Category Archives: social media in education

10 Reasons to Try Genius Hour This School Year

My good friend AJ Juliani is about to start a Genius Hour Master Course.  His passion for this topic and his ability to share his enthusiasm has made a significant difference with so many educators.

As this is a paid course, you can sign up here, and he is also offering a 20% discount if you use the following code to sign up:

20GEORGE

Below is a blog that is reposted from his blog and is great for those schools already using Genius Hour, or those looking to dive in.  Check out his post below and you will see just a sample of what will be shared.


Originally posted at ajjuliani.com.

If you haven’t heard of Genius Hour or 20% time in the classroom, the premise is simple: Give your students 20% of their class time (or an hour each week) to learn what they want. These projects allow students to choose the content and still acquire/master skills and hit academic starts.

I’ve written extensively about Genius Hour and 20% Time, but wanted to share a list of the 10 reasons you should consider Genius Hour in your classroom (for those of you on the fence) and why you will not regret making that choice!

Getting Started With Genius Hour via @ajjuliani

1. You will join a great community of learners

When I first did the Genius Hour project with my students I didn’t have a community of teachers or learners. Within months that changed as a number of great teachers before and after me started to share their stories online. The largest active group is the Genius Hour teachers (inspired by Daniel Pink) who have #geniushour chats, a big resource at GeniusHour.com, and a great Genius Hour wiki. Get involved and see what others have done!

2. You will allow students to go into depth with a topic that inspires them

One of the major issues we face in schools today is covering a wide breadth of information, instead of allowing students to get a real depth of knowledge. Students using Genius Hour and 20% time are able to delve into subject matter that means something to them, often times taking their free time at home to learn more. Isn’t this something we should be promoting at all levels?

3. There is so much positive peer pressure

When students in my school have their Shark Tank pitch day, they get to share with the entire class what they are working on. Publicly announcing what they are trying to accomplish makes the goal real. Students get to see what their peers are working on and want to make sure their project stands up to the rest of the class. Regardless of a grade being attached to the project, this makes for students going the extra mile.

4. It relieves students of the “game of school”

Too often our students complete assignments for the grade. They go through the motions to receive an external pat on the back (or bump on their transcript).  Genius Hour and 20% time take away the “game of school” and brings back the love of learning for learning’s sake.

5. It’s fun!

Randy Pausch famously said, “If you think you can’t learn and have fun at the same time. Then I don’t think you have a good understanding of either.”Without a doubt it is the best time of the week. Student feedback is not only positive, but also transparent. This work often carries back to their homes where parents/guardians share their passion for learning beyond the school walls.

Note: I am hosting a FREE Webinar next week, ¨Getting Started With Genius Hour: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Structuring Genius Hour (and my 5 Best Strategies for Engagement)¨Sign up here. 

6. Your class will be covering all types of common core standards

It doesn’t matter if you teach elementary, middle, or high school. The Genius hour and 20% time projects cover multiple common cores standards. We’ve had teachers propose this type of learning to their administration backed by awesome research. Remember, the community will help if you are fighting a battle to get Genius Hour or 20% time started at your school.

7. It’s differentiation at its best

Students are working at their level, and as teachers we should be helping to challenge each one of our learners at their best pace and ability. Because each project differs, students are not bogged down by following the same steps as their classmates. The entire class is learning, but it is truly differentiated.

8. You learn by what you do, not by what you hear

Experiential and challenge based learning puts the mastery back into the student’s hands. We provide guidance and pushes along the way, but they are the ones “doing” and “making”. Confucius put it perfectly: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Let your students make and they will understand and thank you for the opportunity.

9. It is a perfect way to model life-long learning

I did Genius Hour with my students and took it upon myself to learn how to code and make an app from scratch. I failed to make that app. But my experience learning how to program left me with a whole new perspective, and was a teachable moment about what we call failure. There is no real way to fail a project in which “learning” is the end-goal.

10. Your students will never forget what it felt like to create

Have you seen Caine’s arcade? It started out as a little idea and now Caine has inspired hundreds of other kids his age to create something unique. When you create a product, it becomes part of who you are, and there is a “care” involved that we just never see with multiple-choice tests. What would you want for your child?

