Session 124 – Could Google’s 20% project/self-directed time work in schools and how could we support it?

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Session Title: Could Google’s 20% project/self-directed time work in schools and how could we support it?

Date: Thursday 15th November 2012

Summary of the Session:
I first head about Google’s 20% time (See http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/2012/oct/04/google-20-percent-time-… many years ago and it made me wonder what I would do with 20% of my work time to pursue my own project. Probably, continue to work on my wiki page and design more apps and resources for my class and other educators. I might even blog a little more (which isn’t saying much!) and make it to a few more TeachMeets. But I have a feeling that I would find new things to fill the time very quickly.

I was surprised that many UKedchatter hadn’t encountered the idea before. Initial reactions varied from loving the idea to thinking it would never work or never be allowed because of constraints on the curriculum. Many participants spoke about ‘creative time’ which children embarked on in school and the lovely activities that they did (see an example at http://swaygrantham.co.uk/when-the-learners-are-in-the-lead/). Many people liked the idea of children leading the way, but most felt that ‘absolution freedom’ was not wise and that the children should be given a framework to work in or a goal to work towards. Others spoke about building expertise to ensure children were ready for the task.

The conversation turned to how students learn and how often they conform to what is expected, rather than taking risks and pushing the boundaries. There was a wider discussion about how to foster creativity in schools and building a curriculum to encourage it. A few chatters exchanged some ideas about the ‘flipped classroom’ model to use in this way. Others spoke pointed out that ICT had a role to play in allowing collaboration and lead their learning. There was also a discussion about the importance of play to explore ideas for all ages, but especially for the youngest.

There was a short discussion about whether ‘blue sky’ thinking was valued in schools. Most thought it was important, but often squeezed out by the demands of the curriculum. Some UKedchatters said that time should be allowed for children to discuss and create ideas and that ‘accidental exploration’ (@aangeli) is key to the innovation process. There was a short discussion about homework and some commented that ‘exploration’ of a topic often was set as homework by researching within a structure.

The last point was about what teachers could/should/would do if they where given 20% of their time to pursue their own educational projects. Interestingly, this seemed to be the most jubilant part of the discussion as the participants excitedly swapped ideas of what projects they could do.

Both children and teachers are amazing, creative people who would benefit from having some extra time to explore their ideas. This may take many forms and the results and ‘products’ will vary greatly, but ideas are powerful things and they can and do change the world.

Notable Tweets
@davidhunter: #ukedchat it’s been responsible for Google earth and a bunch of other great tools. What could kids produce?
@reallara: Like the idea of using the general concept to encourage/allow staff to try out ideas & topics not prescribed by school or govt #ukedchat
@MrG_ICT: Ken Robinson’s book “the Element” discusses value of working on a project that you have passion for. Worth a read #ukedchat
@davidhunter: #ukedchat I think it’s old school ‘project’work using modern methods and outcomes to measure.chn decide focus (eg Lego or football)
@SwayGrantham: I gave chn 45mins proj time and 15mins per station time at the end of term last year. Fantastic to see http://t.co/xMQZe0x3 #ukedchat
@SwayGrantham: @e11iewe11s it could be anything, when I did I told chn to create ‘anything’ but they would have to present at end… #ukedchat
@DrHuxTM: When I visited RSA Academy 18mnths ago, 1 aftn/week was off timetable & involved a wide range of activities for students. #ukedchat
@eyebeams: @tickytecky @ICTmagic Bare bones elicitation – needs skillful orchestration #ukedchat
@nightzookeeper: I think that by giving children small targets in this area can really help! e.g: recording progress in a project journal #ukedchat
@eyebeams:Here is another approach that could be school based http://t.co/fcSUwVFl #ukedchat
@tmeeky: scaffold sounds too rigid… dynamically facilitate might be more effective. Offer structure when needed… don’t force  #ukedchat
@piersyoung: When done open ended projects with Y6 before, (where they choose own topics), main skill missing is good questioning #ukedchat
@Caroljallen: Creativity can be facilitated within the conventional ‘lesson’ and/or ‘timetable’ but oh how brill when the timetable is removed #ukedchat
@eslweb: #ukedchat I think that creativity is a process and freedom & projects start with a little freedom & give more as they become responsible.

Tweet of the Week
@Jivespin: #ukedchat Google 20% sounds great although does that include being on Twitter as part of a CPD project?

About Your Host
Martin Burrett (@ICTmagic) is a Year 5/6 teacher at Mersea Island School in Essex and is an advocate for using digital technology to improve teaching and learning in schools. He founded the ICTmagic educational resource website and is a co-administrator for UKedchat.

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