Counting Carbs

A teacher candidate's blog focussed on tasty foods, diabetes awareness, and all things education

EdTech Inquiry – Genius Hour

Genius Hour (GH) is an educational movement that allows students increased freedom and creativity in their learning. This movement advocates for a learning environment where students are allocated 20% of their in-class time in order to private educational pursuits or projects that interest them (Genius Hour Website). This isn’t a concept that is simply limited to the classroom, as the Genius Hour website asserts that even companies such as Google offer their engineers 20% of their time to work on topics that interest them (Genius Hour Website). The theory here is that overall productivity and engagement are increased by allowing students (and workers) to spend a significant portion of their time on projects of passion and interest.


But how does this look in the classroom? In my opinion, GH could take form in multiple different ways in the classroom but the primary way that popped into my mind when considering GH were the different types of student inquiry and inquiry based learning.

(The Inquiry “pool”)


I think that that incorporating GH into teaching and the classroom would be most fluidly done if we consider the same process we would with the inquiry “pool”. Without proper scaffolding and preparation, I think that many students who dive right into the deep end with a Free Inquiry approach to GH will be lost and unsure as to how to approach effectively engaging with their topic and interests within this free educational context. When initially incorporating GH into the classroom, I would therefore advocate for a Structured Inquiry approach where the students follow the lead of the teacher while still pursuing their individual interests. This could look something like the teacher introducing a broad topic, such as movies, and from here have students research a movie of their preference. By starting with a more structured model of GH, students will have their learning scaffolded and have the ability to confidently move towards more independent models of inquiry during GH time. Having GH time structured into the classroom is absolutely a positive for student learning as long as it is structured in a way that fairly supports the learning needs of students.

Another positive of GH is that it has the potential to clearly outline expectations of students and allows them to prepare beforehand. If a student knows that 20% of their week will be composed of GH based inquiry learning, then they can dedicatedly enjoy working on their other subjects and classes all the while knowing that they will have opportunities throughout the week to study on subjects they are truly passionate about. This is not to say that GH should be used as an incentive or reward for working on other subjects (and I feel that if GH is misused, it is at risk of becoming so), but instead should be a means of intrinsically motivating students and fostering an truly engaging and wholesome classroom experience.

I believe that one potential con of GH is if it is overused in the classroom. For example, if a teacher sees that their students are enjoying their GH time so much that they decide to increase the amount of time dedicated to it to say 50 or 60%, then student learning in other areas of the curriculum will be heavily hampered. I feel as though this would be a relatively easy trap to fall into as a teacher, as what makes us happier than seeing our students happy? But we as educators need to realize that it is in our students’ best interest for us to limit GH time to 20% so that students can explore their interests while also being creative in a way that also promotes learning in other areas. One other potential con or risk is that students who are unfamiliar with an inquiry approach to learning might have some difficulties acclimating to this alternative approach to education. I, however, feel as though this is less of a difficulty and more of an opportunity for us as teachers to help aid these students in becoming more comfortable with inquiry based learning.


If implemented correctly, a classroom that incorporates GH can allow its students to develop the incredible skills included in the graphic above. And when GH learning is combined with these skills, students can experience a truly meaningful and fulfilling education.


Morgan’s section


Genius hour involves inquiry based, student led learning. 


One way of incorporating Genius Hour into the classroom is allowing students to pursue passion projects. In this type of inquiry-based educational structure, students’ learning unfolds through the investigation of a central question or interest. The student is given a great deal of autonomy over their learning; they choose what they study, how they study it, and what they want to produce as evidence of their learning. Overall, the student is given freedom within the structure of genius hour. 


The teacher’s role in this approach to learning is to be a guide for students and assist as needed. Before diving straight into implementing genius hour, the teacher and students can co-create a framework that outlines what a genius hour session period looks like (what are appropriate behaviours for students to engage in? How can they use the time effectively? What are different methods of effective research? etc.). This framework includes ground rules and ensures that the whole class understands the expectations. It is also something for students to fall back on if they get ‘stuck’ and don’t know what to do. The other important job for the teacher is to promote student centred learning and problem solving. Conferencing with students, coaching them through challenges, and helping them reflect throughout the process are all important behaviours for the teacher to engage in. 


So, you want to try implementing genius hour? Great! This blog here ( ) outlines the following step by step format of how to run a genius hour in your classroom. 


