Monday, December 28, 2015

We can fly

While Genius Hour has a number of interesting projects, this one seems to grab everyone's attention. A group of 8th grade boys are working on creating a hot air balloon. The original idea was to make a simple balloon and place a Go-Pro inside to video the flight and landing. The idea has morphed into creating a larger balloon from scratch. The process has been interesting and changed directions several times, but I am confident that we will see a balloon flying high in the near future. 

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, December 7, 2015

#Skypeathon what we learned

December 3rd & 4th were global skypeathon days. Our school participated by joining in 4 mysteryskypes throughout the day on December 3rd. We logged in a total of 11,657.6 virtual miles reaching classrooms in Illinois, Arkansas, Massachusetts, and New Zealand. Students in grades 5-8 conversed with students in grades 4 through High School making global connections by learning, laughing, questioning, and observing.

The point is to beat the other class by discovering their location first, however, everyone had a good time and the end goal transpired from winning to fun. Students not only learned geography but how to ask defining questions that narrowed down the location of the other class. Terms like "near" and "big or large city" were relevant to location so we tried to avoid those words and substituted "North of" and "population bigger than" this was difficult to transition too, but students quickly caught on and rephrased questions. Mapping skills were utilized to narrow down where the other class might be. Another group of students would look, listen, and converse to come up with questions to relay to our speakers and yet two more students back-channeled both questions and answers so we could refresh our memories. All in all it was a huge collaborative effort where our kids worked amazingly well together. At the end, we were serenaded by the New Zealand kids and discussed differences in time zones. It was 4:00pm here and 10:00 am there-the next day. 

One of the biggest take-aways that surprised me, was that students learned more about OUR state. That was not my prediction. Directional questions about Rochester, Laconia, Springfield, Newbury, I89 and I93, and specific bodies of water had our NH mappers scrambling to provide answers. Some places, we hadn't even heard of. We laughed at mispronunciations and they laughed at ours. 

The day concluded with all students asking, "When can we mysteryskype again?" All in all it flattened the globe for us and provided everyone with a different way to view the world.
Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Patience and perseverance

Holidays tend to force us to reflect upon life and Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all that we have. My students never fail to teach me something new, make me smile, and show me the good in the world; this happens on a daily basis. I am thankful to be surrounded by such interesting, innovative, caring, and funny kids.

In this post, I decided to share a couple of student projects that are occurring during Genius Hour that exemplify desired traits that are not formally measured in education. Seventh grader, Emma opted to learn how to draw mandalas. She spent time researching and then began attempting some of her own. Below are some examples of her incredible work. Not only did Emma learn this technique, she will CC license her work, and she has shared the mandalas throughout the school. She has placed copies of them in classrooms so when a student is feeling stressed or anxious, s/he may grab a mandala and color. Patience, caring, and attention to detail are valued traits that Emma has demonstrated during the process of this project that will serve her well beyond school boundaries.

Another interesting Genius Hour project has a group of boys attempting to build a small hot air balloon. Originally they wanted to purchase one and place a Go-Pro camera inside of it to see what they could capture on film. In researching all the components they would need, they decided to try and build their own small hot air balloon. One of the many things they have found challenging is working with the wood to build a frame. Below is a picture of the boys holding the current frame they are have built. Perseverance has been the key word for this group. Like the MineCraft server group we had last year, these boys need to learn to work together, communicate, and compromise-all skills they will need later in life. In addition to those traits, their sense of humor to work through the road-blocks they encounter, provides me with a bit of laughter to lighten my day. 

Students-the reason I am in education!
Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mysteryskype a whole new world

While at the ISTE 2015 conference, I learned about and participated in a Mysteryskype. I was hooked and was determined to bring this back to my small rural school. This month I am kicking off a bunch of Mysteryskypes with numerous classrooms and grade levels. You may be asking yourself, "Why is the librarian doing this? Shouldn't she be encouraging our kids to read?" Of course, after all we are a "bunchareaders," but as the librarian I take my job as resource person, cultivator of information, trouble-shooter, tech geek, book recommender, and education innovator seriously. My goal is to introduce the concept to the students and staff in hopes that they will continue with the process.

