Friday, September 19, 2014

What Do You Do With An Idea? My Journey To Personalized Learning, Genius Hour and Query Books!

This week, I began to ask students to think about their own ideas!!  Following Isaac Newton's example, they are starting digital Query Books to gather their ideas, ponderings, and questions - both big and little! 

The Backstory - This lesson, like many of my lessons, took a while to develop.  There were so many contributing forces nudging me toward an "idea" lesson with students.  I suppose it began with a Twitter chat, #mnlead, that I participated in last year.  The subject was Personalized Learning, a current trend among educators.  This chat deepened my understanding of Personalized Learning, which at its core is about giving students choices about how and what they learn - putting the students in the proverbial driver's seat for their learning. From Personalized Learning, I learned about Genius Hour, another educational trend adopted from developers at Google who are given 20% of their time to develop their own "passion projects".  If you are curious to learn more, check out this great video explaining Genius Hour by Chris Kesler!  What is Genius Hour?  

These interactions sparked my interest in Personalized Learning and Genius Hour.  I began to change the way I worked with students, creating opportunities for them to choose the way that they demonstate their learning, providing choices for collaboration and focusing on creating and sharing in their own voice.

There was one obstacle that I noticed right away as I began to give students choices about their own learning.  Many of our students don't know where to begin when given choices to pursue their own interests and ideas! They haven't been asked to consider their own ideas as valuable. Many struggle with the act of being curious and pondering their own questions. They just haven't given it much thought. Partly because they are still young, 4th and 5th graders, but in part because it is rare for them to be asked to pursue their own ideas and interests in an educational setting. 

Right around the time that I began noticing students struggling to find their own ideas, I discovered a book and video, Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson that gave me insights into how ideas are born!!

This summer I read a wonderful picture book by Kobi Yamada entitled What Do You Do With An Idea?  In his beautifully illustrated book, Mr. Yamada described the growth of an idea in terms that students can understand.  Just like Steven Johnson, he described ideas as beginning small and growing with attention and time.  I couldn't wait to share this great picture book with students!

The final step in my journey to this lesson occurred when I told my husband about my musings.  He is a physicist and so as I told him about my desire to help my students develop their own interests, ideas and ponderings, he told me about Isaac Newton.  Isaac Newton kept Query Books for his scientific ideas.  Some of his Query books launched new branches of science!

So I determined that I wanted my students to begin their own Query Books! They started their Query Books this week, but just like ideas, they will take time for them to develop.  Look for a future post as students begin to share their Query Books and their great ideas!!