#Geniushour Project Reflection

This post has been percolating for a little while. I thought that I would write a post so that I could organize my thoughts.

Last term, I undertook a #geniushour project by allowing my students to decide what they wanted to learn more about. This involved planning a final project which would act as an archive of the learning.

Here are some things that I learned through this (sometimes messy) process:

  • It is definitely not about the final project. Having the kids blog about their learning was key! For example, some students took on a green screen film project which, although funny and entertaining, did not turn out how they wanted it to. It was by reading the reflections that I gained insight into the student learning. Reading their blog posts has helped me to understand what my students are learning and what their struggles have been throughout the process.
  • Feedback is essential. I walk around the room and ask questions about the projects that the kids are working on. It is hard for me to give feedback without unintentionally guiding the direction of the project. Students keep asking me, “Is this what you want, Mr. Hatch?” I keep telling them that their project has nothing to do with me…it is about them and their learning. I also encourage students to solicit peer feedback – either in person or by comments on their blogs.
  • Kids are going to get stuck and they are going to fail and get frustrated. This is when it is important to support rather than bail them out. Ask questions…”What do you think you could do now?”, “Is there anything that I could do to help you?”, Is there anyone that you could ask?” It is important to keep the student from giving up. I just keep telling students that failure is learning. Write a blog post about what happened and what you intend to do.
  • Encourage your students to find mentors who can help them. Mentors can be fellow students, staff members, parents or other people in the school community. One of my students was watch a tutorial video on YouTube and ended up sending an email to the developer of the video asking questions – her questions were graciously answered and she was pointed to a place on-line where she could learn more.
  • You have to trust your students and the process. If you have offered the right amount of support, things will come together at the end of the term. If it doesn’t, the student still learned something and they should be encouraged to reflect on that learning.
  • Reflection is essential. For my class, I had them write blog posts so I could track their progress. I found that students were brutally honest in their posts. Here is a sample post that I was reading today from a student who is part of a group working on a role playing video game. I was bubbling with excitement for this student when I read the posts because the reflections previous to this one were about how his group was stuck and was not making very much progress.

Progress, so much progress. I don’t think we have ever been as efficient as we were today. Today, we finished off fixing up the controls and the physics. We had full control over our character and we could move him around a 3D plane. It was so trivial and yet it excited all of us so much. All the things we just look over when playing games, we can really appreciate now. It took a lot of work and it wasn’t with out compiler errors, but luckily we got through it. Not only did we finally get those pesky collisions that have been giving us so much trouble out of the way, but we also started working on the camera and finished that as well. We now have our camera working as it follows the player around. Yes, it sounds really trivial, but you have no idea how much work it actually took. I mean, can you tell me what “Vector 3 = 0. Mathf.SIGN” means, because before today I sure didn’t. Overall, I felt really accomplished after today. It feels good to see the outcome of your work doesn’t it. Next up, we have to work on making a model, so that our character doesn’t look like a square. I’m looking forward to that since making your own character is one of the most exciting parts. So, things are looking up for weeks to come.

Is this student engaged and motivated in his learning? Is this kid learning skills that will benefit him in his career choice?

I can’t believe it has taken me more than 25 years as a teacher to figure out this model for learning. It has been so powerful and it has been incredibly rewarding. My students blow me away every single week by the amount that they are learning and sharing. Don’t be afraid to give up control to your students and let them navigate their own learning.



Today might be the day…

I saw this quote on Twitter today and it struck a chord with me…

When I have connected with former students years later, they always remind me of things that happened when I was their teacher/administrator. Most of these things have nothing to do with the Math that I taught them. It was the things that happened that were funny or were out of the ordinary. Some of the memories happened outside of the classroom…during student council activities or on the basketball court. It was the relationships that I had with these kids that was memorable. Sometimes, it was just simply lending an ear or spending some time helping with a tough concept in another course. Sometimes, it was just being a goof…which I am quite good at. For some, it was giving them food when they were hungry. For others, it was time spent playing guitar or sports together.

What are you doing to give your kids an awesome experience?


What does it mean to be Principled? (reflection)


Each week at our school, we have a homeroom challenge. It started off in September as a trivia question and evolved into identifying songs which were played over the intercom. Each homeroom class was challenged to submit an answer and the homeroom challenge trophy was awarded. In October, each week had a dress up component…wearing pink, Canadian pride, sports jerseys, etc. Some of these challenges were introduced through our school Twitter feed…as a way of getting our school community to start looking at Twitter as a way to receive important information.

As a result, students and staff are looking to Twitter for the homeroom challenge.

In November, we turned our challenge up a notch:

I sent this out via email:

Hello Everyone,

Here is this week’s challenge:

As a homeroom, you must read this blog post and, together with your class, submit a reply (right on the blog site). We will acknowledge a homeroom in PYP and one in MYP to as the “winners”.

To leave a reply, scroll to the bottom of the post and enter it in that space…you may need to submit an email address. Remember, this reply is public on the internet and can be seen by anyone in the world. If you want to include a picture or other media, you will have to provide the link. Please remember digital citizenship and FOIPP.

Please remember to sign your reply with the name of your homeroom (eg. 7A, 3B, etc.)


Then, followed up with this…

The reason that we originally chose this kind of challenge was to expose our staff and students to a blog site and get them to see how easy it is to post a reply. Also, we wanted our students to talk about what it meant to be principled.

