Tuesday, October 13, 2015


I received an email from Valvoline with the subject, "Tuesdays just got 20% better!".  Somehow that stuck with me.   I had every intention of going to get a 20% off oil change today but that didn't actually happen.  However, today "20%Tuesday" was born!

Over the past few years I have provided students with the opportunity to engage in 20% time to pursue passion projects.  In fact, I had two Donor's Choose grants funded to support the project.  The project highlighted in the grants was called 'Empowering Learners in the Maker Age" and the items purchased included an Xbox One, Playstation 4 with Little Big Planet 3, Disney infinity, a number of MakeyMakeys, raspberry pi, the Ouya gaming console, and resources to support the use of some of these items. To make matters even better, our PTO was gracious enough to fund a wishlist grant for 3 large LCD TVs for presentation and game development.  My vision is to create a studio inspired learning space that feels more like a tech startup than a classroom.  My goal is to provide a variety of resources for my students to provide great choice and inspire them to drive the learning based on interest and passion.

We hadn't officially started the 20% time idea yet this year and the email from Valvoline made me realize that I couldn't wait any longer.  20%Tuesday would start today!

I spent some time introducing the idea.  I shared how google popularized the idea of 20% time, but credit really should go to 3M.  Who knew the Post-it note was the product of an early company's understanding the value of giving employees the opportunity to explore innovative ideas.

In 1974, 3M scientist Art Fry came up with a clever invention. He thought if he could apply an adhesive (dreamed up by colleague Spencer Silver several years earlier) to the back of a piece of paper, he could create the perfect bookmark, one that kept place in his church hymnal. He called it the Post-It Note. Read more about 3M and 20% time. 
The conversation with my students continued to discuss some of google's products and how 20% time is part of their work culture.  We talked about google glass, google cardboard, gmail, google expeditions and more.

I shared some examples of projects students have completed in the past.  You can find many of them on our class youtube channel.

As I explained the project eyes started to light up.  Questions started to come at me.  Can I create an MMORPG? Can I use the raspberry pi? If I make an app can I sell it and make money? Can I create a visual novel? The questions kept coming.  The answer was essentially the same.  Yes, accompanied by the caveat that I did not claim to know how or where to start.

So, how will the 20% time project work?  My class is quest based and there is a quest line based on the Empowering Learners theme.  Students will start by reading a blog post about the donor's choose grants and the idea behind the project.  They then consider what they would like to pursue for their passion project.  Students respond to the first quest with a general idea regarding what they would like to work with and how they feel about the learning being put in the students' hands.  I am big on reflection and want the kids to consider why (or even if) they see this as a valuable proposition.

Next, student are tasked with a 'watch it build it' quest where they search for resources (tutorials, etc.) that teach how to use the product, tool, or technique they have chosen.  They share the tutorial that they plan to recreate and this provides them with an opportunity to seek out and start the learning on their own.

After completing the watch it build it activity, students decide on an original project they want to complete and write a design plan to share their vision.  Then it's time to create their original project.  It's pretty awesome to see kids follow their interest when it comes to learning.  Recently, I have become increasingly excited about the idea of passion driven learning and leveraging how kids really learn and allowing their interest to drive the process.  I hope you share in my enthusiasm.