6th Grade Maasai Culture Project: The Beginning

For my CoETaIL final project, rather than creating a new unit, my team wanted to incorporate technology to enhance an existing unit and accomplish established learning outcomes.  It is our goal to improve the learning process for our students.  The revised unit will include student choice, collaboration within a team, creativity, and problem solving.  My team and I are redesigning the unit together and we will be launching the project next week.  It focuses on world cultures, in particular, the Maasai of Africa, through the lens of the following six elements:

  1. Communication
  2. Geography
  3. Beliefs and Values
  4. Institutions
  5. Technology
  6. Important People

The essential questions for this unit are:

How do elements of culture influence the way people live? 

How can I step out of my own shoes and see the world from someone else’s point of view?

The project requires students to select an element, based on their interest, and research that area,  as it relates to the Maasai.  Following the research, students will collaborate within a small group to create a media presentation, primarily using, but not limited to, Keynote and GarageBand,which highlights their cultural element within the framework of the Maasai community.  The purpose of the group presentations are to share new understandings about culture and teach the information to their classmates.

Further, students will also be sharing their final projects online with a sixth grade class in Jakarta.  Students from JIS will engage with ASIJ students by providing feedback on the projects and by sharing connections they have made associated with their own lives and the specific culture that they are studying in Indonesia.

We chose to focus on Keynote and GarageBand because our school division switched from PC to Mac just this year, and we want to help our students build their Mac digital toolbox.  While many of them are familiar with PowerPoint, Keynote is considerably different.  We will be learning together the bells and whistles of these resources as they complete their group presentations.

Supporting us with the implementation of the unit is our MS facilitator of technology.  He has created an outstanding resource for students called Laptop Central.  This is a resource offered through Edublogs that students can easily access.  It contains tutorials, like the following, that highlight different features and applications of their MacBooks and web-based resources.

Creative Commons
2.0 Generic
Flickr by ianguest

My students and I have contacted a representative of the Maasai in Africa and we are hoping to hear from him soon.  We have asked that he review some of our presentations and offer feedback.

We’ve tried to revamp the unit to make it more of a projects-based endeavor.  We are hopeful that, referring to the SAMR model, the renovated unit exhibits elements of redefinition.

Posted in COETAIL | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Innovation in Education: How Can We Close the Gap?

My headmaster gave a homework assignment over the summer.  He requested that our entire faculty read Tony Wagner’s,  The Global Achievement Gap, and his newest book, Creating Innovators.  These books examine some of the issues surrounding the lagging achievement of U.S. students in STEM-related courses (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).   Wagner discusses the changing culture of the workplace and points out that the traditional model of schooling is antiquated and that even America’s most prestigious schools could make improvements in preparing their students for today’s world.

In The Global Achievement Gap, Wagner outlines seven survival skills for the 21st century:

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving
  2. Collaboration across networks
  3. Leading by influence
  4. Agility and adaptability
  5. Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  6. Effective oral and written communication
  7. Accessing and analyzing information
  8. Curiosity and imagination

Wagoner points out that some schools such as High Tech High, and The MET schools are leading the way in renovating the current model of education in ways that do accommodate the acquisition of these skills.

In Creating Innovators, Wagner examines the educational history of some young American innovators who have done amazing things in their short lives.  He points out that “play, passion, and purpose”, were the forces that drove these young people to accomplish their goals.  He contends that school cultures that promote innovation are rooted in:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Multidisciplinary learning
  3. Trial and error
  4. Creating

As an entire faculty, we convened in the first week after summer to discuss these two books as a precursor to forming our strategic planning committee.  Faculty members were encouraged to express their opinions in terms of agreements and points which resonated with them as well as the points that they found challenging or impractical.  The conversations were compelling and it opened a forum for continued dialog.

Clearly our teachers agree that the workplace has changed and that our students need specific skills to engage in it successfully.  The questions then become: How relevant are our current teaching practices?  Are we really giving our students the skills that will enable them to be successful in this modern world?

If learning communities truly want to be renovated, school cultures and practices such as grading and testing must be carefully examined.  Wagner contends that the most effective innovators are intrinsically motivated, yet my current school environment has a focus on grading and testing, and the majority of our students are motivated by grades and are always striving to get the highest mark.

