my first term report card, it was her that comforted me while I cried. Interestingly, my husband (who went to the same elementary school) also cites Leisen as his favourite teacher whom he remembers as the one who opened up his eyes to the world around him. He didn't just learn about math and art from her, he also learned about life.
So, I knew I wanted to be like these 2 women in some capacity. And I knew that I loved working with children (I was a camp counsellor, babysitter and birthday party planner in high school).
But I think the biggest motivator to become a teacher hit me when I was in Grade 12. My classmates all started talking about future plans: college, travelling, work, etc. And I had no idea what I was going to do! And I don't think my family did either. Being the child of immigrants, they weren't exactly sure how all that worked over here. And so it was up to me to figure it out for myself.
I finished grade 12, got a job and started college shortly afterwards. It was during that time I realized I wanted to be a teacher so that I could help kids like me. I had good parents, but ones that didn't really know how to guide me because they didn't have the same experience here themselves. So I realized that I wanted to become a teacher and help high school students find their passion and figure out what they wanted to do with their lives. And then help guide them in the direction of their dreams.
Well, it turns out I ended up teaching elementary school and not secondary, but I think my why
is still the same. I help children figure things out about themselves, I share my story and I encourage them to follow their passion.
As for what legacy do I want to leave...I don't know if I have an answer to this question. I hope my students remember their experience with me as a time that they felt loved and cared for (as I did with Mary McDonald) and also a time when they learned about themselves and about life (as my husband did with Colette Leisen). And I hope that they are less confused about their future options than when I was a kid. I hope they learn that we are all learners and that it is just a matter of finding your passion. I want Genius Hour
to spread so that students have the opportunity to explore their passions at school. And I want to leave them believing in themselves, their abilities, and their futures.
What legacy do you want to leave?
Every couple of weeks, we get a new topic with #etmooc a recent one was about the meaning behind the buzz words like digital literacy, media literacy...you know what I mean...
I thought a lot about it...what does it mean to me? And is it important? And why?
And I realized that my whole transformation as an educator is because of my digital literacy. Two years ago I began a quest to improve as an educator. I wanted to take my teaching to the next level. I thought that meant integrating technology and so that is what I aimed to do...I was going to be a fabulous teacher because I was going to do all kinds of awesome, techy things with my class! I signed up for twitter
, registered for the ITDA
program at SFU
and started this blog. And amazing things happened. I became more digitally literate, but more importantly, I met all of YOU -- I became a connected educator.
And so, I think what I have come to realize, is that it is not digital literacy that makes us better and stronger educators (people?) but it is the amazing connections that we can now make because of our digital literacy that is really more important.
So, should I change the name of my blog?
About two years ago when I started this blog, I meant for it to be a journal of some sort about the things I was learning to do in my graduate diploma course, ITDA, at SFU. I was determined to figure out how to integrate tech in meaningful ways and wanted to document my journey. Hence the title, "Integrating Technology: My Journey". Well once I started the program and started analyzing my practise to see where tech needed to/could be integrated, I actually began an amazing journey
which didn't only involve integrating tech, but rather I started truly reflecting on my practise and looking at WHY I was teaching the way that I was. And I was examining everything!! It wasn't just about integrating tech anymore...it became much, much more.
I started thinking about student centred and project based learning. I completely changed my math, science and social studies program in order to make them more hands on.
I fell in love with Genius Hour and Passion Based Learning and now offer my students an hour each week in which they can learn about anything they want.
I partnered up with Hugh McDonald
and we took down a wall in our school (one of those sliding ones, no hammers needed) so that we could team teach all the time!
We got rid of individual desks and were lucky enough to have our school get round tables for us so that our students could collaborate on everything.
With the support of our principal, we brought in alternate learning spaces and set up a couch area and bean bag area, giving students choice about where they wanted to learn.
We cut our boring spelling program and now teach it as needed.
I gave complete control of my the bulliten boards to my students. They own their learning and their learning space now.
And we haven't even got to the technology integration yet!!! Which has been fabulous
(students are able to create amazing projects using iPads, we blog, we have ePortfolios, twitter, and so much more...the tech has been fantastic! But certainly not everything.
I started this journey thinking that all I needed was to learn about some great apps...but it turns out my journey has been much, much more than that. And I am so thankful and I look forward to where the journey will take me next...so it is about my journey...but more than just tech.
So, should I change the name of my blog? Hmm...
