Student Evaluations of #GeniusHour

#Geniushour was last week. Students products are posted here. The following post has their answers to evaluation questions about their work during #geniushour.

NOTE on 12/6/2011 – The last student finally completed the evaluation, so I am updating the stats below with all the student data. I’m also using a new feature I just learned today–“Show Summary of Responses,” a feature on Google forms. Easy!)

Like Tia’s class is doing this week, we actually ended up with about 100 minutes of genius. When asked to evaluate the time frame, more than half the students thought there was not enough time.

Suggestions for making genius hour better…

  • Have more time (echoed by 9 students)
  • More teachers to help with questions to improve our learning experience
  • More of a heads-up so that we can bring what we need
  • More classrooms so that it isn’t so loud and crowded
  • It might have been better if people knew what they were doing before they started and not have just thought of something last minute.
  • It would be better if people didn’t mess around and just got to work and knew what they were doing.
  • How I think that genius hour would be better is that you could bring in new games for us to play so we learn something new every time.
  • Genius hour would be better if it was on a Monday so we have something to look forward to because usually Mondays are long and boring. I think genius hour should be on Mondays, so Mondays aren’t so long for the class.
  • To be able to have groups of maybe 4 or 5 at the most.
  • It could have been more organized; it was sort of chaotic. (echoed by 2 others)
  • Refreshments
  • Drinks
  • Music

Something I learned or a mistake I learned from…

  • When we made the collage out of our pictures that we had edited, some of the collages would change the way our pictures looked. We worked through it helping each other. Plus when we needed a scanner because one person didn’t have any digital pictures, we used the computer camera to take pictures of her hardcopy pictures.
  • I learned how to film a video while we were acting. My group wanted to have someone else film for us, but we figured out how to do it without anyone filming.
  • I learned that being independent is good. Trying new things is awesome. And I think everything went pretty good.
  • Next time I will plan out what I would say in the video.
  • I would have used 3 desks instead of 2, so it would be more sturdy and my project wouldn’t fall off.
  • I would have used thinner wood for the birdhouse.
  • I learned a lot about how the plane did not fly.
  • Next time I would make something better.

What I enjoyed most…

  • That I was able to learn about what I am interested in, not what we have to know and teachers going cram cram cram. I learned some of my writing limits.
  • Not being told exactly what to do. (echoed in similar words by 6 others)
  • I liked that we were able to do whatever we wanted to try to contribute to the world.
  • Getting to work with your friends, trying new things on the computer, having our own independent time to work. Acting out and filming the video.
  • That we had plenty of time to get everything done.
  • It was fun; we created some really cool things. Thought of things that I might never have thought of writing about.
  • What I like most about genius hour is that you can do whatever you like from videotaping to coloring to learning about a new program. You can always learn something new in genius hour.
  • My favorite part was seeing what everyone did.
  • Being with my friend.
  • Making the bird house and filming it for others to see.
  • I enjoyed Genius Hour. I think it taught us that we as 7th and 8th graders can change the world with our genius.

Genius Hour Report

Well, today was the day! It has been three weeks since I decided to hold #geniushour with the junior highers. (I’m spelling it like the Twitter hashtag–join us by sharing on Twitter your #geniushour comments, resources, and activities.)

Over the past three weeks, I gradually introduced the students to the idea of #geniushour, and they began to let their ideas percolate. Finally, this week, I suggested students get a pretty sound idea ready. I wanted them to get right to work when it was time. I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do or not. I was surprised that about three students told me this morning that they didn’t know what they were going to do yet. That didn’t last long, though. With a little discussion, each one soon had an idea or a partner to join.

I took Nancy’s advice and allowed them to choose partners based on interests. It certainly made more sense like that. The way I initially envisioned it was to put them into random groups of three on the morning of #geniushour. The day would have been totally different that way. As it turned out, on Monday some of them had already recruited a partner and decided what supplies to bring. I hadn’t thought of supplies–time wouldn’t have allowed us to wait until #geniushour started to gather supplies.

