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Freedom for Experimentation = True Learning

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November 2011

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I had the privilege of working with a very talented teacher this week in Crowley, TX.  He teaches Computer Technology, Computer Maintenance, and Futures in STEM at the district’s career and technical high school.  One of his goals this semester was to implement a Genius Hour time for his students.  It was a huge success.  He used Google Forms for the students to self-assess.  He has already had many asking when the next project could begin (with several planning on furthering the work they started earlier).  When I was talking about the experience with him, his response to me was, “Wouldn’t it be great if every day at school could be like Genius Hour?”

It would be great, and I honestly believe it could work.  Students would still be held accountable for their learning. Teachers could still ensure that the state standards and curriculum were being learned.  The difference is that our students would be utilizing critical and creative thinking skills like never before.  They would be highly engaged since they chose the subject matter.  They would be working on real-world application to the knowledge, skills, and concepts they acquire during their study time.  Teachers would be available to teach personalized minilessons in the moment.  Students would see that taking risks is not only accepted but encouraged as a way to learn and grow.  How much of that takes place in a teacher-centered classroom?  It’s the freedom for experimentation that leads students to take ownership over their own learning.

“When experimentation is seen as necessary and productive, people will enjoy their work.” Ed Catmull

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