I briefly mentioned Google’s 20% rule in an earlier post. In case you didn’t read it, then I think you should. But if you really don’t want to, here’s the segment about the 20% rule.

I really love the 20% concept, where Google engineers are allowed to work on any project they want for 20% of their time at work. It’s a brilliant concept, and a lot of Google’s products have come out of it (Google News, Orkut and apparently GMail as well). I think it’d be interesting to have that concept applied to education, but that’s for another day.
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Well, today is to be the “another day”.

Imagine that concept in education. 20% of the time, students are allowed to learn and explore whatever they want. That’s one full day a week (assuming a five-day school week). One full day where students can learn and explore whatever they are interested in, to allow them to pursue whatever projects they want. No proposals and approval needed. Whatever they are interested in. No restrictions.

I’d go as far as saying not to limit it to mere book knowledge. If a student is interested in business, let him use that time pursuing a business opportunity. If he’s interested in music, why not let him use that time maybe composing songs? For students interested in drama, how about letting them plan and produce their own performance? If he’s into soccer, let him spend that day creating their own freestyle tricks (maybe even record a personal instructional/showcase DVD). Countless opportunities can be explored.

Also, if a program like that is to work, that there needs to be no pressure to succeed. No grades, no pressure of failing or being judged. Be willing to let the project fail. The process is most important.

I know teachers and educators might say they will be chaos. They’ll say that students will waste their time. I don’t really agree. I think that given enough freedom, every student will find something they are interested in. Examples are mentioned above. The end product may not be the best, but the process and experience will be really beneficial.

I think what Douglas Merrill (Google’s CIO) said in his talk is really true, and applies for students as well. If you give them that 20% time, they will really enjoy it more. They’ll be more motivated. And it means that the 80% of the time will be more productive than a “normal 80%”.

20% time in school. I think it’s something worth exploring. What do you think?

And on a more personal note, if YOU were given 20% time (whether you’re schooling or working), what will you pursue?