Posted in EdTech, Genius Hour

Genius Hour 1.0

In theory, this sounded like the world’s greatest project to do with kids.  I was so inspired by A.J. Juliani, Don Wettrick, and some of my colleagues doing this with their classes that I just had to give it a try.  So of course before I found a class willing to try it out I started doing my research.  I watched A.J. Juliani’s videos, read some books, so naturally thought I was good to go.

What I didn’t anticipate was how difficult it would be to give up some control, let go of some structure, and really turn that learning over.  I like to think of myself as a progressive teacher, so this should be easy for me, right?  Wrong, totally wrong!  I call this post Genius Hour 1.0, because I know there will be a 2.0, and it will be even better.  Still messy, but like everything, will be better the more we try it!  We are still in the midst of this process, but here are 5 takeaways I have so far!

1. Stay the course!  I’ve had several moments during this process where I’ve doubted myself, wondered if I should’ve done more research first, had a more concrete plan going in, etc.  Several periods I worried that I was wasting the kids time, worried that they really weren’t learning anything.  Those worries prevailed until this past Friday.  I went into some classes that have been doing Genius Hour and was amazed by what I saw.  Stop motion videos created, blogs starting to take shape, games being coded, and more.  My favorite has been a automatic pet food dispenser.  I really wondered what would happen with this idea, but as teachers we never said no to it.  Now the girls have widdled that idea down to making a water dish that will refill itself, made with old plastic juice bottles and plastic containers.  It. Is. Amazing.  All the worry I felt over the past few weeks started to diminish.  We are empowering students, and that in itself is a great achievement.

2. Have a plan for sharing the process.  Thanks to one of my amazing colleagues, we are using Trello for the students to update where they are in the process.  It’s an amazing way to keep track of what students are doing, can be a good exit slip, and also a good way to share resources with the kids.  I have not been as good as I could’ve and making sure the kids keep up with this, but live and learn, and I’ll definitely try to maximize this tool in the future!  Another great way for sharing the process and final projects is blogging.  Through talking to my new friend, Joy Kirr, I learned about Feedly.  It is a great tool for helping to manage the different blogs in your classroom!

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3.  Think of yourself as a learner.  One of the things I keep trying to remind myself when doing this type of project, is what I do when I’m trying to learn something new.  Learning to make my own baby food, trying to start my garden from seeds, writing a blog, etc.  Thinking of how we like to learn things and then transferring that to the kids.  In the end we want kids to find their passions and become lifelong learners, and the scripted process of the past might not always be relevant!

4.  Forget the timeline!  Or at least forget about giving a strict deadline to kids.  When we started it felt like this will be about a 6 week project.  We’ll do some brainstorming, come up with a project, do some research, and then share out!  Easy peasy.  What I didn’t anticipate was that each student’s project would be unique, requiring different amounts of time.  I also didn’t anticipate students not knowing what to do!  Students should love this new freedom to learn what they wanted to learn, right?  Since this is a new way of learning for kids, some will not be used to it and even resist.  We just can’t give up on them and be okay that they might be on a different timeline.

5.  Talk to your colleagues!  In one of the buildings I work in, three fifth grade classes are doing a form of Genius Hour.  All three slightly different, but all three amazing.  Through talking to my colleagues, visiting their classes, networking with other teachers through social media, my idea of what Genius Hour is, and what it could be, is taking shape.  The best part of Genius Hour from my teacher perspective, is that there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do this.  And that’s pretty cool.  But by working together, sharing our ideas, we can give students amazing learning experiences.

We haven’t gotten to the point of sharing our projects out yet, we’re still in the thick of creating these projects.  But I couldn’t be more proud of the students for all the hard work, and I’m so grateful for all I have learned throughout the process.  It’s been amazing so far, and I know there is more amazingness yet to come!

Great Genius Hour resources to take a look at:

A.J. Juliani’s Guide to 20% Time

Joy Kirr’s Genius Hour Livebinder

See this page for additional resources.


Posted in google

Google Cheat Sheets

Our school district has made the shift to Google about five years ago.  I was seriously a holdout when it came to creating new docs in the drive in favor of applications like Keynote and Pages.  When my creations no longer cooperated with the drive, I had to make the shift to applications like Sheets, Docs, and Slides.  It was easier than I like to admit, and thanks to people like Kasey Bell, there are lots of cheat sheets out there that make learning Google apps much easier to learn!  By subscribing to her blog, she will give you a free e-book that has cheat sheets for all of the Google apps in the suite!

