A new chat is born

geralt (Pixabay) - license CC0 (Public Domain)
geralt (Pixabay) – license CC0 (Public Domain)

On Tuesday night, a new event was created. Two ICS teachers – Amy Hughes & John Meinz – started up an online chat on Twitter to connect with other teachers around the world, but particularly in this region.

They were inspired to do this by Jamie Raskin, who came to Addis to present at Learning 2.014 about Genius Hour and self-directed learning. Jamie delivered an inspiring Learning2 Talk about self-directed learning (or “heutagogy”), and also led 3-hour extended sessions on using Genius Hour in education.

Genius Hour – also called “20% time” – is a concept that has been most widely popularized by Google. Google gives its employees permission to spend 20% of their time on any project that interests them. They aren’t told what to do & they aren’t evaluated on that time spent …they are certainly not penalized for taking that time away from projects and work they’ve been assigned. Instead, they have the freedom to explore, to tinker, to experiment. Many of Google’s greatest and most successful projects have come out of work done during this time. It seems that when you give employees freedom to experiment and work on something they are really interested in, they can come up with some amazing things!

Teachers have started trying out this idea. If we give students time to explore new ideas, to try out things, and to work on something they are really interested in, what amazing things can they come up with? This is a powerful idea – not only for giving students more individualized education, but also for inquiry-driven instruction. Students who are given more freedom in choosing what to inquire about will dive deeper into it  and learn far more than if they were assigned a topic.

After learning more about Genius Hour and heutagogy from Jamie at Learning 2.014, some teachers started trying out this idea in their classrooms:

But it’s not enough to just try these kinds of things. It’s important to learn from people who’ve done this before: get their ideas, find out the tricks to avoid problems, etc. It’s also good to be able to ask these people the questions that you have about the process. Fortunately, with the internet, expert advice and information is just a few clicks away. And Twitter has become a terrific learning space for teachers to get information and talk with others about the process. So, Amy and John set up the first-ever #geniushour chat set in our timezone:

The excitement built, and at the appointed hour teachers from schools in Tanzania, Angola, South Africa, and Sudan joined ICS teachers for a free-form discussion. Questions were asked, resources were shared, and jokes were made! The pace was fast and furious, with tweets flying fast and responses coming quickly.

If you want to read the entire discussion, the whole archive of the chat is saved here.

At the end, everyone was very happy to have spent an hour of their evening discussing the idea of giving students time to explore their own interests.

And the discussion continued, with experts from elsewhere around the world spreading the news and offering advice!

Congratulations to Amy & John for starting an exciting and powerful discussion. Look for more participation and more good ideas at the next Africa (and Europe and Middle East!) chat the first Tuesday of every month!

#GeniusHour chats:

  • Africa/Europe/Middle East zone – 1st Tuesday of every month – 8:00 pm Eastern African Time (UTC+3)
  • North America – 1st Thursday of every month – 6:00 pm Pacific Time Zone (UTC -8) (time zone converter)



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