Category Archives: Teacher Ideas

Finally a successful Genius Hour

Yes, this topic has become a major point in many academic discussions lately I just recently attended a webinar with AJ Juliani who is a guru of the Genius Hour.  It was mentioned at my school recently during a faculty meeting and I found out another teacher was using the project format.  This really got me pumped because I have been the only one doing this project for the past 2 years. My version of the Project’s a little different but after looking at other teacher’s blogs and some of the resources on Genius Hour I started to realize that I am on the right course with it. This is my introduction to last year’s Genius Hour which was a great time for the kids I believe.  I think most of the students were engaged in their task and most of the students enjoyed their projects. Sorry for such a delay with the blog post, but it’s been a busy summer and beginning of the year.

Last year’s Genius Hour went well, because of student’s choices for the project, they were part of the success. Some of them decided instead of creating and solving a problem, they would help gather data and research their topics.  So, what they did was they joined citizen science projects.  At first, I was a little leery of this because I thought this really isn’t the purpose of Genius Hour but this is what they were interested in and what they wanted to do so I allowed it to happen.  One young man got involved with North Carolinas Critter cameras which I thought was great idea, he applied for a critter camera and when he set it up he started to help with research, sending photos in to scientists.  He was so enthusiastic about this project and at the end when he presented his enthusiasm just overflowed. The student thought it was such a great project that he is continuing to do it even beyond finishing the Genius Hour project.  After presenting there were some students who got really excited too and wanted to know more about the project.  I know it was not problem solving or creating something to solve a problem. But it was helping scientists and I was happy I let him do it.  No regrets.

The second project I wanted to mention was completed by a young woman. She came to me and she was fretting about the project. Her concern was that she was not a science person. I asked her what was she interested in and this initiated a discussion on what would she might like to do.  My guidelines required that the project only needed to be within the area of science technology engineering or art.  We started to discuss the project and I told her to think about. She came back the next day with this idea to create an alien world and alien race with the knowledge that she obtained from biology and other Science courses. Her project was amazing, she created a new alien race and the planet they lived on. I’ve inserted some of the pictures of her alien and some of the worksheets.

I was amazed at the detail she put into her creation. She told me she was so excited about this and she felt that it was something she would love to continue. I told her I thought that was fantastic and that maybe she could find somebody to write a story around the alien.  The student thought that was an awesome idea and over the summer we kept in contact.  I continued to receive updates on her progress during the summer.

I think this is a great example of what Genius Hour is about. The excitement afterwards with some of these projects really made me understand how important it was to give students their learning back.  Putting learning back into the student’s hands has become a goal of mine this year. The combination of Genius Hour and Blended Learning, has been successful in implementing this goal. I think the success of the Genius Hour Project last year, has driven me to improve the project.  I won’t change much however, I will allow a bit more leeway on their topics and see what comes of it. I did do a journal last year to try to keep an eye on how they were doing. I found that it kept them on task and could be used as evidence of their learning.  I’m already planning the next one for the 2nd semester.

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Freedom to Learn — User Generated Education

I was painfully bored during my K-12 education. I looked forward to college anticipating that it would be different – more engaging, more interesting, more innovative. I was wrong. My undergraduate education, except for a few bright spots, was just an extension of my K-12 education including more grill and drill with sages on the […]

via Freedom to Learn — User Generated Education

Below are just a couple of quotes from the blog post that I truly appreciate. I’m not interested in reading this book. Carl Rogers, Freedom to Learn.

Much significant learning is acquired through doing. “Placing the student in direct experiential confrontation with practical problems, social problems, ethical and philosophical problems, personal issues, and research problems, is one of the most effective modes of promoting learning” (p. 162).

One cannot measure the difference in attitude, the increased interest, the growing pride in self-improvement, but one is aware that they exist. (Rogers, 1969, p. 19)

Part II “5 Summer Secrets…”

5 Summer Secrets to a stress- free fall

This is a continuation from the previous post.

5 summer stress free secrets include tools to help you make a plan to complete tasks during the summer that will make your year less stressful. An example, the first question the challenge or plan asks is “What do you want your life to like when school starts again? So, what do I want my life to look like when school starts again? Good question. Well stress free of course.  I wanted to have first quarter ready to go, or my plans completed. I want to be prepared. When we get back to school I always feel like I’m not prepared for school.

So to keep up with this vision and Ms. Watson’s challenge for the summer, I signed up for email notifications. Her 5 Summer Secrets started with number one “Eliminate unintentional breaks”. This is common sense, meaning be to be more productive you must task manage. By straying from your work, you create an environment that wastes time and you don’t complete your tasks. Sounds familiar, yep sounds like the kids. Keep them on task. Well what about the teachers? I  find myself doing this especially during the school day.  I start one project and end up straying from that task, going down a rabbit hole as they say. Eventually that project takes me a lot longer.  According Angela Watson we take unintentional breaks. So, she talks about how you need set a break later and work for a good amount time doing one thing. An example is I’ve decided that I should work through my planning period grading  and not go off on a tangent doing something else. Hopefully this will give me some solid time to complete some tasks.