Students and I had created this Rubric of Creativity a couple days ago, so they would be able to prepare for and later evaluate their #geniushour work. I promised them that no grades were going to be recorded for their work today, but in future #geniushours we might need to record grades. If so, I will definitely let them grade themselves using the rubric, for honest self-reflection is a characteristic of creative genius.

We had about 1.25 hours scheduled for #geniushour and we could have used more! We even dipped into our sharing time to finish up some of the videos and other presentations, so we actually went about 1.5 hours. One thing is true, #geniushour was exhausting. We were energized with learning, but we were tired afterwards.

I warned students before they started reporting that they were not to say any version of “Huh?” or “That’s not genius” or anything that remotely resembled disrespect! As soon as they started sharing, though, I could tell that it hadn’t been necessary. The students were nothing but respectful and engaged during the sharing process. They loved seeing what their classmates chose to do. We ran out of time, though, so they will finish sharing on Monday because we are now on a long holiday weekend. (Another post later on the products of their labor.)

Comments from teachers who were involved:

  • One group of kids changed their idea after re-reading the rubric.
  • They continued to talk about their project with other students after their presentation was done. They were still talking when they went into the lunchroom.
  • They were able to decide what they were going to be “learners” of instead of us.
  • I saw engagement and student-centered learning. I saw excited students holding themselves accountable! (from our principal)

Lifelong Kindergarten

My new educational hero, Mitchel Resnick (@mres), is my latest inspiration for my #geniushour activities. Tomorrow will be our first ever #geniushour.

As I explain my hope for what school should and can be, I see sparks of wonder in the eyes of my students. They, who for now are a captive audience, are honestly beginning to dream of the day when they will want to come to school. They’ve asked for us to have #geniushour on Mondays, so they can have something to look forward to on the “longest, hardest day of the week” in their opinion.

Last weekend I watched this video about Lifelong Kindergarten from Resnick, Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab. It’s an hour long, but well worth it. He makes the case for why all of school, actually all of life, should be like kindergarten (or what kindergarten used to be like!)

This week, we are commencing on a new day in my classroom. We have a long way to go, but we are definitely in a hopeful space.

One of my takeaway learnings from the video is shown in the graphic at the top of this post. I am readying my students to become a 1:1 junior high next year. It’s still on the school board agenda under Old Business, and no decisions have been made. Even if it doesn’t work out, none of this will be wasted because we still have great access to laptops and can use them almost every day.

One thing we are doing is learning to use the computers for not just clicking, browsing, chatting, and gaming. With genius hour, we make sure to move into DESIGNING, CREATING, INVENTING, BUILDING, and SHARING, which Mitch Resnick and his crew at Scratch would think is a good start in raising up the next generation of STEM leaders.

Geniuses Learning Outside the School Walls

It’s coming! More and more learning outside the school walls. Tonight I was checking my email and sending announcements to my school secretary, when I received a chat message from a student.

“When do I need to take that science test?”

“I think you better do it by Wednesday.” (With a long holiday weekend coming up, who wants to study all weekend, I thought.)

“OK, but I forgot to bring home the study guide.”

“I’ll email it to you.”

“OK, thanks!”

About the same time I got this email from another student: “this is my scratch that I made i will show it to you when i get there” (It was just this afternoon that I showed him the program. He went home downloaded Scratch, figured out how to make and animate his giraffe, and ended up with a better animation than I’ve been able to create.)

I love it! He sent it so I could watch it, but he’ll also show it to me tomorrow. What enthusiasm!

We’re preparing for our first genius hour on Wednesday, so today we talked about the qualities of creativity, and the origins of the word genius. We said it really means creating and producing, not just the narrow definition of a person with such-and-such IQ number.

We tried to define nine characteristics of creativity, using some really big words. Seventh graders helped me make a rubric, which they will eventually use to grade themselves on how they are growing in creativity. Here are some of the qualities we thought of for each characteristic.

