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The Genius Hour Project

Written by Nicole Mirra
January 14, 2017

As part of my course exploring Connected Learning as a framework for teacher education, I engaged my students in a Genius Hour project. Check out the YouTube video that explains the project. Also, here is how I explained it to my students: As part of its business model, Google encourages its developers to spend 20% of their work time engaged in passion projects of their own choosing. The idea is that when creative people are given the opportunity to play and explore what interests them, they will develop innovative ideas and achieve a level of personal and professional fulfillment that will ultimately benefit everyone – the employees and the company. This practice helped inspire the idea for Genius Hour, which is an educational model being used in classrooms across the country. If interest-driven learning, problem solving, and creativity works for Google, why can’t it work for our public education system? Instead of always telling students what to do, why not see what happens when direct their own learning? We are going to adopt this model in our classroom. The only way that you will feel comfortable integrating new and multimodal literacies into your English instruction is if you have the chance to gain mastery of tools on your own first. And I’m not going to tell you which tools to choose – that’s up to you. You are going to choose a digital tool that you want to learn more about and conduct your own exploration into how it works, what you can do with it, and how it can be used in the English classroom. You should choose a tool that you are NOT FAMILIAR WITH – this should be a journey of discovery! You should also choose a tool that is NOT DIRECTLY EDUCATIONAL – I want you to make those connections. You will give a 15-minute interactive presentation to your classmates that answers the following 5 questions: 1. What kind of learning curve did you have to navigate to start using this tool? 2. What did you find interesting as you explored what others have done with this tool? 3. What have you created with this tool? 4. What can you ask us to do with this tool during your presentation? 5. What can English teachers do with this tool?

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