20time in Science Yields 100% Engagement

Otherwise known as GENIUS HOUR in my 7 th grade Life Science class. This day each week has become my students favorite day. If a week goes by and we are unable to have our hour one week, they are disappointed. Students, parent, other teachers and staff, administrators, school board members and even our superintendent have come back to tell me this educational opportunity created more learning than anything else I have done in my 17 years of teaching.

I needed to be creative in how I used this time. This was " out of the box".There is too much to teach in my curriculum. As a middle school science teacher and only having the students 50 minutes a day, I had to create a time to do this. A time where students could research, create, and present the information. They would also need help guiding and focusing to be sure topics were applicable but not restrictive. 

Our school year is divided into trimesters. I created a genius hour( 20 %time ) for each trimester where students researched a topic they were interested in and were passionate about. Here is how the year lined out.

Trimester 1-In our regular curriculum we are learning about the body systems. For their 20% time they had to select a topic to research by posing a question about anything they have wondered about the human body. Topics varied but many studied illness and diseases they had heard of that a family member had or they themselves had. An few examples were macular degeneration, what causes asthma, how are scars form. Others posed topics about particular body systems including how eyes see color, what in the brain causes autism. After researching, and making a google presentation, students shared with the class. On this assignment we rotated around each persons chrome book rather than making individual presentations. 

Students spent 2-3 minutes and then moved to the next seat where another presentation was seen. Trimester 2-our regular curriculum consistent of genetics, heredity and DNA. For 20% time students selected a genetic disorder to research. Their time spent researching was directly tied to curriculum. Not only did they learn about a specific genetic mutations, a new appreciation for people with disorders was created and empathy was taught, although not by me! How powerful it is to have students discover this empathetic side of themselves.

Trimester 3- we end our year studying plants and animals. Students selected an endangered animal to research. Through this they also learned what we as a society are doing to cause this and what we must do for the future. They learned about the animals but also the impact humans and society have on them. Once again, through their passion for the topic, they became empowered to see what changes need to be made.

Since this our Social Studies teachers have now created a 20 % project for their classes. Our Leadership class is calling it their Passion Project. It is common core...we are allowing students to think, research, solve and have ownership in their learning! 

Carol Paquette

Matilija Junior High

Ojai, California

Why You Shouldn't Have a Job

In this guest post by 20time leader, Oliver Schinkten, consider the power of giving students missions rather than jobs for their 20time projects. 

Jobs are overrated.  Let me explain.

There’s a lot of talk about jobs lately.  We constantly hear reports about the need to address unemployment rates, create more jobs, and prepare students for jobs.

I think we are approaching this issue with the wrong mindset.  I don’t believe that creating jobs is the solution.

Jobs are boring. Jobs are one of the most depressing things a person can have. People go to their jobs for one reason: to make money.  After people are done at their job for the day, they go home and leave the job behind.

I prefer missions. 

Missions are one of the most invigorating, empowering, and fulfilling things a person can have.  People on a mission, go about it with passion, energy, and enthusiasm. They fall asleep at night thinking about their mission, proceed to dream about the mission, and wake up in the morning ready to work towards completing it.  Most make money by doing the work it takes to complete their mission, but it isn’t even about the money.  It is about the mission.

For most employees, if told that they could stay home every day and still receive paychecks, they would be excited to accept the offer and stop thinking about the job.

If someone on a mission was told that they could stay home every day and not work, they would decline, because they are on a mission.

How about you?  Do you have a job, or a mission?

Here are a few questions to help you decide:

  • Are you doing what you like to do on a regular basis?
  • Do you like to do what you are doing on a regular basis?
  • Do you believe in what you are doing?
  • Can you make the world a better place by doing what you are doing?

If the answer to these questions is “YES”, then you are on a mission. You may currently be calling your mission a JOB (because that is what society will recognize it as), but it is more than a job.

If you answered “NO” to most of these questions, you probably have a job.  Or, you may be unemployed and waiting for a job to open up, so that you have a job. 

Stop it. 

Start a mission.  Live it.  Eat it.  Sleep it.  Dream about it.  Determine what you're passionate about and create a mission.  Don’t wait for an “opening position for a mission” to come around.  Create your own. 

Now is better than soon.” 
                             –Seth Godin

If you have a job, I recommend considering trying to replace it with a mission. There are a couple ways to go about this:

  1. Figure out what you are passionate about. Use this to determine your mission.  Invest time and energy into learning everything there is about what you're passionate about.  

    Next, do it. Work towards completing your mission.  There will either be so-called “jobs” that will harness your passion and pay you, or you will create “jobs” for yourself.
  1. What do you do at your job?  Why? Could you make this your mission? I have worked at a number of factories over the years and, although I would not have chosen “making doors” as one of my missions, it was the mission of one of the factories I worked for. I knew that I had to go to the factory to work every day for 8 hours.  It was up to me whether I would go there with a negative attitude and “put in my time and collect my check”, or if I would embrace my role and turn it into a mission.  I figured that by working hard, adding compassion to the environment, and looking to innovate, that I could help contribute to them making a better end-product.  

