The Genius of Genius Hours



Over a decade ago, Google introduced the Pareto Principle to its company. The concept, first conceived by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, came from Parento’s observation that at the turn of the twentieth century, 80 percent of Italian land was owned by 20 percent of the population.  For Google, the 80/20 principle encouraged their engineers to take 20 percent of their time to work on company-related ideas that interested them personally.  The logic for this concept was simple: Productivity would improve when employees engaged in something that they were passionate about.
While it is true that Google innovations like AdSense, Gmail, and Google Talk all got their start as a result of this personalized time, the program started fade away at Google in 2013 as managers looked to avoid having their teams fall behind on the company’s internal productivity rankings. According to this HRZone article, managers are judged on the productivity of their teams by these rankings. For the last few years, Google has concentrated its efforts on other targeted innovation activities. 

 In the last few years, Google’s experiment with the 80/20 principle has found its way into classrooms going by the name “Genius Hour”. Its origins may be credited to one of two books that have recently been published on the topic. One is entitled The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching and Learning by Maiers and Sandvold, and the other is entitled Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom: Using 20% Time, Genius Hour, and PBL to Drive Student Success by Juliani.

In the classroom, the Genius Hour serves the same fundamental purpose that Google had for the 80/20 principle: To give students a dedicated time to explore their own passions and foster their creativity. The website www.geniushour.com gives this overview on how teachers typically structure a Genius Hour:

The teacher provides a set amount of time for the students to work on their passion projects.  Students are then challenged to explore something to do a project over that they want to learn about.  They spend several weeks researching the topic before they start creating a product that will be shared with the class/school/world.  Deadlines are limited and creativity is encouraged.  Throughout the process the teacher facilitates the student projects to ensure that they are on task.

Since its educational debut just a couple years ago, a number of web-based and print resources have come out to support teachers in their use of the Genius Hour instructional strategy at just about any level from elementary to middle to high school. The Genius Hour Guidebook by Krebs and Zvi helps teachers develop their model with a step by step process that starts with the development of inquiry questions and ultimately leads students through the research process and the presentation of their final product. A number of free resources have been available on this Genius Hour wiki.
Edutopia blogger and middle school teacher 

Nichole Carter writes about 6 Tips for Getting Started With Genius Hour in the classroom: 

1.      Face to face time is invaluable.
2.      Let go.
3.      Think about your benchmarks.
4.      To grade or not to grade?
5.      Utilize your own social network.
6.      Reflect.

For the latest in Genius Hour information, try the Twitter hashtag #GeniusHour

This article was written originally for MultiBriefs Education.

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