This is the most important time to be in education. It is the most important time to care about education. It is the most important time to impact a different type of education.

Now, more than any other time in the past 100 years, education seems on the verge of a paradigm shift. You see, for the past century, most of the educational change has been doing old things in new ways. Today, we are beginning to see educators, educational institutions and educational companies do new things in new ways.

My challenge to you as a teacher is to allow your students the choice to learn what they want. That’s what Genius Hour and 20% time is all about, and that is why it is so successful.


Again, if you’re interested in this great opportunity, you can sign up for AJ’s course here.

 

Accelerating Great Teaching and Learning

You are a principal and you have amazing access to see teachers teach, all of the time.  Walking in and out of the classroom, seeing what great teachers do, can make you an amazing teacher, even in the role of the principal.  Great principals take advantage of this.

Yet the process that I have seen shared with many administrators is that they will see something awesome happen in a classroom, and then they will ask the teacher share that practice with others at the next staff meetings.  Sometimes these meetings are two weeks away, sometimes a month, sometimes longer.  You may encourage them to share for ten minutes, but then things come up, and ten minutes, becomes five.  They share that great practice, and we move onto the next thing.

Or you could do this…

See that amazing thing happening in a classroom and ask the teacher if they can share it. Tweet it to a school hashtag using words, images, or a 30 second video.

Amazing practice, shared right now, to everyone.

This creates both a transparency and an urgency for others to move forward.  Still talk and share at your staff days, but this idea is a supplement, not a replacement.

How would we ever expect great practice to become “viral” if we only shared it once every 30 days?

Technology has the ability to amplify and accelerate the amazing things that are happening in your schools. Take advantage.

recite-5w5hdj

Telling a Story Beyond Grades

“Grades do not tell the story of a child.”

Most educators, parents, and human beings would agree with this statement.  Yet how are we helping change this narrative, and encouraging and empowering students to tell their own story?

The beautiful thing about this time in the world is that it is becoming so much easier to make this happen, but it is also becoming more important.

In 2011, I read this post on Forbes titled, “5 Reasons Why Your Online Presence Will Replace Your Resume in 10 years“,  and here is a snippet from the article:

By claiming your web presence, you’re protected from other people, with the same name, claiming it before you. You also gain control over how you’re perceived online, and thus what employers find out about you when they conduct their search.

So here we are, five years later, and are we recognizing and embracing this opportunity for our students?

This just isn’t employers though either.  Post-secondary institutions are now paying more attention.  In 2013, this article, “They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets“, was posted on the New York Times website.  But is the focus of the article and in what we share in school more about what not to do?

In an effort to help high school students avoid self-sabotage online, guidance counselors are tutoring them in scrubbing their digital identities. At Brookline High School in Massachusetts, juniors are taught to delete alcohol-related posts or photographs and to create socially acceptable email addresses…Likewise, high school students seem to be growing more shrewd, changing their searchable names on Facebook or untagging themselves in pictures to obscure their digital footprints during the college admission process.

As one college student told me, their advice from their professor was to “do nothing dumb online so they won’t lose a job.” I asked, “why don’t they encourage you to share awesome stuff so you can get one?”

Many schools are looking at ways that they can embrace different types of “portfolio” programs, yet many of them are hidden from anyone other than the school community and parents at home.  They do nothing in helping with developing a child’s digital footprint, and become in some ways a “digital dump”. This is why I am such a big advocate of using blogs as digital portfolios, knowing that they are not limited in mediums, but can prove to be useful after a child’s time in school, while helping to build a positive footprint, while also being easily transferable.

No employer is asking to see a student’s Edmodo account.  It may be useful for school (and I have seen teachers use this in classes for so many awesome things), but is it helping kids after?  This is an extremely important question.  Many of these sites are in some ways like using “training wheels” for a digital footprint, yet what opportunities are being provided long term?

