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Part Two… Transforming STEM Education from a Noun to a Verb… 15 Steps

stemverb

Welcome to the second of two articles as I relate the importance of making sure STEM is considered a verb. The first post involved the “why”, and this second post provides 15 ideas for the :how”. There are a lot of definitions in regards to STEM education usually in regards to the nouns including Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.. As I reflect on my observation of STEM practice in my travels across the country I have become more convinced that STEM is a verb, and not just a set of nouns. In fact, STEM action is something all content areas can embrace as they engage students in authentic learning. I have some great posts coming your way involving PBL and STEM. Most of all, thanks for being one of those 30,000+ visitors a month and over 14,000 subscribers.

Also, remember that I can come to your conference or school district and provide engaging, authentic, practical, and purposeful professional development . See booking info and please contact me anytime at (mjgormans@gmail.com).  Last, 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 great information coming your way this school year…So Sign Up Now and please pass this on with a retweet!   – Mike Gorman (https://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/)

Booking Info –  Look for contact information at the Booking Site. I have a workshop and session entitled “STEM is a Verb”. In fact… the Workshop is also a Verb!

Part Two… Transforming STEM Education from a Noun to a Verb… 15 Steps

I do hope you enjoyed that first post which I related the reasons “why” I believe that STEM must be considered a verb. I also included the necessary idea that STEM really is a part of all content areas. Please feel free to take a look if you missed it. Now that we understand the “why” it is important to look at the next steps that allow us to implement the “how” as we build a stem school culture. I suggest taking a look at these steps (ideas) and use them as you either build and/or vet your STEM culture of learning.  I hope you notice each one even starts with a verb. Perhaps that will help you as you complete an action plan. Please  feel free to share with others…  and enjoy your STEM journey!

  1. Think of STEM as a verb, not a noun. What are the skills that make up that STEM-based occupation? It can be seen that these skills not only include the Four C’s, but also components of each C.
  2. Create a clear vision and mission for STEM in the school or district. Make sure this definition is understood by everyone including those educators that may not think of themselves as STEM.
  3. Incorporate STEM thinking into lessons in all content areas. This STEM thinking includes the ability to problem solve, authentically learn, think in critical ways, invent, produce, persevere, collaborate, empathize, and design.
  4. Emphasize the skills that are needed in those future careers, not the career itself. While it is beneficial to learn about different careers, it is important to note that these will change and students may go through multiple careers. Many of the important skills will remain the same.
  5. Integrate digital technology in STEM when appropriate, and it is able to amplify the standard. An example might be to teach with real protractors before using a digital protractor.
  6. Incorporate PBL (Project Based Learning) and 5E lessons into  STEM instructional experiences.  These methods can provide the process for student ownership, engagement, and authenticity.
  7. Look outside of the classroom to incorporate STEM as an authentic learning experience. Use the community, country, and world to allow students to contribute  while allowing them to see  real world connections to content and skills being taught.
  8. Facilitate and assess (intentionally) not just content, but also the STEM (21st century and beyond) skills. Find, or build rubrics, that address the 21st-century skills which include the 4 C’s of Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. Understand that each of these C;s includes indicators and subsets that can be assessed. An example might be that  empathy is a part of collaboration or active listening is part of communication.
  9. Practice a STEM culture of learning… make sure that students are doing. This doing must include not only hands-on activities but also important metacognition. Students must not only do, but also think about what they are doing (which should be connected to the standards). Find ways to make this thinking visible. It is only when students do… and then think, that real learning takes place.
  10. Step beyond STEM one time activities and making. Build a STEM culture that builds inquiry, is supported by authenticity, promotes rigor, and allows for student self-regulation and  ownership of learning. Always keep the necessary curricular standards and skills at the forefront of STEM.
  11. Allow for student ownership while promoting real inquiry. Provide ways for students questions and inquiry, while intentionally building specific habits and literacy skills to find answers.
  12. Promote a culture of focused and engaging rigor allowing for student to face hurdles and eventually achieve satisfaction and success.
  13. Look outside your school day and find programs that students are excited about at home and after-school. Develop ways to bring these into the instructional day while mapping to curricular standards.
  14. Amplify with digital devices when appropriate, plan first before purchasing STEM technology equipment, and embrace those non-technology items that allow students to make.
  15. Allow for student voice and choice that align with both 21century skills and curricular standards in order to provide student engagement, inquiry, and purpose.