What is Mysteryskyping? You skype with another class somewhere in the world but only the teachers know where each class is located- the kids need to figure that out. It is similar to the game 20 questions where yes-no questions are asked to determine the location. Students can have jobs such as greeter, information finder, questioner, videographer, map checker and so on. The process cultivates organization, quick-thinking skills, map reading, collaboration, public speaking, and furthers our understanding of the world. Almost any curriculum topic can be incorporated into Mysteryskyping: math-time difference, science-biomes, LA-writing, Social Studies-geography and may even further empathy through the exposure to different cultures.

I know, you are still asking, "Where's the reading?" One of my personal goals is to showcase books, both fiction and non, that are about the place we have skyped with and create a list of books about our state for those interested. In reading some of these books, students may gain an understanding of setting, cultural values, and history among other things. So as we set out to "flatten the world," so to speak, think about how you can be innovative and introduce your kids to a whole new world!

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Blogging Kids

In an effort to reflect and communicate a bit more, I am strongly encouraging my students to begin blogging. The following Genius Hour student has a passion for animals. Last year her project was to collect food for shelter animals and it was a success. She gathered many boxes of delectables and distributed them to the local shelter. This year she chose to continue on that thread. Here is her voice:

My name is Lily. For my Genius Hour project I made peanut butter dog treats and donated them to animal shelters. So far I have made six pounds of treats. The reason I chose to do this project is because I love animals and I would like to help animals that don’t have homes still get to eat tasty treats.
Smile and keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Space- a new frontier

Although I have been a librarian for 8 years, somehow I have become a first year teacher again, and it is not a bad thing. I find myself revamping every lesson, tackling individualized learning in a new format, and trying to collaborate in many different ways. What was the change? My library became a Library Learning Commons- my space almost doubled in size allowing for a more flexible, fun, comfortable environment. Whereas I used to have barely enough space  for one class and a few extra students, I can now accommodate 3 full classes at once.

If I am teaching a class in the new cozy reading area, another class can be using the cafe tables with the computers and whiteboard and yet the older students can comfortably be working in the YA area on couches, beanbags, and hassocks. Music quietly plays in the background and collaboration is abundant. Students WANT to use this space now. This is a vast difference from years past and I love it. Learning is changing and growing in front of my eyes and it is making me question how I teach.

Hearing students work together in this space and watching grades co-mingle ( second graders working near sixth graders) appropriately and modeling good work ethic and behaviors is thought provoking. I have discovered I need to be available almost all the time due to the amount of students in the LLC, and I like it! I see kids taking charge of their learning while understanding and following the clear boundaries I have put in place. I love our new space and so does the clientele which promotes an attitude of achievement and success.

Every student should be given the opportunity to learn in a safe, pleasant space that gives the freedom to access various types of information and help when needed- we are expanding on that and the learning curve is challenging but enjoyable for me too.

                                               Collaboration at all levels.

                                      A fun place to read together.

                                       A meeting of the minds.
                                                        Working hard in the YA section.

                                                  Reading in comfort.

                                                 It's a student's life!

Keep watching us grow and learn together,
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, October 12, 2015

Guiding or failing

Out of over 50 students in 7th and 8th grade, 34 have signed up for Genius Hour. Of course, that number will fluctuate as kids drop in and out of GH, but it is an impressive start to our second year. One of the parameters we have for GH is that it is an individual project. We allowed several groups to work together last year and only one completed their original project. Not only was it a lesson for us a mentors, it served as a small lesson for those that "failed." Sadly some of those students chose not to return to GH partially because the process was not only undesirable but the reflection was not satisfying to them.

This year we had a large number of students want to collaborate on projects. I struggled with allowing them the opportunity to work together and sticking with the philosophy of letting them learn while internally thinking it was a set up for failure. I want them to succeed or at least learn from their First Attempt In Learning, but how do I help facilitate that? When teachers begin to say "no" to a project, does it then become "ours" and not the students? When students pick something that is costly and seemingly unattainable, how do I strike a balance between real learning and crushing the creativity and desire to succeed? These are the questions I struggle with and even the teachers I am working with this year question me on the defining line.

