Project based learning (PBL) is a great way to have students engage authentically and dig deep into content related topics that are driving their curiosity.
Project vs Problem
You may see some interchange of the acronym PBL as Project Based Learning and Problem Based Learning. In this blog, when referring to PBL, I will be referring to Project Based Learning.
Most students who have their own mobile device are constantly connected, so much that they deem their devices as necessary as the shirt they are wearing.
Harness their interest
They wouldn’t walk out of the house without a shirt on, nor would they go anywhere without their mobile devices. Rather than settle on their device addiction for merely social needs, as educators we can harness this fixation to meet our educational objectives.
Encouraging students to use their devices for PBL will benefit their motivation and provide depth to their projects.
Those of you who may be new to PBL, just do a quick Google search of PBL or use the hashtag: #PBLs and you will find a lot of great resources available.
Twitter as a Resource
Twitter will be one of your best assets as far as getting ideas on lessons and projects. So many educators have shared links to their resources on a plethora of topics.
One of my favorite PBL sites is the Buck Institute of Education (BIE) (http://www.bie.org/). BIE provides a thorough overview of PBL as well as many featured content-rich lessons.
In addition to those resources, below you will find five ways technology can benefit your students’ PBLs.
1. Access to Information
The key to a well designed PBL is to create an in-depth project that requires enough challenge connected with the standard-based content. These projects should take considerable time and not be answered in one Google search.
Even if your school isn’t equipped with top-notch technology, use students’ devices they carry with them everyday. Their mobiles make access to information much quicker and efficient. I recommend preparing a list of approved/suggested websites related to their projects for your students to get started.
You don’t want them wasting a bunch of time down the rabbit hole of information. Hosting your proposed sites on a wiki, website, or Google Docs will not only give you an opportunity to vet them for reputation but it will also make them more easily accessible for your students.
Also, consider creating a TinyURL (tinyurl.com), Google Shortener (https://goo.gl/), or a QR Code so students can use their mobiles for easy access to your list.
With so many great tools like OneDrive and Google Drive, collaboration has never been easier.
Students can work together simultaneously on one document for brainstorming, taking notes, finding additional resources, gathering answers, and even connecting and collaborating with experts in the field.
Compiling everything into their final project doesn’t have to fall on one person either. Presentation tools like Prezi, Google Slides, Emaze, or VoiceThread allow students to synchronously collaborate while they are in the same room or across the country from each other.
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3. Formative Feedback
Reflection, critique, and revision are very important aspects of the PBL process. Using technology for feedback along the way is very easy with the use of technology.
Using the tools I mentioned above (ex: OneDrive, Google Drive) allow you as an educator to check in on their work at any time, provide comments, ask guiding questions, and redirect.
Once their resources are shared with you, you will always have access to it. I suggest asking each group to create a shared folder (with you and their teammates) and to put all resources for their project in that folder.
That way there will be no sharing rights issue. If you are using GoogleClassroom, this organization is already done for you.
In order to give authentic feedback, students need to be clear on the expectations. Technology allows you to create and host rubrics to set the expectation and guide their work from the beginning.
RubiStar (http://rubistar.4teachers.org/) is a good resource to get you started creating rubrics if you are new to rubric creation. If you are a rubric pro, creating and hosting it in your favorite cloud storage tool works too.
Assign a rubric to each group and add comments and feedback throughout the process. Again, I suggest posting that rubric in their shared folder.
Don’t forget to ask them to get/give peer feedback as well. Have other groups make a copy of the rubric you create, share it with you as well as the group whom they will provide feedback.
Before you have the groups submit for summative feedback, request a self-assessment having them use the rubric by writing detailed comments in each section.
This ensures that they are reading the rubric and it gives them an opportunity to fix anything they think they may have missed.
These last two steps I think are the most powerful.
4. Connect with Experts
Connecting with experts around the world is something students can do much easier now with the ease of technology.
Connecting on Google Hangouts, Skype, or FaceTime allows students to get that face-to-face experience with experts who may not be geographically nearby.
Skype for Education has a great program set up where teachers can request connecting with other classrooms, teachers, or experts in the field.
You can also put out a call on Twitter to connect with experts (don’t forget to use hashtags!), or you could simply send a few emails or make a few phone calls to individuals in your community asking to connect with your students.
5. Sharing their projects and publishing
Finally, sharing and publishing their projects reaches a broader audience with technology. When students know that people other than just their teacher will be looking at their work, they are more likely to produce higher quality projects.
Projects can be shared with their parents, grandparents, friends and family all around the world, and don’t forget those experts they connected with who helped them along the way.
There are so many ways for students to create a final project of what they learned. If they create something with-in the classroom they can still broadcast it through photography (use Instagram or Facebook to show it off), Green Screen (Do Ink app in the app store), or a simple video.
All these can be hosted on your teacher website or the links can be shared on their social media outlets.
Chances are if you are doing PBL in your classroom, you are using technology. We’d love to help you pull together a lot more and make a HUGE impact next school year.