 

Opportunity – Stanley Black & Decker and Discovery Education  announced the Making for Good Challengea challenge encouraging students to develop a unique product that addresses societal and environmental needs. An extension the Innovation Generation: Making an Impact program, the challenge asks high school students to work in teams to design a product solution that will help solve an environmental or societal problem in their home, school or community. And the nationwide challenge will award up to $30,000 in scholarships, grants and prizes.  Read more about the Making for Good Challenge, visit innovation-gen.com and please consider sharing this news.

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… enjoy the Websites! – 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? In fact, I have a STEM is a Verb Session and Workshop I can bring to your location. 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. While I am booked through 2019, I do have some dates open starting in 2020! Look for contact information at the Booking Site.

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Part One… Transforming STEM Education from a Noun to a Verb… STEM in all Areas

stemverbWelcome to the first of two articles as I relate the importance of making sure STEM is considered a verb. The first post involves the “why”, and the second post provides 15 ideas for the :how”. There are a lot of definitions in regards to STEM education usually in regards to the nouns including Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.. As I reflect on my observation of STEM practice in my travels across the country I have become more convinced that STEM is a verb, and not just a set of nouns. In fact, STEM action is something all content areas can embrace as they engage students in authentic learning. I have some great posts coming your way involving PBL and STEM. Most of all, thanks for being one of those 30,000+ visitors a month and over 14,000 subscribers.

Also, remember that I can come to your conference or school district and provide engaging, authentic, practical, and purposeful professional development . See booking info and please contact me anytime at (mjgormans@gmail.com).  Last, 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 great information coming your way this school year…So Sign Up Now and please pass this on with a retweet!   – Mike Gorman (https://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/)

Booking Info –  Look for contact information at the Booking Site.

Part One… Transforming STEM Education from a Noun to a Verb… STEM in all Areas

“We can have facts without thinking but we cannot have thinking without facts.”  – John Dewey

Let’s take a moment and investigate the STEM acronym, after-all it is being used quite a bit across the United States and the world. Often we hear the content areas; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math as being the basis of STEM. While this is a wonderful collection of nouns that can be used to put together a cross-curricular, transdisciplinary, or project based learning unit of study; it seems to leave out many of the other disciplines through this content definition. By focusing just on these four areas we are losing the powerful and authentic learning opportunities that STEM thinking can bring to the classroom.  In fact, we are also leaving some of the most important teachers from other subject areas  out of the equation, or the limited definition does not make them feel a part of an exciting possibility!  Perhaps that is why we see schools and districts adopting STEAM (infuse the arts), and STREAM (add on some Reading. As we see these new models perhaps we should turn it into STREAMIE (include everyone), from there we can go to STREAMIER and STREAMIEST! Better yet, how about STREAMING… wow… it’s a verb! While the idea could make everyone smile, let’s take a look at what STEM might and could actually look like if we facilitated and promoted and all-inclusive subject area model.

I have often stated that one could look at STEM as the content and PBL as the process, but even in this mode of thinking, it seems to leave out important content. Perhaps it is important to think of STEM as a verb and not a noun.  What if all disciplines viewed STEM as a thinking process?  This is what many true STEM leaders have been promoting. Yet many programs and initiatives focus on STEM as a noun.It could be due to the many logos we see promoting the four disciplines. John Dewey stated:

“We can have facts without thinking but we cannot have thinking without facts.”  

Think for a second of not the stated STEM disciplines, but the skills and thought process it takes to work within a STEM content area. Consider the skills that must be learned for an eventual career, or multiple careers. The action found in the STEM process call allow students to practice and develop the ability to problem solve, authentically learn, think in critical ways, invent, produce, persevere, collaborate, empathize, and design.  In doing so, the nouns of STEM work with the important acts of doing and thought. This STEM style thinking opens up a whole new world of possibilities to facts! The facts in the curriculum become real and understandable, opening up a world of real learning to students.

With this mind, it is possible to include all subject areas including language arts, social studies, the fine arts, the practical arts, foreign language, business, plus so much more! Every subject should own STEM thinking! In fact, this style of metacognition becomes even more important as teachers begin to infuse grit and rigor into their lesson plans. Activities that incorporate such thinking build a strong and necessary foundation for project-based learning and transdisciplinary learning. In fact, I ran across a Discovery Education statement that suggested STEM as “Students and Teachers Energizing Minds”.  Wow, verbs that allow students to do can be powerful! All of us have to step out of the STEM nouns and find a way to bring the verbs of STEM to every student!

