Genius Hour

Hello, everyone! This week was a great learning experience. I was able to learn about Genius Hour from other teachers who are implementing it in their classrooms, and their ideas made me excited to share it with my students. I’ve also included my curated magazine from Take a look!

Genius Hour

Curated Magazine on





Should We Gamify Learning?


As far as just using educational apps and games in my classroom, I feel like I already have an arsenal of things I use–and I’ve found meaningful ways to integrate online games for a variety of subject areas. I have six laptops in my classroom (plus my own teacher laptop), so my kids have plenty of times to use games for instructional, assessment, and review purposes. Centers have been the most effective way I’ve incorporated educational games in my room due to the fact that I don’t have a class set of computers or tablets. I use a ton of sites, but some of my favorites are Study Ladder, Power My Learning, Raz Kids, and Brain Nook. A lot of free sites don’t provide spectacular graphics and multi-level games, but my relatively easy-going audience of 8 and 9  year olds appreciate games whenever possible.

With all that being said, I thought it might be a better choice for me this week to delve into a topic I was less familiar with, gamification. I read a ton of teacher blogs, went through and reviewed a lot of sites, and read a lot of opinions about gamifying the classroom. What was particularly interesting to me is that this isn’t just happening in K-12 school settings, the idea is spreading around through higher education and the corporate world. There were a ton of great outlines and infographics (and you know I love a good ol’ infograhpic) about gamification, but I found a great one right at the beginning of my research that proved to be a helpful reminder to me about the differences between game based learning, games, and gamification:


The difference between the three is now very apparent to me, and it made the idea of gamification that much more interesting. I work hard to make learning fun in my classroom. We do project based learning, Fun Friday, Brain gym activites, crafts, centers, online projects and games…the list can go on. Interestingly, I think with some effort (maybe a great deal of effort?), gamification could streamline and provide a way to make learning fun without piecemealing things together. I read through quite a few teacher blogs about gamification and gamifying a classroom, and I read about successes as well as trials and tribulations. One teacher Mr. Gonzalez, seems to have put a lot of time and energy into trying and reviewing gamification in his classroom. He had some great ideas, experiences, and resources on his site that I found interesting. This article also helped me lay out some specific examples of how gamification can be implemented, and it included some problems that might come up. The YouTube interview video posted to this week’s module also gave me some great insight about how teachers actually gamification, like in language class or science class. What I love most about it, is the idea of having students really feel excited and intrinsically motivated to accomplish an academic goal. RPG type games have been favorites of all kinds of people for pretty much all time, so it does seem to make sense to transfer this type of thing to our classrooms. I have never been a gamer, but I can see how important this could be for some types of learners, like my brother. He was a World of Warcraft addict (until his wife made him sell his username!), and I can only imagine the academic benefits that he would have experienced had this been something he experienced in school. I definitely picture this reaching boys…SO WELL. There have been studies (one recently conducted near me by several PhD candidates) that have told us girls often achieve higher GPAs and value academic success more than boys. Maybe something like gamification could really change that. Levels, badges, points, quests, adventures–these are things that appeal to all kinds of learners. The idea really does seem pretty exciting to me.

With all that being said, I discovered there are teachers doing some really REALLY awesome things in the classrooms with gamification. I’m super impressed. The sites I came across that seem user friendly for a beginner might be Classcraft (but I don’t know if this is right for my 3rd graders), ClassDojo, and Rezzly. I thought a list of pros and cons might be a good way for me to review and collect my thoughts about gamification in the classroom:



The Flip Side

I’ve read a lot about flipping classrooms, and it’s a topic I am very interested in. As one of my individual professional development goals, at the start of last year (2014) I began to create videos and use other videos I found online to send home with students as “homework”. When students would watch the videos, the idea would be that they’d see and internalize the lesson, then come back to me having some sort of background knowledge and preparation for the lesson the next day.

While I thought it was a great idea, there were some parents who weren’t totally thrilled. Some teachers (especially those in the middle school), started to hear that parents felt it was out responsibility to teach, that home was strictly for review and practice, and that lessons online weren’t the same as hearing it and seeing it from your teacher. I can definitely understand parent perspective, but with a lot of time and energy being placed into preparing these lessons and recording yourself, it was a little tough to hear. I created a modified version of sorts, where I reviewed skills on camera, or introduced skills that built upon skills my students had a solid foundation with already. Especially in elementary school, I found that students seeing their teacher, interacting with me, using manipulatives, and being able to ask me questions is essential.


I still love the idea of a flipped classroom. I love that students feel prepared and excited about discussing what they saw the night before. My kids come in whispering about the “secret word” I put into my videos (to assure they watched them). They feel smart when they come in knowing about a skill or trick. This confidence is super helpful, and I see how it positively affects my students. There are a ton of ways to create a flipped classroom or a “kind of” flipped classroom, where students can benefit from direct instruction, small group work, and centers with me, but then also experience the benefits of the flipped model. My school community, like parents, administrators, grade level team members, and other elementary school teachers I work with are not ready for a complete flipped type of model, and I’m the only elementary school teacher in my building who has incorporated it at all. It’s a different way of thinking, and it isn’t something that everyone is ready for. Despite really liking it and seeing a ton of benefits, I also admit to not being totally ready for a flipped model, especially in my language arts instruction.

With all that being said, I got some awesome new ideas from searching online, but especially from exploring on Twitter. The community of educators using Twitter shocks me…very few people I normally interact with use Twitter, and I don’t know a single person in my elementary school (3 teachers per grade level) who uses it. I asked everyone yesterday at a faculty meeting, and not a single person raised their hand. I think we might be seriously missing out…


This picture I found inspired me to remember that flipped classroom ideas don’t need to be just instructional videos, but I think that’s what a majority of people assume. This picture bring up some great, creative resources that a teacher might use to “flip” class. f1d0d337a9f0ba76aa7b209f67a440b2



I really loved some of the ideas from this photo, because I felt like I was a little narrow minded about how many ways you can use a flipped classroom model. I think if I taught upper grades, I would be running with it. I’m still trying to figure out how it works for my kids in 3rd grade. What has worked for me so far, is to create my own videos using a document camera or my phone. I think if you make it too complicated, and spend hours and hours scripting and planning, it can be too much of a burden. In addition, when you’re too rehearsed, kids can tell. Being yourself and approachable is important, even if it’s on video. I nade the mistake of being too formal in my first few videos. I also made the mistake of saving some videos to my hard drive, uploadnig the across several different YouTube accounts, and sending some links through Google Drive. I am kicking myself for not streamlining and organizing my content, especially when I want to assign something I used from a past year.


Here is an example of a video I gave for homework tonight:

Though it’s informal and really nothing spectacular…my kids LOVE it. They love that I’m the only teacher in 3rd grade that does this, too!


Sometimes I involve my class when I’m recording a trick or skill, like in this video:


These are just some examples of how I’ve tapped into the idea of a flipped classroom. There are so many ways to implement this, and so many benefits of doing so. I am looking forward to learning new things and expanding collections of videos and resources to share with my kids!