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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#EdCampNOV8

Click on the #edcampNOV8 Thinglink (at date of post Thinglink cannot be embedded in a WordPress blog)
The Northwest ISD IT team, that I am a part of, hosted our first #EdCamp.  It was an exhilarating experience and I was amazed at all the new #EdCampers that attended.  I created the Thinglink above as a celebration, curation and brief reflection of the event.  Additionally, I have a fun 20 second video that I took capturing our autonomous learning #EdCampers moving to GoNoodle a free dance/exercise based online program for situations like indoor recess or incentive built physical education activities.

#edCampHome and #nisdpd: Taking Control of Your PD

Events:

January 4th, 2014 #edCampHome

January 6th, 2014 #nisdpd Northwest ISD Winter Professional Development Day

Premise of Events:

#edCampHome

Educators meet up through Google+ through pre-registered event organized by David Theriault, Kelly Kermode, Karl Lindgren-Steicher, and Shawn White

Pre-registered participants post in Google+ topics they would like to discuss or moderate and others can +1 or comment on that topic the day before

On the day an introduction occurs live in Google Hangouts, streamed through YouTube and followed through http://www.edcamphome.org while participants simultaneously chat/exhange ideas via Twitter. Once introductions are done and moderators are secured, invitations are sent to participants who have selected topics to participate via Google Form. Two sessions with this approach took place.

Finally, a Slam wrapped up where participants could enter into the Google Hangout and offer an application, insight or suggestion regarding some aspect of education and technology.

#nisdpd Northwest ISD Winter Professional Development Day

For the first time Northwest ISD Department of Curriculum and Staff Development turned to their own educators and expertise to provide one another the opportunity to share learning with one another. Teachers, Instructional Coaches and Curriculum Writers were given the opportunity to create, submit proposals and ultimately present relevant educational content for district employees. Participants were provided with a menu of options through an app that gave a brief description, time of scheduled PD and location.

Offerings were as vast in variety as any edCamp from what I could tell (my experience still is extremely limited). Often courses met needs for fellow colleagues that are in the moment and speak to the specific learning needs of the teachers in our district. There were two 75 minute sessions in the morning, with time for reflection and sharing on individual campuses in the afternoon. Size of the district created an interesting dynamic that resulted in secondary teachers attending professional development tailored to 6-12 grade on one high school campus and elementary teachers attending sessions tailored to K-5 instructional needs on the other high school campus.

My Role:

#edCampHome

This was my first edCamp. I was an active participant in the “Genius Hour/20% Time” and “GAFE Discussion.” I was very nervous about getting all the technology working right with the Google Hangouts (this was my first experience with Hangouts). Because of my naivete with Hangouts I played it safe with content and chose to go with content I was more familiar with rather than content I had no previous knowledge. I kept wondering if there was a protocol or etiquette to Hangouts as we met, and was I following it. However, I knew the premise from my previous research on edCamps was a round-table discussion and collaboration/sharing was essential to the success of a session.

Unfortunately, I had to leave before the Slam session was over but listened in for a little while. I hope to budget my time the next time I attend and edCamp where I can stay for the entire Slam.

#nisdpd Northwest ISD Winter Professional Development Day

I have presented at several of my District’s professional development days, but this one was different. Not only were Teachers given choice on what they would attend, but presenters were given full freedom to develop and design their training to offer. This was unprecedented and the excitement for those presenting and those participating was palatable.

During this time I was a facilitator for Eric Braun of 30Hands.com who joined us virtually through join.me and a presenter for Genius Hour. In both cases I was hoping to share ways that teachers can enhance instruction and student product through technology integration and challenge them to move into the modification and redefinition levels of learning with technology.

Reflection:

#edCampHome

This experience was a series of firsts for me. My first edCamp, Google+ active community, and Google Hangout. I was a bit overwhelmed before it even began and looking back I think that kept me from picking sessions I knew nothing about. I already was feeling like a fish out of water with all the firsts that were occurring to add to that seemed more than I was ready to process. Now I think I should have just jumped into it. I held myself back.