Join me in the next post as I provide 15 Ideas to Transform STEM Thinking from Nouns To Verbs

Opportunity –  Save $150 by registering by November 1, 2019. Did you know that FETC at Miami, Florida this year. For 40 years, the Future of Education Technology® Conference has gathered the most dynamic and creative education professionals from around the world for an intensive, highly collaborative exploration of new technologies, best practices and pressing issues. Its impact has been felt by thousands of districts, schools, educators — and ultimately students. I really hope to see you there. More information.

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… enjoy the Websites! – 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? In fact, I have a STEM is a Verb Session and Workshop I can bring to your location. 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. While I am booked through 2019, I do have some dates open starting in 2020! Look for contact information at the Booking Site.

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Ten Questions to Ask when Creating a STEM Culture in Education

stemq

As you might know, I am very excited about STEM education! In fact, get ready for a series of helpful STEM posts. For consultations and presentations at schools across the country I have developed these ten questions you may want to ask as you develop or assess STEM possibilities for students. Also, please take a moment to subscribe to this blog by RSS or email, and  join me on twitter at mjgormans . I have some great posts coming your way involving PBL and STEM. Most of all, thanks for being one of those 30,000+ visitors a month and over 14,000 subscribers. Also, remember that I can come to your conference or school district and provide engaging, authentic, practical, and purposeful professional development . See booking info and please contact me anytime at (mjgormans@gmail.com). Thanks so much.  Michael Gorman (21centuryedtech).

Quick note for those near Fort Wayne, Indiana: I will be providing a keynote for the STEM 2.0: Getting Ahead of the Curve Symposium at Sweetwater Sound on Monday, September 16, 2019 from 8:30 AM – 12:00 PM  My presentation is entitled “STEM is a Verb”. There will also be a presentation by Dr. Andrew Melin on Indiana’s STEM Program and Strategic Plan, and a panel discussion by area K-16 educators. Please feel free to attend using this link:  STEM 2.0: Getting Ahead of the Curve  The event is at Sweetwater Sound, 5501 US Highway 30 W, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46818

Following all of the above information, let me get straight to the ten questions I consider essential. If you are a new to, or planning for a STEM school, take a look as you plan. Already a STEM school… then use these questions to assess and determine your next journey along an amazing path!

