Monthly Archives: March 2014

Device Neutral Creation

I am very fortunate because I teach at a school where we have invested in mobile technology, specifically iPads.  If I want my students to create something using a specific app it’s pretty easy.  However the iPads are picking up in popularity and I no longer have unlimited access to them so I’ve had to change my plan.  My class does participate in BYOD but not all devices are the same so I can’t say “go into PicCollage” or “using BookCreator” I have to be aware that depending on the device some students may not have access to the apps that I am familiar and confident with.  My awesome ITRT recently introduced me to the phrase Device Neutral Creation.  Which means keep in mind the goal is creation.  If you want your students to create a photo essay represented by a collection of images it doesn’t matter if they have an android or apple device.  It doesn’t matter that they are all using the same app as long as they are all creating.  You know what else I’ve learned, you don’t even need to know how to use the app they are using.  Kids are really good at figuring it out.  In fact when I show kids a new app I don’t worry about learning the ins and outs of the app.  I learn enough to introduce and then I let the kids go.  Usually in five or ten minutes they will have discovered more than I would have in an hour.

Device Neutral Creation makes BYOD a lot less scary.  Kids don’t have to be using the same thing.  The ultimate goal is creation.

Resources for Using Genius Hour to Promote Digital Learning Skills

Below is a list of invaluable resources that myself and Michelle Philpot have used on our Genius Hour journey.  Many were used as learning resources in the beginning of our journey and recommended by our amazing Twitter Professional Learning Networks (PLN) and some were used to inspire students and create a buy in.

We would like to take the time to recognize and thank the ongoing learning that we receive from our Twitter PLN’s especially those that participate in #geniushour and #PeelGeniusChat

Genius Hour Websites

Caine’s Arcade


Paul Solarz http://

YouTube Videos

Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monser Trap

Kid President –

Lego Man in Space –

Caine’s Arcade


Kieran’s Lemonade Stand

Thank you Shivonne for inviting me to blog about Kieran’s Lemonade Stand Project.  If Kieran wasn’t a Kindergarten student we would have had him blog his story for you but rest assured his voice is in this blog entry!

Kieran first heard about #geniushour from his brother Liam in Shivonne’s class.  Liam had been talking about Genius Hour at home with a lot of excitement and no doubt that excitement rubbed off on Kieran.  We had been talking about Genius Hour in our class as well as it fits with our Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) Program philosophy.   Asking big questions and encouraging the children to be innovative and peruse their passions during play.

One day Kieran came to me and my teaching partner Patti and told us he planned on doing a Genius Hour project.  When we asked him what he was interested in doing he walked the circumference of the outdoor play area over and over thinking.  Then he came back to us and told us he wanted to make a lemonade stand and “give away” the money. We talked about the word donate and why we donate to help people.   When we asked him who he wanted to give the money he paced the area again.  Even at this point Kieran knew that he wanted to use the money to help someone.  He just needed to find the right cause to donate to.  After some thinking he decided he wanted to raise $6.00 to buy mittens for The Massey Mitten Tree.  He said, “kids need mittens.”

We started asking him questions to get him thinking about the process.  We had been tweeting a lot with “experts” to answer our inquiry questions.  We often Tweet Rob Ridley @RangerRidley to ask him questions about our Tree Inquiry Project #treeinquiry and insects we find on our walks (Thanks Rob!). As Kieran began to plan and organize his project his enthusiasm and excitement spread!  The lemonade stand became a class project.  The students spent time learning about lemons and researched on the iPads how to make lemonade.

Kieran’s family donated some boxes and the student set to work creating the lemonade stand.  As an educator it was hard to pull back and not tell them how to make a beautiful stand but let them problem-solve, ask questions and figure out how to make the stand stable.  The students amazed us with their ideas and excitement. The next day they decided that it needed to have some sparkle and they spent the day adding finishing touches!

We talked a lot in class about why Kieran wanted to donate the money and how important it was to help those in need rather than buying our classroom new trucks and toys.  We wondered how children with no mittens felt so we decided to try an experiment.  We put our mittens in a bag and went outside to see what it was like.  The students discovered that it was hard to play and have fun.  One student told us that he could not learn as he felt too cold.  They began to realize how lucky they were.  They finally understood that it was important to help and even though they were 4 and 5 years old, they could make difference!

