For me, my Genius Hour project was learning BASIC. I was in middle school, and this programming code intrigued me.
We didn’t have any computer science classes except for a six-week “Introduction to Computers” rotation class. So I started tinkering with it on my computer at home. I found books to learn new commands.
Then a friend and I joined forces to create a game. It utilized the draw command, and we built a pretty flashy (for us) map-based game. It was about a boy who went on an adventure in different parts of his neighborhood.
We entered it in the local media fair, and it was good enough to qualify for state competition. (Except it was immediately disqualified because we didn’t have a printed copy of all the code. I’m still a little bitter about that, to be honest!)
All of the steps were there for a passion-based project:
- We found a topic that caught our interest.
- We learned about it independently.
- We created something we were excited about.
- We worked through roadblocks and failures.
- We polished the finished product.
- We shared it with an audience.
My friend and I never received any credit in any class for that project, though. It was our own passion project we did on our own time. Genius Hour wasn’t a thing at our school.
We learned lots of valuable information and life lessons through that project — probably more than in any individual class we took in school that year.
What is Genius Hour?
Passion-based learning is powerful. We all do it all the time, ranging from browsing news articles to finding YouTube videos on how to fix our dishwasher to building an awesome tree house.
Teachers all over the world are helping students connect with their passions within the confines of the school day (and beyond!) through Genius Hour.
Genius Hour lets students dig into a topic they’re excited about, learn about it and create a product with their newfound knowledge and skills. The term “Genius Hour” comes from Google’s well-documented program to let employees pursue job-related passion projects for 20 percent of their work time. (Have you heard of Gmail? It was born out of Google’s 20 percent time/Genius Hour!)
If you’re thinking of introducing your students to Genius Hour, I have some good stuff to share with you. Below, I’ll share several observations and lessons I learned from turning my students loose on Genius Hour projects.
If you’re serious about Genius Hour and want all the best tools, tips and tricks to make it a success, there’s an excellent online course that’s enrolling right now. It’s called the Genius Hour Master Course, and it includes:
- everything you need to run Genius Hour at any level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12)
- downloadable videos and materials (including customizable Word and PowerPoint files you can use in class)
- 70 videos that walk you through every facet of Genius Hour
- a private community of like-minded educators for support, and
- great bonuses, including the Genius Hour Journal, a guide to social media in the classroom and a guide to student blogging.
10 reasons to try Genius Hour this school year
1. Pursuing your passion is an important skill for the future. In the Information Age, we have no lack of access to information. It’s about finding good information. Genius Hour prepares students for that reality.
2. Genius Hour is a long-term investment in your students. Genius Hour isn’t a quick fix. It can be tough to get right early on. But the benefits are paid in seeing independent, creative, engaged learners as it progresses.
3. Students get different benefits from their Genius Hour projects than we see or expect. Ever take away lessons from a talk or presentation that are completely different from the intended message? My students have learned things I never would have expected from their projects.
4. They’ll talk about their projects for years … or their entire lives. My BASIC programming project is something I remember vividly from my middle school years. I still use some of the concepts today. I don’t have those memories from many of my classes, though.
5. Genius Hour encourages smart consumption and creation. Students consume so much more content than they produce, from videos to articles online to music. Genius Hour helps them learn how to consume well and then produce something worthwhile from it.
6. Students will learn new vocabulary that you could never teach them. In my Spanish classes, one student created a YouTube channel on how to play the guitar. He learned key music and guitar vocabulary he wouldn’t have learned from any other lesson I teach.
7. Genius Hour teaches them to deliver the goods. Gathering new ideas and information is one thing. When students know they must parse all of that into a product — a presentation, a website or something else — it can focus their efforts. (Especially when they’re delivering to their peers!)
8. Their projects can have a greater reach than an “audience of one.” So many traditional classroom activities are done where the audience is just the teacher. Genius Hour can connect students to an audience of their peers, the local community and even the world.
9. Students can even have a say in the assessment. Attaching a grade to Genius Hour work can be complicated. By bringing students into the assessment design, they’re more invested and are more likely to see assessment as fair.
10. Genius Hour could be the spark that your students need. Class can look so much the same day after day, class period after class period. Genius Hour is a clear departure from the ordinary. It might be the kick-start your students need in all facets of your class — and it can trickle down to other classes, too!
[reminder]What has you excited about Genius Hour? What has been your experience with it?[/reminder]
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