Ten Questions to Ask when Creating a STEM Culture in Education – Michael Gorman

  1. What does STEM mean to the education process and culture of a school for students and educators? So many schools have jumped onto the idea of STEM education involving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  The integration of these four areas is very important, but what does it mean for a building or district? We must be careful not to amplify these areas of study, while putting less emphasis on other areas of the curriculum. It is important to emphasize the idea of “Why STEM?” as your school or district takes the steps toward  STEM education.  People must understand that STEM will be a way to engage students in all content areas.
  2. Are there any unintended results as we emphasize this idea of STEM? The elements of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are wonderful areas of study and really embrace the idea of future job growth and good salaries. Schools have addressed this idea by extending the STEM acronym with extra letters. We now find STEAM (include the Arts), STREAM (include reading), STREAMIE (include everyone.. I am still waiting to see STREAMIER (more STREAMIE) and STREAMIEST (most STREAMIE)! How big can we make the acronym as we try to embrace the entire curriculum? I think it might be how we define STEM to begin with, which leads to our next question.
  3. How does your building, district, and community define STEM? Before bringing in a STEM program, collectively decide on a definition for STEM. I like to think of STEM as a verb and not just four nouns. It is the process of students doing, thinking and connecting throughout the entire curriculum. This is the subject of a future Blog… so be sure to subscribe! Please note that I stated “a building, district, and community definition of STEM”. Everyone should be able to provide a consensus definition. While this might seem obvious, it is not always the case!
  4. What does a lesson or unit look like when STEM is infused? Is there a process that the school or district is ready to embrace and provide training on? This should involve some type of inquiry method that allows for student exploration while constraining them to mandated curriculum standards. This might include the 5E’s, a Design Method, Deeper Thinking Processes, Project Based Learning, or Problem Based Learning. It must start at the basic lesson level… before expanding to units of study. In many places, it is a classroom transformation.
  5. What does a STEM Classroom look like? I mean this in both a physical and pedagogical way. This does not take a remodel of the school, although large classrooms are nice. How does this physical classroom integrate with the pedagogy? Remember that STEM builds a culture of connected and authentic learning. Before implementation, all educators should visit some STEM classrooms and schools.  If there are not any available, take a look at PBL, Montessori, or Reggio Emilia classrooms. When visiting, spend more time observing students than teachers. Also keep in mind that some technology is needed. Take some time in determining what it is. Order the technology based on lesson needs and standards. Avoid the toys that shine until that need is determined. You will notice your technology dollars being spent much more efficiently!
  6. What modification(s) may be needed to the daily schedule? While in the beginning a school may have dedicated STEM time, a goal is to bring a STEM culture to every classroom… everyday!  That schedule change could be a long term goal and may vary among schools. How can classes and students be shared to allow for trans-disciplinary learning? What subjects can be paired together and allow for team teaching? There maybe a need for longer periods of learning. Perhaps teachers can find some ways to connect even in a traditional schedule. It all takes time, so remember … small steps.
  7. How do we get ready for assessment in STEM? I like to say that STEM assessment goes beyond the standardized test. As we use an inquiry and collaborative approach it is important to make sure all students are learning content. How do we assess not just the nouns, but also the verbs in our standards? Do we have rubrics that incorporate the 4C’s and other soft skills? I see what I call “STEMie” lessons that are based on few standards and with no assessment. How do we go beyond this? When we are intentional with standards and assessment, the standardized test will be satisfied.
  8. What qualities do STEM students have upon graduation at the different levels in education? I often say that we are not preparing students for the specific skills of a career, but rather the universal skills needed to work in any career. We need to determine these skills and qualities as as we build our STEM programs. How do we build these attributes into lessons and units and also into assessment, where the appropriate tools must be determined? As we think of careers, a STEM program must help students determine a career pathway and find passions that engage them.
  9. What are a building or district’s community connections for STEM?  Keep in mind that every community is different. The community outside the school’s walls is important for authentic learning. A STEM school must look for connections  that make learning relevant for students. Databases can be created to identify professionals, institutions, business, industry, and government entities that can be partners for real world learning. These partnerships should be a two way street. The real benefactors will be your students!
  10. How does a school or district sustain the STEM momentum?  All initiatives start out with a lot of energy. Many times this begins with particular groups and individuals. How do we place this ownership with the entire institution? There may need to be some ongoing in-service along with a retelling of the story. Keep in mind that the goal is to build a STEM culture!

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… enjoy the Websites! – 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. My 2019 calendar is filling fast. In fact, it might be time to begin thinking about next January and 2020! Look for contact information at the Booking Site.

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Ten Inspiring Lessons From An Almost Analog Native … Back To School 2019

2019

It is back to school time 2019 for many of us in the United States and beyond… welcome to the future! I dedicate this post to all of you wonderful educators . It is my hope that as many educators as possible read this post as they begin a new year journey… I hope you share and make this happen!  (Via school emails and retweet to your friends). Please enjoy this reflective journey and send to others what I hope to be a teaching inspiration.  I wish all of you the very best as you enter a new school year! I hope you enjoy this timeless lesson… one that really does have a place in 21st century education. It is a reminder that teaching truly is an amazing art. Let’s all keep up the wonderful painting.  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 great information coming your way this school year…So Sign Up Now and please pass this on with a retweet!   – Mike Gorman (https://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/)

Booking Info… Yes… I do come to schools and conferences to share over 40 years of education experiences from my classroom and district office experience to working with hundreds of schools across the nation. I also teach a PBL Masters Class online at Wilkes University. When not providing Services for BIE (PBLWorks), Discovery Education, Wilkes, FETC, Alan November Consulting, and Tech and Learning Magazine… I provide independent consultation and professional development across the country. Check out my Booking Page and email me at mjgormans@gmail.com

10 Inspiring Lessons From An Almost Analog Native – Mike Gorman ((https://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/)

It was a normal first day back to school. The building was still quiet and still. I could sense there was an air of extreme excitement and anticipation in the air. I sat at my desk and pondered the reality of a new year wondering about the new faces I would greet.  I already knew that all too soon I would be waving good bye to another group I had come to know so well. It is amazing what the short period of a school year brings to both educators and students.  Suddenly awakened from what was either my deep reflection or possibly a type of relaxing nap that only the whispering of being another year older can bring, a panicked voice was heard at my classroom door.

