As I type, my students Claudia and Megan are learning Chinese via their iPhones. Maria is writing on her blog about the telegraph she made and on which she sent an SOS message, and Anthony is completing his blog post about the workings of car engines. As part of the Odyssey program at our school, these kids are able to elect a new class called “Genius Hour”. Other schools might name this type of class “Google Time”, “20% Time” or “Passion Hour”. Whatever the moniker, the concept is the same. Kids pick a topic to research based on their own personal interests. They use a KWHLAQ chart (see photo above and chart below) to organize their thoughts and the research process.
K – what do I already Know?
W- what do I Want to know?
H- How do I find out?
L- what have I Learned?
A- what Actions will I take?
Q- what Questions do I now have?
I learned about Genius Hour first from a Tweet that directed me to a link to an article called “Genius Hour” by Kay Bisaillon and Lynn Woods. After reading their article, I followed their link to Paul Solarz’ blog post, “Creating Passion Projects (Genius Hour)”. The concept of Genius Hour originated at Google where, until the summer of 2013, all employees devoted 20% of their worktime to researching ideas that interest them. As a result, many of Google’s products, including Gmail, started as a seed planted, watered, and weeded by an employee. You can read Katherine von Jan’s Huffington Post article, “Pursue Passion: Demand Good 20% Time at School” to learn more about this Google philosophy.
(Sadly, but not really surprisingly, Google’s 20% time has recently all but been eliminated in favor of 120% time; Google employees can now pursue their passions and innovate on their own time. Read this article by Christopher Mims for more information on the demise of this leading edge practice at Google.)
Creating a telegraph
Finding props for a Chinese Tea Party
After completing their research, the students present their new-found knowledge to their classmates and then to the larger world. They can write on their blogs, create a YouTube video, or send an article in to the local newspaper. We love Genius Hour because we have the opportunity to pursue knowledge for its own sake and for our enjoyment. We aren’t graded or made to take a standardized test to prove our mettle. We appreciate the opportunity not to just fill the bucket, but to light the fire.
What topics would you like to research and learn about in school?
How would you share your knowledge?