Scaling Content Creation

“Learners now demand more customization, voice, and practicality from learning arrangements, and can find it almost exclusively outside of formal, designed education” (Kalaitzidis, Litts, & Halverson, 2017, p. 180). Hence, our current content creation and delivery will have to change in order to meet these new learner demands. As I mentioned in an earlier post, much of what is currently being used is mass produced by publishers. Hence, the current learning arrangements that teachers have with students are strained because the specific learning needs of the students are not being met. 

Current state standards make it hard for teachers to implement learner-centered designs; instructional designs that give learners more customization, voice, and practicality. As Kalaitzidis, Litts, and Halverson (2017) mentioned, students can access much of their sanctioned Grade level content outside of formal education. Therefore, what is inherently valued within standards-based teaching and learning is not inherently valued within learner-centered designs, as learner-centered designs value “a complex system of authentic and legitimate learning activities” (Kalaitzidis, Litts, & Halverson, 2017, p. 183).

Content creation for learner-centered designs
What constitutes authentic and legitimate learning activities? Kalaitzidis, Litts, & Halverson (2017), argued that authentic and legitimate learning activities have learning tasks that constitute the following:

  • tasks are personally meaningful
  • tasks honor disciplinary and/or professional practices
  •  tasks are assessable within the context of the production and learning process
  • tasks are linked to real world practices and communities of practice

For teachers to create such content like the tasks listed above, there will have to be a major overhaul of their current teaching practices. Kalaitzidis, Litts, & Halverson (2017), argue that classrooms need to be converted into workshops,  since this format engages learners in a “collaborative production process through which they may pursue their own individual projects, yet work together toward the same ‘umbrella goal'” (p. 185). Hence, the standards-based teaching format will have to convert to a performance-based learner format where teaching is framed as a mentorship and “the roles and responsibilities of the ‘teacher’ and ‘student’… transform in ways that reflect distributed learning relationships in digital culture” (Kalaitzidis, Litts, & Halverson, 2017, p. 194).

By converting the classroom into a workshop, the leaners’ demand for more customization, voice, and practicality within learning arrangements can be met with a work-shop-style format. This particular format will enable teachers to assume the role of a mentor and distribute learning, teaching, and assessment within the workshop.

  • Distributing learning spreads the onus of learning across the entire class community.
  • Distributing teaching acknowledges and leverages the variations of learner interests as pedagogical opportunities.
  • Distributing assessment expands the objects of assessment to include peer review, audience reactions, mentor notes, and learner feedback about the instructional task (Kalaitzidis, Litts, & Halverson, 2017, p. 197). 

Scaling customized content
Scaling learner-centered designs that promote authentic and legitimate learning activities perhaps can be done with the assistance of the learners. In other words, more customization, voice, and practicality doesn’t have to come solely from the teacher. Simply allowing students to co-design content with the teacher will increase customization and voice in the classroom workshop. On the contrary, more practicality for students may not always be feasible if learning is centered around content and concepts that students deems worthless. Nonetheless, learner-centered designs and the learners themselves can help teachers scale content creation.

Reference:
Kalaitzidis, T.J., Litts, B., and Rosenfeld Halverson, E. Designing Collaborative Production of Digital Media in Reigeluth, C. M., In Beatty, B. J., & In Myers, R. D. (2017). Instructional-design theories and models: Volume IV.

Exploring Student Interests for Personalized Learning

Most of what I am reading has defined personalized learning as learning that incorporates student needs, student interests, and student preferences. For many, there is no confusion around these variables, however, I became interested in student interests because I recently encountered a student who did not know what he was interested in, as he was not well read and he focused much of his time on playing video games. This intrigued me, as I thought about ways teachers could help students cultivate interests when students have limited interests in sanctioned subject matter.

I started researching this matter in the early part of the academic year and I came across a chapter in volume two of Instructional-design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory, which linked student interests to motivation. “Cultivating interests and the desire to cultivate interests, based on the joy or utility they provide” is directly linked to motivational development (Martin & Reigeluth, 1999, p. 494). Martin and Reigeluth (1999) further noted that motivational development is linked to Affective Education. They defined Affective Education as education for personal-social development, feelings, emotions, morals, and ethics. What is particularly important about Affective Education is the discovery that it may actually dominate cognitive learning, and “serve as the mind’s primary architect” (Martin & Reigeluth, 1999, p. 488). So what does this have to do with cultivating student interests? Since student interests are linked to self-motivation, and motivational development is linked to the affective domain, then I believe that educators are obligated to consider incorporating objectives from the affective domain for students with limited interests in sanctioned content matter.

