18 January 2014

20 Time Makeover

I missed the memo that Google had added rules to 20 Time, but I'm totally okay with it. In fact, a little additional structure and scaffolding suits me fine. @SECottrell of Musicuentos directed me to the Forbes post linked above with her post on Genius Hour, and I'd like to take a minute to point out what the guidelines recommended therein mean for my kiddos.

1. Urgency without alignment is wasted energy
The authors point out that Google can't be a jack of all trades and master them all at the same time. For the classroom, if the kiddos don't have a target to hit by the end of the course, then they'll never know when they're done. Granted, I think one of the biggest selling points of Genius Hour is the way it scaffolds lifelong learning, but at the same time, it they don't know what they're trying to accomplish or how to show once they have--or even how close they've come to it, we're just leaving the little darlings paddling on the horizon with no land in sight. Alignment could be very literal, as far as aligning with communication or cultural goals, such as those set forth by ACTFL. Alignment could just be "You have to teach your classmates to do something interesting, using only Spanish."

2. There's room to explore and power to be generated from those "intrinsically motivated"
So it all comes back to tapping into their interests. Surely there's something to be read, heard, written, and spoken about on anything that they come to class charged up about. So communication goals, with the proper community scaffolding, should be no problem. So give them a goal to work toward, an outcome they must demonstrate, the tools to achieve it, and the drive to talk about fishing or tae kwon do or motocross or Star Trek should keep them pushing forward with the task.

3. Focused free-thinking builds a "change engine" into the culture
That's the dream, folks: school not for schooling's sake, but for learning how to learn. We don't want to have to go back to school every time we want a new skill. We don't want to pay for classes every time we want to learn a new language or become more fluent. So with just enough direction and just enough freedom, maybe we can start steering away from grade grubbing and just passing.

The Forbes authors from Kotter International also suggest the following steps to make this happen:

  • Re-build urgency. I'll say it again: if they don't feel like they're getting away with something, they're not doing it right.
  • Share the vision. This is what we do, people. It's all too easy to sit back and assume their favorite topic will keep them going, but we do need to remind them what exploring their passion in the target language can do for them, namely, open up their contacts and connections and basically blow open what they thought they knew while discovering a new way to express what they know now.
  • Clear the path for those with a great idea. If they want to bring props and turn out the lights to tell a scary story, congratulations are in order! If they want to use their angle for their Genius Hour to spice up their cooking project or to tie in to their proficiency practice, all the better! If they want to team up on their presentation and combine their knowledge of car parts and classic designs, awesome! Inspiration is a beautiful thing.
  • Share news of the progress. I'm all about some target language blogging, let me tell you, and I even carve out time and dole out credit for having kiddos comment on each other's blogs. I'm particularly pleased with the results of having them spend a class period responding to each other's Genius Hour reflection posts and then responding to each other's responses. I'd like to do more with follow-up on ideas they get from each other and do more recognizing (as I had intended) of good stuff when I see it. I think some more built-in straight-up chat sessions and class conversations would be a valuable use of time too, maybe some "speed-dating" wagon wheel discussion to see who's got the best discovery each month!
  • Wash, rinse, repeat. I firmly believe that routine is the key to the success of Genius Hour, Project-Based Learning, and anything else that means students are learning how to learn for themselves, especially in the target language. Teach them strategies for discovery, how to process it, and they can continue discovering all their lives!

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