Schools must look at their curriculum as well.  Many of our programs are content driven and teachers spend a significant amount of time on coverage.  I believe that content, to a degree, is important, and students must learn some content.  But are there more efficient ways to deliver it with strategies that tap into a wide range of skills that promote collaboration and critical thinking in the truest sense?

Play, according to Wagner, is an essential element for young innovators.  Currently, in many schools, including my own, student schedules are packed, especially in middle and high school, with only a break for lunch.  After school, students participate in co-curricular activities, music lessons, sports, and tutoring sessions.  Following, many have long commutes back home and then spend time working on homework.  Most of their days are structured moments with little time for free play.  In Wager’s interviews with the parents of young successful innovators, several common threads emerge.  The parents of these young people allowed their children to make decisions on their own.  They allowed them the opportunity and time to pursue their own interests, take risks, make mistakes, and learn from the experiences.

Given the current model of education, obviously many parents are very concerned about grades, end-of-course test scores, SAT test scores, as well as the number of AP classes their children take and how well they do on these tests.  We recently had “Back To School” night in middle school.  This is the third year of a one-to-one laptop environment in my division.  It was interesting that I had several questions/comments regarding concerns over digital assignments and handwriting and the implications for SAT and other tests.  I appreciate these concerns and agree that students should have legible handwriting.  Nonetheless, we are in the 21st century, the future is now, and we have amazing technology availed to us which we can utilize in remarkable ways to better educate our students.  Our culture, the workplace, and society in general is changing at a faster pace than education. This is another example of how the culture and institutions of the current model of education must reform in order for real change to occur.

In the final sessions of our staff development, we were also asked to, based on the readings and conversations, make a list of our aspirations for the coming school year.  My list included:

  1. Include more projects-based activities that encourage iteration
  2. Include more built-in time for “play”
  3. Cut back on homework
  4. Continue to utilize technology and investigate several new digital tools
  5. Give students more choices in how they convey understanding

We ended our two-day professional development with a Skype conference call with Wagner himself.  Some questions that teachers had for him included:

  • How can we engage our students and convey to them characteristics of the workplace of today?
  • How can we balance content and projects-based / challenged-based learning models?
  • What steps, as a school, must we take to get started?
  • How can we involve and inform our parents?

Wagner recognizes that many schools are making bold strides toward reform.  Recognizing the need for change and investigating ways to move forward are important steps in the process.

Posted in COETAIL | Tagged | 3 Comments

CoETaIL Course 4 Project and Reflection

As CoETaIL Course 4 concludes, it feels good to have completed four of the five-course requirement for the certification.  Maintaining the momentum of  the first three courses, Course 4 availed new ideas and approaches to learning which were immediately applicable in the classroom.  For next year, my team has planned two project-based activities which link to our existing curriculum.  We have contacted an international school in Indonesia and are hopeful that we will begin the year with a collaborative blog project focusing on culture.  We are excited about the year upcoming and will continue to draw on the resources we have garnered as a result of CoETaIL.  In the past, technology was used primarily as substitution.  Now, more and more, we are transforming learning activities in ways that, we believe, improve and enhance the educational opportunities of our students.

It’s been wonderful being a part of the YIS CoETaIL cohort and I extend my best to all of the members moving on to different schools in different countries.

After collaborating with my team regarding my final project for Course 4, we concluded that the current refugee unit that we teach could be enhanced through a project-based learning activity.  The unit is integrated around informational text skills and persuasive writing.  Within this unit, students are required to:

  1. Research a child refugee topic
  2. Develop an opinion based on research
  3. Persuade an audience through writing
  4. Present a call to action
These learning events are organized around eight informational text and persuasive writing focus lessons which cover the following:   summarizing, paraphrasing, personal reaction, author’s purpose, and persuasive techniques.

We have modified the existing unit to make it more collaborative and to actually require student groups to carry out their calls to action.  We feel that this activity has important real-world connections and that it will empower students to step up and make a difference.  The UbD plan is embedded here.

Without a doubt, CoETaIL has been a tremendous professional development experience. With the daily rigors of teaching, grading, meeting, and living, the added responsibility of course work made for an interesting school year.  It has been completely worth the effort and has made an important impact on me, my team, my school, and most importantly, my students.  Thanks again to Kim and Rebekah for an outstanding Course 4.  Have a great summer everyone!

