Spaces for Learning

I’m seriously thinking about how to incorporate 20% time or a genius hour into my classroom this year.  I want to create spaces for student-initiated learning.

The idea of passion-based learning–learning that students are motivated to do for their own reasons–appeals to me because of my experiences following my interests and passions as I learn.  I’ve been known to tell people that I’m not a good students (in spite of my advanced degrees).  That’s because I’m not particularly interested in doing other people’s assignments unless they are meaningful to me.  And yet when I’m interested in something I pursue the topic relentlessly–uncovering information and testing and trying my own approximations as I learn. My photography is an example of passion-based learning.


And then I’m a teacher by profession.  That means I give assignments to others to do.  And a lot of the time my students do those assignments willingly and really do learn.  But at other times they are resistant–for a variety of reasons–like me.  And yet, I know that learning is deeper and lasting when it is personally meaningful.  I have always worked to create meaningful learning opportunities for my students–and yet, I feel like I can still do better.

So how do I create time for self-initiated learning in a classroom full of kids?  What structures will make this opportunity doable?  What impact will this passion-based learning have on other learning in the classroom?

And how does being connected increase students’ learning?  Can using their blogs amplify their learning experiences?  What about opportunities to collaborate with other students in the classroom?  Can we bring outside experts in using digital media?

I have a lot to think about and plan for before now and the beginning of the school year in less than a month.  If you have ideas or have made this work in your context…please share!

10 thoughts on “Spaces for Learning

  1. Sheri

    Kim, I so agree with you, especially since the focus on data and testing has so diminished the joy of learning. I suggested and we implemented Genius Hour for our middle school (6, 7 ,8 ). Each Friday morning for 2/1/2 hours students in my Language Arts class pursue the project of interest to them. In their math/science class, the morning is spent in longer science labs. In their social studies, students research and create projects related to their topic of study at that time. We see all classes in the afternoon for a shortened period. The next week, students attend a different hour (so I’d have 6th grade one week, 7th the next, and 8th the next). We have a celebration of success on the fourth Fridays. It’s so interesting to watch as students engage in learning and find joy in the doing. Have you seen the Genius Hour Wiki? Gallit, Denise, and Joy are amazing Genius Hour teachers — just amazing people! Follow them on Twitter, and join the wiki. They will provide suggestions. Be sure to say hi from @grammasheri. Once you start, your kids won’t let you stop!

  2. Christine

    While visiting High Tech Elementary in Chula Vista, I enjoyed their “Wondering Walls”. They were a place to document students’ questions. Sometimes the Wondering Walls were restricted to questions about the current topic of study (similar to a KWL), but in some cases the walls were for wondering about anything at all. This might be a starting place for your genius hour because of the generative power of questions.

  3. Terry Elliott (@tellio)

    I am trying to balance in my own teaching this need for ‘romance’ that Whitehead writes about with the need for ‘mastery and precision’ that we also need. We need mad skillz and mad skillz are often hard earned and seemingly opposed to passion. But I think passion drives precision. We should be constantly reminding the learners we are working with that passion does not always manifest as creative impulse but as working impulse. The Muse cannot be compelled but our sitting down every day to invite it is. And if the Muse doesn’t come then we substitute precision for passion. And I think your impulse to create meaningful ecological niches for learning are worthwhile even if they don’t quite work or if students don’t quite take them up. If what you create has the capacity for remix or revision or allow for multiple learning paths in and through the mad skillz they need to get, then all the better. I look forward to reading about these exploits, yours and theirs, throughout the fall both here and on the G+ community.

    1. kd0602 Post author

      “…passion drives precision.” Terry, that comments resonates powerfully with me! Thanks too for the reminder that there is value to spaces even if they don’t work for everyone is quite the same way. Multiple learning paths…we need more of those! Stay tuned…


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