I have the best job in the world. On a regular basis, I’m given the extraordinary fortune to talk with teachers who are embarking on a PBL journey with their students. To dig into the smaller, everyday details of how to make this type of learning environment work. To answer the tough questions about sustainability, rigor, behavior management and then take the questioner further…that’s like chocolate to me! I can’t get enough.
Over the years of starting my own PBL school and learning in a baptismal fire, I’ve been able to find a way to talk with new or reluctant teachers about their concerns. Additionally, there are things that excited, energetic teachers might want to consider as they take their first steps into the PBL fire as well.
In the next month or so, I’ll be publishing a regular series to include 15 common mistakes that educators make and some solutions they might consider. Here’s the next one in the series:
Neglect to shift the current education delivery systems toward using technology for learning, connecting, publishing.
Problem: Yes, going to a 1:1 environment is expensive, but that’s not a sufficient excuse to stop forward progress. Creating a modern learning environment, with or without PBL, requires us to reconsider our Acceptable Use Policies and other policies that currently keep us from connecting our students to the world of learning beyond our walls. But once we do, the array of opportunities that are freely and readily available for real-world learning inside a PBL environment is phenomenal.
Solution: While still respecting the law, we can absolutely shift from an Acceptable Use Policy that outlines what teachers and students can’t do online to instead, a Responsible Use Policy that outlines what we will do online, responsibly. Additionally, we can find ways to help students learn to use a variety of hardware and software to learn from Open Education Resources, distant mentors, virtual field trips, collaborative conversations, and cultural awareness that comes with connecting and publishing. We can help our students become intentional and positive contributors to the world as they publish online, instead of only being simply consumers of whatever pablum that passes in front of their eyes and ears. We can help students learn to use the Internet for Good instead of solely entertainment and helping them to see lifelong learning as a personal quest that one can continue on her own, without being led by expert guidance.
Want to learn more about Project/Problem Based Learning?
- Check out Edutopia’s annotated bibliography for PBL research
- The Buck Institute for Education has also collected a terrific bank of PBL research
In 2006 with 12 years of traditional classroom experience and 2 days of formal PBL training in her pocket, Ginger Lewman started a middle school, grades 5-8, that was a 1:1 laptop and Project Based Learning environment. Five years later, the middle school had doubled in population twice and had expanded to include PBL in grades K-8. They were also in the process of opening a PBL high school the next fall. Ginger now works with school leaders in helping them learn how to support the PBL shift, and inspires their teachers to take the leap. Meanwhile, she also continues to co-teach with K-12 teachers in the training process, keeping her own teaching chops sharp and ready.