    While working, I tried to converse with everyone there, trying to help make their day better, every day.  I didn’t enjoy being there every day that I was there, but when I made it my mission to help create a better product, more efficiently, while building rapport among my coworkers, I actually enjoyed most days at work.  When you know that a task you do not like doing moves you towards a larger goal, a mission, it suddenly becomes much easier and more rewarding to do.

    This second type of “forced mission” isn’t as natural and enjoyable as a passion-driven mission that you choose, but it is a decent alternative.  Besides, in the meantime, you will be improving your skills, becoming a more valuable part of the puzzle, and will be helping create an environment in which everyone can have a better day.

    Try doing this.  I bet that it leads to raises, promotions, and a higher level of “job satisfaction”.  Or, don’t try it, and continue “doing time” at your job.

In Conclusion: 
Don't have a job.  Have a mission.  Create your own missions 
(and make one of them spending quality time with family).

20time Students Whip up Tasty Dishes in a Jiffy

20time Students Whip up Tasty Dishes in a Jiffy

World over students are the same –they love to eat good food but have little access to it. Given their hectic schedules, eating a proper meal becomes something of a rarity. Microwave meals and canned food is common but students do get sick and tired of it if they have to eat it day in and day out. Hence, looking for cheap and nutritious meals becomes much more than a mere pastime.

20time Project Event: Humans of Monterey

 Jill, Emma, and Taylor ready to capture your story through images and words. 

Jill, Emma, and Taylor ready to capture your story through images and words. 

Inspired by Humans of New York, Emma, Taylor, and Jill created Humans of Monterey, an Instagram page built to show off photography and stories of "civilians like you" from the Monterey area. They're definitely worth a follow.

Tomorrow evening they're going to celebrate the people featured on the site with an exhibit of photography and stories. 

When: Friday, May 15, 4-6pm
Where: York School Gallery 9501

The Power of Power-ups: Motivating the Dinosaur Brain

For Christmas my wife, Beth, bought me a toothbrush that has taught me how I can be a better teacher. This is clearly no ordinary toothbrush. It’s the Oral-B Professional Deep Sweep + Smartguide Triaction 5000 Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush. It replaced my old dying Oral-B less impressively-named toothbrush. That one had a built in timer that signaled when I brushed for an entire two minutes by turning itself off for a second. I would be so proud of myself on those few occasions that I actually made it those 120 seconds that I would yell out to Beth “Adrian! Adrian!” like Rocky after he proved he wasn’t just another bum from the neighborhood by going the distance with Apollo Creed (That movie ALWAYS makes me cry, by the way). Beth would never fail to give me a huge embrace declaring her eternal love. Those two minutes felt so long, and I was rarely motivated to stick it out. 

The new Oral-B 5000 also signals when I’ve completed two minutes of brushing, but in a different and much more effective way. It comes with a bluetooth-enabled LCD “Smartguide” that communicates with the brush to tell me how I’m doing. Bluetooth toothbrush? Bluetooth toothbrush. If I’m applying too much pressure, it gives me a crooked little frown (I have been applying too much pressure my entire life until now). But the two killer apps of the Smartguide are the quadrant timer and the achievements. The quadrant timer breaks the two minute session into four 30-second sessions on each of the four quadrants of my mouth. While two minutes seems daunting, to my dinosaur brain, four 30-second tasks seem totally doable. Then, once I finish, my Smartguide rewards me with a smiley face and four stars. The ultimate symbol of healthy dental habits and strong moral character.

I should be motivated to brush my teeth by the simple understanding that I am an adult and I should follow my dentist’s recommendation to brush for a full two minutes twice a day. But I’m really motivated by a stupid little animation on a wireless display. I admit that I have a dinosaur brain, but I don’t think I’m the only one. On her Amazon review, 65BAJA writes 

At first I thought the display was kinda gimmicky. Now I like it. It shows you if you are pressing too hard. My old tooth brush didn't have that. Then when you are done brushing, the display smiles at you. Who doesn't like a smile in the morning? lol.

This device is a life hack that gets our dinosaur brains to do what our human brains want, and when we’re asking our students build learning habits we should consider building in similar hacks in the classroom. One of my favorite teachers, Megan Ellis, does this in her English class in Palo Alto. She has fully gamified her classroom providing experience points, achievements, and power-ups (rewards that also provide power such as the right to skip a homework assignment). My colleague at York, Cammy Torgenrud provides her technology and information literacy students badges when they prove proficiency at a specific skill such as knowing how to write code using variables in Scratch. James Sanders, Duncan Winter, and Esther Wojcicki started classbadges.com to make the process of rewarding digital badges fun and easy. I need to follow these great teachers and do this more in my classes. 

