Genius Hour is based on an idea that Google used to implement which allowed employees of Google to use 20 % of their time to explore whatever they wanted as long as it would benefit the company. At the height of its use, Google was receiving half of its new products and ideas from 20% time including Gmail, Google Maps, and Adsense.
20% time in schools has been coined as Passion Projects, Genius Hour, Do Whatever You Want Day, Choose2Matter, and much more. The basic premise is this.
What are the steps for Genius Hour?
1. Students are allowed to find something that they are passionate about or want to know the answer to. However, it has to pass the Google Test. It has to be a large enough question that you cannot simply Google the answer and find out in a few minutes.
2. After time to think, students pitch their ideas to their classmates and teachers for feedback, direction, and possible collaborators. This can be done in a formal TED Talk style pitch, a quick video, a written proposal, or a poster session similar to what you may see at a research conference. (Remember though that posters are a starting place, not the final product.)
3. Students explore their passion. Give students time and material to research their product. This may include working online or even working to find someone who can help with their product. One possible way to structure this is to have students fill out a KWHLAQ chart. KWHLAQ takes the typical KWL chart to the next level.
4. Students work to construct their project. Have students document their learning along the way using blogs, journals, or video. You want something for students to use for reflection along the way. Also, be sure to include time for students to continue to share their work with their classmates along the way.
5. In the end, students present their ideas, projects, creations to the class, teachers, and parents. Consider sharing the projects online using a blog, Twitter, or some other social media.
What resources do we have here at Talahi that students can use?
-Computer Labs (2)
-Lego Robotics Kits (12)
-Squishy Circuit Sets (2)
-Makedo Cardboard Construction Materials
-Makerspace Materials (paper, glue, pipe cleaners, tinfoil, egg cartons, etc.)
-3Doodler 3D Pen
-XYZ 3D Printer
-So much more. Resources and experts within the community are available. Let's not let resources keep us from a great project.
How can I help every student with something different?
One teacher cannot help all of the students at one time. In the planning process, students should identify a mentor who can help them through the process. A mentor can be a Youtube, book, website, or real person. This will help ensure that there is somewhere that they can go if you are unavailable or don't have the time. We will do our best to bring in or connect with experts who can help. Here's a quick blog from Andi McNair on how we can connect to mentors.
Consider letting students pair up. Remember that groups larger than 3 can become unproductive. Emphasize to students that this will be something that they will have to come up with on their own. Hold students accountable for making an effective pitch with their idea and for filling out the KWHLAQ. Will they be on task 100% of the time? No. Just think of how many of you checked your phones or Facebook while reviewing this post. Allow for short breaks and keep things fresh with opportunities for students to share along the way.
What are some examples of Genius Hour projects in the elementary grades?
Some great research questions can be found at Know More in Sixty Seconds and Wonderopolis. Students could use one of these as a starting point for research or they could create their own video. Here are some other examples. Remember though that these are simply examples. Encourage students to follow what they are interested in.
-Research a Big Question
-Learn an instrument
-Learn to crochet, knit, or weave
-Create a book on Book Creator
-Make a 'How-to' video
-Make a stop motion video (clay, legos, etc.)
-Make an Anti-bully lesson
-Create a website to promote a cause
-Learn to code
-Create a game with code
-Make a book club
-Learn how a computer works (Take apart a computer)
-Create something from the TinkerLab Book (Check out from Sam Court)
-Anything you or your students can think of
What if I have a student who can't come up with an idea?
Here and here are great lists of questions to guide your students to help find their passion. Angela Maiers connects the Genius Hour idea to helping others in Choose2Matter. You could use her idea of a HeartMap to help students find a direction for their project. Try making a list of bad ideas. According to Kevin Brookhouser, generating bad ideas can turn off the brain's filter to help ideas come easier. Do not expect that students will be able to come up with something on the spot. Give them an appropriate amount of time to come up with an idea. See this video to remember that inspiration and creativity take time.
What if a student's idea doesn't work?
Of course we will do our best during the brainstorming and pitch process to help steer students to projects that are doable and attainable. However, we want to be careful not to hinder a student with a big idea. Most importantly, students need to see that not every idea they are excited about will succeed. Most prototypes and new inventions never make it big. A failed project can be just a starting point for the next.
What if a student wants to quit?
Ultimately, the goal would be that students' choose a subject so intrinsically motivating that you would not have to worry about this. Daniel Pink's book Drive says that humans are motivated through what he calls the three new motivational drives: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. A Genius Hour project should work one or more of Pink's drives in order to help keep the student motivated throughout the project. However, in reality some students will lose their stamina and want to give up after facing some initial setbacks. Is there room for discussions of perseverance and grit with your students?
How do I hold students accountable for their time?
Many teachers will have students write weekly blog posts or reflections about their work. Written reflection has many benefits. It allows students to write and process their thoughts and actions. It allows teachers a look into the student's process so that the teacher can provide the needed encouragement, resources, or redirection. Furthermore, it connects the project to more traditional academic processes. Younger students can record a video blog or draw a picture of their progress and goals. Design and reflection journals can be written or digital. Kidblog and EasyBlogger Jr. are simple blogging platforms for students to use.
How does this fit the Common Core Standards?
Genius Hour gets students building, designing, researching, writing, speaking, and reading. Opponents of Genius Hour often don't understand the amount of work students will produce throughout the length of the project. As teachers, we need to emphasize the importance of inquiry based learning and its benefits when introducing the idea to administration, parents, and other educators. A.J. Juliani links Genius Hour to the standards in his blog along with providing other research to support Genius Hour in schools.
Are my students too young for this?
Students of all ages have done Genius Hour projects. Take a look at this LiveBinder put together by Joy Kirr with links to teachers from every grade level and their students's projects. Otherwise, there are examples from every grade on the Global Genius Hour wikispace.
Where else can I go to find out more about Genius Hour?
There are a multitude of resources available. All you need to do is search 20 percent time in education, Genius Hour, or Passion Projects in education. One process that has been especially beneficial has been taking A.J. Juliani's free online course on Genius Hour. The course is very comprehensive and provides lots of real life examples from educators who are doing Genius Hour in their classrooms.