Session 213: Genius Hour

-Date: Thursday 31st July 2014. Hosted by Graham Andre & Nick Brierley

The aim of this session was to explore the concept of Genius Hour, which originates its idea from Google’s 20% time, which staff from the company enjoy.

The session explored:

  1. How do you currently integrate students interests in the classroom through learning experiences?
  2. What is the benefit of pursuing student passions, interests and talents in the classroom?
  3. How did you hear about the concept of Genius Hour?
  4. What problems do you think you might encounter while implementing Genius Hour?
  5. Share one thing that you have learnt about Genius Hour this evening.


[pullquote]Devil’s advocate: isn’t it just a cop out for lazy teachers?” @gazneedle[/pullquote]

It was by chance that I learnt about Genius Hour, I was lurking on an #aussieED chat one Sunday morning, the chat was about promoting creativity and Genius Hour was mentioned several times. I asked several people about it including Nick @mythysizer the co-host for tonight’s chat and was intrigued. After watching I emailed my head with the link and asked what she thought. She was fully behind it and encouraged me to trial it with my children in the next term.

Genius Hour is based upon Google 20% time, whereby staff are allowed 20% of their working week to work on their own projects, through this time Google created Gmail and Adsense among other projects. In a school context, children are allowed one hour a week to work on a project linked to their own interests or wonders (questions they may want answering). When the 6 weeks (a half term) is complete the children then present their projects to their class mates.

The chat started with a question asking teachers how they currently integrate students’ interests in the classroom.

Via @bnighrogain

Teachers already had several good methods and ways to allow students to use their interests in the classroom. Bianca Ní Ghrógáin @bnighrogain uses the behaviour tool Class Dojo and allows students to buy tokens to allow them to do various things. The rewards and costs are decided by the students. Using real world topics such as the World Cup is also a popular choice.

The second question asked for the benefits of pursuing pupils’ passions, interests and talents in the classroom. Engagement was a word that was used in many tweets, @kieronjm85 said the three E’s Engagement, Enjoyment, Excitement add to that interest, independence, motivation…. in fact @bnighrogain hit the nail on the head again when she said ‘There are No disadvantages … forget having to list benefits … just do it’. This one Tweet encapsulates what Genius Hour is about very well.

The concept of Genius Hour is relatively a new one, especially in the UK so we asked how people had heard about the concept. (See Slide 62 of the Storify below) Many had heard about it through Twitter and our global friends in the USA and Australia, many were intrigued by the hash tag in recent #ukedchat posts. This question blended somewhat into the next one as people were posting concerns about implementing Genius Hour into their schools. @ianmcdaid wanted to know how we would show impact on a child and how would this be measured, @mm684 had similar concerns. Several people tried to defend Genius Hour and the concept behind it including @wholechilded who included an interesting link into the research behind Genius Hour . There are several other slides reinforcing the value of Genius Hour but it is a valid argument Genius Hour is difficult to evaluate but can be done. It isn’t really the end product that you are looking at, it is the process by which the child gets there, this is very similar to assessment in the Early Years. In my limited experience and Nick Brierleys @mythysizer much larger experience, often the work created by a child during Genius Hour will be a far better standard than that produced during a literacy or numeracy lesson.

Another concern was for those children that cannot think of an idea for a project, for these rare instances use the ideas and inspiration of other children, if not there are several websites showing projects completed by others. Some educators were concerned about the word ‘Genius’ and its meaning, this image (see Slide 133) explains it very well and many children love the idea of being ‘Geniuses’ for an hour (@wats-ed).

In conclusion, many educators involved tonight seemed intrigued by the concept of Genius Hour and I know many are trialling it in their schools in September. The chat carried on for several minutes after the 9pm deadline, which is always a good sign. I feel for Genius Hour to really work and for it to have the biggest impact on the children:

  • SLT must be behind it.
  • The class teacher must believe it will have an impact on their children (whatever that impact may be)
  • A bank of resources must be available for children to use (these don’t have to be expensive, see my blog to see the sort of things I used)
  • Show an interest in your students projects, learn from them and embrace the madness.

For those that are trying it please let me know how it is going or if you need to chat about it @grahamandre . Thank you to those people that contributed, it was much appreciated. A big thank you to Nick Brierley for getting up at stupid o’ clock and co hosting for us and thanks to @ukedchat for the chance to talk about Genius Hour.

Here are some useful links for those taking / wanting to take the next step:

And my own blog

Notable Tweets from the Session:

Tweet of the Week:

This tweet made me smile as it came from a twitter friend playing devil’s advocate, but he does have a point. Does allowing your children this much autonomy mean that the class teacher can then kick back, relax and let the learning go on around them? Definitely not, if Genius Hour is being done correctly, then yes there is not that input you would have for a ‘normal’ lesson but during the hour you are assessing children’s work, learning from the children, collecting resources, helping students when help is needed and yes reminding those that may be off task what it is they are meant to be doing. So @gazneedle come back to me when you have trialled Genius Hour with your pupils and tell me if it is a cop out for lazy teachers 😉

About Your Host:

My name is Graham Andre, I work at Lanesend Primary School on the Isle of Wight. In September I will be in my 3rd year of teaching although I have worked in schools as a TA and an NNEB for several years. I currently teach Year 2 but will be moving to Year 3 in September, I also teach Year 6 ICT once a week and love the use of technology in school. Genius Hour has been my most exciting discovery from Twitter yet and I have discovered many things using this fantastic medium. During my spare time I support Southampton FC and I edit


213 – Archive – Genius Hour

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