Second  “secret” is avoid “task-Switching”.  Work ahead and avoid task-switching, which I’ve caught myself doing many times. You need to batch together similar tasks and stay on task. Don’t allow yourself to stray from those tasks. Again, sound familiar. I find there are times where I’m working on something, I’ll stray away and go on to something else. So, what happens I’m unproductive and end up not getting what I need done. Seems all commons sense right? well then why do we end up not following that common sense. Got me, but I tried to correct that this summer.

The third “secret”, use scheduling to create your boundaries around time. I found this to be very helpful. I scheduled different tasks I needed to get done during the summer on certain days and hours. When I did this, and followed the plan I got a ton of stuff done. For example, on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings I would work on lesson plans. When I kept to the plan it worked and I got a lot things done. Once I strayed from the plan, well let’s just say very little got done.

Number Four on the list is “Figure out the main thing and do it first”. So, what is the most important or main thing you need to get done this summer. Or, which is the most urgent and an overwhelmingly large task that you need to do.  My main task would be my lesson plans and activities. I know, summer is almost over, but this does work during the year also. The most important tasks need to be done first. Make a list, put the most important at the top of the list.

The last secret is to look “for innovative ways to relax any standards that create unnecessary work”. Look for ways to make things easier on yourself this year. Relax and say no to unnecessary work. Look for activities or assignments from another teacher. Adapt them to your class but don’t reinvent the wheel. If something didn’t work last year, then change it to suit your class, or don’t do the assignment. With this one I have a tendency to create an assignment that is a lot more intricate then has to be. More work for me. Simplify things, let the students take control of their learning. This is where Blended Learning and Flipped Learning comes in. Collaborate with another teacher to make things a bit easier on yourself. All good advice, that I sometimes must admit I forget.

When I followed this advice, I felt good about the beginning of the year. I still do even though I strayed a bit. This is great advice and does work. Try it. I know the summer is coming to an end, but some of this can still be done during the year. I would advise you subscribe to Ms. Watson’s newsletter and podcasts, she really does have some great advice.

Anglea Watson The Cornerstone for teachers

Does it work..Less connectivity

This is the start of a series of blogs that will discuss Angela Watson’s “5 Summer Secrets for a stress-free fall”. 5 stress-free ways for a less stressful fall? Is that realistic? After listening to Ms. Watson’s podcast and downloading all her resources, I started to take her advice and use her resources to begin my journey. And I became aware that it is possible. I did this is because every summer I feel like I don’t get what I need to get done. This year I’d like to be ready for school. I always feel like the summer goes by and I haven’t completed any of the tasks I wanted to get done.

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Less of this, means more time to complete other tasks.

 

How do you do this? Using Ms. Watson’s suggestions there’s 5 ways to attack this problem. First teachers are always stressing because they don’t get what they need to get done. How do you attack this problem? You start with connectivity and decrease social media use (this wasn’t part of the 5 Summer Secrets). You don’t always have to look at your phone for everything. You don’t always have to look at email or social media right away in the morning. That’s the first challenge, I did from Ms. Watson’s website/newsletter. It works, I started to do this, sometimes I fall back into my old ways where I look at social media. But that’s okay, I’m working on changing this habit. Email in the morning, doesn’t work. When I do this stuff, I find I go down those rabbit holes and it wastes my time. I’m wasting time in the morning and I can have a more fruitful morning by reading and doing other things. So I started off with this challenge to help me create better plan to conquer my tasks this summer. I’m learning how to deal with those bad habits, and hoping I can maintain this type of task management for the summer. This challenge was separate from the “5 Summer Secrets”, but it peaked my interest and now I started to use her “5 Summer Secrets to a stress- free fall”. If you sign up for her newsletter you can also receive other tips like the “8 things you can do now to make BTS less stressful” another great resource full of tips.

I know some people are saying this is a way for her to get teachers to join her “40 hour Week Teacher workweek Club” course, but quite honestly she is a great Coach! I’ve been listening to her podcasts and reading her blog. And the resources and advice she gives is very good. Go to her website “The Cornerstone for Teachers” see for yourself.  I’m beginning to think about joining her club next spring. Next entry for me will be about my start of the 5 Summer Secrets…

One last thing..Thank You Angela Watson

Climate Change

Source: Climate Change

Check out the response to the Booklet being sent out to Teachers about Climate change from the Heartland Institute. Here is another source mentioned on the NESTA website The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change

Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming: the NIPCC Report on Scientific Consensus, and a DVD, History of Climate Change in Greenland. The package looks official with the NIPCC’s seal in the upper left corner. The deceptive marketing is intended to take advantage of many teachers’ unfamiliarity with climate science….

Quinn Rollins: Play Like a Pirate: Celebrate Wonder Woman Day!

