Google’s 20% Time In Education


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20% time in education is a development that I don’t believe can be ignored.  This movement presents an amazing opportunity for teachers to cultivate individualized learning experiences.  Several years ago, CIO of SCH Academy Pete DiDonato introduced the 10% time initiative to the SCH innovation team—yielding much success.  Here is a snippet from a SCHift blog post he wrote  last year:

Each member involved spends 4 hours per week working on topics, projects, or ideas he or she is passionate about and is that are not part of their current workload. 10% time can be used in two 2 hour sessions or one 4 hour session. This work can be directly related to future projects, new technologies, improving current processes, solving a problem, or re-inventing a concept or workflow. Those involved in 10% time can work in teams or independently. 

I had a great conversation with AJ Juliani this week about a recent blog post of his – Designing 20% Time in Education.  This, along with my 10% time experience, has prompted me to start thinking about how I can help faculty begin implementing in SCH classrooms.  I encourage you to read the entire post to consider how 20% time might benefit your students.

At this point you’re either eager to participate in a 20% project, or curious as to how this is relevant to you and your students. We often talk about personalizing the student experience, transitioning away from the one size fits all approach, and mentoring students to find their passion.  This is a perfect opportunity to move towards each of these goals.  The 20% movement empowers students by allowing them to have a voice in their education.  A simple example of a 20% project in your classroom could start by allowing students to choose their own reading for a research project.  In our conversation AJ suggests 20% time allows students to research and hit the big five skills: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing. If my time-machine wasn’t in the shop at the moment, I’d fire it up and go back to January when I started teaching my gaming course.  I would implement 20% time by allowing the students to choose the games they created—providing them with much more creative ownership in their designs.

Curious as to how you might use 20% in your classroom? AJ will be facilitating the 20% Academy MOOC this July that will cover inquiry-driven and user-generated research (and practices) while each member of the class completes their own 20% Project.  This could be a terrific opportunity to help generate creative ideas to help you delve in. If you would like to join this MOOC with me, sign up here.

Another avenue for 20% in education is with professional development.  Read Eric Sheninger’s post – Autononmy Breeds Change where he discusses how New Milford High School has implemented a job embedded growth program they call Professional Growth Period (PGP).  Below is a brief description:

The PGP was launched in September 2011.   It virtually gave every New Milford High School teacher two to three, forty eight minute periods a week, depending on the semester, to engage in growth opportunities of personal interest.  The only catch was that each staff member had to create and present a learning portfolio at his/ her end of year evaluation conference.   This learning portfolio clearly articulated how they integrated what was learned during this time into professional practice.  They also had to keep a log detailing what was done during each PGP day throughout the year.

My questions to the audience are—can we get more schools to engage in this brand of professional development?  If so, how?  Do we really need weekly faculty meetings, or can we re-think our approach by using social media to communicate.  Are there other time slots during the normal teaching day that we can free up for 20% time?   If so, teachers would  have this time to cultivate PLNs, work with grade level/divisional/departmental colleagues to come with new ideas for projects and lessons, learn about that digital tool you keep hearing about, and so much more.

4 responses to “Google’s 20% Time In Education

  1. FYI, in US history, research is skills spiralled so that 9th and 10th graders are getting basic familiarity with search databases (beyond google search and wikipedia such as ABC-CLIO), and high quality sources and what they look/read like. The most effective way to determine what’s a bogus site is whether it a) conforms to prior knowledge you already know and b) conforms to high quality site standards. By junior-senior students are mixing in more advanced databases (JSTOR) with wide open net searches. Any reading that’s heavily restricted isn’t research, it’s homework.

    • It’s great that they’re learning these research skills—they’ll certainly need that when they get to college. I’m not quite sure that I learned some of these skills until I was half way through grad school. Although some of that can be attribute to the fact that Web access wasn’t nearly what it is today.

      Any thoughts or other ideas for a 20% project?

  2. Hey Vince. I think 20% student time has some potential in the music classroom, especially in regards to composition and music technology. I could see girls creating new pieces/songs, finding new ways to record music, creating music videos, etc. Might also be a good extension for SCRATCH in the music classroom.

    In terms of teacher 10-20% time, this needs to be carefully thought through. Our days are less regimented than the typical staff day so that we have time to plan, grade, and meet with students and other teachers. This gives us natural flexibility to work on other projects, but it also makes it harder to “release” 10-20% of our time. Certainly worth a discussion!

  3. They sound like terrific ideas for the classroom! Any chance you’ll take part in the MOOC?

    Great feedback on the 20% time for faculty. Would it be possible to use some of that time allows teachers to meet with one another to work on 20% projects. Ultimately, this is completely student oriented so this could be a time to re-think how that time is used. What are you thoughts on freeing up some faculty meeting time? Is it possible some of this communication to move to Google+ or a weekly Tweetchat, or something else entirely that promotes either synchronous or asynchronous communication to meet the goals of a faculty meeting, but at the same time makes it so that 90 minutes per week is dedicated to professional development/learning in some capacity?

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