I have one good example of an overly excited team that wanted to collaborate but reigned themselves in before delving too deep. Three students, who participated in GH last year, wanted to work together to form a business. One wanted to learn about corporations and the role of a CEO, another wanted to examine the financial aspect of a business and the final student wanted to investigate the creative-product side of the business. I was extremely skeptical of this undertaking but knew if I said no, it would be going back on what I told kids about GH belonging to them. I decided that I would tell all the students that while collaboration is encouraged, each student must do his/her own research. Collaboration would occur when students made appointments with each other to have a meeting and take notes on their shared findings. I stressed that this would be similar to a business model and it would be a sharing of knowledge so that if a team member decided to "fail," the rest of the team would have access to the expertise of that member. Essentially, I guided them to what I foresaw as a viable solution. This allowed them to choose and work on something they were interested in, collaborate, and practice a model that is frequently used outside of the educational realm.

What happened? At first they were very excited about the concept but that did not last long. Each one came to me and expressed that while their vision was fun, they weren't passionate about it. The plan was never executed. The take away in all of this is not that they didn't choose to complete the project but that given the choice and freedom, they each realized it wouldn't work. In essence, that is more important to me than if they had succeeded by forging ahead with this topic. It demonstrated that they could think it through and see the holes in their plan. They felt safe enough to take a risk, evaluate, discuss, and come to a decision individually and as a group. They owned it; not me. All three students have gone on to other projects they are more passionate about with good plans. In looking at the big picture, this kind of student who perseveres is the one I want to cultivate.

Check back as I will continue this line of thought with other projects that are happening. See, GH is teaching me a lot too!
Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Get Ready.....

Tomorrow is the big Genius Hour pep rally for our 7 and 8th grade students. We have BIG plans this year and kids are pestering us to begin. Yes, I am talking about education where kids can't wait to learn! Come along for the ride.

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What? September already?

September-a time for new beginnings and my enthusiasm and energy level is comparable to a seven year old. I began the year with a brand-new-much-larger, space. The library morphed into the "Library Learning Commons" and became a realm worthy of a setting in an adventure novel. Hopefully a tech savvy student with oodles of spare time will hear my pleas and graciously take all my video footage and photos of the process and create a movie bound to win an Academy Award. Aside from delusions of grandeur, I know I accomplished my goal when students walked into the space, smiling, laughing, applauding and yelling slang words that meant I have achieved "cool" status.

Besides this highlight of my career, I will begin mentoring my second year of Genius Hour with 6-8th grade students and collaborating with a new colleague, Ms. Magario. I will also introduce a Genius Hour pilot program with Mrs. Lee the second grade teacher. The opposite ends of the spectrum in age groups are now covered. It is bound to be exciting, challenging, frustrating, engaging, and loads of fun. I can't wait!

September: apples, the beginning of cooler weather, growth, excitement, and time to begin anew. No one thinks of all this when you mention September as these thoughts are usually reserved for spring. However, for me, September brings back a feeling of starting over, fresh eager faces, and a love of learning and curiosity that I want to foster, perpetuate, and encourage. That is my goal.

Sit back, munch on a crisp apple and watch us grow.
Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, July 6, 2015

Student Genius Hour commentary

Wrapping up the year consisted of student reflections regarding Genius Hour. Here are the comments straight from the students' mouths. 

"I learned that even when you hit a road block, there is still hope and a chance. You can!"

"Be creative, do stuff you want to do."

"It's ok to fail."

"Live in your imagination."

"I learned how to overcome failure and keep going."

"I learned that even if you fail, you should keep trying."

"Don't give up."

"Dream big because anything is possible."

"Nothing great can be accomplished without failure."

"It takes a while to succeed."

"I love the freedom."

"Try hard."

"It is hard to reach your dreams."

"Make sure you have a strong plan before you start."

"I liked how you were given the freedom to do something you never thought you could."

"Best thing: freedom of choice."

" I learned that sometimes failure can make you a better person."

"Keep an open mind."

"Pick something you are passionate about."

"Anything is possible if I really put my mind to it." 

"Don't be afraid to try new things."

"I like how you have your own say and choice in what you want to do."

"You need to be committed to work through road-blocks."

"I learned that you are not always going to love your project."

"I learned how to collaborate." 

"Just do it and don't give up."

"Keep trying."

" I learned that even if you think you stink, you don't."

"Support someone else's ideas."

