I have been working on a project called Technology Beyond the Classroom since last summer. The project, originally funded by the Assistive Technology Advocacy Center at Disability Rights New Jersey, focuses on working with transition age students with disabilities – age 18-25.
The goal of the program is to provide training to ensure that the program participants can use technology (specifically smartphones and tablets) to increase independence in the areas of community living, post secondary education and employment. The original class was six weeks long and focused mostly on the basics of using mobile devices:
- Built in apps and their uses: Calendar, Reminders, Settings, Safari, Camera….just to name a few.
- Accessibility features – especially Text to Speech. Many of the participants weren’t strong readers so listening to text was HUGE!
In addition to learning the apps, we spent time focused on issues around Digital Citizenship. Many of the students use various social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) but hadn’t had training to ensure personal safety online.
My project partner, The Arc of Monmouth, has continued the program for the consumers even after the original project was completed. Last week, we started our Winter session which has expanded to 10 weeks. I was looking to add another component to the course that we hadn’t had time for in the past: Genius Hour!
Never heard of Genius Hour?? Genius hour is participant driven learning. What are you passionate about? What do you want to learn? How do you want to change the world? Whatever the topic, the goal of Genius Hour is to develop higher level thinking skills and inspire creativity. Participants work alone, in small groups, and hopefully, with community based mentors to complete their projects. In keeping with the focus of our Technology Beyond the Classroom agenda, the final projects for the Genius Hour will allow participants to use their mobile devices and more specifically, the Book Creator app, to create an engaging, electronic book to highlight their work.
So we met during week one of class to begin the brainstorming for our project ideas. The interesting thing that struck me was the feeling that the participants had never been in charge of their learning. I asked them, “What do you want to learn about?” and it took some time and some prompting to start the brainstorming going. But once it started, it didn’t disappoint!
Some ideas were just things they like: dogs, bake cookies, Madden 16. Other ideas were well thought out: How to be a personal trainer? How to do a gel manicure? Not to mention my personal favorite from Jason: How to get six pack abs?
Now that we have developed some ideas, we are moving on to the next step. Researching our topics and connecting with community based mentors for collaboration. This should be a very excited project and I will keep everyone posted on our successes.
Want some additional Genius Hour resources? Check out this amazing page from Cybraryman.