Monday, January 5, 2015

J-Term, Genius Hour, and OneNote

Welcome back to school!  My school traditionally kicks off the new semester with a week of J-Term for our middle and high school students, and I've been given the chance to teach one of these classes. Since my middle school tech class was cancelled this year, this is a great opportunity to dive back into my beloved Innovation Projects.  

I'm sitting in a room with seven middle schoolers as they ponder their projects for the week.  More on their projects in a bit. While I'm excited to see what they can create this week, I'm also excited to use a new toy -- OneNote Class Notebooks. I blogged about this tool before Christmas, and we were able to get it set up in time for this J-Term class. Here is how things are set up...

  • There is content library which all students can see but not edit. Here is where I created my "handouts" full of instructions and examples.  The whole course is laid out there for them -- proposals, daily updates, presentation, and rubric.
  • Each student has his/her own section that only the two of us can view and/or edit. There are tabs within those sections for proposal, homework, and work space. 
This project will be a bit different than the ones I've hosted in the past.  Those projects have been spread out over a marking period - one class a week.  This project will be compressed into one week of 5 two and a half hour long sessions.  The amount of time on task will be much greater (roughly 300 minutes more) but the amount of time between sessions will be much smaller.  That will result in less time thinking instead of doing and less out of class time working on the project.  It will be interesting to see what happens. 

This fall I read A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger, and I'm trying to incorporate his research into this project. This book wasn't necessarily written to the Genius Hour community, but it's all about inquiry as a teaching and business model -- something us Genius Hour teachers get all nerdy about.  

I required students to use the 5 Whys for their proposals.  See my example to them below. 

My 5 Why Conversation: 
  • I am passionate about orphan care.    
  • Why are you passionate about orphan care?  
  • As an adoptive dad, I have had my eyes opened to the plight of orphans.   
  • Why is this such a big deal?  
  • There are an estimated 153 orphans in the world today. That's a big deal.   
  • Why should I care?  
  • James 1:27 makes it clear that God cares about widows and orphans, and I should too.   
  • Why does God care about widows and orphans?  
  • God always seems to cheer for the underdogs.   
  • Why haven't I pondered this more?   

I would like to plan a yard sale to benefit Show Hope, an organization committed to helping orphans find a forever home.  Since this class is only one week long, I will not be able to host the yard sale during class. Instead, I will focus my class time in planning the event. I will need to find a location and date for the yard sale.  I plan to make a Weebly web site to raise awareness of the need and ask my friends and family for donations.  I will then email, Facebook, and tweet that link out to anyone who may be able to help.  As donations roll in, I will add pictures to my web site.  I will also need to be in contact with Show Hope to see how to make the financial donation happen. For Friday's presentation, I will show a page or two of my web site, talk about why I am passionate about orphan care, and plead with my classmates to help.  
I am also requiring them to use the Why-What If-How? format for their daily updates.  See my example below. 

Why would someone donate to my yard sale?  What if I interviewed an adoptive family for my web site?  How would I do that?  It looks like I just created homework for myself. Or... I could send an email to that family in my church that adopted that boy from Ethiopia.  I probably should use my best grammar and ask nicely.   
And now, on to their projects...

  • Kate is creating a website about Greek Mythology.
  • Nathan is creating his own old-school video game.
  • Will is making a motored Lego car.
  • Lucas is creating a robot to grab his Kindle when he doesn't want to get off the couch.
  • Cooper, Jacob, and Russell are working on making a video about their favorite game, Destiny
Stay tuned for updates.  This thing will be over quick. 

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