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Getting Started with Project-Based Learning (Hint: Don't Go Crazy)

Getting Started with Project-Based Learning (Hint: Don't Go Crazy)
Before the start of the school year, many of us want to use the remaining weeks of summer to learn some new skills -- such as project-based learning (PBL). One of the things we stress for new PBL practitioners is, as I say, "don't go crazy." It's easy to go "too big" when you first start PBL. I have heard from many teachers new to PBL that a large, eight-week integrated project was a mistake. Start Small As I said, "Don't go crazy!" Plan Now One of the challenges of PBL, but also one of the joys, is the planning process. Limited Technology We love technology, but sometimes we get too "tech happy." Know the Difference Between PBL and Projects This is the big one! We are all learners, and when we start something new, we start small. Photo credit: wwworks via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Integration Strategies for PBL This series is about taking your PBL projects "up a notch." I wrote a blog about how to get started, but after you get started and are familiar with the benefits of keeping it small and focused, what are some of your next steps? One area where I see teachers taking their PBL projects up a notch is through integration. However, integration is actually quite complicated and includes many levels of implementation. Here are some tips to consider for integrating content areas into your next PBL project. Know Your Level of Integration When you plan your integrated PBL project, consider the following definitions and levels of integration articulated in Integrated Curriculum, an ASCD book edited by Heidi Hayes Jacob. Know Content that Isn't Your Own Teachers of the Blood Project at High Tech High really articulate this well. It's Gotta Fit This one is crucial. Limit Products to Target ALL Content Standards Meet Frequently As a Team How do you approach integration with your PBL projects?

Learning By Design at newlearningonline Cope, Bill and Mary Kalantzis (eds). 2015. A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Learning By Design. Palgrave: London. | link Introducing the Learning by Design Project Welcome to the Learning by Design Project website. This site is a resource for participants in the Learning by Design project, or for those who want to find out more about the project. But the story of Learning by Design really begins with a conceptualisation of The New School — a place where learners are actively engaged as knowledge producers and in which teachers have assumed a transformed professional role as designers of hybrid online and face-to-face learning environments. The next part of the website is practical and goes into more detail about how to implement Learning by Design. This project is supported by a grant to Common Ground Publishing by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Next

Integrated Projects = Deeper Learning Here's how one school designs rigorous projects that blend STEM with other core subjects. See how this strategy might work for you. MC2 STEM High School has fabrication laboratories ("fab labs") where students learn to use advanced equipment such as the "shop-bot" (left) that they can use for their interdisciplinary project-based-learning assignments. Credit: Zachary Fink MC2 (Metropolitan Cleveland Consortium) STEM High School is a year-round public school in Cleveland, Ohio. The school was created through a public-private partnership among a number of organizations (PDF), with the intention of providing students with an integrated curriculum that is informed by real-world experiences. The MC2 STEM curriculum was designed to meet three important criteria: aligned with Ohio Academic Content Standards connected to higher-education courses relevant and responsive to industry needs What is Transdisciplinary Project-Based Learning? Importantly, all capstones have real-world relevance (PDF).

A not so modest proposal: My new fully research based school! It’s about time we all suck it up and realize that the best of economic research on factors associated with test score gains not only can, but must absolutely drive the redesign of our obviously dreadful American public education system! [despite substantial evidence to the contrary!] With that in mind, I have selectively mined some of my own favorite studies and summaries of studies in order to develop a framework for the absolutely awesomest school ever! I’ve chosen to focus on only economic studies of measurable stuff that is actually associated with measured test score gains. After all, that’s what matters – that’s all that matters! Mind you that this school will be awesomest not merely in terms of overall effectiveness, but also in terms of bang for the buck, because I’m not messin’ around with expensive curriculum or elaborate facilities… or high priced consultants… or really expensive strategies like class size reduction. I’m goin’ for low hangin’ fruit here. This is a no brainer!

Re-Imagining the Comprehensive High School Students at Sammamish High School. Photo credit: Gabriel Miller Sammamish High School is a comprehensive high school that is on the cutting edge of public education. In 2010, we applied for and received an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the Department of Education that allowed us to embark on an ambitious project to fundamentally shift the learning experience in our school. STEM and PBL At Sammamish, STEM literacy includes but also goes beyond STEM content. The Seven Key Elements It is important for our school to design PBL in a way that would be authentic across disciplines, grades and courses. Authentic problemsAuthentic assessmentStudent voiceCollaborationUse of expertiseCulturally responsive instructionAcademic discourse Once we identified the elements, we defined them by accessing a wide range of literature around best practice. Professional Learning A major use of i3 grant funding at Sammamish supports professional learning in multiple forms.

