Genius Hour is an ongoing project in which my students identify and explore their scientific interests and passions. Developed every Friday for an entire semester during class, the project provides an opportunity for students to cultivate their research and critical thinking skills while engaging in a topic that is of interest to them. As part of the Genius Hour project, my students connect with "virtual partners" from outside our state in a collaborative effort to authenticate their projects even more. Genius Hour culminates in a demonstration of students' research findings in a format of the students' choosing. This year, I have included the use of Flipboard, an application that allows students to search for a variety of web-based resources and to curate these resources in a visually compelling and user-friendly way.
ThingLink is an online software used to make images interactive. This year, I've used it during a project/problem-based learning (PBL) activity, in which students did a series of tasks to collect data on a soil site of their choice (please see my "Model Overview" to learn about how I use Levels in my classroom). They collected this data and saved it for the final activity, the Soil Report, which asked the students to compile all the information they learned about their soil site and to post it on a ThingLink. This ThingLink was then used to make a target on the larger map of Paracini Ponds (the field site we visited), which was also its own ThingLink. The insight I was looking to gain from the completion of this activity was whether students could take scientific data from a field exercise, analyze it, and make a decision about how the land should be used.
Instant Feedback, my method for conferencing with students on a daily basis, is one of the strategies I use each day to help my students progress through the content in my largely self-paced course. I also use Instant Feedback to gauge my students' understanding of the material we are covering. As I walk around the room, I'm constantly looking at what students have written and am asking them to explain their thinking. If I need to learn more about their thinking, I ask additional questions until I identify the source of their confusion or misconceptions or until I am convinced that they are on the right track. This year I have begun to experiment with a protocol called "SE2R" (Summarize, Explain, Redirect, Resubmit) to structure some of my Instant Feedback to my students and to help them identify their next steps.
After five years of traditional teaching, I broke away from direct instruction and moved into a self-paced, blended-gamified classroom. My students flexibly move through the curriculum while self-directing and managing their learning. This is done through the use of Classcraft, an online education gaming software, and our classroom game “Isle of Nosredna.” The addition of game elements into my classroom has helped my students stay on track and motivated as they progress through the science curriculum.
Number of Students: ~20 students/period
Number of Adults: one teacher
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 51 minutes
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: Haiku Learning (LMS); Classcraft; Google Classroom; Doctopus (Add-on in Google Sheets connected to Google Classroom); Educreations; Flipboard; Symbaloo; Kidblog; ThingLink; Socrative; Kahoot!
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: iPads (1:1); SMARTboard; Apple TV
Key Features: competency-based; student agency; project-based; gamification; innovative use of space