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)

Advertisements

Content, Collaboration and Curation…

Social media has moved from truly a “social venue” to a way that educators, parents and professionals learn, collaborate, share and ultimately gather (curate) information.  Those who have made that “mindshift” from “social” to “learning” know that with a 140 character tweet, post or search for a “pin” on their topic they are a little closer to a personal level of expertise than before they engaged in social media.

So the next question, once you have the information you searched for or just came across in your “lurking,” is what do you do with this information once you have it so you can come back to it, share it, or even add to it?

That is where curation comes into play.  I have my favorites and a few tips. Here are the ones I am most familiar:
Pinterest logo

Pinterest is probably the best reflection of who I am in all areas of my life. I curate specifically for other purposes with other venues that I will mention below, but Pinterest is where I collect for all areas of my life. Pinterest is also a great place for a single image idea or curation by specific topic. Sharing with this is as open or closed as you choose. You can have secret boards (a friend of mine had one when she was planning her wedding) that you only invite a few people to share, or it can be open. The other great thing about Pinterest is that, like me, many people curate their life. While I may love a fellow curators boards on organization, I may not share their interest with water sports. I can choose to only follow certain boards to keep my follows focused to what interest me.
I am still learning how to share out with others and Pinterest has really updated this in the last few months, but I don’t like to post every Pin to Twitter or Facebook… that tends to annoy my Twitter followers and Facebook friends. I have noticed that a good “housecleaning” or “reorganizing” of your boards or reposting is a unobtrusive way to share/collaborate. I recently did this and the reposting of my posts I had reorganized/reposted was epic.

Scoopit Logo
Scoop.it was introduced to me through a PLN chat #nisdNOV8 moderated by our District’s Instructional Technology team. It was my answer on how to keep track of all the great information I was collecting/learning on Twitter but was struggling to absorb the vast amount of information I was coming into contact with and wanting to be able to digest with more depth. Not to mention, once I determined the information as beneficial to my learning, I needed a way to turn around and share. Scoop.it was that answer. I will warn you it is addictive and you can have up to 5 Scoop.it boards for free, but then you must pay for more. My need to be micro-organized could not be accomplished in 5, so I pay $6.99 a month for an education account to be able to have up to 20 boards. Currently I am utilizing it for scoops that are related to educational technology and the sub-topics that relate to the vastly growing and necessary componenet of technology in education. I have found that the ability to share the entire board, a single scoop and the suggestions for scoops it provides me helps enhance the content I am already curating from my PLNs on Twitter. I also like this method of curation as it has the opportunity for people to follow each individual board, make suggestions and respond to each individual scoop.

Flipboard logo

Flipboard is my most recent curation exploration. I am truly using this application for more lengthy text/online magazines and for educational topics such as leadership development, collaboration, curriculum design and classroom approaches from a practice and philosophy essential for effectiveness. I still struggle with “flipping” content I find outside of what Flipboard “hosts” but am finding ways to import.

Of course there are a ton of other options when curating. My former principal successfully utilizes
paperli logo

I have dabbled in the utilization of
Youtube pic

No matter the medium used, there are a few things I suggest you ask yourself:
1) Will your curation make sense to others with whom you share?
2) What is the purpose of your curation?
3) How will you orgainize it for ease of curation and those that will be hopefully benefitting from your curation?
4) How will you determine an item appropriate for curation? Will you read it all the way through? Do you consider the reliability of the original source?
5) How will your curations reflect you as a person and professional?

Above all, share your learning… Tweet it, email it, Pin it or Facebook it. You benefitted in some way enough you felt it worthy to curate. Of course, honor the author or the origin of the curation, but then “Pass it on!”

Please feel free to comment on this blog other ways to curate as well as comment if any of the ways mentioned are beneficial to you as well. Look for additional blog posts about other methods for curation in the future… guest bloggers are welcome!!!!

“From Creeping to Curating”

As I write this, I think about the list of items I have waiting in the wings to blog about. However, I am compelled to write about Twitter and an educator’s role to be connected in this 21st century world. I realize I have already written about Twitter ad nauseam, but a recurring concern pulls at my heart and keeps my mind in a state of unrest.

It has been brewing in the depths of my reasoning for sometime, but was brought to the forefront with a recent discussion on one of my Twitter chats where the question was posed “Do we have an obligation as connected educators to bring along those that haven’t connected?” and “What is the impact if those educators don’t connect?” Along with that chat are the multitude of conversations that I have recently had where Educators express their sincere anxiety about Twitter and “speaking out in a public forum.”

So I have decided to write about my own journey. I don’t know how to tell you personally how to move from “creeping” (that is when you just read all the Twitter feed of people you follow) to curating (where you collect content into some sort of organized online collection) information shared with you from the multitude of Twitter chats you regularly participate and contribute to. My hope is that by sharing my story it will give those the courage to move past the anxiety and experience the world of possibility as a connected educator reaping the benefits of being connected with other passionate, committed. student-centered educators.

