Last week I mentioned that one of the best parts of attending ISTE is meeting up with people who share our desire to make school amazing for our students. One of those people is Andi McNairan (@mcnairan3).
Until recently, Andi taught gifted students (she now works for a regional service center), and also integrated Genius Hour into her classroom. We would touch base with each other to share ideas, read each other’s blogs, and try to meet up at TCEA whenever we could.
Andi recently published a book, called, Genius Hour: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry. In the book, and in her ISTE presentation, Andi talks about the “6 P’s of Genius Hour”: Passion, Presentation, Pitch, Product, Project, and Plan. At ISTE, Andi went over some of the tech tools that have helped her students in each of these areas. For example, she provides the students with QR codes for each of the phases. They can scan these and instantly be on a web page that gives instructions and resources for that phase. Because Andi also thinks that reflection is vital, she gives the students a QR code that leads to Tony Vincent’s reflection generator – which offers a randomly selected reflection question each time you visit the page.
Do you have students who have difficulty coming up with topics for Genius Hour? Andi suggests using A.J. Juliani’s “Passion Bracket” to help them brainstorm. On one side, students brainstorm things that they love, and on the other they think about things that bother them. By the time they reach the middle, narrowing down favorites, they have potential topics for research.
A favorite tool of Andi’s that I keep meaning to try is Trello. Trello can be used by the individual students to keep track of their own progress, but it can also be used by the instructor to determine what phase each student is currently working on. The name blocks under each category can be easily dragged to a new column.
Andi and I are both keen on students interviewing outside experts for their projects. To find those experts, she suggests using Nepris, which matches classroom teachers with industry experts for video conferences. Like many edtech companies these days, Nepris has limited free options and a subscription option. One great tip that I learned from Andi is to have the students record their interviews, so they don’t have to take notes. This frees them up to look at the person they are conferencing with, and to pay attention to the topics. She also mentioned that she has the students prioritize their questions before the interview in case not everything can be covered during their 30 minute time period.
For more Genius Hour resources, here is my page that includes helpful links, my own personal journey with Genius Hour, and some downloadable activities.