#Passion Projects

WEEK 7: A Pinteresting Approach to Passion Projects

February 17, 2016

Short week. We were off Monday, and I let you continue to refine your passion projects Tuesday. So the remaining three days calls for an interesting, easy, but useful app that could help with your passion project as well as combining this week’s assignment with your passion project update.


Pinterest. You may have heard of it. You may already have an account and 30 boards. In case you haven’t heard of it, it works like this: Pinterest is like a virtual bulletin board or bulletin boards. The app allows you to create “boards” based on topics you are interested in and then “pin” things you either discover in your feed or things you purposely search for.

Say you have a board for recipes (or if you’re hardcore, you might have one each for main courses, sides, breakfasts and desserts). You can “follow” people who “pin” items of interest to you. Those pins of your followers show up in your feed and you can re-pin items to your own boards. If you like the items a particular person pins, go see who they follow and follow some of their followers. This way you build your feed with more selections. But don’t stop at recipes. Interested in reading? Follow book lovers. Health? There are topics on that.

You can also use Pinterest to search for key words. Want recipes for chocolate chip cookies? Put it in the search bar. Photography? Search it. Pin what interests you to the board where you want to collect it. Need a new board? Make one.

The items that come across  your feed are usually from blogs, sometimes articles, or just web pages, depending on the topic. One can pin something from any web page – works best if there is an image there – if you have a Pinterest app on your Chrome browser.

How can you search for info about your passion project? Begin by setting up an account. Remember your password. Pinterest will probably start by having you follow a few interests, but after your account is going, you can follow or unfollow any account you want. Set up a board or two that will help you with your passion project and start researching and pinning. You should probably go check out the item before pinning it to make sure it’s legit and useful. Sometimes it’s a bad link no one’s taken down.

By Friday, draft, seek feedback, revise and post to your blog a piece about what your passion project is and how you have used Pinterest in your research. You can make these separate posts, one laying out the plan for the project and another about how you used Pinterest or you can combine them. That’s up to you. You may choose to add a link to your Pinterest account if  you’d like followers.


WEEK 6: Passion Projects

February 8, 2016

I’ve been alluding to something called Passion Projects. Some call it Genius Hour, while some prefer 20% Time, but it’s all the same type of thing. The main premise is you deciding on a subject you are passionate about, developing a project around it and devoting 20% of your classroom time each week on that project, that learning.

First, let’s get the idea down of what we mean by passion.

OK, that gives an idea of what passion is, but how is that a project?

As Kesler points out in his video, you should start with a driving question. What do you want to know more about? What would you like to learn to do? Or what wrongs would you like to right in your community? One way to put that question is, “What breaks your heart?” The question must be one that will involve research and end in a product or service or learning that can be shown or demonstrated. What kind of question can we start with?

Here’s how one kid used his Genius time.

1. We will use “backward planning,” deciding on what we want as an end product, then planning how to get there. Will there be a product, like a video, a book, a website, pieces of jewelry? Will there be an event like a benefit fundraiser, a trip, a portfolio, a show? Will there be a model of a building, a campus, a robot? Then, how do you get to that point?

2. One component that will help you is having a mentor. Depending on what your subject area is, you’ll need to decide on and contact someone to be your mentor. A mentor would be someone who is a professional or expert in the field you are seeking to learn about. This person will be a contact for you, someone to give you ideas, help you consider ideas you may not have thought of, make contact with other people you may not have thought of, someone to check in with. In short, this person will help you to reach your goal and motivate you.

Your mentor does not have to live locally. In this day and age, you can communicate through social media or by phone or even by Facetime or Skype. For instance, if you wanted to explore some area of medicine, find a doctor who might mentor you. Interested in interior design? Perhaps a professional designer or an instructor from a university could help you out. Many adults would welcome the opportunity to mentor a student interested in their own career choice.

3. You’ll keep your learning transparent by posting your progress to your blog weekly. It’s helpful to post photos or videos to show folks where you are in the process. Tell your audience about obstacles and how you surmounted them. That’s part of the learning process.

4. Start brainstorming. If you feel compelled to say, “I don’t know what I’m interested in.” STIFLE IT. Brainstorm anyway. So many students say they hate being told what to do, what they have to learn. They wonder, “when am I ever going to need this?” Well, this is your chance to explore something YOU want to learn, something relevant to you. Use it.

Need some ideas? Here are lots from York School:


The forecast was spotty after introducing the idea of Passion Projects, but giving the students a week for ideas to brew while I was having one-on-one conferences, I thought some would come to the idea generation meeting with at least a rough plan of what they’d like to do. But the first day we all met together, there was a lot of “let someone else go first,” and “I don’t know what I’m interested in.”

