July 23, 2013

20% Time (Part 1 of updating my practice this year)

My plan is to write a short blog series about the things I want to explore, try, and experiment with in my teaching this school year. The goal is to personally explore the topics and to hopefully gain some feedback from my PLN, both online and face to face.

20% Time

This is a concept that, like so many other things, is turning into another education buzz word. I don't know if the concept is gaining a real foothold, but I would be lying if I said that it didn't intrigue me.

What is it?

80% of time, whether in a business or education setting, is used on the assigned work and expectations of the organization. In education that would be the curriculum, standards, learning goals, and performance/product expectations.

20% of the time is given to the employees (business setting) or students (education setting) in order to explore and work on projects of their choice. They can work individually or in groups of their choosing. They can choose the time frame of project completion, its subject, its method of presentation, etc.

Why do it?

It is an opportunity for students/employees to explore their passions and to work on projects that their superiors with their limited individual vision may never consider. It also gives these people an opportunity to dedicate themselves to something that truly interests and engages them. The payoffs come in multiple ways - innovations that would not otherwise be seen, individuals feeling a greater sense of dedication to their work since their work is demonstrating a greater dedication to them, a level of collaboration that is built out of choice instead of requirement. There may be other benefits, but these are what come to mind.

What worries me?

Students taking advantage of the time and producing little to nothing, or producing something that has no actual value - even to them.

Taking time away from curricular studies, leaving students unable to complete course requirements.

Students wanting to collaborate with others, but being marginalized by their classmates.

Some possible solutions:

Project proposals - not just to myself as the teacher, but to the class as a whole. Groups, or individuals will need to do a formal proposal in front of the class before engaging in the project. It would include a glimpse of what the final product would be, an estimate of how long it should take to complete, its purpose, and the resources needed for its completion (including the human element).

The class would then be used as a think tank to look for issues with completing the project and volunteers could be found to participate, as necessary.

Other than that, I'm not sure how to solve my other worries/issues. I do believe that the experiment with the class is very well worth the risk of time lost on curriculum. Students need to be able to explore their own interests in school and have those interests respected and valued. This seems like a great way to do this.

What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

Tiina Pihlman said...

Thank you, Jeff!
I'm going to try out a 20% project with my students next year and I'm struggling with the same worries as you.