Monday, September 14, 2015

Introduction of 20% Time

After a full summer of meeting-up at #ISTE15 for #coffeeEdu, reading Teach Like a Pirate by @burgessdave and Ditch That Textbook by Matt Miller, perusing Twitter chats and connecting with many teachers, professors and facilitators, I decided to implement 20% Time in my A&P classes (I say "my" classes because I am the only one teaching A&P at our high school). I ran it by the Assistant Principal who oversees our Science Department.  Here was my pitch: give students one day every week to pursue ANYTHING they were interested in. They would research, create and present. They would learn to hone their researching skills, communicate with experts, organize their thoughts, create something from scratch, and present publicly to receive constructive criticism. Students would let their inner passions drive the process.

His reply? "Go for it."

Here is the introduction to my students:

I pitched it to both of my classes and they were very intrigued, shell-shocked and excited. We started the process by brainstorming some bad ideas (see below). The reasoning behind the Bad Idea Factory is that people tend to hit a creative wall when brainstorming. We, as humans, tend to want to fix "things". If we examine some "bad" ideas, we will have the tendency to want to "fix" them , essentially turning them into "good" ideas. In addition, once we get past the bad idea roadblock, good usable ideas tend to come to light more easily:

And this was the case!

"watch someone bleed to death" turned into "determine how long a person can survive when xyz artery has been severed" - a fantastic idea for civilian Emergency Services and military medicine.

"dissect roadkill" turned into "pick something out of our supply catalog to dissect on your own"

"bring the Plague into our classroom" turned into "can I [the student] somehow order a disease online to look at the effects of different medicines?"

"watch toenails grow" turned into.......nothing.

I am really excited to see what more my students come up with.  None of them have ever been in this situation; one free period, every Friday, no lecture, no lab, just the time to work on what interests them.

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