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Genius Hour: Exploring Your Passion

Who owns the learning? The students! Who’s working harder, and enjoying it? The students!                                                                                                        –Joy Kirr

Sometimes we have experts right in our own backyard and don’t necessarily realize it. Gallit Zvi is one of those teacher-leaders. She is creating a path for her students to pursue their interests. Her students own their learning. Gallit is actively engaged in promoting passion-based learning via the use of Genius Hour.  Gallit didn’t invent Genius Hour but is one of the lead-teachers in North America that is encouraging it. The credit for Genius Hour can be shared with others such as Denise Krebs (@MrsKrebs), Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers), Daniel Pink (author of Drive, @DanielPink) and many others.

Gallit Zvi (@gallit_z) is a grade five teacher at George Vanier Elementary School. Her school is one of the Innovative Learning Designs (Phase 1) schools in our district. Gallit’s teaching practice has been transformed by her beliefs about student learning.  Gallit shares her experiences with teachers in our district and around the world through her use of social media and blogging. She is a resource person for many other people. She writes eloquently about Genius Hour here. Moreover, she also created a wiki of helpful resources and links.

Foundational to Gallit’s teaching practice is her own beliefs about education and her role within it.

I believe it is my job to teach students to be creative, critical and inquisitive thinkers. Technology allows me to do this in a transformative way. This aligns with the BC Ed Plan, which states that as educators, our role has shifted from ‘being the primary source of content to focus[ing] on helping students learn how to learn.’  In order to achieve this I am a supporter of passion based learning through Genius Hour.  Genius Hour is an opportunity for students to choose what they want to learn about, by creating their own inquiry project.

Gallit makes use of technology with her students as well.  Her students have created ePortfolios, “in which they documented their own learning and showcased the work they were most proud of.” She writes about the experience here and shares the next steps in her own learning. Her students are very comfortable using technology to communicate as they blog and tweet regularly from their class account.  Her students also use all sorts of technology, from cameras to “their own devices, this was important to me, as I recognize it is important for students to learn how to utilize their own technology, when learning, responsibly.”

Gallit describes it herself in her own post, “because of Genius Hour I am a changed teacher forever.  I no longer need to be in control of all of the learning. I have learned that it is okay, and actually highly beneficial, to step back and allow the learning to happen.”

Thanks to Gallit Zvi for sharing her learning with me. I also want to acknowledge her teaching colleague (Hugh McDonald, @hughtheteacher) and her principal (Antonio Vendramin, @vendram1n) for their support of her learning. Gallit helps moderate a #geniushour twitter chat held once a month. The next one is Wed., Nov. 7th at 6 pm PST.