Leading a Digital School Conference 2015

This week I will be presenting 2 sessions at the 2015 Leading a Digital School Conference. Abstracts and session resources can be found below.


Google Apps for Education and BYOT

Abstract: Google is much more than a search tool – it is an extraordinary tool for education. Cloud-based technologies are now enabling “anytime and anywhere” access which has the ability to redefine learning and teaching for our staff and students. The vast suite of Google Apps and tools offer distinct advantages and powerful collaboration for its users. This session will: – Unpack the advantages and disadvantages of Google Apps For Education. – Provide resources and advice for deploying Google Apps in an educational setting. – Provide examples of Google tools in action in a primary setting. This session is intended for educators with basic knowledge of Google Apps or starting to experiment with some of Google’s offerings. It is also suitable for anyone considering whether Google Apps for Education is suitable for their school context, and if it might complement a BYOT program.



Ignited Learning through Genius Hour

Abstract: Genius Hour, inspired by Google’s 80/20 time, is a timely change from the industrial model of schooling. Time is set aside each week for students to take ultimate control of their learning. Teachers will no longer dictate the entire curriculum of the teaching and learning that is taking place in their classrooms. Students will have choice and voice in their learning as they pursue their interests and passions. It is Passion Based Inquiry Learning at its finest, and is engaging and motivating students around the globe to unprecedented levels. More information can be viewed at http://www.geniushour.com. This session will: – Explore the disruption of a traditional pedagogical approach that goes beyond the idea of flipping delivery of content, but flipping how, what and when students learn. – Discuss successes and surprises from a recent school implementation of Genius Hour. – Provide resources and advice for implementing a Genius Hour / 20 Time program in your school context.


2015 Edu On Air: Ignited learning through Genius Hour

Last week I had the privilege of presenting on Google Edu On Air, a 2 day global PD event that took place online. Many keynotes and over 100 sessions took place this year, all of which can be watched on demand from the 2015 Google Edu On Air website.

My session, titled ‘Ignited learning through Genius Hour’, was an overview of our school’s experiences five iterations of Genius Hour in Year 5 and 6 and the lessons learnt since it’s inception.

A recording of the session can be viewed below, as well as on the Google Edu On Air website.



On demand Edu On Air page

Presentation slides

Session materials

Google+ event


Hacking student passions through Genius Hour

This article originally appeared in Educational Technology Solutions Issue 64 (APR/MAY 2015)


10 Principles Of Genius Hour

Genius Hour is a movement picking up traction globally – an opportunity where students given true autonomy explore their own passions and exercise creativity in the classroom. It allows pure voice and choice in what students learn during a set period of time during school. Genius Hour is student-driven, passion-based inquiry at it’s best which can be enhanced by technology in the hands of modern learners. Put simply, it is a time where learners choose what to learn and how to learn.

A traditional view-point of education is one where teachers map curriculum and standards, plan and control units and lessons based on those standards. Yet in Genius Hour, students are the ones completely in control, choosing what they study, how they study it, what they do, produce or create as a result.

With the ever increasing rise of information and communication devices in the hands of students, Genius Hour is allowing students to pursue their interests, seek information, and make genuine impacts in ways never possible otherwise.


Where has Genius Hour come from?

Genius Hour is commonly associated with innovative companies like Google, where engineers spend up to 20% of their time working on projects they are interested in and passionate about. The study and process is motivated intrinsically instead of extrinsically, which lets people work on whatever sparks them and therefore reaps productivity benefits. Engineers spend up to one day of their working week on projects and initiatives of their choice. Have you heard of or use Gmail? If so, you are enjoying the use of a product conceived during 20% time, an idea that started with one person’s interest which now benefits millions of others.

In 2011 Daniel Pink blogged about this idea in relation to other workplaces in his post  ‘The Genius Hour: How 60 minutes a week can electrify your job’. He stated that:

“Each week, employees can take a Genius Hour — 60 minutes to work on new ideas or master new skills. They’ve used that precious sliver of autonomy well, coming up with a range of innovations including training tools for other branches.”

If the idea is to give employees in a workplace a scheduled time each week to think, learn and explore themselves and their work environment better, more creative and more exciting things might ensue. In essence the idea is very simple. If you give time for creativity, discovery and learning, you create an opportunity for empowerment and growth of both the individual and therefore the organisation.

