This Is The Easiest PBL Starter You’ll See Today

20 01 2015

 

 Take a look at the simplest motor, children:

 

Now, think to yourselves (not out loud) — why does this work? 

Before we just blurt out an explanation (or an uninformed guess), let’s think about what we DO know from watching this video. 

(provide students time to share out loud)

And what we might need to FIND OUT before we put together a good, well-informed explanation? Where do you think we could find this information?

(again, brainstorm out loud)

Alright! Let’s get to work!

Teachers get really nervous about the the launch of a PBL unit: Do I have a great hook? Is the driving question deep enough? How do we organize the research so they’re not just Googling whatever?
I get the nervousness! If we don’t start it well, will the kids respond?

My response is to keep it as intriguing and surprising as possible, while keeping a very simple approach. Elaborate launches are “pretty” and can be effective. But I want to role model real life learning for kids and the reality is that many people look at videos like the one above and say, “Cool! I wonder why it does that?” and then they scroll on. Wouldn’t it be really cool if they took a half a moment to find out why these things happen?

I’ve shared this quick example to demonstrate that a great launch doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated. Also, what standards and skills could be practiced and honed in such a simple PBL launch? What other standards and skills could be added in with only a little more time?

  • Technical or narrative writing?
  • Math
  • History
  • Technology integration?
  • what else? There’s so much!

A friend of mine told a bunch of teachers yesterday that “rigor” isn’t about the difficulty of material — it’s how kids interact with the material — the learning that happens. I like that.

When we can, let’s help kids do more than just notice cool things that happen in the world. Help foster the curiosity and ability to find out WHY that cool thing happens and what it could mean applied elsewhere.

So what cool things are in your content that you have to teach next week? How can you grab that intriguing thing and launch greatness?

 
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15 Common PBL Mistakes | mistake #5: neglect technology

23 11 2014

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:

Mistake #5:
Neglect to shift the current education delivery systems toward using technology for learning, connecting, publishing.

technology integration, PBL, techProblem: 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?


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.  





15 Common PBL Mistakes | mistake #4: don’t fund the shift

18 11 2014

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:

Mistake #4:
PBL, professional learning, profdev, professional development, Best KeynoteRefuse to find ways to fund it properly.

Problem: PBL doesn’t necessarily cost more than traditional learning, especially if we take textbooks and printed worksheets out of the equation. However, if a school is still funding those traditional approaches for learning, it might look like PBL (and it’s hands-on products) has a hefty price tag.

Solution: Money is a scarce resource in all schools. However, each school has the opportunity to make decisions to fund what they need to grow. Creativity, an open mind, and staying transparent with your school community about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it are the keys to funding new and innovative initiatives. How much are you spending per year on printing supplies? On textbooks? On good quality professional learning to help teachers shift their thinking and practices?

Want to learn more about Project/Problem Based Learning?


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.  





Building Self-Directed Learners

9 09 2014

Self-directed learners all have a running inner dialog about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, what they’re going to do, and, when they get stuck, they ask themselves a series of questions to help them get unstuck.

This is what most of us just call “thinking” but it seems that too many children and teens don’t have that inner dialog — yet. They seem to move about their day, waiting to be told what to do, when to do, and how to do. And when they step out of that structure and routine their families and school has provided for them, many make poor decisions. Not all do, of course. But the ones who find themselves making mistakes, big and small, seem to lack that inner dialog.

So how do we help kids become self directed learners? It’s an every day, every interaction process that begins with curbing the urge to always tell kids their next steps and begin asking questions that role-model what they should be asking themselves.

There’s a dual purpose of persistently asking questions instead of just telling kids Self Directed Learners, Questions, PBLwhat to do:

  1. Students need to know they can find information and solve problems if only they had the right questions.
  2. We’re role modeling what their inner dialog and questions might be.

Use the following questions regularly when role modeling self-direction and then remind the students, in a moment of reflection, they might consider using the same techniques before calling out for help.

  • What is my overall goal? What am I trying to achieve?
  • What have I tried that hasn’t worked? What has worked?
  • What haven’t I tried?
  • Is this something that’s essential to my goals? Is what I’m doing necessary? Valuable?
  • What are other ways I can look at this? Can I break it into parts? Do I need to step back and look at the big picture?
  • Are there online resources out there that can help?
  • If I am stuck, how can I back out of this and approach it from a new direction? Who or what do I need to get to help me with that?
  • Is there someone nearby who has this topic as a strength and can help me? Is there someone I can bring in via phone or video conference?

Of course there are many other questions that could be added/substituted in any given situation, but this will give you a good start. What would you add?








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