Twenty Percent Time, Really, Seriously, Like Totally 20%

A foundational idea to the Mosaic Collective is beginning to gather momentum. It’s the idea of 20% time, made famous by organizations and companies like Google. Can you imagine dedicating 20% of your work time to personal curiosity, inquiry, and experimentation; operating only under the caveat that what you develop and create must benefit the organization or program with which you identify? I mean, Whoa!

What would you do?

What would you think about?

Would you disrupt, design, and even maybe even innovate?

There’s only one way to find out.

I’m pleased that for one reason or another my colleagues agree that this is a good idea. Now, I say, “for one reason or another,” because what’s led many to this agreement and idea is sheer exhaustion and the need to cycle out of, what I affectionately refer to as, the Learning Jungle, err, the Mosaic space.

Our current thinking on this idea has created several options for implementation. One is a true 20% rotation and the others are 10% rotations, where teachers are expected to structure their time away from the Jungle. The thinking behind the options comes from different perspectives of course. One perspective seems neat, tidy, and efficient, that is, from the standpoint of managing of the students and availability of teachers to the students. It’s one of, we need “all hands on deck” so as to not overwhelm other teachers that remain in the space.

Admirable, indeed.

I don’t necessarily want to dismiss this thinking, but I do want to introduce another perspective.

See, rather than mainly thinking about the Mosaic rooms and their occupants, let’s think about what the “out of the space” teachers can and will create during their time away. More traditional thinking focuses these thoughts on “prep time” and some sort of clerical and/or grading-type of work. But maybe we should think of it differently. Think for a moment what we can do with time to think freely … and not necessarily alone or even on campus. To accomplish true 20% time would require two Mosaic teachers out per day of the week. It’s possible that these teachers will spend their time alone, but it’s also possible they will do stuff together. The 10% option does not allow this, as teachers would rotate out one at a time – bimonthly instead of weekly.

Can a public high school truly pull of a 20% program?

I say, yes… I mean, yes!

To do so however will require creative design nor mere tweaking and “cut and paste” spreadsheet-type adjustments. It’ll take courage and a commitment to create great things – to take a huge step towards transforming the efficiency-based thinking that prods schools to chase their tails and spin around and around (doing nothing but getting dizzy) into a truly human-based ecosystem of sorts – one that values individual contributions to the whole and free thinking above institutional forms of crowd control, mass herding, and mind-numbing compliance.

The Mosaic Collective is a hub of research and development, both for students and for teachers. It’s the perfect place to implement a true 20% program. We need to do this.