What DID I Mean?

Antonella asked a genius hour question this morning:

I answered with this:

She asked me for further clarification:

I’m  sure I can’t explain my convoluted thinking in a tweet, Antonella, so I thought I would try to expound here. This is not the first time I’ve been confused about genius hour.

When I began doing genius hour, I told students they could learn, create, or master a skill.  I was inspired by Dan Pink’s three things that motivate — autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

It’s hard for us as teachers to let go and let students learn. I seem to go through these lapses in genius to try to control the learning environment, even during genius hour.

I really did mean it when I said they could “Do the Stuff.” Then a few months later when someone asked about doing something like physical education for genius hour, I said no. After further inspiration by Sir Ken Robinson and the encouragement of my PLN, I changed my mind and told J he could practice his physical intelligence.

So, today when Antonella asked about what the hardest aspect of genius hour is, I attempted to comment in a few short characters that I want them to research and learn more. (I guess that’s why I have been experimenting with researcher’s workshop in social studies and science classes. When we do researcher’s workshop, I explain it’s like genius hour within the confines of the content standards.)

During regular genius hour, sometimes students choose to create a video, or learn to edit photos, or bake, or create art or music. What I tried to tell Antonella this morning was I wanted them to learn, for instance, about an event in history and then make a video to show their learning. I guess I was again looking at the ideas of creating and producing for the learning of those skills as second-class genius hour.

Another example is that I’ve been trying all year to inspire students to take action in solving heart-breaking problems. I don’t want to try to force them to do that for genius hour, though. They have to choose to take action. Sometimes it happens when we least expect it.

I want to let them be productive and creative, but I forget. Like this morning when answering Antonella’s tweet without thinking.

Do I really trust that I can give up 20% of my control? Many people share this adage about Google Time: In 20% of the time Google gives them to work on projects of their choice, Google’s engineers have created 50% of the most popular Google products.

One thing I do know, students will someday look back and remember lessons learned during genius hour. I know it.

I’m not so sure they will remember much about the other 80% of their work in my classes.

9 thoughts on “What DID I Mean?

  1. “I’m not so sure they will remember much about the other 80% of their work in my classes.”

    This is it, Denise. Again, we are on the same wavelength. On our opening day of for staff this school year, someone came and asked us: Who was your favorite teacher? WHY?

    We came to an agreement… we could NOT remember the content of the course. We did, however, remember that the teacher was caring, fair, and smiled. Are we caring and fair during Genius Hour? Do our students know we trust them with their own learning? Yes. Will they remember the other 80%?? I’m not so sure, either.

    1. Thanks, Joy. That’s my hope–that students will remember me as being caring, fair, and smiling. I know they learn better with teachers like that, for sure.

      I also have been working on more amazing experiences in the 80% for them to remember. Like today, we went to a KidWind Challenge. It was something they will remember!

      I think you can relate when I say, since I have become a connected educator, I have become more caring, loving, enthusiastic AND involved! The learning experiences have become more engaging for both my students and me.

      Thanks, Joy!

      P.S. It’s hard to keep up with all the chats about #geniushour lately, huh?

  2. I think you are right Denise on many levels. We do have difficulty learning to give up control, and true we want the kids to dive in deeper sometimes. But I also think as much as the kids are generationally more comfortable with the varied tech tools, they are not always masterful so if they want to develop some mastery with those skills deemed lesser as you say, it’s ok. My hope is that as the novelty wears off (having control in Passion projects), as more classes jump in to genius hour or even as the kids mature, they do start owning their learning even more and the positive peer pressure moves us all forward with momentum. I see it in my gr 10s more than my gr 8s, but it’s where they are at. I can’t wait to see if the momentum builds faster next yr with my gr 9-12 genius Hour based course. I think it will! I also think my 2nd year with genius hour in Hum and English will be better. You’ve been doing Genius Hour longer than I -is that what you’ve seen?

    I also agree that it is likely genius hour teachers like yourself will be remembered for trusting kids to take charge and helping them along the way. I’d rather they remember a kind generous person than a lesson on the Bayeux tapestry myself!

    1. Amen, Valerie! Thanks for visiting. I agree I would rather have them remember the teacher who trusted them than the specific content, which they can look up again.

      There is a change when students have had genius hour for the second year. Some tend toward acting entitled, less excited about reflecting on their learning and reporting on their blogs. However, they also are getting to be good learners and getting used to answering the questions, “What do you want to know?” Now when students aren’t busy during study hall, I will say, “How are you going to be creative and productive this period?”

      Thanks again for visiting and for sending me that tweet!


  3. Hi, Denise,

    Thank you for your comment on my blog post. I agree with what you say here, the fact that we have the tendency to limit that 20% time to activities we, as teachers, think are important. I guess the true concept of Genius Hour is letting go so they really get creative. I also agree with the fact that more research is highly desirable.

    Congratulations on your sound thinking,


    1. Thanks, Isaac, for visiting my blog and commenting. I enjoyed reading what you are learning about genius hour. It’s exciting to have folks in my PLN from Mexico and may other countries all giving students freedom to get creative and learn!


  4. I truly enjoyed learning and reading this post! I agree to what you said, “Another example is that I’ve been trying all year to inspire students to take action in solving heart-breaking problems. I don’t want to try to force them to do that for genius hour, though. They have to choose to take action. Sometimes it happens when we least expect it.” Very nice thought!!

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