#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.

 

Advertisements

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.

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

Genius1

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?

Blogging

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.

Why Should You Use Remind?

remind3

I discovered Remind over 3 years ago through a fellow educator on Twitter. I tried Remind (at that time it was called Remind 101) and I was immediately impressed with the potential of this tool. I was teaching a class at the time and I had my kids test it for me. It was a great way to remind kids about upcoming exams and assignments and also remind them to bring certain materials to class. Kids today seem to always have their phones with them and text messaging is their number one way to communicate. I have tried many ways of getting information to students (daily announcements, emails, visual announcement (monitors in hallways), etc.) and I have determined that Remind is the BEST way for teachers to send announcements to their school communities.

As a high school administrator and technology leader, I shared the tool with my staff (and at district technology PD sessions) and the feedback that I received was amazingly positive.

As we get back to school, here is a list of reasons why you should use Remind:

1.       It is easy for students and parents (not to mention teachers) to sign up for a class. Just post or project the info for your class. It takes literally seconds for a teacher to create a class…and it takes even less time for students and parents to sign up. Once a student texts the information below, they are asked to send their name and that is the last time that they can write a text response to any of the teacher generated messages.

remind2.jpg

2.       Remind is great to remind kids about tests, assignments or anything else. I just finished sending a message to my Technology class…”Please remember to bring cameras to school for tomorrow’s class”.

3.       Remind works great for clubs and teams or any other groups that do not meet regularly. I used it for a Cross Country Running team that I was coaching and it was extremely valuable…it also prevented some major frost bite. I could send out messages like, “It looks like snow for the race tomorrow…make sure you dress WARM!” When we are at a XC meet and my athletes are separated, I can use the Remind app on my iPhone to let them know where to meet.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.50.31 PM

4.       Teachers can send messages using Remind and they do not share (or have access to) any personal information. No phone numbers are recorded. Teachers get a list of the members of their class based on what the student types in when they sign up.

5.       Remind can be used from your desktop or by using the app on your phone.

6.       Remind does not let you play favorites…when you send out a message it goes to EVERYONE who is signed up. Our Provincial Teachers’ Association reminds us that having personal text conversations with students is not a good idea.

7.       There are a few new features that are quite useful. Now, teachers can send attachments or record voice notes and send those out. Messages can also be scheduled…want to remind kids about a lunch time meeting? Write the message and schedule it to be sent out right before the lunch time bell.

8.       Remind keeps a history of every message that was sent by a teacher. From this archived list, a teacher can choose to tweet the message or send it again. When you are working with teenagers…they may need more than one reminder…as you are aware. Also new is a feature which allows students to “vote” on a message using the following icons:

remind1

I can see this being extremely useful for teachers. Send out a message to your Basketball team like, “Are you available for a tournament on November 8? Check mark for yes, X for no”

I would recommend that you try Remind for your student/parent groups. There is no better way to send out timely information.

I was so impressed by Remind that I dedicated one of the sections in my iTunes U course (https://itunesu.itunes.apple.com/audit/COH9A39P2C ) to it.

Remind: a great way to send messages to your school group

remind3

I discovered Remind over 3 years ago through a fellow educator on Twitter. I tried Remind (at that time it was called Remind 101) and I was immediately impressed with the potential of this tool. I was teaching a class at the time and I had my kids test it for me. It was a great way to remind kids about upcoming exams and assignments and also remind them to bring certain materials to class. Kids today seem to always have their phones with them and text messaging is their number one way to communicate. I have tried many ways of getting information to students (daily announcements, emails, visual announcement (monitors in hallways), etc.) and I have determined that Remind is the BEST way for teachers to send announcements to their school communities. As a high school administrator and technology leader, I shared the tool with my staff (and at district technology PD sessions) and the feedback that I received was amazingly positive.

As we get back to school, here is a list of reasons why you should use Remind:

  1. It is easy for students and parents (not to mention teachers) to sign up for a class. Just post or project the info for your class. It takes literally seconds for a teacher to create a class…and it takes even less time for students and parents to sign up. Once a student texts the information below, they are asked to send their name and that is the last time that they can write a text response to any of the teacher generated messages.

remind

  1. Remind is great to remind kids about tests, assignments or anything else. I just finished sending a message to my Technology class…”Please remember to bring cameras to school for tomorrow’s class”.
  2. Remind works great for clubs and teams or any other groups that do not meet regularly. I used it for a Cross Country Running team that I was coaching and it was extremely valuable…it also prevented some major frost bite. I could send out messages like, “It looks like snow for the race tomorrow…make sure you dress WARM!” When we are at a XC meet and my athletes are separated, I can use the Remind app on my iPhone to let them know where to meet.
  3. Teachers can send messages using Remind and they do not share (or have access to) any personal information. No phone numbers are recorded. Teachers get a list of the members of their class based on what the student types in when they sign up.
  4. Remind can be used from your desktop or by using the app on your phone.
  5. Remind does not let you play favorites…when you send out a message it goes to EVERYONE who is signed up. Our Provincial Teachers’ Association reminds us that having personal text conversations with students is not a good idea.remind4
  6. There are a few new features that are quite useful. Now, teachers can send attachments or record voice notes and send those out. Messages can also be scheduled…want to remind kids about a lunch time meeting? Write the message and schedule it to be sent out right before the lunch time bell.
  7. Remind keeps a history of every message that was sent by a teacher. From this archived list, a teacher can choose to tweet the message or send it again. When you are working with teenagers…they may need more than one reminder…as you are aware. Also new is a feature which allows students to “vote” on a message using the following icons:.remind2I can see this being extremely useful for teachers. Send out a message to your Basketball team like, “Are you available for a tournament on November 8? Check mark for yes, X for no”

I would recommend that you try Remind for your student/parent groups. There is no better way to send out timely information. I was so impressed by Remind that I dedicated one of the sections in my iTunes U course to it.

