5 Ways I Want to Improve #GeniusHour

Wednesday, July 6, 20161:41 PM

There are always things I want to do better. This morning, while prepping for a conference presentation on #GeniusHour, I realized that I had a pretty clear cut list for growth and reflection for next year.

I wrote a similar article last year in 1st Time #20Time: What I’ll Do Better Next Time. It’s interesting to reread this piece. I definitely improved in many areas--and so did my students. I succeeded in revamping my feedback and check in process with their work, made better use of modelling, and implemented Blogger for blogging.

Now that I have two years of successful projects, I need to use more models and a larger variety to show how diverse projects can be. Last year, I remarked that “I need to push more students to step away from the easy option. A Google Slides presentation is simply not the most effective way to present knowledge in most cases,” and I think we did well at this one. Form followed purpose and function with a new level of critical thought.

I still need to work with students to improve citations, editing, and hyperlinking for next year, but that’s a focus for all high school students, not just with #GeniusHour. I also want to empower students by having them create their deadlines and schedules. This was a great suggestion from a handful of them this year.

But as always, with success comes room for reflection and growth. Everything I’ve written about and summarized above matters, but they’re smaller, more isolated areas. In the end, there are 5 BIG things that I want to focus improving for next year’s #GeniusHour.

Find more of my recent writing on Genius Hour with Sharing Students' #GeniusHour Projects, What Students Think About #GeniusHour Part 1 and Part 2, or My Questions About #GeniusHour. To find all of my writing on #20Time and #GeniusHour, click here. For my students’ blogs and work, visit geniushour.aschoenbart.com.

5 Ways I Want to Improve #GeniusHour

1. Understanding Audience

This year’s students did a great job choosing formats that were effective for their projects. While there were still plenty of Google Slides presentations, they also included videos, interviews, letters, and no-tech creations.

Now we need to take it further and understand how to present to different audiences. Who is the audience for your work? How will you reach them? Why should your work matter to them? I ask my students to identify who their work will benefit; sometimes it’s themselves, other times the school, and yet others the world. I want to teach students to engage authentic audiences and to be more mindful of these choices.

2. Research Methodology

I teach English, so research and writing are essential in our #GeniusHour work. This year, students were asked to create annotated bibliographies, consult with experts, and to try to create their own action research. For many students, this action research was really successful and had a huge impact on their work.

I want to find more opportunities throughout the year for students to practice conducting original research and to understand more about basic research methodology and analysis.

3. Synthesizing & Creation

When you put all of that research together, it can be hard to organize it in meaningful and additive ways. I tell students that all of the sources should be present in the final product in some way, with the whole being stronger than the sum of its parts.

The research and writing needs to come together to create something greater. When any slide, idea, or paragraph can be removed without a loss, that’s a problem. I want to work more on developing real synthesis next year. The students’ ideas, research, and creations were excellent; now I want to help them build something new.

4. Why Blog?

Some of my students embrace the blogging but some just...don’t. For those who do, it’s authentic and powerful. This year, students received comments and feedback from their peers and from teachers and students across the world, and that was great. But for those who don’t like the blogging, it’s a burden. For some, I think it might be a major impediment to succeeding with their work.

I’m not sure how to deal with this one yet. I see great value and student growth from the reflection of blogging. I might make some posts optional. I’ve considered a class #GeniusHour blog as the requirement with the option for individual ones. I’m not sure blogging is absolutely necessary for success, but it definitely helps and documents growth with transparency and authenticity. But is it really authentic if I'm forcing students to do it? I need to put more thought into this one.

5. No One Fails

Last year, I discussed my appreciation for students’ honestly in their reflections and presentations. Some didn’t succeed because they were overly ambitious or didn’t realize the level of work they proposed. These students may not have completed the project they proposed exactly, but they learned, grew, and created nonetheless. This is not a failure.

The failure is with the students who gave up or chose never to begin. And that’s something I can’t let happen. My students are high schoolers, and they make their own choices as young adults. Still, I need to do more to reach those students who need the support and guidance, whether they are confused, resistant, reluctant or anything else. There are times when I need to put the student before the learning and try harder to reach them all. It’s a difficult goal but here it is: no one fails. At least not in the tradition sense. I want to teach students to fail forward and to help them all succeed.

In #GeniusHour, I’ve seen students grow, investigate, and learn with more interest, activity, and innovation than ever before. I’ve also seen some struggle and not recover. In August, I’ll likely write an updated version of 5 Big Shifts in My Classroom in 2015, and the ideas from this post will be there, starting with no one fails. I want to work harder to reach every single student as a person and learner, both in #GeniusHour and in life. 

What do you want to improve on in your teaching? How do you push every student to succeed? Share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.

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  1. Zero comments?! What?! My one comment is thank you - thank you for putting in the blogging paragraph. I struggle with this every year, and have not required blogging updates as a result of the authenticity. Yes, my wish is for students to share their progress with the world, but it is not always THEIR wish. It becomes authentic when they wish to connect with experts - I'll only tweet out their idea if they've written about it. (They're not quite 13, and they don't really want Twitter handles yet, anyway!) Blogging is a way teachers get out their ideas, but it's difficult for our classes - they don't see anyone VIEWING their blogs, unless I do the work to advertise for them. You and I already have connections. It's tough for them to connect in only a few months' time. We'll keep working on it! I'll set my students up with blogs, show them how I've developed mine to get readers, and then keep encouraging! Good luck to you and yours - hopefully they'll catch on to your passion!