Monthly Archives: May 2014

Students teaching students!

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I had a student complain to me today, “Miss T, I can’t get my work done because everybody keeps asking me for help”. We were working on our weekly Genius Hour project. This particular student is creating a blog with step-by-step guides on how to do various things on computers – edit your background in Powerpoint, add a hyperlink to a Powerpoint or Word document, etc.

The 4 students who were working in the same area as him had identified him as an expert and were constantly asking him questions of how to do things on their blog: “How do I change this sidebar?”, “How do I add a hyperlink to my blog post?”, “Can I have a picture as my background?”.

I told him that it’s an honour to be asked, but agreed that it can be frustrating to be constantly distracted. I asked him how he could help them without having to go over to their computer each time. Within a few minutes, he had given each of his peers his blog address, so they could read his step-by-step guides for themselves. It helped to answer some of their questions and allowed him to continue his work. Did they still ask him questions? Of course! But after our conversation, he viewed it as feedback on what his future blog posts might be about – “How to insert pictures into blog posts”, “How can I get a map on my blog?”, “How can I take a picture of what’s on my screen and put it into my blog post?”.

This student has blown me away with what he has already done and what he plans to do with his blog. He is already a teacher in his own unique way and I am so very proud that his peers view him as an expert and respect his advice and guidance.

Check out his blog, Cool Computer Things – you never know, you might learn something!

‘Independent’ research

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Technology is making it all too easy for us to access a multitude of information whenever we want. As teachers, it is up to us to empower students with the skills to conduct meaningful research on their own, with some scaffolding and guidance along the way.

I had firsthand experience with this the other day as I guided my students to use the iMathskids website to collect information for their maths investigation. They were to click on links to lead them to websites about famous Australian landmarks to identify their location and the population of the nearest town. Very few of my students were able to discern which information was important on the website. There were so many titles, subtitles, icons, pages, maps and words in bold that my students had no idea how to find the information they needed.

How do you conduct independent research? I know at my school, many sites are blocked. This requires teachers to create a ‘hotlist’ of suitable sites for students to conduct their research on. Great in theory, but when I am running Genius Hour and I have 25 students wanting to research 25 different topics – creating a hotlist of 10 suitable sites for each of them is not sustainable.

Re-thinking my maths investigation, I was lead to 2 technology tools that I am planning on using this week to help up-skill my students for future independent research. The first one is a website, “Into The Book“. My students have used this site before, both on PC and iPad, and I have found that they are engaged AND learning. In the Student Area, there is a section on ‘Evaluating’ which has a few activities on understanding websites – absolutely perfect for the task my students were required to do last week.

I also came across this blog – A Turn To Learn – which had a fabulous post How to Change the Reading Level of Your Google Search Results. I had no idea that this was even possible! My students are often struggling with how to research topics and questions – what words to write, what words to omit – but this looks like a simple process to teach each and every student in my class. 

How do you encourage and implement independent research? Is it truly independent? Or is it ‘independent’?

Making half of the universe.

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I am giving my Year 4 students the opportunity to have their own Genius Hour this term.

One hour a week to pursue a passion of theirs, based around a question – something they’d like to find out. Today, I asked them to complete a short quiz on Edmodo as a formative assessment on their Genius Hour journey. What they’ve decided to focus on, what their plans are, what they’ve done so far and what should come next.  It gives me an idea of who might need some extra guidance, or resources, or some encouragement that it’s ok to get it wrong the first time, As I sat at my computer tonight reading some of their quiz answers, I came across this…which was too good to ignore:

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It really made me wonder how far our students would be willing to go if we didn’t stand in their way and stop them. If we didn’t bombard them with rules, guidelines and curriculum necessities. If we didn’t breathe down their necks saying, “No, we don’t have time for that because you have to get that narrative published before lunchtime”.

Seriously, one of my students has told me that he has made half the universe. He’s only partly joking, as his Genius Hour project is an investigation of the solar system, but he is thinking big picture! He knows that things like this are possible! I’ve got other students who have decided to create their own blog, one is writing her own recipe book and another is trying to see if he can power a lightbulb using a potato.

Technology is evident in all we do and one day, it may even see some of our students making half (or more!) of the universe.