His blog post sparked conversation with educators on Twitter, and shortly after, the hashtag #GeniusHour  was born. Since then, educators globally have been marvelling at the engagement and motivation happening in classrooms adopting the idea of Genius Hour. A group of educators around the globe are actively compiling resources and reflections of this movement which can be accessed from geniushour.wikispaces.com, and is an excellent go-to point for any one interested in pursuing this idea further.


How does Genius Hour work in our school?

Similar 20% Time principles were applied to our school setting in our version of Genius Hour. Together with my colleagues we went about designing this opportunity for our students.

We set aside time for students to work on their own projects. We challenged them to explore or do something that they were interested in. They would spend several weeks researching and working towards their projects before sharing their results. We would show students how to use ICT’s to research, create, communicate and collaborate to carry their intended actions.

The Genius Hour projects became revolutionary. They changed students’ thinking and developed their knowledge and experience even if their projects didn’t quite work out. We placed emphasis on the process of learning, innovation and iteration; not the product itself. After all, if a student’s intended product didn’t eventuate or failed numerous times, haven’t we created a valuable and meaningful learning experience?

We discovered that it is not just the projects which are important. Rather, it is how the underlying skills that empower students to transform themselves into active and critical citizens in their education and future lives that really mattered.

All students are naturally curious. Our job as educators is to get them to realise how to take productive actions on those interests. Here lies  the essence of Genius Hour:  the point being that students learn how to transform their passions and interests into actions. Through this they realise that they don’t have to be a bystander, but they can take actions that matter, and that they can make contributions and communicate their understandings in an ever-connected globalised world.

It has been extremely positive to see a high level of engagement and motivation during the term as students were working on their projects. I remember on one particular day during the term I had a professional development to attend outside of school. In the afternoon I returned to find the whole Year 5/6 level working on their Genius Hour projects. When I walked into our building, I found students in different spaces, not necessarily in their home class or with their home teacher, using various pieces of technology, from their laptops, to their mobile devices which they had brought in to assist them with their projects, to school video cameras to record and produce content. Not one single student was off task or disruptive (which is rare for an afternoon late in the week), and is a testament to the deeply personal and motivating influence of Genius Hour.


10 Principles of Genius Hour.

In commencing Genius Hour in my school I designed 10 principles based on what I have read and understood about Genius Hour, and suited it to our students and the desired process.

1) Start with a question – We wanted our students to lead an inquiry, and therefore the question became a crucial point in determining how the project unfolded. A great deal of time was spent with students in developing a question that was deep and complex (see principle two).

2) Be larger than Google – Technology allows us to retrieve fact-based questions quite easily, so we wanted our students to investigate a question and share their knowledge with something that cannot be answered with a simple Google search or a flick through a book. Why teach others about “What are reptiles?” when the answer can easily be discovered for oneself? Hence, we encouraged students to pursue a “Non-Googleable” question that could involve the use of technology or a library search to assist, but wouldn’t necessarily locate an answer in an instant.

3) Work towards a project – We wanted our students to have a desired outcome, product or goal related to their question so that they had a direction and could accomplish or achieve something during Genius Hour. We encouraged our students to think about what they might make, do, or teach to others (see principle four).

4) Make an impact – We wanted our students to think about how they could shape the world around them, whether that be on a local, national, or global stage. We raised the expectations that they could contribute something meaningful to their society and that their contributions were valued. Could they create a useful product? Could they carry out a socially just action? Could they teach others by tapping into their creative talents or passions?

5) Share your learnings – We wanted our students to communicate and celebrate their learnings to make those above-mentioned impacts. Students presented their projects to their peers in any format that they wished. We held an open expo day in our school where other students, teachers, and the local community came to see and celebrate our students’ passions and interests evident in their projects. We offered students the opportunity to connect to a virtual community via Google Hangouts, so that they might teach others, present to a meaningful audience, and seek feedback on their learning. We uploaded every project to our class blog to reach a global audience (see principle six).

6) Present and capture digitally – Students were free to use their school provided laptop or their own mobile devices for researching and presenting information. Whilst not all students used digital tools for creating or completing an action, having digital evidence meant that they could share their projects to the class blog and reach a wider audience.

7) Include a bibliography – We want our students to be digitally literate and 21st century responsible citizens; which means understanding sources of information, copyright, and giving credit where credit is due! As students uploaded their projects to the class blog as knowledge artefacts, they were required to include a bibliography for their images and sources of information.

