Friday, June 14, 2013

Project vs. Project-based Checklist

I came across this Project Based Learning Essential Elements Checklist while doing some other research for staff development. Helpful for assessing your project-based learning as you are developing it. Lisa

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Project Based Learning - Where to Start?

As a high school physics teacher, I have wanted to use PBL for some time.  Due to the subject matter most of my students are already good at "playing school" meaning they know how to study, take lecture notes and deliver what teachers require of them.  What many of them aren't consistently good at is exercising the ability to think independently and imaginatively.  This is particularly noticeable when I give them an open ended lab question to investigate without a "cookbook" type lab procedure to follow.  I think that PBL could be useful for helping students exercise their creativity "muscles" while researching and developing a project.  Helping them recognize the physics they need along the way to answering their research question seems to me a powerful motivator for actually understanding the physics. I want them to take responsibility for their learning rather than just passively coming to class, taking notes, and expecting me to deliver content knowledge for their consumption. My quick look at the resources available at the Butler Institute web site shows there are immediately useful resources even for teachers like me who are starting from ground zero with nothing but a conviction that PBL is one step in helping students grow as independent learners.  Thanks for giving me a place to start.

Project based learning is the way to go!

Students are losing the ability to problem solve without having a set formula to use. These students will be the engineers, politicians, scientists, etc who will be faced with real life problems that have to be solved for the country. If students are not used to using inquiry to deepen learning and reveal insights to their surroundings then they will fall flat when presented with the challenges that will be presented to them in the future. Project based and inquiry based learning is best for students to realize their potential and also realize their is more than one right way to reach a solution.

Immigration Project

After teaching my fifth graders about colonial life, I realized that my students did not understand what immigration truly is and that people continue to come to America for a new life.  I decided to have my students interview immigrants to get a better idea of why people come to America and what experiences they had during their move.  As a class we brainstormed a list of good questions to ask our immigrants.  We had lots of discussion about what makes a question a good question.  After being assigned an immigrant, they then did some research about the country they came from and finalized their list of questions.  Students interviewed their immigrants face to face, over the phone, over Facetime and over Skype. We recorded each interview so that they could go back and listen to the interview if they needed to.  After conducting their interview, they created a documentary of their immigrant with Audacity and Movie Maker.  I was extremely impressed with my students abilities to take the answers from their interview and create a story about their immigrant.  
It was good to hear the no "fluff" aspect of Project Base Learning. "It's messy!" the presenter exclaimed up front. It's good to hear that trial and error are still a part of the educator process (especially with technology, right?) in this process. Asking the questions if this is appropriate and fits into the lesson or am I just putting the techno factor in for the sake of marking that off my benchmarks evokes a deeper level of thinking and reflecting on the educators planning. The presenter reaffirmed what needs to be w stilled in students that the journey is the process as well, not just the outcome. The objectives and benchmarks are made during this "trial" period. 

Biography Project

We used an interactive PowerPoint for students to use to make a virtual museum for a grand-parent.  Students wrote interview questions, practiced asking questions, and then interviewed their relative via Skype or in person.  They recorded the audio of their interviews so that they could use the information to write the PowerPoint.  They inserted pictures that they scanned at home and used pictures from the internet.  Overall, it was a great experience for them and allowed them to use a lot of technology.

Project Based Learning

I love giving students the opportunity to be creative in their presentation or learning, and I want to incorporate more technology.  However, one thing I discovered when attempting this with my students this year was a gap between what they can do online  their basic computer skills.  For example, my kids could easily create a Prezi, embed YouTube videos and create sound files.  However, what they couldn't do was right click to save a picture to a file from the Internet, rename files in their personal drives and use keyboard shortcuts to navigate between windows, etc.  The process took so much longer than I had anticipated because I had assumed my 7th graders would have already mastered these skills.  When I do this again, we'll have to take some time to teach these skills at the beginning before I actually turn them loose to create.