Dr. Pauline Dow (@PaulineDow), an Associate Superintendent in our district, shared this recent TED Talk by Steven Johnson, “How Play Leads to Great Inventions,” in a tweet this week. Steven Johnson, you may remember, is an author I’ve mentioned on this blog because I was fascinated by his book, How We Got to Now. Johnson is adept at tracing innovations back through time to discover the (often surprising) building blocks that made them possible.
In this October, 2016, TED Talk, Johnson claims that necessity is not always the mother of invention – and that play may be just as, if not more, important when it comes to generating new ideas. I’m pretty certain that Sir Ken Robinson would approve this message.
I will be adding this video to my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Videos for Teachers. Click here to see more.
As my students begin to do research for their Genius Hour projects, I find it important to help them learn how to find good information online. Over the years I’ve used various lessons and videos, but I recently found this one by Jillianne Jastren that succinctly details what to look for in a reliable website. Although this video uses safesearch.org as the starting place, my older students often use the Google Explore tool (formerly known as the Research tool) in addition to our own library’s electronic resources. After watching the video, the students are able to explain the pros and cons of different types of domains and the tell-tale signs of inaccurate or biased websites. I hear them discussing with their partners whether or not they should trust information that they find on a site or telling them to find a site that is more balanced and less biased. In my opinion, finding reliable websites is a critical survival skill in today’s world – not just for school research projects – and this video gives an excellent brief lesson on how to do just that.
This video does direct the viewers to turn in an assignment on Moodle at the end, but it’s easy enough to say, “That doesn’t apply to you.”
Or I guess you could just look at your class expectantly and say, “What are you waiting for? Follow her directions!”
And they could say, “How are we supposed to put an assignment on a noodle?”
And you could just shake your head and say, “Aren’t you guys supposed to know more about technology than I do?”
And then they will start blurting out how to build rocket ships that make your dinner for you in Minecraft (even though I don’t think that’s really a thing, but I would like someone to teach me if it is).
And your entire lesson will derail spectacularly – most likely all of this happening while you are being observed by an administrator.
In my never-ending quest to refine Genius Hour for my students and make it meaningful, I have created a few new digital resources that I intend to use this year with my 3rd-5th grade students. We will be using Google Classroom, so I decided to design some Google Slides presentations that the students can use for collecting research and keeping track of what needs to be completed. Here is the link to the folder of resources, which you can copy and edit to suit your needs.
Assign the Research Planner as a copy to each student. Reflections 1 and 2 are to be done at certain points as students progress through the Research Planner. The Research Planner also has links to some other helpful resources, and a great activity from Ian Byrd to help write good research questions. This slideshow is not their presentation – just a collection of notes.
Assign the Exit Tickets presentation as one copy to be edited by the students in the classroom at the end of each Genius Hour.
Include the Skype Interview and E-mail templates as assignments for students to complete when appropriate.
Once students finish the Research Planner to my satisfaction, they will be allowed to continue to the Presentation Planner. This includes links to “What Would Steve Jobs Do?” and “The Worst Preso Ever,” both of which are great to show students before they design their presentations. It also includes links to two TED Talks given by students.
After students successfully complete the Presentation Planner, they will be allowed to make their presentations, create interactive portions to follow up on the information given, and rehearse.
Finally, they will present!
If you’ve followed my Genius Hour adventures at all, you know that this plan will not work as hoped. I am pretty sure that it will be an improvement over what I’ve done in the past, though.
In this video from Smarter Every Day, the host, Destin, demonstrates what really happens when you actually try to change your mind. I don’t mean when you switch to pizza instead of a hamburger. I mean when you try to change something your mind has done the same way for decades, like riding a bike. You will see the neuroplasticity of the brain in action, and realize that it takes a lot more work when you’re an adult than a child to create new paths in the brain.
Of course, you will immediately want to take the challenge of riding a backwards bike as soon as you watch the video. If you are so inclined, you can buy your own for $500 at the Smarter Every Day shop. There is a disclaimer, of course, that you will basically be paying a lot of money for a bike you won’t be able to ride…
I recently read a post on We are Teachers by Erin Bittman (@ErinEBittman) about how to use stuffed animals to teach STEM concepts. In the article, Bittman gives several examples of how students can practice measuring, weighing, and using other mathematical skills as they compare their stuffed animals. In addition, lessons can be learned about animal adaptations and habitats.
One reason I love these ideas is because I have seen the devotion that younger students have to their stuffed animals. With that kind of interest, students will definitely be engaged. The lesson give multiple opportunities for cross-curricular connections that will make the learning memorable and relevant to the students. Check out Bittman’s article for specific activities, and feel free to add more in the Comment section!
I have a “Stemspirational” Pinterest Board here if you are looking for even more resources.
Musicmap is an incredible interactive website project by Kwinten Crauwels, which endeavors to offer an encyclopedic collection of music genres and their histories. When you first visit the site, you will probably be familiar with most of the titles on the home page. Click on any type of music, however, and you will be able to access many genres that, if they ever crossed the thresh-hold of your eardrums, you would be hard-pressed to identify their names.
Pop music, for example, offered up “Brill Building” and “Shoegaze,” two genres that sound more like commercials for men’s products to me than musical categories. In case I had any doubt these existed, though, all I had to do was click on either one to get a definition, time context, and a suggested playlist of examples.
I can’t attest to the accuracy or reliability of Musicmap, but I certainly can recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of music and in learning more about its extensive diversity.
My 5th graders are polishing up their Genius Hour presentations, and one of the students was trying to incorporate a poll into his presentation. He was just going to switch windows in the browser during his presentation, but I was sure there must be a way to actually embed one into Slides. We did some research and found a Chrome extension for Poll Everywhere that does allow this. However, there were still a few more hoops to jump through to accomplish it than I thought necessary, including setting up an account.
The very next week, Google announced a new Q&A feature for Slides. “Exactly what I was looking for!” I declared, and then proceeded to try to use it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it – and all of the articles I found announcing Q&A’s arrival failed to mention how one could actually activate the feature. I became more and more frustrated which is taking less and less time lately as the it’s-the-end-of-the-year-you-better-get-it-done-now feeling is currently commandeering more and more of my brain cells each day.
Twitter to the rescue. Someone quickly responded to my tweet for help that I needed to be in presentation mode to activate Q&A. And they said it nicely, which was kind of them since I probably should have figured that out in the first place😉
I still don’t think Q&A actually fits what my student and I envisioned, but it does allow you to ask a question and have people respond, with the responses being listed in order of popularity (the audience can “like” each other’s responses). When you activate Q&A, a link is shown at the top of your slide so the audience can type it in to record their response. You could also use this as a backchannel where audience members can ask questions or make comments.