  1. Planning: First, the teacher must plan out the time in the day that will be designated for genius hour. The blog suggests allotting 1 hour per day or 1 full class period a week for a set amount of weeks, depending on your unique classroom schedule. This step also involves the co-creation of a framework and ground rules with the students. 
  2. Topic selection: Students do some preliminary research and choose what topic they would like to investigate and what they might produce at the end of the inquiry to showcase their learning.
  3. The Pitch: Each student assembles 4 slides and does a short presentation on 1. what they’re going to learn/make 2. why they’re going to learn it, why it’s important to them 3. how they’re going to go about it ie. A brief schedule of their assignment 4. what would success at the end of this look like for them?
  4. Research, learning and documentation: The teacher may do a short pre-teaching lesson on how to conduct proper research. Students will go to library, use quality online research engines, talk to experts, and document learning on a website, blog,journal, book, art, videos on youtube, a podcast, or any other method deemed appropriate. 
  5. Making: During this step, the students will assemble their final piece. This is the making, creating, designing phase that makes their project a reality. It is important to have a class discussion around growth mindset and that challenges arise on the road toward success. 
  6. The final stage, students present their learning! 


If you are working to implement genius hour into a primary classroom, here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • Younger students need more structure. If you know student interests, perhaps have students go in groups to study one topic that interests them all, or do a whole class inquiry into a topic (this way you can offer more guidance)
  • Talk about wonderings.. what do we want to learn, what are we interested about? They can look at books and videos for ideas
  • Research may look different: you can have young students watch videos, have a guest speaker, or read a book together as a class
  • The purpose and end products will look different for younger students! 
  • Narrow ideas down into a central question
  • Use a set research plan – you create the plan and the students follow it 


Follow this link for some great graphics and info on genius hour in the primary classroom


 Trevor McKenzie (Inquiry Pool + 10 Characteristics of Inquiry)

Genius Hour Website:


Communication and Collaboration

For our EdTech resource, my tech partner Morgan and I decided to delve deeper and learn more about ‘Genius Hour’. While our official write-up of it will come later, ‘Genius Hour’ (GH) is basically a teaching strategy where students are allocated a certain percentage of their class time to discover and explore topics they are personally interested in.

Sound familiar?

When Morgan first told me about GH my mind automatically went to Trevor McKenzie’s presentation on inquiry. GH seems like such a fantastic way to try out inquiry based learning without overwhelming students with seemingly never ending assessment options and unclear learning outcomes.

The point of this post, however, is not to talk about inquiry or GH. Instead I’d like to reflect a little bit on communicating and collaborating through Zoom and how we’ve seemingly (for better or for worse) become accustomed to video conferencing at the drop of a hat.

I feel as though I can confidently say that the majority of my fellow classmates were in the same shoes as me at the start of first term in September, ABSOLUTELY OVERWHELMED! Communicating with instructors, classmates, and group members exclusively through a screen was an absolutely new experience that myself (and I’m sure many others) had never ran into before. Although initially confusing and disorienting, we all quickly adapted and become well-adjusted “Zoomers” capable of video conferencing clearly and efficiently. Although I do long for the “good ol’ days” where we could meet up with group members after class in the library or at a cafe and work on projects, I will admit that there are some definite upsides to doing collaborative work exclusively online.

For one, collaborative applications or web based programs such as Google docs or drive are absolutely incredible resources for group projects. I had used such programs in my previous degree but it had only been a here or there situation, where now we use these as our automatic go to programs. The convenience these programs provide are fantastic in that they allow all users simultaneous access to the material (which can sometimes be disorienting if multiple people are editing the same document!) and allow group members to edit and write at their own pace.

In addition to becoming extremely familiar with these collaborative resources, I’ve also become very used to video conferencing at any time. Although previous I had “Facetimed” once in a while, this program introduced me to and aided me in becoming extremely comfortable with video conferencing at the drop of a hat. I think this is an important thing to be comfortable with as online schooling and video conferencing will likely never go away now that it’s infrastructure is in place!

Overall, doing this program online has taught me new ways of collaborating and communicating with others and I’m extremely thankful for it!

Free Inquiry Update

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted an official update to my free inquiry project on home cooking and carb counting, so here we go!

In the past month or so we’ve been quite busy, so I haven’t been cooking as much as I’d ideally like to. With practicum coming soon myself (and most of my classmates too!) have been deeply engrossed in our students and preparation of units, lessons, and everything in between. I have, however, found some time to cook a few dishes and make some updates to my WordPress site that I will document in this blog post.

You must be wondering, what in the world is this dish? Lasagna, or maybe macaroni and cheese? The answer is neither! It’s a Japanese dish called カレードリア (Curry Doria).

