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Why I Wrote My Book (and who I wrote it for)

Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom

This week, my book – Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom: Using 20% Time, Genius Hour, and PBL to Drive Student Success – will finally be available. I’m excited, a bit nervous for people to actually read it, and also happy with how the final product turned out. 

That being said, I wanted to let all of you know why I wrote this book. And also, who I wrote this book for. 

We are currently sitting at one of the most important crossroads in our educational history. It is the most important time to be in education. And it is the most important time to fight for a better education. Albert Einstein famously said, “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” Let’s get better results by changing what we are doing now.

I wrote this book because I experienced this firsthand as a teacher. In late 2011 I finished reading Dan Pink’s book Drive. His book explained that extrinsic motivation — the kind that deals with grades and money — can only move a person to do just enough. Yet, intrinsic motivation — the kind that comes from our passions — can move a person to change the world. He wrote: “Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” I wanted my students to be engaged, not controlled by the rewards I was providing.

Right after the holiday break I introduced “The 20% Project”. Based on Google’s own 20% policy, students in my class were able to work on whatever they wanted for 20% of their class time each week. Many were confused at first. Many were also excited. Most did not know what to do with their free time. 

What I saw were students struggling to find a purpose for their learning, when the purpose had always been provided for them. In time, we got past this hurdle, and my students began to learn for themselves. It was a powerful experience, and one I had to share.

Over the next few weeks and months I began to find a community of teachers online who were doing the same thing: giving students a chance to learn what they were passionate about during class. This community of 20% Time and Genius Hour teachers demonstrated how inquiry-based learning experiences moved students to a new type of in-school success.

Many teachers have asked me how to start this type of learning in their class and in their school. This book is for you. Many teachers have also questioned if this type of learning can work in our schools. This book is definitely for them too.

I wrote this book for any teacher, student, parent, administrator or person who is curious about 20% time, Genius Hour, and inquiry-based learning. Each chapter includes a story of learning, research and resources to support inquiry, and a classroom application section meant to drive students to innovative work. You’ll also find bonus content after each chapter that you can use in your classroom right now.

If we want our students to change the world, we’ll have to take a good look at how we can change our classrooms to support inquiry and innovation.

1 comment… add one

  • I look forward to this book, and am grateful for your willingness and courage to share it with the world. Like you, I read Pink’s book, and immediately started implementing a 20% time with my class. While it continues to be a learning process for all of us, it has revolutionized our classroom. Many of my colleagues have begun to adopt some form of it in their rooms as well. Your book will be a welcome resource to so many of us who yearn to authentically move our kids towards independent learning.

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