If you have any other uses of Remind, please share them in the comments section below.

Team Teaching

20140217-214743.jpg
Recently, at a PD session, I ran into a former colleague with whom I used to team teach. Since we have not worked together in a decade or more, it was fun to reminisce and remember some of the memorable (not to mention funny) times that we had. We both taught Applied Mathematics (gr. 12) and our teaching styles were pretty similar. One year, we asked the AP that created the school schedule if our two sections of the math course could be scheduled at the same time, in the same room. The schedule worked out and, between the two of us, we had 70 students in one room. We team taught the course for the next few years after that. We have since left that school and now we both work as AP’s at different sites. As we were chatting, another AP overheard what we were talking about and came over to take part in our discussion. He said that he has two teachers working at his school who are planning to team teach and he was wondering if we could share any words of wisdom. We thought about it…we had to think hard because our team teaching was never forced or awkward. It evolved from having a great relationship with each other, and a similar view of teaching and the teacher’s role in the learning process. We were a really good team because we each brought different skill sets to the classroom. Al was the tech guru and I was more of an X’s and Y’s guy. He could show a solution on a graphing calculator or other technology while I showed the same solution algebraically. Students were able to connect with this approach. We got so good at working together that we were actually able to finish each other’s sentences.
As I think more about my experience with team teaching, there are a few more things that made us a successful team.
Sense of humour – We had a ton of fun! We joked around with each other and with the kids. We really played off each other and the students had a great time. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all fun and games. The learning was done through activities which were fun and we were always able to connect a funny story to what the students were learning. There was definitely a time to laugh and a time to learn.
Trust – We trusted each other as colleagues, and as friends. We knew that we had each other’s back and we would always stand as a united front. Our students never tried to play one of us off against the other. I never felt like I needed to compete with my teaching partner. We would help each other out. For example, if one of us was explaining something, the other one was walking around the room, checking for student understanding or giving one on one help.
Willingness to work hard – I think this was the key to our success. We worked hard for our students, planning lessons and building learning activities. We tutored our students outside of class and communicated often with parents. We had a one day turn around policy. When students wrote an assessment, it was graded and returned the next day. We believe that our students worked hard because they saw us working hard.
Communication – Obviously, we communicated with each other extremely well. We also communicated with our students and had them set goals and keep a portfolio of their learning. At the end of each unit, each student returned the summative assessment (signed by their parents) with a reflection sheet. This information was added to their portfolio along with any other pieces of learning evidence (quizzes, projects, etc.). If a student missed an exam, we had the student contact their parents the next time we saw the student in class. We only had to do that a few times before we had 100% attendance on exam days.
High expectations – We expected a lot from ourselves and we expected a lot from our students. We expected our students to come to class daily and take an active role in their own learning. We expected our students to set goals and strive to achieve those goals. We expected students to make corrections on exams and quizzes and to attend tutorials if they did not understand something.
Wow…when I think back, team teaching was a ton of work…but well worth it! When both teachers are active, a truly positive learning experience can result. I have heard of teachers entering into a team teaching situation where only one teacher is in the room at one time and the other teacher goes for coffee. This is not the way to team teach. Team teaching is truly that…teaching as a TEAM.
As a result of our team teaching experience, we would encourage any teachers to try it. Before you do though, make sure you have the right partner…very important.
It is always rewarding to bump into former students who we taught as a team. They remember the goofy stuff that happened and many of them say the phrase that I love to hear…”You made Math fun!”

Book Review – Wonder

Wonder by R. J. Palacio is an amazing book that everyone should read. It is beautifully written and can be read by people of all ages. Everyone in my family has read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. As an educator and a parent, I found this book really interesting, thought provoking and inspiring.

Wonder is the story of August Pullman, a boy who was born with a facial deformity. Up until the time that Auggie is 10 years old, he had not attended a mainstream school. The book tells the story of Auggie’s first experience at school. The great part about the book is that it tells the story from many perspectives…his sister, his friends and classmates, and his sister’s friends. It is interesting to read how Auggie’s condition affects the lives of others. There is one particular story about Hallowe’en costumes that had an impact on me. The facts of the story were the same but the emotions of the story are diffferent when it is told by Auggie and when it is told by his sister. That’s all I will say about that story, I don’t want to ruin for you. Palacio does an excellent job of changing her writing style based on the character who is telling the story…totally believable!

With inclusive education and more and more students with special needs in our schools, this is an important book. It is a quick read and it shows us that special needs don’t just affect the individual who has them.