Genius Hour

On December 28th 2016, I completed an hour long webinar on “Getting Started with Genius Hour” Since my third year of university I have been interested in a concept called Genius Hour. The thing that intrigues me the most is that it is all up to the students, like inquiry learning in the truest form. Being from a small town, where the majority of students are only at school because it is law and their parents are forcing them to be there, it makes it difficult to engage learners. The idea that Genius Hour allows the students to have say in their education, for 20% of the class time the students are control of their own learning. This is the same concept that Google uses on their employees which led to the creation of 15% of Google products that now impact the average day life so much, including Gmail and Google Earth.

Integrating and including the ideas of Genius Hour in my classrooms allows students to use their own inquiring minds to think, research, gather evidence, create, and present on their own interests, thoughts, and learnings. When you think about it that way, it sounds a lot like higher thinking, this is similar to what most companies are looking for in an employee, so why is this a concept that every school is not using?

20% of class time, could look like 1 day a week, one class a day, or how ever much time is felt needed by the teacher to make the idea work. I think that two-three English classes a week to start would provide the students with a lot of time, you could use a library class, computer class, or Practical Applied Arts to provide the students with more time depending on the school that I am employed with and what classes they offer the students to take.

Genius Hour can be organized in a way where all grade levels could find something beneficial from the idea.

How I would run the learning during Genius Hour (based on the Webinar by AJ Juliani)

  1. Determine what students are passionate about- This can be done in a variety of ways including a questionnaire, think web, idea web, Passion Madness Bracket, quick think, lists, brainstorming ect., using different strategies for each time I use Genius Hour will allow me to find out what works better than others.
  2. Choose main idea of the project– this will be the topic that interests the students the most, each student chooses their own topic to create a project around. THIS IS CHOSEN SOLELY BY THE STUDENT, NOT PUSHED BY THE TEACHER
  3. KWL Chart-Students will each create their own KWL chart based around their topic, but first they must learn what a KWL chart is, and how they work. Ideally there will be at least 10 “Want to know” points in the category. This will be taken in for feedback purposes only.
  4. Creating questions- using the KWL chart, students will create one-two essential questions (main questions of their project), and 2-3 fundamental or supporting questions (smaller questions that are used to help answer the essential questions).
  5. Creating a plan- students will create a plan that will help them present the idea of their project to the class. This can be done by having the students fill in a graphic organizer that includes the 5Ws +H, the overall plan, end goal, steps to achieve the  goal, and how the student will rate their success.
  6. Shark Tank Pitch- students will present the idea of their project to the class, and other members of the school community, this can include the principal, respect community members, other  teachers, other students and parents. Those that are the audience are intended to provide feedback for the students.  This can be done either in a Q&A, written forms, or a suggestion box.
  7. Develop an action plan-This can be done as a class where they all have a similar timeline, but than individualize it by adding in their specific details. Include needed resources and how the students will access these resources. This may include a few lessons on teaching students how to use the library, how to find reliable sources, and how to record their sources.
  8. Implementing, working, creating, reflecting- students will spend a variety of classes completing their project, but at the end of every class provide a few minutes to have time to keep a journal, blog, or some sort of system to reflect on learning process. At the end of the week, or multiple classes the small reflections can be turned into a larger reflection to be published either on an individual or class blog, or through using a video entry. You will have to spend a class teaching students how to reflect, you may need to create/teach students how to blog or video reflect. These strategies are all part of the learning process. Include in their reflections, how they failed, how they succeeded, the original goal of the week, the accomplishments of the week, and a new goal for the next week.
  9. Progress meter-This can be used by the whole class to have students learn time management strategies. The idea is to have a timeline posted on a wall, where the students at the start and end of each class the students will move their name to match what step they are at compared to the rest of the class. This also provides the teacher with a chance to know how much time the students need to complete their projects.
  10. Giving a great talk (presentation structure)- use a class to teach the students how to do a good presentation, including talking clearly, engaging the audience, visuals, not reading off slides. Include in presentations, the original problem, your plan, the solutions, your struggles and successes, what your final product is, and what rewards were gained from the project.
  11. Present-students will present, this can be either to just the class, a community audience, live streamed, or recorded and published later.
  12. Reflect– students will complete their final reflection on their project, including many of the aspects that they discussed during their presentations, as well as how they felt the presentation went.

Marking the Project

Genius Hour is not something you can provide only one mark for, you must mark many of the steps of the project, including the plan, research, reflections, the pitch, presentation, action plan. Depending on what you are wanting from the student you will need to provide both formative and summative feedback for the students to work with. A good idea is to have the class create a rubric with you so that they understand what is expect of them and can determine what is reasonable expectations for them. A GRIT rubric has been recommended by AJ Juliani, which means Guts, Resiliency, Integrity, Tenacity, marking each out of 4. This is also a good time to introduce peer review, peer assessment, and self- assessment strategies.

My Next Steps

I want to take the full master course before starting to implement this into my own classrooms. The course will allow me to learn from 10 modules and gain access to many resources that will guide my students to being successful without me interfering in their learning. Once I take the course and have my own classroom I will figure out a system that will work with my school and students to be successful. I would like to start with one project, a free one that students can do whatever they want, that will last about 12 weeks. The second one will be more specific to a topic that will fit into either the Science, Social Studies, Health or Art curriculum. They will already know how to perform the skills so less time will be needed with this project, I would give them between 6-8 weeks to complete the assignment. If these two projects went well than I would have them do a condensed one in four weeks so they can reflect on how long it takes to learn something, this may be curriculum based or a more general idea. Each project will get better because the students will have a stronger understanding of what is expected and how to handle the smaller tasks  in a timely manner.

Curriculum Connections

In the Saskatchewan Curriculum Genius Hour fits in quite nicely since it is the purest form of Inquiry learning. Particularly in the Create and Compose outcomes in the English Curriculum and the Action Plan/Decision making in the Health Curriculum. Genius Hour also allows for critical thinking to occur which is a vital skill for students to have in all aspects of their learning.

Once I start the course I will be posting my own learnings later, and once I start using Genius Hour to teach I will post my own reflections and experiences.