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Definitely check it out!


Posted in EdTech

Breaking Free

One of the best parts of being an instructional coach for me, has been breaking out of my classroom walls.  Don’t get me wrong, I worked hard to connect my classroom with others, and powerful learning opportunities happened as a result.  But this year I’ve broken out of those classroom walls in a way I never would have imagined.  The time I used to spend lesson planning at home, has been replaced with growing my PLN and connecting with others that have similar roles so I can support teachers and students.  My passion for teaching and learning has been fueled as a result.

Today I attended my first edcamp.  Isn’t it funny how your PLN can your own little celebrity circle?  Seeing people that I see in my Twitter feed in real life, is amazing in a totally geeky way.  And we thought social media is killing face to face interaction…I’m pretty sure seeing a Twitter connection in real life is like a kid seeing their teacher in the grocery store.  The philosophy of edcamp is almost like the Gettysburg Address, ‘by the people for the people.’  Notes are shared, because good teaching and ideas should be shared.  So basically all that babble was to say here are the notes from EdCamp Chicago 2016!

I met some really great people that I follow on Twitter in real life, and they are just as great in real life as they are on social media!  If you haven’t had the chance to experience an edcamp, I highly recommend it.  And if you can’t be there in person, there’s always Twitter!


Posted in Home

Which way is up?

The universe wants me to blog.  Just sayin’.  For the past several years I’ve wanted to do a blog to share the great things that happen in my classroom.  Not because I’m great, but because there are great ideas out there, that I’ve stolen, and made my own to fit my students, and my students are great.  I was always inspired by the blogs of others, and envied the creative juices that allowed them to make these blogs to inspire teachers like myself.

So why can’t I have my own?  My first roadblock was a title.  How will people ever go to my blog if I don’t have an amazing, creative title to get them there?  I’d be that kid that during writing time spent the whole time coming up with a title only to not have the slightest clue of what the story is about.  So I quit.

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Super creative, right?!

But the thought never went away.  I’ve since left the classroom to try my hand at instructional coaching.  The greatest thing I’ve learned through coaching, is how to be a learner myself.  It started with my needing to learn as much as I can, so when teachers ask me for help I have the answer.  I mean after all, how will they look at me as an expert if I don’t have all the information?  That desire to learn has turned me into the lifelong learner that I always knew I was, but wasn’t sure how to be.  Through that I’ve read some amazing books from authors like George Couros, Tony Wagner, Sir Ken Robinson, and more.  So now I am discovering my passions all over again, but still, what do I have that is original that I can share?

Time passed and Twitter led me to the TED talk on procrastination done by Tim Urban (if you haven’t watched it, it’s amazing, so I’m attaching it here!).  While I laughed through much of the TED talk because it fits me to a T, I was really struck at the end when he talks about the type of procrastination with no deadlines.  Procrastination with no deadline is just a dream and aspiration.  Creating a blog and becoming a writer, is nothing more than a dream if I never put my pen (or keyboard) to the paper.

More time passed and I read the most amazing blog post by Pernille Ripp where she talks about her journey with blogging.  Maybe I can start blogging without truly having a story.  Maybe this is how I find my story.  A blog is going to give me a voice.  And if only 5 people are reading this (one will most likely be my mom – hi mom!) that is okay.  It is okay because I’m going to find my story.  I’m going to find my voice.  I’m going to work on writing.

One of the greatest things I’ve heard lately is “how can we teach kids to write if we don’t view ourselves as writers?”  So true.  We ask kids to blog, to share their stories, to share their learning with the world.  As adults, we are too scared to do that.  Now I know all of us aren’t going to be the best readers, best writers, best mathematicians ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.  We need to model our learning.  If kids don’t see us as learners, how do we teach them to be learners?

So here’s the blog.  But the problem of the title still lurks.  The world is messy.  Teaching is messy.  Finding our story, our voice, our path – all messy.  Sometimes there’s so much going on that we can’t even remember which way is up.  So I guess that’s it.  Because honestly, I live in the moment and spend most days trying to figure this out!  So until something else profoundly creative comes up, that’s what the title of this blog will be.  And learning is a lifelong endeavor, so I’m guessing I’ll never truly figure that out!