Posted in COETAIL, Projects-Based | 3 Comments

Learning with Laptops in Middle School

Laptops have impacted instructional planning and delivery and the ways in which my students are leaning more than I had imagined.  This is my second year of teaching in a one-to-one laptop program in a Grade 6 integrated Language Arts and Social Studies block class.  For the past two years we have used the Lenovo ThinkPads, and next year we will make the switch to Mac.  It’s been a journey filled with trail and error coupled with successes and failures.  As the journey continues, my students are finding and utilizing innovative ways to enhance their learning through the use of technology.  In reflecting back over the last two years, five categories emerge that deserve consideration when implementing a successful laptop program.

Classroom / Laptop Management – The physical arrangement of the classroom is important.  My classroom has small groups of desks arranged so that each one has a clear view of the projection screen.  Desks that can be moved and reconfigured easily for different types of cooperative activities work well.  It would be worthwhile to consider an arrangement that allows for a view of most laptop screens from any vantage point within the classroom.  Our students are required to charge their laptops at home during the evening, so that they come to school with fully charged batteries.  Sometimes students forget to charge their machines and sometimes they use the battery power before they arrive in class.  It’s important to have easy access to power outlets, and depending upon your own teaching space, perhaps several extension cords at the ready.  In the fall, we have a “laptop boot camp” in which students are instructed in the care and use of their computers as well as an introduction to digital citizenship which continues throughout the course of the year.  This full-on “tech seminar” sets the stage for our students and makes expectations clear from the start.

Digital Toolbox – Our students were born into the digital age and come to us quite tech savvy.  Nonetheless, skills vary and it is important not to assume that all students quickly grasp new digital tools and applications as they are presented to them.   In order to support students in garnering new technical skills, in addition to “mini-lessons” around the use of digital tools with demonstrations, our tech facilitator also created a blog which archives a multitude of short tech demos.  This serves as an important resource for our students.  As students add to their digital toolboxes, they are empowered with choices that allow freedom and variety in showcasing their learning.  Recently, our tech facilitator compiled a list of the digital tools and the ways in which they are being used by students.

Structured Class Period – My students are greeted with a projected agenda and warm-up each day.  The agenda serves as a prompt to help students transition from one segment of the class period to the next.  The warm-up consists of language activities that relate to grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary.  Following the warm-up, students move into the activities for the day.  The majority of each class period requires students to use their laptops, so they know that as soon as they come in, they are to get our their laptops and begin the warm-up without being instructed to do so.  When, during the course of the 90 minute period, instructions need to be given, students are directed to adjust their laptops to a “listening position”, which means closed at a 45 degree angle.  This type of structure has worked well for my students.  They realize that their laptop is an important educational tool and that is what it is to be used for during class time.  In most cases, students rise to meet this expectation.  In a few cases, students make poor decisions regarding the use of their laptops.  Our school has a disciplinary plan of action outlined in our Acceptable Use Agreement, that students and parents read and sign at the beginning of each school year.

Recently, there has been a lot of attention given to “tech breaks”.  A tech break allows students a few minutes of free time during an instructional period to check their text messages, or see who has posted on Facebook, or try to make it to the next level of an online game.  While this is a new idea for me, we tried it out in class this week.  I was surprised at how quickly students returned to the instructional task, which was peer editing a short story using Google Docs, at the end of the break.

Student Engagement – Providing learning activities that engage students and motivate them to take charge of their learning is the goal of good teachers everywhere.  Educational experiences that require high levels of thinking, collaboration, and problem solving while, at the same time giving students the freedom to make their own choices and decisions as it relates to their learning, are changing the traditional classroom.  Technology has a prominent place in these types of project-based and challenged-based learning classrooms.  The ownership that comes with collaborative, creative projects which are based upon students’ own ideas is a great motivator.  This year my students were charged with creating public service announcements which highlighted the skills associated with kindness and being constructive community members.  With an authentic audience, composed of the entire sixth grade of our middle school, the engagement was full-on from start to finish.

Creative Commons
Attribution 2.0 Generic
UC Davis College of Engineering

Students as Teachers Docendo discimus, “through teaching we learn” and “students as teachers” is a concept that is gaining momentum.  Collectively, my students have a lot of technical experience.  I have embraced this in our one-to-one program and it has paid off.  Students are encouraged to share their knowledge and expertise with their classmates.  This not only helps those students who require the technical support, but also gives those “techies”, who assume the role of teacher, self-confidence.  It’s a fact.  When it comes to technology, many of my students know more than me.  Creating an environment where students can feel safe taking the lead is so important.  Gone are the days of teacher-centered classrooms.  Effective 21st century teachers have evolved into facilitators of learning and members of a dynamic collaborative team.

