Creating xDays for School Community Innovation Time

How might we apply the "20%-time" model for community professional development? XPLANE's "xDay" may be a great model.

Photo of Moss Pike
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"20%-time" projects have become a hot topic of discussion in education (cf. Kevin Brookhouser's fantastic book 20Time Project), given that they inspire imagination, creativity, collaboration, etc., while also giving students agency over their work. The idea hasn't yet made its way into teacher professional development, however, and so I'm interested in building a PD model focusing on "innovation time" that involves teacher 20%-time projects.

The design consultancy firm XPLANE has been experimenting with "xDays" with their own employees (xDay SummaryxDay review 1 | xDay review 2), which happen once a month. On xDays, the company shuts down business for the entire day, while employees pursue their own projects. XPLANE decided to move from giving employees a few hours a week to one day a month, since the few hours they spent not working had to be accounted for later (usually on their own time). Likewise, educators seldom have a few hours a week to work on their own innovation projects.

Rather than giving employees total freedom in the xDay, XPLANE adds structures the day around specific activities, focusing on keeping the day social. The day almost feels like a design conference and is fueled by the energy that people bring to the day.

With xDays as a model, how might we carve out one day per month, quarter, semester, etc. (perhaps replacing current "PD days") on which school communities can work on their own innovative projects? Projects could include anything from creating new curriculum and class projects to designing new school systems, and teachers could work in a variety of teams, either within a content area or as interdisciplinary groups.

An xDay for a school or even district might look as follows:

  • 9am Kickoff the day together and share ideas
  • 9:30am Break into teams and start the design work
  • 12pm Share progress over lunch
  • 1pm Continue with prototyping
  • 4pm Share ideas over drinks and plan next steps

Some of the obstacles to address include the need for coaching throughout the day, along with space/time/resources. But this could be a great opportunity to bring the 20%-time model into our own school communities, while producing both useful skills and useable ideas. I'm eager to build an xDay model out for a school and would love to hear if anyone is doing something similar.

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Photo of Heather Tyler

This would be a great way to formalized "passion projects" for teachers and allow for structured time to work on these projects. Too often common planning time gets eaten up by "nuts and bolts," personal appointments, or parent meetings. Plus, we're usually pretty tired at 2:30 on a Wednesday. It can be so frustrating to have lots of ideas for projects, but to never have them started or seen through to completion. Having actual release time with a structure would make teachers feel so much more productive.

Photo of Moss Pike

Indeed; I fully agree, Heather! And I love the idea of passion projects for faculty, in that we need to think about our own work this way, if we're ever to hope to do the same for our kids. I think you're absolutely right that planning meetings (when we have the time for them!) typically end up too detail oriented to be of use for more open thinking. I'm excited to see what we can build out in our next phase for an xDay. Feel free to share any other ideas you have!