I have a Fun Friday video for you of a young man named Audri and his very complex Rube Goldberg contraption. Audri was 7 when he made this video, and aspires to one day study robotics at MIT. I have no doubt that he will achieve all of his dreams! If you feel like playing a virtual Rube Goldberg game, you can head on over to Goldburger to Go at PBS Kids.
Last November, I posted about a new toy that was expected on the market this April. I just received an announcement from Fat Brain Toys that they have GoldieBlox in stock now for $29.99.
In case you don’t remember, GoldieBlox is the creation of Stanford graduate, Debbie Sterling. She intends to produce a series of these toys that are designed to encourage young girls to engage in engineering. The first kit of the series, GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine, includes a book and a project kit. The minimum recommended age is 6 years old.
In my first post on GoldieBlox, I mentioned my discouragement in finding so many online toys that were labeled with traditional gender roles. I applaud Debbie Sterling’s attempt to even the playing field by creating an engineering toy that may have more appeal for girls, but I still hope for a near future when there is no distinction. That being said, this looks like an interesting educational toy, and I would love to get feedback from anyone who uses it with students or their own children.
iSolveIt is brought to you by the Center for Applied Special Technology. CAST is “an educational research & development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning.”
Currently, there are two app for iDevices: MathSquared and MathScaled. What I like about both of these free apps is that they allow multiple people to register on one iPad, so when they are using it they can just log in, and continue with the level they last accessed. I also like that the apps have a few levels which allows you to work at your own pace. Another advantage is that each one has a “Scratch Pad” option, allowing you to make notes to help you with your game. And, finally, I am thrilled by the reasoning skils that are required to play each of these games. These are not “drill and kill” games.
What I didn’t like was that I could not find the instructions for either app within the app itself. I ended up going to the iSolveIt website to figure out what I was supposed to be doing for both games. The website has helpful directions and videos, but it would be nice to be able to have tutorials within the app.
If you like Sudoku and Ken-Ken, then MathSquared is the game for you. If you like balancing equations in Algebra, then MathScaled will appeal to you. Or, you can neglect all of your other duties for the next few days, and try both.
I originally found this on KB Konnected, and made the mistake of trying it out. I immediately knew it would make a good Fun Friday post, but I was so engrossed in playing the game that I never got around to writing about it. So, here it is, finally. What I love/hate about this game is that there are no instructions, and it gets increasingly more difficult. It’s great for encouraging logic and problem/solving. Duck: Think Outside the Flock is flash-based, so you probably can’t access it on an iOS mobile device unless you try using something like Rover.
Yesterday, I gave a partial update of how Genius Hour has been working in my classroom this school year. (I also included links to my other Genius Hours posts yesterday.) Some of you may not have heard of Genius Hour before. I assure you that I did not originate this idea. It was inspired by Google’s “20% Time”, and other educators who have pioneered this, including Denise Krebs and AJ Juliani.
At this point of the year, our Genius Hour usually begins with any students who are ready to present their finished projects. (You can view an example of one student’s “Glog” on our class blog.) After each presentation, we do a quick class critique of what we liked about the presentation and what could be improved. Then, the students who presented get new planning sheets, and begin looking for their next topics. The rest of the students continue working on their own projects.
It can be pretty chaotic. I have 16 students, so I can certainly see how a regular classroom of 22 or more might need a bit more structure than my GT classroom. However, I often remind myself that chaos is not necessarily a bad thing. Despite the noise and constant troubleshooting (my computer won’t load, my website is blocked, etc…) the students are all completely engaged. I rarely (and I mean like once every two months) have a discipline issue.
At the end of our hour, if time permits, the students complete reflection sheets, and I have some of them share their responses. Then they let me know if they are ready to present the next week (we only meet once a week), and our day continues.
I know that this model would not work for every classroom, but I ask you to think about a couple of variations on this:
Could you modify this to allow students who have already mastered your curriculum to work on this type of project?
Could you set aside 20 minutes each day to allow a small group of students to work on a project, and rotate the groups so all can participate?
Could you get a volunteer to help you with “crowd control”?
Could you narrow the parameters, and maybe ask students to create Genius Projects stemming from your curriculum?
You might feel completely worn out after the 60 minutes are up, but the rewards are great.
Last year, I posted a few times about the concept of Genius Hour, and how I was implementing it with my 5th grade gifted class. As is usually the case when I try something new, I always find places where adjustments need to be made. Sometimes, I end up realizing that even some adjustments aren’t going to help, and I abandon the project for the following year. Fortunately, the latter was not the case with my Genius Hour experience.
One of my major goals for this year’s Genius Hour was to start at the beginning of the year instead of later. This allows the students to work at their own pace. They can present when they finish a project, and begin another project. So, there is really no deadline for completing a project – though I do have one student who has been working on his first one for 5 months, and probably needs to move on.
One of the hardest parts about Genius Hour seems to be getting started. When you ask 5th graders what they are interested in, they will often reply, “I don’t know.” When you ask them, “Well, what are you curious about?” you will usually get the same answer – or possibly a wisecrack, depending on the student. Give them permission to study whatever they would like seems to be more daunting than freeing. I came up with a couple of sites to guide my students to so that they can jumpstart their ideas: Wonderopolis and DIY.org seem to be very popular with them.
Here is the planning sheet that they use, and must get approved by me before they begin. Although these projects are not for grades, I do want them to learn something new, and to be able to share that with the rest of the class. Last year, one of my goals was to spice this planning sheet up a bit so it would inspire the kids to be more creative. I haven’t done that (other than change the font), so I guess that is something I will make a top goal next year.
Some of their projects this year, so far, have been: Gamestar Mechanic (the most popular topic, by far), The Best Type of Shelter, The Oak Island Money Pit, and The Wind-Up Car.
Tomorrow, I will showcase some of their finished projects, their reflection sheets, and talk about what I plan to keep and throw away for next year’s Genius Hour.
Here are the links to my previous Genius Hour posts (please read :
100 Minutes of Genius (this will explain where the idea of Genius Hour originated)
This infographic comes from the blog over at eyeoneducation.com. I particularly like the first suggestion, “Brainstorming with a Twist.” I often have my students brainstorm, but I have never thought of adding this additional challenge once they are finished. You can go here to view the book, Teaching Students to Dig Deeper: The Common Core in Action, by Ben Johnson, from which the infographic is adapted. There is a link on that page to download a PDF sample from the book.