Connected Learning

Jarrod Lamshed

By

A Stroke of Genius

jobs-300x225There’s a lot of googleable information about the origins of ‘Genius Hour. From the perspective of being based on Google’s 20% timeย ย or inspired by the ‘Caine’s Arcade‘ video… you can take your pick. In our classroom, the idea for our ‘genius’ time comes from a desire to be absolutely engaged in learning.

Any of us that pride ourselves on being life long learners know how this works. We get hold of an idea that goes around and around in our minds until we have an opportunity to spend some time digging into it. The REALLY good ideas can’t wait and the digging often happens when we should be sound asleep!

The premise for genius projects in our classroom is based around that same idea. We are always looking for ways to better engage kids in learning. We want them to be enthusiastic learners during classes, so… why not give them an opportunity to learn about something that they are already enthusiastic about?

Over the years I’ve done this with my students, I’ve heard the arguments against it. Where’s the structure? How is this covering the curriculum (hmmm)? There’s no control over what’s happening? How can you be in charge of so many different projects at once? For many teachers, this can be a difficult concept to grasp. The idea of students co-constructing the learning… students setting the structure around the project… students investigating the curriculum… is something new for many. I am NOT in charge of these projects, students are. Isn’t that the end game? We want to develop students that become independent learners? Surely they aren’t going to achieve this without practicing it.

I think, sometimes, we create too much of a gap between what WE expect as learners and what we see as acceptable learning for kids. We have all been to professional development that we see as sub standard. It’s either too much talk… it isn’t pitched right.. or we just aren’t interested. Why do we expect that our classrooms are any different? When we have an opportunity to design our own learning and make it completely relevant to us we are more engaged. We not only commit our working time to it but will dig deeper into it at home. This is what genius projects do for students.

Seeing the value in loving learning is essential. If kids are cheering when you say it’s time to work on these projects, that’s got to be a good thing. Not only are they engaged, but they are learning. Currently I have a student creating scale models of famous political buildings (yes this is his passion) using minecraft. This is a student that doesn’t engage in maths lessons, but here, he is calculating scale reductions of measurement.. area, perimeter, volume. He’s writing willingly about types of government.. it amazes me every time. We have another student who is challenging our school’s fundraising policy to get her idea off the ground and raise money for motor neuron disease. She is writing persuasive texts, preparing presentations for the principal, designing a business plan and budget to support her idea. It’s a wonderful thing.

Another criticism of ‘Genius Hour’ is that this type of learning should be happening all the time… and they are right. That is part of the reason that we’ve opted for the ‘Genius Projects’ title and dropped the ‘hour’. In reality, whatever amount of time we allow kids to work on these ideas at school, they spend more of their own time own it at home.

We are certainly a long way from all learning being as engaging as this, but we are working on it.

7 Responses to A Stroke of Genius

  1. Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr) says:

    I’m totally with you, Jarrod. As for the “doing it all the time” – YES! Haven’t you noticed the fundamentals of Genius Projects seeping into the rest of your week? I find myself saying “Why not?” way more often than “I don’t think so.” Some people also don’t like the “Genius” part of the name. “My kids aren’t all geniuses,” they say. I counter that one with “My kids all HAVE genius in them, and it’s our job to find it and let it shine.” Keep blogging, please, so others jump on this much-needed time in our classrooms. Let’s start here and build from it. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey!

  2. Josh Vick says:

    Great blog piece mate! The “curriculum” barrier often put up is certainly ridiculous… No good the teacher covering more curriculum if the net result is that students engage and learn less… Just love the idea of students being given as many “hours” as possible to explore areas of personal interests. Key responsibility of teacher is then to grab hold of the teachable moments and facilitate group discussion around connections with mandated curriculum!

    • Absolutely agree. Too often we feel the pressure to ‘cover’ the curriculum. It can’t be done. All you are going to achieve is a high level of stress and a lot of ‘surface’ learning. Dig deep. Lover learning. That’s what we should be aiming for.

  3. Paul CC says:

    I have connected this to some recent reading I did on the notion of ‘should’ and ‘must’.

    When we only focus on should learn, we’re learning for someone or something other than ourselves.

    Must is different. Must learn is part of who we are. What we believe. What we anticipate. What we learn when we do it independently.

    It is a true and authentic form of learning. It’s that which calls to us most deeply.

    Not the only required learning, but without it we are delegated to dry little dusty gardens of learning.

    As always, you make me think in connected ways Jarrod.

    Tell me what happens when you ask them what they ‘must’ learn as opposed to ‘should’ learn. I am genuinely interested in their responses,

    That would be a ‘must’ read.

  4. Paul CC says:

    Curriculum equals ‘should’.

    Pedagogy equals ‘must’.

    To be considerate of the reality of our current curriculum I find the original meaning of respect useful, it is to look again.

    I know that the Australian Curriculum is large and complex and this is because it reflects our raised expectations of what is the basis of entitlement for children and young Australians.

    Genius hour lends itself to teacher as partnered guide, and bringing together connections with the General Capabilities and Cross-Curricular Priorities.

    We need to ask ourselves as contemporary educators, what is it in our beliefs, along with those belonging to who we work with; that predict and prohibit learning experiences and outcomes that progress knowledge to understanding.

    Loving learning is important when tempered with the understanding that it also requires a desire to push through, unlearn, hold conflicting, or uncomfortable information and the belief that knowledge is not understanding.

    Jarrod we need a bottle of red and a couple of lazy hours near the sea.

    You make me think in connected ways.

    • Ahh man.. I say to people all the time that I’d love a period of time off (like a gap year) to just go and learn and discuss things with people. Lots of people. I absolutely LOVE learning new stuff and messing with the stuff I’ve already learned to make it better. I wish I had more time to explore some of these ideas more deeply without worrying about making sure that we are ready to present at assembly or redoing the yard duty timetable. All part of the job I guess! Now all I need is someone to pay my wage while I do it ๐Ÿ™‚

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