Tag Archives: #geniushour

#Peel21st Blog Hop – What Does 21st Century Learning Mean to Me

I’ve had the opportunity to connect with many #Peel21st educators and other members of my twitter PLN to discuss 21st century teaching and learning and what it means to us.  When the #Peel21st Blog Hop was presented I was excited to share as I missed out on the first round.  Read on to learn what I think about the meaning of 21st century learning and then check out the other blog posts listed at the bottom of my post.  

Happy Reading!

When @jrichea presented the #peel21st Blog Hop I was excited to participate. I was even more excited that the topic was 21st Century Learning and what it means to me. I’m having difficulty articulating it. Images of BYOD, Twitter, #geniushour and inquiry float around. While I certainly feel that those are elements to successful 21st Century learning I don’t think they define it. When I think about my own two children Keelyn and William I can’t help but hope for an education system that embraces their interests, quirks and nurtures their passions. That doesn’t make them feel self conscious or embarrassed when they don’t “fit in the box”.  That’s what 21st Century learning means to me.

Keelyn and William - 21st Century Learners!

Keelyn and William – 21st Century Learners!

Blog Hop Participants 

Genius Day – Best Day Ever!


Yesterday we dedicated the entire day (minus Gym first period) to working on our genius hour projects.  I was a little worried if they would be able to maintain their focus on one thing all.day.long but the students in 3B did not disappoint.  Not only were they totally focused they were happy and collaborating and talking but on task.  I did not have to behaviour manage a single time.  It was so cool to be a part of these young people creating something with zero or minimal intervention from me.  A super big high was when my group of builders finally got their lego car to move.  They had been struggling all morning to get it to go and when they did the four jumped up and cheered! 


Here are some highlights from our day


Check out our Vine Videos too! 




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 http://cainesarcade.com/

Wonderopolis http://wonderopolis.org/

Paul Solarz http://http://bit.ly/1iwTp7S

YouTube Videos

Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monser Trap https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uDDEEHDf1Y

Kid President – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-gQLqv9f4o

Lego Man in Space – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQwLmGR6bPA

Caine’s Arcade


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!


Today was #geniushour Trial Day

Today was the final day before the Christmas Break.  If you work in a school or with children then you know that it’s a pretty crazy day.  The children are so excited and it’s really difficult to get them to focus on any tasks.  I’ve done the movie and popcorn on the last day, free time activities, games day.  All which are pretty special things that the students enjoy but I wanted to end our 2013 on a real high.  If you ask any of the students in the class what is their favourite thing about school they will likely tell you genius time.  So I knew I had to something big with genius time.

My initial plan was to just let them go ahead and make their projects.  But my wonderful colleague and husband Phil Young had his students engage in a genius time day and while it was a really positive learning experience for the students a few were left frustrated because they used their material to “practice” on but didn’t have successful results in the way that they wanted.  With this in mind I realized that many of my students may not have ever baked, or sewn so that’s when I came up with Genius Trial Day.  Basically I would supply the materials and group the students by similar topic.  This left me with Bakers, Sewers, Builders, Gamers.  I had a small handful of miscellaneous students but I let them join whichever group they wished.  The groups had a component of working together (some more than others) and had specific materials and a set of instructions to follow.  I expected to be really torn between the groups and frantic as I had raced between helping.  But that wasn’t the case at all.  The builders and gamers didn’t need me at all.  Once I set the bakers up with reading and following  a recipe and then how to properly fill a measuring cup and use the mixer they were good.  The sewers felt frustrated at first but once they got the technique down they didn’t need me either.  Except for the odd rethread.  Having Mr. Edwards there was a huge help too.  The room was busy, and a bit loud but not out of control loud.  The buzz was a happy classroom community of students working together and creating something that they were all very proud of!

The Bakers

Their task was to bake chocolate chip cookies.  Their recipe was easy and they organized themselves in an order to make sure they all had a fair share of the process.  When it was their recess time they all decided to stay in and help me take their cookies to the staff room to bake and wash up the dishes.  I don’t think I’ve even seen a group of 8 year olds so excited to bake.  The smell wafting from the oven was amazing and they looked great!  They tasted exactly as a chocolate chip cookie should.  Right texture, right colour they were delicious.  The smile on the Bakers faces was priceless they were so proud of themselves.  


