“If you had $3000 to buy tech equipment for your genius hour program, what would you buy?” Thanks, Rhonda!
I just had to write a blog post to answer that question. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure this list is exhaustive or that I won’t think of something additional tomorrow, but for now a couple things immediately come to mind.
First, I hope you already have access to great Internet connectedness and laptops for your students. If not, I’d start there with extra bandwidth and a small set of laptops or Chromebooks or iPads.
If I had enough computers for at least part time access for students, then I would get:
A pro account on Edublogs and pro accounts for any other tools that you and/or your students love. They can each have their own snazzy blog and join a world-wide authentic community where they will grow in reading, writing, presenting, and 21st century skills.
Video recorders and editing software.
A huge collection of Legos Mindstorms robotics, software, and Legos for students to tinker and create.
How about you? What would you do with $3000 to buy tech equipment for your genius hour program?
Ouch…I just re-read Ewan McIntosh’s post, “20% Time and Schools: Not the Best of Bedfellows.” I must say, as much as I respect his work, I disagree with most of this post. Especially this bolded line, jumping out at us in his first paragraph: But in schools, [20% Time] often seems to fall short of our expectations of creative genius.
When I started genius hour with my students in 2011, I did not have expectations of their creative genius. I had expectations that they would learn to learn and become more creative. That’s all! To go in with set expectations of what creative genius looks like in our students is dangerous to the advancement of creativity and innovation. Every one of us who dares to become a teacher better acknowledge the fact that we will have students smarter and more creative than ourselves. (At any age!)
Giving students time for genius hour is tantamount to creating a climate of creativity. It’s not about EXPECTING students to create works of genius, that I would then set against my standard of what hits the mark of genius. My goal is always that they will grow in creativity. Big difference! Ewan said, “…there are moments of genius…but they are by a small proportion of students, with the vast majority of ideas failing to hit the mark.”
Of course only a small percentage of students are going to produce amazing “genius” inventions in elementary or high school. Only a precious few 4-year-olds are going to spend hours begging the world, “Don’t kill animals,” like Hayley did as described in The Passion-Driven Classroom. Our students are not ALL going to be the next Albert Einsteins or Marie Curies or Steve Jobses or Grace Murray Hoppers. However, they can all grow more ingenious, inquisitive, original, flexible, adaptable, persistent, willing to take risks and live with ambiguity. If given enough time, they can become an expert in something they love, which leads to even more creativity, and possibly to genius inventions and problem-solving further down the road.
My goal in promoting genius hour is hopefully to help stop the insanity of coloring in the lines and getting candy for doing worksheets and lining up in straight rows and doing only what the teacher says. Remember, that’s dangerous, for many of our students will eventually out-think, out-learn, and out-perform their teachers. We have to encourage that to happen, not stifle it!
This fall I had the opportunity to talk to four new kindergarten students, all with different teachers. My standard question for them was, “Do you learn how to color in the lines in kindergarten?
“Oh, yes,” one said. “Some kids try to color too fast and just scribble to get done so they can do what the teacher said you could do after we finish coloring, like read a book, use the white boards, and stuff like that.” I heard something similar from all of these kindergarten friends.
Yes, kindergarten classrooms are full of amazing supplies and “stuff like that.” How about if we let them use these things, even before they color in the lines with colors that make sense? What would happen if we let them make some learning decisions about coloring or reading or writing on white boards or using Legos or making art or inventions or what have you? I know all the schools aren’t Montessori, but can’t we just let them have some time to have fun learning to learn what they want?
When I first started teaching, I thought second grade was about the age students began to lose some of the joy of school. It got too hard or too demanding or they fell behind in reading. Now it seems to be happening with more kindergarteners. All of a sudden, after two years of lining up to teacher expectations in preschool, they are already finished with the joy and now don’t like school in kindergarten! (Speaking of kindergarten, watch this great video about Lifelong Kindergarten.)
We need genius hour, not because Google or 3M does it. It’s not about taking products to market, as it is for these companies. Ewan suggests that 99% of the products that come from the business world’s 20% time are mediocre, but I disagree that you can transfer that statistic to schools. Student 20% time projects that “miss the mark” or fail to meet “OUR expectations of creative genius” are not chaff, but rather the good seeds of creation.
We are making citizens who can contribute and make a difference in the world. Genius hour gives students and teachers the gift of time to learn to be creative and remember their earlier love for learning.
