Friday, January 10, 2014

80% of me, 20% of you - adapting Google's 20% time idea to the classroom

For a while both Rachel and I have wanted to try out Google's idea of 20% innovation time in our classrooms. We did the research, but were waiting for a final push to try it out. Between frustration with textbooks, testing, and what we were able to look at this past fall at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language's 2013 conference, we have finally decided to give it a try.

This Spring, I am piloting my version of the 80/20 project with my Latin IIIs, IV, and AP students. I will be posting, hopefully, regularly on the process and the reviews. I intend to have students fill out surveys every few weeks to check in on their progress, but also get their feedback on the project itself. In this post, I'm going to set forward the premise of the project and talk about my initial reactions.

This link goes to my outline of the project. Students are being given an entire semester worth of 20% of time to work on this project and I will be using it as half of their final exam (we have to give performance exams each semester measuring speaking and writing progress). I don't want to repeat what is in the document, so I will try and address some of the questions they asked me instead while we went over it:

Frequently Asked Questions by Students
  1. What will we be turning in?Students will be turning in almost a portfolio of their project. They will need to have a presentation to share, a physical product to show, notes, cited resources, and their correspondence with their CC. I will use all of these elements to grade them using the rubric in the link. 
  2. How long does our correspondence have to be? I do not expect, especially in the beginning, long correspondence each time. Some times will be longer than others. In the beginning, they will introduce themselves and their ideas and as they research, their ability to discuss should grow (ergo, they will be making progress in their writing)
  3. So, the topics must relate to Rome? Not necessarily. The topics must relate to our classroom. For example, a student may take a survey of the class and find out their favourite movies/shows/music/etc. Then, they may look to see how much of an influence Roman culture, history, and language have in our modern media. Another student may be interested in cooking. They may look into Ancient recipes, or perhaps look to see how differently we do things or compare health standards or, just for fun, might try to cook modern recipes using only ancient methods. Students may create games for the class to play, videos to watch, etc. 
  4. Why can't we just know the day we're presenting now? I have found that students who know they are going the last day will wait until the last day to be done and, if we have extra time for example on a previous day, they will not be ready and will be upset. By asking each student to be ready the first day, I can go ahead and collect certain aspects (notes and correspondence) and begin building my grade that day. Everyone will have the exact same amount of time to prepare. 
Today I took my students to the lab for their first 20% day. They were given the period to pick a topic and complete their first survey. Below are my observations:
  • Some students will really struggle with the freedom. This is okay, and they need to know that it is okay. I sat with a few students who had no idea where to begin. I asked them what they liked to do or really enjoyed learning about. For the most part the response was, "but there is nothing Roman about..." So, we went over the connection part again. All my students ended up with a topic in the end and a clear connection.
  • I would change my initial survey to include a question about what resources they know they'll need. This will help me create resources more quickly and with more accuracy. 
  • Students were surprisingly excited to find out who their Classroom Comrades were (one of my favourite words, plus the alliteration is magical). They will find out over the weekend and be asked to begin communication ASAP. 
  • The students researched the entire period. Only once did I have to ask a student to focus. Since this project really focuses on their interests and their likes, I think, and hope, it will turn out to be easy work for them.
In my next post, I plan to update you on the progress of the project and take a look at the resources I am providing to my students. Stay tuned!

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