8) Don’t ask for a mark – We wanted our students to be intrinsically motivated and self-critical of their own processes, and not expect that there would be a final mark or score for any produced product or presentation. As teachers we were critical of the impact that a score or rubric could dictate on a highly creative process. Instead we placed emphasis on the students conducting their own weekly self-assessments and reflections whilst giving and receiving teacher and peer feedback.

9) Work on your project only when your other work is complete – In some ways, Genius Hour is a direct contradiction to what goes on in most of our school day, where the teacher ultimately decides the content, even if it does include student voice and choice. Nevertheless, the nature of the beast is that there are areas of the curriculum in which students must be entitled to.

10) Learn by yourself or with others – We wanted our students to decide for themselves if they should pursue their interests individually or with others. Students used a variety of Google Apps tools to share their documents and presentations during the process with their teachers and peers. Students working independently could do so at home or at school. Pairs and small groups of students could share and work on files at the same time regardless of the time of day or place.

Below is an infographic that I have developed to display these principles visually, or click here to download as a PDF.






Genius Hour – an oxymoron?

Genius Hour is often challenged. After all, if it is indeed so good for students, why relegate it to only an hour? Whilst there is some truth to this premise, for some teachers Genius Hour might be a means to an end where their context is challenged by the impact of high-stakes testing, content-based teacher practises or other influences which might inhibit student voice and choice in the classroom. Genius Hour may offer a practical way of changing this paradigm, but certainly the principles are nothing new of contemporary or sound education practises. Whether it is the Maker / Tinker movement, Challenge / Problem Based Learning, or in this case Genius Hour, our job as educators is to carefully create and deliver pathways for students that cover an entitled curriculum for all, whilst delivering it in the most meaningful, relevant, and developmentally suitable manner for each child.


The impact of technological rich classrooms.

The idea of passion-based learning or passion projects are not new. In fact, I remember completing my own project about dinosaurs in the early nineties in my primary schooling; ironically enough, it was also one of my most vivid learning experiences from that era. In that time, education was mostly bound by teacher control, with typical information accessed from textbooks and the library. In today’s modern classroom, a reflection of an ever-increasing technologically developed world, students have a multitude of avenues to seek and find information, and have an arsenal of physical and digital tools at their disposal.

As such, we live in an age where information is becoming ever ubiquitous, should you know how to find it an discern it. This is an essential and basic fluency that any citizen needs. However, beyond this lies an even more important facet. It should be with urgency that we encourage our students to pursue deep and meaningful experiences that go beyond surface level learning being permeated by our increased access to information.

Our aim should be to push the boundaries of kids and their imaginations so that they become creative citizens who find problems and develop ways to solve them. We need to stretch their minds so they fully believe themselves to be capable of genius as they go forth into an uncertain future.


You can find more information about our Genius Hour implementations via this blog – http://anthsperanza.global2.vic.edu.au/category/geniushour/

To view examples of our student’s projects see – http://stmarks56.global2.vic.edu.au/category/geniushour/


Design Thinking during the Genius Hour process

“How might we use Design Thinking and ICT to increase student engagement and motivation during the inquiry process?”

The CEOM ICON Research Schools Project aims to research powerful approaches to learning and teaching that harness the richness of technology in order to provide opportunities to transform learning. As a participating school we are supported to conduct our own research in our setting. Together with other participating schools, we are invited to produce artifacts to inform the CEOM system towards ICON.

This is a reflection for our school’s progress in 2014.

For our school, our Inquiry question was:

  • How might we use Design Thinking and ICT to increase student engagement and motivation during the inquiry process?

In particular, we wished to apply this question to our Genius Hour program in Years 5 and 6. The Design Thinking process and tools were used for both staff planning when designing learning opportunities for students, as well as mapping the current Genius Hour program against this process.



In Genius Hour, students develop personal questions of their choice and research and present in any method they wish. They are able to work collaboratively or independently towards an action, and is a form of Passion Based Learning that follows a line of inquiry.

Students have already been visibly engaged and motivated during the Genius Hour program. However, as a relatively new program which was introduced last year, the team felt that there were opportunities to strengthen the process of inquiry within Genius Hour as well as consolidate and build upon the use of ICT.

