Monday, February 23, 2015

Pure Genius Week 4: There Is No Plan

Although Don says that there's no plan for an innovation class, he shares a great description of how a typical week in his classroom runs and the expectations he has for his students. After reading this chapter, do you have ideas of how you could implement an innovation project or genius hour into your classroom? Or maybe you have ideas of some baby steps to adding innovation to your classroom. Please share those.

For next week, please read "Six Building Blocks of Innovative Learning."

37 comments:

  1. Our school is going to a new schedule next year, where we will have a 90 minute period every Thursday for "Enrichment". I feel this could be a great time to pilot a program like this at our high school for students who want to sign up. My only concern, is only working on it one day a week could cause some issues with students staying on schedule with their goals for their project. I am not sure how I could work it into an everyday occurrence in my Social Studies classes. While I really like the idea, I already feel pressed for time on the amount of material I need to cover in a semester. I think in my personal situation it would work better during our Enrichment period once a week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zach,
      We have a homeroom period every day, and I would like to use that time for trying the 20% idea. Alas, as an English teacher, I am required to hold remediation classes Monday-Thursday. Friday is our "club day," and so it could be an experiment during that time. I am sure there would be conflicts with other clubs, but at least it would be a start. Two-hour delays would also wipe out that time at our school. I will be curious how it works out for you, so I look forward to hearing more.

      Delete
    2. My middle school has a unique opportunity to create an innovative class in their “study skills/enrichment” classes. These classes allow the teacher to create a class without the limitations of standards or high stakes testing. Many times I have heard teachers complain because there is no specific direction for these classes but I see these classes as the perfect opportunity to create a class where the students are allowed to explore a project based, passion-based project with direction from the teacher. These teachers must be willing to take a chance, start without a direction and allow students to explore their own passions. The class may be chaotic, messy and exhausting, but with flexibility and persistence, this class could be the most rewarding of their entire careers.

      Delete
  2. This chapter came as a pleasant surprise to me. I needed to hear about the process, struggle, and failure within an innovation course. It made me feel better about how my Genius Hour enrichment time has gone this year. There have been moments of brilliance, but mostly my 7th graders and I have struggled to keep routine within our schedule. 2-Hour delays cancel our class time, students want class time to just work on assignments, 1:1 iPad monitoring for on-task work is exhausting, my inability to assist some projects makes me feel inferior... There have been plenty of set-backs, but mostly I've learned about students' passions and the relationships built have been worth every mishap. My 1 year old niece has hearing aides and is learning sign-language, and my students decided I needed a passion project too - and they volunteered to help me learn ASL! I was in tears. I strongly believe we learn through failure as much as from success, if not more. It's humbling, but I am loving 20% time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tara,
      I'm sure your students are loving the 20% time, too. I know my daughter benefitted from having you as a teacher, and the ones you teach now are lucky to have you. Still miss you here at SHS! The thought of starting 20% time, or Genius Hour, is daunting to me; I applaud your efforts. I am not surprised, however, that you are trying it! Learning about the students and forming the relationships is the key, and you've got that part. The rest will improve with time. Good for you!

      Delete
    2. That is SO great! I love the ASL idea and how great that your students were active in helping you decide to do that!

      Delete
  3. Starting with my 2nd period class would be one idea to try. This is my English 9 Honors class, and it is my smallest class with fifteen students. These are all bright, capable students who might like the idea of having the freedom to pursue a passion project. As Zach stated, I already feel pushed to cover the required standards, but this group has the ability and finishes units more quickly than my other classes, so it be would a nice place to experiment. I also teach one Current Events class, and this might be another period that could try this idea. I have all different ability levels in this class, so the speed with which different individuals work could be a stumbling block with this class. The baby steps I think I can handle are trying small projects and gradually working up to larger ideas and projects.

    I liked the examples this chapter gave - grounds maintenance and the coffee shop - were interesting to read about. I also appreciated the description of negotiating a grade with the teacher and the point distribution. I had wondered what Don considered when assigning grades in this class. The piece of advice that struck home with me the most concerned having students find their own mentors and contacts. Being able to keep these people as contacts for jobs and college references and scholarships made a lot of sense. Having an adult mentor could be very valuable for many students for many different reasons.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with Michelle, having the students find their own mentors seemed problematic. However, with social media and the internet, the students locating persons of influence maybe not that difficult. Tools such as Skype and FaceTime, ease the task of collaborating between the student and persons of influence. Students collaborating with persons of influence alone would be a worthy assignment.

