I put my blog url into tagxedo.com
today because I was curious to see what words (and hopefully themes) would come up as most common for me.
I expected to see Genius Hour
in big letters, as this certainly is a passion of mine. But I was thrilled to see that the biggest words were actually students and learning. Relieved even, because it really is all about the learning.
I love Genius Hour. I love technology and using it to create, collaborate and communicate. But ultimately, it is about the students and what they are learning. So happy to see this show up in this word cloud.
What words would you like to see in your word cloud?
Recently I have read a lot about critical friends, especially in articles and books by Stephen Brookfield, Arthur Kosta
, Bena Kallick
, Sandy Schuck
. And I love the idea--someone who you agree to sit down with on a regular basis so that you are able to examine your practice through another lens. Great idea!
But it had me thinking about the people with whom I do this anyway. They aren't formal critical friends, per se, as we have not made any formal agreement or set any rules/expectations/time frame from which to operate. However, I would like to suggest that these informal critical friends are just as important as the formal critical friend relationship.
Who are these informal critical friends? They are the people that we talk to about education on a regular basis. We may not have regular meeting times but we get together for coffee or dinner and talk about what is new and exciting in our classrooms and in education in general. It's the teacher down the hall who you go and visit after school to celebrate with because you are bursting with excitement about a successful lesson. Or, for many of us, the teacher down that virtual hallway (twitter).
Being a connected educator has enabled me to experience the perks of a critical friend without even really knowing it. As I move forward I would like to explore the benefits of a more formal critical friend relationship (anyone with experience in teacher education want to sign up for that?), but I already know that that will never replace the energy I get from all of you, my friends and colleagues with whom I discuss learning, education, passion, and life.
Thank you. All of you.
Another critical friend, Antonio Vendramin (@vendram1n
He is my former principal and has pushed my thinking and learning further than anyone else I can think of. I became a different kind of learner and teacher because of him and his mentorship. Thank you Antonio.Here he is pushing me out of my comfort zone again.
Another place where I feel like I have a group of critical friends is on twitter. On twitter, I have met so many people that help push my thinking forward. Like Denise Krebs (@mrsdkrebs). Denise inspires me all of time! More than she knows. Here we are together in person. Denise drove up to Surrey, BC in the Spring of '13 and it was so wonderful meeting her and her wonderful family in person! I love twitter, but there is something really special about talking to a person face to face!
And of course, I cannot leave out Hugh McDonald (@hughtheteacher
), probably my closest critical friend! I have learned so much from, and with this guy! I miss teaching with you, buddy.
I could go on and on listing people who have taught me so much and who are such important informal critical friends, because there are so many! But I will stop here as it is time for me to check out who is presenting next at #RSCON4 (http://www.futureofeducation.com/)
. Check out the link to find another way to get connected!
And again, thank you all for being my critical friends.
How do you get feedback on your teaching/practice/thoughts/ideas? Do you have a critical friend? Is it a formal relationship, with arranged meeting times? Or more informal, like the ones I have described? I would love to hear about them! And again, if there is anyone working in teacher education who wants to arrange some sort of formal critical friendship, please let me know!
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 email@example.com to become a contributor!
During our July #GeniusHour chat, we shared some advice for educators new to this type of Passion & Inquiry Based Learning. Check out some of the advice in the slideshow below!
Do you have any advice you would add to this list? Please comment below and share your expertise with everyone!
and I were having a conversation the other day. After two school years of doing Genius Hour
with our students, we realized that the positive affects of this type of learning reached far beyond that one hour each week that we devoted to it. So, I brought it up during our last #GeniusHour chat
to see if others were feeling the same way. Check it out:
So many of us agreed that by giving students that time to persue their wonders and passions, students began to wonder about everything! They became curious learners that asked meaningful questions!
On Genius Hour days, and even on other days, students began to be more excited about coming to school! We had students start coming in early to get a head start on their projects, and many would work right through recess or lunch because they were so excited about what they were doing. Kids excited about learning! It really doesn't get any better than that!
I love the above comment by Joel Pardalis. Students taking risks and thinking outside of the box. Perfect.
More great tweets:
And finally, teachers talked about how Genius Hour changed them as teachers too! This is powerful stuff!
And then the conversation even turned to how Genius Hour does indeed support curriculum and many of the prescribed learning outcomes.
I have one more tweet to share! This one was shared by Joy Kirr
, a teacher that I admire so very much! her words are perfect and I think they truly summarize how a lot of us feel. Genius Hour doesn't just give students an hour (or 20% or however you break it down) to inquire into their passions and wonders...
...It changes EVERYTHING.
I have change a lot as a teacher over the past few years thanks to my school district's support, graduate classes at SFU and mostly because of the support and brilliant ideas from my PLN. Thank you all for learning and growing with me! I am so excited to continue this journey with all of YOU.
Creativity. Wonder. Passion.
