Robotics, Coding and Maker Space Leading us Toward Genius Hour

Kia ora! Talofa! Welcome to my learning journey! My name is Vicki Hagenaars and I facilitate learning within the Year 7 and 8 class at Waiouru School.

Waiouru School’s Senior team are inquiring into how we can maintain or enhance the accelerated learning taking place as a result of a very successful inquiry in the Junior School as the target group move through the school over the next three or four years.

I am wanting to implement two of the great ideas to encourage student agency and enterprise that I have learned about during my time as a facilitator for CORE Education now that I have moved back into a teaching role.

The first of the main ideas involved is the use of Maker Spaces, including coding, to encourage inquiry learning, problem solving, knowledge building, and innovative thinking among my students.  As the students have already undertaken woodwork, fabric and food technology as part of their learning this year I am looking to focus more on coding, robotics, electronics, polymorph, virtual reality and animation.

Another teacher is trialling the ideas associated with the ‘Grandad’s Shed’ version of Maker Spaces with her class.  Combining our findings over the next 18 months will help us to see whether the opportunity to design, make, redesign and recreate within these environments will encourage the continued improvements in learning across the same target group.

The second is Genius Hour. This is an education adaptation of the Google policy allowing their employees 20% of their work time to follow and develop the ideas and projects they are passionate about. In the long run this will involve the students using digital technologies in a variety of ways from research to coding to connecting with students or experts from around the world.  However, at the moment we are in a situation where the students do not know what they do not know.  Time this term spent learning new skills and working with some new tools will give the students a wider range of possibilities when it comes to choosing possible projects next year.  Over time the classes will probably be combined so that the Grandpa’s Shed Maker Space and the Digital Maker Space will be open to whichever students prefer to follow those particular project forms.

As a school already using Google Apps for Education the students will be encouraged to blog about their learning, including videos, photographs and other evidence of their journey into the learning pit and their climb out the other side.

Alongside this I am hoping to build a solid working relationship with whānau members and the wider community in order to encourage the students learning in areas that step outside traditional academic curriculum areas as their projects finally take flight next year.  There is a wide range of skills to be tapped into within this group of adults which will, in turn, help the students see the wider impact of their ideas and projects for their community or within other communities.

I am in the process of researching these ideas, as well as gathering the tools needed to implement them and aiming to develop them as a platform for my class to learn through the genuine application of the principles, values and key competencies contained within the NZC.  It will drive the learning they undertake to come from their own agency – experiencing failures as a positive step in their learning journey and developing their problem solving abilities, perseverance and resilience.  All of these traits are among the most common ones I hear teachers say our young people are lacking.

This inquiry will equally develop my own problem solving abilities as I have enough knowledge and learning to introduce the students to these new ideas but not enough to be regarded as an expert by any means.  Having my students see me uncomfortable in the learning pit with them, failing as part of the process and trying over and over again to implement new learning will place me on the same path of knowledge building that they themselves are on.  I look forward to this inquiry as, effectively, we will all be learning together.

The reflections as we move along the Digital Maker Space path this year, including the scraped knees and triumphs, will be shared through my blog – E-Learning Best Practice Discoveries.  Join me on the journey I am on this term and learn alongside me.


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