20% Time: Time to imagine, tinker, and create, no strings attached.

“The change we are in the middle of isn’t minor and it isn’t optional”
 Clay Shirky

Summer is the time to imagine the bold classroom of your teacher dreams. One idea I had tucked away to re-examine was the “Google 20% time to tinker” idea that I first read about in Dan Pink’s book “Drive“.

I had seen Phil McIntosh (@mistermcintosh ) tweet that he was trying it.

Our conversation continued and Phil tweeted out a link to an article about “20% Time” in his classroom at the middle school setting. ( Personal Learning and Creation Time in Middle School )

At ISTE I heard of and seen many concrete example of students creating and making amazing and tangible projects (for lack of a better word).

I heard Gray Stager (@garystager ) talk about how students need to be creators and makers (think of Maker’s Faire, see CNN clip or think of Caine’s Arcade). I also listened to discussions on how we flip Bloom’s taxonomy might be need some flipping see inverted bloom’s taxonomy.

I was inspired to find a way to get my students making. 🙂

Many teachers who teach content laden courses are trapped in a deeply rooted pervasive belief  that students have to know ALL (of the content) before they can DO anything.  I know this because I was there!!

“The future belongs to a different kind of person,” Dan Pink says. “Designers, inventors, teachers, storytellers — creative and empathetic right-brain thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.”

So the plan I have so far is to give students 20% of class time (2 classes/month) to create, invent, or make “something”.

No regurgitated research projects, essays, or information based posters.

I would some show examples of projects (High Tech High Projects Science Leadership Academy Capstones and Inquiry). I would discuss with students the real world value of creating (MIT Media Lab) and build some community held criteria, but I really wish for students to own the time and to treasure what they feel passionate about.

I also feel that giving students time gives them the message: I trust you and I know you can do great things.

Questions I still have:
1. What if students “waste” this time ?  (students already “waste” time and maybe this would inspire them to be invested ?)
2. Any assessment tied to this? So far I am thinking no.
3. What do students need to show or share at the end of this process?
4. Do I offer students a list of possible activities? (again I am thinking no)
5. What if students really do not want to do this?

What do you think? Have I forgotten anything?

Is it realistic that students find a passion to connect to in this time?

Other resources:
1. Huffington Post Article – Pursue Passion: Demand Google 20% Time at School
2. Blog post by teacher AJ Juliani – The 20% Project (like Google) in My Classroom
. Thinkfinity Community – Would you ever try Implementing Google’s 20% Time?
. Google’s 80/20 – Adopted at a New Jersey School – 

5 thoughts on “20% Time: Time to imagine, tinker, and create, no strings attached.

  1. My first instinct is to say that Yes, students do need some direction for their tinkering time. I think with project based learning, this time is almost built in – when the student groups are creating their end product. I will allow them to choose what format their product takes (video, poster, presentation, prezi, Qwiki, etc) and then they work together to create it. Hopefully, they get creative with it and incorporate their own individual talents into it. I’m not sure yet how much time will be dedicated to this, but I think 20% is a good number to shoot for. On the other hand, I do see the value in giving students a few days at the end of the year to create WHATEVER they want – even if it is unrelated to biology, but they will have to share the final product with their classmates (and maybe school?). This way they have a public audience and a deadline. It would be interesting to see what the students created at this point – maybe they really enjoyed the class and wanted to dig deeper into a topic, or maybe they just want to draw a landscape painting of a random scene – either way – great idea!

    • Hi Amanda, thanks for your input and thoughts. I think I am going to stick with no assessment and some broad suggestions, but my hope is that if the time is really theirs, that they (the students) will take ownership and actually value it. I don’t think all students will buy in, as many see being in class as a contractual obligation (ie if I show up for class, I need to get something from it) but I am hoping it will shift the culture of class time a bit 🙂 I watched this video the other day which I thought got to the heart of the matter for PBL (for me). http://howtovideos.hightechhigh.org/video/265/What%20Project%20Based%20Learning%20Isn't

      I am also struggling with the PBL idea in Bio, as (as you know!) so much of it is descriptive (or where I get trapped). I need, as you blogged about, to let go of some of the content and offer bigger and deeper experiences for students.

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