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20 time

image courtesy of bluescreen

When I attended the Google Teacher Academy in July 2010 I discovered that Google gives its workers '20 percent time' so that they can work on projects that they are passionate about. '20 percent time' has been used to develop Gmail, Google Talk, Adsense, Orkut and a few other features that would never have seen the light of day unless this philosophy existed within Google. And that got me thinking. In school, we spend almost all of the time teaching from a National Curriculum and making sure that the children in our class meet the targets of that curriculum. Some of us stick to it rigidly, some of us don't. So trying to fit in any additional learning that doesn't necessarily come from that curriculum should be difficult to manage. Shouldn't it? the use of '20 time' or any type of project based learning theme is a very effective part of the learning journey that children can make in your class.

There's no room on the timetable
My timetable is full. From Monday morning until Friday afternoon every hour is conceivably covered. I don't stick to it but I need to have one in place in case someone from outside the school comes in and wants to know what I should be doing at any time according to my timetable. I've always hated timetables, a rigid system that restricted my learning. On many occasions I would have preferred the lesson to continue as I was just 'getting into my stride'. I'm positive the same happens today to many children so I do not adhere to a timetable. But I'm digressing from the reason I'm writing this post. Using '20 time' with your own class shouldn't be difficult as long as you are not a rigid follower of timetables, even then it can be managed. It's just a matter of thinking outside the box.

So what is '20 time' in the classroom?
Well, I have interpreted it in the same way as Google have, I gave my class the opportunity to use any time they had available to them outside of National Curriculum learning as part of their '20 time' to explore their own learning passion. I left the children to come up with their own learning themes, a journey that they could take on their own or with others. I set some standards which are outlined below.
  • Your '20 time' can be done whenever you finish any other work you do in class
  • You must finish your usual work to your high standards
  • '20 time' cannot be spent doing nothing
  • Your '20 time' can involve just you or some of your friends but no more than 4 in one group unless you speak to me first
  • You have access to any equipment and material in class for your '20 time' project
  • You can continue '20 time' at home if you wish
My participation was to help children devise their ideas, ask guiding questions to help them develop their '20 time' project and offer advice throughout. I allowed the children to follow their own '20 time' ideas from start to finish.

How can you fit it in?
I looked at where I could use '20 time' with my class before I sat down to consider whether it would be of 'educational value'. That comes later. Could I fit it in? Of course I could. At the end of any lesson you will always have children who have finished before others in the class. This is the point that '20 time' slots in. Instead of giving early finishers extra work, additional sheets, further stretching activities (horrible!), why not use '20 time' then? It has worked for my class and it has been such a successful addition to the learning that happens in my class that I can't wait to begin it again with my next class.

Did it work? What were the outcomes?
  • Every single child was engaged throughout their '20 time' learning journey.
  • Every child wanted to continue their '20 time' during break and lunch times.
  • Every child remarked at the end of their '20 time' that it was the best thing they had ever done.
  • Every child said they wanted to do it again.
Going with that I'd say the use of '20 time' or any type of project based learning theme is a very effective part of the learning journey that children can make in your class.

And the best part of it? They inspired me with their passion for learning.


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