House and shark tank
Project-Based Learning (PBL) has been around for a while. I’ve read in a couple of different sources that it began in the medical field as a way to authentically prepare doctors to practice medicine. Professors would give students a scenario of a patient and they had to use existing knowledge, as well as research, to help that patient. It got me thinking about the show, House. Every episode is basically a PBL in the way the team works together to gather information and move forward in diagnosing the patient. Shark Tank is another example of TV shows gone PBL--or PBL gone TV shows--because the entrepreneurs have learned skills and knowledge through launching their business and presenting to the sharks. Maybe the allure of copying what's on TV is why PBL is gaining so much traction in education. No, I don’t really think that. I think the promise of authentic learning experiences, engagement, and development of future-ready skills entices teachers to explore using PBL in their classrooms.
The gist of PBL is that students learn through the project that is led by a driving question. Usually, teachers include community members, either in person or digitally, to make connections to the real world.
Although PBL is gaining traction, there are some arguments of critics to ponder when deciding if PBL is right for your classroom or school. One of the arguments is PBL lacks rigor and focuses too much on “soft skills.” Similar to technology integration, instruction doesn’t magically become better because you put a device in a student’s hand; PBL doesn’t automatically equal rigor and strong instruction. However, it can equal that when pedagogy and curriculum are the drivers. Jeffco has a planning template that combines what we know about the Gold Standard PBL and Jeffco Curriculum.
Jeffco's pbl planning template
This post is not about explaining what PBL is, but I would encourage you to check out Buck Institute for Education (BIE) for resources for implementing PBL. Jeffco also has a planning template that has BIE resources embedded to make it easier to explore as you plan. The document helps teachers think through the Jeffco curriculum and use project based learning as the vehicle to create student learning experiences that are authentic and rigorous.
Technology integration and Pbl
Two major premises of project based learning is inquiry for a student-led learning experience and authenticity in how they are applying their learning. Technology plays into both of those goals. Using technology meaningfully in the lesson/project design allows for students to be the drivers and teachers to give real time feedback along the way. Technology gives students the opportunity to be engaged citizens by connecting their learning to authentic problems or projects in their communities and beyond. Last, technology integrated into project based learning gives students many opportunities to learn the skills of computer and internet use in contextualized experiences. The combination of technology integration and project based learning can be very powerful in preparing your learners to be future ready. Check out Jeffco’s PBL Planning Document to learn and get started on planning a PBL!
How do you integrate technology into an author visit? Take the author on a trip to his own setting. Fifth graders at West Woods Elementary not only met author Roland Smith but invited him to climb Mt. Everest with them. Students in Ms. Bachman's class were reading "Peak", one of Smith's many novels when the author himself came for an assembly to talk about the writing process. Armed with Google Cardboards and the Expeditions app, fifth graders were able to take a tour of Mt. Everest through virtual reality as the author narrated. Students were amazed at the details and facts Mr. Smith shared with them about Mt. Everest as he was looking through the Google Cardboard. They asked him several follow-up questions about how he acquires so much information and the research that goes into his writing process.
Later in class, students participated in a full expedition to Everest with Digital Teacher Librarian, Kristen McCann. "Watching students engage in their learning and the connections that students were able to make to the text because of the experience was phenomenal," stated Kristen.
EDPuzzle is one of our favorite tools to ensure students are learning from video content and not simply skipping through the material without doing any thinking. To get students to interact with the content, you can add voice or text comments; create multiple choice questions to make them predict possible outcomes, or short answer questions for students to summarize their learning on the topic. Questions are inserted along the video timeline and, with a check box, you can ensure students answer the questions before they proceed.
Searching for educational content within EDPuzzle is simple and intuitive; or you can upload your own videos. Students join your online class using an access code, and then you can track their progress through your video lessons.