The only way that I think I can begin to sort out my thoughts about Genius Hour is to begin writing. I hope that by sharing my thoughts, I’ll get some feedback and maybe the concept will become less confusing.
My Principal shared a link that brought me to the Genius Hour Livebinder by Joy Kirr. This morning, I took an hour to listen to the Classroom 2.0 Live video that discussed the concepts and motivation behind Genius Hour. Take a peek:
I wrote a series of quick notes as I listened to each of the educators speak so passionately about the activities that were motivating the students in their classrooms, because I wanted to make sure I understood exactly what they were trying to share:
- Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks were discussed in the beginning of the video, and the quote that was shared was “If they don’t know, they’ll give it a go”. This was in reference to younger students as used in the video above. The issue is that, as students get older (and they are graded), they become afraid of failure so they don’t try. Therefore, schools are killing creativity.
- Genius Hour is devoted to students in that they get to choose what they want to learn about without having to worry about grades. One of the presenters attested to the fact that “when we take away grades… motivation goes through the roof”.
- Several of the presenters appreciated and discussed Angela Maiers’ work, especially her book The Passion-Driven Classroom. (hmm… another book to add to my reading list…)
Of course, with any new idea in education, there are a ton of questions. I had some of my own, despite the fact that I thought this idea has great potential (and has already lived up to that potential in several classrooms). The fact that 20% of classroom time is meant to be devoted to ‘Passion Projects’ was my first concern: if I think about it in terms of classroom time over a week, that would mean I would spend one day each week devoted to projects that weren’t necessarily founded on the curriculum expectations as provided by the Ministry of Education. Umm, ok, so… how do I do this?
A few of my other questions:
- How does this work in a high school, where there are subject-specific courses?
- If I teach art, but a student is passionate about mechanics, how does this work?
- What choices do we provide?
- How much structure is needed?
- What about assessment?? If I’m not assessing, why would some students bother?
- If this isn’t being graded, how does it relate to the very concept of school, where marks seem to matter so much?
- What would I do if I introduced this idea to my class, and I still had students who were disinterested? What if they were completely unmotivated?
Don’t get me wrong, I still love the idea, but it often takes me time to process new concepts. I want to see this from a variety of perspectives in order to provide the best possible experience for my students. I’m willing to take chances and I appreciate the value of risk, but I am still accountable to my students, their parents, and my employer. There is a delicate balance that needs to be considered.
I was thankful for this post, which addresses some of the questions and reservations that several teachers (including myself) would have. I’m also thankful for the Genius Hour Wiki, which is stocked with great resources and provides the names of other educators who are exploring new possibilities for student-led, passion-driven projects in their classrooms.
I’m somewhat comforted by the fact that my classroom already involves so much choice. One of the benefits of teaching art has to be the focus on the Creative Process while providing several options for students as they learn how to develop their thinking. Here is a recent quote by one of my students:
I could be happy that we are approaching the culminating. Why? It is the last assignment to do in the course to finished, and then it is summer! To know that I have spent another five months with this class is unbelievably nice. Instead of doing what the teacher wants for an assignment, the class has the opportunity to go ballistic with this assignment; which we can create masterpieces of epic proportions of art that no one but the artist can comprehend, even if they are familiar strangers. Now, I am kind of excited to approach this final task. (Shavone)
Ok, so maybe if I think of Genius Hour and compare it to the choices I already provide for my students, I won’t think of it as a new, scary concept. Maybe my classroom has a few geniuses who are already pursuing their passions, and maybe I don’t have so far to go.