He was a brand new teacher dressed as one who just might enlighten the downtown business club, yet he stood with the glazed eyes of a student still waiting for that moment of enlightenment. I had seen it all before, perhaps even in the reflection of a distant mirror over thirty-seven years ago. He was summoning me to his room, not that I regarded it as his room… at least not yet. You see, I had great respect for the educator who had been a part of the four walls that this soon to be teacher was leading me to. As he led me through the doorway of his new headquarters for dissemination of information I couldn’t help but notice a peculiar feeling of past warmth that was missing. There was a indescribable void, covering a large aura which had been in place for nearly fifty years.

As he motioned for me to look at the archaic blackboard behind the new, still packaged, and not yet plugged in interactive whiteboard I couldn’t help but smile. There, still written with chalk that  had the smell of fresh dust, were the words “A Message from an Almost Analog Native”.  Then I heard the young teacher’s voice asking how he might  get rid of the words. He pleaded that, after all, he saw no button to push to dissolve the print. I smiled and walked to the board and picked up the eraser. I cleverly planned to display to this obviously digital native, one of this school’s first such inductees, the magic of an eraser. I even had my strategy for providing a professional development moment on the use of chalk. After all, improper use of chalk can lead to an annoying screech that will send most students diving under their desks. As I held up the eraser I walked to the board and began to perform the ancient teacher ritual of erasing a black… not green,board. Amazingly, it did not work out the way I had planned. As I observed the pupils of this brand new teacher’e eyes grow large, I turned to the board and took a step back in awe. Not only were the words not disappearing… but new words were beginning to appear underneath. It was now quite obvious that we were both extremely engaged in the lesson that was about to begin. I have recorded for you the amazing script that came before my eyes that very day.

The Ten Lessons

Welcome to your new classroom. I am sure you are going to explain and teach in a way that I might never understand. You see, I come from a day of filmstrip projectors that beeped, ditto paper that left my fingers blue and the students enjoying the scent, bells that really did ring out a mechanical melody, 16 millimeter films that, if in color, amazed the kids. In fact, if these films were shown backwards it provided bonus entertainment. In recent years I have heard words that are so strange to me. These words include foreign terms such as twitter, blog, wiki, Skype, web 2.0, clickers, and interactive whiteboards. I have heard all this talk about 21st century skills and I am not even sure if I can tell you what they are. So there you have it. I am not one of those digital natives, nor am I a digital immigrant! I may not even be an analog native or immigrant. So, even though I do not know all the new terms, I thought that I might give you a list of ten items I feel just might ensure success no matter what century it is.

  1.  You come to school to serve your students. Put them at the center of their learning. Find great books, integrate fascinating projects, and include engaging resources.  As you do this, always remember that students must be at the center of their learning.
  2.  As you teach you will come upon some amazing tools. My very first full sized erasable blackboard was wonderful and I was amazed by the pull down map. I remember the very first time I used colored chalk and our very first classroom set of encyclopedias. Imagine having almost all the knowledge of the world in your classroom. Please remember that tools are only as effective as those who use them. You will be introduced to amazing new tools. Make sure these tools become the servants and not the masters of your teaching.
  3. Realize that every student is truly gifted. It may be that your job is to find that special gift and make the student aware of it. Each gift is different and will ultimately lead that student to an interest and vocation that they find great pleasure in while contributing to society. They may even come back some day and thank you for revealing that gift to them.
  4. Learning does not just happen in the classroom. Open your students to the world by introducing them to experts, authors, cultures, and multiple disciplines. Teach them to become lifetime learners who will embrace learning beyond the classroom and beyond their school experience. It seems this world is ever changing and, in order to keep up with things, they may need to someday be their own teacher.
  5. Allow your students the experience of searching for success. This involves allowing multiple attempts, occasional failure, and eventual triumph. Learning does not always need to be graded, but must always be guided. Remember, it is not always the destination, but in most instances… the journey. Allow your students those journeys with multiple opportunities and outcomes.
  6. Encourage cooperation, teamwork, and healthy competition. Teach your students that the thoughts and contributions of many can be so much more powerful than just the contribution of one. Emphasize true discussion and listening, and allow for discourse. The ability to work, plan, and play together has been, and always will be, an important skill.
  7. Promote thinking that is outside what many might consider the box. Allow your students to have their own ideas, play with possibilities, and invent what doesn’t exist. Not everything in life can come from your textbook. Remember, what we believe as facts today could change in twenty-five to fifty years. It seems that information probably doubles every hundred years. I suppose that might even speed up a bit as time goes on.
  8. It seems that all of us learn best by doing. Allow your students to not just hear it or read about it. Provide them with real life experiences and allow then to do it. Guide them as they are doing so they are learning relevant content and gaining new skills. Give them some say in what they are doing.
  9. Remember your humanness. Always have a sense of humor and be yourself. Remember that teaching is a people business. Enjoy the laughter, the stories, the victories, the accomplishment, and the small (but really big) moments that can only happen in a real live classroom. Some say that someday robots or some kind of two way wireless radio will take over education. I truly think this will never happen because teachers will always show that the human element is essential. A smile from a real person sure beats that of a  robot or a distant person on a wireless radio covered in distant sounds of static.
  10. Always remember that you teach children… not subjects such as science, history, arithmetic, ciphering, citizenship, reading, English, and shop. You see, it is the teaching of children that convinced me to get into this amazing business… and it is the reason that most great teachers have a hard time giving up a classroom like this.