      I too found the Special Needs Class Coffee Shop interesting. If other students did a similar project, this would be just the venture allowing students with disabilities to participate in activities that interact with their general education peers.

      The author's last sentence struck a chord with me, "Provide opportunities that allow students to take ownership of their education". Wouldn't it be wonderful if all students would have their own Individual Education Plan? Students with disabilities and IEP's participate in their education plan, often more than eight years! Just a thought.

      Delete
  4. As an 8th grade math teacher, I see potential in several topics/standards that relate to the real world for projects. One focuses on volume and surface area by challenging students to redesign a product's packaging and storage capabilities that would be an improvement on how that product is currently packaged and marketed. This gives students some creativity of choice combined with offering solutions to the very real dilemma of packaging waste, as well as providing calculations for multiples of volume, etc. which moves into the arena of bulk packaging. I am also considering that this design process could move into other topics/standards such as proportion and scale models which allows students to create their design in a model version with dimensions scaled to be manageable for almost any product. I don't know exact details of implementing this, but I am better understanding that a part of the process is that I don't need to figure it all out in advance.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My school is getting ready to transition to a block schedule with a flexible period every other day, and I am really interested in using some kind of innovative project to help with interdisciplinary studies and enrichment during our flex time. I'm pretty sure I have said this in another post, but it just gives some background info (I need refreshers sometimes).

    As I have dabbled with Genius Hour this year, I keep wrestling with the idea of grading and tying standards to the project. I have been fortunate to work with a teacher who is willing to just give time for students to devote to this project and we have not graded it; however, I know that moving forward I need to be able to offer some guidance with grading if I am going to help this take off with other teachers in my building. I am definitely going to keep the grading points in mind and consider them as I try to roll this out going forward.

    I am also going to see about adding the "vlogging" option for the class I will be working with starting in a few weeks. They did a test run of Genius Hour last quarter and HATED blogging (interestingly enough, they still did it, even though it wasn't for a grade - but they are sixth grade honors kids). Offering a vlog may be a fun way to shake things up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carli, I am so grateful for your work with our teachers and supporting them in awesome practice such as Genius Hour! I am very interested in utilizing Core+ and the Block schedule models we are going toward to build this into the culture of our school!

      Delete
  6. As a building level administrator I am trying to find a way to do it as an entire building. We are a 6-12 building so that adds a couple issues as well with scheduling as we go along. I have debated on whether or not we want to do it as a mandatory "class" during their SRT with them creating an online digital portfolio through something like live binders. What I would like to do is have them collect the digital portfolio and then at the end of their senior year give them the credit for a class like Don speaks of in the book. My concern is doing it during their SRT when they should be getting help with whatever they may need help with. I also am not sure if I want to make it mandatory or voluntary. Has anyone else looked at doing something like this for an entire building?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We've gradually brought it in - first with individual teachers. Next year I am hoping to get a team or two going. I think the interest needs to be there on the end of the teacher, as for many it is a major shift in the set up of their classroom. I am interested in exploring an application for students interested to apply to participate in an SRT version of Innovation.

      Delete
  7. I have found my first year trying Genius Hour in an after school club format to be quite challenging up to this point. Rebecca and I just talked about how next year we are planning on asking other teachers to come in and help with idea development. We have 13 kids in the group and not enough of the two of us to go around. Right now, I am doing a lot of the work to find mentors. We hope to put more of that into the students' hands next year. We will probably have a few sessions next year dedicated to this. Since our students are grades 2-6, their experiences with research and projects vary greatly. They need a lot of coaching from us. The great by-product of this group is that they will have confidence and independence in future projects throughout their educational career.

    ReplyDelete
  8. If I were to try this with a 7th grade social studies class, there are several international topics that touch us here in Indiana that would for good projects and/or research. With Purdue being in close proximity, the pool of mentors is large. I've always wanted to do PBL with an senior econ class. Again, there are several local patrons who would gladly mentor my students and receive the benefit of the results of their problem-solving activities and aid in the growth of small businesses. And meeting standards would happen without undue stress or focus while creating thinkers and problem-solvers needed in US society and business.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've been teaching juniors in AP U.S. History for over ten years now in a block schedule consisting of 90 minutes every other day. While I have not established the types of routines Don describes, it is quite a model. In more condensed opportunities I will designate something similar to a genius hour to push the bounds of innovation. I strive every unit to encourage passion to be explored and applied and developed into our final products. I also love the type of student/teacher dialogue and negotiation described in this chapter. I think that is very healthy communication and a valuable experience for students. This chapter gave me a lot to think about in re-evaluating my design in the future. The AP curriculum has changed so much this year that a more flexible approach is needed. Less emphasis on factual recall, the AP College Board seems to be promoting many of the concepts that would fall under the coffee shop metaphor.