In Years 5 and 6, students are provided with one-to-one access of a Windows 8 ultrabook. In Genius Hour, students use technology to:

  •  Submit proposals: via a Google Doc shared between the relevant teachers and students. Comments can be made as feedback during the proposal and planning stages.
  •  Conduct research: using Google Search on the World Wide Web, as well as World Book Online.
  •  Create products: producing video and pictures, designing websites, or coding games and applications. At times this includes the use of personal technology that students are encouraged to bring.
  •  Share learning: via a Google Presentation, shared between the relevant teachers and students.
  •  Communicate learning: via the Year 5 and 6 blog, where final projects are posted for the wider community. A selection of students also shared their learning via Google Hangouts to reach the parent and wider community.
  •  Collaborate and extend beyond their community: Some students worked with another school (St. Francis of Xavier Primary School in Box Hill) who were also doing Genius Hour using the Google Apps platform.

The aim of our research was to examine ways in which we can use design thinking and consider the use of technology to further strengthen the inquiry process throughout Genius Hour, so as to improve student engagement and motivation.


Measures of success

From a qualitative standpoint, we hoped that if we succeeded we would see an improvement in:

– engagement

  • less off task behaviours.
  • increased ownership of projects.
  • increased quality of projects (depth of questions).
  • increased positive attitudes towards Genius Hour.

– motivation

  • increased perseverance throughout the process.
  • increased impact of projects (in terms of a positive influences unto others).



Through NoTosh resources and support with the work conducted at the CEOM leadership days and team based days, several deliberate actions were introduced to the Genius Hour program:

Immersion / synthesis:

  • Viewed St. Francis of Xavier Primary School’s (Box Hill) Genius Hour presentations on Google Hangouts
  • Generated ideas using “100 ideas in 10 minutes” and evaluated them
  • Categorised questions as “Googleable vs Non-Googleable” using a filter
  • Presented provocations from the Google Science Fair and example of IBM’s Watson Super Computer
  • Developed questions using the Complex Questions Matrix
  • Gave the opportunity to a few students to work with another school on a joint Genius Hour project effort. Students at St. Francis in Box Hill who are also doing Genius Hour were able to work with students from St. Mark’s using the Google Apps platform



  • Communicated progress of projects on the Year 5 and 6 blog
  • Gave opportunities for feedback (kind, specific, useful) in small groups at various stages


Exposition / Presentation:

  • Uploaded all projects to the Year 5 and 6 blog.
  • Shared learning (10 groups) on Google Hangouts to an estimated audience of 300. Participants answered questions from viewers outside of the St. Mark’s Community.

These actions can also be viewed via this Thing Link.

As a third and fourth generation of the Genius Hour program, a lot of improvements have been observed anecdotally:

Quality and depth of projects – When comparing the sets of questions and projects against previous iterations of Genius Hour, students have been far more creative, original and inquisitive in their research. The deliberate teaching of a “Non-Googleable” question to this part has been instrumental, as has been the high bar and expectation for students for their projects to be meaningful.

Perseverance and engagement in students – In this iteration of Genius Hour, the teachers have observed increased determination and perseverance. As a long-term activity, students in the past have become disinterested or “lost” with their projects. There has also been increased enthusiasm and excitement for the times in which students are given specific time to work on their projects at school.

Ownership and collaboration amongst peers – A problem with Genius Hour in the past has been with medium to large sized groups, which can be dominated by a few students, or have timid students reluctant to participate. There has been a lot more shared ownership of the projects, leading to less “bystanding” and more active participation.


As part of our evaluation, we developed a survey to ascertain the attitudes and behaviours towards Genius Hour. 103 responses were collected out of 126 students. Students were asked to what extent they were enjoying Genius Hour this term, and then to respond by explaining their answer:

 gh feedback 1

low responses

medium responses

high responses

“Well this year it is different and so the question is harder to make so did not get to do a topic that I was interested in”

“I like it a little because last year they got to do it on whatever they want they could even make a game”

“I love working with other people but my group members muck around and we never get our work done”

“I’m enjoying the freedom of doing whatever you like but I not enjoying it because I’m falling behind, so to fix that problem you should give us more time.”

“We can use our own creative talents and we can make it our own project. Also we can do it with who ever we like and be fun and creative with it. Plus it is easier to learn what you’re interested in!”

“I like doing Genius Hour because I take more control of my learning and I like doing Genius Hour because it challenges me.”

