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Personalization and Genius Hour

Personalization and Genius Hour

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson you will learn about Genuis Hour and 20% time as a personalization strategy

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Source: Image of Google logo, Public Domain,; Image of green graph, Public Domain,

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In this tutorial, we'll explore the concept of genius hour. We'll learn about genius hour's beginnings, and talk about how it transfers to the classroom. We'll examine some of the benefits of genius hour, and we'll discuss the connections between genius hour and the personalized classroom. Let's get started.

Genius hour can trace its beginnings to Google. Employees at the Googleplex are allowed or even encouraged to spend 20% of their work day working on pet projects. This individualized, employee-driven work time is credited with the creation of some Google's most well-known products, including Gmail. Now, some argue that we can actually trace this concept back to 3M and it's 15% initiative, which is rumored to have been the birthplace of masking tape and Post-it Notes.

New York Times bestselling author Daniel Pink wrote a book entitled Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink asserts that a autonomy, mastery, and purpose are essential for a task to be motivating. He delivered a TED talk about how many corporations use similar blocks of time to encourage employee-inspired, innovative project work.

How does this concept transfer to the classroom? The idea is that students are given autonomy to determine what they want to explore and how they are going to demonstrate their findings to their teacher. This is sometimes referred to as a 20% project, referring to students being given approximately 20% of their school work time to work on projects of their own choosing. This time might be divided up daily or weekly as it best fits into the individual teacher's classroom schedule.

20% is an awful lot of classroom time. We need to be able to justify spending that much time on this creative exploration. So what are some of the benefits of genius hour? As students choose a topic to research or a project in which to engage, they are exercising their critical thinking skills and their creativity. Their communication skills get a workout as they decide how to best communicate the results of their work to their teacher. Students may desire or be required to work together with one another on this type of project.

Persistence is key. And we may well find that students are more likely to persevere on a project that they've chosen themselves. The genius hour idea increases engagement and autonomy in students, as they're motivated to work on something that they are passionate about.

So how does the genius hour idea tie into the concept of the personalized classroom? Learning in this format is flexible and fluid. It can happen anytime, anywhere.

We've all heard that we should transition from sage on the stage to guide on the side. The teacher's role during this 20% of the school day is redefined. The teacher is no longer dictating the content or the learning. Students have much more autonomy. The learning in this type of project is likely to be authentic, precisely because it is student-driven.

Note that the jury is out on whether mastery-based or competency-based progression and pacing are connected to genius hour. We can understand that as students have the flexibility to delve more deeply into a topic, the pace at which they acquire the new information and apply that information may not necessarily be faster than the pace of a traditional classroom environment. However, the benefits of this deeper understanding may well be worth the extra time.

So what did we learn in this tutorial? We learned about genius hour's beginnings at Google Corporation and how the genius hour concept, or the 20% project, applies in the classroom. We examined some of the benefits of genius hour that might make that allocation of 20% of our classroom time well worth it. And finally, we examined connections between genius hour and the personalized classroom.

To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the additional resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material. Thanks for watching. Have a great day.

Notes on "Personalization and Genius Hour"

(00:00 – 00:20) Preview

(00:21 – 01:20) Genius Hour’s Beginnings

(01:21 – 02:01) Genius Hour/20% Project in the Classroom

(02:02 – 02:46) Benefits of Genius Hour

(02:47 – 03:52) Connections to Personalized Classroom

(03:53 – 04:17) Summary

(04:18 - 04:35) Stop & Reflect

Additional Resources

What is Genius Hour?

This website provides an overview of Genius Hour, why to use it, and how it encourages personalized learning. Scroll down to the video to see how to implement Genius Hour in your classroom. Scroll down further and click on the links to learn about the Genius Hour process for implementation.

Genius Hour is Personalized Learning

This blog entry connects personalized learning to Genius Hour through the author's experiences as a teacher. The author emphasizes that Genius Hour increases student motivation, and he highlights a video from Daniel Pink on student engagement and motivation.