Thursday, April 10, 2014

Blog Post # 8

Here are the things that I learned from listening to the pod-cast.

Ensure that essential questions are relevant and meaningful to the students. Make sure that students have several choices on ways to study and create. Student voice and choice is important, and allows them to choose what it most interesting to them, and that they have options as to how to respond and present what they're learning. Also, make sure when doing project based learning, that our expectations are high, yet not overwhelming or frustrating. Scaffold into smaller steps the project, so that the students are feeling the successes with bite sized assignments throughout the project, so they get that affirmation and keep wanting to learn and do more versus getting frustrated and feeling overwhelmed.

Try to plan PBL activities that have real-world positive impacts.

What can we do to engage more teachers in PBL? It must be consistent. Pick a tool, become proficient with it, use it for a week or two with the class. Then, that is now in your tool box that you can use it over again throughout the year. Then, choose another tool and do the same. Eventually you will have a fat tool bag of technology that they have learned to use (and you have used) and utilize well when teaching/learning the standards. Share this with your peers. Have an open door classroom. Teach the 8 steps of PBL, in order, over 8 weeks to the class, so that eventually they take control over this and are forming their own essential/driving questions, etc. Explicitly teach the process of PBL, so they get the big idea of the learning and sharing behind it.

The students appreciate PBL. The students are engaged and excited. Students in that environment are thriving. A school wide initiative is important for buy-in on PBL. (As a personal note, I feel it will be difficult in MCPSS schools to do this as fluently as it sounds as A. Capps' school has, because we don't have all the same tools/technology. Thus, we are limited to the time in the lab to really have access to the tools we need to incorporate technology with PBL. That's not an excuse to not work towards the goal of having a school community where PBL is the norm, and has the students loving learning and school. It's just an observation that I recognize as a challenge and I need to think on how we could have buy-in as a school and have it happening regularly without the school-wide same technology access.)

Teacher training on PBL seems like an important professional development idea. (I'll have to share that with my principal. Perhaps that would allow us to incorporate this in a more prevalent way.) The roll out is with a few teachers, and then with the whole community of teachers. Having a teacher leader with the skills and drive in place helps to keep the focus and guide the professional development, etc., is important.

Authentic audiences are important. Grades above and below, stuffed animals, parents, other school staff, etc. The students together critique and advise and revise their work and their presentations throughout the PBL process.

Keep parents abreast of PBL, and assessment expectations.

PBL image


  1. Mary Alice,
    Your summary post of the conversation was clear and concise. I was relieved by seeing your realistic comment on the lack of available technology. Sometimes, although you are correct in saying we should still be moving in that direction, I find it difficult to post comments that may sound like they are contradicting or inhibitive toward the new approach to teaching and learning. But as teachers, we are still life long learners, and "scientists"!

  2. Mary Alice,
    I agree with Lynn. You did an excellent job of summarizing the podcast. I need to save a copy of what you wrote for my own personal use! :) This may be a silly question, but is it a requirement to use technology in a PBL lesson? I said that to say this... there may be several components from the method that you could implement without the use of technology. Just out of curiosity, what technology do you have available to you?

    1. Thanks! I teach 1st grade and use the Smart Board to build examples for my students of projects that I would like them to then do in the computer lab when they each have access to the same technology. This year, what I have mainly done and my students have enjoyed doing, are research projects where the student chooses an area from a topic that we are learning (for example: they each chose a different winter Olympic Sport to research this past February) and they used AVL to research the sport they chose. They had to read/listen to articles on this topic and record 3 or more facts about the topic. Then they created a Power Point project to teach an audience about the sport, incorporating images from Clip Art of from the Internet, some incorporated videos of the sport from Youtube, and then they cited the AVL article that they pulled the facts from. It was a multiple day project, and the students LOVED it! Next year, I intend to try blogging with my class. I think that at 1st grade they can do it, because the assignments I give will be tailored to their age and our content. But, so far, it has been using AVL, and Google, to hunt for information and images to create an electronic presentation. Thanks for asking! :)

  3. Great job summarizing the podcast Mary Alice. One idea that I learned from reading Teaching Digital Natives that could be used in MCPSS is to assign a specific student each day to be a technical assistant. Even if you only have one computer in the classroom, that student would be in charge of sitting at the computer and searching for anything that the other students in the class need researched. In first grade you may be limited in the number of students who would have the reading and writing ability to do this, but it could be a privilege and positive outlet for the advanced students. Happy Spring Break!

  4. "...and I need to think on how we could have buy-in as a school and have it happening regularly without the school-wide same technology access." It is very important to do this. What will happen when Baldin schools are all clicking on all cylinders with PBL and Mobile is still stuck in the old ways of educating. My guess is that there will be an exodus of families who care about education and have the means to move across the Bay. Then the problem in Mobile gets even more severe!

    So your help is desperately needed! And the four comments you have received are very interesting and helpful!

  5. Hello Mary Alice,
    Good job on your summary of Dr. Strange and Mr. Capps ' podcast. I also feel that implementing PBL into our classrooms is a step in the right direction with our students. With the focus on actual comprehension for material (opposed to "burping back" for a test) students should greatly benefit from PBL than a more traditional approach. I certainly hope that MCPSS will be able to start a technological integration into the classroom similar to what is occurring in Baldwin County. Thank you for sharing this post!