Curry Doria is a three layered dish. The bottom layer is simply a bed of Japanese rice, the middle is a layer of Japanese curry (with pork, carrot, potato, etc), and the top is simply mozzarella cheese. This dish can be quite commonly found at Japanese supermarkets or convenience stores but I’ve never seen anything that was quite the same here in Canada. I personally absolutely love Japanese curry and cheese so this dish, while quite basic, is one of my all time favourites!

The next dish I made recently was キムチ鍋 (Kimchi Nabe), which somewhat translates to Kimchi hot-pot! The picture above fails to show just how delicious this dish was but trust me when I say that it was absolutely fabulous! The entire dish contained almost no carbs at all, as it’s basically all veggies (chinese cabbage, kimchi, mushrooms, etc), lean meat, and tofu! This is a great option for diabetics, or anyone who’s going for a low carb diet.

Lastly, while I don’t have any pictures, I’ve been playing around with my slow cooker a little in the last month. So far I’ve made BBQ pulled pork and savoury slow cooked chicken thighs and up next on my list is beef brisket! Yum!

Additionally, I’ve now caught up with updating all my home cooking posts with mini descriptions and carbohydrate information.

Until next time!

Gaming in Education!

While Minecraft didn’t exist when I was growing up and I have never played it myself, I have seen countless images and articles highlighting how the game encourages its players to be endlessly creative.

Gaming when I was in elementary school look much different than it does now in 2021. When I was in school we had access to the school computers about once a week, and during this time we only had access to games once we had finished our other miscellaneous tasks (such as meeting our WPM assignment quota’s and doing standardized testing). Despite us actually spending quite a minimal amount of time actually gaming using the computers, I still fondly and vividly remember this gaming as part of my education. Firstly, the fact that we had access to games once we finished our other tasks gave me the incentive and motivation (which distinctly falls under extrinsic motivation now that I think back on it…) needed to complete my tasks efficiently and effectively.

But why were these games so interesting to me?


These games, such as the Oregon Trail and Super Solvers, were extremely challenging for me as a young student and despite my repeated attempts, I was never able to “beat” them! In hindsight, this was absolutely a positive influence for my elementary education because by repeatedly failing at this games I was motivated to try again and use problem solving strategies to do better next time!

Now I’m not saying that students nowadays should have to play these games which, despite their potential educational offerings, are graphically outdated and painfully slow. Instead, I think that by growing up playing these games I am in a privileged position where I experienced the value of educational gaming and can attempt to apply this to my future teaching practice.

I think that incorporating gaming into education through mediums such as (but not restricted to) Kahoots, Minecraft, board games, and card games increases intrinsic motivation among students and absolutely fosters an educational environment where growth mindsets flourish! Not only can gaming allow for near-endless cross curricular connections (Minecraft itself could be used to teach Arts Education, Social Studies, Science, Mathematics, and so much more!) but it also provides students with the opportunity to cooperative create connections with their peers, and also with their teachers through group engagement and participation in games! Something else that was mentioned during our presentation on gaming was that by engaging in educational gaming, students are given clear opportunities to become leaders within their communities and provide teachings to not only their peers, but also their teachers!

One more thing that is fascinating to me is the opportunity that will be available to us in the near future as educators in gaming using emerging technology. Although this is a topic I am someone ignorant on, I do not feel like it is outside the realm of possibility for students to create worlds or games using virtual reality (VR) software in the near future. Imagine the possibilities, any subject could be touched on using VR. Does a student want to do an art project but has a tendency to dislike classic art mediums such as paint or clay? Providing them with the opportunity to digitally create art in a fully immersive environment could be a life changing opportunity for them. Does a student prefer learning mathematics through visual representations and object manipulation instead of formulas and worksheets? They could be offered VR software as a means of learning and demonstrating their ability in math! Not only are the possibilities for student creativity are truly endless, as they could even learn to make their own VR games, but these options also provide teachers with concrete summative and formative assessment options.

Overall, I think that gaming should absolutely be incorporated into education. While I don’t think it should be used as a catch-all for every subject (as I think an over-reliance on just about any educational medium is risky), I think that using gaming for in-school learnings and take-home assignments can absolutely be a positive influence in the classroom!



Inclusive Education and Assistive Technologies

Chantelle’s presentation and visit really highlighted the need for increased access to assistive technology in the classroom and the overall need for inclusive education. As I tend to do, I want to first reflect on my previous experiences surrounding assistive technologies and inclusive education before I discuss the resources provided to us.

Although not directly applicable to the technology side of things, when I volunteered with VISAS (Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports) there was a plethora of options for inclusive education such as sit-skis, tethers, and outriggers. Teaching here was one of the first times I consciously realized the necessary adaptations and adjustments that need to be made for inclusive educational opportunities.