Nevertheless, we got a few ideas going, which demonstrated a breadth of options. After a long weekend that included a fall break, I was pleasantly surprised when we met again this week and some of those ideas had developed further and a few new ideas surfaced. Still, though, there were some who just had no idea what they wanted to do. One of my students from another class was visiting that day and, an imaginative sort, she helped with some idea generation, and some new ideas took hold.

By today, everyone has a pretty good idea of what they want to pursue and are working on a graphic organizer to make sure they are including the necessary elements of  a driving question, an end product of some sort, research needed, whom they might contact as a mentor and the steps needed to reach the goal. They will also be writing blog posts to introduce their audiences to their projects.

I’m asking them to comment below a bit about their projects so that others interested in trying out Passion Projects or Genius Hour might use ours as examples.


Sept. 28, 2014

A picture is worth a thousand words and most folks want their words in the form of pictures these days. Or, at least, they want those words accompanied by pictures. Face it, text heavy blog posts don’t get as much attention as those with pictures. Take this one for instance …

But there are rules about what pictures you can use. Sure, you can use photos you’ve taken yourself, but if you’re commenting on a story about immigration policy (a subject I know you’re all dying to discuss), it’s tough to pull off snapping a photo of border crossings.  There are LOTS of times you need a photo to set off a blog post and you don’t have one of your own. Up to now, many of you may have thought the solution was to just Google it and use what you find, but those photos are owned by someone, and to use them without payment or permission is wrong. Those photographers put bread on the table with payment for their craft.

What’s a blogger to do? Let’s learn about copyright and fair use, which pertains to much more than just photos, and then we can talk about using images through Creative Commons. We’ve a busy couple days of learning, which may delay our work in the computer lab. Let’s go!

Monday: Let’s take a little what-do-you-already-know quiz over copyright – then let’s discuss it.

View the Law and Technology Timeline

Tuesday: How to use advanced Google image search with usage rights. How to use Flickr (if you have a Yahoo acct.) How to use Wikimedia Commons. And, finally, how to attribute Creative Commons images.

Wednesday – Thursday: Your assignment is to read blogs you are following in WordPress or through Feedly, looking for Creative Commons images. Do they seem to be attributed correctly? Can you click on the link back to the original photo? To the author’s page? To the CC license? Write a post related to your Passion Project for which you can incorporate a photo, and find one through Creative Commons to use with your post. You can do this through WikiMedia or Flickr. Be sure to attribute it correctly!

Friday: Passion Projects! Use today to explore your Passion Project and to write a post updating readers on your progress this week. This could be the post associated with your CC assignment or a separate one specifically to update readers on your progress.



Sept. 21, 2014

Last week I introduced 20% Time, Genius Hour, Passion Projects. This week we work in ernest to establish what each of you will work toward during your one day a week or more, depending on how other assignments play out for you. I want to give you tools that can help you with the research and maybe with the projects themselves. I will introduce three this week that will help you find and collect information you find on the Internet.

Monday: One of my favorite apps is one folks either know and use or don’t. It’s Pinterest. Once you understand how Pinterest works (think about being shown an array of things that might interest you, and you can select any of them and “pin” them to your own digital bulletin boards to look at later), you’ll use it for both work and entertainment.

If you’re finding information on blogs or news sites that don’t have the familiar “follow” button that you use on WordPress, know that there is another way: RSS readers. There are many to choose from, so it really comes down to simply choosing. Rock, paper, scissors? Closing your eyes and pointing? Or do what I did, Tweet about it, and go with the first response you get: Feedly.com. But first let’s take a look at this cute video that explains how RSS readers work.

Maybe you don’t want to follow the blog or news site forever; you just want to save this one perfect article. There are apps for that, too. Diigo, Pocket and Delicious, to name a few. Let me show you a bit about Delicious.

Play with these three apps this week. You’ll sign in and out of Pinterest as you do Google and WordPress. But Feedly and Delicious are Chrome-based apps. That is, when you’re signed into your Google Chrome, they’ll show up on your Chrome bar – wherever you are. When you sign out of Google Chrome, you’re signed out of those, too.

Tuesday-Thursday: Keep playing with Pinterest, Feedly and Delicious. Read and research your passion topic, and save and curate with these apps. By the end of the week, write a post for your blog about how helpful you have found these three apps to be in finding and saving information for your project. Has one been more helpful than the others? Can you explain why? Will any of them be helpful in the implementation of the actual project or just mostly in the research? Can you see uses for any of them in any other part of your life? Write the post in Google Docs and share with the person above you in the contact list for feedback. Do some revisions, then share with me.

Friday: By Friday you should have written up a proposal (think of an outline) for your passion project. Begin with a summary of the topic, include your driving question, what your end product will be and a timeline of what you need to do to get there. Are there steps you must make before you get to the final project?

Meet with me anytime before the end of Friday’s class to go over your proposal so we can get things pinned down.