Friday, January 31, 2014

What did you enjoy the Most in Genius Hour

“Genius hour is a time to explore and experiment with potential ideas. I discovered with genius hour that some of ideas started out huge and complicated and able to break it down into a simple and easier idea.”  
A great definition from a student of what genius hour is to students.  What did students enjoy most about genius Hour?  This is a summary of their responses.

18 students replied the thing they enjoyed the most about Genius Hour was being able to learn and do their own thing.  One student put it appropriately when he commented the following:
“The freedom to choose whatever I wanted. If I was given a project that I did not want to work on, I would not have done as good of a job, or worked as hard on it. Because Android Development was something that I wanted to do, I was truly interested in finding solutions to problems.”

The 2nd most common thing mentioned by students was that they enjoyed working with their friends and discussing their learning with friends.

But there were a number of other comments that I found interesting, comments that showed incite into why Genius Hour is great for students.  Here they are below, in the exact words of the students:
  • I enjoyed being able to learn and create something that including more than one of my interests. I love computers and working with them but this also gave me a chance to include my skill with music and being able to create something I can call my own.
  • Finding resources on a certain information that is needed.
  • I enjoyed the learning aspect of this Genius Hour because it was a great learning opportunity for me. It allowed me to pick a project which I wanted to do, rather than being told what to do (Freedom of choice on what you want to learn). Choosing what you want to do ensures that you can work at your own pace to suit your learning. From this Genius Hour, I gained experience of what I can expect in the future in University; learning on your own.
  • Working on the video, and getting out of class to take picture, and going around the school taking photos. Overall I did enjoy the time that we were given for Genius Hour.
  • Finding out what was wrong and then trying to fix it.
  • I liked the change of scenery genius hour brought to the regular in class work. It allowed us to take a break from our everyday activities which ended up being a good experience.
  • the fact that I could get marks for trying out something new, something I chose and enjoyed doing :)
  • In my opinion on it is that it was boring but not soo boring that i didnt want to do it , i still wanted to learn so i did the work not because i had to because i wanted to
  • I enjoyed working on writing articles making me feel like a hockey analysis
  • That we got to learn by ourselves and whatever problem that we ran into, we had to figure our way out by ourselves.
  • How we had the option to pursue our own goals and ideas during class to promote learning on our own time, which I found inspiring.
  • What I enjoyed most about genius hour was we could learn and do something that we wanted to do. Also that we could work with partners. That made it so much more enjoyable.
In summary I would like to quote a student once more.  The student’s comment made all the effort
worth it, from setting up this section of my Information Technology Course, to the “Celebration of Learning” we had from 7:00 – 8:30 where students presented and showed their work, to all the reading and feedback of their blog entries.  Here is a moment to remember in my career:
“I created something I never would have imagined and never thought about. I had never expected that I could do this. It never crossed my mind that I could be able to create something just from scratch to then branching it out and expanding it to create something that could be useful for certain people to use in the future if it was really useful. I got my idea after a few days of thinking hard and getting opinions from people which then created my genius hour project. Thanks to genius hour I never would have thought about this and created it. But if I were to do genius hour again I would have decided to do it on something else, but since this was a quick idea that came to my head I didn't get to expand much on it. But then again I had no idea what I was going to do until I got opinions from others.”

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What my Students learned in Genius Hour

I've gone through the survey of the students' assessment of Genius Hour (last blog entry).  Here is a list of what the students themselves say they have learned.  Here is your test.  Tell me which are Grade 9/10 students and which are from my Grade 11/12 students.  The list of which # is in which grade is listed below:

