How to Help Students Develop the Growth Mindset With #20time

Imagine your students taking the stage at TED, standing confident and delivering their next big idea that wows the crowd and become a viral share on the web.

It's every teacher's dream, right? To see students grow into the remarkable adults we know they can become.

As teachers, we look for the right unit, the right lesson plan, the perfect project that will help students develop grit, see the benefit of entrepreneurial hustle and grow a growth mindset.

These are the thoughts that keep us up all night the day before a new school year.

Students who possess a growth mindset know that grit, perseverance and reflection will get them to grow into whoever they want to be, says Carol S. Dweck.

Dweck's research also shows us that students from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly those of minority background, typically possess a fixed mindset. They believe their intelligence quotient stays the same throughout their life. They could learn new things, they believe, but they can't grow more intelligent.

One way to curb the fixed mindset and help students build a growth mindset is through what's been called the #20time project, a.k.a. Genius Hour.

#20time is based off of Google's strategy that allows its employees to use one day per week to work on a project of their choice -- pulling on intrinsic motivation like no other employer has been able to do so well and landing Google to be recognized as one of the most innovative companies year after year by Fast Company.

To integrate the project, teachers would need to give one day per week for students to develop their own passion-based project.

What students decide to create cannot be graded. No ifs, ands or buts. By not applying a grade to it, students are allowed to fail. They learn the power of failing forward (i.e. prototyping, a design thinking step made popular by David Kelley from IDEO and Stanford's D-school.)

The 3 Stages of #20time

1. The Weekly Blog Post

Every week, students develop a blog post that reflects on what they are planning this week, how they are developing their SMART goal(s) and the nuances of being entrepreneurial.

It's a win-win, feeding two birds with one scone. During these weekly blog posts, teachers see their students' thought-process and students further developing their writing along with learning the digital literacy of blogging.

Google's has worked well for my classroom, especially for schools utlizing Google Apps for education.

2. The Pitch

In the "real world," entrepreneurs need customers to survive, right? Likewise, creatives need to develop something that people desire. A Kickstarter fails pretty fast if no one wants or needs the product.

During the pitch, students share the idea of their project with the community, people outside the the "real world."

If a student is developing a vegan cookbook, she'll learn pretty quickly what to include or not include in the cookbook.

If a student is writing a children's book, he'll learn what makes for a good book and what doesn't.

This is typically done in a science-fair format where students create a tri-fold that explains their project and then asks people who come by to share their thoughts through a questionnaire.

3. The TED-like Talk

Here's where the students take the stage, quite literally. Teachers prepare students by modeling and teaching the students effective presentation skills.

If possible, sign out the auditorium to take students outside of the classroom for when they give their presentation. Lay out a red carpet and record their presentation. Later, students can watch their presentation and reflect on how they could make a better one in the future.


The above three parts can be graded, but the final project should not be.

So, what have students created?

In my class, students have created:

  • Using Harvard's open-source cloud-based mapping software, students created interactive maps for AP students to visualize ancient trade routes.
  • A children's book
  • A how-to Youtube channel for beginner's yoga
  • A 10-week weight lifting program to bench press 300lbs
  • A t-shirt company that rivals Supreme
  • A fundraiser for Charity : Water and another for Breast Cancer

The list goes on. It's amazing to see what students can create.

It's also amazing to see students fail in their projects. They could get full credit and deliver excellent blog posts, execute the pitch and give a fantastic speech, but fail miserably in attempting to create whatever it is they wanted to create. That's okay.

And when there's no grade and it's thought of as a prototype, students start to see the power of failing forward. They experience the growth mindset and see that excellence is the effect of failing first with a crappy first draft and getting back up on the proverbial horse to ride again.