Yes, they’re all pretty much meaningless, but these achievements are insanely motivating when we’re asking students to solve algorithmic problems and complete the routine tasks that support innovative project-based learning. Submitting that progress report blog post every week isn’t always inspiring passion-based work, but it has to be done, and if you give students a badge for submitting four on-time blog posts in a row, they will get competitive with each other and themselves and be much more likely to get it done than if you just threaten them with a bad grade if they don’t do it. 

As for that huge daunting project that seems too big to finish, be your students’ Smartguide and break the big project into small achievable deliverables. I build that into the proposal system for my students' 20time projects, but regular check-ins on deliverables can help segment large projects into manageable “next actions” as David Allen calls them in Getting Things Done. Sure your end goal is to produce that million-view video that inspires others not to instagram-and-drive, but you can only get there if you finish that three-page production schedule. 

If students miss their goals, not a huge deal. They don’t earn that badge, experience point, or power-up. Maybe their end of year grade will suffer a little bit too. That’s ok. We’re teaching students that they’re going to be expected to meet performance goals and if they don’t meet them, they miss out on certain rewards. And if they don’t learn from the experience, they will miss out on much more. What happens when I don’t go the distance with the Oral-B 5000? I don’t know yet and I don’t think my dinosaur brain will let me find out. 


The book The 20time Project will be released in paperback and Kindle on Amazon by the end of January.  Sign up here to get news about the book. 

Teaching without Knowing, and Finding Problems to Solve

I'm honored to have been invited to contribute to the 20time.org blog. Below is a re-post from my primary blog at Edunautics.com

I've already written about one of the key paradigm shifts that I think needs to happen in education: education needs to be real. See "Online Education is not the Disruption."

Now for two more.


We want our students to become expert learners, right? Well, how are we going to get them there if we never model advanced learning? 

Part of the current paradigm of education that I think needs to change is we believe that in order to teach, you must know. I think this mistaken belief is a critically limiting factor in how we approach education. It's the curse of knowledge. If we already know the answer, how can we model advanced learning skills?

I think if we make this basic change to how we structure our learning experiences, we will greatly increase development of many of the critical skills we so long for in our graduates and take them further than we otherwise could towards becoming advanced learners themselves. (And for those worried about the content, from my experience, content knowledge is actually deepened.)

The paradigm sift:
Students need to work alongside expert learners in two situations: one where the expert learner is also an expert in the area they are exploring and, two, when the expert learner does not yet know where they are going or how to get there. 

Now on to another paradigm shift that needs to happen: we need to stop providing problems and their solutions. I take that back: we need to stop ONLY providing problems and their solutions. We need to provide the algorithmic experiences of known problem and stepwise solution, but only as we scaffold learners to develop the skills to identify problems and opportunities on their own—and then to architect solutions, set goals and targets, monitor progress, leverage resources, be adaptable to feedback in the loop, challenge their own assumptions, etc.

The paradigm shift:
We need to stop spoon-feeding students with problems and the steps to their solutions.

This loops back to the advanced learner point above, because what better way to learn to identify problems and architect their solutions than alongside an advanced learner who is also swimming with you?

And both of these shifts tie in to the problem of education needing to be real. I believe it is possible to have most of our learning take place, at least in the middle and high school grades, through solving real problems, alongside advanced learners, with the students being intimately involved in the identification of the problems/opportunities to tackle, and in the planning and execution of their solutions. And we need to start scaffolding towards this in the earliest grades.

So the tally now stands at:

  1. Education must be real.
  2. Teachers should be expert learners and learning facilitators, who explore with their students both inside and outside their areas of expertise.
  3. We must scaffold our students towards identifying problems and architecting solutions.

10x thinking with Google's D Feher and my computer class

10x thinking with Google's D Feher and my computer class

US troops invaded Grenada in 1983, Tennessee Williams left our world that same year, and in 1983 the phrase “I ought to” appeared less frequently than the phrase “I need to” in the published word. Most students armed with a little curiosity and some library skills could discover the first two important facts by sifting through books. The third bit? That requires the use of some serious computers that have scanned, stored, and indexed almost every printed word in the English language.

Book update: cover and copy

The book, The 20Time Project, is getting closer and closer to publication. Thanks to Camilla for combing over the copy with a precise eye for detail and style. We're having fun conversations about tone. Academic or conversational? Mmmmm, latter. Ria, my editor, and I both think we're on track for a January 2015 publication date, when I will first ship books to my Kickstarter backers

I'm also excited to show off a draft of the cover. I couldn't afford the thousands of dollars normally spent on professional cover designs, so I violated the advice I got from so many others, and I made this myself. Feedback welcome. 

