INNOpod 3

Genius Hour with Nicholas Provenzano

This INNOpod, Genius Hour, introduces just a slice of the work that is occurring in partnership between the Center on Innovations in Learning, the Michigan Department of Education, and the Great Lakes Comprehensive Center. Greater personalization for every student's learning is a priority for Michigan. To make this a reality, Michigan has established expectations, structures, and services to support its districts and schools. CIL is excited to build upon this important work and share it with educators throughout the country who are also in pursuit of greater personalization for their students’ learning. We thank Nicholas Provenzano, a high school English teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School in Grosse Point, Michigan, for lending his time and expertise to this project.  Check out this must-access resource for Genius Hour before starting.

Start by clicking "1" if you're here for the first time, or jump to any segment.


What is a Genius Hour

 (Or 20% Time, or Passion Project)?


How Nicholas Provenzano Solves the Challenge of Personalization


Nicholas Demonstrates Genius Hour


Research, Resources, and Social Media

In 2014, Nicholas was interviewed by CNN about his use of Genius Hour and what it meant for his students and their learning.  Read about it here.  Nicholas has created a very complete webinar that will show you exactly how he plans, implements,

and assesses Genius Hour in his classroom in #3. There is also an in-depth interview

with Nicholas next in #2. Check out his latest book here.

What Is Genius Hour (or 20% Time, or Passion Project)?


Genius Hour is categorized under the umbrella of blended learning.

GENIUS HOUR is sometimes referred to as 20% Time or Passion Project. It originated from innovative companies, like Google, where employees are allowed to spend 20% of their time at work to conduct research and pursue projects of their own interest. You may have heard of Gmail or Google News…they are both products of Genius Hour. Seeing the potential for making learning personal for children, this idea is now used in classrooms to allow students to explore their interests and investigate their burning questions.

Educators who successfully use Genius Hour comment that it is not enough to just allot the time. Here are some of the elements that successful Genius Hour systems have in common:

Inquiry: students formulate a question to drive their work


Research: students plan how to answer their question by determining what angle to approach the question and what sources they will tap into for information


Prototyping: students develop an outline, plan, or blueprint for the product they will create or the process they will demonstrate related to their question and the information they gathered


Creating: students build, write, or develop the product to demonstrate their learning


Presenting: students present their findings and/or their product to others


Watch this brief video that describes Genius Hour:

You will find additional resources throughout this INNOpod, but we don't want to wait another minute to introduce you to Nicholas Provenzano, an English teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School in Grosse Point, Michigan. Nicholas inspires educators to try an innovative teaching method which personalizes learning for students and gives practical tips on making time to fit it into the classroom schedule.


How Nicholas Provenzano Solves the Challenge of Personalization One Day at a Time


Nicholas Provenzano was contemplating student engagement during a summer break, specifically how to get his students more involved and invested in their learning. He started by looking at his schedule: implementing Genius Hour would require 20% of his weekly allotted instructional time. Find out what he did next.

Warning: After listening to this INNOpodcast, you will be both inspired and equipped with concrete steps to get started with Genius Hour in your classroom. Congratulations, it will be AMAZING!

  • While you're listening...

    Track indicators throughout Nicholas’s presentation (his instruction and students’ learning) here.

    Take general notes here.

    Follow the summery of the episode here.

As you watch this webinar, jot notes about what you observe, what questions you have, and what ideas Nicholas’s demonstration sparks for you. Keep the Personalized Learning Indicators Checklist close by. You will observe many of the indicators in action.


Nicholas Demonstrates His Understanding and Implementation of Genius Hour


Process Your Learning & Plan for What's Next

A lot of information has been provided–and there is still more to come. If you haven’t already, download the Next Steps and Planning Guide, which will help you organize the knowledge, ideas, and burning questions you’ve captured and turn them into your next steps for moving forward.

The Michigan Department of Education developed a series of personalized learning webinars led by school-level educators to demonstrate and share their personalized learning practices. This webinar, Creating a Genius Every Hour, is led by Nicholar Provenzano. His presentation begins at approximately 3:10.



Writing, organization, and structure of INNOpod Series by Maureen M. Mirabito for CIL


A national content center supported by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

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