Students were then asked to rank their agreement on the following statements:

Genius Hour makes me happy Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 2%

Neither Agree or Disagree 20%

Agree 52%

Strongly Agree 25%

Genius Hours inspires me to try something new Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 1%

Neither Agree or Disagree 9%

Agree 57%

Strongly Agree 33%

Genius Hour challenges my thinking Strongly Disagree 1%

Disagree 1%

Neither Agree or Disagree 15%

Agree 52%

Strongly Agree 31%

I feel energised during Genius Hour Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 5%

Neither Agree or Disagree 32%

Agree 43%

Strongly Agree 20%

Doing Genius Hour is useful for me Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 3%

Neither Agree or Disagree 25%

Agree 52%

Strongly Agree 19%

I am bored during Genius Hour Strongly Disagree 41%

Disagree 44%

Neither Agree or Disagree 13%

Agree 2%

Strongly Agree 2%

Genius Hour is interesting for me Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 0%

Neither Agree or Disagree 14%

Agree 52%

Strongly Agree 34%

I want to do well during Genius Hour Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 0%

Neither Agree or Disagree 6%

Agree 36%

Strongly Agree 58%

I care about my work and efforts during Genius Hour Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 0%

Neither Agree or Disagree 6%

Agree 41%

Strongly Agree 53%

I am “in the zone” during Genius Hour Strongly Disagree 2%

Disagree 3%

Neither Agree or Disagree 41%

Agree 41%

Strongly Agree 14%

I use my time effectively during Genius Hour Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 3%

Neither Agree or Disagree 19%

Agree 57%

Strongly Agree 20%

We also collected data from teachers in other year levels on the Open Expo day, as we thought it might be useful to seek from teachers external and independent to the year level:


“There was a wide range of projects that reflected the children’s interests and ability.  The children that I spoke to were able to talk about the reason why they chose their particular area so I was able to see the purpose behind it. I enjoyed looking at the journey, not just the finished product.  I also noticed that for some students the journey will continue.

No matter how big or small the project was, all students were very proud to showcase their work and get feedback from their family, peers and teachers.”

“What an incredible celebration of creativity and imagination! The students appeared excited by their chosen field and proud of their accomplishments. They seemed to be more willing and able, this year, to discuss their work with depth and clarity. I was very impressed by the students’ use of trial and feedback to test and refine their work before showcasing it.”

“I was very impressed with the level of research and how well some students explained their research topic. The students were very engaged and very enthusiastic to show off their designs and outcomes.”

“A brilliant Genius Expo that showed imagination has no limit. It was a privilege to witness the journey (struggles, failures, successes. breakthroughs, frustrations…) and to experience the destinations. Not only was the learning and skills that were gained evident, self esteem of all the participants oozed from their presentation sites regardless of whether they had achieved their goal. Visible learning in action! Strong, focused leadership! And the Google Hang-out…so cool! Hope all of our school got to see it.”

“The time and effort the students put in was evident in the depth of their work. There was a genuine knowledge and passion coming from the kids about their chosen topics. It was very clear the children had control over the development of their projects and it was great to see a wide range of topics and interests investigated. No two projects were the same. I think it agave our 3/4’s something to aspire to, they came back inspired, with open eyes excited to tackle their own inquiry.”

Whilst there have been some positive gains in light of the teacher and student data, we feel there is still room for improvement.

 One of the key principles of Genius Hour is for students to make a meaningful impact on their wider community. Whilst some students appear to have the correct intention and motivations, we feel that on the whole students were not following through with their impact. After designing a graphic to assist students to reflect on their intended impact, it was clear that most students genuinely wanted to have a reach far beyond what they achieved but required assistance to do this.

Moreover, as highlighted by the student survey, they are some negative feelings towards Genius Hour. We feel that this could be a barrier to engagement and motivation if we are not effective in communicating the process or ideas behind Genius Hour for all students.

Design Thinking is a relatively new process and concept for the team but it has certainly made an impact. From a teacher standpoint, it has promoted critical and creative thinking that has improved the quality of the inquiry process.

Further resources

Term 2 Projects

Term 2 Hangout

Term 4 Projects

Term 4 Hangout

What do students at St. Mark’s think about Genius Hour?


What’s your impact?