Affective Objectives

Martin and Reigeluth (1999) argued that, “attitudes are the crux of all the affective dimensions of development. An attitude can be defined as a state of readiness or as a learned predisposition to behave in a consistent way. It is made up of cognitive, affective, and behavioral elements” (p. 496). Hence, teachers can help cultivate student interests byway of attitude training. Attitude training involves focusing on the non-cognitive and non-technical skills, also known as soft skills.

  • Communication skills
  • Creativity
  • Teamwork capability
  • Negotiating skills
  • Self-management
  • Time management
  • Conflict management
  • Cultural awareness
  • Responsibility
  • Etiquette and good manners
  • Courtesy
  • Self-esteem
  • Sociability
  • Integrity / Honesty
  • Empathy
  • Work ethic

When students have soft skills, then they have the attitude necessary for a learning predisposition that will make them available for developing motivation and interests in sanctioned subjects. So how best can attitude training be implemented in the classroom? And how does it link to personalized learning? The answer to both of these questions is Project-based Learning (PBL). “Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge” (BIE, 2018). Below is a list of steps for getting started with PBL.

  1. Teacher uses standards to define the learning
  2. Teacher plans an entry event into the project
  3. Students are presented with a driving question
  4. Students generate their need to knows based on the driving question
  5. Teacher helps students to map out the project and create partnerships with stakeholders
  6. Instruction is planned based on student needs
  7. Project is carried out and evaluated

In sum, PBL is the vehicle for ushering in personalized learning and incorporating the much neglected affective domain of learning. I would also argue that PBL can recapture those students who are academically dormant and uninterested in sanctioned learning.

Reference:

Buck Institute for Education (2018). What is Project Based Learning retrieved from https://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl October 12, 2018.

Martin, B.L. and Reigeluth, C.M. (1999). Affective Education and the Affective Domain: Implications for Instructional-Design Theories and Models in Reigeluth, C. M. (2012). Instructional-design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory, Volume II. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

The Perilous Task of Creating Marvelous Online Content

When building courses or media for online consumption, content creation and calibration takes the lions share of development. Depending upon the purpose of the content, its creation and calibration is both perilous and perpetual. Whether it’s a general blog post, video, or podcast, content creation and calibration tends to flow through the Alpha testing stage of development, given that its creator is satisfied with the outcome. The designer of the content most likely has a special affinity for it because he or she has lived with the content for several months; has worked with stakeholders and subject matter experts on the content for several days; and has bore the labor pains during the birthing and delivery of the content for several hours. Given this process of content creation and calibration, it is no surprise that the Beta testing stage of content development rarely happens in academic settings, perhaps because the content creator simply wants the consumer to consume.

Content is the lifeblood of a course, hence, “you want to create something you’re proud of” (Branson, 2018). This means that content worth pride needs to be created in the same place that babies are made. A healthy baby develops in 9 months, as a result of the romance of two. However, in most cases, content creators don’t have the luxury of nine months to develop healthy content. One might ask, what goes into content creation and how often should content be calibrated?

Content creation

Monthly, I contribute content to ulimionline.com and thewordconsciousclassroom.com.  As the old cliche goes, it’s both challenging and rewarding. To help me create content consistently, I used advise from Amy Porterfield. Amy suggested Mega-Batching content by doing the following:

  1. Brainstorm content ideas
  2. Break the content ideas down into six topics
  3. Based on the topic, what question is being answered for the audience
  4. List resources needed to create content for that topic
  5. Decide how the content will be shared (i.e., blog post, video, podcast)

Click here for a link to a planning tool that I created, based on Porterfield’s advice.

Content calibration

Once the content is published, that is not the end of the creation process. It is actually the beginning. Like the development and maturation of a child into an adult, content is constantly in need of calibration and recalibration as contexts and audiences change. It is almost always necessary to reuse, revise, remix, or repurpose content, thus the calibration and recalibration of content is constant. Borrowing from the principles of creative commons, below I define the four Rs for content calibration and recalibration:

  1. Reuse – content might have to be reused across different platforms, hence having an archiving system for content is important.
  2. Revise – content might have to be revised based on updated information or the needs of the audience. Hence, keeping raw content is important for future revisions.
  3. Remix – content may be combined with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup) (Wiley, 2018).
  4. Repurpose – content might have to be adapted for use in a different purpose. Hence, blog posts might be repurposed for a white paper or a book chapter.