We should never allow our children to be reduced to a letter or number, yet we need to ensure that we help them along the way. I think it is important that we understand some students would not want to post things online, and this is something that needs to be taken into account, but we should at least be guiding them and helping them understand the opportunities that exist.

(This image is from an old post below…hopefully it give some ideas of where to start.)

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6 Ways to Use Twitter To Enhance In-School Professional Learning

globally

Here is a tweet I received from Jamie Sweeney on using Twitter to “enhance professional development”:

Connecting globally is really powerful, but how do we use this medium in a way to enhance professional learning and empower the voice of teachers in our own building.  Sometimes seeing the impact of using Twitter on a global level brings ideas back into our classrooms, but perhaps using Twitter locally could push people to connect others globally.

Just remember that “Twitter” isn’t just for days that you are discussing technology.  It can amplify and accelerate learning in any topic, whether it is on health initiatives, assessment practices, or deep understanding of any topic. It is easy to do, yet can share several mediums, which allows for different types of processing and understanding.

Here are a few ideas below.

  1. Hashtag for professional learning days (and beyond).  This one sets the stage for the other suggestions, as it makes it easy to “pre-filter” information towards a hashtag.  Check for a hashtag before you start using it, and ensure that it is not being used by another group. This gives an opportunity for the “room” to tap into one another, not just learn from any one person.  If you are interested in doing this, I would suggest finding a hashtag that goes beyond any single day; you want to start a movement, not share a moment. (For the purpose of this post, I am going to use #InnovatorSchool as the hashtag.)Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 5.37.08 PM
  2. 20 Minute Summary. Little ideas like this can help further deeper learning.  Stopping every 20 minutes and asking participants to share a 140 character reflection (minus the hashtag), and encourage them to limit it to only one tweet.  Having to summarize and be succinct in a tweet, provides a bit of a challenge, but it is also encouraging “mini-reflection”. It is also a nice assessment of where learners are at during that moment.
  3. Image Sharing. The beautiful thing about Twitter is the opportunity to capture different mediums.  Groups may have to draw some type of summary of learning, but share it to this group.  Here was one suggestion from Bethany Ligon in a book study she was doing with a group on “The Innovator’s Mindset“:

    Using Play Doh, pipe cleaners, and multi-colors of Post It papers, create models to represent a fixed mindset, a growth mindset, and an innovator’s mindset. Take a picture(s) of your structures and insert them into a single Google Drawings. Also insert a text box and write a brief blurb describing your thinking…if any. :)

    This is a great way to capture the visible learning that happens in these days, but also gives people a reference long after the fact.

  4. Group Hashtag Modification. Sometimes I will ask for groups to share a “big idea” together in some type of reflection. I have seen things such as 140 character tweets, captured images of writing, videos, etc., which provides lots of opportunities for learning.  The problem is finding this information the more any hashtag is used.  To do this in a simple way, I always suggest making slight modifications to hashtags for different questions.  So if the original hashtag is #InnovationSchool, then for the first question, I would simply change it to #InnovationSchoolQ1, and so on.  This way, again, you are pre-filtering to find information from any particular question in a simple and succint way.
  5. 30 Second Video Reflections. Twitter has an awesome video function (only on phones that I know of at this point), that allows you to take 30 seconds of video.  What I love about this is the unedited, raw learning that can be shared.  As people are finishing off the day, I think encouraging them to share a 30 second video reflection is a great way for them to process their thinking and can literally be done on a walk out of the building.  If someone does not feel comfortable taking a “video selfie” (#Velfies), I have seen some people turn their camera on an object or screen and discuss what they have learned.  This promotes the importance of “open reflection”, which is beneficial to not only the person doing the reflecting, but the community, as we can learn from one another.
  6. Collect Ideas in a Storify. Storify is one of my favourite sites as it makes it simple to not only capture tweets, but put them into context.  Random tweets might not make much sense to someone outside of the process, but using this site to give further explanation and share media (it is not limited to tweets, but has a wide range of social media services you can pull from), encourages people to share professional learning days from a wide-range of views, not just from what one person said.

Here are some of the benefits from this process.

