Spend time on students' personal projects: the 20 % approach

Initiated by Google, the concept of "20% - Time" assumes that employees spend one day a week on projects other than those to which they have been assigned. Some see benefits in this approach in education too!

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In collaboration with Aurélien Fiévez

Initiated by Google about ten years ago, the concept of " 20% - Time Assumes that company employees spend 20 % of their working time, or one day per week, on projects other than those to which they have been assigned. This aims to promote innovation and the creation of new projects in the company. It is also through this approach that projects like Gmail or Google Teacher Academy were born. However, structural problems gradually arose and everything had to be reduced.

It should be noted that Google was not the only company to promote this kind of initiative: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and eBay are other examples.

At the same time, some have proposed to transpose this concept to the educational level. Thus, one could allow the pupils to take a certain part of their time at school (not necessarily 20 %!) To work on what they like. This approach would allow them to improve, create, innovate and grow with their ideas. Some teachers have also chosen to implement it in their classroom.

Note also that this concept can be used through all levels of education, depending on the themes. In addition, there are several advantages of "20% - Time" in education, in particular the fact of fostering students' creativity, of motivating them with subjects which they are passionate about and with which they identify, and of promoting the acquisition of skills. in project management as well as collaboration between students, to bring students to meet professionals in various fields and to promote dissemination of completed projectss in and out of school. On the other hand, this type of teaching requires the teacher to support the students in their projects and to resort to reverse class.

However, the “20% - Time” also brings its share of challenges for the teacher. So the planning instruction must be rigorous in order to comply with the training program. In fact, experience shows that teachers often lack the time to complete projects resulting from "20% - Time", because they are added to the usual programming. Also, project ideas must have a certain relevance and promote learning, which indicates the importance of a thoughtful choice of the project to be carried out. Finally, it is essential to clarify the rules from the start so that the learners are well guided in the use of the time which will be allotted to them.

In short, the concept of "20% - Time" certainly makes it possible to motivate, innovate and learn in a different way, but it must basically be introduced into the classroom with all the efficiency and relevance possible. This concept will find its energy and its culmination in the passion and the objectives of the learners and the teacher.

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About the Author

Gabriel Dumouchel
Gabriel Dumouchel, Ph.D., is a lecturer in educational technologies at the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi and at the University of Quebec in Outaouais. He is also a consultant in communication, education and medical pedagogy.

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