Reviewed by Terry Carter
Andi McNair’s Genius Hour is a great resource for those who want to release potential in students but do not know how or where to start. The processes and tools provided are a great foundation for students (and their teachers) to use as they pursue projects they are passionate about.
In the newsfeeds I follow, it seems that I see at least one good project a day and one great project a week, but very seldom do they offer suggestions on how their success can translate to other classrooms. This book does that and more.
Research and practice
The beginning of the book presents associated research that supports the activities in a manner that is easy to understand and follow. I know it seems that educators place certain researchers and authors on deserved pedestals, but I particularly enjoyed hearing ideas from other less familiar sources. McNair succinctly makes the case for implementing Genius Hour and how it can improve students’ overall educational experience.
The 6 P’s (passion, plan, pitch, project, product, and presentation) outline the process and provide good organizational tools that can be used to help projects stay on track. Backwards design is a great way to plan a project, but developing proper scaffolding to make it effective can be very challenging.
I got the feeling that the information McNair provided had been battle-tested and revised through multiple iterations of projects. When I have conducted interdisciplinary PBL training, one of the hardest parts for teachers is usually the scaffolding. This essential discussion alone makes the book worth a read because of the planning time saved and the inserted experience gained from a teacher who has implemented it in a classroom with real students.
The book concludes with a couple of sections on troubleshooting and suggestions. For those who have never attempted a project like Genius Hour, McNair offers tips to help students stay passionate, keep on track, and complete their projects. The challenge of making the projects connect to the real world is softened by words of encouragement and helpful ideas.
Since I am a strong supporter of project-, problem-, and situational-based learning, I found myself nodding in agreement and understanding throughout this book. Whether the reader is a novice or veteran, I feel that everyone will gain something of value from reading Genius Hour. This book will take an hour or two of reading, but can save months of researching and planning.
After 20 years in the classroom and three years as an instructional designer, Terry Carter found the work he enjoys with an education company that feels like family. His position as a Curriculum Specialist allows him the opportunity to collaborate with team members as they develop hands-on learning experiences for students that are closely tied to standards.