(Cross-posted on the Google for Work Blog.)

Editor's note: Leading up to Education on Air, we asked you what topics you’d like to discuss at the conference. The clear winner was “innovation in schools,” so we asked Kevin Brookhouser, a Google Certified Teacher and director of technology at York School, to share his innovative practice of giving students freedom in what and how they learn. Kevin is the author of the new book The 20Time Project and will share his methods during an Education on Air session on May 9. Register here for the free online conference today.

The 20Time Project stemmed from the collision of several fortunate events: I met a number of inspirational teachers through the Google Teacher Academy, spent time at the Google campus, and read a book by Daniel Pink called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us about how to encourage innovative thinking. Inspired by Pink and Google’s “20 percent time”— a practice that allows employees to take time out of their “day job” to work on a side passion project— I created my own version and applied it to the classroom.
Guest blogger Kevin Brookhouser speaks around the world about empowering students with time and choice. He'll lead a conference session at Education on Air on May 9th

20Time is a simple concept that anyone can execute, as long as you give students the choice to design their own learning experience and support them throughout. Give students one day a week to work on a project of their choosing — one that serves a real audience and solves a real-world problem. Help students discover great ideas, write a thoughtful proposal, blog about their progress, craft an elevator pitch, and demonstrate their work through a final presentation.

20Time affords students the opportunity to follow the three critical ingredients essential to innovation as described in Drive:
  1. Autonomy: freedom in what they learn and how they learn it 
  2. Mastery: the ability to track their learning growth 
  3. Purpose: meeting the needs of an audience outside the walls of the classroom
When given the freedom to control their own learning, it turns out that students can come up with incredible ideas. The experiences they created are bigger than any I could’ve imagined — like Maria’s YouTube channel, which inspires young people to love books, or Maddie’s Recycling Closets project, which spreads awareness about sustainable consumerism. I’m fortunate to work at a future-oriented school that supported the experimental project from day one. But wherever they teach, I recommend that teachers who want to try 20Time give it a go — dive in and present the reasoning behind it. Transparent communication to parents, students and administrators can go a long way toward getting buy-in. For example, I send this letter to students and parents at the beginning of the year, and welcome other teachers to modify it to fit their needs.

I’ll be sharing more about what I’ve learned about innovating in schools during my session at Education on Air on May 9. Register here to get updates about the conference. You can find 20Time resources, including five steps to get started, at 20Time.org. The 20Time Project is now available on Amazon, and if you’re looking to purchase multiple copies for your school or would like me to speak about 20Time or Google for Education, I welcome you to contact me directly. See you on May 9!