After one whole quarter of working on our Genius Hour projects, I have an update on how the process is going here at Highlands. My students and I have been struggling through the Genius Hour process as this is the first year I have attempted to teach this way and the first time this idea has been used at our school. (If you’d like more information on how we started our Genius Hour experiment this semester, check out Part 1 here.)
The students have done a great job coming up with ideas for their projects, and have now begun researching and actually trying to make these ideas reality. Each project is focused on either school improvement or solving a problem in the local community. In order to stay up-to-date on their research and progress, I have had each of the students blog. That way, their project can feel more authentic and impact more than just our school and community, but a much broader public audience.
This blogging has been a bit of a challenge. I am obviously a WordPress user, so I began with having each student create their own WordPress blog. In short, this was a disaster. I had only one students create a truly professional blog. The rest were very confused. So… we back-tracked. Sometimes, we need to do that as teachers, and it’s ok! First, I asked my students how many of them were actually familiar with blogs, either through writing themselves or actively following. I was actually surprised to find that many of my students were not familiar with blogging, meaning that this assignment needed much more explanation. Next, I took some advice from other teachers and discovered that Weebly is a much more user-friendly site for beginning bloggers. Finally, instead of having each student create their own blog, we decided to create a class blog on Weebly. You can easily add many different contributors to the blog, and it was easier to keep track of and help everyone with all of us on the same site.
You can check out our class blog with updates on each of the students’ progress here.
I would be lying if I told you I have not been frustrated in this process, because I have. It is difficult to allow students so much freedom in the research, recording, and creating process. I’ve had to fight my tendency toward micro-managing. It’s also important to note that some kids really won’t self-motivate. They won’t take initiative, they won’t manage their time well, their research will be weak, and it will appear doubtful that they will actually complete their project successfully. I’ve had to learn that that’s ok. Part of Genius Hour is for them to learn these things. Learning often happens through success, but even more often it seems that failure can lead to even greater learning. This is hard! It’s tough to see your kids “fail.” However, failure is not final! It is a way to learn and grow.
I must also point out that there have been a lot of successes this semester as well! A lot of my students are taking serious initiative and going above and beyond what I imagined when I contemplated Genius Hour. Several groups have conducted surveys to discover the problems in our school and community and discover first-hand ways that these problems can be solved. Another group is going to actually present their project to administrators before spring break and hope to make their project a reality by the end of the semester! They are way ahead of schedule and doing great work!
Genius Hour is a stretching experience for both my students and me as a teacher. I am excited about the learning being done and the progress being made, even through difficult situations. Stay tuned for the next update about how our projects actually turn out!