"Genius Hour is a precious time, loved by all my students. It is when they are allowed to develop their own inquiry question about whatever it is that they want to explore"
An Index of All My Genius Hour Posts
A Few Other Fantastic Genius Hour Links
My visits to
The Inquiry HUB School in Coquitlam,
the Inquiry 8 Class @ Fraser Heights Secondary in Surrey,
Earlier this year I blogged about the power of visiting other classrooms and schools
. Well, since then I have had the opportunity to go on even more classroom visits and I just have to blog about it again! There are so many amazing educators out there and they are doing amazing things in their classrooms! Let me tell you about some of them:
The iHub Inquiry School
. Have you heard of this place? They are a tiny
secondary school in Coquitlam that is doing some big
things! In their words, it is "an innovative, technology driven, full-time program which allows them to pursue their own learning questions by shaping their educational experience around their interests instead of structured classes". Sounds like a full time Genius Hour
program to me...I knew I was going to love it...and I did!
We (I was visiting with Jesse McLean
who organized the trip and was kind enough to invite me along) started the morning with a student-led tour of the school. The 3 girls were great! They clearly explained the school's culture and Jesse and I were very impressed with the vocabulary they used to describe their learning. The students went on to explain that they were in the middle of an Inquiry project on Urban Gardening. These amazing 9th graders were planning a school garden, as well as a program that would teach primary students how to garden as well. It was so inspiring to hear them talk about their learning.
Our tour guides pose with some of their seedlings
An important experience, the girls explained, was one that took place early on in the school year. Their teachers set up an inquiry project for all of them to do, and made sure that their were opportunities throughout for the students to fail. Yes, FAIL. I almost cheered! I have been trying all year to get my students comfortable with the learning process and the obstacles that they will face. But my students struggle with this notion. They prefer things to be clear, and for all experiences to be problem-free. We are still working toward being okay with ambiguity and taking risks with our learning. I was really happy that the girls shared this experience with me. Something to borrow for sure! After some time with the students, we sat down to chat with VP, David Truss
. David, thank you so much for taking the time to explain your program to us! We have so much to learn from what you are doing.***Major Takeway***
Inquiry needs to be introduced, modeled and scaffolded for the students. It pays to take the time to do it right!
Some of the brainstorming that decorated the walls of the school
After lunch, Jesse and I headed to Fraser Heights Secondary
(back in my School District 36
). We wanted to visit Jess Pelat
and Parm Brar
because they are running a cross-curricular inquiry program with their grade 8s. Basically, they teach English, Social Studies, Math and Science to the same group of students by doing inquiry projects. So neat! I love the idea of keeping those kids together as a cohort for all of their subjects. And I also appreciated the emphasis on cross-curricular projects, something Hugh McDonald
(my teaching partner) and I have been experimenting a lot with this year.
Jess and Parm, thank you so much for opening up your classroom to us!***Major Takeway***
Cross-curricular works! But that doesn't mean you should feel guilty about teaching some stand-alone math lessons, because that is important too.
A few weeks later I had the opportunity to check out a few more schools. This time they were elementary schools...a little bit more familiar! First, I spent some time with Trish Miller
and Chris Gauvin
at Martha Currie. I just loved seeing how they were doing Genius Hour! It is so great to just watch expert teachers do their thing! I was so impressed with Trish's students and their projects! The purpose of my visit to Trish's class was to help her young students get started with blogging, and we did...her adorable grade 3s and 4s took to kidblog immediately! But while there I was reminded at how important a sense of community is. Trish cares so much about her students, and it is immediately obvious. There is such a sense of community and care in her classroom! It is evident in the way she decorates her room (beautiful baskets of supplies, and student work displayed), in the way she teaches (science through hands on activities such as making a fruit salad while examining the various types of seeds in fruit) and the way she involves her students in the decision making (I watched the students make the decisions about their Genius Hour iMovie). I am so glad that I got to visit!
I was also really eager to hear about the gardening project that Chris' students were starting. His class is trying to figure out how to start an urban garden of their own! These young 5th and 6th graders were sawing wood, taking measurements and building their own garden out of old pallets. Reminded me a little of the wikiseat project
we are doing at my school. I just love these hands on activities that make math (measurement, angles, etc) come alive, and are also just perfect examples of authentic learning!
Community and relationship-building is key.
Other types of building (with a saw, hammer and nails) are also awesome!
Next up was a quick visit to Robyn Thiessen
's class at Green Timbers. Robyn is the Queen of making global connections! I was so impressed with how her grade 3/4 students conducted themselves during a Mystery Skype call. Her students were engaged and on task as they tried to guess where in the world the other class was.
Have you tried Mystery Skype with your class yet? If not, you definitely want to consider it! Students learn about world geography in the most exciting way! Check out 6th chat
and 4th chat
Below, is a video that Hugh made of our students during a recent mystery skype call.
I need to allow my students to make more global connections. Check out Robyn's mystery skype map below! Her students are learning so much about the world by skyping with people from all over!
Picture by Robyn Thiessen https://twitter.com/RobynThiessen/status/332894971126509569/photo/1
I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had to visit colleagues from in and out of district. None of this would be possible without the connections I have made through twitter. Having a supportive PLN is amazing. Visiting them to learn through observation and conversation is even more amazing!
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?
The question that The Openspokes Fellowship
is tackling this week is: How do you learn best?
I loved watching everyone's videos. It was a wonderful reminder of the fact that everyone learns differently and we have to honour that, and be mindful of the diverse ways in which we all learn when we plan for our students.
You can subsribe to the Fellowship and join in on the conversation here
My weekly vlog:
So, how do you learn best? I'd love to from you!