  1. Ambiguity – I’m OK with a little confusion. And I know there is always more than one way to do a job.
  2. Inquisitiveness – I ask questions and want answers. I look up things that interest me. I’m a lifelong learner.
  3. Generating Ideas (brainstorming) – I am able to quickly create a list of possibilities. I use my imagination.
  4. Originality of Ideas – I can think outside the box and I have a great imagination. I think of ideas that others never even thought of.
  5. Flexibility/ Adaptability – Like I gymnast, I can bend easily any which way and not break, only with my mind!
  6. Self-Reflection – I can look honestly at myself and evaluate my work.
  7. Intrinsic Motivation – I want to do it. I know the purpose for my work, and it pleases me.
  8. Risk Taking – I’m not afraid to try something difficult for fear of failure.
  9. Expertise – I am proud to know a lot about one or more subjects. I am an expert.

OK, back to those emails and school announcements I need to send! I got side tracked with my genius students and their 24/7 learning (and this blog post!)

The 2011 Edublog Awards

The 2011 Edublog Awards nominations are open. I’ve really enjoyed writing this post because I’m sure I don’t tell others often enough how they help me. This is the first year that I knew about the awards, so I am happy to add my nominees, for each one helps me to become a better teacher. It was difficult to choose just one nominee for each category. I hope as you read this blog post, you will meet someone new to add to your PLN!

Best Individual Blog
Color Wheel Symphony By JoAnn Jacobs

My favorite individual blog is a new one by JoAnn Jacobs. I like blogs that do one thing and do it well. Color Wheel Symphony always makes me ooh and ahhh and smile. It is a place where JoAnn shares her beautiful photography from Hawaii and writes captivating prose to go with it. I always look forward to her posts.

Best Individual Tweeter
Tracy Watanabe!/tracywatanabe!/tracywatanabe/

Tracy is a thoughtful blogger, a technology integration specialist, and an encourager through Twitter, where she shares resources and retweets about 21st century learning. More importantly, though, she develops and maintains professional friendships. She thinks of individuals and mentions them by name in a tweet when she knows something is relevant to them. She is warm and friendly, and makes my PLN more human with her sweet tweets and comments.

Best Group Blog
eltpics Take a Photo and…Blog

The international community of English language teachers has an incredible online social network going on. Now they also have a new blog, where teachers share lesson plans to go with their beautiful photography collection. I am not an ELT, but I love reading and learning from these passionate educators. (In fact, their camaraderie has made me more than once think it would be a great field to go into!)

Best New Blog
Love::Teaching by Laura Coughlin

Laura is a new blogger, having just started this past June. She is a passionate educator, clever, creative, and funny. I love reading her posts, for, like me, she is a middle school reading teacher.  Everything she has written so far has been helpful to me or thought-provoking, so I continue to go back.

Best Class Blog
Eagles’ Write

I have a special place in my heart for the Eagles and their teacher Sheri Edwards. This year my students and I have had the privilege of working together with the Eagles. Currently, we are all writing novels together–her class and mine, and Mr. Boylen’s and thousands of other classes. The Eagle writers are geniuses, contributing to the world, and at this blog you can see them in action.

Best Student Blog
Em’s Canvas

Oh, there are so many to vote for in this category! So many students are stand outs in their classes, and I’m so happy for them to have a worldwide audience. My own students’ blogs are awesome too, but today I nominate Em’s Canvas, which is about the sweetest student blog I’ve seen this year. She’s just five years old, and her mom helps her share her genius with the world.

Best Resource Sharing Blog
Teaching is Elementary by Nancy Carroll

Nancy has a way of identifying a need (or even anticipating a need) and writing a blog post about it. One of the first posts of hers I remember was last January. It was about a snow day her school had (actually it sounded like most of her state). I was reading it on my own Iowa snow day, and I was having so much fun looking at all the resources for snow day activities she had shared. Since then, she has shared resources about hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and more–many times coinciding with what’s happening in the news. Nancy has vetted all the resources, sharing them just in time for when children start asking questions. As a fourth grade teacher, Nancy also shares many great literacy strategies with her readers. Overall, this is a great resource sharing blog.