Okay, I am going to be honest here. I haven't had a chance yet to join one of the #ETMOOC Blackboard Collaborate classes online. I have added them all to my calendar with great intentions, but they all seem to be at a time where I already had a previous engagement or was still in the middle of my schoolday. Life can just be so busy sometimes (and eastern time can be oh so early)
That does not mean; however, that I haven't been able to learn with my fellow #ETMOOCers! Thank goodness for the twitter chat, hashtags and google+ group because that is how I have been able to stay in the loop, join great conversations, and check out your blogs and vlogs. I have even, most recently, joined a Middle Educators Neighbourhood wiki (thanks to Sheri Edwards for including me in this). What a fantastic way to put it...a neighbourhood! I just love it! I have said in a previous blog post that you are all my colleagues in my new virtual hallway via twitter, but there is something to the word: neighbourhood.
It reminded me of the intro song to Mr. Rogers (one of my childhood favourites). And just how his neighbourhood had a magical feel to it, so too, does my virtual neighbourhood with all of you! I feel so grateful to have found you all and to have even made friends in my online neighbourhood. There is something magical to this indeed.
Thank you all for pushing me to best educator I can be by sharing your blogs, tweets, vlogs, comments and words of wisdom.
What fantastic neighbours I have!
Connect in the Middle Wiki created by Sheri Edwards. If you are a Middle Grades Educator, click on the picture above and join us!
On the "Connect in the Middle" wiki, Sheri has taken some of the #ETMOOC prompts and encouraged us to blog about:
- How important is connected learning? Why?
- Is it possible for our classrooms to support this kind of learning? If so, how?
I think connected learning is so important. And not just for my students, but for me as well. As an educator, my practice began to transform when I became connected and started joining "neighbourhoods" of learners and educators. Hang out in these neighbourhoods long enough and you can't NOT start to reflect on your own practise, start questioning education and make changes/improvements in your classroom.
And if it works for us, then it should work for our students too? I believe so. My students are always excited when they get a comment on their blog from a student in another school. They loved being a part of the Global Read Aloud
, and they keep reminding me that we have to connect with Mr. Hong
's class again! Connections are HUGE. To all of us.
Thank you all for connecting to me and for being in my neighbourhood.
I have been planning this blog post, since having a very interesting conversation with twitter pal, Heidi Hass Gable (@HHG)
, a couple of weeks ago. We talked about the benefits of WiFi and how my teaching has evolved since my school went wireless. So, I have been thinking about this post since then and was planning on writing about my transformation from "teacher at the centre of it all" to another body blending into the crowd...you have heard it before-- "The guide on the side instead of the sage on the stage". That sort of thing...and it is all true and it has been an amazing journey!
But then the nature of this post switched...
My friend and teaching partner, Hugh McDonald (@HughTheTeacher)
gave our students WiFi as the topic for their
blog post this week...and now my perspective doesn't seem as important anymore...instead here is what our students
think about how WiFi and how it has changed their
Ruqaiyah is in grade 6.
I absolutely love her thoughts on sharing her learning; "In our class we have e-portfolios and we put our best work and achievements online so the world can see them and inspire other people such as teachers. Sharing your knowledge with people is a really important thing because you can help someone create something amazing just by sharing your ideas". How brilliant!
Another 6th grade student, Sarah
, wrote, "We need wifi in school because it’s You can talk to other people around the world about the project that we are doing like the globel read aloud about a book called the one and only ivan which is amazing talking to other schools about it".
And here is Indy's blog:
, a grade 7 student, points out that "With wifi you have a variety of ways of getting research done, you have pictures and videos. In math now we are making a arcade game and we need to learn all the learning outcomes. Most of the people in my class don’t know how to do circumference. So they search it on you tube".
Students taking charge of their own learning? Sounds good to me!
, a grade 7 student brought up a few different benefits, one being presentations. She stated, "We also use it a lot for presentations, such as PowerPoints, creating websites or just writing something on Word. It’s more interesting to be able to learn it by creating it and using many cool features than just writing it on a poster. Other students that may be watching the Powerpoint will be engaged in it and taking a lot of information in".
I could keep going and going, or if you are interested please check out all our blogs at kidblog.org/mrszisclass-2
. We would love to hear your comments!
The children have spoken, and they see the benefits that WiFi has had on their education: the sharing with a global community, the ability to create and share their ePortfolios, iPad math games, etc. It is a part of the way we learn now and gives us so many opportunities.
What do you think? Has it changed the way you teach or the way your students learn?
