My goal for this year is to figure out how to integrate 20% time projects into my classroom. So far, the students have been at it for two weeks, and the momentum seems to be building, which is a good thing when working with students.
Up to this point, most of the work has been in the way of brainstorming topics for projects. Yesterday, the students did a Bad Idea Factory brainstorming session. It was a kick and the students came out of it with a bunch of good ideas. It worked much better than the regular run-of-the-mill brainstorming session that we did last week.
This must be due to the fact that students (and probably people in general) have a hard time thinking when there is pressure to have a good finished product, which is definitely the case when a person “brainstorms.” However, with the Bad Idea Factory, the pressure is gone. There is no wrong answer in trying to come up with bad ideas. They are all just bad.
I was amazed at the ideas that sprang from this activity. One group wrote “getting pregnant.” I told them that was definitely a bad idea! However, some of the ideas were brilliant. One student came up with the idea to go to another school for a few days. It might seem like a bad idea, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought about the potential there for an interesting project. Here are a few of the notes pages from the students.
This is how I handled the Bad Idea Factory in my class. I talked a little about what I wanted the students to do. Then I showed them a short video of a student explaining how the Bad Idea Factory helped him to find a good project topic (click here for the video). After that, we went into the library where there are good tables to use for group work. I arranged students into groups of 4 or 5 to sit around the tables. On each table was a large piece of butcher paper and enough markers so everyone could write on the paper. Then, I turned them loose.
Like I said before, the results were amazing. I gave the students about 15 minutes to brainstorm, which is a good chunk of time for students to come up with ideas. Usually, after this much time in a normal brainstorming session, a good number of the students would just be sitting there. That was not the case with this. The students were engaged for the entire time, and I eventually had to shut them down. Students then had the opportunity to walk around for a few minutes and read what the other groups came up with. They really enjoyed this.
To end the session, we went back to the classroom and I gave them 5 minutes to write down any ideas for projects that they might have thought of during this exercise. Several of the students seemed to have a pretty good idea of what they wanted to do.
I don’t think the Bad Idea Factory is a tool that can only be used for 20% time projects. It should probably be used in most cases where students are fishing for ideas. However, it is a must when doing a 20% time project. I feel that this is where the best ideas are going to come from for our projects this year.
For an idea of what the Bad Idea Factory looks like, check out the video.