    ReplyDelete
  10. As an elementary music teacher who only sees each class once/twice a week for 40 minutes each....this creates a problem. At an elementary level...students need a lot of teacher support. It could be possible with some of the older grades for that second time that I see them. It is worth looking into and evaluating how it could be used in elementary music. I could see it being used a lot more in the hs/ms performing arts settings when you see the students more regularly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I totally agree that at the elementary level, the students would require much more guidance . I am not currently in a teaching position, but I am working on renewing my license in music education. Most of my subbing in the past year has been in music at the elementary level. I saw my students once a week for 45 minutes. I thought maybe a composition day or an improvisation day would be an idea, using the skills taught in the previous month, but I'm just not sure it would fit in the time constraints.

      Delete
  11. I love this idea. Several colleges now have capstone projects and the 20% time could be used as a culminating activity in high school. Many students do not Pursue their passions because they don't have time or are not for sure what they are. I've been Thinking of ways to try this in my sociology class.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Students choosing their own topics and point values are great ideas but my favorite part of the proposed outline for the project is seeking an outside mentor/collaborator. I think this is genius. What a wonderful way for students to broaden their research options from just googling their topic. It will also give them an opportunity to meet some great people from their community, potential references and networking sources for the future, as well as gain a real world view of the project.

    ReplyDelete
  13. We have a technology class that students take if they are not involved in our music program that is structured similar to these ideas. It probably needs to be refined, but it is great for the students involved. As our music programs grow in strength and size, we are seeing fewer kids that get to experience this technology class. We are currently looking for ways to pull students maybe once a week to take part in the technology curriculum, but want to balance that we respecting our music teachers classrooms and time. We see great value in both programs and are somewhat confined within our master schedule. If anyone knows of middle schools that have created a creative schedule to build in these ideas, I would love to hear about them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Brian, we have two elective periods daily - for students who participate in performing arts, they are limited in their choices, since it takes up one of the two periods. However, we require a class (one quarter) called Digital Learning, which focuses on a wide array of technology skills and lends itself to creative programming. P. Arts students still have four other choices for electives even with the requirement of the tech class. If for some reason their course requests do not allow them to take the Digital Learning class, we offer Digital Learning 2 as a second requirement.

      Delete
  14. Since I am a Life Skills teacher, the ideas and examples in this chapter were not super relatable and applicable to our every day activities. I did however think that this may be something I could apply to our peer tutors. Every day we have 8th grade students come in and assist our students. How great would it be for them to possibly come up with some projects or ideas on ways to help our Life Skills kids be more involved in the school? Since students are SO tech savvy these days, maybe they could help us teachers and paras identify innovative ways for our students to utilize technology in the school day more.
    This chapter did relate to our class in another way as we are currently working with Purdue students on developing an innovative app for our more severe students to help them get more engaged in our daily schedules. They are totally creating with our input a brand new app for our students. So exciting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am a former Life Skills teacher at a middle school. This year I have a job working with teachers in the district as part of the special ed administration office. I like the peer helper idea. So many of the students that I had as peer helpers came in during their lunch or during a study hall. If it could have been used as a "class" that they could have more ownership of, it would have been very interesting to see where it could have led.

      Delete
  15. I incorporate project based, passion-based activities in my classes by allowing my library media students to choose the topics they use in their research or to learn the craft of videography by giving open-ended questions and time to explore and learn. I have my 16 students teach me how to make the videos and we explore questions and problems as they crop up. I know that I am in an unique position because I have so few students and am pretty open in what my students need to learn throughout the semester, but I think that others could do something very similar in their classes.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I’ve been trying to think of ways to incorporate innovation into the class. With a class of 44 in 6th grade band there is no computer lab big enough to accommodate all students for a research project. Like fellow blogger, Susan Taylor, I’m thinking a composition project would be more feasible. Many of the students want to play new or current music. At the beginning level, written contemporary music, i.e. pep band music, is just too difficult. I have taught them the Hunger Games Mockingjay Theme and they love it. My project could consist of partners on like instruments selecting a song or theme they would like to learn. Points could be determined by how much of the song they will play - the chorus, a verse, or motif. Then I could give the students class time to figure the song out. They could use me as a mentor or perhaps a parent or upper class band member for assistance. There is a Salem Band Facebook page that they could blog on and I like the vlog idea, it would be nice to see them in action. The groups could then perform their “project” for the class and even teach the class how to play it. A plan for “There is No Plan.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jean...don't forget your librarian. Speaking for myself, I would love to collaborate with my band teacher on a project like this. Maybe a couple groups could work in the library with the librarian on the "research" arm of the project while the rest of the class works with you in your classroom on the "application" arm. Groups could rotate until everyone has a chance to research.