Last year I started a class website with hopes that parents/guardians would get a better idea of what their children were learning & doing at school. It included:
-a schedule of upcoming dates
-links to school district pdfs
with which they could send me messages
-a class blog
about upcoming units/projects
-list of daily homework
-links to educational websites
and more!I asked parents to complete a survey monkey in which many confessed that they did not really use the website...but all said that they were happy that it existed!
Well, this year I am hoping to get more of our parents/guardians using our site! So taking advice from my PLN on twitter this is what I am going to do:
-post this poster outside of my classroom so that parents can easily scan the QR codes to our website and twitter account
-call each parent during the first week of school to personally invite them to Meet the Teacher night so that I can share our website URL and its functions with all of them
-collect parent emails and send messages when important updates are madeAny other advice? I really want to get more parents/guardians involved this year!
What are you going to do to improve your school/home communication?
I started this blog weeks ago, and then I got busy… I find this happens to me a lot and so my new goal for the next school year is to blog more regularly. I have even put it as a weekly reminder on my phone. Why? Because I think blogging (sharing with others, joining the conversation about education, reflecting on my practice, etc) is a really important part of who I am as a teacher and my professional growth. So I pledge to do more of it over the summer and for the next school year.
Side note: If you don’t have a professional blog yet, I highly recommend you start one. It really is a wonderful way to reflect upon your teaching!
So, how does this tie into the blog I started earlier? It does…I started writing about how I was lucky enough to have been invited to a professional development day called “Movers and Shakers” a little while back. The guest speaker was George Couros
and at one point during the day, he asked us a really great question:
“How do we foster innovation in our schools?”
He gave us a few minutes to chat at our table groups about this, and so I started asking everyone at my table, “Well, what is the most innovative/best thing you did in your classroom this year?” I asked this because I believe that that is how we can foster and spread innovation of best teaching practice; share!
This is nothing new, really. We all know the benefit of and like to take a few minutes to chat in the hallway with our colleagues and share, but what has made my past year so amazing is that I no longer just share with people at my school, because I am on twitter. Now, the world is my hallway!
It has made me a much better teacher! I am trying things that I would not have even heard of before, if it weren’t for twitter.
Which brings me to my list of the best things I did this year (inspired by George Couros' question & what this blog is really supposed to be about):
1. Genius Hour (click here to read more about that
) Passion Based Learning has changed how I look at education and is LOVED by all of my students.
2. Blogging with my students (click here to read more about that
) and also starting and maintaining my own blog.
3. Joining twitter
, building my PLN and meeting amazing educators who inspire me everyday.
So, chances are if you are reading this than you are probably already on twitter (I am assuming that is how you found this) but if you aren’t you have to
sign up. And then sign up 2 other teachers at your school. Share the learning…because it really is a wonderful place for us all to encourage each other to be more innovative and share best teaching practice.
So, that is what I leave you with—a mission—to get two new people on twitter, help them get set up and following some great educators!
#sherpapower, right George?
This year I decided to start blogging with my class. I heard about some other classes doing it via twitter
as well as my colleague Hugh McDonald,
and I thought I would give it a try. I have a few students in my class who groan every time I ask them to pull out their journals, so I thought perhaps this would be a better way. I also thought it would be a perfect way for my students to share about the progress of their Genius Hour
projects. So I set up the account on Kidblog
(very easy to do) and away we went! The kids loved it! Research shows that kids are drawn to blogging because it gives them an authentic audience and I completely agree. My students love commenting on each other's posts and often spend quite a bit of their own time at home reading each classmate’s blog and offering a comment. It has been wonderful watching my students read and write in a meaningful way and without hearing a single groan.
With all new things, we did have a few blips though and I would like to share those with you today so that you can learn from our mistakes! So here are 3 Things to Consider Before Blogging with your Class:1. Model how to write a good blog entry first! I know that this sounds obvious...but in all my excitement starting this new 2.0 tool, I did not take the time to show my students how to write a thoughtful and meaningful post. Next time, I would take the time to draft one with the whole class, using the projector. 2. Model how to write a thoughtful comment! Sounds like number 1, but I am talking about the comments they make on the blog entries. When we first started blogging, my students wrote things like, "that's nice" or "me too"
. It drove me crazy...why weren't they writing thoughtful comments? Well, once again, I had never modeled how to write a good comment. My bad. I would really recommend practising this with your students first. In fact, I recently read an article
in which the teachers gave the students thoughtful prompts before they started writing, such as: "I wonder..., Have you considered..." (Davis, A. and E. McGrail, 2009). What a great idea!3.
And finally, have every student change their passwords after you hand out their log-ins/passwords! It will save you a lot of grief!
Any other advice you would give?Happy Blogging :)