Genius hour and design thinking sketchnote resources

By September 21, 2016 No Comments

I’m speaking at the national Apple Regional Training Centre conference next week in the UK and one of the sessions I’m running is around the idea of the ‘Genius Hour’.

For those who haven’t come across it before, it was borne out of the idea of Google’s 20% time. This is time that is set aside for employees as part of Google’s drive (get it? #pun) to innovate within its ranks. Famously, such ideas as Gmail have come from a 20% time project by one of Google’s employees.

Genius Hour is meant to inspire and give children the opportunity to develop and build some of the most important skills in learning around the idea of collaboration, creativity and innovation, communication and critical thinking.

Genius hour - future skills

In my session I will be sharing about genius hour, linking to some people who are already big international advocates such as Graham Andre and Joy Kirr (thanks to both in helping me prepare for this session).

My work sees me travel the world and I am fortunate to have seen first hand in classrooms around the world that genius hour can have on children. From the classroom of Eleni Kyritsis of Teach, Tech, Play in Melbourne and beyond, genius hour is having an impact wherever it is implemented.

Part of the process involves asking children to think critically about how their projects. It isn’t just a case of thinking, what do I want to do and then going off and doing it. Each project has to have a purpose and the journey of each project should be meticulously thought about and documented. The process links well too to the idea of ‘design thinking’ something I first came across during my time working at Clevedon and Zoë Elder.

As part of my preparation and as a resource that I am going to share with you now, I created a number of documents using ‘Paper by 53‘ – one of my favourite iOS apps.

The first one is a planning sheet:


You will most likely notice that there is some typed text here. Paper by 53 has a feature whereby you can send designs you make straight into Photoshop CC for further editing. In this case, to make the heading stand out, I sent the sketch to Photoshop so that I could add in the text that you see above. Photoshop is a premium product which I absolutely love. If you don’t have it however and you want to achieve this effect if you aren’t happy with your handwriting, you could save the image and do this in other image editors. I do much prefer Photoshop however for its ease of use and extended features.

I repeated the same thing with the next planning document that I made as I really wanted the questions on the proposal sheet to be very clear and to take up as little space as possible in the boxes I created for student responses:


Due to the close links to design thinking, I wanted to include a design that would showcase the various stages of the design thinking process, so I went about creating another sketchnote that would highlight the different aspects.

I am not the world’s best sketch artist, it has to be said, and so with that in mind, another feature of Paper that I sometimes use is the public stream feature. This enables you to look at designs shared by others and gives you the ability to ‘remix’ the work of other people.


Upon looking through the stream I came across a remix made by Dutch artist ‘Wouter Haine‘. I loved his addition to the remix of ‘Wally’ from ‘Where’s Wally’ fame and so remixed his remix into a remix of my own:


I tweeted each of these resources on Twitter and they have proved very popular, as a result I thought that I would compile them together here into one post.

I hope that you find them useful. I am really looking forward to my session next week on Genius Hour. My thanks go to Graham, Joy and Wouter in helping me with this session.

If you would like to find out more about Genius Hour, please checkout Joy’s LiveBinder with a load of resources around the topic. If you’re interested in finding out more about design thinking and how it can impact on your classroom then please check out the work of you in Ewan McIntosh and his company NoTosh.