Category Archives: Contemporary Learning

Genius Hour and 20% Time

Student creativity and inquiry through exploration of their passions.

The search-engine giant, Google, allows it’s engineers to spend 20% of their time to work on any pet project that they want.  The idea is very simple: allow people to work on something that interests them, and productivity will go up.  This way of working has inspired innovative ideas in a range of companies that have lead to significant improvements to the way we live and work.  Sticky notes from 3M are one, the Google DriverLess Car another.

How would Genius Hour / 20% Time work in a school environment?

Student project ideas need to reflect their own interests or passions. These project ideas need to be realistic, but not necessarily achievable. Students can experience failure, in a supportive environment. And when they have experienced that failure, they are able to use reflection to plan for improvement.

Getting Started

  • Brainstorming a list of things that students are good at, excited about, or want more information on.
  • Driving Question: a question that enables deep thought, research.  An UnGoogleAble answer.  A question that takes time to answer.
  • Independent work: The role of the teacher is not to guide the student work, but to support the choices they make and enable the opportunities.  Initially students work individually, as they become more competent, collaborative projects can be introduced.
  • Incorporate expertise: you’re not going to know enough about everything to help your students, this is where an outside expert comes in.  Support students in making connections.
  • Authentic Audience: students need to present their work to an authentic audience.  How they do this is up to the individual, with teacher support to realise the opportunities.

 Teacher role

As the teacher in a Genius Hour environment, rethink your role to become facilitator. Provide the advice, support needed to have students develop their own thoughts and ideas into a viable project.

Allow students to make some mistakes.

Know what your students are working on, know their plan, know their intentions.  Facilitate their progress.

Student Role

Students use a range of 21st Century skills to create their Genius Hour project.  Using their passions as an initial guide, they become experts in something and produce new knowledge to share with their audience.  They don’t have to get it right the first time.  They wont complete it in a week or two, it takes time and deep learning to achieve.  Students provide the ideas and the resources.

The UnGoogleAble

The most important thing to is innovate.  Innovation on a grand scale, or innovation on a small scale.  An UnGoogleAble question is one that hasn’t been answered anywhere, every.  It’s a big thing to come up with the UnGoogleAble, and an even bigger thing to answer it successfully.


Links and Resources

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=829279

http://www.geniushour.com/

http://www.20timeineducation.com/

 

Personalisation of Spelling

Developing a personalised learning program for Spelling requires preparation and resourcing as any personalised learning program does.  Selecting types of assessment and locating and collating resources that are meaningful and useful will help to create a solid foundation for students to work from.  The following paragraphs present a model that is used in classrooms that can be adapted and modified for use in your own context.

 

Assessment for Learning

Students need to know where their level of achievement is against expected standards, and what they have to be able to do to progress onto the next level.  Assessments should be aligned with the outcomes for your educational context so students are easily able to identify the path for progression.  Sometimes the teacher language in curriculum documents may need to be simplified to make it more accessible to students.

After completing assessment tasks, students need ready access to their data, as they become self trackers and self managers. 

In the school that I work in I have used On Demand Testing (ODT), Gap Testing and Online Assessment and Reporting System Progressive Achievement Tests (OARS PAT) with students.  Both ODT and OARS are online systems, while Gap is paper based.

 

Self Tracking

Students analyse the results of their assessment and identify areas of strength and weakness from their results.  Often the students can identify patterns in their results, which help them to determine which areas they need to work on more.  Students compare their results against the expected levels of achievement.  Initially students may want to keep their results private, but as they begin working closely with other students with similar needs, they become more confident and competitive within their ability cohort.

 

Goal Setting

Students take responsibility for their learning through the management and tracking of their data and by setting goals for their learning.  They follow the SAT framework, (Specific, Attainable, Timely) which is modified and simplified from the SMART goal setting framework.  These goals are set weekly at the beginning of the week, and can last for a single week or may be recycled or rolled over into the following week if the student reflects that they need to continue working.

 

Resources and Activities

An important part of the teacher’s responsibility is to provide appropriate resources for the students that provide a level of challenge and are matched to the students needs.  The resources selected should be suitable for the context and match their learning styles of the students.  For the most part these activities are completed independently with minimal supervision.  These activities are done at the beginning of a writing session so generally they need to be short activities to allow quick completion.  The teacher will have small groups created that have similar goals or spelling patterns/rules that are being worked on.  The relevant information should be recorded by the teacher during goal setting time to allow them time to analyse the goals and create groups.  Examining the abilities of students within the groups also provides the teacher an indication of the types of activities needed for the groups to work on.  Each day the teacher should work with a small group for a period of time to monitor and assess their progress on the tasks, work with them on explicit teaching activities.

