Encourage Creativity and Innovative Thinking: Genius Hour

“Genius Hour” and “20% Projects” have been showing up all over my PLN in the past months…Twitter, blog posts, Pinterest, Facebook and more. As I read more about this instructional practice I was reminded of a 60 Minutes show I watched a few years back when they were at Google’s home office. The show focused on highlighting the environment and working policy Google developed designed to support staff to be as creative as possible. This policy allows staff to spend 20% of their work week on the “pet project” of their choice. They believe that giving that time will encourage creativity and breed innovative ideas. It has been claimed that half of Google’s innovative “products” have come from this 20% of time.
Being intrigued by the idea of integrated time for creativity, I took a bit of R&D time (maybe we should call it my “Genius Hour” or “20% Project”) to dig a little deeper and found that 3M has been doing this even longer than Google, and HP even longer; possibly as far back as 1939. They can all argue they were the first but what’s more important is that we have benefited with products such as Gmail, Post-It notes, and HTML, all coming from that structured/unstructured time.What’s even better, this ideas has made it into the education world. “20% Projects” and “Genius Hour” are rooted in constructivism where authentic learning is intrinsically motivating to students. Teachers implementing this instructional practice have created structured unstructured learning time. No matter what they call this time, all have constructivist beliefs at the core. All require that learning is relevant to life. Projects require students to learn concepts at deeper levels. This type of open-ended, project-based learning requires student to question and explore, and the most effective projects end with a product and require students to present and reflect on new learning. Teachers that want students to get the most from this experience become the guide on the side and support students to find direction, develop action plans, research effectively, revisit what they are learning and what they still need to do to accomplish their goal, and efficaciously present their projects and new ideas Vann Hinder.

Kevin Brookhouser from the I Teach, I Think blog has some great strategies, management tips, and classroom practices that could help you implement your own “20% Projects”. In listening to his Radical Autonomy: Giving Your Students 20% Time Google Hangout, it is obvious he has it figured out. In this presentation, he shares best practices and has defined the steps that can help projects like his to be successful beginning with prepare parents, students, and administrators, to having the student make final presentation very similar to Ted Talks. Visit his site to learn more about his implementation steps for successful “20% Project” and check out his TedX Monterrey Talk Don’t Call it a Classroom which can be found on his blog. His site also includes student examples and instructional support for implementing your own “20% Projects”.

“Genius Hours” and “20% Projects” seem to align perfectly with my first educational experiences in Montessori school, my educational beliefs as a teacher, and eMINTS, my job and my love. It is intriguing enough to wish I was back in the classroom so that I could try and implement such a progressive idea. Exploring this innovative idea in learning where I can help learners find their own “genius”, expertise, and passion has me thinking…could this work with professional development? My wheels are turning; what about yours?

To learn more about “Genius Hours” or “20% Projects” check out these great resources and experts on the topic.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialists, Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer, and sporadic blogger for the eMINTS National Center. This post was originally posted at the Higgins’ Helpful Hints Blog.

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