In sum, content creation and calibration is a constant, and it doesn’t stop once it is published. In other words, in order to fulfill its purpose, content incessantly evolves. Like anxious parents wanting the world to see the beauty of their baby, content designers want users to see the beauty of their content and find purpose with it. To increase the chances of the world seeing their baby as beautiful, some parents might opt for acquiring a designer baby. While content designers may not have that option yet, to increase the chances of beautiful content, some designers might opt to create and calibrate content along with a their content audience, thus extending the romance of content making to its users.

References:

Branson, R. (2018). Greatest Quotes. Business Blogs.Retrieved October 06, 2018, from https://www.businessblogshub.com/2012/09/richard-branson-greatest-quotes/

Wiley, D. (2018). Defining the “Open” in Open Content and Open Educational Resources. This material is based on original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at http://opencontent.org/definition/.

Digital Media Design and Blended Learning

Blended learning can be defined as a formal education program in which a student learns partly online and partly face-to-face. Blended learning is also an exciting way to personalize learning for students however, creating and calibrating assignments for different blended learning models can be daunting.  Blended learning has many models (i.e., station rotation, lab rotation, individual rotation, flipped classroom, flex, a la carte, or enriched virtual) and assignment/task creation for each model depends upon the purpose of the learning task and the learning path that the students are on. 

Specific blended learning models can be used to fit the differentiated need of learners based upon the instructional learning goal. Using Coil’s (2010) Horizontal and Vertical Differentiation Model, learning experiences can be tailored for specific students according to their specific learning needs. The table below shows how blended learning can be meshed with Coil’s (2010) Horizontal and Vertical Differentiation Model in order to consider how to design and calibrate assignments and tasks.

Much of the current content for assignments and tasks being used for the various blended learning models are pre-packaged by publishers, hence, transferring those materials to a district’s online learning management system as well as converting materials into digital media can be quite time consuming and overwhelming. Hence, when creating assignments for the different blended learning models, the standards of learning, the instructional procedures and the students’ learning stages and learning processes are essential to the creation and calibration of content design and digital media design.

Creation and calibration of assignments and tasks considers whether one should use analog or digital tools within the design while examining best practices for streamlining online assignments with other activities. If digital tools are to be used, then students can help co-design the digital media that will be used to enhance their learning. The following is a list of questions that teachers can use when creating digital media content:

  1. In order for this assignment/task to work, what gaps need to be filled with other tools/strategies?
  2. How will this assignment/task evolve?
  3. Does the assignment/task as intrinsic value for students?
  4. How can learning be distributed to students by students using digital tools?
  5. How will the learning be assessed?
  6. Can assessments be organically built into the assignments or tasks?
  7. How will the assessment be used to enhance student learning?

In sum, Kalaitzidis, Litts, and Rosenfeld Halverson, stated that “Instruction and the design of it should not be rigid, top-down activities. As learners grow, create, and demand new resources, the design of instruction must adapt to meet their needs. Instructors should elicit ideas for these refinements from learners themselves” (p.177). This suggests that instructors should keep assignments and tasks flexible and dynamic.

References:

Coil, C. (2010). Teaching tools for the 21st century. United States: Pieces of Learning.

Kalaitzidis, T.J., Litts, B., and Rosenfeld Halverson, E. Designing Collaborative Production of Digital Media in Reigeluth, C. M., In Beatty, B. J., & In Myers, R. D. (2017). Instructional-design theories and models: Volume IV.

Content Creation and Calibration

Let’s be honest, it is hard to truly personalize learning when there are established standards for learning. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not arguing against standards for learning, I’m simply trying to reconcile the ideas behind the two approaches to distributing and measuring learning. I call this ideological dissonance, the instructional dichotomy. The table below illustrates my ideas on the difference between standardized learning and personalized learning:

Table: The Instructional Dichotomy

Learners vs. Students

Why am I interested in this topic? To answer this question, I must first start with a quote.

