20% Time “Sunk Costs”

Students have finished up their 20% Time projects and their presentations this past week.

Their work has been interesting, inspiring, challenging, creative, and most importantly self-directed!

Recently, I’ve been learning about a concept called sunk costs.  I’ll be sharing more about this in future posts, but for now, just consider it a cost, whether it be time or money, that we’ll never get back.  

Did every student produce a finished/completed project, solution, prototype, work of art that can be brought to market, change the world, or make a giant impact on their community?  No.

But, the metacognition, project management, communication, critical thinking, analytical, and reflective skills gained are so important.  20% Time Projects aren’t so much about finishing. Rather, these projects are about starting – starting something without a map and making something of their own fruition.

The students dug-deep on their final blog posts too, the metacognition was evident. Students wrote about how they see themselves as learners, and their personal strengths and weaknesses (at this time demonstrating growth mindset).  Plus, they wrote about how they will apply this knowledge in other academic areas.

A few Fridays of work focused on projects that students enjoyed and that some will eventually complete more thoroughly on their own time over the next few months have a value that only time and persistence with self-directed learning will deliver on.

Sunk costs?  Nominal, if you ask me.

 

Questions and Commitments

Ms. DiDonato’s class is officially one month along with 20% Time.  There have been a few pivots with project ideas, but no drastic changes from the student’s project proposals.

There have been many questions, ranging from “Now what?” to “Should I learn Python or Scratch?” to “Can I prototype this again with cardboard since styrofoam didn’t work?”

The consistency has been a commitment to research, production, writing, and sharing.

Every other week, students report out progress via their blog.  The “non-blogging” weeks students must read and comment on three classmates blog posts.  The commenting has been productive.  Students are sharing not only words of encouragement, but thoughtful suggestions, strategies, or ideas.  At the very least, these are exercises in digital citizenship, collaboration, communication, writing, and creativity.

This might not work . . .

This might not work …

And that’s okay.  For our students, this is an exercise in learning how to learn, reflect, and produce.  For us, we’re learning how to inspire and work with the uncertainty, in addition to learning new things alongside the students.

Last week we met with students and discussed their 20% Time proposals.  Some of the proposals that students shared last week were:

“Creating a Masterpiece: Making a Movie Through the Eyes of a Beginner” in which the student is learning how to write a script and digitally film a sci-fi movie.

“Project Plan and Accomplish” in which the student is learning how to plan an event for a charity.

“A Writer’s Journey 2018” where the student is making an attempt at writing a novel.

“Positive Poems for You” – his short poem sums up his goal:

“As I make use of my 20% time,

To create a verse and perhaps a rhyme,

I hope to influence you in a small way,

To make a difference in this world today.”

“Alyssa’s Easy Steps to Learn the Piano.”  You guessed it, she’ll be creating videos that teach others how to play the piano.

There are so many more projects like students learning to code and create video games using Scratch, others who are inventing and prototyping solutions to problems they see, another who is researching personality and success, others that are documenting travel in unique ways, and the list goes on.

We are really excited about these student-generated projects!  

To get students started with finding their interests and passions, we borrowed A.J. Juliani’s and John Spencer’s “Interest Finding Charts”.  We also showed them an interest chart that I completed.  But, I also showed them how to combine interests and passions. For example, I combined my interests in the environment, the ocean, surfing, and photography and created a photography blog.  My hope was to help them see an example of how I combined many of my interests to learn more about digital photography, editing, blogging, and being in nature or environments that I enjoy.

Here are some resources that we have used so far:

20% Time Project Tracking Template detailed Google Sheet

Interest Finding Chart (elementary)

Interesting Finding Chart

Interest Finding Chart with reduced topics

Blogger for student weekly blog posts and discussions (We’re a Google District, so it just makes sense).

Here’s info on publishing student blogs. Right now our student blogs are only visible to students in our school district.

This might not work, but so far,  I think it will.

Excitement for the unknown

20% Time: week one reflections.

I’m working with a teacher to implement “20% Time” in her English Language Arts class.  This is really exciting for me, as this has created the opportunity for me to collaborate with Ms. DiDonato (ELA teacher) and got me back in the classroom working with students.  This is her second school year launching 20% Time with a group of students.  She’s iterating on this project, looking to make it bigger and better.  I’m participating weekly to experience the process, the conversations, and to notice “pain points,” challenges, successes, and gain perspective.  We’re working together to help this group of students explore their interests, develop a project, and write/reflect weekly. While we also create a plan to scale 20% Time.

It’s fun work.

What we did:

We discussed the 20% Time concept.  We showed some videos to engage them, explained the connection to ELA standards for writing, and discussed overarching expectations. We explained that there was no “map” (or procedures) for the project; rather, guidelines for weekly writing, reflection, and commenting on classmates writing.  We started “interest finding.”

Finally, the most exciting aspects for the students were these two concepts:

1. Learn anything you want.

2. It’s okay to fail.

The excitement, joy, and anxiousness were written all over their faces.  We’re embarking on this journey, and we know it’s leading to growth.

To be continued.

Showing up. Because it matters.

Showing up. Because it matters.

In the last few days of the school year, it’s easy to become relaxed and to “loosen up.”  It’s also tough to engage our students in new content and new lessons when they, themselves, are ready for a break.  Students might feel like “it doesn’t count.”  And, technically, it might not for the grade book.  However, we need to model that it always counts.  If we aren’t engaged with our students, in reflection, in helping them set goals for the next year, in team building – if we don’t model that it matters, if we don’t show up, how can we set those expectations for life and career for our students?  It’s an opportunity for making learning personal, for team and relationship building, and for students to explore something of interest.  Try something new.  Show up.  Because our students matter.

The Iceberg Model

The Iceberg Model is an awesome visual and analogy that helps you visualize and uncover the underlying causes of the events we see (the portion of the iceberg above the surface).

The analogy works because there is always an unseen portion of an iceberg that lies below the surface and with events, there are values, structures, and patterns that lead to the event.

Once you uncover the underlying structures, you can start to leverage those to transform and design outcomes or prevent unwanted outcomes.  You can use high value and high leverage concepts like the beliefs and values of your organization to create desired and positive outcomes.

 

Design Thinking

Design thinking has become a bit of a buzzword in education over the past few years.   In our classes I do not want it to become (and have no intent in it becoming) reduced to a buzzword.  

Design thinking is a process and a mindset.  It cannot be reduced to a simple checklist.  Lessons and projects for students should include empathy, experimentation, prototyping, reflection, and redesign.  

Abandon prescriptive scenarios.  Facilitate activities that let students “problem find,” practice empathy, interpret issues and find meaning leading to the generation of new ideas, experiments, and iterations.

Students can learn these valuable skills centered on empathy, collaboration, prototyping, and iteration if we set out to create opportunities to include these mindsets in our instruction.

The interesting thing about design thinking is that teachers are inherently designers of instruction, beginning with empathy for their students’ needs.  Ultimately, we need to support our teachers with time to create projects that allow the students to practice design thinking.  

 

Here are some great books to introduce kids to these mindsets:

What Do You Do With an Idea?

 

What Do You Do With a Problem?

 

The Most Magnificent Thing

 

Here’s a good resource to get started:

Design Thinking for Educators