We were watching short Google Moonshot videos where people in front of the camera were explaining their work towards Google’s Lunar XPRIZE. The videos were an easy connection to my 6th grade science class and very interesting. The short movies sparked many deeper table group conversations.
During one of the views a class asked about Google’s 20 Percent Time. I shared what I had heard and read, as the class did their own search. Suddenly the title wave of class energy began with the statement “We should do that”, followed by “CAN WE”. I thought about it and of course it didn’t seem to fit into a tight, packed schedule where I had each day planned until our last time together for the school year. My fixed mindset was in control, but there was so much motivation in the classroom.
So I agreed and with some content juggling, my first truly open ended learning opportunity was in full throttle. We set some loose expectations for work time, then timeline discussions. I left everything as open as possible, not spilling my ideas onto them. A few were really looking for what I wanted, as to please the teacher. I just kept saying, “then it would be my 20% idea and I want to hear yours”.
I remembered hearing Kevin Brookhouser @brookhouser speak via Tedx about 20% Time. Then proceed to find a video his class created about their use of the this time. The student example were high schoolers with more mature topics than 6th graders, yet insightful and extremely interesting. Initially as we talked as a class, students connected Google’s 20% Time to technology innovation, but Mr. Brookhouser’s students example leaned towards very little technology.
I created a short Google Form to submit their idea, plan and expected impact. In addition I created an AutoCrat merge to share an editable doc to chart their project progress. As I read the submissions I couldn’t help but smile. Over half of the submissions had something to do with assisting or helping others. Many students wanted to collect funds to give to a worthy cause, as simple as doing a good deed for someone each day.
Most important, all of this project was student ownership. It was their choice and that was a big deal. Some were feeling pressure to pull their project off before the school year ended, while others asked if they could work on it over the summer. Here are some of the student project ideas:
Clearly this 20% Time project is in its infancy, yet so interesting to see what’s important through the eyes of a 6th grader. If I think of this project like a traditional learning target, there are many potential holes in the end product. On the flip side, it could build better student citizens if I listen to what is being said and support what motivates their project.