Want to stay current on updates about the book? Sign up here. 


Back the book: The 20 Time Project

Later this month I plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign for a book I will finish this summer. The working title is The 20 Time Project: How educators and parents can follow Google's formula for supercharged innovation.
Before I actually launch the campaign, I'm looking for pre-backers so when I do go live, the Kickstarter page isn't sad and lonely. For a $15 pledge, you will get a copy of the book (signed or unsigned depending on whether you want my ink on it). For more, you will get more.

Here are my commitments:
  • May 1 launch Kickstarter Campaign
  • June 1 close Kickstarter Campaign with at least $3,000 raised
  • July 1 draft finished
  • September 1 send book to publisher (I plan to distribute the book on my own, through the Kindle store, and through Amazon)
  • October 1 ship books and rewards to backers 
Some of you can expect to hear from me directly, so beware. If you're willing to be a pre-backer, please let me know in the comments, through email (brookhouser@gmail.com), or any other way you want. Or, you can simply fill out this quick form.


The 20% Project Elevator Pitch

One of the elements of my mid-year exam this month is going to be the 20% Project Elevator Pitch. The term comes from the notion that an innovator with a great idea might find herself in an elevator with a powerful investor. She has a very short period of time to convince this investor to buy into her idea. She needs to deliver an elevator pitch.

For this assignment, I am asking my students to prepare a pitch about their 20% Project in 30 seconds. Throughout the exam, I will pull students outside and ask them to deliver their pitch to me. I’m following the model established by a cheesy video I found on YouTube explaining an elevator pitch.

Sean Wise is a business journalist for The Globe and Mail in Toronto and the host of Canada's version of Shark Tank. According to Wise, good elevator pitches have two parts: the pain statement and value proposition. First the individual lays out a problem that needs to be solved. Then she establishes how her idea is going to solve it.

Wise also states that elevator pitches should also be succinct, easy to understand, greed inducing, and irrefutable. I prefer “good inducing” for this project. I tell my students that they should deliver their pitch in a way that compels me to pull out my wallet and write a check to support their project. I’ll be leaving my checkbook at home that day just in case some of them are that good.

I'm Glad Google Reader is Gone

Last year I used Google Reader to keep track of all of my students' #20time blogs. I created folders sorted by section number and last name. Now Google Reader is gone, and I couldn't be happier.

Let's back up to CUE Rockstar Tahoe where my love affair with a post Google Reader began. One of the greatest parts of CUE Rockstar is the two-hour lunch. These lunches that allow for extreme collaboration may be the single most valuable parts of Rockstar events. One day I got to spend almost two hours brainstorming with Alice Chen about 20% Time. We talked about how we manage the blogs we assign with our projects. I told her that I was sad about Google Reader going away, and I thought I would create a form for students to fill out that would link to their most current posts. Chen, in her usual brilliance suggested that I include a paragraph textbox so students would paste the written content of the blog into the form itself.

The result: all of my students' blog posts for the whole year on one large spreadsheet I could easily scan. This process is MUCH faster than clicking through scores of blogs every week. Thanks, Alice. You're brilliant, and you've given me hours of my life back.

Google reader? Good riddance.

Twitter serves 80% of my LMS needs, quickly

If new technology doesn't simplify your life, change it or dump it.

A little over a year ago our school switched from Moodle to Haiku for our LMS program. I'm really happy with Haiku, and I think many of our teachers are seeing the benefits. The assessments and gradebooks have saved me a lot of time, and I love how well they're all integrated. However, Haiku has one fatal flaw. It's slow. I. Mean. Slow.

When I am building an assessment or managing my grades, I don't mind the time it takes for Haiku to authenticate me. That time is saved later. It's worth it. But 80% of my LMS work is simply sharing links of docs, forms, quizlet decks, announcements, tasks, and questions. I hate spending time signing in to Haiku to make a simple announcement.

Last year at Fall CUE, I attended Lisa Highfill's workshop on flipping the classroom. I'm a flipper myself, but I knew I would be able to learn something new and awesome from Lisa because every time I see her, I do. I did.

The biggest aha moment I got from her session was a solution to my LMS problem that was so simple, so elegant, so fast, and (now) so obvious. She has a separate Twitter account for her class.

After that session, I created my class's Twitter account and embedded it in my Haiku page. Now whenever I want to post something to my class, I just tweet it from the app. From my phone. From my tablet. No login necessary. Students and parents can get a clear and fast feed of what's happening in 140 characters or fewer.

20% Project Talk at The Carmel Library Foundation

On Tuesday, September 17, I'm going to be giving a talk for The Carmel Library Foundation as a part of the Jack & Peggy Baskin Parent Lecture Series. Teachers who know about #20time, I need your help. Why does #20time make you optimistic about the future? Leave a comment or post it in this form.