These experiences teaching with VISAS has inspired me to continuously learn how to provide inclusive education for learners in a variety of environments. Although I am still quite a novice on the technology side of things when it comes to inclusive education, I’ve started to learn about voice command apps such as Mathtalk and speech recognition apps such as Co:Writer. I plan on investigating further into how to use apps such as these, as well as BCEdAccess resources in order to be an educator who can provide thoroughly inclusive educational opportunities to my future students.

As a type 1 diabetic, I am particularly interested in the impact changes in blood sugar levels have on a student’s ability to focus in educational environments. Although this is anecdotal, I personally have an extremely difficult time focussing in class (or on tests/assignments) for quite some time after I have experienced low or high blood glucose (BG), with the worst being when I’ve had a sleepless night due to BG concerns. Although I have frequently alerted my professors to my diagnosis and they have been very understanding, I do with that there was some piece of assistive technology that could help diabetics focus after a rough BG period. Although this would likely have to be a proactive solution, such as a constant BG monitoring system (which already exists) in order to prevent BG complications, I think that an assistive technology that takes into consideration the side effects of BG issues would be life changing.

Overall, my experiences volunteering with VISAS and as a type 1 diabetic have helped alert me to the necessity of inclusive education and assistive technologies and I wish to bring this knowledge into the classroom by providing aid to my future students wherever necessary.

Distributed Learning

As long as I can remember, alternatives to the classic classroom education model have always been an option. When I was growing up, some students attended school full time, some were home schooled, and others were enrolled either partially or fully in distance education. The later, distance education, always fascinated me as a student as a few of my classmates throughout the years were or had been partially or fully enrolled in distance learning at one point or another.

Prior to our PDP starting in September 2020, my only previous experience with blended and online learning was when I was in 8th grade. Halfway through the year in 8th grade I decided that French immersion was no longer for me and that it was time to switch to the English education stream. Because of the inherent difficulties present in changing classes mid-year, my parents and the school’s administration decided that it would be a smoother transition for me to do the remaining half of my school year through distance education and then to return to the school for the start of 9th grade. This distance education was done through an organization called NIDES (North Island Distance Education), and has in recent years seems to have primarily ‘rebranded’ to “Navigate”.

Here I will be candid, my experience with NIDES was lacklustre at best. I found that my teacher(s) would contact me only if I was the one to initiate contact, I had an extremely minimal support structure and had to rely on my mother for help in mathematics (and other subjects), and found myself to be extremely unprepared for tests and final exams. Additionally, NIDES would simply send me package upon package of mundane (and overly simple) worksheets and organizers to fill out and return. Factors such as these, and a general lack of student accountability resulted in me frequently ignoring school for other activities, , games, or even napping (!) and left me with the sense that I never truly learned anything meaningful.

Flashing forward almost 15 years and once again I’m experiencing blended learning! However, unlike in the 8th grade where I felt thrown into disarray and was generally unprepared for the tasks at hand, now I feel as though I’m organically learning in ways that resemble in-person teaching. Despite the inherent challenges present in online learning, I feel as though our UVic professors have done a fantastic job in providing engaging synchronous, asynchronous, and blended learning opportunities. The combination of online class sessions and in-person practicum and Link2Practice opportunities have worked together well to provided a rounded education where my needs as a learner are being fulfilled.

How is this relevant to my future practice? Well, to be honest, I’m not sure what positions or opportunities will be available to me after graduation and as a result, I want to prepare myself for just about anything. In order to do so, I have been preparing lesson and unit plans, as well as general resources, graphic organizers, games, and worksheets that accommodate and take into considerations a variety teaching and learning situations such as blended learning, online learning, and balancing asynchronous/synchronous learning. I feel that by carefully considering distributed learning options such as these when diversifying my teaching portfolio I will be better prepared for whatever role is requested of me as a potential future educator.



Trevor MacKenzie Presentation Reflection and Free Inquiry Update

Trevor MacKenzie Presentation

If I’m being completely honest, before Trevor MacKenzie’s presentation I really don’t think I understood the concept of “inquiry”. Despite the fact that we had done our own inquiry projects last terms in one of our classes, I still had a weird and vague feeling whenever I heard the term “inquiry”. What’s most interesting for myself, is that I didn’t really have positive or negative thoughts about the term, it was simply just this entity or concept that was extremely cloudy for me.

And then came last week’s presentation.

Trevor MacKenzie and his enthusiasm for inquiry and teaching using different types of inquiry such as “structured inquiry”, “controlled inquiry”, “guided inquiry”, and “free inquiry” genuinely inspired me to learn more about how to implement inquiry in my future practice. I think what he did that really got me interested in the topic was the fact that he factual and relatable real life examples of how he has used inquiry in the classroom, how he changes it depending on his class and his students, and his overall enthusiasm and genuine interested in the subject.

