An inquiry into Genius Hour

An excellent resource of Teachers who are implementing Genius Hour via @JoyKirr

LiveBinder Genius Hour

Genius Hour is back!

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Introduced for grade 6-8 students and our after school, Rube Goldberg Machine club.

Select the link below to view our introduction with Provocations

For our first round of Genius Hour Projects we are piloting the idea of having an umbrella theme. Naturally students were concerned that this would be very limiting as they wouldn’t be able to fully explore their passions. However following an ideation phase, exploring ideas for projects around the big idea of water, we agreed to reflect on the process at the end of this first project phase- 3 months.

Following the Three Rules of Genius Hour, namely:

1. Have a Guiding Question

2. Must include Research

3. Share your project

We are also building in capture of artifacts throughout the Genius Hour journey to support both deeper reflection and making thinking visible. Utilizing digital capture tools such as iPad camera and collaboration in Google Docs, students will regularly encouraged to produce documentary evidence of learning in action, transforming learning experiences in ways that facilate the ‘shareability’ of each project.

Adopting approaches to  Design Thinking  further support students in developing problem solving and critical thinking skills.


Introduction to Genius Hour 2014-2015

Inspiration for The Rube Goldberg Machine Club : Making connections

Rube Goldberg Genius Hour 2014 from shillinberlin on Vimeo.

Great to see other Genius Hour projects taking shape around the world. Here’s an excellent example from a Grade 2 class in Germany: Passion Projects from Websites about Minecraft to learning about the Police.

Rube Goldberg Challenge from shillinberlin on Vimeo.

To complete our first year of Genius Hour, grade 6, 7 and 8 have set out to design and build Rube Goldberg Machines.

In the spirit of the World Cup, teams were drawn and participants had the challenge of inventing a name for their team and thinking up 100 ways to pop a balloon. My personal favourite was using a cactus!

“Design a Rube Goldberg Machine to pop a balloon”

After watching

They quickly got to work mapping out ideas.

Here are the criteria:

1. The machine pops a balloon

2. There are at least five steps

3. Set up time is between 10-15 minutes

There will be bonus points for the following:

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 13.01.13

Rapid prototyping in action! Check out their progress so far:

The second round of Genius Hour Projects this year were shared with our community, Speed Geeking style.

Project teams had to present 10 slides showing their journey making particular reference if possible to how they had developed key skills of collaboration, creativity, communication, organisation, investigation and begin digitally responsible.

Genius Hour II from shillinberlin on Vimeo.

The projects on offer were:

“Genius Journey” All about Genius Hour

“The New World Cup” Scholars reflect on the World Scholars Cup

“Web Idols” Build a website about your favourite pop idol

“Life Hacks” A website all about life hacks to simplify your life

“Go Go Go Kart” Build your own go kart

“Mining Minecraft” Control Minecraft on your iPad via your Mac

“8 bit School” Build the school in Minecraft

“The Voice” Become a singer songwriter

“Magic Makey Makey” inventing new musical instruments with Playdough and keys

“Ache to Bake” creating recipes, baking them and selling the treats for charity


Speed Geekers were invited to peer assess the projects using a tripod model adapted by a creation from Ed Charlwood

Genius Hour Peer assessment


Update: February 2014

Middle school students presented their Genius Hour learning journey today. The format 150/10- 10 photos presented in 150 seconds. Students entertained and enlightened the audience with the amazing diversity of their passion driven projects. Here’s an overview of the projects: building the school in Minecraft, creating advertisements, learning to code with Hopscotch, building a photography mission website, coding an app in Game Salad, fund raising for Syrian Refugees, science experimentation and pop video creation- movie to follow

Genius hour in Primary school encourages creativity and the potential to discover hidden talents as grade 2 share their collaboration with grade 5. We discovered the world of cobras, how one project resulted in knitting a scarf for a grandparent, the creation of an art gallery and Manga art. Sharing our learning to inspire others.



Genius Hour

Where passions come alive!

In the opening week, GEMS World Academy – Etoy embarked upon a journey to discover our passions, what drives us.

Genius Hour – one hour a week will allow the learning community to discover hidden talents and learn something new


As the year comes to a close we reflected on our Genius hour journey so far. Introducing the idea of presenting this journey, student we shown a format borrowed from both Pecha Kucha and Ignite. Slightly modified, they will have to present 10 photographs set a change every 15 seconds.

