I am happy to report that our class had a very successful start to Genius Hour. We spent a lot of time in September and October preparing for it, as we added ideas to the "Wonder Wall", and learned about different ways to present what we learned using technology. Everyone was eager to start, and it felt like the starting date kept getting pushed back. I really do think it was worth it though, as I taught students some basics about weebly, ComicLife, PowerPoint, Explain Everything, and iPads in general. I have to admit, a few students taught me a few things about those programs. It's amazing how quickly they can just jump into an app or program without any hesitation. I really admire them for it. We also spent a decent amount of time discussing "digital citizenship" and "net etiquette".
Students also drafted up some basic Genius Hour proposals, which helped them really sit down and think about what they wanted to do. Some students knew what they wanted to pursue as soon as I mentioned the idea of Genius Hour, however many others needed a bit of time to think about it. The proposal sheet helped them draft it out, as well as think about what supplies they needed. I told them that we had basic supplies at school, but if they needed additional supplies, they needed to make arrangements to bring them in.
We had a countdown to the opening day, and the kids were very excited! We had a great start, as the majority of our class was super-enthusiastic to start. I was floored with the variety of projects that students chose to do. (See some of the examples below with the pictures). We do Genius Hour after PE every Friday morning now. Students love their Friday mornings now! Each Genius Hour does feel like 20 minutes. When I start giving the 10 or 5 minutes left warning, I hear groans as students don't want it to end.
These projects are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many, many more amazing projects that these kids have created. I'm amazed at how much they've learned. For many of the projects they learn about the topic they are interested, and then learn even more when it comes to how to present it. Many have created basic webpages, which they are very proud of. You can view some that have been published here.
There have been some challenges. Sometimes it is hard for a student to decide on a topic. I've had a few that initially flip-flop between ideas. They often take on too much, and don't want to do it anymore when they realize it is too challenging. I've also had a student or two take on a project that's not really "new" to them. Sure, they are learning a few new things, but they are not as rich as other projects. I try to counter this with often encouraging them to, "see a project through to the end", even if it doesn't end up being what they envisioned. They still learn so much through "first attempts". For example, a student created a simple stop-animation video on his iPhone. It lasts for only 5 seconds or so, and isn't really much to see. He has taken what he's learned from that though, and is now creating a much more detailed, richer stop-animation video.
The other challenge is finding some time to have students present their projects. It was difficult enough to find a set time each week to have Genius Hour. I hope to give students plenty of time this upcoming year.
Well, I have to say that Genius Hour so far has been a great success. The enthusiasm from Genius Hour has also lead me to create a "Creative Tech Club" once a week after school. Kids can work on whatever project their interested in, using iPads or laptops. Some continue working on their Genius Hour projects. So far, I've had 6-10 kids attend each week.
Hopefully Genius Hour continues to be a success! I hope that all the other teachers out there that have attempted this are enjoying this project as much as I am. If you haven't started it yet, or are thinking about it. It's well worth the time. : )