Genius Hour encompasses many new pedagogies for fostering deeper learning. With more traditional pedagogies, all students work on the same worksheet, task, or iPad app at the same time with minimal modifications and accommodations. Sometimes the tasks are even conducted as centers. By contrast, Genius Hour is about creating a balance of tech use based on personal interests, learning needs and paths of interest that encompasses a balanced use of technology.
First, I have found that it helps students to have a basic knowledge base about their tech options, basic inquiry skills and research skills. Once students had basic proficiency and knew their options, ie., Brightspace, Google Drive, and specific iPad apps, OSAPAC resources etc., then it becomes more about the facilitation of inquiry, personalized learning, knowledge building and holistic integration of information technology via strategies including makerspaces, genius hour etc.. This is where student learn to make informed and effective decisions about how and when to use the technology based on their own interests and paths of inquiry.
This is also where the SAMR can become that lens to look at holistic integration of technology. Learners have the ability to modify and redefine the learning that they originally started with. I do not make the SAMR a continuum that learners must follow, and usually do not even tell learners about the SAMR. Rather, I facilitate a balanced use of technology, and do not hold learners back on creative ideas. In fact, I encourage it. It is never a problem for learners to use personal technology as a direct substitute for doing their writing, or for more augmentation, modification and redefinition, for creating and commenting on blogs, or creating their own iMovie trailers for their writing, or ShadowPuppetEdu to highlight visual literacy, audio and text surrounding safe images and pictures.
The multiple paths that students were able to go on, particularly with Genius Hour is amazing.
For Genius Hour, It helps that students already have practice with asking essential questions, and the inquiry process. Further, they also had practice with valuable basic information in terms of effective use of the iPads, Google Drive and search strategies.
When students do not know what to do, it helps to provide specific one on one conferencing and asking questions to facilitate topic construction. Some learners are also more conservative in terms of risk taking – ie., stuck with a piece of bristol board to share their work at first – but more conferencing and feedback can help to open up more possibilities for exploration, creation and sharing. What is truly amazing is the extent to what many young learners are already thinking about the world around them.
It is wonderful to see and understand how literacy comprehension skills come to light. Genius hour provides opportunities to question, persuade, narrate, reflect, infer, predict and communicate effectively. In addition, engage in media literacy, makerspaces, research skills and higher order thinking skills. Whether students worked in groups or individually, they still relied on each other and other experts to collaborate and build their knowledge of their topics.
I like to think of the term ‘inch wide, mile deep‘ to describe Genius Hour. Learners do not superficially study the same thing at the same time with subltle modifications and accommodations. Instead they work under the same ‘big ideas’ and ‘success’ criteria’ and ‘learning goals‘. However, the learning becomes very personalized, and deep.
Genius hour is an excellent strategy for teaching in the 21st century. Educators need to be using new pedagogies now to be relevant and literate in the ways that our learners need to be successful for the future and in different communities of learners.
What other strategies have worked for you?