Before I get started, I want to add a disclaimer. This is meant for the genuinely passionate learner at heart. Those that seek to become fully engrossed in the Twitter Ed world but hesitate because of the intimidating frontier of the unknown. Those of you that easily Facebook, Tweet social statuses, and occasionally show up in a chat or tweet an occasional educational link… this blog is not meant for you. You have the tools, you have just not caught the bug to fully engage in Twitter as a tool for learning, collaboration and professional development. I could do an entirely different blog on this.

So here is my story:
August of 2012 I attended a leadership academy held by our district. We were encouraged to all start Twitter accounts if we didn’t already have one, and get started. We were encouraged to Tweet during the entire conference, but for so many newbies in one room it was clunky, disorganized and sometimes very distracting, not the way back channeling is meant to be (we will get back to the term of back channeling later in the post). On the positive side, it forced us all to at least try Twitter. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a real purpose or guidance via face to face or through online links on how this Twitter thing really worked to our benefit. At that time it was just another Facebook, but limited me to 140 characters. Anyone that knows me, being limited in the amount I could say was difficult at best… I was sticking to Facebook.

I think I checked my Twitter account once every week, usually on the weekends for updates on College Football from ESPN and my favorite follow @RazorbackFB. I had no idea there was a whole world of educators connecting, collaborating and curating.

Then in early January I had a brief but life altering conversation with our campus Instructional Technology Support Teacher. She had witnessed my passion for technology integration in my classroom, my love to inspire my students, and my willingness to try new things. Casually she asked me, “Have you tried Twitter from a professional development perspective.” I laughed and said “No, not at all.” She then said, “I think you would enjoy it, why don’t you try lurking on the district’s chat this week?” I remarked, “Sure, what do I have to lose?” All the while thinking, “I have been on Twitter and I don’t think it’s all that special.”

By the way, for those of you that aren’t sure of the difference between creeping and lurking. Creeping is where you jump around on Twitter following random Twitter feeds without a particular focus. Lurking, on the other hand, is where you purposefully follow a specific chat (noted with a hash tag #) and intently read or lurk on that chat with intentional focus to gain something.

So early January I lurked on a chat. I didn’t make it through the 30 minute chat before I was “Tweeting.” I will admit, my Tweets were a bit awkward. I didn’t fully understand when to re-tweet, favorite or quote and denote a MT (modified tweet). The amazing thing is how gracious everyone was. They seem to assess my level of ability and praise my step of courage to “Tweet” while being gracious and understanding where my level of proficiency was with Twitter. That was the foundation that paved the way for more exploration.

Somehow I started following @thomascmurray and @bcurrie5, Godfathers in the Twitter World. By late January I was asked by @thomascmurray through Twitter to post a testimonial about how Twitter had impacted me as an educator. At that point I had only been actively participating in chats for three weeks. (See my first blog post.) In that time I felt compelled to start the blog you are currently reading. After spending time watching and learning from the best on Twitter, it seemed to be the next step.

Shortly after that I read a blog post by @bcurrie5 titled “Connect Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself” http://www.bradcurrie.net/2/post/2013/02/connect-yourself-before-you-wreck-yourself.html that provided a step by step process to fully engage me into the world of Twitter as a Professional Development tool.

At the same time I saw another follow, I had somehow acquired, repeatedly Tweet about a book titled “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess. This contact @iamkesler was going to be conducting an online book study. Of course I was game. I ordered the book, signed up for the book club and got ready to participate in my chat with #tlap.

At this point I was actively participating in my district’s general chat and district’s technology focused chat. My rate of consumption of knowledge had grown exponentially and strange things were happening to me. The instruction in my classroom had changed. I was becoming more engaging and the level of student engagement had increased. My willingness to try new things with technology and flexibility with implementation had changed drastically for the better. On top of that, I was seized with Twitter-itis and sharing to anyone that would listen. When a conversation couldn’t take place, I resorted to sharing the links from Twitter via email. I was consumed with the fact that Twitter was a treasure that needed to be unearthed.

In late March, after successfully hooking my Principal, I shared out with our Technology leadership team the praises of Twitter. (see my blog “Learning “Twitter-ese”:Spreading the Twitter Message”)

At this point the amount of learning I was ingesting was at such a high rate I knew I was forgetting far more than I was able to consume and hold on to, and it was worth holding on to! Then in early April when I was participating in my district’s technology chat I learned about curation. This was a Tuesday. I had a conversation on Wednesday with my principal about it and by Friday I had done my first curation in Scoop.it for a class ecosystem activity. I have since added so many curations on Scoop.it I have purchased an educators account to have more than the initial five that are free. (Feel free to follow or scoop me at http://www.scoop.it/u/kwilson01)

Then that same chat PLN invited my principal and I to co-moderate a chat about “Designing the Learning Experience.” in late April. I was a proud mother hen that night as many of my colleagues jumped in and participated. A few even gained the courage to start participating in other chats. The message was spreading.

But it doesn’t stop there. I just launched a pilot #geniushour in my classroom. All because of the contacts, collaboration and encouragement of fellow educators on Twitter.

