20% Project Day 1: Introduction

Yesterday, I introduced the 20% Project to both my English 2 Honors and AP Lang classes. I was so nervous despite having the Keynote made, marked up with notes, and looking good. Part of the nervousness came from tech worries-nobody had a mini-DVI-to-VGA adapter and AirServer tends to lag with videos on our WiFi-but I was particularly nervous about the unknown human element: What if they weren’t receptive?

My students are from a generation and a part of town that is notorious for its sense of entitlement. I have wonderful and caring students (I really love them. They are the dream classes), but they still have a huge aversion to individual thought. If I don’t provide step-by-step instructions for completion (without any room for deviation), they freak. How would they react to an experience that is entirely up to them? I was dreading heads exploding and a mutiny stirring.

I have never been so happy to be wrong! Every single class got to work looking up more information and sample projects or brainstorming their own project ideas after the 10-minute presentation (which I managed to get down to 7-minutes after I actually wrote a script (a key lesson I learned for creating flipped class videos). Every. Single. Student. They were sharing. They were encouraging. They were asking questions. The vagueness I thought was going to be a stumbling block was actually liberating for them.

Taking Kevin Brookhouser’s advice, I started class with 60 seconds of silence to give the students a chance to clear their mind and prepare for the new information that was about to assault their current notion of education. I also followed Chris Kesler’s suggestion and played the “Pep Talk” video from Kid President. I’ve included it in the video of my Keynote below:

After this whole spiel, I let them loose and gave them the rest of the period to brainstorm project ideas. Those neurons were sparking like crazy! I’m not kidding, the ambient temperature of the classroom actually rose by a couple of degrees!

Next Friday, they’ll be turning in proposals and giving an Elevator Pitch either to my intern or to me. This will start preparing them to eventually create and deliver an engaging presentation (à la TED Talk). After all their wonderful ideas (ranging from building an amphibious car to helping a parent’s struggling business), I can’t wait for these proposals!

NOTE: There is a wealth of information available online on the 20% Project (also search for "Genius Hour" and "Passion Project"). Twitter also proved to be a very valuable resource (#pbl, #20time and #geniushour are the best hashtags, and be sure to follow Joy Kirr for ideas and personal motivation!).

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