Here is a short primer of 20% time, how it can be used in your classroom and how it can scale and eventually become a tradition or routine within your school or district.
Overview—Participants spend 20% of their workweek on a project that isn’t directly related to their job. This approximates to one day a week.
Passion—The idea behind the 20% concept is that when a person is working on a project they are passionate about, they are happier. Happier employers are more creative.
Creativity—Creativity is what spawns innovation. Innovation is key to most company’s success.
Collaboration—Most of 20% projects include more than 1 person. Because of this, it allows the participants to collaborate with individuals they would otherwise never have met.
20% Time in the Classroom
Basic Ground rules (less is better)
When you tell students that they can spend 20% of their time working on a project that they are passionate about, expect confusion and mayhem. In school, students are usually told exactly what to do (ie. syllabi, rubrics, etc.). This is different.
Schedule a few checkpoints. This is not micro-managing. This occurs routinely in the business world and allows for multiple iterations within one project.
If your class is having a difficult time with the concept of 20% time, start small. Maybe a project that takes only 2 weeks. After that, one that is a month. Finally, one that is the remainder of a semester.
Expect an increase in self-confidence. Everyone loves to be an expert at something.
Scaling 20% Time
There are no reasons why faculty and staff can’t lead by example. If you participate in a 20% time project before assigning it to your class, you will automatically have a real-life example to provide to your class.
Once your administration notices the boost in morale that 20% time provides, try and leverage this to create a tradition or pattern within your school.
Most people are naturally attracted to new and creative ideas. Therefore, expect high achievers to desire to teach at your school. Google has been Fortune Magazine’s #1 Place to Work for multiple years. Because of that, Google gets some of the best developers in the world as employees.
20% Time on Mondays
Now for the clincher: 20% time on Mondays makes an uptick in morale inevitable. People typically dread Mondays, but with the promise of creativity, flexibility and passion, Mondays become the New Fridays. Sit down with your principal and ask them if you can try this experiment. Then sit down with your children and ask them what they would like to learn?