Despite the mistake of not jumping into unknown with more verve I did learn so much my mind was still swimming 24 hours later. I also fostered new professional relationships, and continue to have my theory that choice and social media (particularly Google+ Communities, Google Hangouts and Twitter) are the future of authentic educational professional development.

My take away that I want to explore more was from Nikki Robertson’s share during “GAFE Discussion” where she shared about her teachers using Doctopus and Goobric: http://www.nikkidrobertson.com/2013/12/google-drive-doctopus-goobric-pd-session.html

There was a word of caution from our moderator Ryan Archer, who had experienced some challenges with teachers becoming frustrated with these two Google Apps. I like the sharing and transparency that took place. Nikki’s exuberance and Ryan’s cautious bidding helped me to mentally prepare as I step into this new “try it.”

My wish was that I had not run out of time to participate. Because of time I had to leave before time was over for the Slam session for #edCampHome. This is where each person that signs up in a Google Spreadsheet Doc can share in 2 minutes or less a new technology application, idea or idea. I have heard the 20 minute Slam session is like winning the Technology Application Idea Lottery. The next #edcampHOME is in July… I will make sure to plan so that I am able to stick around for the Slam! (Here is the YouTube of the entire Instructional Before, Mid and Slam Session part of #edcamHOME: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8hvq4tHepw )

#nisdpd Northwest ISD Winter Professional Development Day

I loved this day for what it was… and the promise of what it may be progressing towards. In many ways, even though it was more structured and had more of a lecture/presentation format, it had the subtle undertones of an edCamp. People voted with their feet. Participants determined for themselves what they would attend based on their professional growth needs.

My perspective as a presenter was different from a participant, but I heard the buzz of excitement about what they learned in other sessions. I saw teachers immediately putting into action strategies, technology and instructional practices that afternoon and into the next day.

I sensed the journey of change that began about a year ago with professional development in our district, that was gradual before January 6th, go from ideas and conversations to a full on implemented head-long run into professional development designed, driven and delivered by teachers for teachers. I saw what had been pockets of collaboration blown wide open where sharing is at a frenzy, and teachers freely turn to their right or left in a room full of instructional engineers to further their own learning.

I am excited, as I said before, about the promise of what is coming. I don’t know fully what it is, but change is in the air for our district and the approach to professional development. The change, I sense is sweet and swift. It will challenge us all. It will redefine us all. Most importantly it will benefit our students and their learning in ways our imaginations can’t even begin to fathom.

Final Thoughts
While the two Professional Development opportunities I participated in were vastly different and my role was vastly different, they are similar in the deepest and most important way. They both provide choice and put the responsibility for growth and learning firmly in the hands of the educator. Traditional professional development frameworks address learning in a one-size-fits all, lecture style, sit-n-get, sage on the stage style. Both #edcampHOME and #nisdpd Northwest ISD Winter Professional Development were progressive and forward-thinking. Attendees of either or both left with knowledge and possibility that when acted upon will do what we all hope: make the experience and environment for learning for our students challenging, motivating, engaging and future-minded.

#eddies13 EduBlog Nominations

This is my first year to do this and I have been a bit intimidated by the process:

Best Individual Blog: Matt B Gomez

Best Administrator Blog: Engaged and Relevant by Brad Currie

Best Librarian Blog: The Unpretentious Librarian by Sue Fitzgerald

Best Twitter Hashtag: #ArkEdChat

Best Free Web Tool: Screencast-o-matic.com

Best Mobile App: TouchCast

Best open PD: Twitter

Lifetime Achievement: Dave Burgess author of “Teach Like a Pirate”

I have so many people that have shaped me and changed me in the past year that I really could add a lot more but I am worried that I am not going to make the deadline as it is.

Kirsten Wilson, M.Ed.