This week in my graduate studies, I looked at ISTE Teaching Standard 3 or “Model digital age work and learning.” The broad implications of this standard initially left me wondering where to start. The more I thought about it the more I realized that, in many ways, I have lived this standard over the past year. I investigated the following two indicators, with a focus on the audience of my peers.
Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and the transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations
Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation
This school year has seen a major shift in my instruction. Due to the influence of my graduate studies, I have both experimented with and implemented more new ideas with technology, than ever before in my past seven years of teaching. While I have never felt behind in my use of technology, I have certainly never been ahead. Previously, digital tools have felt additive, as opposed to integrative. With new tools emerging all the time, I found myself overwhelmed. I viewed digital tools as finite tasks to master, instead of part of a larger pedagogical approach. As my own discovery of education technology has emerged and left my excited to share, I now wonder how I can become a leader in this field. What are the best methods for sharing my own shift in mindset and becoming a resource to fellow educators?
How can educators share and model successful and unsuccessful technology tools and ideas to colleagues in a manner that is useful, applicable, and trustworthy?
If I reflect on my lack of experimentation in past years, I am reminded that new ideas have been often shared with me in presentations at professional development settings. These have been static in nature, and rarely, ever collaborative. However, this year, that has changed. Learning and improving any practice doesn’t happen in isolation. While informal in nature, my collaboration with one particular colleague this year has resulted in impactful change for my students.
Caine’s Arcade is often highlighted as an example of what can happen when young minds are given the ability to explore their own passions. Many educators, including myself, wonder how they can foster the same type of creativity and student-driven learning seen in Caine in our own students. One method has been a practice called Genius Hour, which follows the example of companies like Google, who have been known to encourage employees to devote 20% of their work time to passion projects. As such, this method of inquiry-based learning is also sometimes referred to as 20% time. Like Google employees, students are given regular allocations of time to explore topics of their own interest, a deviation from only participating in teacher-driven lessons. Personalized learning like this can intrinsically motivate students and fosters the skills needed to become a lifelong learner. There is research to support that students who are given the opportunity to personalize their learning show achievement growth. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2014) specifically found that personalized learning had a significant impact on reading and math achievement.
So, what does a genius hour look like in a classroom? My first round of research led me to the Genius Hour website, which includes a helpful video overview, as well as a wealth of resources implementation including how to introduce the concept and set expectations for students. The implementation of a genius hour facilitates and inspires student creativity and innovation as outlined in ISTE Teaching Standard 1. Initially, it seems exciting to release students like freed butterflies to explore a world of information online. However, one might wonder how to also remain focused on ensuring students learn and master standards and benchmarks.
How can educators implement the idea of a genius hour, to promote and support innovative and individualized learning, while still focusing students on necessary standards-based curriculum?