“If you consider anyone who is learning at any age and anywhere a “learner,” then you give the responsibility for the learning to the learner. When the institution or anyone who is teaching students are accountable for the learning — not the learners — the responsibility falls on the teachers for what “students” learn. Doesn’t this seem backwards? Where is the incentive and motivation to learn if all the responsibility is on the teacher? If you change the thinking behind the terms, then using the term “learners” makes more sense” (Bray & McClaskey, 2014). 

Bray and McClaskey’s (2014) quote caused me to examine the notion of personalized learning in a standardized classroom.  How can teachers possibly shift the onus of learning from the institution to the learner?  And how can teachers employ individualized instructional procedures that are in sync with each students’ learning stage and learning process? There is no straight answer for this. Nonetheless, Kalaitzidis, Litts, and Rosenfeld Halverson (2017), asserted that today’s communities of learners “thrive upon innovation in tools, meanings, and ways-of-knowing, and favor distributed, emergent, and egalitarian methods for achieving goals” (p. 179). Hence, to authentically personalize learning in a standardized classroom, teachers will have to adopt “design identities” and learn to distribute learning, teaching, and assessment across the entire class community (pp.195-197).  This will require ontological and paradigmatic shifts towards learner-centered instructional designs (Kalaitzidis, Litts, and Rosenfeld Halverson, 2017, p. 182).

Action steps for personalizing learning in a standardized classroom

Developing “design identities” will take time to cultivate and implement in our schools. Nonetheless, I have created some action steps that I believe teachers can use to help address the instructional dichotomy of personalizing learning in a standardized educational field. Let’s begin by stating, true personalized learning starts with the student and his or her learning goal. However, to remain in compliance with the State’s required standards, I suggest starting with the standard and help students contextualize their learning goals within the required State’s standards. The student’s learning goals can be converted into competencies that align with the State’s standards. Below lists the remaining steps in my action plan:

  1. Identify Learning Objectives and Learning Outcomes – aligned with the standards and converted into “I Can” statements
  2. Identify Student Learning Goals and Student Learning Goal Attainment – aligned with the learners
  3. Identify Instructional Methods and Procedures: How will the learning objectives be achieved? (e.g., direct teaching, games, simulations, lab, multimedia, discussions, reading, field trip, drills, demonstration, brainstorming, etc.) – aligned with the standards
  4. Identify Learning Stage: What learning stage is the student in? (e.g. acquisition, fluency (reinforcement), generalization (maintenance), adaptation (experiential)) – aligned with the learners 
  5. Identify Learning Process – Doing something (Concrete Experimentation), Thinking about it (Reflection), Doing some research, Talking with others and applying what we already know to the situation (Abstract Conceptualization), Doing something new or doing the same thing in a more sophisticated way based on our learning (Active Experimentation) David Kolb – aligned with learners
  6. Teacher provides feedback to student – Feed-up, Feedback, Feed-forward; (Feed-up – clarify the learning objectives; Feedback – Respond to Student Work; Feed-forward – Modify instruction for future lessons). – aligned with the standards
  7. Student provides feedback to teacher – Feedback – aligned with the learners

In sum, I still believe that it is hard to truly personalize learning for students when there are established standards for learning. Nonetheless, to help address this instructional dichotomy, I suggest that we continue to start with state standards and help students contextualize their learning goals within those standards.

References:

Bray, B., & McClaskey, K. (2014, March ). Building Personalized Learning Environments. Retrieved July 10, 2018, from http://www.advanc-ed.org/source/building-personalized-learning-environments

Fisher, D; Frey, N. (2009). Feed Up, Back, Forward. Educational Leadership. Retrieved September 12, 2018, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov09/vol67/num03/Feed-Up,-Back,-Forward.aspx

Kalaitzidis, T.J., Litts, B., and Rosenfeld Halverson, E. Designing Collaborative Production of Digital Media in Reigeluth, C. M., In Beatty, B. J., & In Myers, R. D. (2017). Instructional-design theories and models: Volume IV.

Including the Family in “Personalized Learning”

Personalized learning will mean something different for the parents of our students than for our students and our administrators and our teacher colleagues. As I continue to explore the topic of personalized learning, I haven’t seen a lot of information on personalized learning that includes families. For the most part, the crux of the conversation on personalized learning has been centered around teaching and learning. This obviously is important, however, where do the families of our students fit in within this educational shift?

Most districts and schools us the definition from The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) National Education Technology Plan (2010). Here is how they have defined personalized learning:

Personalization refers to instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary (so personalization encompasses differentiation and individualization).

