Do you give your gifted students room to explore personal interests? Google does. In fact they demand it. At Google, employees are expected to spend 20% of their time at work (that’s paid time) developing a project outside of their job description. This works out to one day per week spent on an independent activity.
Why does Google do this? Well, it certainly makes it seem like an amazing place to work – imagine getting to explore a personal interest for one day a week at work.
But Google doesn’t do it just to make happy workers. Gmail, Google News, and Google Adsense all began as independent projects. This 20% time also led to enhancements of other major Google products.
Connection To The Gifted Classroom
I’m sure that a fair share of Google employees were once identified as gifted students. And I bet many of our students would probably benefit from opportunities to explore. Further, just as Google benefits from its employee’s freedom, our classrooms and school would probably benefit as well.
So can we capture the power of Google’s independent time in our own classrooms? We may not be able to hand over 20% of our day. But we can certainly structure learning experiences so that students explore content via their own talents.
Just before our winter break, my class finished reading a novel. As tempted as I was to assign the usual 5-paragraph response to literature, I wanted to give students a chance to respond to the novel in a way of their choosing. On our last day, each student presented their response. Students displayed beautiful art, showed off 3d models, and even performed their own music. One student even opted to write the essay. Regardless of their method of response, my students made an authentic connection to the story and addressed many of the state’s literature response standards.
Will I do this for every response to literature? Of course not – for the same reason Google doesn’t give away 100% of its time to employees. There’s business to get done, pacing guides to follow, and tests to prepare for. However, once a week, once a unit, or once a month, try giving your gifted students a some extra freedom to explore and see what happens.
Further reading: Wikipedia article on Google’s 20% time