We chose two “winners” for the challenge but that is not the important part. What is important is that we used collaboration to create a page which does a great job of explaining the IB Learner Profile attribute of “principled”. Our school community has provided examples which will be easy for other students to relate to because THEY WERE CREATED BY KIDS…with the help of their teachers. We were all blown away with the quality of the replies that we got on the blog post.

This challenge has reinforced a few things for me:

  • Great things happen as a result of collaboration.
  • The replies submitted by each class on the blog page are a by-product of a rich conversation which happened in that room around the attribute of Principled.
  • Kids need teachers to guide them in the areas of citizenship and digital citizenship.
  • Blogging is a powerful way to share information and have a “conversation”. Since replies were posted in a public forum…they were extremely well crafted.
  • It doesn’t matter if you are the “winner” as long as you learn and grow as a result of an activity/challenge.
  • Our school is awesome!


What does it mean to be Principled?

This is a cross post from our school’s blog site.

The IB Learner Profile attribute for this month is Principled.

In September, we focused on the attribute of Risk-taker and in October, we organized our activities and conversations around the attribute of Open-Minded. These two attributes are pretty self explanatory and students and staff could easily relate to them.

What does it mean to be Principled?

When you go to a dictionary, this is what you get:

principled - definition






When you look at the defintion from the IB Learner Profile, this is what you will see:


But what does this mean for our school and our students? How do we demonstrate that we are principled learners? When is it important to be principled? Are there people that you admire because they are principled? Why is this an important and essential attribute to possess?

Please share your thoughts. On our school site, we have asked each of our homerooms to submit a reply. If you have the time, could you please submit a reply below?



#EdcampYEG this Saturday


Hey Everyone,

I would like to invite you to the Edcamp Edmonton conference which is this Saturday (October 18) at Lillian Osborne High School. I have been on the organizing committee for this “unconference” since the inaugural edition in 2011.

What is an edcamp?

Edcamp is a form of unconference designed specifically for teachers and their needs.

What makes Edcamp an unconference? Unlike traditional conferences which have schedules set months in advance by the people running the conference, Edcamp has an agenda that’s created by the participants at the start of the event. Instead of one person standing in front of the room talking for an hour, people are encouraged to have discussions and hands-on sessions. Sponsors don’t have their own special sessions or tables, all of the space and time are reserved for the things the people there want to talk about. People could pay hundreds of dollars to attend another conference, or they could go to Edcamp for free.

Built on principles of connected and participatory learning, Edcamp strives to bring teachers together to talk about the things that matter most to them: their interests, passions, and questions. Teachers who attend Edcamp can choose to lead sessions on those things that matter, with an expectation that the people in the room will work together to build understanding by sharing their own knowledge and questions.

Edcamps are:

  • free
  • non-commercial and conducted with a vendor-free presence
  • hosted by any organization interested in furthering the Edcamp mission
  • made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event
  • events where anyone who attends can be a presenter
  • reliant on the “law of two feet” that encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs

To register or to get more info, go to http://edcampedmonton.org/

or check us out on twitter https://twitter.com/edcampyeg

Best PD ever! Hope to see many of you there…sorry for the short notice. Even if you can only come for a few hours…you will be glad that you did.

If you cannot attend in person, you can follow the #edcampYEG hashtag.





Attributes of a Learner

It is so great to be back at an IB World School. At the heart of the International Baccalaureate programme is the Learner Profile.


The Learner Profile is made up of 10 attributes that we, as an IB school, strive to instill in our students. At our school, we are focusing on one attribute each month. For example, this month’s attribute is Open-Minded. We try to incorporate the monthly attribute into the activities that we do at school. At the end of each week, a student offers a reflection on the intercom pertaining to the monthly attribute. Classroom learning activities are planned with the monthly (and other) attributes in mind. Check out our twitter feed to see some of the things that are going on in our fantastic school.

It struck me recently that this Learner Profile looks very similar to the Curriculum Redesign initiative created by our Provincial Education Ministry. Alberta’s curricular redesign concept is represented by this graphic:

Curriculum REDESIGN outcomes

Hmmm…looks pretty similar to the IB Learner Profile…the words are a little bit different but I think the concept is pretty similar.



Does any of this make sense?

Introduction of my #geniushour project


This year, I am teaching a technology option class for ninth grade students. These students came to the class in early September and were eager to learn. In the past, they have learned about Photography and Animation. As a former Math teacher, I was a little confused about how to teach technology. As a technology leader, I have learned things by trial and error and by making mistakes. I thought about teaching the students to use Photoshop…but what if they could care less about that?

To make a long story shorter, I challenged my class to use their time to learn whatever they wanted. The only requirements that I placed on the students was that their project had to involve the use of technology. Sticking to the #geniushour philosophy, I also told students that their project had to:

  • be driven by a guiding question (eg. How do you create a green screen movie?)
  • involve a research component (eg. there is so many sources of information online)
  • their learning must be shared

Hmmm…how do I get my students to share their learning with, not only each other, but with the world?


So that was my project…I started a class blog on Kidblog and I intend to have my students document and reflect on the learning that they will do for the next few months. By starting this blog site, I am not only giving my students a platform to share their learning, but I am also modelling the learning process in which I want them to become engaged.

Our school is an IB world school and our learner attribute for the month of September was Risktaking…ironic, isn’t it?

I will let you know how the projects are coming along.