Great Idea

Genius Hour is taking hold in the innovative corners of education-world. Seems like it’s more popular in elementary classrooms where students spend a good chunk of time in the same space versus high school rooms where students typically travel six or seven times a day. Genius hour fits easier into the extended block of learning time rather than into a core class which focuses on about an hour of same-subject instruction.

Pipe Cleaner People

Genius hour helps spark investigation and curiosity in students. When given more autonomy over their own learning, we hope that students of all ages will become more invested and engaged in education. Teachers give guidance about the concepts and projects that students may choose during genius hour with the idea that some level of mastery will be demonstrated at the end of a semester or year of pursuit.

Genius hour is a great novel idea in education. Teachers and administrators should incorporate genius hours wherever possible in their schools. With some dedicated focus, no doubt there will be a positive impact on students’ creativity and their learning. This is our ultimate goal anyway.

Fun or Not-Fun?

At the core however, genius hour is an incomplete idea. Why? Because it creates opposing camps in education:

Fun-Learning vs. Not-Fun Learning

Genius hour is marketed to students and parents as a Follow-Your-Passion time to pursue something that they likely would not get the chance to work on in class. This is a great opportunity for students to be in charge of their own learning path. Within the teacher-given parameters, students can explore/investigate/define/develop/create/present a project or product that falls outside the scope of what would normally be taught in the classroom.

We should encourage and support this kind of innovative thought and work process in all students. [Ideally, we should encourage and support this in all areas of life!]

But when we separate genius hour from the rest of school-day-instruction, we create a mindset in students that there are fun things to learn and not-fun things to learn.

Too many students enter our doors with the attitude that school is wasted time and effort. That the only reason they grace us with their presence is because they have to. It’s the law. Given the choice, how many young people would voluntarily come day after day to engage in the education we offer? Optimistically, we hope all of them would be there. Realistically, we know the percentage would be small.

Complete the Idea

Genius hour is definitely a step in the right direction. We must do anything we can to inspire eager young minds toward learning. This is how we set them on the path to lifelong success.

But we must also figure out how to transfer the same energy and excitement generated in genius hour to all the other subjects and classes that are part of students’ education. This is the harder part for teachers and administrators. It means we have to raise the bar and step up our game.

The enthusiasm of genius hour should spill over into every corner and minute and lesson plan of every teacher and every classroom.

Question-of-the-century: How do we do that?

We have a few ideas. Creative confidence. Design thinking. Problem solving. These are the core components that emerge in every #GeniusHour.

These are the skills that 21st century students need to develop for the future. And these are the ones that they consistently gravitate toward when given the freedom to direct their own learning.

Let us help open new doors for students. And we will watch them grow beyond their wildest dreams!