Saturday, August 31, 2013

Genius Hour-Introduced!

It's here! Genius Hour has been introduced and I can't even begin to describe how excited my students are!

To hook my students, I had to show The Kid President:
The Kid President had them. They laughed! They understood when he said, "We were made to be awesome." We were! Now it is time to "Create something that will make the world awesome."


"Create something that will make the world awesome."

After the talk that got my kids talking....I asked them, has there ever been a time in school when YOU got to learn about something you truly wanted? When you chose what to learn?

The room erupted into chatter, laughter, and a resounding "NO!" by all students.Then came my moment to say, "Well guys, that is exactly what is going to happen."

I have three classes (we have a block English schedule) and for a moment the room stood silent.
They didn't believe first. I then went and described the Passion Project. Each student would have Genius Hour to research their passion. That even I would join them on this journey. We were going to discover our genius because as the wonderful and inspirational Angela Maiers says:

They were floored! Excited! Ideas began pouring forth! Discussion, empowerment, pure excitement....about learning!
Here is a screen shot of our Wonder Wall on Padlet with just a sample of ideas for projects:

Our journey begins next week! Our first hour of Genius Hour. I can't wait and more importantly, neither can my students!

I have always known the importance and power of student choice in the classroom. But to give students the ultimate choice of directing their learning?! Even more powerful, important, and inspiring of all!

Here's to next week!

Monday, August 12, 2013

First day QR Scavenger Hunt

Well, the day finally came. The first day back to school.

I arrived early. Made sure I was prepared and ready and that my two iPads were charged. I chatted with former students who dropped by to say hello. 

Then the bell rang. 

I greeted students as the came through the door, smiling at all the unsure faces. Then it was time to begin. 

I took roll, introduced myself, and told them "It's time to go on a scavenger hunt!" Their faces were stunned! I asked students with smartphones to take them out and download (if they had Internet access) a QR Code reader. I suggested the QR for iPhone or Android app as it is free and easy to use. Students were hesitant to take their phones out, but once I explained that for this class and this assignment they were in the free and clear! Smiles passed on their faces and we were ready!

After explanations, they were off! At first, my students didn't understand the purpose of the QR codes. They didn't realize that after they scanned the QR code that they need to read or watch a video to get the information needed on the question sheet. BUT once students figured that out, the scavenger hunt was golden! 

Some things I would change, as per my students and my own observations, is that my students need more time. They needed more time to work their way around campus. I did have my friends daughter do a "test run" and it took her a half an hour. My brand-new seventh graders needed probably about an hour and a half to truly get everywhere and do their video responses. 

Secondly, I would make sure my video cameras were not running on dead batteries! I know, I know, simple oversight, but still!

Thirdly, I think I may try Klikaklu instead of a QR code. It is a great site to use pictures as a trigger to the information or video. Also, I can monitor when students find each place and when they finish. I will have to try it out.

Overall, students really enjoyed the hunt. Especially on the first day of school as most other teachers simply talk about the class, give paperwork to send home, and talk the entire period. It was great.

DAY TWO- TLAP Stranded Island Activity

Dave Burgess is a GENIUS. Truly. I can not thank him ENOUGH for writing Teach like a Pirate and writing about his stranded island activity. Hearing my students thought process, their questions, answers, and handling disagreements was truly awe inspiring. 

I started each period (I have my students for two periods) dressed as if I was ready to board a flight to Hawaii or some other tropical paradise. I had my sunglasses on, my cary-on bag, my teddy bear (Honey Nizzle Fitz), and a fake flower lei. As students came in, I was talking to myself (yep!) about the impending flight and vacation. What I was going to do, where I was going to visit, and what I would see. When the tardy bell rang, I yelled "Finally! My flight has been called!" And started the video I created with VideoScribe.

As the video played, I acted out the entire scenario. Flight attendants, me using the oxygen mask, screaming as the plane goes done, landing in the water, the raft, passing out, and meeting the helicopter pilot. It was EPIC!

Then the description of the survivors was presented and then students decided who stayed and who got to go. The conversations were amazing! I was so impressed with ALL of my students. Even my Strategic English Class. Each student group was thoughtful in their discussions, thought process, and the thoroughness of verifying their answers. It was truly a wonderful way to showcase my expectations for group work, their answers, but also for students to practice working in groups and managing disagreements and even their own expectations. 
Wow. Truly powerful!

And this was only day two! I can not wait to see how the rest of the year progresses! 

The hook to the stranded island activity...laugh, share, enjoy! JepsonD4 did!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

SMART (& tech)Solutions in the OJUSD 2013-2014

As many of you know, I am apart of the amazing community of SMART Exemplary Educators (SEE). Truly one of the BEST educators I have ever have had the pleasure of meeting, collaborating, and chatting with. I am honored and blessed to be apart of such a caring and talented group of teachers.

Being a SEE does have its perks and fun. Applying to go to the SEE Summit....being accepted twice and another year being a mentor has been, hands down, two of the greatest professional development and inspirational weeks of my educational career. I can not say enough about these educators and their passion for SMART, teaching, and all things tech!

Another fun is being apart of the Gold Star SEE program. Working (and competing) to continue to advocate for SMART, interaction in the classroom, and innovation. I enjoy the program and it helps keep me in the know about SMART and other SEES.

So...I have been working on how our SMART Solutions in our district is working or not working. I surveyed our district of four elementary and one junior high and high schools and discovered that the staff know the following:

  1. All classrooms in our district are equipped with SMARTboards.
  2. Staff members would like to see all educators with a SMARTboard.
  3. Staff members would like to see a SMARTboard in the library and computer labs.
  4. 17% of staff have SMART Response.
  5. 62% of staff use SMART Notebook daily. Of those, 48% use it throughout their class periods.
  6. Only 26% say they use SMART Notebook daily.
  7. Only 6% have heard of Extreme Collaboration.
  8. Only 12% have used the SMART Exchange and also uploaded material.
  9. All staff members would like more support with SMART products.
  10. Most staff has stated that they haven't had training for their boards, have learned through trial and error, and only one has been on a SMART webinar.

Needless to say, this has been a huge eye opener for me.....and completely breaks my heart.

I know many haven't answered as we are just starting back to school this week. However, *I* need to hear this! I need to fix and change this! This. Is. Not. Okay. With. Me.

I have given countless trainings at my site. Especially when SMARTboards were installed in every classroom. Today was even my very first Content Creation Event-for, but my site only. 

What we need is a true technology mentor in our district. We need someone that is passionate about technology. Not just the plug and play, but the how, why, and modeling and support throughout the year for teachers to implement appropriately. 

It makes me curious if this happens at other sites, districts?!

How many of you out there get technology with little to know staff development, training, and support for that technology?

I was given the technology mentor at my site this year. I am thrilled to do it! And my goal (even before this survey) was to provide consistent technology support this year. We need and want  the training! I may not have all the answers, but I sure as can find others to help and support me to help and support our staff!

Then I want (hopefully) spread beyond my school site. We need it badly! Look at those numbers! 

Things have to change and our teachers need support and help. I want to attempt and try. 

It is quite the undertaking....but someone has got to try!