Start Infusing Google's 20% Time into the Classroom

Google is famous for their 20%-Time where, on Fridays, they allow their employees to work on personal projects on company time with company resources. The only catch is that they must present their projects to the rest of the team when they're through. This practice not only endears the employees to the company but also encourages creativity and passion within the employees. Solutions to tough problems, new ways of thinking and innovative products stem from these Fridays where Googlers are let loose to chase their own dreams. These sorts of practices, I believe, are worth looking at within other contexts beyond Google.

What would happen if, on Fridays, schools turned into incubators of creativity and passion?

Teachers would become mentors, computer labs would become digital workstations and classrooms would be rearranged into collaborative spaces. Imagine the explosion of curiosity! I believe that students — kids who are truly eager to learn — are actually hindered by the current state of the classroom where they're forced to sit still for hours on end when they should be exploring, listening when they should be discussing and taking notes when they should be making things. Of course, academics are important, but if we empower students to dig into a subject that they love (even if it's not a standard class), their minds will engage on so many more levels.

Sound like a good idea? Thankfully, we don't have to wonder what this would look like in practice. Schools across the country are implementing their own versions of 20%-Time in the classrooms with dazzling results! Across the board, they're finding that students who are take time out of the school day to participate in 20%-Time continue to meet, and often exceed, their educational standards.

What 20% time allows students to do is pick their own project and learning outcomes, while still hitting all the standards and skills for their grade level. In fact, these students often go “above and beyond” their standards by reaching for a greater depth of knowledge than most curriculum tends to allow.
— A.J. Juliani

Those who believe all kids want to do is play video games are correct because, right now, their alternative to video games is boring homework. But if they're given a space in which they can explore, create and experience hands-on, I think we'll see just how curious young minds can be. Empowering kids to take some control over their own education is not a step backwards. It's a gigantic leap forward. Let's explore