Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Genius Nuggets Round 1 Wrap Up: Part 1. (Lessons Learned)

I believe in the power of Genius Hour. I have used this teaching model in a couple classes in middle school and tried to start an Innovation Class in our middle and high school that never really got off the ground.  Since all my past outlets for Genius Hour have dried up, I decided to bring "Genius Nuggets" to my upper elementary computer classes.

We dedicated a month of computer classes (one hour a week) to what we called Innovation Projects in class. This month wrapped up last week with presentations, and now is my time to reflect on the process while it's still fresh in my mind.  

Since I firmly believe that self-evaluation needs to look at the good and bad, for this first post I want to focus on the things I did wrong.  Don't worry.  I'll post the happy thoughts at a later time.  And I'm going to be critical of myself -- not the kids.  They did great.  

Problem 1: My fourth graders weren't ready for this.  Fourth grade is a big tech year at MVCA.  This is the year we give them their own school email.  This is a process that can't be sped up too quickly.  We need to talk about email etiquette, how to send, forward, reply, and simple things like what to put on the subject line of an email.  How do you explain CC to someone who has never seen a carbon copy?  I also introduce them to OneDrive in the early weeks of fourth grade.  They are normally well-versed in Office products by the end of third grade, but cloud-based computing adds a whole new dimension. It takes time to learn these skills.

I can't stress enough that if I expect students to use a tool to communicate with me, they need to know how to use that tool.

Lesson Learned:  Don't start fourth grade on Innovation Projects in October. Let them learn the tools first!

Problem 2: I had a lot of emails to sort through. I used email and OneDrive quite a bit for this project. Proposals, weekly updates, and presentation shares were all done via these tools. With 62 students working on this simultaneously, I was constantly sifting through my inbox for the latest update or scrap of information.  This was not the most efficient use of my time.

Lesson Learned:Take advantage of OneNote Class Notebook or Teacher Dashboard.  These speed up the grading process with less clicks along the way.  Dashboard is relatively new and I wasn't prepared to use it a month ago.  OneNote would require a lot of work to get students ready for use.  However, both would speed things up for us.

Problem 3: Innovation connotes a creation of some sort.  Most of the students turned this into an oral report with PowerPoint.  This was not at all my intent.  Yes, students learned about topics they were interested in.  Yes, I still think the project was a success.  No, I'm not happy with the "use PowerPoint (ie my comfort zone) to report something I've learned" aspect of the project.

To be fair, there isn't time or space to create (and store) things in our computer lab. Parents don't want to pay a lot of money for supplies.  What I want may not be what we get, and I need to be OK with that.  However, I need to do more to promote expanding horizons rather than allowing students to sink back into their comfort zones.   (I am not anti-PowerPoint and have rediscovered my love for Office products. I just want Innovation/Genius time to be opportunities to grow into new things.)

Lesson Learned: Ban PowerPoint. Push videos, web sites, and other presentation tools like Prezi, Haiku Deck, and Educreations.

Thanks for listening to my thoughts.  I'll be working on the positive sides of the project and share some of the best presentations with you.

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