Tuesday, February 18, 2014

#GeniusHour Update #1

Last week, I joined two teachers in the pursuit of this idea called "Genius Hour."  It's basically the same concept as Google's 20% time that allow students the freedom to make/do something based on their own ideas.  It's a risky endeavor in the world of public education because it puts "standards" in the backseat of a learning car being driven by students.  But don't worry, the teachers make sure everyone wears a seat belt!

So how does this look in the classroom?  Logistically, we are working with a class of about twenty 5th graders for one hour every Tuesday and Thursday morning, until further notice.  Undoubtedly, we will miss a day or student here and there but we will all stay connected using a group in Edmodo.  Students will be asked to submit project updates periodically using a Google Doc or posting on Edmodo.

We began our class with an introduction to this idea and then facilitated a whole class and small group brainstorm to collect ideas for student interest projects.  Some of the ideas were what you might expect from ten and eleven year olds.  Others were so off the wall, it seemed impossible to realize but that's okay!  We wrote the ideas on the board and then picked one to "flesh out."  We used a movie as our example and divided it into the major components we thought went into a movie.  We are NOT professional cinematographers but we did our best to use what we already know and prepare for the process.  (As a teacher, I know there will be a tremendous amount of learning in the execution of a movie project.  The details of that learning will be uncovered as we go.)  After that, students divided themselves into groups and began "fleshing out" their ideas.

Initial brainstorm and "fleshing out" of the movie project idea.
And here we are today, Day 2, and the students have already made big steps in their projects.  I, as the teacher, spent about 15 minutes talking with the class about expectations and told them I am here to support their ideas and learning.  I spent too much time talking to the whole group today but I wanted them to know how eager I am to be a co-learner in their space and want to help anyway I can.  The kids spent the next 45 minutes researching, discussion, writing, sketching, collaborating, and moving further down their project/learning path.  

As of right now, we have six/seven-ish groups working on the following ideas/prompts:
  • potato energy to power an appliance
  • rocket that goes 400-600 vertical feet
  • [traditional] movie
  • claymation video
  • video game (platform TBD)
  • fantasy NHL 
  • YouTube Channel
These ideas and projects will challenge thinking, provoke natural problem solving opportunities, require collaboration, and engage students in their learning.  More updates to come...

Student with a smile after he (and group) figured out how to wire and boot a Raspberry Pi.