Genius Hour Comes Full Circle…

As this year came to a close it marked four years ago I closed the end of a school year as a classroom teacher. It was four years ago that I stepped out and tried Genius Hour in my classroom and it was four years ago that I began to put together my story to share with others in my region of Texas and later the state of Texas the message of Genius Hour.

About mid-February of this year requests for proposals to present for Summer professional developments in my region and state started to hit my inbox. I had pursued and presented for the last three years on the topic of Genius Hour. Personally, my life as a mom and event coordinator had become exponentially busier. I had not gained a lot of traction where I had the most direct influence to implement Genius Hour. I felt like, while I whole-heartedly embrace Genius Hour, I did not have the same relevant message to share with audiences when it came to the implementation of Genius Hour.

As I was making the decision to “stand down” from presenting, a teacher in my district on another middle school campus reached out to me. Amy Nolan, an 8th Grade Speech and Communications teacher, contacted me to tell me her story with Genius Hour. Evidently she had attended two of my sessions over the past three years and had taken the leap to implement this past year. She was full of enthusiasm and full of individual student success stories. Crazy thing… she said it was all due to me. What?!?!? How could this be?

Funny how sometimes when you decide you might be done with something, events and circumstances say otherwise. Shortly after Amy shared her story with me I received an invite from a neighboring district to present on Genius Hour and within the same week an invitation to present to pre-service teachers at Texas Women’s University. I knew I had to accept, however, not as a sole presenter, but as a co-presenter with Amy. My message with her current experiences and successes brought relevance and fresh experience to the table.

As Amy and I planned, Amy realized there was yet another educator that was impacted by the Genius Hour message shared by me. This was yet another Speech and Communications teacher at an additional middle school campus in our district, Tambra Goode. Through Amy sharing with Tambra the information from one of the presentations of mine Amy attended, Tambra ran with the idea of Genius Hour. From the information shared via a PLC came the Truett Wilson Middle School “Project Change The World.” Of course, she too needed to be part of the story.

Ashes Matches Sparks Flames blog picToday, all three of us shared our stories with another group of educators in a neighboring district. I love how my presentation has evolved to include an even better way for students to begin the process of discovering their passions via Amy Nolan’s design called “Ashes, Matches, Sparks and Flames.”

We are still fine tuning the pieces of our presentation together, but now my story has come full circle. What I have shared is now being implemented and shared with those that I inspired and then inspired others. I am renewed and inspired once again as I first was with this message of Genius Hour. I am reminded again of how important it is for our students to learn from a place of passion, to learn with a desire to serve others with their learning, and confidently share their passions through uniquely and creatively designed processes and products. As Derek Sivers states, “Everybody’s ideas may seem obvious to them… but what is obvious to me may seem amazing to someone else. We should just put it out and let the world decide.”

I am once again renewed in my message of Genius Hour and it is all thanks to Amy Nolan and Tambra Goode taking the time to let me know that the message I shared impacted them and the many students they taught and will teach.

I wonder how many who have impacted me along the way needed to hear the difference they made in my life and as a result impacted the lives of my students? I am making my list right now. Make someone’s day and let them know. Let’s be part of bringing it full circle.

(To know more about Genius Hour, please visit my Google Site: Genius Hour by Kirsten Wilson)

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The Tried, the True, the Google…

Many educators on Twitter, when discussing the collaborative features of Google, know it’s not a novel concept.  It is interesting to me how a new tool or an updated platform can get our blood pumping. Yet, in a few weeks we are thirsty for another new platform, update or idea.

What I have found, as an instructional technology coach, is that the tried and true tools become consistently my go-tos for myself and for the teachers I support. Google accounts, in particular the accounts created for our district, have become that tool. I love the share feature in all platforms of Google.  Learning how the share feature works in one facet of Google transfers to other platforms in Google.

Collaborating in Drive for items like lesson planning, drafting an outline for professional development, or setting up questions with an expert panel for an upcoming Twitter chat, increase efficiency, focus on collaboration and provide intuitive features like the instant updating, which is priceless.

Students working together in Slides to co-present a Professional Based Learning product, plan a student-led session on coding or collaborate on a product cross content areas and then sharing globally provides a sense of purpose and student ownership to learning.

And then their is the magic of Forms. Counselors are using it to create a way for students to request a visit. Teachers are creating a short-cut to the form on their iPad so they can do their progress monitoring without stopping instruction. Principals are utilizing the form to collect data on focused walk-throughs and then taking the responses they have recorded and sending immediate feedback to their teachers. I could go on.

