Genius Hour: The Roller coaster ride that is both MAGT Creativity & EAL Literacy

Welcome to the first official ‘blog’ post of Matthew E. Lee.

No doubt you’ve heard of Golden Hour under some guise – a reward hour where students who have earned the opportunity by jumping through some behavioral hoops can enjoy being entertained whilst some of their peers who were less-positive about toeing the line that week can continue reading textbooks as a quasi-punishment. Whether this instills a love of learning for the students who probably need it most, and whether an approach based on external rewards can promote intrinsic motivation, are debates for another article.

Within an EAL context, there’s a company in Bangladesh called ‘Golden Hour’ that have adapted the idea so students spend the hour reading books in their native language and meeting speakers of their native language. Could this work in an international school and would it be of merit? Fostering strong links with local communities and promoting internationalism is at the heart of the educational philosophy, so it seems hard to see the downside of promoting community engagement and a holistic sense of identity.

However, this article is not about the prevalence of a ‘Golden Hour’ within some primary schools, or the applicability internationally, or whether it can be initiated ‘whole-school’. This first article is about a growing initiative I first heard about from a High School in Canada, and which they’ve labelled ‘Genius Hour’.

Based on Google’s practice of allowing 20% of employees time to be dedicated to a passion project (presumably styling their hair or playing with a fidget spinner wouldn’t count), the school is giving students one hour a week within an IT class to work on any area of IT they want, with the results being independent learning of coding and 3D printing.

Project-based educational philosophies have been around far longer than I have, but the key difference here is how project-based learning is something I see intrinsically multi-disciplinary, whereas this school (and Google) is giving students a computer and asking them to be productive. “The only way you can fail genius hour is not to try.” What a wonderful educational philosophy! It reminds me of the sketch so often accompanied by supposedly attributed to Einstein you’ve no doubt seen on a slideshow during a dull hour of CPD encouraging you not to teach in the exact style the presenter is currently modelling.

Despite lampooning our obsession with the Victorian model of universal testing, it’s so often accompanied with the presenter remarking fatalistically that the testing is somehow inevitable, so the actual point of the image is entirely lost.

Which is why I wanted the first post on this blog to be about Genius Hour, which moves beyond the ‘philosophy of failure’ (copyright pending)  to a culture of success and celebrating individual achievements. The potential of the idea is immense, and it was being developed for the educational landscape of the US by Chris Kesler in his excellent blog GeniusHour. He seems to have gone of the project after 2013, but its potential is still as valid today as ever.

In an Inclusion context, it could: be employed as a way for EAL students to develop a passion for literature written in their own languages; it can give a wider cross-section of students access to arts and sports based therapies (My Year 12 students have consistently lamented the loss sports time this year), or as time for Gifted and Talented students to be supported in the pursuit of a personal project.

As this site, and the associated Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIN components, have all arisen as a direct result of discussions, ideas, and support from my MAGT students, it seemed pertinent to address the idea in the first post, and to offer them my heartfelt thanks for increasing my need to check the internet religiously, but also to continue the never-ending quest to research and improve my own practice.

For other resources on Genius Hour, please see: Edutopia and Nichole Carter’s excellent article.

For an explanatory video, please see:





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