Laptops are educational tools and have the capacity to greatly enhance the learning opportunities of our students.  However, the key to the success of any academic program is the effectiveness of the learning activities that are offered.  Structuring learning opportunities that engage students in real-world situations that require problem solving, innovation, and collaboration in a setting that encourages student choice and risk taking should be the goal of all good teachers.  Educational environments are changing.  Technology is an added benefit.

Posted in COETAIL | 3 Comments

Connectivism and Global Collaboration in Education

Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Connectivism, introduced in the mid 2000’s, is an idea based on the premise that knowledge exits within systems and is acquired by individuals who interact collaboratively within activities related to that knowledge.  Whether you view connectivism as a learning theory or a “pedagogical view”, the movement has significant connections to behaviorism, congnitivism, and constructivism.  Marcy Perkins Discroll, in her book, Psychology of Learning for Instructiondefines learning as “a persisting change in human performance or performance potential…[which] must come about as a result of the learner’s experience and interaction with the world.”   Connectivism embodies this definition within it’s core principles.

According to Wikipedia, the eight core principles of connectivisim are:

  • Learning and knowledge rest in differences of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human technology.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continuous learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a necessary skill.
  • Knowledge that is current is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process.

Connectivism is not really a new idea, but new technology has given us ways to “connect” or “interact” faster and more easily.  Approaches to teaching and learning are changing as a result.  Project-based learning and challenged-based learning are two examples.  Another example, the Flat Classroom, founded by Vicky Davis and Julie Lindsay, springs from a constructivist approach in which the key component is “lowering the wall” of the classroom through technology so that students are joined virtually to create a more expansive, collaborative learning environment.  

From a social studies teacher’s perspective, the benefits of this type of global collaboration for my students are immediately evident:

  • Authenticity of learning – activities are engaging and real-world
  • Abundance of sources – almost limitless human resources including primary sources
  • Interaction within a global community – the world becomes smaller
  • Access – opportunity to explore and learn about different cultures first hand

The following infographic, in my opinion, is a good representation of the concept.  The words active, relevant, real-world, effective, hands-on, networked, innovative, personal, and transformative are all apt descriptors.  An additional word could be added to the “openly networked” heading to read:  “connected learning environments link learning in home, school, community, and the world.”

Creative Commons
Attribution 3.0 Unported

My first project for Course 1 of CoETaIL is a collaborative blog unit that focuses on culture and digital citizenship.  It begins as a collaborative class activity and then expands into collaboration on a larger scale.  The “tweet” of it’s description would be:  ”a project that allows student teams opportunities for research, creativity, and collaboration with students from around the world.”  This will be our first project-based activity in the next school year and I’m excited to implement this new unit.  Due to its relevance, I’m reposting the unit plan here.

A final thought about connectivisim and global collaboration leads me back to the Education Week article, The Classroom Is Obsolete:  It’s Time For Something New.  According to the author, Prakash Nair, it is an established scientific fact that the current model of the classroom is obsolete.   The author goes on to state the following elements that successful learning environments must have in order to prepare students for success in the 21st century:

  • Personalized
  • Safe and Secure
  • Inquiry-Based
  • Student-Directed
  • Collaborative
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Rigorous and hands-on
  • Embodying a culture of excellence and high expectations
  • Environmentally conscious
  • Connections to local community and businesses
  • Globally networked
  • Setting the stage for life-long learning

I feel lucky to be able to work in an educational environment that is moving in this direction.  A one-to-one laptop environment has availed numerous opportunities and resources to my students that were not as readily available before.  They are “connected” to the world in an instant.  Some teachers worry that technology will make their jobs obsolete.  I disagree.  In good schools, teachers are working carefully to engineer effective and appropriate learning opportunities that incorporate many of the 21st century educational elements listed above.  “Change is good.”  Though cliché,  this is a true statement.  Unfortunately, change is often hindered by lack of financial resources including those earmarked for technology and professional development.  Nonetheless, as Nair points out, good teachers are putting forth their best efforts everyday to overcome the “limitations” of the traditional classroom-based schools.  Empowering our students to connect, interact, and collaborate is empowering them for success.

