I recently read a post on the site “Good” about a school in the U.K. where a teacher organized what he called an “Innovation Day.” Students were given a full school day to work on any project of their choice – the only real requirement was that they needed to present their project at the end of the day. Students worked on a variety of projects, “…they made everything from art related projects like album covers and Manga to more tech oriented projects like a remote control car and rockets.”
The full post from “Good” can be found here: http://www.good.is/posts/why-every-school-needs-an-innovation-day/
“Good” links to a post on the Guardian’s site by the teacher who ran the project which can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2012/jun/14/freedom-teaching-learning
Matthew Bebbington, the teacher who came up with the project, says he got the idea from something Google does – the give their employees free time to work on anything they want, and apparently, this is where the idea of gmail came from. I didn’t know this, but 3M does this as well, and this is how the idea for the Post-it note was born. Pretty amazing!
The students involved in this experiment were ages 11-15. Bebbington reports that students worked steadily throughout the day, were fully engaged, and collaborated well with each other. He credits this to the fact that students designed their own learning. They had the freedom to try things, and even to fail, since their projects were not graded. Since they had to present this projects, students were motivated to create something really great.
Bebbington advocates that this be something schools do once a week. However, he does acknowledge that, with the amount of curriculum a teacher needs to cover, this would be very difficult.
Although doing exactly this would be difficult, this does make me think about how I could work in something like this. Could I allow students to design their own projects at the end of a unit? What would they come up with if I gave them the freedom to find some authentic way for demonstrating the skills they learned?