Rickabaugh (2016) submitted that the USDOE’s definition missed a few key elements linked to personalized learning. He stated, “the USDOE’s definition stops short of recognizing the powerful role students must be allowed to play in setting learning goals, planning their learning paths, tracking their progress, and demonstrating their learning as partners and co-designers alongside educators”(p. 5). I agree with Rickabaugh’s assessment of the USDOE’s definition and I’d like to add to his list of key elements that there is a powerful role that families too, must be allowed to play other than the traditional role that they have been playing.

Rickabaugh and his colleagues illustrated the key elements of personalized learning in the form of a honeycomb (Institute for Personalized Learning, 2015). One of the key elements within that honeycomb, is family engagement. Rickabaugh submitted that, “families can play the traditional roles of providing support for learning at home, but they can now also review their children’s learning goals and activities, track their progress, and even serve as an audience for student demonstrations and performances” (p. 49).

But isn’t there more to family engagement than reviewing their children’s learning goals and activities, tracking their progress, and serving as an audience for student demonstrations and performances? What about the family’s role in helping their child develop his or her voice and his or her choice within the learning path? What about the family’s role in helping their child develop agency? Recognizing that each family is different and that families have the right to raise their children in a way that they see fit, it is important for educators to understand how families can impact student voice, choice, and agency within a personalized learning environment. Might I add that some students may have preferences and interests that are contrary to the culture of their family. And some students are not able to articulate their learning preferences, learning needs, and learning interests. So, the next best source for teachers who wish to implement personalized learning, is parents.

What tools can educators provide parents to help them support their child’s learning goals? What tools can educators provide parents to help them scaffold their child’s learning preferences and interests that are in line with the culture of the family? To answer these questions, educators can use the learner’s analysis to discuss with parents a prescribed learning path for their child that was co-designed with their child. During a parent teacher conference, teachers can gather insights from parents and strategies that will help support their child’s educational development. What is more, teachers and administrators will have to make it clear to parents that the role of the teacher within a personalized learning environment is shifting to a true facilitator of learning. Hence, parents will have to be even more present in their child’s education since the shift towards personalized learning promotes learner independence and self-regulation.

In sum, our knowledge about personalized learning is still evolving, thus the empty cells within the honeycomb model of personalized learning (Rickabaugh, 2016). As we are learning more about personalize learning, we should also study the influence of family engagement on the learners’ voice, choice, and agency.

References:
The Institute for Personalized Learning (2015). Our Model.Retrieved September 3, 2018, from http://institute4pl.org/index.php/our-model/
Rickabaugh, J. (2016). Tapping the power of personalized learning: A roadmap for school leaders.
U.S. Department of Education. (2010). National education technology plan. Washington, DC: Author.

Paideia Proposal 2.0

To this day, I’m still fascinated with Mortimer Adler’s Paideia Proposal. I first heard about it in 2002 in a Graduate course at American University. I admired Adler at the time for his work as an Educational Essentialist and advocate for critical thinking. His model, the Paideia Curricular Framework encompassed both pedagogy and heutagogy concomitantly. His model worked well for his time, however, if updated with the citizenship component from the 5Cs for 21st century education (fig. 1 below), I’m sure that it can be fit for teaching and learning of today.

In an earlier post, Finding the sweet spot in personalized learning, I wrote about the Paideia Proposal as an additional scaffold for personalized learning. What I noticed is that Adler’s Column 1 is directly linked to pedagogy while Column 2 and Column 3 is linked to heutagogy. Pedagogy is defined as a learning and teaching approach that is primarily reserved for learners that are new to concepts, procedures, and topical knowledge. Heutagogy, on the other hand, is defined as “a learning and teaching  approach that is primarily self-directed or self-determined” (retrieved from https://www.educatorstechnology.com/). Table 1 below lists the attributes of pedagogy, andragogy, and heutagogy. For the purpose of this post, I will only be focusing on pedagogy and heutagogy.

Adler’s Paideia Proposal is perfect for personalized learning because the 5Cs are natural by-products of his framework (Table 2 below). What I would like to add to his curricular framework is the notion of student lead instruction rather than the teacher led lectures and an over-reliance on one textbook. In other words, how can students take more onus of the features within column 1 vis-a-vis digital learning tools? I propose that blended learning could be the answer to this question. By incorporating online learning, teachers are more free to facilitate the acquisition of organized knowledge within their classroom and function as a learning coach rather than an absolutist.