One of the 10 principles of our approach to Genius Hour which we maintain to be of high importance  is to encourage students to have an impact beyond themselves. We want our students to think about how they could potentially change the world, whether that is on a local, national, or global stage. We are bringing the expectation that they could contribute something meaningful as a global citizen.

10 principles of genius hour

Our 10 principles of Genius Hour

What we found in our first iterations of Genius Hour last year was that this notion was hardly realised. Students unsurprisingly grappled with the foreign concept of undertaking a lengthy process of discovery on a deep level, let alone considering what they were going to do with their new found knowledge in the inquiry. This improved in 2014 as we applied a Design Thinking process to Genius Hour to focus on the development on a deep, complex and “Non-Googleable” question. The introduction of “How might we…” led naturally to tangible actions that could potentially lead to opportunities for sharing beyond a student’s own benefit.

During the proposal stages students considered what the impact beyond themselves would be. However when it came time to undertake the inquiry, students became caught up and often forgot about it and therefore was often too little and too late in the process  for their impact to be realised. Having said this, in our most recent Genius Hour attempt the majority of our students were able to at least make, teach or do something genuine for their school and wider community. Holding an Open Expo for the school community, and sharing projects via the level blog and on Google Hangouts certainly helped in this regard.

We asked our students to map out a self-assessment of their impact using a graphic organiser with the levels of SELF, SCHOOL COMMUNITY, WIDER COMMUNITY, STATE, NATION and WORLD by providing evidence of what they either made, did or taught. Upon completing this task, students reluctantly realised that their intended impact may not have been entirely realised.


In our next attempt of Genius Hour, we feel that it would be appropriate to use this graphic organiser during the ideation stage and development of the inquiry line. Our challenge as educators is to assist students during the inquiry process to connect them to opportunities that allow them to make their desired impacts, particularly those outside of the school community.

Below is a copy of the graphic should you wish to use it (or in PDF). I would be interested in hearing about how other educators are encouraging their students to think beyond their community and actually making their efforts a reality!

What's Your Impact


ISTE 2014 resources

Next week I will be travelling to the USA for this year’s ISTE conference in Atlanta. Last year was my first taste of this conference when I attended with the Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE) Study Tour group. During that time, I was inspired to return to ISTE no longer as a first timer but also as a formal presenter.

I’m happy to say that both of those are true for 2014, and I am particularly looking forward to sharing and connecting with others in an inspirational space once again. I will be speaking on 3 occasions at ISTE 2014, both formally and informally.


Unleashing the potential of Google Forms

One of my absolute favourite ways of using Google Forms is to use it for powerful assessments. I have presented this on the GAFE circuit a few times now. Whilst not new, it will be the first time that I present this abroad. There might be a few spots left for anyone interested! (Session: Monday June 30th at 10:30am)


Resources: http://bit.ly/1smY19y

Slides here or below:


ACCE Featured Speakers Session

The 2013 ACCE tour group brings back many memories, but also a reminder of how much time has taken place since then. Karen Swift, tour leader has invited me to speak to this year’s group at the Featured Speaker Session. The talk is aptly titled STACCE13: 12 months after the fact, and is a narrative of the inspiration that was taken from the 2013 tour, the principles of “Ready, Fire, Aim”, and levering PLN’s to have direct impact on student outcomes and experiences during our tinkering with Genius Hour (a well known pet of mine!).

Slides here or below:


HAPARA booth

And finally, Hapara will be scheduling several speakers who are currently using their awesome tool in their schools with Google Apps for Education. I believe it is a excellent add-on to empower teachers to utilise Google Apps to its full potential. One of the ways that our school has been using Google Apps is with student e-portfolios, and Hapara has played a pivotal role in this process. I will be talking about some of our experiences of this at the Hapara booth in the exhibition hall on Tuesday 1st July at 10:30am.

Slides here or below:

Google Apps For Education – What is it (good for)?

Today I have been asked to speak at the CEOM Eastern ICT Network Meeting and discuss some of the ways that our school has been using Google Apps For Education. This presentation draws on some previous work around Google Forms for assessment, Google Sites for e-portfolios, and Genius Hour.

Today’s presentation is titled “GAFE – What is it (good for)?” and showcases some of our recent highlights and successes of using Google Apps For Education in transformative ways. The slides can be accessed here or below:

TeachMeet Melb – #GeniusHour at St. Mark’s PS

Today I  will be presenting at TeachMeet Melbourne on our school’s recent #GeniusHour projects. In 2013, I also presented at a TeachMeet describing how we were just getting started with #Geniushour with our students. Today’s presentation is about what we have since learnt from the second half of 2013.