The Sewers

Their task was to create a mini stuffy out of a simple shape. I first had the students do practice stitches on scraps of fabric to get the hang of it.  I purposely used stripped fabric so they could follow along a strip and told them to make their stitches not larger than 1cm (use their pinky nail as a guide).  Once they had finished their practice they had to draw their shape on a newsprint, cut it out, trace it twice with a sharpie onto felt, cut out their felt and begin to sew their pieces together.  Their instructions said to leave a thumb sized hole to stuff and then stitch closed.  It was tricky for them at first and a bit of frustration but they really got the hang of it.  Some of the sewers even made a second project.  





The Builders

They didn’t need me… at all. They split into two groups of 2 and  their task was to create a lego maze.  They had some initial planning and part of their instructions was to use kidrex (safe search engine powered by google) to search images of lego mazes.  At first I asked them to use grid paper to plan out their maze but at the last minute I told them to forget it and just build.  I’m so glad I did because they came up with really imaginative complex mazes.  One was Zombie Apocalypse maze complete with little red lego zombies.  The other had moving parts that could seal of accesses to the maze at any time.  One of my students who is usually a reluctant learner was totally focused, engaged and immersed in the task so much that he was disappointed it was recess time.  Normally he’s the first to jump up and get to the door when the bell rings.  The other students when they had the chance to see what the builders were up to were amazed.






The Gamers

Admittedly I may have ignored the gamers but they REALLY didn’t need me.  They had such a blast and they were creating games and sharing their games with one another and laughing and talking and it was lovely.  The best part is the group consisted of three boys who are friends but don’t make great choices together and a fourth that doesn’t normally get along with the other 3.  I was secretly happy that I could ignore them because they were collaborating beautifully I kind of didn’t want to wreck their momentum.  The gamers created games using the iPad mini’s and an app called Sketch Nation. I first instructed them to use simple mode and then go onto advanced.  They rocked it.  For their actual projects I know they all want to create games and apps but I”m not 100% where to go with it but looking for suggestions for sure! 



I for sure got my wish.  To end the first part of our 2013 grade 3 year on a high.  If you can only imagine the amount of fun AND learning that was going on on the last day of school before Christmas break you’d be totally floored.  I can’t wait to see what these guys come up with for their individual projects.  

Guest Blogger Coming Soon :) @K5_RP

The kindergarten genius hour project was a major success!  I feel so proud for Michelle, Patti and their students.  Michelle is still going to guest blog but the actual Lemonade stand project was bigger than they expected so we didn’t get there.  Tomorrow, I promise!  

Here’s a teaser picture while you wait 


#BYOD in Primary

BYOD or Bring Your Own Device means students bring their own wifi enabled device to school to use for academic purposes.  It is a really good idea because our schools in Peel are equipped with wifi and while many schools have invested in equipment like netbooks or iPads they are not 1 to 1 and they are shared with other classes so you don’t always have access to a device.

I’m encouraging my students to BYOD in Grade 3.  You might read this and think that’s nuts.  But they have demonstrated responsibility with devices time and time again.  I am lucky to have a few devices and I allow the kids to use them and they are careful and respectful of them.  They are also really interested in using the technology and I find their focus and attention goes up when the word “iPad” is mentioned.

Having their own device certainly makes #geniushour a lot easier. Students have access to research or look at videos at their finger tips instead of having to share my devices or use the 1 classroom computers.

We have a system in place for keeping devices secure.  When not being used by students they are locked in a cupboard.  The classroom door is locked when we are not in the room and students understand the importance of leaving their device in their backpack to and from school.

I understand that a device like a smart phone, iPod, tablet is an expensive piece of equipment so I get why some parents may be hesitant to send them to school.  However they are a super valuable learning tool.  Having your children explore and learn and discover how to use their own or family device in a new way (e.g. other than playing angry bird) is a great learning opportunity and a really effective 21st Century Learning Tool!