We have just barely begun to tap the potential of our Google Accounts on the campuses I support, but already I see transformation. Even more exciting is how students, teachers and administrators are embracing the power of the Google Site. The initial intent with Google Sites were to create ePortfolios and will continue to be our main focus with Google Sites, but the other ways Sites are being used to continue to make our learning environments global and our audiences authentic amazes me.

eric-schmidt

Google Accounts are a tool that has continued to develop and grow.  It is through the collaboration of people at Google, the creativity of learners worldwide and the willingness to take a great tool and continue to explore its abilities, that make this a platform that I will continue to encourage my teachers to go to for transformational products and learning. Other tools may come and go, but Google Accounts is here for the long haul. It is, after all, tried, true and most of all transformational.

Is it time for a ROLE Revolution?

On Sunday I had the privilege of hosting #txeduchat.  The topic was “Results Only Learning Environment” based on the book ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes (@markbarnes19).

For a review of the book I refer my blog followers to my good PLN friend Joy Kirr’s (@joykirr) post on her blog last year ROLE Reversal Review.

Some may wonder why I have become so interested in this approach.  I have posted about my observation of ROLE at Coppell Middle School East.  I have further examined the idea of student driven learning and creating an autonomous learning environment.  My last post “What is a #growthmindset?” explains the connections that have occurred from the reading, conversations and professional learning opportunities I have had in the past few months.

All of this learning has me wondering… no inspired…. hmmm, no, more like fired up. Yes! Fired up.

I learn and lose sleep in my passion for learning. I gain great satisfaction and contentment when I set a goal, and even though it is a challenge, through perseverance reach that goal.   Why would I not want the same experience for my students and teachers? A joy for learning, if you will, well defined in @shareski’s presentation, “Whatever Happened to Joy.”

Yet, we continue to try to take some of the pieces of student-driven learning theory and retro-fit them to an antiquated grading systems and one-size-fits all curriculum. Instead of completely renovating from the ground up.

Every day I learn more about the ROLE approach.  I want to bring it to classrooms in my district, as I have never seen students transform into self-driven learners with such authenticity as I have with ROLE.  This approach seems to be made to stick.

#nbtchat meme

There are a few parameters with a true ROLE classroom… no homework and no grades.  Teaching must follow the workshop model approach and discipline is not an issue.

Intrigued? So were those that joined me when I hosted the #txeduchat on ROLE.

The following is a snapshot of the Tweets and links that were shared.

Q1A1 aA1 bA1 cQ2A2 aA2 c

@markbarnes19 blog post on Homework

A2 fQ3A3 aA3 bA3 dA3 cA3 fA3 hQ4Mark Barnes A3

@markbarnes19 blog post on Feedback

A4 aA4 bA4 dExample of Student Rubric for peer/self evaluation by Charles Cooper @thrasymachus

A5 aA5 bA5 cA5Q6A6 aLinks to school doing a ROLE Type approachSedbury School links: http://leewaysudburyschool.org/testimonials

http://sudburyschool.com/testimonials

A6 c

There was a real sense of urgency for change.  Many wanted to know how.

Challenge to be brave

Suggestions and inspiration were shared.

For integration and becoming paperless:

Going paperless with ROLE

For taking it back to classrooms:How to get it goingTo continue the dialogue and stay connected:

Mark Barnes FB gradesTeacher’s Throwing Out Grades FB group sponsored by Mark Barnes: https://www.facebook.com/groups/teachersthrowingoutgrades/

As well as the upcoming book chat on ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes.  Anyone is welcome to join #suummerROLE if you are wanting to revolutionize education.  July 29th we will be discussing chapters 1 and 2.

I am ready to revolutionize education.  I am eager to put in motion ROLE.  I look forward to continued conversations about student-driven learning that fosters joy and autonomy.  If you still need some convincing I leave you with this:

Anti WS memeWill you join the ROLE Revolution?

 

Link to #txeduchat archive for July 13, 2014:

http://txeduchat.com/2014-twitterchat-archives/07-13-14-chat-archive

What is a #growthmindset?

Recently a fellow colleague, @LisaDegnan1 and #newbie blogger (Blog: Teaching and Learning With and Through Others) shared the excitement of self-directed autonomous professional development.

Lisa Degnan

Lisa Degnan and Husband

With her permission I am “re-blogging” her post titled “Best Summer Professional Development”

“Have you ever written curriculum?  Looking at the standards, breaking down the TEKS, and creating assessments that will address the standards has been one of the best professional development opportunities that I have had this summer.  It sounds tedious.  It sounds kind of boring.  Yes, even to my ears it sounds CRAZY!  But when you place great educators, creative thinkers, and motivated people in the same room… GREAT things begin to happen.

Sure, I have had some great PD opportunities this summer.  They have been fantastic.  I have notebooks of things that I would LOVE to try this school year.  I brought all that knowledge with me to our day of writing assessments. 

As our curriculum writing team began to formulate assessments, I was thinking of the many principles I was learning through my book study, Learning Targets: A Theory of Action.  The following quote from the book was something that I heard buzzing in my mind as I worked alongside my fellow writers: “The most effective teaching and the most meaningful student learning happen when teachers design the right learning target for today’s lesson and use it along with their students to aim for and assess understanding.” 

