Day 6 Slice of LIfe – Geniushour Chat and a Challenge

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. this morning. Hmmm…Will I go back to sleep? I wondered. I didn’t think so, but I brought my pillow and alarm clock out to the living room. I got myself cozy reclining on the Lazy Boy and tried to sleep for another hour. I couldn’t, so I sat up and started working. It helped me wake up enough to get ready for the #GeniusHour chat. That’s the once-a-month chat I always try to join at 5:00 a.m. in the winter. (Next month, it will start being at 4:00 a.m. Arabia Standard Time.)

Anyway, I was excited this morning. Dave Quinn was leading us in questions about the role of teacher during the Genius Hour experience. I was there to welcome people, and introduce Dave, though he didn’t need introduction. He’s led us before and been at other chats. Anyway, I made it and was awake enough, even if my Internet was sluggish.

At the end of the chat, one of the last mentions I noticed was from Gary Stager. The first time I “met” him was in a workshop at the Iowa Technology in Education Conference in 2011. He was the speaker and I was a fan in the audience. When I searched my blog, his name came up on six posts. In all my experience with him, I would describe Gary as a provocateur. He has provoked me to think many times, and he did again today. During the chat Dave quoted him and mentioned him in the following tweet. Some provocative tweets followed.

My whimpering response, “It’s changed how I teach, Gary.”

Then when the chat finished, I went back to bed, but I didn’t sleep. We had such a nice chat, and then that Pterodactyl came and…and…and…

What? Really, Denise? What did he do? Hmmm…I had to think about that.

He didn’t agree? Maybe.  Was I upset or sad because he didn’t agree with us, he wasn’t as excited about Genius Hour as we were? When I realized those last thoughts, I stopped and considered the importance of provocations in my life. I don’t appreciate agree-ers. I need people to push me, to challenge and disagree and tell me why. It’s always how I have grown.

Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” The verb “spur on” in the Greek is paroxusmos and literally means to come alongside and jab into action, in this case jab “one another on toward love and good deeds.”

I thought about Gary’s jabs. He came alongside this morning and gave us a jab. Maybe on some level toward the same thing the Bible is talking about–love and good deeds. He jabs us toward loving students, jabs us toward giving ownership of learning back to those who are most qualified to own it–the learners. He jabs us into action to discover how we can make school good, really good. He jabs us to make education more humane and school curriculum and culture the best, and not to settle for less.

The hour is late, and I will now go back to bed and probably think more about these things. Another post soon about jabbing, but also coming alongside.

Day 26 – #AprilBlogADay – Fighting Spring Fever

Engagement/lessons/tips/tricks/ideas for spring fever – age specific.

Funny, just last week, I found three ways to keep K-2 students engaged at the end of the year. Those are three things that I’m doing with my kindergarten students now. I wrote about them here.

Engagement for All Ages!

Those were for K-2, but today I’ll consider one way to engage all ages in true learning, even at the end of the year.

First of all, for all grade levels, they will be motivated if you let them have autonomy, let them have time to master, and let them choose the purpose of their learning.

From Dan Pink’s web page, the “Cocktail Party” summary of his book Drive:

When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

I believe his connections to the business operating system can be equally applied to much of the educational operating system. People, including students, are truly motivated intrinsically, not by dangling good grades, stickers, candy, or small trinkets in front of them. That doesn’t work and often does harm. Children in school need the “new approach” to motivation, as well.

At the end of the year, when motivation is not usually at a high point, it is a perfect time to allow those things that will motivate. Give more choices, ask students what they want to learn, and then get out of their way. Here are a couple ideas to get started.

1. Ask them what they learned or did this year that they would have liked to learn or do more. Perhaps it was when they had a measurement lab in science, and they got to measure all kinds of liquid and solid ingredients. Let a small group measure some more.

Maybe some others are interested in the Civil War, but you didn’t have time enough to spend on it to satisfy their appetite. Let them pursue more about the Civil War.

Maybe you have some writers. Maybe they even wrote a novel in November, but they haven’t had enough time to devote to finishing it, revising it, or starting another one. Let a small group dive into writing.

2. For those who can’t think of anything that they would like more time with, ask them what they did not learn or do this year that they wish they would have. Perhaps some of them will come up with topics of interest to them that weren’t in your curriculum. If they have chosen it, they have some purpose in learning it. If you really meant it when you asked them, let them have autonomy to make a learning decision.

If you happen to be in classroom with access to enough computers, you can let them choose something from Gary Stager’s list of things to do on a laptop.

3. Finally, as soon as everyone has something they are interested in learning, step aside and let them learn it. The teacher becomes facilitator, resource finder, cheerleader and sometimes gofer. Some of us call this kind of learning Genius Hour.  If you want to learn more, follow the hashtag #geniushour and see all kinds of amazing students all over the world learning with motivation, especially this time of year.

4. Have everyone choose a way to share their learning with the class.   They can write a blog post. They can make a presentation, demonstration, or model for the class. They can make a movie or photo essay of their learning.

Enjoy! Your students will love you for it! The year will be over soon, so if you haven’t tried Genius Hour before now, this is a perfect time to do a beta version of Genius Hour. Save all your notes for next year to make it even better.

Do you have any other advice for engagement / lessons / tips / tricks / ideas for spring fever?