Please take good care of this classroom. It never was mine, only one that I was allowed not just to educate children in, but so much more. It was a classroom in which I was allowed to perpetuate a culture of learning for almost fifty years. You see, not all of these ideas were mine. I found them on an old slate lying in a back closet when I first entered this room. I was so happy I had a pencil in hand, because no faster had I made my copy than the words on the slate disappeared. I think I may have made a few changes. I know I will have a chance in my retirement to read about some of these new tools and even learn about these 21st century skills. It will probably give me a chance to think about what I might have done to make learning in my classroom even better. When I find out… I might even send you a message. Until then, please take care of this old classroom and, more importantly, take even more care with those children who will enter tomorrow and thereafter. I know you will perpetuate the culture of learning that has permeated these four walls for more years than even those I taught.

You know… there wasn’t much to say. I looked at the new kid who seemed even more ready to teach. His eyes appeared already a few years older. As we both stood there we saw the old blackboard magically erase and turn a clean dark shade of black. I picked up the eraser that I had dropped during this unusual encounter and handed it over to the new guy. He opened the closet door and threw it in. I heard a gentle thump as it landed on something that may have been a slate. Together, we both unpacked and plugged in his new interactive whiteboard. He carefully positioned it so he could still see a portion of that old blackboard from his desk. We both knew why. As I walked out of the room that day I couldn’t help but think about the history that just might occur in that old classroom in the next fifty years. But, I had plans to make and students to get ready for as I was incorporating many of those new 21st century skills I had been reading about all summer. I was so excited about providing so many new opportunities for my students. After all, this is a new era for new techniques and strategies and yes… some that have always been a art of learning.

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… enjoy the Websites! – 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. My 2019 calendar is filling fast. In fact, it might be time to begin thinking about next January and 2020! Look for contact information at the Booking Site.

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Facilitating Student Owned Inquiry With The Right Question… Deeper Learning

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I am convinced that the key to student engagement is the ownership of inquiry.  People want to know the answer to questions… especially their own. This can be proven by watching people inquire on their cell phones when questions come up in a conversation. Now the answers and ability to find valid ones is up for debate… we can look at that in a future post. Let’s take our time now to discover a way to get our students excited to ask and own their own questions in the classroom. Before taking part in this adventure, please take a moment to subscribe to this blog by RSS or email and  join me on twitter at mjgormans . I have some great posts coming your way involving PBL, STEM, tech integration. Most of all, thanks for being one of those over 30,000 visitors a month and over 14,000 subscribers. Also, remember that I can come to your conference or school district and provide engaging authentic, practical, and purposeful professional development . See booking info and please contact me anytime at (mjgormans@gmail.com). Thanks so much.  Michael Gorman (21centuryedtech).