"Sometimes failures can turn into successes."

"Stay optimistic and be creative."

"Have a clear plan."

"I learned independent learning and how to advocate for myself."

"No project is too big. If it doesn't work you can change it."

"Create your future."

Happy summer and keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Genius Hour Year 1

It is June and as we wind down the school year, a lot of reflecting on past practice occurs. Genius Hour has taken on a life of its own and is thriving at PES. My colleague, Sean Collins, and myself have learned as much as the students this year! While GH has three components; Question, Research, Share, we discovered it goes beyond this. Life skills, freedom of choice, and freedom to fail without judgement are embedded in the PES GH model. As mentors we have learned to step down from the "teacher podium" and let the students lead us. The enthusiasm and excitement in GH is contagious. We hear again and again from other kids, staff, parents, administration, community members, school board and other educators how amazed they are by our fantastic, eager, and interesting GH students.

I know this summer I will invest more time in GH and how to engage, excite, and encourage the kids. Next year will be another learning adventure for us, and I cannot wait.

So here are the student voices, which are the ones that truly matter, letting the world know what THEY think of Genius Hour. This video was a GH project by Hannah, Kate, and all the art work is by Anna. Enjoy!

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

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PES Genius Hour by Hannah and Kate is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How to share Genius Hour

During one of the monthly Genius Hour Twitter chats, we discussed ideas on how to share Genius Hour with those outside the school. Here is a small list of some of the ways we share at my school as well as some really creative ideas posted during the chat.

Learning Lunches: Pair up older students with younger students during lunch and have a question and answer session about GH projects. We are doing this with our 7-8 th graders and 1st graders.

Blogging: Start a GH blog for staff, parents, and community members to read and keep up to date.

Newsletter: Provide a small paragraph updating everyone on student progress.

Twitter: Start a GH Twitter account.

Email list: Send out notifications via email to parents and staff.

GH Website: Best as a GH project!

Staff presentations: Schedule a time for kids to present to staff members

GH info night: Invite neighboring schools and community members to attend a "science fair" like format. We will put a donation bucket out for this to use for funding GH projects.

Create GH t-shirts advertising Genius Hour which will get people talking. We have a student created (GH project) logo for this. Any funds raised will, again, go into a GH project fund. 

YouTube video: showcasing projects.

Have students present to School Board: We will be arranging this for the end of the year. 

Skype: Share with others around the world. 

BYOD: This came off the chat and we can't wait to try it. Bring Your Own Dinner night for parents and have kids share their "Genius".

I am sure there are may other methods of sharing GH and we look forward to discovering and trying them out together!

Keep reading and stay warm!
The Noisy Librarian

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A One Man Band Becomes An Orchestra

When I first began to investigate Genius Hour, I was excited at the prospects this PBL project could have in our small school. Like a one man band strumming a tune, I began to share my research and that drew in colleagues. We met, planned, and then developed the process we wanted to follow. Starting with two grades, 7th and 8th, we enlisted more members in Genius Hour, enlarging our band into a small orchestra. This month 6th grade eagerly joined the "orchestra" Genius Hour.  Last week younger students walked through the library and observed GH kids engrossed in their projects and stopped to watch. Soon, I was bombarded by 1st and 4th graders wanting to know what the kids were doing. On elf the projects, the building of a Minecraft server, has drawn in a lot of boys!

Excitement and curiosity throughout the school is building. Students are coming to us and asking when they, too, can participate in Genius Hour. The ultimate goal is to move Genius Hour into the classrooms in each grade. To foster the curiosity, creativity, life-skills, and intrinsic motivation, we have invited the 4th grader to lunch with the GH students and learn from them while they continue to experiment. The first grade teacher and myself have begun to schedule times when GH kids can go eat lunch with first graders and share their ideas, thoughts, and successes as well as answer questions. 

Genius Hour in our small K-8 school is proving to be beneficial even to students who are not yet participating. We are seeing kids learn how to persevere, share, ask hard questions, discover the freedom of curiosity, research and want to learn in a positive and supportive environment. 

Here are some of our cool projects that students are working on. 

Coding to the next level by Will

Building and learning to play a ukulele

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Genius Hour where...

Students drive their learning....

Some ways we can share what we have learned