A is for Authentic: The ABC’s of PBL … Building Blocks to Transform Learning


Welcome to this first post in a series that promotes PBL and 21st Century LEarning through the examination of Seven Building Blocks. In this first post, I would like to build the idea of why Authenticity is so important in any deeper learning experience.  Before reading, please take a moment to subscribe by email or RSS, and also give me a follow… on Twitter at mjgormans. I promise you will find some wonderful information coming your way in the posts that follow…So sign up now and please pass this on with a retweet. Also remember you can book me for a conference or your school district with workshops that are informative, engaging, and practical. Check out my Booking Page and as always… thanks so much!  I am taking dates for 2018 with 2017 just about full…  Mike Gorman (https://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/)

A is for Authentic: The ABC’s of PBL … Building Blocks to Transform Learning          by Michael Gorman at https://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/

Learning must be authentic and meaningful in order for the content to really be understood and usable. While there are several education models that promote this idea, it is a necessity in a well-planned Project Based Learning (PBL) Unit. While memorizing and reciting facts may actually give some positive results on a test, it demonstrates only the lowest levels of learning as represented at the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy. PBL provides students that authentic learning experience that allows for real world applications, purpose, student relevant, and an audience beyond their classroom walls. Read more about these four special indicators of an authentic learning experience. While a PBL project may not always have every indicator, it is important to keep these qualities in mind when designing a project

  • Real World (True to the World)
  • Purposeful… The …So what
  • Relevant to the Here and Now
  • Audience and Mentors

1. True to the World – Learning must have meaning which extends to the real world, outside the walls of the brick and mortar classroom. The equations of math and the theories of science are a language of their own and reside in that real world. Today’s technology allows students to interact with the larger community, visit another continent, and even travel across the solar system. Curricular concepts and standards can become real and filled with meaning.
2. Purposeful – PBL provides students a purpose, allowing students to work on purposeful projects that can make a difference to others. This project is the process and the final results not only provide a reason and purpose. While a diorama displaying a garden can demonstrate some basic learning at the end of the unit, a student initiated vegetable garden that provides food to the community provides real purpose. Students begin to see why they are doing and learning and are provided the opportunity to contribute to a greater community. As students envision the project and its results… it must really answer the… So What?
3. Relevant to the Here and Now – A common question from students is often, “Why do we need to learn this?” The typical answer is often, “Because you will need it someday. Students should be learning concepts and ideas now, because they also need it now. A PBL Unit might put them in the middle of saving a building, helping the less fortunate, communicating with a culture across the world, creating a museum, writing books for younger children, or authoring an article for Wikipedia. When students know why they are learning and using their knowledge to make a difference, a whole new deeper learning results. They may actually be able to tell their parents what they learned in
school today, and more importantly describe what they did!
4. Real Audience and Mentors – A classroom is filled with students and a teacher and their interaction can be powerful. PBL promotes the idea of the classroom being the entire world. Providing students an authentic audience beyond their classroom is powerful. It promotes rigor and quality work because students realize their work is to be on display and will be viewed by more than their teacher and peers. It could be another classroom or better yet, of the world whether it is real or virtual. Audience can also be an ongoing part of any project in the form of mentors and experts. This capability can exist in the classroom or even online using proper procedures.

As you can see, an authentic learning experience is of prime importance when designing and planning Project Based Learning for students at any level. Through this practice students can see real world application that provides meaning. They are involved in a purpose that facilitates engagement and passion. They interact with an audience and mentors providing a gateway that employs rigor and quality work. Students are also able to see connections between disciplines allowing them to see importance of all content and disciplines. As teachers become more familiar with the PBL process the will learn to plan projects that employ more of the indicators. Please feel free to explore links that may help you better understand why A really is for Authentic Learning in PBL

Resources For Authentic Learning

  • Kids can make a Difference – An educational program for middle- and high school students, focuses on the root causes of hunger and poverty, the people most affected, solutions, and how students can help.
  • You Tube – Search YouTube for relevant and engaging possibilities.
  • Online Newspapers – Look at the newspaper for curriculum connections… or search for those connections with Google News
  • Authentic Learning Post – Check out this guest post from Dayna Laur at 21centuryedtech. Not only is it filled with links, it also connects to her wonderful book on “Authentic Learning”
  • The Power of Authentic Learning – Read this amazing article from ASCD that brings some wonderful ideas to light on Authentic Learning.
  • What Does it Take for a Project to be Authentic – This Edutopia article brings together the idea of what it really takes to make a project authentic and real for students.
  • What Does it Take for a Project to be Authentic – John Larmer at BIE brings four important ideas to light in making PBL real.
  • 15 Classroom Literacy Ideas for Early Childhood – The folks at NWEA have assembled a wonderful list of real literacy ideas to bring your students not just in their early education years, but also ideas that can be adapted for older students.
  • Real Projects – Inspired by approaches pioneered in the US, and developed through a partnership between Innovation Unit and High Tech High in California, REAL Projects are now being used by schools all over England.
  • 8 Video Resources for Authentic Project Based Learning Design –  The New Tech Ndetwork supplies these wonderful resources made to keep learning and projects authentic.

The Full Series

Thank you for joining me and I hope you found this information something you can use in your school and useful to share with other educators. As always, I invite you to follow me on twitter (mjgormans). Please give this post a retweet and pass it on to someone who will benefit. To ensure you do not miss a future valuable post or other resource covering PBL, Digital Curriculum, STEM, 21st-century learning, and technology integration please sign up for 21centuryedtech by email or RSS. Have a great week! Mike (https://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/

Booking Info – It is time to think about your school or conference needs.  Are you looking for a practical and affordable professional development workshop for your school or conference? I have traveled the country delivering PD relating to technology integration, PBL, STEM, Digital Literacy, and the 4 C’s. I have delivered hundreds of workshops and presentations. Check out my Booking Page .  Please contact me soon if you have an interest. I am now almost booked through the rest of the 2017.  Its also not to early to begin thinking of 2018!  Please take a look at my Booking Page to see how I could be part of your school PD or Conference plans. Thanks so much.  Michael Gorman (mjgormans@gmail.com)

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