One of the ideas behind Genius Hour is to practice and refine researching skills. Because of that, students are required to have an annotated bibliography of 15 sources at the end of the year as part of their grade for Genius Hour. To keep this manageable, students are asked to show me a source every few weeks, which they keep on their Works Cited page on Noodletools, which is a citation database subscribed to through our Media Center (and it’s fantastic!). This was a difficult concept for them to understand at first because students didn’t identify looking up inspirational pictures and ideas online as “research”. I think at this point in the process they understand that anything they’ve used from another source is research and needs to be cited as such in Noodletools.
Last week, I decided to take this idea of research one step further when I introduced the idea of using Twitter and mobile apps as resources for their project. What? When I asked many of them how they use Twitter, I received answers such as, “I use it to vent about my life” or “I stalk celebrities” (joking, of course). They said, “Mrs. Polen, you can’t use Twitter to research!”. Hah! I had a blast showing them how useful it really was for Genius Hour. I told them that a hashtag is essentially a key word in a “Google” search-just a little more advanced. Many were shocked and actually did go on Twitter that period and found some great information which they then added to their annotated bibliography on Noodletools. Noodletools does a very effective job of keeping up with formatting changes within MLA, so the addition of citation options for Twitter and mobile apps was nice to see. I even gave the Noodletools folks a shout-out on Twitter for it-would definitely recommend for all teachers using Genius Hour in their classrooms.
Today, the first visual piece posted on a social media site was due to show to the class. I think this has been my favorite day so far because the students are proud of what they’ve done and loved showing off to the other students.
Here is one Tumblr account from a student who is building birdhouses to hang throughout the winter to help birds and she wants to rescue animals: http://www.tumblr.com/search/helpingwildlifegenius
I also showed a great video called “Honk if You Love Someone” about a man who created inspirational posters to show to people out on the streets; great inspiration for students on doing good deeds as a part of Genius Hour.
I love Fridays…
Last spring, Cara, my friend and colleague shared with me an article she read about Google’s 20% time for employees and how teachers are incorporating the same philosophy into their classrooms. A similar article about this can be found here:
It got me thinking and really contemplating how to incorporate this idea into my own curriculum. I’ve always been frustrated by the lack of emphasis on creativity in the classroom, especially with the onslaught of standardized testing in the last decade or so. Sir Ken Robinson says it best in his video “How Schools Kill Creativity”:
With the help of my colleagues, Cara and Nick, we began to outline and plan how to utilize this 20% time or Genius Hour, as it was called on Twitter (thanks @joykirr for all your great resources). We introduced it about six weeks ago and so far, so good. It’s been a lot of planning, brainstorming with students, presenting of ideas, conferencing with students and changing of minds, but I think we’re at a really great point in the process. All of my students have a project picked out and have presented them to the class and are now in the researching stage.
I wanted to start this blog to showcase my students’ work (and brag a little in the process) and keep parents updated on the progress of Genius Hour this year. So far, it has been an extremely rewarding experience to see my students go beyond their comfort zones and do what they did not think they could…the best part of teaching!
During class today, we started out watching a video called “21st Century Learning” to get the students talking about why we are doing Genius Hour this year.
Students began researching and putting resources into an annotated bibliography on Noodletools. Others set up their social media component of the project, which includes blogs on Tumblr, WordPress, Instagram accounts and Twitter feeds. Great start to the day-very inspiring!