The students engaged in lemonade experiments.  We taste tested lemons, which created some interesting conversations about facial expressions.  Then we made fresh and canned lemonade and voted on which we liked best.  As an authentic writing experience  some students chose to create invitations.  We had been tweeting form our class Twitter account (@K5Kinders) about the progress of the lemonade stand and decided to send invitations out on Twitter as well.  They were excited when some of their Twitter friends tweeted back that they would come.  Thanks @Mr_Cariati, @tina_zita, and @PeelSchools for constantly retweeting our progress.

On the day of the stand, the children set up and created their vision of the lemonade stand and enjoyed selling lemonade and treats while explaining their purpose.  The room was filled with joy and excitement.

The next day students used Pic Collage to create and share photos of the day.  They counted the money and were excited to find out how many mittens we could buy!  Thank you to Kieran and his family for baking lots of yummy treats and for taking Kieran shopping to purchase the mittens.

When the mittens arrived we read the story The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen .  We sorted, counted, graphed our mittens.  The students we so excited to put the mittens on the Massey Mitten Tree.

We wrapped up with a community circle where students shared their feelings on the experience using pictures we had taken during the process.  The pride on their faces was priceless and you could tell that they had learned the impact that helping others makes.  Even though this became a class Genius Hour project they all honoured Kieran by calling it, “Kieran’s Lemonade Stand.”  They understood that none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for a big idea from one small boy!

Michelle Philpot @K5_RP

Stay tuned for Kieran’s next project!

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Digital Leadership Conference 2014 #Peel21st

My colleague/friend Michelle and I spent the whole day preparing our Prezi for the North Field Office Digital Leadership Conference.  I’m super excited that our proposal to present at this conference was approved and we are going to get to share what we do and love in our classrooms – Genius Hour.

Michelle teaches Kindergarten and really every day is Genius Hour in her room.  Her classroom is a full on Inquiry Learning environment and a lot of what I know and have learned about Inquiry learning comes from her and the Kindergarten team that I use to be a part of.  Truthfully if you are not sure how to implement Genius Hour or Inquiry Based Learning then I encourage you to befriend a K teacher.  Spend some time in their classroom or chat them up on Twitter.  Better yet teach Kindergarten for a year you really will get a solid understanding of how it works!

I also use Genius Hour in my classroom and I’ve said this before but it’s been a game changer.  I started it because I have a wide range of students in my class and I wanted something that could address all their individual, unique needs at the same time and would allow them to feel good about themselves and be successful. This is totally happening and I’m so excited to share about it at the conference.

We are also going to focus on the technologies that we’ve integrated into our Genius Hour time like Twitter, PicCollage, iMovie, BookCreator, Educreations, Magisto, Aurasma, YouTube Capture, KidBlog, and so on.  After the conference I’ll share a link to our Prezi for all to view.  If you are a Peel District School Board teacher there is still lots of time to sign up on My Learning Plan for the conference on March 27th in the evening.  There will be an AMAZING Keynote speaker George Couros and you do not want to miss him!

Hope to see you there!



Testing Out Marble Roller Coasters

One of our challenges with Scientist Wendy from was to make a marble roller coaster to test out the force of gravity.

Scientist in the School



Yesterday we had a super exciting day.  We’ve been studying Forces in Science.  My grade 3 counterpart and I decided we would provide students with some background knowledge about muscular force, friction, gravitational force and magnetic force.  Rather than doing an experiment each day we booked a scientist, Scientist Wendy through a great program called Scientists in the School it was a half day program.  Scientist Wendy started off by giving them a bit of background (I think to gauge what they knew) information about forces and right away had them up and investigating.  Students used catapults and pom poms to see if it takes more or less Newtons to make the pom pom travel further.  The students thought this experiment was amazing!  They loved using catapults.  I mean when do they get the opportunity to launch objects around the classroom?  

One of my favourite and student favourite was a gravity experiment where the students used foam pipe, a marble and some masking tape.  The kids had to simulate a roller coaster and had to include one loop.  Some groups mastered it quickly and some took more time but what I found fascinating was once they mastered it they didn’t say “I’m done, what can I do next” they instantly challenged themselves to make it more difficult by adding double loops and twists. Some groups even merged together to create super coasters.  

Between experiments, Scientist Wendy would bring the kids back to the carpet and recap their learning, present new information and then introduce the next experiment.  She would provide just enough information to get the kids started but not too much as to take away the discovery.  It was loud and busy in the room but every.single.kid was focused, engaged and really into the learning moment.  The experience solidified once again how kids thrive on inquiry based learning.  

My students used time in the afternoon to blog about their personal experiences you can read about it on