“There exists empirical evidence proving that students who are given the freedom to explore areas based on their personal interests, and who are accompanied in their learning by a supportive, understanding facilitator, not only achieve superior academic results but also develop socially and grow personally.”
It is imperative for teachers to provide opportunities for student voice and choice in the 21st-century classroom. If students have some control over what is covered, they’re more likely to stay tuned in and actively engage in the learning process. Thankfully, there’s a movement that promotes student choice and innovation in learning that has been sweeping the nation. This passion- driven movement, which is known as Genius Hour, or 20% Time, allows students to become innovative creators of content rather than just consumers of it
Selecting a Genius Hour topic is obviously of critical importance. However, this is not always easy for students. They don’t always know or realize what they are interested in and what they want to inquire about. Thankfully, there are a number of excellent digital tools and resources that can be used to help students select a topic that will make Genius Hour one of the best projects they’ve ever done.
The video below by Jason Silva offers excellent brainstorming tips.
Students are encouraged to select one of the Four Pathways to Genius below as they begin their Genius Hour brainstorming sessions.
Create – You want to make/invent something new and share it.
Change – You want to start a movement and make a difference in the world.
Expert – You want to share something you are great at with the rest of the world.
Inquiry – You are curious about a topic and want to learn more about it.
After students choose the pathway to genius they’d like to pursue, students are directed to come up with five essential questions to drive the research process. Since Genius Hour is an interdisciplinary project in our school, students are asked to come up with one essential question in each of the following subject areas:
- Social Studies
- Student choice
- Student choice
The remaining questions are the students’ choice and do not have to reflect a particular subject area.
The key to crafting a good essential question is making sure it’s “un-Google-able”. This means the question cannot be easily answered by a quick Google search. This can be quite challenging for students at first and teachers need to plan accordingly. Some students need more assistance with this than others and a key factor for success is making sure you check in with students on a regular basis. They should not be able to begin the research process until their essential questions have been checked and revised if necessary. We encourage our students to conference with a peer before submitting their essential questions to the teacher for review.
Students are now ready to begin researching their Genius Hour topics using their essential questions to drive the process.
Do you want to learn more about Genius Hour 4.0? Click the links below to register for my online in-service or graduate course.