Tuesday, December 10, 2013

4 Other Essential Elements of Project Based Learning

Today I met with a great group of teachers embarking on implementing project based learning together. I shared this seminal article with them and we discussed their ideas. But AFTER I left their meeting, what I REALLY wanted to say hit me.

As you plan your projects, consider at least one element of project design that will get (and keep) kids interested BEYOND the 8 essentials . . .

1. Serve others in need with your project.
  • Example: Students build a grocery store via donations to fuel the local food bank. In the process, they learn about pricing, inventory control, spreadsheets, and supply and demand.
  • High school students create books about science concepts for elementary school students from poverty with no books in their homes. Each child gets a book.
2. Serve other students by teaching them something they need to know.
  • Example: Everyone is reading this novel in English, but my team is responsible for teaching everyone about theme in this work of literature. If we do a bad job, no one will learn about theme. We’ll provide a tutorial, examples, and activities to teach everyone else in our class what theme is and how it works in this novel. Other classes who are also reading the book can learn from our work because it will be published online.
  • Secondary students teach elementary students ___ through screencasts. (Fractions? Narrative Structure? Could be anything---maybe the winning team (see #3) gets to travel to meet the elementary school learners at the end of the project.)
3. Be a competitor.
  • Each member of my class is on a team, and each of our teams are working on a project. The winning team gets to . . . (go visit another school with our cooperative counterparts as ambassadors, eat dinner at a restaurant with the teacher to celebrate, etc.)
4. Publish online (and get someone to see it).
  • Create a blog on which to publish your classes digital endeavors, post pictures of paper masterpieces, etc. Then get friends, family, (whatever it takes) to comment on them from time to time. It’s very motivating for your work to be seen outside your school and sometimes even outside your country. Find a cooperating teacher and get her students to comment on your students’ work, then return the favor.
  • Two of my favorite local teachers have created classroom Instagram accounts where their students’ work is published. Students, parents, teachers, etc. can favorite students’ work online. Teachers can use the accounts to provide directions for activities (like foldables). Thanks for the idea Brooke Lowery and Bridget Costello!


Unknown said...

I really think #4 is a powerful recommendation. Now, I don't know if there's a specific target audience for this (i.e. age or academic subject of students) but in the digital age it's important to show children that the internet isn't just for playing games and being anti-social.

The possibilities for students who have particular interests to begin gaining real world experience is endless. Students interested in web-design or other digital tasks could learn a lot creating, updating, and maintaining the websites. Students interested in writing in the future could start their careers off early by writing articles about the subjects and using digital authorship to begin building a reputation that can be leveraged in the future.

In addition to the general advantages above, the connection that could be made on the student-parent level when parents can simply pull up a website to know what their child is doing in school could be powerful.

Watching my little brother go through high school the last few years, these were some areas where I really felt the school was limiting the students instead of enabling them and I'm really happy to see someone with a reach into that community provide such great advice.

Amy Mayer said...

Jason: Thanks for your insightful comment. I like what you said about gaining real-world experience. Imagine starting conversations about your work with experts when you're 15 or 16? Where could you get with those connections grown over years by the time you were 20? That would be amazing.

Unknown said...

It's almost sad how these opportunities are swept under the rug sometimes. I know several people in the internet marketing and design business who are successful business owners now because they had a youtube channel or a blog in High School. But they've not all gone unnoticed. This article on children making apps ( http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/smartphone-apps/appy-kids-making-big-bucks-20111116-1nj3u.html ) highlights some of the amazing things kids are doing with technology often without any mentoring or formal education.

Not to mention the focus that could come from such experience. Some children walk out of high school saying they want to work with computers. That may sound great to a parent, but that's such a huge world that most people wouldn't know where to start. Getting that experience earlier could let a child leave knowing wether they were looking to be a coder, graphic designer, marketer, all things that someone not especially computer savvy might think are all one package.

Anonymous said...

I love these buttons. Great extension for PBL!