Saturday, July 27, 2013

Google 20 Percent Time

More Google thoughts... I just might be obsessed.

There are lots of benefits of working at Google, I hear. Need a hair cut? Get one free on-site! Want to work out?  Free on-site gym!  Need to do laundry, get clothes dry-cleaned, eat, swim or see a doctor? All those things can happen on-site at Google.

Yes. I'm jealous. Incredibly jealous!

One little Google perk that I find more fascinating than luxurious, however... the Google 20 Percent Time.

Google employees are allowed to spend up to 20 percent of their time working on projects that are not a part of their job descriptions. That's one whole day per week! They can use the time to develop new ideas, fix things that aren't quite working right, explore, and engage with others to work on projects. Gmail is one Google product that came out of this 20 Percent Time.

Yep. Still jealous. But I love the idea! And I've been thinking about it for a month... How can I do something similar in my classroom with my students? Unlike the Google 20 Percent, projects in my class wouldn't have to provide a benefit to me. (Haha! That's a funny thought though! Children could explore recipes using chocolate?) But the students could certainly benefit! And perhaps some of their ideas and projects could help other students or the greater school community? (I'm also exploring Choose 2 Matter this week!) It's all about empowering children to take charge of their learning and their actions. They can do research or experiment or explore. So exciting!

Other teachers have done similar things, and I've heard some impressive ideas, topics for study, and results: fundraisers for seriously ill children, school landscaping, building websites, ways to make money, cancer, pollution, food, music...

I've spent lots of time thinking about what this would look like in a first grade classroom. The projects and classrooms I've heard about involve older students, but I think Genius Hour would be amazing for first graders! Six-year-olds are so curious and energetic! But I truly can't dedicate 20 percent of our instructional minutes to this idea. So we are going to have Genius Hour for an hour at a time. I'm thinking I can work it in twice per week, but I haven't got that part figured out for sure. I'm hoping that I can find ways to integrate it with reading or writing, so that we can do it more often.

I'm going to start our Genius Hour with some exploration activities. I want to combine creativity and collaboration, and increase students' knowledge of the ways that people explore and learn. I'm going to provide toys for scientific exploration: magnet toys, a spirograph, wind-up toys, plants, magnifying glasses, prisms, mirrors, bubbles, a lap harp, etc. I'm also going to provide play dough, art supplies, and building materials like toothpicks and popsicle sticks and paper and random containers.

And I'm going to provide these Creativity and Critical Thinking cards for my students... to really get them thinking!

During this time, students will have access to digital cameras to document their creations, and they can computers to gather information.

Next, I will use books, short YouTube videos and discussions to get students thinking about their own questions, the needs of others, and ways to make a difference. Some students might forge ahead with a question or project idea, while other students take a little more time exploring. I totally expect that, and it will actually work well: I'll have more time to help individual students get started on their projects.




  1. Have you gotten started? I'm just starting to form my own plan for my first graders- I would love to hear how it's going!

  2. Hi CCCASEY!

    Yes, we did get started. But... I ended up with a K-1 combo this year, so I needed to spend quite a bit of time to get my sweet, little, wiggly kindergartners acclimated to school, and that left less time for projects like this with my first graders. Also, because of the combo, the Common Core, and my district's requirements, I'm only able to dedicate about 40 minutes per week. It's disappointing, but we are moving forward. Several of my students wanted to write books, and have been researching their topics. A couple have been trying to combine their class project with things they're doing in boy scouts/girl scouts. We don't have a lot to show in the way of products, just yet, but the process has been educational for the students!

    I'd love to hear about your ideas and progress!

    Thanks for commenting!