  1. Assessment of professional learning days. What do the tweets tell you about the takeaways from the day?
  2. Sharing your learning with your community.  Shouldn’t parents know what educators are learning on professional learning days and doesn’t this help dispel the myth that many have about professional learning days that they are just a “day off”?
  3. Positive development of school and personal digital footprint. We can’t teach something we have never learned.
  4. Modelling things that you are able to do in the classroom. Asking at the end of the day how we would use these things in classrooms (because it will differ through K-12) helps create the connection between what was just experienced, and how it applies to learning in the classroom.

As I write this, I think how simple these ideas could be, yet how much of an impact they could have to make great learning go viral.  We have tons of experts in our own buildings, so we need to create these opportunities to shine a light on them and their thinking, for the benefit of each other, as well as our communities, both local and global.

Embracing Meaningful Change at All Levels

One of the conversations that you will here from school districts is the idea that they want people to embrace change.  One of the things that I believe in is that change solely for the sake of change, is not a good idea. It has to be meaningful change. Change does not necessarily equal meaningful change.  For this to happen, you can not only outline the what and how, you need to also clearly articulate the why.

This is crucial.

Yet something that I have seen are many people in these leadership positions, are really open to pushing change, yet struggle mightily when having change thrust upon them. If people in leadership positions are not open to being challenged on ideas that are happening in schools, especially when those ideas impact kids and teachers, why would people be open to embracing change? It needs to be modelled at all levels.

For example, if the initiatives that are pushed from a central office, and often IT departments,  that are not necessarily “what is best for kids”, is the decision that is ultimately made steering your organization into the best direction?  The needs of students and educators should lead how decisions are being made from administrative positions.

If we are to really promote and help others embrace meaningful change, these things are crucial:

  1. We need to start with the question “what is best for learners?”, and work backwards from there.
  2. We need to be open to pushback, and in fact, encourage it.  If we can’t defend and articulate why we are doing what we are doing, it might not be worth doing.
  3. We need to create a vision for education together, not just push our vision onto others.
  4. Understand that when we say people should be “flexible”, that doesn’t really mean people should be “compliant”. Being flexible is about working together, not being open to do exactly what one is told to do.  Shared solutions are the ones that are most often implemented.

The higher we go up in any organization, the more people we serve, not the other way around.  If you are in a leadership position, always remember this.

The need to encourage others to embrace meaningful change, needs to be modelled at all levels, especially from the top.  We expect teachers to not only teach, but to be willing to “learn”. Modelling their willingness to learn is a crucial example for students to learn from. “Leaders” should not only be willing to lead, but to be led.

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The Timespan and Impact of Empowerment

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo

The word “engagement” has been one that has been a focus of schools for as long as I can remember, as both a student and educator.  It is often written in goals, plans, and objectives of all that we want to do  in education. But is it truly enough?

Bill Ferriter really pushed my thinking years ago with his thinking on the notion of focusing more on “empowering students”, over simply finding ways for them to be engaged. Here is some of his thinking below:

Do phrases like ” we need to engage our students” and “the first step towards motivating kids is building buy in” hint at dysfunctional power relationship between students and teachers?  Are they just further evidence of our reluctance to give students the chance to own their own learning?  When we see engaging students as our ultimate goal, are we somehow suggesting that teachers are the only ones that can determine topics worth exploring?

empowering

I have also been thinking about the potential impact of each word and the “shelf-life” of each.  When I think of the word “engagement”, it seems to connect more to the moment you or the learner is in at that time.  Yet when I think of “empowerment”, it feels that this could last long after your time with students.  The student that is passionate about a cause, exploring an idea, or sharing their voice is not only engaged, but something much more.

If we want to think about our impact long-term with students, engagement just seems to be a lower bar than what we should be trying to achieve.  A student does not have to feel empowered if they are engaged, but if they are empowered, engagement will also be evident and more likely to create a deeper sense of “flow”.   The learning that goes along with empowerment will be so much deeper and longer lasting.

Empowered learners are the ones more likely to change the world.

