Friday, November 5, 2010

Treat Teachers Like Google Engineers

I have a good job. I have a good medical and decent dental plan. Still, I look at Google engineers with envy. Deluxe cafeteria food. Video game consoles provided in lounges and even in hallways for play time. One building offers its employees a choice of stairs or a slide to get from one floor down to the next!

But what I envy most is that Google encourages its' engineers to spend 20% of their time on their own pet projects. It is called Innovation Time Off. What would happen if you gave that time to teachers?

Would I teach my computer class that day? Would I take the kids on field trips to the Inlet near our school, because I have a degree in biology, and my real strengths were environmental and evolutionary sciences. Would I become a PE teacher for a day? I used to be a competitive archer, and if I could manage to get some equipment together, perhaps I could introduce students to a sport they have never attempted. I wonder what I would teach them?

Could I collaborate with another teacher? What if I got together with the music teacher, and we used my computer lab and her music room, and created re-mixes of student recordings? Or, perhaps we could make animations with the student's compositions playing in the background.

I suppose the worry is that some teachers would take advantage of this time and just give the kids busy work so that they could mark and have more free time on the weekend. Perhaps some would actually do this. I wonder if the bosses at Google had the same worry at first. However, it was Innovation Time Off that led to the creation of Gmail and AdSense. Who knows what innovation will come next from Google? It is a safe bet though that something will be coming.

If teachers had Innovation Time Off, I bet it would really awaken the passion teachers have for teaching. I bet they would look forward to this day, and it would be a day of the best planned, most exciting lessons of the week. The students would look forward to it. This one day of the week could change everything.


Olga said...

This is a wonderful idea. Real and dedicated teachers would run with it, I'm sure.
We hear a lot about running schools more like businesses. This, as opposed to treating kids like products, would be an appropriate application of a business model.
Best of luck to you!

James Gill said...

Thanks Olga - I think the real challenge is the feeling that we need to rush through the curriculum. Curriculum is important, but I think that teachers have great ideas for educational opportunities that happen outside the curriculum, or in between different educational streams. I think this kind of freedom would also lead to more multi-disciplinary lessons.

Chris Wejr (mrwejr) said...

Love it! I just offered an extra prep a week to my staff to do whatever they wanted. I am going to cover their class so they can do this. It is nowhere near the 20% time but it is a start. I live the idea you are talking about. What if you had one day a week to do whatever you wanted? Think of the amazing things that could result?

I have often thought about those that have been jaded by the system - those that would take the time to finish their marking or create more worksheets. In a system that does not demand creativity, and in which people are often placed based on seniority, how cane we make this work? Would love to hear your thoughts James.

You can read more about my FedEx, or Innovative, Prep idea at The Connected Principals blog.

Chad, Kim, Emily and Abby Brannon said...

Excellent ideas! What if students had that much innovation time? No objectives. No harassment. Pure freedom. Might get ugly. Probably not.

James Gill said...

@Chad, Kim, Emily and Abby Brannon I view my job as a teacher to be a guide to students. I offer direction, and sometimes I offer correction. I feel students could make some very good choices about what they want to study, bit as an adult and teacher I want them to be aware of the wourld beyond how they currently see it. My main point is that by freeing up some teaching time away from the proscribed curriculum as it is currently taught, I wonder what innovations my peers would come up with.

Douglas Green said...

I mentioned this during an #Edchat Twitter conference a few weeks ago, but I doubt that I was the only one to think about extending the Google model to teachers. Teachers should also consider extending it to students. They could start by letting students decide what to do for homework and require them to report to the class what they did. For easy self-development go to DrDougGreen.Com.