What about columns 2 and 3? How can students take more onus of the features within those columns? Column 2 looks very much like an apprenticeship while column 3 looks like inquiry. I propose that project-based learning (PBL) or problem-based learning (PBL) could be the answer to this question. However, to make authentic learning experiences connect with each of the 5Cs, I suggest that the projects or problems that are embedded within the learning experiences be related to citizenship, an important C from the 5Cs that is often neglected. In other words, what projects or problems could be embedded into a learning experience that would benefit the community in which the student is a citizen of? What resources and persons could students have access to that would further develop the student’s intellectual skills while enlarging their understanding of ideas and values?

All and all, Adler’s Paideia proposal is still relevant and necessary for the current teaching and learning course within curricular model theories. Furthermore, by using digital tools and PBL that incorporates community engagement and civic responsibility, Adler’s Paideia Curricular Framework could be upgraded to a 2.0.

Ode to OERs

My institution of higher learning is moving towards adopting Open Educational Resources (OERs). Thanks to policies and initiatives such as the Maryland Open Source Textbook (M.O.S.T),  my colleagues and I are working on creating and sharing OERs in all of our courses. I’ve spent the last few weeks exploring OERs and their potential to remove barriers for learners and faculty alike. I was so impressed with what I saw, that I decided to write an ode to OERs. Here goes…

Ode to OERs

OERs give learners and faculty  true creative freedom.
Liberated from ultra-expensive textbooks, all shout nil desperandum.
Opening the windows of the mind so that rays of knowledge shine in.
Librarians and Creative Commons Licenses are part of its underpin.
Information freely plays amongst different ideas.
Dynamic teaching materials and media, one truly endears.
Appealing to instructors and learners because of its public domain,
OERs present high quality resources that copyright would otherwise detain.
Constellations of resources unlocked by a Creative Common License,
freely creating and sharing information with unbounded salience.
Years of development and attention have bought them up to par,
As such, much learning begins and matures with powerful OERs.

Genius Hour: The Mother of Personalized Learning

The concept of “Genius Hour” was new to me up until I realized that Genius Hour is what my former school used to call the “Multiple Intelligences” or M.I. clubs. Back in the day, once a month, we carved out an hour for all of the students to go to an M.I. Club of their choice. The year was 1998, and once my principal made the announcement, the students would scramble in the halls to get to their cooking club, printing club, bird watching club, football club, etc., etc. What I realize now, that I didn’t know then, is that with M.I. Clubs, our school was genuinely interested in what students were interested in. We took a break from teaching the curriculum and taught what students actually wanted to know more about.

 

Genius Hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time while in school (retrieved from https://geniushour.com/what-is-genius-hour/). You will recall, in an earlier post, that I wrote about encouraging students to follow their desires rather than their passions. On the contrary, by definition, Genius Hour encourages students to explore their passions. Still, I’d like to amend this definition and state that Genius Hour allows students to explore and discover pockets of passions which can be bundled into long-term learning desires.

According to TeachThought, Genius Hour is:

  1. Student-centered
  2. Messy
  3. Emphasizes inquiry and research
  4. Authentic
  5. New challenges (i.e., it creates new problems to solve in your classroom)
  6. Inherently personalized
  7. Inherently creative
  8. Purpose-driven
  9. Maker-friendly
  10. Often collaborative and social

Genius Hour is not:

  1. Standards-based
  2. Data-driven
  3. “Free time” for students
  4. Teacher-centered
  5. Without any rules or expectations
  6. Less rigorous (compared to other approaches to learning)
  7. Structure-free
  8. Requires whiz-bang technology
  9. Unfit for schools and other formal learning environments
  10. Requires less planning and less teacher “effort”

After reflecting on the principles behind Genius Hour, I concluded that Genius Hour is the mother of Personalized Learning because during Genius Hour, students explore their interests and begin to understand themselves as learners and their learning preferences. During the structured inquiry, students have an opportunity to assess their knowledge gaps and ascertain their learning needs. Moreover, Genius Hour promotes project management, iterative thinking, systems thinking, exploration, critical thinking, and valuing lessons acquired from failures.

For instructional designers, Genius Hour is yet another strategy that can be utilized within any instructional systems design models. For instance, instructional designers for online learning can use Genius Hour to personalize learning based on learner analyses. Learners are taking courses for a reason, hence, doing a thorough learner analysis will allow the instructional designer to prescribe opportunities for learners to specialize in their interests.