The Timespan and Impact of Empowerment

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo

The word “engagement” has been one that has been a focus of schools for as long as I can remember, as both a student and educator.  It is often written in goals, plans, and objectives of all that we want to do  in education. But is it truly enough?

Bill Ferriter really pushed my thinking years ago with his thinking on the notion of focusing more on “empowering students”, over simply finding ways for them to be engaged. Here is some of his thinking below:

Do phrases like ” we need to engage our students” and “the first step towards motivating kids is building buy in” hint at dysfunctional power relationship between students and teachers?  Are they just further evidence of our reluctance to give students the chance to own their own learning?  When we see engaging students as our ultimate goal, are we somehow suggesting that teachers are the only ones that can determine topics worth exploring?

empowering

I have also been thinking about the potential impact of each word and the “shelf-life” of each.  When I think of the word “engagement”, it seems to connect more to the moment you or the learner is in at that time.  Yet when I think of “empowerment”, it feels that this could last long after your time with students.  The student that is passionate about a cause, exploring an idea, or sharing their voice is not only engaged, but something much more.

If we want to think about our impact long-term with students, engagement just seems to be a lower bar than what we should be trying to achieve.  A student does not have to feel empowered if they are engaged, but if they are empowered, engagement will also be evident and more likely to create a deeper sense of “flow”.   The learning that goes along with empowerment will be so much deeper and longer lasting.

Empowered learners are the ones more likely to change the world.

Creating Change

One of things that I have been really thinking about is not only embracing change, but educators creating it. Creating better ways for our kids and ourselves to learn. Too often change is thrust upon us, yet how often do we lead it?  How often do we create change in education?

Well actually, more than you think (and sometimes you might hear).

Things such as Genius Hour, Innovation Week/Day, Identity Day, Maker Spaces, EdCamps, Flipped Classrooms, revamped professional learning opportunities, using social media to create powerful opportunities for learning, and a myriad of other empowering ways to learn, are things that didn’t exist when I went to school.  Yesterday, the “Global Day of Design” happened (#GDD16 on Twitter) and over 450 schools took part in this an amazing opportunity. Obviously some of these things have been adapted from things that are seen around the world (one of the characteristics of the “Innovator’s Mindset” is being “observant”), but educators are making them happen.  School might not be at the place where we want it to be, but I am seeing it so much better than what it was not only from when I went, but just a few years ago.  A “relentless restlessness” to constantly get better is crucial in any organization, and so many teachers are exhibiting this.

It doesn’t say anywhere in the curriculum to do any of these things.  Nor does it say anything about doing worksheets.  Yet so many educators are choosing innovation and empowerment over creating a compliance model of education.

We can choose for change to be thrust upon us, or we can create it.  The thing is that when you create it, you have WAY more of a say of what it looks like.  I choose the latter.  So do more and more educators every single day.

Change is an opportunity to do something amazing. Let’s not just embrace it as educators, but continue to create it.

8 Characteristics of the Innovator's Mindset

 

To Always Be a Learner

As someone who has blogged for the last six years, I have seen this space to not only share ideas, but to share my learning in progress, and sometimes even write to try and formulate my thoughts. I can honestly say that this blog has been the most powerful space for my learning in my entire education career, as both student and educator. When I have nothing to write, I still write. I used to want every post to get tons of views, but I am more focused on sharing my learning than anything.  I also want to become a better writer. Want to be a better writer? Write more. That simple.

Writing a book in 2015 was also a tremendous process, but I also know that it would have NEVER happened if it wasn’t for this space.  Although I wrote the first draft in a relatively short time, it was because I had six years of writing to draw from. It made a tremendous difference in the process, yet the thinking was somewhat different in my mind.  I always have compared the two in the following; my blog is my formative assessment where my book was my summative assessment.  The book had much more finality in my eyes.

That being said, I did not intend the book to be the “end all, be all” on innovation in education.  If I could neatly lay out what “innovation in education” was and looked liked, it probably wouldn’t have been that innovative.  My goal was to focus more on mindset than anything, to ensure that it was starting conversations as opposed to ending them.  I encouraged people to share thoughts or ideas through the hashtag #InnovatorsMindset, which I have been grateful for so many to do.  Having conversations with people about something you are so passionate about is why I loved the social media space in the first place.