So this is my story. It was a slow smoldering burn for a long time, and then began burning with an intensity that continues to burn without any signs of diminishing.

If you are still with me and are still reading, you may be thinking, “Okay, nice story, but where do I start?”

1. Get your feet wet. Participate in a chat where you know another Twitterer or in a small district chat where the feed doesn’t move fast or overwhelm you.

2. Try Retweeting items you feel are worthy being repeated or you were thinking the same thing. Favorite quotes you like or resonate with you, or just to show your support of a fellow Tweeter.

3. Google questions you have about Twitter, read blogs that offer tips, check out my Scoop.it about Twitter for PD http://www.scoop.it/t/utilizing-twitter-for-pd-purposes and put in your calendar the chats you want to remember to participate in with a reminder 15 minutes before they start.

4. Don’t stress out with all the “rules” to follow on Twitter. Some have rules about keeping your follower-ship tidy, suggest tools to do so, and say that you should still use proper grammar and spelling in 140 characters. Honestly, most people just want you to be nice, transparent, honest, real, collaborative and encouraging. If you are nice, most are nice to you. Do thank those that follow you. Do let those that encourage you, re-tweet your tweets and take a personal interest in your professional journey know how much you appreciate them. I refer to my inaugural Tweeters that helped me become fully engaged in Twitter as part of my Twitter family tree.

5. Begin curating ideas, links and infographics you want to come back to from your Twitter chats. There are lots of different curation applications out there including PearlTree, PaperLi, Flipboard, Pinterest and my personal favorite, Scoop.it.

6. Set some goals for action based on what you have learned in your chats/Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and Tweet your experiences/successes.

7. Try back channelling. What is back channelling? That can be several things. In a live conference or professional development it is the side conversation happening on Social Media about that particular topic/learning among participants. It can be formally set up through a hash tag on Twitter, or on Edmodo or Today’s Meet. On a Twitter chat it is side conversations that happen with people in the chat regarding the topic but are a thread not showing in the main stream of Tweets because it is more a conversation between those few people and not necessarily meant for the entire chat group. (Don’t misunderstand the Tweets can still be seen, they are just not going to pop up in the main feed… hence back channelling.)

8. Spread the message, mentor a new Tweeter, and reflect from time to time on your growth.

9. Start a Twitter account for your class.

Twitter allows us to truly model for our kids “learning anywhere, anytime.” This video comes from one of my Twitter “mentors” and original members of my Twitter “family tree.” It provides a compelling and convincing argument for the need for all educators to be passionately connected.

Learning “Twitter-ese”: Spreading the Twitter Message

Twitter 101
August 2012 I created my Twitter “handle” at a leadership academy for our district. I didn’t look at it for months other than to check up on my sports news (I am a closet sports fanatic… no one would know it with my blingy jewelry and fake nails and pedicure :)). Beyond that I really didn’t see a purpose until January of this year. I am not sure what it was, but I was sitting in a Starbucks waiting for my own child to get out of practice and I started lurking on Twitter. Somehow I came across some pretty amazing Twtter-ers like Brad Currie @bcurrie5 and Tom Murray @thomascmurray. Next thing I know I am actively participating in 5 to 7 PLNs a week and am part of a book club for the book “Teach LIke a Pirate” by Dave Burgess @burgessdave moderated by Chris Kessler @iamkesler.
I may need an intervention, but Twitter changed my professional life. I love teaching. Twitter was the fuel that reignited my passion…not that I wasn’t intense, but reminded me how to love everything I do despite the things I dislike.
Like any great thing I find… I had to share it. So I did with my Principal, and anyone else who would listen. I hooked my principal. She was so excited that within weeks she asked me to facilitate a “How to” on Twitter. I think this is humorous, as I would NOT call anyone who actively started Tweeting in January an expert, but I am beginning to learn that an expert is just someone who is accessing the information at a faster rate than anyone else in that current environment. Thus, I am now dubbed the “Twitter Queen” (I have the crown to prove it:)). Above is a VERY basic quick powerpoint I threw together in about 15 minutes to help my fellow colleagues on my campus get started. It has some suggestions who to follow and PLNs to either lurk/creep or participate.

Challenge: If you Tweet and love it, spread the message (you are free to use the powerpoint if you like).
If you don’t Tweet and consider yourself a learner, follow my powerpoint and get connected… you won’t regret it.

I am still learning. I truly am not all-knowing when it comes to Twitter, but I am glad I didn’t delay any longer. Speaking “Twitter-ese” has transformed my world, raised the depth of collaboration with my campus colleagues, connected me professionally with amazing educators all over the world and made my students environment richer and more exciting. What are you waiting for?

Follow me on Twitter @teachkiwi

Sharing my new-found passion for Twitter

twitter pic

Sharing my new-found passion for Twitter

Through one of my fellow tweeters I was asked to share how Twitter has changed me as an educator.  Here is a video link I made for sharing with Quakerstown for a PD piece regarding developing a PLN.