What is 20% Time?

You will be doing a project modeled on Google's 20% time as your final for Humanities.  You will have 40 minutes each week to work.  Please come prepared on that day to spend half the block supplementing the project work you do outside of class.

Rather than re-invent the wheel, these instructions were taken from Mr. Brookhouser's English class's page.  Unlike his class, however, due to the small size of our group, you may work with no more than one partner (if you want a partner at all).

The phases of the project are as follow:
1.    Brainstorming  Your project should be "Product Focused," meaning there is an end result product that will demonstrate your learning over the course of the semester.  It could be a physical product, something you begin or create, or a digital product.  This should not take much of your time, and you should have some general ideas when you arrive to class on Thursday.
2.     Proposal  This is the pitch.  It should be written in paragraph form and address the questions below.  It does not need to be final and you may certainly change as your project develops.

  • What is your project?
  • Who will work with you on this project?
  • Who is the audience / user base / client base for this project?
  • Why is this project worthwhile?
  • What do you expect to learn from this project?
  • What PRODUCT will you have to show at the end of the year?
  • What sort of expenses will be involved in your project and how will you cover them?
  • What sort of equipment will you need and where will you get it?
  • What is your timeline for completing (or launching) your project?
3.    Reflection  Each week every member of every team is required to write an individual blog post to discuss his/her progress. Each student writes about what happened over the past cycle, what was learned, what challenges were faced, and what he/she anticipates in the future. Each blog post must be at least 100 words written in Standard American English and contain a related image that is posted without infringing on anyone's copyright.

Reflections are ongoing; you will receive completion credit as part of your marking period grade if  completed within seven days of the week in which the work was completed.  If you don't get to it on time, make sure you do it anyway since your reflections are part of your final assessment and a documentation of your learning along the way.

Key to your success will be working on your 20% project outside of class.  I encourage you to find a mentor, someone with experience that will be helpful and useful in completing your project, so that you have the best resources and are able to explore the best tangents.  Google knows a LOT, but it doesn't know everything.  These outside of class learning experiences should be documented in your weekly reflections.  I am happy to help you find an online mentor or even one you meet with face-to-face!

4.  Presentation At the end of the year, each team will give a five-minute presentation to students and teachers to show off its work. This will be carefully written, choreographed, and rehearsed to produce the best presentation you’ve ever given. These TED-style presentations will be delivered in the Auditorium.

The whole process, from brainstorm to final presentation, will result in your final project grade.

How am I going to grade the 20% project? I want to de-emphasize the grade because extrinsic motivators like grades tend to discourage the innovation and creativity I’m looking for in this project. Read Drive for more on this. I want you to be inspired by the project itself, not by the grade you’re going to get on it.

That said, I am going to assess you on the objective elements of the project. A significant portion of your final grade will be dependent on the following elements with rubrics.

  • The Proposal (Is the proposal on-time, and does it address the required questions appropriately?)
  • The Reflection (Does the post meet the required length, address the required topic, and submitted to the form on-time? Do you post regularly?)
  • The Product (Did you successfully move from idea phase to production phase, and do you have something to show at the end of the year?)
  • Productivity (Are you spending your 20% time by actively and passionately working on your project? If not, we need to quickly adjust the project so you are working on something that is intrinsically motivating. This is less objective, but if I see students not being productive, I will intervene.)
  • Final Presentation (Does your presentation meet all of the required elements?)

What if my project is a failure?
In this class there is a place for perfection.

The world’s best entrepreneurs embrace failure.

The only truly failed project is the one that doesn’t get done. I want you to strive to show off a successful product at the end of the year, but I don’t want the quest for perfection to lead to an incomplete project. I want students to follow the advice allegedly plastered on the wall of Facebook’s headquarters.


This policy doesn't work in all work-related environments. I wouldn't want to see this poster in the dentist's office or the parachute packing assembly line. But for creative projects where we're trying to  innovate, I find this idea compelling.

If you feel that your project is a failure, I want to hear about it. What did you learn about it? Think about your science fair project. If your hypothesis was wrong, was your project a failure?

 I'm excited to see what ideas you have!

Your 20% time will occur on Thursday or Friday of each week, depending on which is the B day.

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