Time For Launch – Introducing Genius Hour

It arrived. It finally arrived.

This week I I was finally able to begin Genius Hour with my students, and I couldn’t be happier with the launch. It has been almost a year since I first heard the concept of Genius Hour, or 20% Time, discussed on the Techlandia Podcast (give it a listen). In that time, I struggled with how, when and even why I was going to introduce it to my students. With the support of my amazing principal and the constant advice from colleagues, I was finally able to pull the trigger on Allegan Alternative High School’s first Genius Hour.

The Build Up:

I first introduced the idea to my students in a vague discussion last week. I started this conversation by showing a couple videos and discussing the idea of genius and creativity. The two videos I showed are below. I felt this was a good start because it planted the seed in my students minds, and hopefully built some anticipation for the official launch this week.

The Launch:

On Tuesday this week I officially introduced Genius Hour to my class. First I showed a Prezi that explained the “guidelines” related to our project. This was one of the hardest parts for me as I prepared to launch Genius Hour, as I struggled to find the balance between providing enough support to my students and not stifling their creativity. However, I had the privilege of hearing Nicholas Provenzano speak about his experience with 20% Time at MACUL14. His advice helped me come up with the following.

Guidelines:

#1. You must choose something that is new to you and something you are passionate about.

#2. You must produce something or achieve some sort of goal.

#3. You must submit a “Project Proposal”

#4. Your project must be researched using reliable sources

#5. You need a project mentor, someone to provide guidance and expertise.

#6. You must meet with me when you are stuck.

#7. You must share. Blog your progress and a TED-style talk at the end of the year.

Students were skeptical at first, some even seemed upset with lack of restrictions on their project. However, after discussing the guidelines and answering some questions, students seemed to dive right into the project.

The final piece of our launch day was having the students create their blogs. Since sharing and publishing is essential to the success Genius Hour, I wanted to capitalize on their excitement and walk them through the blog creation process. We used Blogger, as our school is already using Google Apps and this allowed for us to use the school assigned accounts.

If I had any doubts that the launch went well, they were put to rest later that evening. I received an email from a student, whose Genius Hour project is to learn to play piano, informing me that she had already learned the beginning of Mary Had a Little Lamb. Couldn’t help but smile as I read it. I cannot wait for our next Genius Hour, and I if you are interested following our classes journey, I will be sharing and reflecting over at aahsgeniushour.blogspot.com

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