Controlling Students

Last fall I went to ITEC11 in Des Moines. I was challenged by educational reformers like Gary Stager and Steve Hargadon.

I also enjoyed perusing the exhibits. One of the many sellers was LanSchool Classroom Management Software. I was mildly interested because I do want to have good classroom management and I want to host a safe digital environment in my classroom.

However, at the same time I was repulsed. I had just been listening to radical and exciting educators telling that we can be lifelong learners together with our students. We can give them ownership of their learning. They can be creators and contributors. When I saw LanSchool demonstrated, I couldn’t help but think this was a serious disconnect. Many of us teachers were excited to take to heart the exciting innovations we heard at the keynote address. However, we then walked into the very next room and were able to undo everything Stager and Hargadon told us if we bought the right management software to “control” our students.

I realized then that not all schools embracing 1 to 1 technology for their students are also embracing the type of learning of which Stager and Hargadon spoke.

When I came back to my school I did not tell anyone about the software. In fact, by this morning, I had forgotten all about the LanSchool Classroom Management Software, but today I received an email that reminded me of the software I had rejected.

Here is part of the email that came:

Want a tool that grabs your student’s attention? Choose the one that some students fear but every teacher loves.

LanSchool Classroom Management Software lets you run your computer-assisted classroom like a pro. Blank computer screens. Show your computer to the class. Drop kids off the Internet. Get their attention like never before.

OK, so I read their email and it reminded me of my polarized thoughts. Right before the email, I had had my first class. Students had come in with their laptops. They, like me, are tempted to multi-task. They like to get logged in right away, and I try not to tell them too often to close their computers. Sometimes I do–for prayer, when I’m giving directions, when someone is sharing, etc.

Would I want to be able to blank out their screens? Do I want to nip in the bud any hint of online chatting (note passing)? Do I want to make sure they make no digital mistakes in my classroom?

Or do I want my class to be a place where they can make some mistakes? If not in my classroom, where? Do I want to inspire them to be geniuses–creating and producing? “We don’t have time for chatting now, unless you are talking about the work you are doing. We need to contribute and share our genius. We are changing the world!” I’m heard to say.

We have to leave some room for them to learn good digital citizenship by making occasional mistakes. It’s a bit messy in my room these days.

Yes, it may be handy to blank a screen once in awhile, but if I always do it for them, would they even know they need to learn to blank their own screens sometimes? Do I want their learning under my control? (I shudder to consider what any of us would think if a speaker blanked our computer screen so we would “pay attention” in a class, conference, or PD meeting.)

I work hard to make my classroom student-centered, why would I want to take control of their computers? I want them to take control of their own computers and their own learning!

And so, after reading the email and even venturing a look at their three-minute video, I find myself once again dismissing the idea of LanSchool software, as I did in October.

What do you think? Does your 1 to 1 school use a computer management software?

If not, do you think you’d like one?

I hope you’ll share your experiences with or without it.

My guess is that One Laptop per Child schools don't need management software.

Images Haiti Classroom and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia from One Laptop per Child, shared with CC Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

I Want to Do That

When I showed my students the list of  “ten things to do with a laptop” that Gary Stager showed us, they were immediately engaged. More so than I thought they would be. (Watch Gary’s ten things keynote here.)

The next day, I overheard them talking. One boy said, “I want to build a killer robot.” Another, “I want to make a video game.”

Ten Things You Can Do on a Laptop by Gary Stager

OK, I owe it to them. I’m the one who showed them the list after I returned from ITEC11. We have laptops. What’s missing? Nothing. They need to be let loose to create.

So, we are having our first genius hour. Next week. Our first, but not our last.

Images by Denise Krebs edited on Polyvore, Big Huge Labs, and Photovisi, shared with CC 3.0 license.

Iowa Technology Education Connection

Today was the first day of ITEC11. It’s been a challenging and thought-provoking day. ITEC is populated by technology leaders and newbies, alike. The name Iowa Technology and Education Connection is a good name. We are not only making connections with other educators, but we are discussing how education is connected to technology. Just some random thoughts…

Which is more important in our technology-driven environment? The pedagogy or the technology? They are interwoven into one. We’ve always taught with technology–pencils and books are technology. I enjoyed hearing Punya Mishra’s comments about this.

The terminology is changing from technology use to technology integration. Now, to technology innovation.

Can we teachers get out of the way enough to allow students to solve problems innovatively with technology?

Evaluate where you are and where you want to go on this Technology Integration Matrix. I am nowhere near the lower right hand corner, but that’s where I’m headed! I want to get out of the way so my students can be involved in goal-directed transformation. Sounds like Student-Centered Learning to me!

My favorite takeaway from today was Gary Stager’s keynote address this morning. So simple, yet so profound. “Ten Things You Can Do With A Laptop” are all available for children and adults to accomplish in school together. There are resources galore for these and other activities for our geniuses. What are we waiting for? Let’s get out of their way.

  1. Write a Novel
  2. Share Your Knowledge
  3. Answer Tough Questions
  4. Make Sense of Data
  5. Design a Video Game
  6. Build a Killer Robot
  7. Lose Weight
  8. Direct a Blockbuster
  9. Compose a Symphony
  10. Change the World
  11. (Bonus) Be a Scientist, a Mathematician, an Engineer, a Luthier, etc., etc., etc.

Can’t wait for tomorrow! Day 2 of ITEC.