I woke up at eight o’clock AM this morning (It’s Saturday, folks) because, let’s be honest, what’s better than a nice visit to ye olde EduCon?
A few weeks prior to this event, my former English teacher from sophomore year invited me to present with her, her partner in crime Ms. Brennan, and two other students from her current class at this thing called “EduCon”. And, if you know me, I love to talk in front of people (Not gonna lie, I’m pretty much counting down the days until I get to take that required public speaking class in college) and EduCon sounded pretty sweet, plus Ms. Ward’s a cool person so why wouldn’t I help her out?
Her (excellent) presentation was based on the 20% Time Project that Google birthed. Ms. Ward, being the extremely intelligent human being that she is, decided to integrate that same idea into her own tenth-grade classroom. She’s a go-getter and along with that she’s an achiever. She sets a goal, reaches it. Sets another one, reaches it.
The bare basics of the idea is this: you give your students about one day of their week to just work on whatever they want. Anything they want to pursue (That’s how Gmail came about). For our specific class, you were to pick something you wanted to learn more about, something you’re interested in, then just run with it. A proposal video was to be made in the very beginning, outlining your future goals for this idea. Every time you had a project day, there was a short blog post to be written which detailed what you had accomplished and what you planned to do in the next week. In the end, you were to have learned something new and applied it to the outside world in any medium you desired. (The 20% Time Project has since been renamed to the fitting title: #HavPassion Project, where students now brainstorm what they have a real passion for, then go with it and see where their findings take them.)
When she first told our class last year about this project we all had these confused, but also terrified looks on our faces. Like, “Wait, we get to choose our own research topic and just do whatever we want with it? This is a trick, right? Definitely a trick. Guys, Ms. Ward’s tricking us, don’t fall for it.” Basically. It also looked like a ton of work. And if you’re familiar with high school students, we don’t like a ton of work. But, unbeknownst to us, Ms. Ward had carefully crafted a basic outline of when certain things were due and different suggestions for how we go about this project, etc. She had it totally under control.
So fast forward a whole year and here I am with Ms. Ward and two other current students of hers, jumping into her presentation at EduCon with our own stories, opinions, and answers to questions from the audience. After her main presentation, the room split up by grade level into groups to further discuss the idea of a passion-based project. It went swimmingly. My two colleagues, if you will, and I talked to the high school crew and answered any questions they threw at us. And they threw a LOT. I loved it. Seeing adults’ eyes widen as the three of us spoke about how awesome this project is and how it truly motivates students to learn was actually so cool to see. Switching roles with the adults and basically teaching them about this topic brought me right back to the pre-teen days of showing my Polly Pockets simple addition and how to fix run-on sentences. The adult folk were totally into this concept and it was rad to see them so interested in learning.
Being a part of EduCon this year was incredible. I’ve never seen so many teachers sitting in student desks ever in my life. Such a great event to spread your own ideas around a room and inspire others. (Go, Ms. Ward!)
By giving students full reign of what they research and create, amazing things can and will happen. So, teachers, if you’re reading this blog right now…Take a chance on this enterprise and have faith in your kiddos that great things will come out of your own little #HavPassion Projects.