Collaboration and group work can look very similar at first glance. They both involve students working together, they both may ask for solutions, and they both work best when there is a willingness to contribute. However, assuming these will produce the same results can send the wrong message to our learners and shed a negative light on real collaboration.
So, what is the difference? Here's my humble opinion...
Technology tools, new strategies, innovative ideas...I could go on and on. It seems like we are constantly adding to the plates of educators in an effort to find the "silver bullet" that will engage today's learners. Spoiler alert...there is no silver bullet. As so many already know, it doesn't exist. However, there are tools, strategies, and ideas that can be used in the classroom to make learning more meaningful. The reality is that those tools, strategies, and ideas should be different for individual educators and potentially, individual learners.
We don't teach robots, we teach people. None of them are the same, meaning that they do not and will not learn the same regardless of how much easier that would make the educating them. And yet, we continue to add to the plates of teachers asking them to try this, try that while never giving them the permission to take the things off of the plate that aren't working.
I'm a big believer in feedback over grades, especially when it comes to writing. But, the reality is, finding time to sit and offer personal feedback to every single learner is difficult to do. I really like the idea of using Flipgrid to provide feedback for writing assignments. Let's think this through...
Your students turn in a writing assignments and you spend the time that you need reading through their work. As you read their thoughts, share your reactions, thoughts, ideas, and feedback using Flipgrid Shorts on your teacher dashboard. You don't want this to be super long or they will lose interest while watching. However, if you can find a way to be clear and concise, this is a great way offer feedback for your learners.
After you have shared your feedback print the QR code for the short that you recorded and attach it to their work in the place of a grade. Rather than giving the paper back with a grade, you are giving the paper back with your feedback. Powerful stuff, right?
If you use Google Classroom for your learners to share their work or any other digital tool for that matter, you can send the link to your video feedback directly to your learners. Regardless of how you share, the goal is to offer feedback for writing more often than a grade.
Writing is personal. Sharing your thoughts on a blank piece of paper is not easy and can be intimidating. Feedback versus a grade helps a writer understand what they did well and what they can improve upon. A grade at the top of the paper does not.
I hope this helps and becomes a practical way that you can provide feedback for your writers. I'd love to hear how you offer feedback in the comments below.
SEL (social emotional learning) and how it can be woven into classroom experiences is a big conversation in education right now. I think for so long, social emotional learning has been the job of the school counselor or for parents to address in the home environment. As we have realized that our students need more SEL than they are able to receive once a week or in their own homes, we have started to address what this might look like in the classroom.
I have to say that it only makes sense to me that social emotional learning is a priority in the classroom. Our learners spend the majority of their time during the week with their teachers and it's not as difficult as it might seem to weave SEL concepts into what students experience each and every day.
I wanted to take a little bit of time to address the social emotional aspects of Genius Hour. Genius Hour is the opportunity for students to pursue their passions during the school day. Through Genius Hour, learners are given the opportunity to learn by doing, make real connections to the content, and practice life-ready skills. Why would we not make an effort to weave SEL into this experience as well?
My favorite SEL resource is CASEL. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning is such a great place to find research and resources specifically centered around social emotional learning and the impact that it can have in the classroom, on campuses, and throughout districts. CASEL breaks social-emotional learning into five categories: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision- making, relationship skills, and social awareness. Let's dive into how these can be addressed throughout the Genius Hour process.
Self-Awareness: Genius Hour is all about self-awareness. In order to find what you are passionate about, collaborate with others, and learn from the experience, learners must be aware of who they are and how they operate. Using tools like the DIRT Survey and My Creative Type from Adobe can be great springboards for students to become more self-aware. The Passion Bracket from AJ Juliani also gives students an opportunity to really explore what they love as well as what bothers them. Genius Hour gives students the time and tools that they need to get to know themselves and really explore what is important to them rather than being told what to learn and how to learn it.
Self-Management: So often in school, students are told what to do, when to do, where to do, and how to do. Because of this, they are not always given the tools that they need to manage their own emotions, reactions, and learning. Genius Hour is completely driven by the learner working on the project. They must learn to manage their time, emotions, and willingness to take risks as they work to create change, make an impact, and learn about something that is meaningful for them. Giving them tools like the Pomodoro Technique and Emotional Regulation is a wonderful way to help make connections between Genius Hour and their lives beyond the walls of the classroom.
Responsible Decision-Making: Making decisions is hard. For learners that have not had to make independent decisions before, it's even harder. This is why when you ask students what they want to do for Genius Hour, they respond with something like, "What do you want me to do?". Genius Hour gives students opportunity after opportunity to make responsible decisions. What do you want to learn about? Who do you want your outside expert to be? How will you pitch your idea to the class? How will you share your learning? Putting them in the driver's seat gives them an opportunity to make real decisions and understand what it feels like to face the positive or negative consequences of those decisions.
Relationship Skills: Many teachers allow their students to work together on Genius Hour. They may work with a partner or a group with similar interests or ideas. Even when working independently, you can give students an opportunity to practice their relationship skills by making thought partnership a priority throughout Genius Hour. You can learn more about this idea and download the Thought Partner Cards for Genius Hour HERE. Students can also practice relationship skills as they collaborate and learn from an outside expert while working on their Genius Hour project.