Give students a class period, an hour, or 20% of their time to learn like this and watch the learning in the other 80%-95% of your week grow and blossom.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that we may live from deep
Within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people
So that we may work for justice,
Freedom, and peace.
May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger, and war,
So that we may reach out our
Hands to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with
Just enough foolishness
To believe that we can make
A difference in the world,
So that we can do what others
Claim cannot be done:
To bring justice and kindness to
All our children and
All our neighbors who are poor.
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.
It constantly remains a source of disappointment to me that my drawings are not yet what I want them to be. The difficulties are indeed numerous and great, and cannot be overcome at once. To make progress is a kind of miner’s work; it doesn’t advance as quickly as one would like, and as others also expect, but as one stands before such a task, the basic necessities are patience and faithfulness. In fact, I do not think much about the difficulties, because if one thought of them too much one would get stunned or disturbed.
Mr. Vincent Van Gogh, one of the world’s most famous artists, wrote these words in a letter to his brother.
He speaks of perseverance, grit and stick-to-it-iveness — qualities that I hope and believe my students and I learn during genius hour.
There was “much to think about from this presentation” by Brandon Busteed, education director of Gallup. In the speech, he addresses business leaders about the future of education.
Early in the speech he asked the listeners what they remember about their best teacher. According to people surveyed, teachers care about us. In addition, they know what makes each of their students tick, so they individualize for their students. They are also relational. These are the important things people think of when they think of the teachers that made a difference to them.
He says we neutralize the best teachers because we continually take away their ability and time to care, individualize, and relate. We ask teachers to meet different objectives — those measured by standardized tests, rather than care, individualization and relationships.
The future of education is not about knowledge. We can’t compete on knowledge. “The cost of knowledge is trending toward free,” Busteed said. For instance, MIT’s courses are all available online for FREE. Though you can’t get a degree by taking them, you certainly have access to all the knowledge.
If we want students to be successful, we don’t drive them toward success by working on standardized tests only. In fact, there is a negative correlation in the 30 or so countries that took both the GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Measure) and PISA (Program for International Standardized Assessment) tests.
Schools with an over-emphasis on standardized tests neutralize entrepreneurial spirit. Many entrepreneurs and innovators drop out of school or college because of that — Mark Zuckerberg, John D. Rockefeller, Oprah Winfrey, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ellen DeGeneres, Ted Turner to name a few.
According to Busteed, standardized tests can only account for one-third of the success of our students. Hope, he says, is actually a strategy when it comes to school success. We can help students have hope.
As educators we need to get out of the knowledge business and into the learning business. Busteed goes on to say that hope, engagement and well-being account for as much as one-third of the variance in student success. (That’s one-third — the same as standardized tests!)
We can take at least some of our time to give students choice in what they are doing in school. Genius hour gives students (and educators) hope, engagement and well-being. Read what Melina, a high school senior, says about this kind of learning:
In this age where knowledge is ubiquitous, and no longer belongs to the teacher to dispense during lessons, school needs to change. We need to inspire students to become lifelong learners. Genius hour can begin to do that.
Busteed suggests students have these three rights. They should be able to come into school every single day and say YES to:
Would your students be able to say YES to those rights?
Don’t we owe it to them to let them say YES?
I had a ton of fun helping out with genius hour. The students seemed to be enthusiastic as well, which is crucial for making genius hour effective. One thing I was wondering was whether or not the students had specific learning goals for their projects because I think that is important. The students must be able to explain why their project is worth learning.
~First time Genius Hour observing teacher
I am a firm believer in starting with the why. However, I’m not sure I agree with the above sentiment, and I would like your opinion.
Before genius hour, I ask my students to ask an essential question, but I don’t judge its worthiness, whether it’s essential enough. For instance, “Can I build a tractor out of balsa wood?”
In their presentations, I don’t ask them to explain why their project is worth learning.
However, I do ask students to reflect on their learning after genius hour in blog posts. (Some students are still working on theirs.)
In my own learning, I’m not sure I can always articulate my purpose (or the worthiness of my projects) when I learn to use Google Mapmaker, Garage Band and Voicethread.
I just learn because I want to. And now I sincerely want to learn from you.
Maybe asking more of my students in setting their goals would help them be more creative and productive during genius hour. Or will I stifle their self-direction? What do you think?
Do students need specific learning goals in genius hour?
Must students be able to explain why their project is worth learning?