Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Seeking to improve

I'm guilty of not modeling the behaviors I expect in my students related to the blog, so time to tell on myself and get back on track.  It's been nearly a month since I posted although I expect them to post a minimum of every other week.  It's been an interesting journey to pursue passion projects with this class. It's also been a learning experience so far for me.
Some students have taken to the idea of independent research well.  They are engaged in aspects of their project outside of class (creating origami items, reflecting on their soccer games in relationship to their project, applying their project concepts to their hobbies, etc.)  Others are struggling just to work in class and still challenged to develop a topic defined enough to explore their passion.  Some see it as a research project while others are tying it into activities they are engaged in.

I would love some feedback on these questions to help me grow and improve the experience:

  1. Some of my students pose questions in their blogs.  How do I get those posts out to a wider audience so they can get feedback?
  2. Students created their blog using a school Google account but their e-mail is disabled.  When comments get posted they aren't getting notified.  Short of telling them to regularly check their blogs for potential comments, is there a work around for comment notifications when the blog account email isn't an option?
  3. What has been your best way to assist students without overshadowing their efforts?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mondays! Why didn't I think of that?

Today I shared with my students that they would not be working on passion projects tomorrow, the traditional Friday I had set them up to be but rather on Monday.
One of them said "We should always do them on Monday."
"Why?," I asked.
"Mondays start the week and are rough.  We need something to look forward to coming into school and doing" was the reply.

I had been thinking with Friday being the end of the week that working on Passion Projects then would give them a chance to take a break from all that has come there way.  Instead, by listening to my students' feedback, I learned that they would prefer Mondays.

Lesson learned.  Time to tweak our timeline.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I Had "Passion" Outside my Door

Today I realized there was a sign that I would be embracing passion projects. (That's a literal and figurative statement) I have been changing the New Jersey FFA motivational posters that hang outside my door about once a month. As I glanced at the sign today, I realized "Passion" was hanging.

In other passion project news, I have a young lady getting very excited about hers . After class today she was telling me about who she plans to have help her and what she plans to do. It's related to horseback riding.

Using Videos to Inspire Our Thinking

With classes slightly shortened for PARCC testing, we used half of our class days this week to introduce Passion Projects and begin generating ideas. On Wednesday, we used Kid President's Pep Talk to kick class off. (I really should have used it Tuesday which was The International Day of Awesomeness) As soon as some students saw Kid President's face, they said "Oh, we get to see Kid President today" and when someone went to talk during the video "Shh! This kid is great."

We transitioned from there to using the "Genius Hour Rubric of Creativity" I found so students could self assess.  I collected their perceptions of their "creativity" and "genius" so I could scan a copy for myself to see where I might best be able to encourage students.  Once I scan them, I will return rubrics to the students for their reference and reflection.

Then we viewed some clips on other passion projects/ genius hour activities that have been done or potential ideas before wrapping class up by tossing around some ideas that were coming to mind for their own projects.

I can tell by the looks on some students faces that this will be a challenge for them. To be continued next week . . .

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Journey Begins

A while ago, a seed was planted in the back of my mind about something called "Passion Projects" or "Genius Hour."  The idea hung in my subconscious slowly taking shape.  We recently had an unplanned March break (translation "Winter Storm Thor"). This gave me time to play with the idea a little more.  I weighed options, thought about the classes I teach, and sought information from my colleagues and on Twitter.  Some of my initial resources came from Ms. Mystrena and her blog  as well as a former colleague's wife who shared her Twenty Percent Time 2014-15 Blog.

My research led me to decide to take the plunge.  The year long course I teach seemed to be the best group to try this with for two reasons:
1) I know them them best and have had them the longest.  This means I have heard some of their "passions" and what "makes them tick"
2) They have learned research and inquiry skills through the activities we already do.

I posted a link to "Passion Project - GT ED at Richmond" for my students and sought their feedback.  One response was "Life is a voyage into the unknown.  I would love to do this! OMG yes. It sounds like so much fun. I would explore new things I have never even heard of or seen in my life and take a trip by not even leaving my seat. Learn the good in life, explore. #thefutreisours we must do this" I think maybe she was inspired by this video:

After the first day of PARCC testing, I had my students enter the room and write or draw two things on a file card that excites them.  Then, I shared the above video with them, as well as "Shift Happens (below)."  As the facts scrolled for "Shift Happens" I heard "That's crazy." "Wow! I didn't know that." and a slew of other comments.  Students were realizing the pace that the world is changing.

After showing those videos, I had students add to the file card something they thought they could change in their lifetime.  It could be anything - about themselves, their school, their world, etc.  Finally, I introduced the concept of the Passion Project.  We'll see where this journey takes us, but I am excited that it is happening.