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The Simple 5 Step Process for Starting your Successful '20 Time' Program

Did you know what you wanted to do and who you wanted to be when you exited High School? Did you have a skill you could instantaneously monetize, affording you the option to attend or not attend University. Did school provide you with the opportunities to explore your passions with the help of a personal mentor? Did you have experiences in the real world? I know I didn't. Sure, there were elective classes, sports teams, and after school clubs I could join, but no program specifically designed to help me discover and pursue my greatest interests. That's dangerous. In today's rapidly advancing economy, we can't afford not to give our students the opportunities to explore their passions and complete meaningful work around them.

Did you know?

Did you know that today's graduates will emerge with an average of $36,000 in debt? Or that most will hold 10-14 jobs before they are 38 years of age? Or the fact that 50% of jobs in 2020 will be jobs that do not exist today? So how do we best PREPARE them?

What if?

What if at the age of 12, we gave students the opportunity to discover their passions and pursue meaningful work around them? What if they had the opportunity to shadow real experts in the field to develop an immediately transferable skill? What if they used that apprentice model to develop projects and ideas of their own?

What if they were given a digital platform to share their work with a global audience?

In today's new economy, we have the perfect opportunity to provide our students with these experiences.

'20 Time'

20 time, an idea initially coined by Google provides students 20% of their schedule to pursue personal passions, and complete projects that represent the fulfillment of them. Below is a video

that explains its major tenets:

The Benefits

In addition to helping students explore their passions, '20 time' also teaches students:

  • To become better inquirers

  • Key 21st Century Skills like communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking

  • How to manage their time in a dynamic way

  • How to direct their own learning

  • To be resourceful in finding answers to their questions and resources to support their work

The Five Simple Steps to Create a Successful '20 Time' Program at Your School

After several years of triumphs and tribulations with '20 time programs' I have narrowed their development down to five simple steps. By no means is this a comprehensive list. You will have to experiment with what works best for you in your unique situation. Make sure you have first established the "Why?" for '20 Time.' This will be the important foundation upon which all great processes will flow. Once you have established your purpose, move on to step one. I hope you enjoy!

Step One: Block out the Time

Finding the time for your '20 Time' is the most crucial step. Will it be reserved as an hour at the end of each day or will it be a day at the end of every two weeks?

Look for a natural place to integrate your program. Electives are a good place to start. Consider offering a 'genius hour' elective that allows students to develop and pitch projects according to their passions.

For us, we found that a longer 'deep dive' into student passions made the most sense. We allocated an entire week following each of our integrated units for passion pursuit. We called each these "ignite weeks." Each week followed a theme; allowing students to pursue passions within certain constraints before managing and directing their own experiences. We found that structuring '20 time' in such a way provided for deeper learning while easing student anxiety of having to choose a project right away.

Step Two: Provide the Supportive Structures

Kids are going to need support in both finding their passions, and pursuing meaningful projects around them. By outlining the process, you can help provide a framework for students to reach meaningful outcomes.

Below are a few common sense structures you may provide:

* Personality and Career Tests: These tests will help expose students to parts of themselves they have not previously explored. Oftentimes, they are accompanied with suggestions of career paths and projects to complete according to these interests. Here is one I love: Myers Brigg Test

* Process Guide for Students: This beautiful guide assembled by my dear friends Tanya Avrith and Rebecca O'Hare provides a nice comprehensive package for students to discover projects related to their passions.

* Preview Days: Organize a series of preview days or rotations where students have the opportunity to explore several fields and passions before choosing their own. If you pool your teaching staff, chances are they have a lot more talents and skills that you don't know about!

Step Three: Establish a Timeline/ System for Management

How you manage students' passion projects has a lot to do with your hoped outcomes and purpose for running '20 Time.' Part of our hope for '20 time' was that students would become self managers, able to chart out their learning paths and reflect when they weren't meeting deadlines and objectives. To fulfill this aim, we provided all of our students with personal blogs. These blogs were to be updated and managed periodically to demonstrate student growth in the projects. These blogs were also available to a wider audience, ensuring that students were accountable to more than just their teacher.

Another system that works well with project management is a scrum board. This is a visible board in the classroom which includes various checkpoints and deadlines. Students simply move their name over as they complete each task. Here are some checkpoints to consider:

* Preliminary Research

* Inquiry questions

* Project Proposal

* Feedback from experts

* Iteration #1

* Iteration #2

* Final Presentation

* Reflection

Providing students with a clear process and checkpoints ensures they keep on track.

Step Four: Find Expert Mentors

As much as I wish I could program in advanced computer languages, I can barely put together a piece of IKEA furniture without youtube tutorials. The same goes for students. In order to receive the appropriate feedback for their work, you are going to have to connect them with experts in their relevant fields. Here are some strategies to find those experts and best leverage their time:

* Use 'In- House' Experts: Your first line of defense for mentors is within your school. These mentors should be able to cover a wide range of student interests/ passions. For example, we used our robotics instructor to help students with programming; our communications team with videography; and high school seniors for leadership training.

* Use Parents: Your parents are spread across a wide range of professions. Chances are they will be more than willing to help students learn more about their fields. We usually start with an introductory letter regarding the program, an explanation of the hoped outcomes, and a few of our needs. We explain to parents that we will be mindful of their time and only use them as resources for outreach emails and the random skype call.

Step Five: Assess and Provide a Platform to Exhibit Student Work

A major purpose behind '20 Time' is to allow students to pursue more meaningful and authentic work. To achieve this aim, its important to provide students with an authentic audience. Where is the best audience for your student's projects? Do they hang out on Twitter? Facebook? Youtube? Networking Events? Conduct a coaching conversation with students to help them find a place to showcase their work.

How you assess again has much to do with your hoped objectives behind '20 time.' After a deliberated conversation with our teaching team, we determined that the major purpose behind '20 time' was to help students develop key 21st Century Skills. Therefore, we assessed students according to 21st Century Skill rubrics around "creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking."

As is the case with any good assessment, its important you provide the opportunity for self- assessment and reflection around their work.

In Closing

Today's narrative for education demands action and risk- taking. There is no "right time" to start your '20 Time' program. You are bound to make several mistakes even if you adhere to the five steps above. But with the right mindset, and a commitment to deepen student learning, by the time you finish your first '20 time' cycle, you will wonder why you didn't start sooner!

To your success!

that explains its major tenets:

  • Facebook Black Round
  • Google+ - Black Circle
  • Twitter - Black Circle
Kyle Wagner
School Transformation and Project- Based Learning Coach

I coach school leaders on how to lead change and improve student learning through simple, innovative srategies and teaming structures.

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