Here is a short summary of what I learned and/or created at genius hour.
  1. We created a minecraft server for this genius hour and because of some limitations at school we had to resort to working at our home to make all this work.
  2. With the project I worked on music composition which is creating different forms of music with looping and notes. I learned lots of information about different types whether classical or techno, it became a learning curve every step of the way. What I created was a song that has almost every type of music genre within the program i used, Mixcraft.
  3. What we learned was too find out ways too fix the red ring of death for xbox 360.
  4. I learned that fundraising is no joke.  To fund raise, there are a lot of preparation to do.  I can't imagine how much time and effort it'll take to fund raise thousands of dollars.
  5. For Android Development, I ran into the issue of a certain section of code not working, despite the tutorial on showing the exact same thing I had. I didn't realize that after eclipse makes all the associations to other files it changes the section of code to make it work.
  6. I started out with just an idea about science, but I had no idea about what I was going to do next. After thinking for a few days I got a few ideas from a classmate about how I was going to elaborate on the topic science, she suggested why don't you try putting it online or something. Then I asked the teacher about what I could try doing with my idea after explaining about it to her. She suggested me some websites, but for some of them there was only a free trial and for the whole thing you had to pay. So I told the teacher that and she gave me some other websites to try, plus she showed me some of her work on her websites that she created. And that helped me more about my own genius hour. Then I went to some of the websites that she suggested, and I particularly liked one of the website so I started using it and I collected more ideas to put into the main idea. That was after she taught me how to use the website, but the only problem that I had was how I was going to present my work. But now I asked the teacher again and she told me to answer the questions on her website and just show my work on the website I went on, and then explain why.
  7. In Genius Hour I created an umbrella that was meant to be handsfree and sturdy enough to withstand wind and relatively comfortable for everyone to use but turned out to be something a bit different. For the umbrella I managed to make the umbrella sturdy enough but it really made the umbrella uncomfortable to wear or use.
  8. I've learned how to use Premier Pro.   I've learned how to make my own slideshows, cut unwanted parts of the video, make my own mix tape videos.
  9. I learned many things from Genius Hour this year from the problems, challenges, and the mistakes I made. I learned more about how the Surrey Servers work since my software would not function properly using the server. The program would work on the administrator account but not any other accounts such as library and the student account. From this, we realized that using the flash drive would be a type of loop whole that would allow us to avoid the problems of the Android Development Tool not working. Furthermore, after finally beginning my programming on Android using Eclipse, I learned that using downloading the Software Development Kit would not work through Library, you had to use either the Administrator account or your student Account. From this, I realized that Library has the least permission on the computer, followed by the student account, then finally (at the top) the administrator account. Followed by this, I learned how Android coding varies from Java coding (which I had experience in). It is definitely more difficult to memorize the code in Android compared to Java. The codes are very different, but the principle of programming stays the same.
  10. We made a short video of the school, however we weren't able to finish, but we were able to see what we did wrong, like knowing when to take the picture, taking all the picture at once, being able to take time and made edits in the video, and still being able to finish the picture.
  11. What I learn in Genius Hour is that how to use time wisely and how to use After Effects. My group created a stop animation video of a tour of our school. But, we didn't plan out correctly and we need to get it done soon. After all this we also learned to plan out to talk to teacher for when they are free or when we can use their rooms at a certain time.
  12. During the course of genius hour we learned that more time and effort needs to be put into the planning of the video because we ended up not having time to finish due to the lack of planning. If we had planned better we would have known that there was going to be Christmas decorations in the hallway which would prevent us from taking the pictures needed for the movie.
  13. I created many things on prezi, i learned that you need teamwork and need to cooperate with each other.
  14. I learned how to create a new website using new tools and working on different websites.
  15. I learned about the basic features of creating a video in flash. I created a fighting scene with two guys by use of motion, meaning I had to go to Photoshop and create copies of various several body parts of the guys so I could move them. From there, I just created a fight scene with swords, magic, and even summons.
  16. I learned how electricity is created, how 3-d printers work, I learned about different minerals and what they do, And I made prizes on them.
  17. I learn about how to use the program Scratch from MIT.  One of the things I learned was how the tools work . An example in order to make a ball bounce.   I would have to get the right tools and combine them together.
  18. At Genius Hour I created multiple photo shop documents and got advice and lessons from a teacher that does photoshop everyday, using the feedback I learnt and used that and made more docs.
  19. I Learnt the basics of flash gaming, we made a game but we never got the time to get started on adding  the scripts
  20. I learned how to manage a website like and, how they update there site every day and how it really just takes one long day to set up the site then after that its easy. I also learned how to graph on excel and use it for articles on our website
  21. In genius hour i learned how to program for making an app and some of the things i learned that you have to be very precise to accomplish programming  or else you will keep running into obstacles.
  22. Photoshop, Sony Vegas , Adobe After effects
  23. Not much...
  24. In genius hour I learned a bit of stuff about programming. It takes a lot of effort and hard work to program an app. If your work is not accurate enough you will run into problems throughout your project.
  25. We created a hockey website which would show all the basic need to knows about whats happening in the hockey world. We did something different then all the others tho. We stated a free to play hockey fantasy pool. I learned how to manage the website. use sniping tools, and how to use Photoshop at an advance level.
  26. I did a lot of different things during Genius Hour. For the most part I worked with music but it took a bit of time to get there. Originally I tried my luck at apps and such but it did not work out too well.
  27. I have learned much about photo shop, from all the tools, to how each picture ever taken has potential to become something better. I have edited and tried to create a wide array of pictures, trying to create different effects and feelings for each picture.
  28. I have created a background for a game in Flash. I learned how use the basic tools in flash.
  29. To make an app which we did not complete we had to link the programming with the ball and the platform etc. It did not work though because in the programming we wrote the name of the image that it was supposed to be, but i forgot to rename the image. So we started again using the name of the image that we had used.
  30. I learned how to use flash and how to import stuff on to it. I also learned how to make a hand move and how to make the head move and dance. Another thing I learned it how to get music playing in the back.
  31. Me and my group created an app, but we were not able to complete, because we were busy in winter break so we didn't have time to do the programming, but we did learn how to create an app.
  32. I learned how to work with a new website program that I have never used before,  I learned how to put in videos and pictures,  I learned how to add new tabs and learned how to add pictures into your main page.
  33. I learned how to add bass to songs together and i also learned how to fade music in and out
  34. At first I tried to make a game with a group of people then not everyone was working so we decided to split up and then I tried making a game on a separate website however that seemed to easy so currently I am working on finishing making some flash games such as pong.
  35. I learned to put one song into another. Mixing many songs and making them combined into one
  36. What I learned is that even if two Xbox 360's have three red rings, it does not mean they both have the same problem. I found this out when one of our Xbox's was fixed but we couldn't fix the other using the same method.
  37. I learned how to use different skills to build this product and I also ordered parts from a different country to cut cost and save money. I also learned how to be self motivated and work hard all on my own.
  38. I had fun and I worked hard
  39. I learned that xbox's are weird and hard to fix and almost every one that is broken has something different that is wrong with it