      Delete
    2. I think the research arm would be a great addition to the composition project. I totally forgot about the book connection to the Hunger Games movies. Now I am also thinking Harry Potter and other movie/book projects. Thanks so much for your suggestion. (Sorry my reply is delayed, just noticed your response as I was checking my previous blogs.)

      Delete
  17. I am in the same boat as Lindsay but I teach PE in an elementary setting. Time is very limited, only 40 minutes per week and in that time I have PE, math and reading standards to cover. When I was a middle school teacher I would have been able to have the students do a three to five week project. Our school is presently doing PBL projects in each grade level. I would love to have a group of students and have them create a project that would relate to PE but time is the enemy. I think it would be fun to work with my fifth graders and have them create a project relating to sports/movement.

    ReplyDelete
  18. My best opportunity to introduce this type of project to a group of students would be during our homeroom period. This would not be ideal due to time constraints and other activities that are scheduled during this time. My other thought would be to collaborate with a teacher that is interested in exploring using the 20% idea in their classroom. I am excited about allowing students to explore their interests and the opportunity to develop passions that can drive their development and impact on their futures. Exploring the use of mentors lends relevancy to the projects which is very appealing to me.

    ReplyDelete
  19. My best opportunity to introduce this type of project to a group of students would be during our homeroom period. This would not be ideal due to time constraints and other activities that are scheduled during this time. My other thought would be to collaborate with a teacher that is interested in exploring using the 20% idea in their classroom. I am excited about allowing students to explore their interests and the opportunity to develop passions that can drive their development and impact on their futures. Exploring the use of mentors lends relevancy to the projects which is very appealing to me.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I teach resource English in high school. I currently teach three different sections of English. To let my students just "go" and do their own thing would be total chaos. I see myself being a very integral part of the 20% program with my students. If I were going to do this, I would choose my English 11 class, which is smaller than the rest of my classes. I would probably use the whole class as a group for the beginning of the process. There would have to be many instances of repetition, so that the students could start to absorb the learning process. I love the idea of students further investigating what they want to learn and discover. The students in my class would have to take baby steps in order to achieve success.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I teach a very scripted remediation course and this is the difficult part of the course. I greatly miss the flexibility and the options to let students have freedom and creativity. Things that I learned from trying this in the past is that students need very clear cut mini goals and things to create with deadlines to help them time manage throughout projects like this.

    ReplyDelete
  22. It was interesting how they incorporated a genius hour. I would love to do this in my classroom but at this time it is not possible. At least once a year I have the students create a playground or an exercise route. The students have to explain why they created their exercise area and how it would improve their health. The one problem I have is the extremely small timeline for the students to work in.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I have not incorporated a genius hour yet in either of the buildings I work in. My buildings are kindergarten through 8th grade and I have a fixed library schedule. I see students between 30 and 40 minutes once per week depending on which building I am in. I have considered having genius hour as an after school program but both schools are rural and transportation is an issue. I have not given up genius hour and hopefully will find a way sooner rather than later to give my students this opportunity.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I found this chapter interesting. I can see how a science, history, English and many other disciplines could make use of these projects. I think it would be hard to implement in a math class. So much of my time is spent making sure that students get enough practice with the key skills, it is hard to imagine having any time left to run all of these projects. Still, I find the idea so intriguing I want to do more research this summer to find out how I could apply this to a my Algebra I class. I loved the idea of using video blogs or blogs to document results.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I have been pondering the thought of having students "create" a class website that they then update weekly themselves. I know this may not be innovative in the general idea, but it is something new that I don't know of any teacher in life-skills in my area having done at this point. My hope is that each week the students would choose a section of the website to update and decide what needed to be put on there. They would then be responsible for pictures if they were needed and such. I think I would have to create general sections as in my room my students actually do have to have those guidelines. I also like the idea of creating a video or recording section of it where students could enjoy that also. Still pondering and it is definitely not ready for parent notice.

    ReplyDelete