I’d like to reflect further on two images that Trevor shared with us during his presentation.

This first image is what solidified my understanding of inquiry in Trevor’s presentation. As someone who very much learns through seeing and not hearing, seeing the pool example of different types of inquiry really hit home. I didn’t quite realize how distinctly different each type was and to what extent the teacher exerts control over the inquiry process itself. I quite appreciate how Trevor explained that for us to use inquiry in our classroom during practicum we should absolutely start in the “shallow end” of the pool as diving into the “deeper end” would likely create a confusing learning environment that the students are unprepared for dealing with.

One thing that I would love to experience further that Trevor mentioned was using different types of inquiry in the same classroom with different students. Trevor provided examples of this during his presentation but I personally feel that it would be extremely helpful to see it in action during a real class.

The next image I wanted to reflect on is the following characteristics of an inquiry classroom:

I think that by teaching and fostering these characteristics students can become extremely well rounded learners that are capable of (amongst other things) overcoming adversity, actively knowing how to pursue their own unique academic interests, and being motivated participants in classroom environments. This image would be something I absolutely want to have as a poster in my future classroom and I hope that I can weave these characteristics into my future practices.

Overall, Trevor MacKenzie’s presentation was incredibly inspirational and an experience that I am extremely proud to have participated in as a teacher candidate.

Although I’m not personally on Twitter, for those who are I’d highly recommend following Trevor on the platform here or @trev_mackenzie!

If you’re like me and use Youtube all the time, you can follow Trevor’s Youtube channel here for all things inquiry related!


Free Inquiry Update

My free inquiry focus for this week WAS to include more carbohydrate and health information for my foods. The reason why I haven’t included this information on more of my posts thus far is simply because it is extremely time consuming and I’ve been swamped with other projects and assignments!

However,when I was looking at the Ed-Tech educational competencies checklist I noticed the “Technology and Health” competency and thought to myself two things. First, I thought that my Free Inquiry truly aligns perfectly with this competency because it is documenting health information for diabetics and carb counters using an online platform for others to use! What I then realized after I thought of this, however, was that my eye’s hurt from spending so much time staring at my screen and my fingers were cramping up from typing up my Free Inquiry information…

This led me to do some self-reflecting on my personal practices surrounding health and technology and made me come to a realization. I’ve almost always been the type of student who sits down and does the majority of an assignment or project in a single session, but my multiple hour Free Inquiry and online reflection sessions have made me realize that in an ongoing class with tasks such as this one, this simply is not going to work for my physical and mental health.

So going forward I’m going to try to reduce my static screen time by compartmentalizing my Free Inquiry write ups into smaller parts more frequently and by doing so hopefully adopt slightly healthier lifestyle habits that I can apply to future online projects and tasks.

Until next time.

Free Inquiry Update and Screen Sharing!

This week I’m trying something different! Instead of writing out my free inquiry update here, I’ve decided to attempt to share with everyone through recording a Quicktime player screen share.

I encountered a little bit of difficulty with the video, as there was a strange loud sound at the start of the recording. But I figured out how to “trim” it out using the video player’s edit function. Additionally, I’ve never uploaded anything to Youtube before so this was a first for me. I didn’t realize that videos take so long to upload (or maybe it’s just me?…).

Anyways! Here’s my free inquiry project update!

Competency Resource/Curation Post

I’ve never been someone who uses online mediums  for organizing my resources, but after playing around a little bit with Feedly I can understand the appeal!

The first aspect of Feedly that I found extremely appealing was its relatively simple and user-friendly interface. After making an account, I found myself being immediately easily able to search for resources pertaining to my free inquiry project, follow them, and have them organized into wonderfully accessible lists.

I quite like that Feedly offers you the option to look at your resources as an aggregated “News Feed”, separate resource feeds, or as a comprehensive list of all your resources all collected together. Additionally, being able to switch the lists’ article viewing styles (my preference being the “Magazine View) allows the user even more preferential customization options.

One more thing I like about Feedly is that by clicking on your resources’ names on their pages, you are automatically forwarded to their website. This made for a greatly helpful and user friendly experience when  wanting additional information on a certain resource as it wasn’t necessary to go to Google or another search engine and search from there.

(Here you can click on “Cooking Korean food with Maangchi” and it directs you to her site – a great cooking site by the way!)

Although I’ve only just started using the site, I would highly recommend Feedly for anyone looking to start a user-friendly and easily accessible resource bank.

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