Posted in COETAIL, Global Collaboraion | 6 Comments

Some Thoughts on Reverse Instruction and Game-Based Learning

According to K. Walsh, in Is Reverse Instruction Education Technology’s Perfect Storm?, “reverse instruction is the idea of having students consume learning content (i.e. ‘the lecture’) outside of the classroom, usually as homework, thereby freeing up valuable face-to-face classroom time to reinforce materials and work on assigned work (work that may have been homework in the traditional classroom).”

Teachers are finding a lot of success with this approach.  Recently, at a “Try It On Monday Workshop” at ASIJ, our middle school technology facilitator, who also happens to be a math teacher, presented what he has been doing with reverse education in his math classes.  He is finding great success in preparing YouTube videos and vodcasts for students to view at home and then practice the skill that was introduced before coming to class.  This frees up class time so that students can participate in other more engaging, authentic activities that require them to draw on several skills which they have learned and apply these to situations which require higher levels of thinking; resulting in a greater level of understanding.  I’ve embedded his presentation below as it contains some great information on the benefits of the “flipped classroom” and what we all need to get started.

This is a compelling movement and, the benefits are clear to me, especially in a class with very discrete skill level outcomes, such as math.  I also believe that it can be effective within an integrated humanities class.  For instance, there are four core required novels in our 6th grade Language Arts/Social Studies block class.  For each novel, there is contextual information about the novel that we teach prior to beginning the reading, which gives students a leg up in terms of comprehension.  Each of these “front-loading” activities take at least one class period.  We could easily create a YouTube video or vodcast of this information so that students could view it at home.  Additionally, they would have a reference source which they could continue to review as necessary throughout the novel study.

We also spend a fair amount of each class time on grammar, vocabulary, and geography skill development and review.  These exercises could be taught via YouTube or vodcasts as well, and could be completed at home, again freeing class time for more collaborative, authentic and engaging learning activities such as game-based learning and project-based learning.

There is a question that I have regarding reverse instruction:  How does it fit into current research and the debate over homework and the amount of time spent on it?  My students have a lengthy bus commute each day to and from school.  By the time they are home and have dinner, they usually work on homework and then go to bed.  This comes after a full-on day of instruction and, for most, after school sports and other co-curricular activities.  Reverse instruction is best suited, obviously, for older students.  Still, we should always consider the time commitment in the home activities that we assign and insure that our students have adequate time to turn off and just be kids.

Flickr by Caro’s Lines
Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Game-based Learning is not a new concept.  GBL, before the digital age, was any activity that was used to focus and motivate learners during lessons.  Now, GBL or DGBL (Digital Game-based Learning) is a learning approach that incorporates the use of computer games, serious games, commercial off -the-shelf computer games, and simulations to engage students in higher levels of thinking. Games engage students in ways that other approaches to learning cannot.  Serious games are presenting students with authentic situations.  These simulations require students to employ higher levels of thinking to create and generate solutions to real world problems.  Genuine learning takes place when students are engaged and motivated.

I have used many “game-like” activities with my students over the years; from bell-game question races to full blown simulations.  Interact is a great company offering simulations that cover a wide variety of curriculum areas.  In the past, my students have become crew members of a Spanish galleon and residents of a British colony in the New World.  Currently, I like to use a Jeopardy format to review for assessments.  Jeopardy Labs allows you to create a Jeopardy game template with content of your choosing, and its free.  Whether it be a simple review game, or a three-week simulation unit, my students have always been highly engaged in these types of activities.

We modified our curriculum over the course of this school year and are now teaching a non-fiction reading unit which dovetails with a  persuasive writing unit around the topic of refugees.  The UNHCR has released a simulation called Passages which “is designed to help create awareness, arouse emotions and encourage participants to take action on the behalf of refugees.”  This simulation, which could also be categorized as PBL, can be tailored to fit any age group and it connects perfectly with our current units.  The simulation requires students to:

  • discover the concrete problems which confront refugees
  • feel the psychological anguish caused by separation and flight
  • see what forces people into refugee situations and the train of events that brings them to refugee camps and beyond
  • think about possible solutions to refugee problems, particularly with regards to integration within the country of asylum and repatriation to the country of origin

This simulation, along with other GBL activities, require chunks of classroom time to be most effective.  A flexible time-table is always beneficial.  Both reverse instruction and GBL deserve a chance in the 21st-century school experience.  Perhaps scheduling issues will be more easily resolved with time budgeted through the flipped classroom. 

