What is Genius Hour?

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What is Genius Hour

What is Genius Hour?

Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school.  It’s not easy to determine where the idea was originally created, but there are at least two events that have impacted genius hour.  Watch the quick video for a better understanding.

Genius Hour Origins

The search-engine giant, Google, allows it’s engineers to spend 20% of their time to work on any pet project that they want.  The idea is very simple.  Allow people to work on something that interests them, and productivity will go up.  Google’s policy has worked so well that it has been said that 50% of Google’s projects have been created during this creative time period.  Ever heard of Gmail or Google News?  These projects are creations by passionate developers that blossomed from their their 20-time projects.

Another origin of genius hour projects came from the book Drive by best-selling author, Daniel Pink.  In a blog post he writes about how the Google-time projects are also used in other corporations.

Each week, employees can take a Genius Hour — 60 minutes to work on new ideas or master new skills. They’ve used that precious sliver of autonomy well, coming up with a range of innovations including training tools for other branches.

Genius Hour in Education

The same genius hour principles apply in the classroom as they do in the corporate environment.  The teacher provides a set amount of time for the students to work on their passion projects.  Students are then challenged to explore something to do a project over that they want to learn about.  They spend several weeks researching the topic before they start creating a product that will be shared with the class/school/world.  Deadlines are limited and creativity is encouraged.  Throughout the process the teacher facilitates the student projects to ensure that they are on task.

There are many educators leading the way with passion projects in their classes, but much of their inspiration came from the book The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching & Learning by Angela Maiers and Amy Sandoval. A.J. Juliani also wrote a recent book about Genius Hour and 20% Time in education.

Many teachers are raving about the autonomy that students are finding in their classes, including myself.  I led a group of 6th graders through the genius hour process when I was in the classroom and it was rewarding to watch them learn.  A goal of every teach should be to create lifelong learners.  Genius hour projects are a huge step towards that goal.

Getting Started With Genius Hour

Want to start Genius Hour in your classroom but not sure where and how to begin? Already started Genius Hour and need a bit more guidance? A.J. Juliani and I are hosting a FREE webinar to jumpstart Genius Hour in your classroom.

10 reasons to do genius hour with your students

10 Reasons To Do Genius Hour with Your Students

  1. You will join a great community of learners – When I first did the 20% project with my students I didn’t have a community of teachers or learners. Within months that changed as a number of great teachers before and after me started to share their 20% time stories online. The largest active group is the Genius Hour teachers (inspired by Daniel Pink) who have #geniushour chats and a great Genius Hour wiki. Get involved and see what others have done!
  2. You will allow students to go into depth with a topic that inspires them – One of the major issues we face in schools today is covering a wide breadth of information, instead of allowing students to get a real depth of knowledge. Students using 20% time are able to delve into subject matter that means something to them, often times taking their free time at home to learn more. Isn’t this something we should be promoting at all levels?
  3. There is so much positive peer pressure – When students have their pitch day, they get to share with the entire class what they are working on. Publicly announcing what they are trying to accomplish makes the goal real. Students get to see what their peers are working on and want to make sure their project stands up to the rest of the class. Regardless of a grade being attached to the project, this makes for students going the extra mile.
  4. It relieves students of the “game of school” – Too often our students complete assignments for the grade. They go through the motions to receive an external pat on the back (or pat on their transcript). 20% time takes away the “game of school”. It brings back the love of learning for learning’s sake.
  5. It’s fun! – Randy Pausch famously said, “If you think you can’t learn and have fun at the same time. Then I don’t think you have a good understanding of either.” Without a doubt it is the best time of the week. 
  6. Your class will be covering all types of common core standards – It doesn’t matter if you teach elementary, middle, or high school. The genius hour and 20% time projects cover multiple common cores standards. We’ve had teachers propose this type of learning to their administration back by awesome research. Remember, the community will help if you are fighting a battle to get 20% time started at your school.
  7. It’s differentiation at its best – Students are working at their level, and as teachers we should be helping to challenge each one of our learners at their best pace and ability. Because each project differs, students are not bogged down by following the same steps as their classmates. The entire class is learning, but it is truly differentiated.
  8. You learn by what you do, not by what you hear – Experiential and challenge based learning puts the mastery back into the student’s hands. We provide guidance and pushes along the way, but they are the ones “doing” and “making”. Confucius put it perfectly: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Let your students make and they will understand and thank you for the opportunity.
  9. It is a perfect way to model life-long learning – I did the 20% time with my students and took it upon myself to learn how to create the video you watched above.  My experience learning how to produce a video left me with a whole new perspective and appreciation for that particular skill set.
  10. Your students will never forget what it felt like to create – Have you seen Caine’s arcade? It started out as a little idea and now Caine has inspired hundreds of other kids his age to create something unique. When you create a product, it becomes part of who you are, and there is a “care” involved that we just never see with multiple-choice tests. What would you want for your child?

FREE Genius Hour Workshop

genius hour webinar

Want to start Genius Hour in your classroom but not sure where and how to begin? Already started Genius Hour and need a bit more guidance? A.J. Juliani and I are hosting a FREE webinar to jumpstart Genius Hour in your classroom.

 

This is the most important time to be in education. It is the most important time to care about education. It is the most important time to impact education.

Now, more than any other time in the past 100 years, education seems on the verge of a paradigm shift. You see, for the past century, most of the educational change has been “doing old things in new ways”. Today, we are beginning to see educators, educational institutions, and educational companies do “new things in new ways”.

My challenge to you as a teacher is to allow your students the freedom to learn what they want. That’s what 20% time is all about, and that is why it is so successful.

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