posted Dec 2, 2013, 2:50 PM by Kate Petty
updated Dec 2, 2013, 2:59 PM
I've just written an article for CUE about Genius Hour but I realize you may not want to rely on my say-so about how freaking awesome 20-Time is in the classroom. So I decided to ask some of my students to tell you how they felt.
What is the hardest part about Genius Hour? How do you overcome the difficulty?
By Danielle Gervacio
In my opinion, the hardest part about Genius Hour is plain and simple: developing a question and expanding it so that the entire given hour is used for the most effective and in-depth research possible. Anyone can come up with a straight-forward question that can be answered within minutes, but the whole point of Genius Hour is to research a topic that cannot be easily explained. So, for example, a question like, “How did the process of cancer treatment as well as how it has been diagnosed and contracted change over time” rather than, “How can one contract cancer,” results in a better use of the hour given for research. Additionally, a question that asks why something exists as it does and how it came to be is a superior question to one that asks about what is in something or how to make it.
In order to overcome the difficulty of composing such a comprehensive question, past events or current interests can inspire the researcher and feed his/her desire to understand more about a certain topic. For instance, events such as a family member’s diagnosis of a disease that has led to something worse may bother someone for years. Genius Hour practically begs the researcher to find out more about the disease, how one can be diagnosed with it, and/or how it can be treated. Unresolved questions lead to their solutions, and those solutions branch out into separate topics of their own, developing into a deeper understanding of topics so simple, yet so complex at the same time. I think that this is the “genius” in Genius Hour: reaching a more sophisticated thought and understanding of anything that we may have questioned before but never really had the time or patience to answer on our own time.
We’ve now been working on Genius Hour for six weeks. What are some skills you’ve learned as a result of it?
By Kali Kushner
Since starting Genius Hour, I can definitely say that my thought process has changed. When we started Genius Hour, I struggled with composing a well-thought out question that I could research over an extended period of time. Though my questions were quizzical, they were nowhere near their greater potential that I would later discover. Although I originally perceived Genius Hour as an assignment, that thought quickly morphed into a realization and near-obsession. I would be lying in bed, waiting for sleep to take me or at work, helping a customer and a switch would flick on in my mind. I soon found myself racing to grab a piece of paper to scribble my thoughts on before they fled my mind. This routine lead to me taking up pages upon pages of notebook paper in which I would write my inquiries. As I thought more and more about Genius Hour, my questions began to lengthen from a single contemplation into many branches in which my thoughts broadened, yet remained on topic with the original query. Comparing my original notes with the more recent ones, it is plain to see that my techniques have improved. I no longer peruse singular thoughts, but rather, I sprout off of the first thought as many times as my mind will allow and before I know it, I have a full page of inquiries that could easily take days to research. Genius Hour is more than an assignment; it’s an opportunity for students to really think. In a normal classroom, students are limited and forced to think within a designated frame. Genius Hour is the single opportunity for students to escape the confines that other teachers have set; it’s a chance for students to let their minds roam free.
Would you try to convince another teacher to do the Genius Hour? What would you say to try to convince that teacher to do it? In other words, why would another teacher feel it is worth using class time for?
By Sean McAnulty
Unlike the routine curriculum in public school, Genius Hour encourages students to explore their creativity and wonder through research and thought. Many of the topics and strategies teachers use to instruct students today cause students to become bored and resentful of school. Students begin to realize that a large amount of our assignments and classes do not translate to the real world. Genius Hour has the opposite effect. Never before have I seen high school students so engaged and excited in a classroom environment. They become experts on their topics and share what they’ve learned with other students. They also learn a range of real-world skills from finding credible sources to public speaking. These skills are especially important in this rapidly evolving world. I truly believe that Genius Hour is the future of education.
What was the most surprising thing about Genius Hour? The most beneficial? The worst thing- along that line- what changes could happen to make this worst thing better?
By Chun Chen Lo
The most surprising thing about Genius Hour, in my opinion, was how well everyone seemed to work and how interesting everyone’s questions were. I honestly did not think that people would do very much research or just pick really easy, generic topics. But I realized I was wrong when people went up to the front of the class to present. Most of the topics presented by students, I had not even thought about and so they were able to attract my attention and make me want to look deeper into the subject and learn more about it. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to choose a good topic myself, but once I began researching a simple question, it led me to wanting to dig even deeper on that subject. Everyone in class was able to benefit from Genius Hour because the questions we researched was not specifically on one subject or topic and so more likely than not, there would be something that sparked each student’s interest.
The most beneficial aspect of Genius Hour for me was having the freedom to research what I wanted and being able to change my topic if I found it unappealing after all.
The worst thing I can think of about Genius Hour is not necessarily the worst but one of the harder parts of the process. The hardest part of Genius Hour is coming up with questions and topics that are appealing to research for a large amount of time. Although there are a lot of things in this world we don’t know, often times it is hard for me to be able to remember those questions on the spot. One change we could make to help move the brainstorming process along could be to list a few topics on the board and allow students to use that list when we cannot think of a topic at all.
Also, I think having open brainstorming could help too. For example, I talked with a few students at my table when we all got stuck and we were able to come up with a few topics just by building onto each other’s curiosity. Of course we have to make sure people do not all have the same idea, but being able to bounce of one another’s ideas helped a lot because we were able to discuss questions we never would have thought about without another person bring it up in the first place.