Source: Quinn Rollins: Play Like a Pirate: Celebrate Wonder Woman Day!

I came home after watching this movie with a sense of wonderment (no pun intended). I think, and I’m not expert, this was a great movie. Mr. Rollins has some really neat ideas to use this movie and other superhero movies for the classroom. Check out some of his ideas about Wonder Woman.

A Challenge… less connectivity and less stress?

This was one of the first challenges I tried to do, so I could create a less stressful summer.

School has just let out, we’ve been out for about two weeks. I took my little vacation and now I’m ready to really start the break. But I don’t want it to end up like last year. Stressing the last minute about all the work I would have to do in the first two weeks. I always feel disorganized and rushed when the year starts.

Well not this year, I decided I needed to do something to help myself out. So, I looked to Angela Watson and her website “The cornerstone for teachers”. When I first got to the site I found a good deal of help and advice on the use of my time. I then signed up for her newsletter and have become more aware of my habits that waste valuable time I could be using completing various tasks.

The first challenge I took part in was Ms. Watson’s 21 Day Challenge for Teachers Intentional Connectivity. Each week I received an e-mail with a weekly habit, these habits were geared towards changing my bad habits with connectivity. Low and behold they worked. This challenge really helped me see how I had to change the way I used my phone and computer. Eventually I developed better habits as I went along with the challenge. I became aware of the distraction these devices and social media could be. This was the beginning of creating a less stressful summer. It allowed me to realize how much time I wasted with my devices and social media. This wasted time could be used for school work and other things.  Of course, there have been times when I fall back into those bad habits, but now I’m aware of them address them.

I would recommend this challenge to anyone and a huge thanks to Angela Watson for sharing this with teachers.  The next post I’ll discuss will be “ 5 Summer Secrets for a Stress-Free Fall,” from Ms. Watson’s website. This I started and I’m finding a bit tough, but I’m hoping it will led to a better start for the school year.

Growth Mindset: Personal Accountability and Reflection

Do you think you could use this in class today? I’m willing to try this out next year. But I would start at the beginning of the year so students knew where I stood on their grades and reflection. If you do try it let me know how it works.

User Generated Education

I am an adjunct faculty for several teacher education and educational technology programs.  I have been so for a few decades.  During that time I have noticed the changing nature of student behaviors and expectations regarding their class projects and assignments.  Students seem to expect perfect grades for not so perfect work.  I can predict that when I “mark down” a student, I will receive a complaint about that mark down (it happened just this evening) even with clear cut and concrete grading criteria like uses references to support ideas in blog posts, includes copyright available images.

I have been studying, blogging and presenting about the growth mindset (see The Educator with a Growth Mindset: A Staff Workshop).  When speaking of a growth mindset, a fixed mindset also needs to be discussed and described.  Fixed mindsets are associated with avoiding failure at all costs.  What I don’t see mentioned as…

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Invite Your Students to Create Their Own Countries With this Geography Design Project – WeAreTeachers

Your students will transform into world explorers in search of new land.

Source: Invite Your Students to Create Their Own Countries With this Geography Design Project – WeAreTeachers

This looks like a cool lesson for Geography or History Teachers. A new twist on it could be using it for Alien Planets when doing an Astronomy Unit.

Genius Hour! We started our projects again….

Well, my 30-day blog challenge went out the window a while ago. However, I’m not discouraged and I’m starting over.

Genius Hour! We started our projects again and I’m really impressed by my students. Some had a bit of an issue with the brainstorming process. This doesn’t surprise me. Every year I get some students who can’t or don’t allow themselves a chance to think outside the box. I don’t blame them for this, I blame us; teachers and adults. For so long we have insisted on telling them projects should be 10-page research papers, not that sometimes research papers are good, but allowing them a chance to do something else upsets the cart. However, in the end, they all succeeded in doing something that related to themselves and they could enjoy.

I modified the Genius Hour project to suit our class a bit. Similar to last year. I wanted to modify the project to include the LAUNCH cycle. Nevertheless, this just did not work out this year. I did decide to use the Look, Listen and Learn process. This did help the students who were having a difficult time with the brainstorming activity. I do like the LAUNCH cycle and the book was great, but I really want to make sure I have everything in place before having my students do it. I am hoping to work with the Physics teacher to use the LAUNCH cycle for next Mars Rover project. For those of you have not read LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student, I would advise you read it. It is a great way to start your Genius Hour project. The authors John Spencer and  AJ Juliani have written a very creative way of empowering students to utilize design thinking when completing their projects.

A Plus this year was I changed one of the components of my Genius Hour Project, I added the “A”, Art. Instead of STEM, I now used STEAM. This has been a great idea, I have a couple of students working with Music and Drawing. I have one student investigating sound with different enclosures. Another student creating a new Alien and Alien world.

My motto for this year’s project is to allow my students to be creative and enjoy their what they are learning about