I was listening to a Radiolab podcast yesterday (which, by the way, if you’re looking for a great podcast to brighten your commute, I’d highly recommend it!) and Google’s concept of 20 Percent Time came up (technically, Google did not create 20% Time, they are just the most prolific utilizers of the idea).
What it is
20 Percent Time is simply taking 20 percent of your day, 1 day a week, 6 days out of a month, however you want to break up the time, to work on something you are passionate about. To give you an idea about the power behind 20 Percent Time, here are a few Google items we have today because of it: Google News, Google Art Project (my personal favorite), Google Sky, Adsense, Orkut, Google Talk, and let’s not forget, Gmail. It got me thinking: What if our students were given the chance to take 20% of their time at school to work on what they love? To learn about, nurture, enhance, create, strengthen, develop a part of themselves, that would otherwise, be pushed aside to make room for the onslaught of ever-expanding curriculum. As a teacher, I’ve quasi-dabbled with this idea in the past, specifically, when I relinquished control, and have seen amazing results from giving students more power and ownership of their learning. Students were excited beyond what I had ever seen before in my lab. They exuded an air of motivation and self-direction.
20 Percent Time, however, goes a step beyond that. It goes beyond flipping the classroom. When I relinquish control in my lab, I am still telling the students what they will be learning – it’s just they who dictate the method of their discovery. 20 Percent Time gives students the freedom to choose what it is they will be learning for that particular amount of time. Something that would be very difficult for many educators and institutions to abdicate. Katherine Von Jan, CEO of Radmatter and Edu-Innovator ponders:
Maybe if we asked and then gave kids permission to do some of the things they’d love to do throughout their academic careers (K-12), we wouldn’t be so lost and confused in college or in life. And maybe if we start pursuing what we’re passionate about we would actually solve the world’s most impossible challenges along the way.
Patrick Green, Apple Distinguished Educator, Tech Coordinator and blogger at Through a Green Lens, applies 20% in his life and states:
“20% Time” can mean setting aside time to focus on the things that you WANT to do and SHOULD do in your job, but that tend to get pushed aside for the urgent things. 20% Time for me, means changing my priorities and booking out blocks of time to spend on those important things that otherwise would stay on my to-do list for months and possibly years.
20 Percent Time is something that educators can dabble with as part of a new year’s resolution. You may want to begin small and test out how it could fit in your classroom and school. Pick a certain time during the day, call it “20 PT,” or “Passion Time,” or ”Self-Directed Creativity Time,” whatever sounds good to you. Depending on the age of the students it may take a lot of direction and guidance at first. You may want to try it on yourself for a few weeks and see what kind of results you get. That way, you’d have an idea of how best to integrate 20 Percent Time into your classroom.
Below are 2 videos that explain the benefits of 20 Percent Time. In the first, fast forward to the 9th minute to hear Larry Page describe Google’s early explorations with 20 Percent. The second video you’ll watch Shannon Deegan explain how Google’s 20 Percent Time fosters innovation.
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