Who's who:

Grade 11/12:  1 – 12, 29, 36 - 39
Grade 9/10:  13 – 28, 30 – 35, 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Genius Hour Survey Results

This past summer I signed up for a MOOC with numerous other fantastic teachers to learn about genius hour.  In attendance were a number of people who had previously done Genius Hour (20% Time) and some that were new to this concept (myself in this group).  The sharing was amazing and I met numerous valuable people who are geniuses in their own right (,  &  and my good friend  who mentioned the course and encouraged me to join).

We went through the process of planning our own Genius Hour Project and mine became implementing Genius Hour in my Information Technology course.  I had initially planned for my Grade 11 and 12 course to start this process but once I began I decided to do my Information Technology 9/10 course as well. "Why not?" was my reasoning.  A colleague of mine, Shawn Stroh (@sstroh 1982) also was keen to do this with his Info Tech 9/10 class.  So we were off on a new adventure.

Since this was my first time doing genius hour, I wanted to make sure that I could improve my process and delivery of this model of learning.  This called for a survey.  Below are the results that I hope will be of interest to you.

There were 46 students in total who answered the survey out of a possible 87.  There were two of us doing Genius Hour, Mr. S. Stroh and I.  We did Info Tech 9/10 together (two classes) and one Info Tech 11/12 in our school.  The following is a list of what students worked on:

Students were given every Friday to work on their genius hour, a week before Christmas, and a week once we returned from winter break.  By my calculations they worked 22 hours on Genius Hour.  The reflection of students below, as well as comments in the classroom suggest this like this new manner od learning:

Success of Genius Hour:

A reflection of not so much if students were working in the class as much as how many students said they did not have enough time to create/finish something.  But when you take into account that 93% stated they learned something new in Genius Hour, the results are favourable.  As I learned and shared with students, it's not the finished product, it's the learning along the way.  Hopefully you will never in your life finish learning!
One of the hardest things to teach to the students was that Genius Hour is not free time.  It's a time when you the student choose what you want to learn, not the teacher choosing for you.  When trying something new for the first time, the students don't see the point of it no matter how much you try to explain it to them, not until the end.  They have no reference point if they have never experience Genius Hour before.  And although some manners of learning are similar to this (Passion-Based Learning, Inquiry Learning) I am hoping that after the first "Celebration of Learning" (sharing of our learning) that we had, this reputation will precede us now, and students will learn that it is not just free time.  To combat the data below, I have changed the Genius Hour to Monday and Tuesday I will give 15 minutes of reflection time with  critical thinking questions of reflections to not only help me access where the students are at, but also to help the students think "What do I do next" or "Where is this going wrong" or something to that affect.  (See this link to see some of the questions I have already started listing for the reflections).    

The bottom results surprised me but after careful consideration, I could understand why students were frustrated at the start.  The proposal explanation needs to be clearer, with conferencing going on after each day but with a class of 30 this will take time.  The 1st and second blog reflection will help the process go faster.  With a reader or a blog listing on the teacher blog this will help the teacher/mentor see the updates of learning as they come in, and speed up assessment as well as conferencing.

Please remember, that this was my first time, so please be kind.  One of the most satisfying experience for both myself and the students was the "Celebration of Learning", the sharing of what we learned.  We made it into a large party, with cookies, squares, drinks and cake at the end to show each other what we learned (video to come soon of some of the presentations), as well as parents and district people were invited.  The students enjoyed the open forum of sharing (every 10 minutes there was a formal presentation of learning from a Grade 11/12 volunteer group, then 10 minutes of wandering and asking questions of any group of learners the visitors wished to see.)  The sharing was in a relaxed atmosphere, open as well as planned, and at the end some students to say at the end "Ms P., can we do this again next year, I want to do better".  

That's music to my ears!!. 

More reflection and sharing to come from the students and myself.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Keeping Parents Informed - Electronic Portfolios in Technology Classes.

For the third year I tried electronic Portfolios in my classroom, and as with anything you do a number of times, there is improvement.  I believed this to be so but I wanted to make sure the students thought so as well.  There were 2 students that have been doing electronic portfolios for two years with me.  The growth was extremely evident but both students were not happy with their first year of Information Technology so they deleted the old work, and tried to make a portfolio that is more professional.  Although I was sorry to hear this and I explained to them that showing growth was good, pride trumped it.  Take a look at this sample and this one. Both students are in Grade 10.  I only do electronic portfolios with the Grade 9 though 12.  Please remember, these are students that have done electronic portfolios for two years.

After the completion of the course I asked my student (29 in total) to fill out a survey, and the results. are below. Some of the results are a surprise.
I did student lead conferencing this year with parent conferences (see student's self-assessment for student lead conferencing) .  Many of the parents stated they already knew exactly where their child was so they did not have to come to the conference.  In a month's time I asked parents to email me comments in regards to their child's work.  All parents had to sign a note or email me saying they saw their child's work.  Between the portfolios and emails, parents were kept in the educational learning loop.  There were no surprises for them or for their child.  Both formal and informal feedback was constant.

This was a nice surprise.  The students reviewing their own learning (see photoshop final entries for self-evaluation and critical thinking) increased the need to do better.  As you can see below, students liked to learn on their own and self-reflection of your own work over a period of time helps the students to see (with evidence right in front of them) their own growth and their accomplishments.

The question below was in direct relationship to the photoshop unit I taught.  See the evidence of what Grade 9 and 10's can do and how creative they can be when they show me evidence in specific skills taught:

But of all the evidence gathered by this survey, what made me feel that electronic portfolios made a difference is the results below.  It's wonderful to see that this manner of assessing has had a positive effect on my students.

Portfolios online for  assessment that has become very popular with blogging of student learning and self reflection of learning.  How is this change in environment (learning though critical thinking) going in our school?  Do the student like this manner of assessment?  Take a look at what the students want.