 

Reflection

At the conclusion of the week students should complete a short assessment task, either a buddy test of their spelling words with a partner, or a test of words that are similar to their own words.  After the assessment task is completed students should record their progress and reflect on their learning for spelling for the week.  The format for the reflection should be flexible but recorded in some way.

They should include in their reflection a description of what they did for the week, how they felt about their work and the learning that occurred or did not occur, how the learning will help them or could have helped them, what else they could have done (if anything), and a further plan of action.

Methods of Personalisation

In my current practice, I have come across many different perspectives of what personalised learning is, and the different ways it can be implemented according to your context.
Earlier this year I heard from Dan Buckley from Cambridge Education (http://www.camb-ed.net/pbyp/) and their method of personalisation. In formalising the approach at my school we borrowed a few key ideas, namely Personalisation by the Learner (PbL) and Personalisation for the Learner (PfL). This has helped us to distinguish between the different practices and identify them more clearly.
With PfL we use student achievement data from a range of sources to help us create ability based maths and writing convention groups.
PbL is used in spelling, interest based writing and inquiry for humanities and science. This has helped to boost engagement and connectedness for the students. When our students are happy and enjoying their work, the teaching team feel similarly enthused and motivated.

Context specific

Personalised Learning can manifest itself in many different forms.  The way it manifests is entirely dependent on the requirements of the context and by which level the context is student centric.

In a teacher centric context, personalisation is difficult to realise, as the teacher is not willing to give away the control of the learning process to the students.

In a student centric context, the students are able to determine the learning path that they follow, and is supported by the students knowledge of their own achievement and future requirements for learning.

Classrooms…why?

I cobbled these thoughts together after reading comments made on a blog post here about Rupert Murdoch describing education as not changing much over 50 years, in which he is reasonably correct.  The content may have changed slightly, but the method of delivery is the same.  How is that useful for a 21st Century Learner, or a 21st Century Teacher?

“Think four walls, door, tables and chairs, whiteboard/blackboard at the front with a teacher standing in front delivering content.  I think that’s what Murdoch meant.  And if you walk into any number of classrooms this very day, that is what you will see, unless you read this post on a Saturday or Sunday.
A modern classroom should provide flexibility, in spaces and furniture.  Students shouldn’t be constrained to the rows of tables facing the front as was the Industrial / Mechanical age model.  21st Century education is an opportunity for flexibility, personalisatoin of learning and development of competencies that will help students be self sufficient learners.
Personalised learning is targetted at specific student needs, based on formative assessment (assessment for learning) which identifies the learning needs.  Learning paths are developed to meet each students needs.  It does not need to be technology driven, but ICT is a key enabler.”
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhMkjkwBJ3w]

The video shows the setting in which I work with the flexible furniture that the students use.  While not everyone has access to such fine resources, everyone has the option to shift from teacher centric models of education to student centric education.

Competencies For Learning

At my school, we are developing a set of competencies that will assist our students to become capable 21st Century students that have a set of skills that will enable them to work effectively in a range of situations.  Our competencies are taken from the Partnership for 21st Century skills. (www.p21.org)

The 4 C’s:

  • Creativity
  • Communication
  •  Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking

Creativity

In  Changing Education Paradigms,  Sir Ken Robinson says that by design, schools stifle the creativity of students, by boxing them into a ‘one size fits all’ method of education.  Out students come to school creative, but leave after being moulded to the be the same as many others.  We need to allow students to show their creativity and to think for themselves.  To help them to create innovative solutions to problems that they will face as they grow older and contribute to society.

Communication

As the world becomes smaller and globalisation takes hold, our students need to be able to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds.  Effectively communicating in different situations and for different purposes will be vital for success in the 21st Century.

Collaboration

Working with others to achieve a goal will be necessary for success in the 21st Century.  The people our students work with may not be in the same office, or even the same building, but could be in another part of the world, working on the same project in a different time zone.  Forming relationships, and recognizing the strengths, weaknesses and abilities of other group members and capitalizing on those for the benefit of the group.

Critical Thinking

Students have an incredible amount of information available to them at the tips of their fingers through ‘net connected devices.  However, sometimes this information may not be accurate, and could easily be out of date by the time the students get to it.  Developing the ability in our students to reason, deduce, evaluate and reflect on the information that is available to them will enable them to make informed decisions about what it useful or not.