Saturday, July 16, 2016

Genius Hour for Library Aides

     Ever since hearing about Genius Hour at the Schools Without Walls Conference this past year, I have been intrigued about how best to implement it in the library.

     For those who might be unfamiliar with it, Genius Hour, also known as Passion Project(s) or 20% time was born in Google where engineers were given that percentage of their work week to develop ideas and innovations they were interested in.  This policy not only increased employee motivation and productivity, but it also led to innovations such as Google Mail and Google News.

    There are a few basic principles of implementing Genius Hour in a school setting:
-projects are student directed/selected based on their research into areas of interest
-students have a means to demonstrate progress
-projects must be documented/presented in some way

      This year, I posed this idea to my student aides:  what would you do if you had 20% of class time each week to work on a project of your choosing?  Students had to earn this privilege by displaying outstanding time management skills.  Those aides who met the standard were rewarded with Genius Hour as their second semester final project, while those whose time management skills were still emerging were assigned a more structured final project.

       Students were informed that they had qualified for Genius Hour and they were given about two weeks to research and select their ideas.  We had to have some discussions about what would qualify as a Genius Hour project and emphasize the need for there to be some sort of product and documentation of their efforts.  This lead to some funny conversations about what would be an appropriate Genius Hour project and what would not be.  (For example, texting your girlfriend or playing a video game for 20% of class time would not meet the Genius Hour criterion :) )

     Student aides came up with an impressive array of projects:

     One student had a passion for teaching.  She had worked with the pre Kindergarten program in our junior high throughout the year on various projects.  For her project, she researched and taught pre-K students to make play dough.

     One student had a passion for computers.  He developed his coding skills through working in the library this year and was eager to expand his knowledge of how computers work.  His project was to take apart a computer, and then rebuild it in a cardboard box.  Since he used an enormous, old desktop, he named his project "Megalodon."

     One student had a passion for video production.  She had already worked on several video projects using i-Movie, including a book trailer and an informational video.  As a result, she was ready to move in a different direction.  For her project, she created a stop action video story on a whiteboard.

     One student had a passion for singing and video production.  He chose to create a video advertisement for our school's Karaoke club.

     One student had a passion for gaming.  He chose to build a Pokemon rom hack where he redesigned a section of the Pokemon world.


     Looking back, I am proud of the array of projects students created.  I observed the same spike in motivation and productivity from my student aides as they worked on their projects that Google executives observed.  (There was even one student aide who attempted to sneak out of other classes to come back to the library to work on his Genius Hour idea!)

     In the future, I look forward to providing more opportunities for Genius Hour through the library.  Students each presented their projects informally to library staff.  Next year, I hope to support students in more extensive documenting of their work perhaps through video or presentations to the school and the community.

     This experience also got me thinking about how Genius Hour could be applied to the classroom.  I look forward to exploring this during the upcoming school term with my teachers!

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