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Genius is as genius does

Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.   — John Cleese

Genius creates. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Genius hour. FedEx time. Call it what you will — it is meant for creation. Google returns 20% of its engineers’ time to them to work on whatever projects they wish. They can follow their interests and passions during that period of time. As a result, Google has developed products like Gmail and Google News from this time. Rather than stifling the creativity in its workers, Google has allowed that creativity to flow through their curiosity and drive. And it seems to have worked out well for everyone.

With students, the idea is just as simple. Provide them time to pursue their own interests. Notice I said “pursue”, not “think about.” The key here is to run this time in a PBL-esque way so that action is taken. Connections will be made as students are encouraged to follow their own ideas to fruition. Research followed by production.

The Nerdy Teacher blog showcases what can come of this time when students are guided but given choice in what and how they learn. Students don’t just enhance their own learning. They become global learners and contributors as their ideas take root and grow beyond the four walls of the classroom. That’s what we want, right? For them to become productive members of society? Why are we looking at that concept as a futuristic occurrence? Why can’t it happen now?

The stigma of the word “genius” has taken on too much weight. Hopefully, this type of movement will lighten the load and provide us real examples of what genius looks like…and that we will find it in our students. They already do so many things to create and share and make the world better. They want to do. And to paraphrase Forrest Gump, “Genius is as genius does.”

Turn Genius Hour Into Genius Year is a great article by Jennifer B. Bernstein, Ph.D. at Edutopia. She outlines some important points about how to get the most out of Genius Hour with your students, including daring them to go further and engaging in conversations that lead to more creation.

See what people are saying about Genius Hour on Twitter:

G+ Connected Classrooms

It seems like every time we turn around, Google is developing something new or piloting a new idea. Google Glass is the freshest in our minds, perhaps, but there are also innovative ideas that stem from existing technology. Google+ isn’t brand new, and neither is Google Hangouts. How we use them will change, though, and G+ Connected Classrooms is doing just that. Although I am sharing some links and examples of this here, it isn’t as much an endorsement as it is a look into how we can use technology to bring the world to us. Our students already do it in a number of ways, so this is a natural progression.

Connected Classrooms allow budget-constrained schools to take their students on field trips and meet experts otherwise inaccessible to them. This idea isn’t new. Earlier versions included recorded field trips in different areas. Then, it turned to live streaming events. The tech has gotten better and the experiences richer. Richer experiences can lead to richer learning. That is the key here. What are we doing to enrich the opportunities our students have to ask questions, think creatively, and explore what this world has to offer? Searching Google for an answer doesn’t inherently lead a learner to ask more probing questions. As teachers, we need to encourage that kind of reaction to knowledge. Ask more questions! A live virtual field trip has a better chance of inciting curiosity in and of itself. There must still be a teacher presence to facilitate discussion, critical thinking, and questioning, though. What a way to generate it, though!

Here is a video overview of the G+ Connected Classrooms experience.

How would you use this type of technology? How would you encourage curiosity and questioning as part of this experience? The questions we ask are often more poignant, profound, and prophetic for our learning than the answers we seek.

Just as an addition, here is an example of classes taking a virtual field trip to the Seattle Aquarium via the G+ Connected Classroom in Google+ Hangouts on Air.

Generate QR Codes in Google Spreadsheet

Apparently, Google Spreadsheets contain the ability to auto-generate a QR code by entering a particular function for a cell to run. It pulls the data from another cell into it and generates a nice little QR code for use. How have I not known about this?! I tweeted about this today, but it’s worth a quick post to put the question to readers. What could you do with this type of function? It seems every time we turn around, Google is tweaking something to make life easier, or to make productivity more fun. I think this falls into that category. The hype over QR codes seems to have died down for the most part. Every now and then I will see an attempt at resurrecting them. Just because it doesn’t sparkle any more doesn’t mean it has lost all hope of purpose.

The question still stands. What could you do with this type of function in Google Spreadsheets? What could students do? It’s obviously time-saving. The Next Web has a post about it.  A student posted in his blog (which is reference in The Next Web post) about its use. Tammy Worcester also posted a tech tip about it here.

Ask yourself this question, but perhaps you should ask it of your students as well. I can come up with a list of ideas for how to leverage this trick, but I would imagine students coming up with far more ideas than I ever could.