The presentation can be found here or below:

What I learnt from our first Genius Hour implementation

As posted previously, this term we introduced Genius Hour with our students. Since that post a few months back,  students got started on their projects with much enthusiasm. Google Docs and Google Presentation were popular tools of choice for collecting and synthesizing information, particularly those students who were working in pairs or small groups. I was surprised at how easily students managed to share created files with one another in their Google Drive to allow real time collaboration and access to occur within the group, even though we haven’t spent a great deal of time going through the share functions within Google Apps.


It was extremely positive to see a high level of engagement and motivation during the term as students were working on their projects. I remember on one particular day during the term I had a PD to attend outside of school. In the afternoon I returned to find the whole Year 5/6 working on their Genius Hour projects. When I walked into our building, I found students in different spaces, not necessarily in their home class or with their home teacher, using various pieces of technology, from their laptops, to their mobile devices which they had brought in to assist them with their projects, to school video cameras to record and produce content. Not one single student was off task or disruptive (which is rare for an afternoon late in the week!), and is a testament to the deeply personal and motivating aspect of Genius Hour.


Despite this, it was not all fair sailing in terms of students persevering and directing their own process, and applying critical and creative skills to their projects. This was expected, particularly as observed in the introduction of Genius Hour, that not all students coped well with 100% pure choice and voice of their learning. Below is a slide from my Teachmeet presentation about our Genius Hour introduction which demonstrates what happened when Genius Hour was first introduced:

Nevertheless, these students were supported accordingly. By the end term, every student had completed a project and presented it to the year level (bar a few who left early on holidays).


In the final weeks of term an Open Expo Day for the projects was organised. Students completed a google form with their group members and included the question they were researching, and an appropriate theme / subject matter for their project. We were then able to organise the 5/6 building accordingly into sections according to areas, much like a museum. The areas that were finalised included:

  • Health
  • Society
  • Sport
  • Computer Science
  • Environment
  • The Arts
  • Science & Technology
All students and teachers from year prep to 4, as well as parents of the school community were invited in to have a look at the projects. The expo went for an hour, and some visiting students complained that they did not have enough time to see everything! The atmposphere in the building was electric, as 130 eager 5/6 students welcomed, explained, educated and shared with their visitors what they had been working on during Genius Hour. The feedback from visiting students, teachers and parents was overwhelmingly positive.


One of the tasks that the students had to do before the end of the term was submit the projects so it could be displayed on the class blog. Another school also getting started with Genius Hour could then give our students feedback on their projects, and we could reciprocate in return. We used Form Plus to create a submission page where students uploaded their projects directly to a teacher’s drive account. We encouraged students to save their work as a PDF when possible to maximise compatibility for global viewers. Publishing content to the web was also a great opportunity to consolidate what students had learnt earlier in the year (around privacy, copyright, and citation of information) when they first received their laptop. The final projects can be seen from this blog post.


Annecdotally, the students have enjoyed Genius Hour immensely this term. We have asked them to complete a more formal evaluation of the Genius Hour program which I am yet to sit down properly and sift through. However, there is no doubt that Genius Hour engages and motivates students, promotes creativity, collaboration and true inquiry, and allows for powerful learning to occur from the access of their laptops.


Moving forward from here…

Second time around – Next term we plan to allow our students to work on another Genius Hour project. I am sure this time it will be even better than last time as both teachers and students improve the process and are inspired from each other to put their mind to great things.


Providing templates – I would consider providing a presentation template to students covering all requested elements of their project. Despite this being communicated to them at the start of the term, students often omitted some of this information in the class presentations.


Privacy, copyright, citations, etc. – Needs to be taught again, as students have learned about this but need to apply it properly in context. Publishing Genius Hour projects is a good platform for this! A large percentage of students had to resubmit their final presentations after they were uploaded because they included personal information, had plagiarized information and/or images, or did not have correct referencing.


Marking / scoring – Although I am reluctant to provide a formal score or mark for work which is highly personal and creative, it may be worth considering something for the student presentation to the class. Even some guidelines or a quality criteria would suffice. This was something that was neglected and would lift the quality of the presentations.