Posted in COETAIL, Projects-Based | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Curriculum and Assessment in Project and Challenge-Based Learning

The Buck Institute of Education defines project-based learning as:

a standards-focused systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks.

Projects-based learning  is similar to inquiry-based or experiential learning in some ways; however, PBL focuses heavily on standards and the evaluation of student learning.

Wikipedia defines challenge-based learning as:

pedagogic approach for K12 education pioneered by education staff at Apple, Inc. that has its roots in problem-based learning and the work of John Dewey.

Challenge-based learning consists of five components:

  1. The Big Idea
  2. Essential Questions
  3. The Challenge
  4. Guiding Questions and Activities
  5. Guiding Resources
  6. Solutions, Implementations, and Reflections

Both PBL and CBL are standards focused and embrace authentic learning with real world connections.  Both approaches require students to use questioning, collaboration, creativity, and problem solving – all of the higher order thinking skills.  In considering implementation, two main issues surface immediately for me as a teacher:

  1. How can this fit within an existing mapped-curriculum?
  2. How can I adequately and fairly assess my students?

In considering the first, while this presents a challenge for teachers in schools which are curriculum-driven, both PBL and CBL can be utilized effectively to cover multiple areas of a mapped curriculum in an integrated format.  In my 6th grade language arts / social studies classes, we constantly integrate language arts and social studies outcomes within the units that we teach.  The incorporation of more PBL and/or CBL learning experiences would, in my opinion, improve our program.  Nonetheless, we do follow a mapped-curriculum and “coverage” always seems to become an issue.  

Seymour Papert , in his Edutopia article, Project-Based Learningsuggests that, in order for PBL, to be most effective, schools need to rethink the concept of “curriculum”, at least in terms of content coverage and time frames.  He believes in an approach that allows students to learn what they need to know and when they need it.   Nonetheless, even with an “out of the box” curriculum approach such as this, schools still need a way to document, at the very least, which standards are being taught in which years and in which areas.  

Coming from an elementary background, integration has always been the norm for me.  Often times, without it, it would be impossible to teach all of the mapped-curriculum.  Considering this, clearly there is a place for PBL and/or CBL even in schools which are curriculum-driven.  We don’t have to throw out our curriculum to incorporate PBL and CBL types of activities, but a standards-based curriculum map geared more toward process than content along with a similar reporting system should be considered in regarding innovations for 21st century learning in our schools.

Regarding assessment, group grading has always been a bit of a conundrum for me.  Since PBL and CBL are primarily group learning activities, questions regarding the assessment of individual students arise.  It is currently the policy of my team not to issue group grades.  In other words, we refrain from giving the same grade to all individuals in a group.  We do, however, give students individual grades for our “Approaches To Learning”, which includes the stem, “works effectively with others.”  As it stands now, their performance in a group, whether it be stellar or marginal, is not considered when determining their overall academic letter grade for the semester.

We have had many discussions regarding this at our team level and as a division.  Our collective stance seems, still, to be forming.  In good conscience, even if there are real-world implications, it is unfair to give a student who works hard and does their part, and more, a poor grade on a group activity as a result of the performance of others, and vice versa.  Are their ways to get around this?  Certainly there are.  First it is not important that every single activity receive an academic grade.  Our teachers believe that the “Approaches To Learning” marks are just as important as the semester letter grade.

According to Papert, with PBL, we should be assessing, not curricular content, but how kids are “using knowledge”.  Realistically, we still have to assess the “right and wrong” answer type of content.   Teachers can do this through anecdotal records kept for each individual throughout a PBL unit.  Additionally, checklists and rubrics can be created and applied to the individual performances of group members and to the integrated content of the activity.  There are numerous other ways to collect individual data which require a fair amount of thought and ingenuity, but the learning payoffs would make it well worth the effort.

Flickr by dkuropatwa
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

With the added benefit of technology, the possibility for the exploration and incorporation of project-based learning is even greater.  PBL and CBL allow students to collaborate locally and globally  while engaging in the highest levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy:  applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.  Issues regarding curriculum and assessment become secondary when considering the learning implications associated with these types of authentic endeavors.

Posted in Challenge-Based, COETAIL, Projects-Based | Tagged , | 7 Comments