Social Awareness: "Social Awareness is the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports." This definition comes from Transforming Education and basically sums up what Genius Hour is all about. Taking Genius Hour to the next level gives students an opportunity to not just design a product but design real change in their classroom, on their campus, in their district, community or even the world. So many of our learners are unaware of what is going on in the world around them. Genius Hour provides an opportunity to practice empathy and provide solutions. Using tools like The Global Goals will help learners explore real issues that they might not otherwise know exists.
There you have it. Weaving SEL into Genius Hour only makes sense and is possibly something that you are already doing. If you haven't implemented Genius Hour just yet into your classroom, this is just another reason to do so. Passion-based learning gives learners an opportunity to learn by doing, practice life-ready skills, and explore social emotional learning in an authentic way that makes sense.
If you'd like to learn more about Genius Hour, please check out any of the resources below and share how you make SEL a priority in your classroom in the comments below.
Not too long ago, I shared a little bit about a new idea that my friend, Kari Espin and I had about coaching and what this might look like when seen from a different perspective. I did this through a blog post and we received lots of positive feedback and interest in the idea. Since that time, we've been working toward developing a model that would make sense and give us direction as we actually begin to implement this idea with a group of educators.
We've always been big believers in inquiry-based models for the classroom so it only made sense that we made inquiry the foundation for the Thought Partner Collaborative. In doing some research, we read a wonderful post from George Couros regarding inquiry-based professional learning. I specifically love the benefits that he listed as he explained what this might look like for educators. He mentioned the importance of being a master learner, unleashing innovative potential, passions as an element of learning, and empowering educators to lead out on change.
In order to make sense of what we thought needed to be present for this collaborative to work, we created the Thought Partner Collaborative (TPC). In short, it's a coaching model driven by inquiry, designed to identify and ignite emotion, inspire change, and encourage innovation.
Inquire - This piece of the collaborative is foundational and involves introductions, encourages self-awareness, and establishes expectations for the work. Identifying purpose and exploring the possibilities will play a role in building anticipation and excitement about what lies ahead.
Ignite - When looking for research on teacher emotions and professional development, we came across a study published in 2019 by Margareta M. Thomson and Jeanine E. Turner that found the following, "Our study results suggest that teachers' emotions and values...greatly influence their learning of new knowledge and triggered positive changes in their classroom teaching." This piece of the collaborative is about identifying and igniting emotions and practicing empathy that will eventually drive the desire to create change.
Inspire - Inspiration drives creativity. The why is so important in this process but so is the how. We hope to inspire the educators within the collaborative by connecting educators, collaborating to develop solutions, and creating opportunities for implementation.
Innovate - James Joyce said that, "Mistakes are the portals of discovery." Throughout the collaborative, we will encourage educators to be willing to take risks by establishing a culture that reframes failure as a springboard for innovation.
One of our priorities in designing this new model is to ensure that collaboration becomes a natural part of the culture that supports sustainable change. Throughout the process, we will use Flipgrid to make connections, build relationships, and collect practical ideas that can be shared and implemented immediately. The work will require a willingness to be transparent, see things from new perspectives, and reflect throughout the experience in order to find meaning and purpose.
We look forward to making this a reality very soon with a school district that we are working with to create real change. I will update and share what's working and not working periodically on the blog. Please feel free to post your thoughts, ideas, and questions in the comments below.
So often my children will bring home work that they need to complete. The problem is that I have no idea how to help and don't want to confuse them by doing something totally different than what was learned in class.
As a teacher, I remember wishing that I could just call each parent before sending anything home and explain what they could do to help rather than coming in to 15 emails the next morning sharing that they weren't sure how to help their child solve the problem.
Flipgrid is all about student voice and giving students an opportunity to share their perspectives about a book they've just read is a great way for them to share that voice. I love the idea of students sharing their opinions with their peers. Book reviews make sense and allow students to practice life-ready skills that they will need beyond the walls of the classroom.
FlipgridAR allows you to take the videos that your students record and provide QR codes that be scanned to access those videos. Here's how you can make it happen...
Recently, my friend, Kari Espin and I were chatting about an opportunity that we had to coach a group of teachers. Instead of the traditional coaching model that pairs one coach with one teacher, we wanted to take an approach that would result in a collaborative culture built on trust, transparency, and a willingness to take risks.
While we realize the importance of instructional coaching, we also see the need for an innovative opportunity such as working with a thought partner. According to the Forbes article written by Barbara Stanny, a thought partner's role is to...
How many times have you gone to do Station Rotation only to spend most of your time repeating the directions for each station? What if there was a way to manage the stations almost as if you cloned yourself to be at each station? Sounds crazy, right? Using FlipgridAR, not only is it not crazy, it's easy and very practical. Here's how you do it...
So, throughout this series we've talked about what thought partners are, why they are important, and how they can be used to help learners address and practice the life-ready skills (4Cs + 1R). In this post, I wanted to share how to use thought partnership throughout Genius Hour to encourage learners to think through the process while practicing collaboration and communication with their peers.
I'm most excited about thinking about thought partners through this lens as I believe it has to be potential to take Genius Hour to the next level and cause learners to be even more intentional and purposeful as they move through the 6 Ps of Genius Hour.
© 2018 Andi McNair