In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been asked the same question multiple times after speaking, “Do you still believe Genius Hour and 20% Projects are the best way to engage students?”
My initial response was to shout YES, without really thinking about my answer. But, as someone who ran the 20% Project with my students, wrote Genius Hour into our 9th grade English curriculum, has written a book on the subject, and speaks on its merit around the country…I thought it deserved some more thought.
My answer, after much reflection, is still YES but with a small hesitation. A Genius Hour or 20% Time Project involves three of the main components that engage students (for clarification purposes, my definition of student engagement is “high attention” and “high commitment” throughout the learning process).
The three components are:
- Student Choice
- Authentic Audience
- Intrinsic Reward
When those three traits are present in the learning process students are most likely to have high attention and high commitment.
There is a magic Venn diagram I like to share, and I believe it explains it best:
Most of the time, since students are in school, the “paid for it” circle of the Venn diagram doesn’t apply. But I’d like to think of that as a circle for a reward. One that is best represented when there is an intrinsic reward and not necessarily given out by a teacher or boss. In Genius Hour projects we often see a sense of personal accomplishment and pride felt by completing the work.
When students are given “choice” they choose something they love, or are good at, or that the world needs. The same goes for having an authentic audience. Genius Hour projects are created with a real live audience on the receiving end. When we take these projects to the next level and share them with the world (or make them for the world) we are not only hitting the sweet spot in the Venn diagram above, but we are also inciting creative purpose.
Launching Your Student Projects to an Audience
When John Spencer and I developed the LAUNCH Cycle, we knew that it was the exact process that we used in project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and maker projects in our own classrooms. The key to the entire cycle however, was what we added at the end. The launch!
Here’s a quick breakdown of the LAUNCH Cycle (it’s an acronym) and how it fits with a Genius Hour or 20% Project:
L: Look, Listen, and Learn
In the first phase, students look, listen, and learn.The goal here is awareness. It might be a sense of wonder at a process or an awareness of a problem or a sense of empathy toward an audience.
A: Ask Tons of Questions
Sparked by curiosity, students move to the second phase, where they ask tons of questions.
U: Understanding the Process or Problem
This leads to understanding the process or problem through an authentic research experience. They might conduct interviews or needs assessments, research articles, watch videos, or analyze data.
N: Navigate Ideas
Students apply that newly acquired knowledge to potential solutions. In this phase, they navigate ideas. Here they not only brainstorm, but they also analyze ideas, combine ideas, and generate a concept for what they will create.
C: Create a Prototype
In this next phase, they create a prototype. It might be a digital work or a tangible product, a work of art or something they engineer. It might even be an action or an event or a system.
H: Highlight and Fix
Next, they begin to highlight what’s working and fix what’s failing. The goal here is to view this revision process as an experiment full of iterations, where every mistake takes them closer to success.
Launch to an Audience
Then, when it’s done, it’s ready to launch. In the launch phase, they send it to an authentic audience. They share their work with the world!
Here are 5 ways your students can launch their projects to the world:
#1. Class Blog
If you have students in your class under the age of 13 it’s difficult for them to sometimes get permission to use sites and platforms that make it easy to share with the world. This is where a class blog makes sense. Teachers can set up a blog using Blogger or WordPress and set permissions so students can be blog “authors” allowing them to publish and edit posts. As a teacher you can also set the comments to be viewed and approved by you before they go live on the student blog post. On the class blog your students can share their entire learning process starting with what topic/interest they are choosing all the way through the research and creation phases. When it’s time to Launch they can share their final product with the world and link back to their process posts to show a glimpse of how they learned the entire time.
#2. Class Social Account
Again, for classrooms that have students under 13 a class social account is a must. Whether you let your students run their class Twitter or Instagram accounts (like Kayla Delzer does) or manage it yourself, having a class social account can make it easy and fun to share their progress and also broadcast the work that they have possibly shared onto the class blog.
#3. YouTube Page
Don Wettrick does a fantastic job of having his students share their work and creations on his Youtube page. His students have also created their own blogs, social accounts, and Youtube pages to share their work, but his page is a hub for the entire class. Youtube is an easy to use and extremely powerful launching platform for student work. I plan to follow Don’s lead and using Youtube for sharing what students make and create.
#4. Live stream Presentations
One of the best decisions I made as a 20% time teacher was to broadcast my student’s TED style presentations to the world by live streaming it on Youtube. Google Hangouts makes this process easy from any phone, tablet, or computer. In fact, live streaming can now be done in a multitude of ways from Periscope, to Meerkat, to Facebook Live. Students can then launch their work to the world and share it on social media before, during, and after the broadcast.
#5. Have Students Choose
When your students are above the age of 13 (or under but with some parameters and guidance) giving them the choice of who their audience is and when/how they share what they’ve learned and made with the world. There is no reason we have to dictate this part of the process. Instead, we should advocate for student choice in the launching phase as well.
How have students launched their projects to the world in your class or school? Would love to hear some more ways in the comments!
Resources to help you LAUNCH student projects:
Get the Design Thinking Challenge
And Join the Global Day of Design!