Best Twitter Hashtag

I love many Twitter hashtags. In fact, I just counted 21 hashtag columns open on my Tweet Deck. (I wonder how many columns one can have open at a time.) It was not easy choosing the best hashtag, but I wanted to share this one. Last summer I learned about the #eltpics hashtag from Chiew Pang and Sandy Millin. I was involved in a photography challenge for teachers, and they noticed and invited us to participate in #eltpics. (My “thank you” post.) There are over 5,000 Creative Commons licensed photographs for you to use in your classroom, and these aren’t just pictures–they are beautiful artworks from all around the world! You can also contribute your own photos and make it even better. For the last fortnight the theme was parties and celebrations. Starting today, until December 3, folks will be adding pictures to a set called Shadows.

Best Teacher Blog
Drama Teachers Network by Karla O

Karla is a passionate and smart drama teacher who is busy building a program all by herself in her NSW, Australia, school. Although I am not involved with high school drama, I do read her posts and learn so much for my junior highers. I also try to bring some of her posts to the attention of our high school drama person. I’m impressed that Karla initiated this blog to build her connections with other drama teachers. She didn’t bemoan the fact that she was the lone drama teacher. Instead, she became a global leader by creating the Drama Teachers Network.

Best Free Web Tool

Without Twitter and my new PLN, I would not even have known where to start with nominations for the Edublog Awards. In fact, I hadn’t noticed the Edublog Awards nominations going on in both 2009 and 2010, even though I was already blogging, having created my Edublogs account in October, 2009. Perhaps in 2009 and 2010, I may have read about the nomination process in a blog post, but I didn’t stop to listen. Twitter helps me to listen to important happenings in education. In addition, Twitter revolutionized my world when I allowed my blogging to become a conversation and not just my one-sided posts. Twitter has helped me build my PLN. Since it is a wonderful forum for amplifying important resources, Twitter makes it easy to pay attention to the voices of my PLN.

Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast
Kevin’s Meandering Mind

Yep, I’ve seen all of those things on Kevin’s blog. While participating in the Edublogs teacher challenge last January, I met many wonderful teacher bloggers. Kevin is one of those who was light years ahead of me in using cool media on his blog. He is a musician, writer, poet, artist, and he shares his genius and that of his students with the world. He blogs circles around most of us, so I don’t always keep up with reading all his blog posts. However, there is always a treat when I stop in, and I am sure to learn some tool to make my life easier, more collaborative, more beautiful, or just more fun. Visit! You won’t be sorry! Kevin’s class also has an incredible web page at The Electronic Pencil. Don’t miss it!

Best open PD / Unconference / Webinar Series
The Reform Symposium, worldwide e conference

Perhaps I’m partial because last summer I attended my first online conference–Reformed Symposium 3, which is my nomination for the best unconference. Thousands of people came together to learn and grow. This conference was inspiring and transforming for me as an educator. How delightful it was to spend unpaid professional development time with so many passionate people who wanted to be there. What a great experience!

Best Educational Use of a Social Network
#sschat & #sschat Ning

A wonderful community of social studies teachers exists online! (Try #sschat on Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m. ET) When I joined Twitter, Greg Kulowiec and Ron Peck were warm, welcoming, and helpful. I have become just a tiny bit involved in #sschat and the corresponding The #sschat community is much more than just a once a week Twitter chat. Greg, Ron, Susie, Becky and others are connecting, collaborating and contributing, and making others feel welcome. If you are a social studies teacher of any kind, I would highly recommend joining #sschat (or even lurking about, like I still do).

So there you have it. I could go on and on, but I’m going to stop there.

These are my nominations for the 2011 Edublog Awards.

Thanks to all those who have made this past year one of my best teaching years ever!