Title: Genius Hour- where passion meets creativity!
Have you ever wondered how your lessons would look like if you let your students concentrate on the topics they feel passionate about? Would such assignments turn out more successful at the end? What would your role be? What benefits would it bring to you and your students? The list of questions I could ask here is very long, but let me give you a first-hand experience into Genius Hour that I have had the pleasure to run together with my high school students at Nannestad High School.
What is Genius Hour?
Genius Hour is a concept that provides students freedom to design their own learning environment during a set period of time during school. Not only does it allow pure choice and voice, but it also emphasizes reflection and inquiry. Genius Hour stems from a practice of Google in which employees are allowed to spend 20% of their work time to explore ideas they feel excited about as long it profits the company.
Why should you schedule Genius Hour?
The ultimate goal of a 21st century teacher is to develop a lifelong learner, offer personalized instruction and prepare students for the future job market. While we still do not know which skills would be the dominating skill in 20 or 30 years’ time, we are able to increase students’ intrinsic motivation, make them productive and help them go globally by implementing project based learning in our classrooms. Having run Genius Hour twice, I cannot stop marvelling at this concept. This concept has helped me change my teaching focus from a teacher-centered to a student-centered one. It is no longer the teacher who spoon-feeds his students, but the students who generate their research questions, collect the data, conduct the research, collaborate with others and share their products with the global audience.
What are the benefits of Genius Hour?
Today’s learners are expected to possess a broad and diverse variety of skills. Information, media and technology skills, learning and innovation skills, life and career skills, the three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) are just some of them that need mentioning here. While this may sound complicated to achieve, teachers should do their best to help their students develop at least some of them. In order to be able to do that, we should change the way we teach and experiment with new concepts and methodologies that seem to be more suitable for learners of the 2016. Having introduced Genius Hour into all lines of studies at Nannestad High School, the first thing I have noticed was the change in the way my students collected or sourced information. Instead of reading articles and books online, they reached out and found experts online. Both Facebook and Twitter have been used for the purpose of finding extensive expertise. Google Forms and Survey Monkey have served as platforms for data analysis. While youtube and other social media networking sites served as a point of collaboration and communication. The second important aspect of Genius Hour that has to be stressed here is sharing. In the past, students would submit their final product on the learning platform, present their findings in front of a teacher or students, but in Genius Hour there are no audience limits. Students know that their final product will be shared and reviewed online by other students, experts and teachers. It gives them a totally different experience of what learning really is. They feel empowered by putting some of the learning process in their hands. They have ownership for the knowledge they gain.
As new concepts and technological devices emerge, we need to keep in mind that learning is all about engagement and one of the possible ways of putting it into practice, from my point of view, is to let students explore their own passions through Genius Hour projects.
Barbara Anna Zielonka