Knowing and understanding the learning standards for reading became key in developing assessments that would help identify student weaknesses, help drive teacher instruction, plan for future remediation and embrace real enrichment opportunities. And guess what?!  It WAS fun!  Working alongside knowledgeable educators that pushed my thinking and my level of understanding was FUN. It was also one of the best learning experiences that I have had this summer.

Professional development can present itself in a variety of ways.  It is the phenomenal speaker at a convention.  It is the inspiring Twitter chats that involve some of the brightest thinkers in the world.  It is staff development that causes you pause and rethink.  It is – for me – being in a room with a group of creative, inspiring, bright people that have come together to create assessments that are focused, purposeful, and challenging.  It may not have looked fancy and we had to pay for our own lunches, but what we did in one day – was nothing short of amazing professional development. 

We all have the ability to do this type of soul searching professional development with peers that inspire us.  We can do it each week with thoughtful and intentional lesson planning.  We can talk to other dedicated professionals and ask for their input, their insight, and their opinions.  We can change how we have done things in the past to incorporate what we know is best for our students. It is part of being fully present.  It is part of loving what we do.  It is part of being highly effective educators.

My thought for today is… #JustDoIt !  You will be so glad that you did.

Lisa perfectly captures the unbridled joy of learning.  When you are you are driven from within the reward isn’t the professional development hours you receive, the possible payment you may be given for time spent writing curriculum or the accolades or praise from others, but rather the joy one has when they know they have met the target… the achieved synergy of ideas that affirm why we do what we do… the flip of a switch that makes the struggle getting there the energy that drives one to keep going.

dan pink flip switch quote

I too am reading Learning Targets by Moss and Brookhart.  What is exciting to me is I read this once before shortly before I learned about #geniushour in the spring of 2013.  I really liked what the book was saying, but I wasn’t sure how to do it.

learning targets

It did plant a seed.

The student being self-directed and assessing their own learning stuck with me.

It became a reality in the spring 2013 when I implemented #geniushour in my classroom.  For some reason, I was able to play out much of the approaches suggested in Learning Targets first through a situation where each student had their own designed target for learning.  I learned a lot about being specific as I coached my students and refined the process of feedback from me and their peers.

feedback book

This spring, a full year since I read Learning Targets the first time, I wanted to learn more about effective feedback.  I shared this desire with a mentor, Principal Cathy Sager, who recommended I read Feedback: the Hinge that Joins Teaching and Learning by Pollock.  This further refined my thinking and practice on feedback.  One of the most convincing arguments for student led feedback was in a story about a high school teacher, Ian Mulligan, who, at first thought the process of student led feedback would take too much time.  What he realized was “when students sought and received peer feedback frequently in class, there were fewer interruptions or disruptions, and students stayed more focused so they actually covered more material more deeply than before.”(Pollock, p.52)

While reading Feedback  I visited Coppell Middle School East to observe Results Only Learning Environment(ROLE).  I saw the power of good scripted feedback.  I was obsessed.  I wanted to consume anything and everything that could create a learning environment where learning was purposeful, effective, focused and, most of all, student-driven.

I was having FUN, much like Lisa.  FUN knowing that I was putting the pieces of a puzzle I began long ago.  This puzzle started when I studied the Autonomous Learner Model by George Betts in the late 90’s.  Then the puzzle took a more definable shape when I found a way to take the benefits of what happened in #geniushour and apply it to concepts and targets in content we are responsible to teach through the discovery of the ROLE approach.

It doesn’t stop there.  I continue to learn via conversations, conferences, Twitter and blogs (just like Lisa). But the biggest “Aha!” has been as I re-read Learning Targets while reading Drive by Daniel Pink.  Pairing the practical “how to” of Learning Targets with the philosophy of Drive has me sleep deprived IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SUMMER and I don’t care.  Why?  Because I can’t wait to share and work alongside teachers like Lisa as we transform instruction. My mind won’t stop thinking of the possibilities.

ROLE book

What is even more crazy is that I am reading another book called ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes (If you want to join me I will be hosting a book chat July 29th- September 2nd: https://sites.google.com/a/nisdtx.org/role-reversal-book-study/) .  It seems to take the philosophy of Drive and research of Learning Targets and melds the two into a dynamic that results in a complete overhaul where the best of how 21st century learners construct knowledge is met.

I continue to hold true to my “one word” FOCUS.  This addresses my FOCUS on student driven learning/motivation.

If we design a learning experience where students are self-driven and self-motivated as discussed in Learning Targets, Drive, and ROLE Reversal then they should be having just as much FUN learning and growing as Lisa and I do.  They will truly have developed a #growthmindset.

How are you having FUN in your personal professional development this summer?  As Lisa suggested, #justdoit!