Friday, June 2, 2017

Find the Force #7 (Genius Hour #7): Wrap-Up!

It's amazing what happens when you give students a stake in their own education.  That's what our Force Projects are all about (you can read more about our journey at Find the Force #1#2#3#4#5, & #6).

It’s hard to believe that our Force Projects are over - but the end of the year always is a whirlwind!  I had students complete an evaluation at the end to gather their perspectives on the project to aid in planning for next year.  Here are some of the insights they provided:

*Disclaimer: I’m a bit of a statistics nerd, so the first part of this is very numbers-heavy, with the second part being more anecdotal comments

My thoughts: Overall, they liked it, but this wasn’t quite as strong as I would have liked.  I know that several students commented that they enjoyed the project, but missed the time playing.  Others shared that they felt like some people just used this time to mess around, so it was frustrating to them.

My thoughts: This proved to be an interesting bit of self-analysis, as the students had quite a bit of loosely structured work time.  I would agree that the majority used it pretty well, but there are a few groups I would definitely not rate as high as they rated themselves.  I wonder if they felt like they could be honest on this, or if they worried about it affecting their grade (despite my assurances that it wouldn’t)?

My thoughts: We put a lot of effort into choosing a topic, but as with any new project, there is a learning curve, both for students and me.  A lot of the comments were about wishing they knew exactly what their project would entail before they chose what they would work on.  While I fully understand the sentiment, part of the inquiry process is making a goal and then figuring out what steps you need to take to get there.  I know from talking to my students that they learned a lot about time management, sequencing, and how complicated different projects were!

My thoughts: This is another question I was curious to see the responses to.  This was a true #20time project, where students were given approximately 20% of class time to work on these projects (including their blogging, required reflections, etc).  The project stretched out over the whole year, which was a challenge for some of them in time management.  In the comments, many shared that it felt like they had longer than they actually did, but that the end of the year snuck up on them (can anyone else relate?!?).

We used blogging as a way to reflect on this project. How did that work for you? Do you think this was a good use of time?

  • I liked being able to blog because it helped me stay on track and I liked being able to see what other people think about my project. 
  • I liked the thought of blogging because it helped with sharing your ideas. When you just speak it to a person they may not remember it or not understand the full idea of what you did. 
  • Blogging was so fun, it makes you feel famous even with a orchestra project. It was a way to bring in some of your personality into your reflection but still got us thinking about why we did the project and what we learned. This was a ok use of time because I would sometimes want to practice cello but have to look through blogs. I think if we did just a little less we could still use the blogs but get more time to play. 
  • It helped me reflect on the project, but I don't like writing so I didn't care too much for it. It was fun reading other blog posts however. 
  • No because I never really wrote anything and i change the project so much so i had to rewrite from the beginning to the end every time there was a new project so I would say not really. 
  • Yes, it helped me plan everything I wanted to do and needed to do. Like adding more detail or needing more topics. 
  • I did not really like blogging our project. I would have much rather written a paragraph of what we have done. 
  • I didn't really like blogging that much, because I felt like we could of been working on our actually project rather than a blog that I didn't feel worked for me. 
  • I think it was a good use of time but I would have liked to blog even more because I feel like we did it regularly but not enough. 
  • It worked pretty good. At first I didn't like it that much but then I started to figure out more about how cool blogging actually is.

My thoughts: I tried to pull a representative sampling of the responses I got for this blog.  In general, the positives associated with blogging were that it helped them reflect and stay on track, they enjoyed sharing their ideas with the world (authentic audience!), and that they were able to get feedback on their projects.  The negatives were that it took some of their work time, they had trouble knowing what to write, and they got bogged down by technical difficulties.  Overall, one of my goals was to include more literacy in my classroom through these blogs, as well as engage a more authentic audience.  While this was probably the least popular part of the project overall, I still think it served its purpose, and I would do it again (with some tweaks). 

We connected with other students (in our class and in other classes) through blogs, comments, etc. Did you find this interesting? Do you think it was a good use of time?

  • This was a good use of time because I could tell people what I thought and people could tell me what they thought. This was a good way to improve our projects because we knew what our peers thought.
  • I liked the way it helped get more ideas on what you were doing. It was a good use of time because you can see what other people were doing even if you weren't in their class.
  • It was really cool to give people feedback, and to get some in return. This was not a waste of time, as it helped us shape and change our projects and make sure they were in tip-top shape!
  • I thought the idea was cool, but most of the comments and other things weren't that helpful, so I don't think it was the best use of our time. We could have used more work time.
  • As I said before I did think it was very interesting to see what other kids were doing in other classes, because people can come up with such different ideas that I would have never even thought of before. So I thought it was definitely interesting and very cool. I don't think that this was a waste of time, I think you should definitely do this portion of the blogging for next year students because it was definitely very cool.
  • No, I didnt really want to know what other people were doing.
  • I did not find this interesting. I didn't really learn anything, and it was more of a chore to grade other people.
  • I liked looking at comments on my blog and commenting on others but sometimes people that were supposed to comment on mine never did or were not thinking deep about my Force Project in their comments.
My thoughts: Again, I tried to pull a representative sample here - I always want to be honest about the successes and challenges on this blog!  Overall, students seemed to like the commenting and feel that it helped them reflect and improve.  Some of the most-mentioned positives were that they enjoyed the social component, they liked seeing what others were doing, and it helped them improve their own projects.  Negatives mostly revolved around the varying quality of comments and blogs, feeling like they did not learn much or get meaningful feedback from the commenting.  They did enjoy connecting with @msventurino’s class, and thought it was fun to hear from people in a different state!

Final Thoughts:

There are always things to improve on, but overall, I would say that this first go-around at a #geniushour was a success!  The students’ comments helped give me ideas for how to tweak it in the future, but the basis of the project will largely stay the same.  I will end with a few of my favorite student quotes from their final blogs:

  • “Some final reflections I have on this project is that it was very fun and I enjoyed it. It was very challenging to learn a new instrument and it was fun to learn it it. I made a lot of mistakes on this project that will help me learn for in the future.”
  • “I just want to say I had a lot of fun with this project and this blog is going to be difficult for me to let go.  But for me, our actual presentation was okay. To be honest I loved the process more than the our actual presentation.
  • “I thought the force project was awesome, I had a fun time making it. I really enjoyed this because I actually enjoyed doing homework.
  • If we would've just done normal orchestra throughout the year I would have learned no where near the amount that I learned. I feel it is important to not just know how to play a note, but also know the music. These force projects taught me good music!

Whew, this might win an award for my longest blog post ever!  I hope the reflections and student comments are helpful to anyone else looking at doing a similar project.  I’ll close by saying, “May the Force be with you!” and add this tidbit from one of my 7th graders…


To see some of their projects (the ones that can be shared in this format), click here!


  1. I am SUCH a graph/numbers person. I love the way you shared! I'm so glad that you reflected on this big force in your life. ;) Thank you for sharing with the world, Aubrey! I'll add this to the LiveBinder when I get back on my laptop Sunday or Monday. :D

  2. I loved reading your thoughts in combination with the statistics and comments from students. Your reflections help us all grow as educators. Thanks for sharing.