The presentation has to show the journey, where you are now and where you are heading with your project.

To demonstrate here are the slides I showed – captioned with ideas shared.

Week 8

Excellent supporting article about students directing their own learning from Alan November:

Open inquiry today with each team working independently on their projects whilst considering how they can share their learning with students from younger grades.


In a short reflection, students were asked what Genius Hour means to them. Here’s a selection:

…is awesome because you get to learn what you want to and it’s approved by the school.

…amazing because we are free to do what we want, so you can find out what you really want and set an example to other people, that you can follow your dreams if you put your mind to it

…you can create stuff

…it means a time when children can direct their own learning and there’s not enough of this in the world

…you get an hour to do what you want to do using technology you might not necessarily have at home.

…a way to give, express and share your ideas with the world

…because it develops your imagination and helps you to follow your dreams

…it means doing the thing you do the most, achieve some of your dreams

…a break for your dreams

…a time where you can find out your passion and make your dreams come true

…is an hour where you can do anything your interested in at the moment.

…you can do what ever you like, e.g. if you want to build a house, you can figure out how to.

Week 7

We had the pleasure this week of having grade 9 joining us. After a brief introduction and share of some of the projects, the session was open to independent inquiry with the addition of a two hands on stations.

The first was LeapMotion where students discovered this amazing new gesture controlled technology


The second experiential station was with Makey Makey where a 9th Grader adapted a Scratch game to include two foot pedals to control the helicopter in the game


The 9th Grader where quick to adapt to the spirit of Genius Hour. One student developing her extra curricular hiphop dance club, another creating a Youtube channel.

In an additional session today, students extend their creation skills be inquiring into iMovie on iPad. A second group further developed their project by deciding on a target audience for the game they are coding in Hopscotch.

Week 6

In week six we regrouped after a short break. Revisiting the three rule of Genius Hour, we had the opportunity to share a personal ‘genius hour’ project from a new colleague and teacher, Adam Hughes who cycled from New Zealand to Switzerland. Testing whether he was within all the rules we concluded in was a Genius Hour project.

To capture the essence of what our projects are about we used a Visible Thinking strategy called ‘Headlines’ from Harvard Project Zero. Each team had to create a banner containing their snappy headline. Capturing the intensity of the newsroom, a short timeframe was given following which, each group had to perform their headline in the style of a news report. Have a look at some of our ideas:

Following this engagement the team discussed digital leadership (a presentation delivered to teaching staff earlier in the week) It’s crucial that students are part of this team, as they are the future and need to have a voice in creating it. As a provocation we watched ‘learning is natural’ created as part of DigitalAgendaEU

The culminating part of Genius Hour this week involved students in the process of configuring out iPad fleet which required the final stages of development to complete the enrolment in Filewave (our MDM Mobile device management solution). The enthusiasm was refreshing and encouraging to see that all students see technology as a part of their learning experience. These necessary steps enabled the 1:1 iPad project to be reborn the following day.

Week 5

Here’s a short report from one of the project teams. Our group (Ceria McMinn Mitchell, Claire McKinley, Nelli Tamminen and Heather Robson) are trying to raise money to help the Syrian refugees in these hard times. We organised a dress down day with great success!

We managed to raise over 400 francs!!!!!!

The students earned the money by doing various chores around the house for example:

Walking the dogs

Cleaning the table


Taking the trash out

Made dinner for the parents

Cleaned there room

Doing the laundry

But there is more to come in the near future!!!!! 😀

Week 4

Having developed driving questions all students were very eager to work independently on their projects. Indeed they requested if it was possible, “Just to get on with it” Brilliant! Engaged passionate learners.

Looking to the future, with the goal of sharing our projects with our community and the world, short Masterclasses are on offer, helping to create an eye-catching variety of presentations. This week we looked at Animoto

Week 3


Tinkering and all it’s DIY glory

An inspiring tale of Blair Somerville and his Lost Gypsy Gallery

Week 2

This week’s provocations were:

1. A TED talk by Matt Cutts- Try something new for 30 days

2. Caine’s Arcade

Parent Presentation of Genius Hour

GeniusHour @GWA Etoy Presentation

Week 1

View the Wk1 Keynote here:

Genius Hour @GEMS World Academy

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