Google’s policy of 20 percent time—giving employees plenty of free time work on whatever they want—is world famous for being the birthplace of innovative products— most famously, Gmail. But what would happen if schools gave students a similar amount of unstructured free time and allowed them to take control of their own learning? This spring Matthew Bebbington, a high school physical education teacher in the U.K., decided to find out. He organized a school-wide "Innovation Day" that let 80 students between the ages of 11-15 choose what and how to learn.
Bebbington writes on The Guardian’s Teacher Network blog that far from taking an extended recess the students "worked solidly for six hours, cross-pollinating across different projects, ages and abilities." Although the teens knew nothing they did throughout the day would receive a grade or appear on a test, Bebbington says requiring them to publicly present their projects at the end of the day, fostered accountability and a "we must make this brilliant" attitude.