The following is an example from my work. I’m currently working with the Borg’s Ubuntugogy as Contextualized Instructional Design Model.  See figure below:

Within this instructional design model, I could easily prescribe Genius Hour to occur within the apprenticeship phase of Borg’s model. Borg defined the apprenticeship phase “as a delivery method for experiential learning” (p.81). Hence, during this portion of the model, I could prescribe learning tasks that are structured around the principles of Genius Hour using a  framework that I developed based on Michalko’s ThinkerToys.

Borg defined an apprentice as “someone who learns from a skilled practitioner through shared experience” (p. 82).  Hence, the instructor is the skilled practitioner that will create a shared Genius Hour experience that can be individually personalized. In my framework, I propose that Genius Hour start with Mind-pumping. Mind-pumping fills the minds of learners with informed ideas, thus helping them to “act like an idea person” (Michalko, 2014). The following strategies will help learners fill their minds with ideas and capture those ideas before they dissipate.

  • Keep an idea log
  • Set idea quotas
  • Paying close attention to what happens around you daily
  • Capture ideas by writing them down

The next step I prescribe is to center the learner’s interests or challenges within a specific goal. Hence, learners can use the following strategies to highlight his or her  ideas that will help to attain the goal.

  • In what ways might I…
  • What are the key words within my challenge or interests
  • The five Whys
  • Squeeze challenges or ideas with restraints

Now, the meaty part of Genius Hour, the Creation Framework portion taken from Michalko’s ThinkerToys.  According to Michalko, “Thinkertoys reflect linear and intuitive thinking, both of which are necessary for optimum creativity. The basic difference between the two is that the linear Thinkertoys structure existing information while the intuitive toys generate new information using insight, imagination, and intuition.

Finally, design thinking can be employed once the creation of a solid idea is evident. Steps in design thinking include:

  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

In sum, Genius Hour is the mother of personalized learning because learners embark upon a learning path of their choice within the context of the course. Learner voice is very evident and their preferences are made known throughout the inquiry. Moreover, learners develop agency when they perceive their ideas as valid.  If instructors want to enhance learner retention and course completion, then Genius Hour is perhaps one way to deeply engage learners and provide support for their learning needs, preferences, and interests.

Reference:
Borg, S. (2017). Ubuntugogy as Contextualized Instructional Design for Adult Leadership Development within the Swaziland Leadership Academy. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED582698 on August 26, 2018.

Michalko, M. (2014). Thinkertoys: A handbook of creative-thinking techniques. Berkeley: Ten speed press.

Passion versus Desire

“Follow your passion”, they say! “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion” (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel). I’ve heard sayings like these, amongst others, coming of age in Small Town, Maryland.

It wasn’t that long ago when I went to a teacher in-service training where the speaker told the crowd to have students create a passion notebook. Students were to use their passion notebooks to help them capture the ideas that they were passionate about, and the students were to write about their ideas during the writing block. I bought into this teaching strategy, because it was a novel solution to the writing woes of my students for that time (circa 2005). Fast forward twelve years, I’ve learned that passion is based on emotions and emotions change with the weather.

Merriam – Dictionary defined passion as a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept. Other dictionaries have defined passion as any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.

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On the other hand, Merriam – Dictionary defined desire as a “conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment“. Other dictionaries have defined desire as, “to wish or long for; crave; want.” According to those definitions, there is a huge difference between passion and desire. And based on one of my earlier posts, it isn’t passion that leads to renewable learning

I believe that passions are short-term and may or may not remain with the learner until they are fulfilled. Whereas  desires are long-term and remain with the learner until they are attained. Desire brings about transformation while passion brings about shifts. Acting much like a fad, passions come and go, while desires form internal standards that are followed until the craving has been satiated.

Instead of telling students to follow their passion, I now tell students to follow their desire, because passion is based on emotions. Asking students to follow their passion will only lead to shallow learning. Thus students’ interests, preferences, and needs will be based on shallow curiosities. However, desire is based on the joy of attaining the wish or craving. Hence, asking students to identify their learning desires will lead to deeper learning. Desire is linked to an intrinsic goal or deep hunger that is not satisfied until the goal is attained. Ergo, I believe that learning can only be truly personalized when student’s learning desires are factored into the equation.