Monday, September 1, 2014

Genius Hour!

Genius Hour!
I feel that our traditional bell schedules and classes taught in isolation at times contribute to our student’s not being able to produce high level authentic creations that would truly wow us.  I often wonder what we could do to try to rethink our current structure while also preserving some of the pieces we know help our students become productive citizens.  I believe that the structure that made our educational system a success now too often gets in the way of what our students need to develop their problem solving, collaboration and critical thinking skills.  In order for our students to be globally competitive and future ready we need to look for alternative opportunities for our students to develop these traits and this could mean rethinking our approach.  If we hope to stay an economic power our success depends on our students having the ability to move into jobs that require higher level creative work.  If you question anything I just said, I would encourage you to read the work of @mcleod and @danielpink.  These two show how jobs are changing and what plays into our motivation. 

In July, a group of South East Junior High teachers attended a four-day STEM Innovator and Entrepreneurship Institute sponsored by the Jacobson Institute and College of Education at the University of Iowa.  Focused on the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math, the teachers developed a plan to roll out the Genius Hour project for the entire school.  Based on the Genius Hour concept made famous by employees at Google, students will spend 40 minutes every other week focused on a topic of their choice.  Using Design Thinking and the Business Model Canvas taught by the University of Iowa Business, students will identify a problem, plan their research process, attempt to create a solution, and then share their results. The projects will be entirely student-directed, with homeroom teachers available for troubleshooting, guidance, and encouragement.  (Thanks to @MsSimsICCSD for letting me steal this from her press release.)

Check out our video here! 

The goal will be to have our students solve real world problems, explore their passions, and possibly fail in a productive way.  We are hopeful that students will make community connections and forge new relationships when solving their problem.  These projects may be done in groups of students or by individuals. 

There will be several skeptics that wonder how this could work if we are not grading the students work or monitoring them continuously.  In fact some students will undoubtedly struggle with this as well.  We may run in to some problems or challenges, but I am optimistic that we will be shocked by the student’s ability to create high level solutions to problems that we encounter on a daily basis.  Stay tuned to see what the students are doing @SouthEastJHIC! 

Be Great! 



  1. Cool, Matt. Please keep us posted throughout the year so we can follow along. It will be great to hear both challenges you and the students are working through and successes!

  2. Awesome! I hope to implement genius hour in my classroom this fall as well. Love the video - you have some passionate educators! :)

  3. Matt, I loved to hear your story of what brought you here and what you are dreaming can come from it. I applaud your boldness! Sounds like a great environment for learning--for both students and teachers alike! Keep us updated on how things progress!