But I have gone away from this idea of the book being “summative” (although there was some finality based on the time it was published, not on my thinking).  I have had great conversations on the book with people all over the world, that have continuously pushed me to think deeper about what I wrote, and my thinking going forward.

What has also been a great opportunity is the unique learning spaces that others have created that I have never used until the book was published.  Jennifer Casa-Todd and others led a Voxer group (which was my first experience with using the medium for talking about more than sports), and Dwight Carter has done this with his group as well. The layout between the two has been different although the medium has been the same, and it has been not only cool to have discussions with readers of the book, but also the thoughtful use of the medium.  Sarah Cooper started a private Facebook Group to discuss the book, and is leading a conversation on the book through that space, amongst others.  Facebook has always been a much more informal space for me, but it has been awesome to see Sarah’s moderation skills through the medium and watch how she has developed community.

When I first started as an administrator, my principal at the time said to me, “If you are willing to go into teacher’s classrooms, you will become a better teacher.”  The access that a principal had to classrooms was much more than teachers in the building, and I had tremendous pride in my daily visits to classrooms, which helped me grow as an educator.  That being said, I could have avoided it and focused on so many other things that needed to be completed in the role of principal, but I saw those visits as the work.

I see a connection here though.  That I can be a better learner, not just writer, if I go into these spaces, some which are uncomfortable for me, to learn more from these conversations.  Sometimes I share my thoughts, and sometimes I just listen, and sometimes I just try to understand how these mediums could be used with students in a powerful way.  It is more important to understand learning than any content as an educator, and we need to be willing to explore how this can create different opportunities for our students.

We do not need to do everything and jump on every medium, but I do think we should always be open to these opportunities.  As I state often, the focus in schools and classrooms should always stem from the question, “What is best for this learner?”, not necessarily what works best for the teacher.

I love this quote from Seymour Papert:

Again, one of my favorite little analogies: If I wanted to become a better carpenter, I’d go find a good carpenter, and I’ll work with this carpenter on doing carpentry or making things. And that’s how I’ll get to be a better carpenter. So if I want to be a better learner, I’ll go find somebody who’s a good learner and with this person do some learning. But this is the opposite of what we do in our schools. We don’t allow the teacher to do any learning. We don’t allow the kids to have the experience of learning with the teacher because that’s incompatible with the concept of the curriculum where what is being taught is what’s already known.

I can be called an author, blogger, educator, speaker, or whatever, but none of these matter if I do not focus on being first and foremost a “learner”.  And I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to continue to learn from so many voices through this process and truly understand that their is no finality to learning.

einstein

Getting Proper Permission for Posting Student Pictures Online

A lot of educators ask me about posting student pictures on social media, to be able to celebrate the great things that are going on in their classrooms and schools.  Not only does it share the learning, but it also helps students to understand their presence online and what it tells people.

Usually the process is that through some vetting, a school or district will provide some type of form.  There will be discussions with parents, and hopefully there is a process where parents sign that they are okay with what you are doing.  Ongoing discussions with staff also may discuss what are some good things to post, and things that you might not want to.  Yet, I have noticed that sometimes there is something missing.

Asking the kids for their permission.

Now I am not saying all teachers do this, but I think that if we want to model something to our students, we need to constantly ask them if it is okay if we post their picture online, even if we have their parents permission and even if the student signs off on something previously.

There are a few reasons that stick out to me on why you should ask students for their permission…

First of all, each day is different and there are days where maybe a student is not up for you sharing their picture to the world.

Secondly, we need to model that if we are going to post something online of someone, that we should ask permission.  Even if a student is younger and may not understand the full breadth of how many people can actually see the picture, it is still a good practice to model.

Finally, tying into the last point, how comfortable would many teachers be of students just taking a picture of them with their phone and posting it online without permission?

I appreciate the educators that make this a common practice, no matter what forms are signed. If we do not ask the student for their permission, do all of the other forms and permissions matter as much?

What we modelis whatwe get.