The Benefits of Taking Kids Outside to Inspire Writing I originally wrote this piece in 2009, when I was blogging for Edutopia in the U.S. It elaborates on one of the ideas that I presented in yesterday’s blog about designing programs with both introverts and extroverts in mind. I present it here to generate some additional conversation about attending to all learners in our class. The following quote is one of the first things my eighth-grade students see when they walk into their classroom in September: We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.– T.S. It occasionally shows up on a handout or an assignment sheet, and we will reference the quote frequently in the discussions that we have that center on questions about our purpose for doing particular things as part of our program. This year, though, for the first time, I actually built an ongoing, optional assignment for students around the quote. Mary’s work was thoughtful and deep. Fence Rocks

Defining Authenticity in Historical Problem Solving Representing historical actors, students vote on what should happen to the land under Germany's control in China after World War I. Photo credit: Adrienne Curtis Dickinson At Sammamish High School, we've identified seven key elements of problem-based learning, an approach that drives our comprehensive curriculum. I teach tenth grade history, which puts me in a unique position to describe the key element of authentic problems. What is an authentic problem in world history? We consulted a number of sources in research. We arrived at two ways to think about authentic problems. Living the Decisions The work of historians involves creating and debating the frameworks for the historical narratives our students use to interpret history. It was exciting to consider that our students would engage in such high-level and rigorous academic thinking. Our approach to authentic problems came from a different perspective: that of the historical actor and decision-makers. Challenge Cycles

Joel Klein, Sal Khan And Sebastian Thrun On Inventing The Future Of Education, At Disrupt SF Three trailblazing figures in educational technology are showcasing the future of learning at our upcoming annual conference, Disrupt San Francisco. Former New York education Chancellor, Joel Klein, will get into more of the details about the recently announced Amplify project, News Corp’s ambitious venture to create tailored, digital learning for the American education system. Bill Gates’ “favorite teacher”, Sal Khan, who founded the Youtube-based Khan Academy, will speak about his pioneering work in the “flipped classroom” and launch a new feature to his site. And Google fellow and CEO of Udacity, Sebastian Thrun, will discuss how he opened the walled garden of American higher education free of charge to students around the world. These education leaders will join an all-star lineup at Disrupt SF Sept 8-12, including Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Marc Benioff, Ron Conway, Kevin Rose, Matt Cohler, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, Vinod Khosla and many others. In January 2011, Joel I.

Authentic Assessment in Action At Sammamish High School, our staff has dedicated our professional development to building expertise in the key elements of problem-based learning. Previous blog entries by my colleagues have given an overview of this process, as well as exploring how we include student voice and work with authentic problems. Another crucial element of successful problem-based learning is using authentic assessment throughout all stages of a unit to constantly evaluate and improve student learning. What is Authentic Assessment? So what then makes an assessment "authentic" (or not)? Examples of Authentic Assessment I was fortunate to have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience using authentic assessment when I stepped outside my comfort zone and joined our teaching team for our Starting Strong program (full disclosure -- I live a "cushy" life as a high school music teacher). Benefits of Authentic Assessment Have you been able to incorporate authentic assessment in your classroom?

Making the right connections by Barbara IschingerDirector for Education It’s becoming clear to me that the crisis in youth unemployment around the world is not just one of the aftershocks of the global economic downturn, but may also have roots in education systems that are not adequately preparing students for 21st-century economies. I took that message to a regional conference on Promoting Youth Employment in North Africa, held in Tunis in mid-July, where I presented not only the OECD Skills Strategy but also discussed the importance of improving the quality of education and of teachers, and of making quality education accessible to all. Some 41% of 15-24 year-olds in Tunisia are unemployed – a statistic that is devastating in the present and potentially catastrophic for the future of the country and the region. In more than half of OECD countries, the rate of unemployment among young people approaches or exceeds 20%; and many of the underlying conditions are the same as those found in Tunisia.

Project-Based Learning as a Context for Arts Integration Project-based learning can provide an intentional and effective opportunity to integrate the arts across disciplines and curriculum. While valuable as a stand-alone discipline, arts education can be given further power and value when used in a PBL project as part of the core curriculum. When teachers begin designing PBL projects, they often start small, maybe with a recommended idea to internalize the design process and a reflection on how to improve. The Arts as the Entry Event When launching a PBL project, it is crucial to have an entry event that engages students and creates excitement for the project. The Arts in Culminating Products or Performances PBL demands voice and choice in how students spend their time and how they show their learning. The Arts as Scaffolding Students need scaffolding through a variety of instructional activities that will arm them with the skills and content they'll need to be successful on the project. The Arts As Formative Assessment

The Connected Educator By Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach Finally! The cover to our book: The Connected Educator: Learning and leading in a Digital Age which comes out early Oct. Lani and I hope you will consider reading it and getting a copy for your faculty as well. Who should read this book? What Is Different About This Book? We decided books about being connected need to model what they promote and not be just a linear experience. We were a little surprised at the cover, but it is growing on us now. I’d love to hear your thoughts.