Booking Info… Yes… I do come to schools and conferences to share over 40 years of education experiences from my classroom and district office experience to working with hundreds of schools across the nation. I also teach a PBL Masters Class online at Wilkes University. When not providing Services for BIE (PBLWorks), Discovery Education, Wilkes, FETC, Alan November Consulting, and Tech and Learning Magazine… I provide independent consultation and professional development across the country. Check out my Booking Page and email me at mjgormans@gmail.com

Facilitating Student Owned Inquiry With The Right Question… Deeper Learning

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein

As educators, it is very hard to not answer student questions. Yet, if we want students to own the inquiry, it is important to practice “answer restraint” in order to promote not just student answers… but more great student questions. As we all know, children are born with a natural inquiry  and those first five years are a gold mine of curiosity, questions, and wonderment! As children enter school they soon learn to stop asking questions, and instead look to the teacher for answers!

In a world filled with so much instant information, it is important  to teach students to ask even more questions as they seek possible answers. So many times we talk about “lifelong learning” and its importance to personal adaptability in a rapidly changing society and workplace. It is developing student skills to ask good questions while seeking out more questions, and eventual answers, that are at the foundation of “life-long learning”! It is only when students own the inquiry that they also begin to own, direct, and self-regulate their own learning. At this point, learning becomes both passionate and authentic. The question remains, how do we as educators make it happen?

Please let me introduce you to one of the very best techniques I know for developing student inquiry. It come from an amazing website… The Right Question Institute.  I encourage you to visit the website. You will find their mission statement as a reason to pursue their protocol with students.

The Right Question Institute aims to make democracy work better by teaching a strategy that allows anyone, no matter their educational, income, or literacy level, to learn to ask better questions and participate more effectively in decisions that affect them.

At the RQI they have come up with the protocol often referred to as QFT (Question Formation Technique). RQI states…  “In the classroom, educators around the world in diverse communities, from pre-k through higher education across all subject areas, have found that the QFT is a shortcut to stimulating student curiosity, increasing student engagement, and promoting deeper learning. Research has also found that the QFT significantly increases student curiosity, divergent thinking, and cognitive engagement, can lead to better argumentative writing scores, and that kindergarten students who learn the QFT ask more on-topic questions than students who have not learned the QFT.”

Let take a look at the QFT protocol:

(I will also insert some of my own thoughts as I have observed the process multiple times. I also have provided some alternate ways to look at the technique from my own practice. The actual technique as prescribed by RQI can be found at (Steps For QFT). I do think a visit to this page is a must!

First, students join a collaborative group. The power of the wisdom found in the crowd is so important for engaging and providing all the students the chance to see multiple ways of thinking. Learning happens in collaborative goods and asking the right questions is a great ticket for a wonderful learning journey!

A. The Question Focus: The students are provided an artifact using the ideas above. This could be a picture,  statement, phrase, video, graphic, article, sound byte, reading, object, math problem, or any other item that could allow for the incubation of questions.  After introduction, students quietly reflect on the artifact as they think about questions they might have about it. With this introduction students begin to brainstorm questions they may have on their own. There is no such thing as a wrong question. There is no need to question the questions or even try to answer them. Questions can be one word answers, open, closed, or any other style a student might wish. I feel there should be a brain storming choice, possibly based on group culture or situation. The brainstorming could happen individually outside of the group.  It could also happen inside a group. If it is done as a group then make sure students understand that there is no wrong question. This is not a time to question or answer the question, be sure to write questions as they are and feel free to change any statements to questions. (Watching students come up with questions is a rewarding experience. Every time I have seen this I compare that to the teacher question in a classroom and the number of hands raised to answer it. I also smile as I think of the number of student responses to a teacher’s statement of “any questions”.)

B. Students share questions in the group (If not done already). At this time it is helpful to make sure students understand the difference between an Open or Closed Question. As a group they share these questions and try to label them as Open or Closed. I( have seen some real deep conversations at this point. The learning really begins to become student owned. Keep in mind that students must follow the rule of honoring each others thoughts and ideas.)

C. Review once again the difference between Open and Closed Questions. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? When is the best time to use each one? (It is important that students understand this difference. This provides a pathway for finding the answers. This is valuable as students begin research and can also be key for students to learn how to answer high stake test questions. Think for a moment how you might answer an open as compared to a closed question.)

D. Have groups rewrite some of their questions in the following manner. Pick a Closed Question and make it Open. Next pick an Open Question and make it closed. Make sure students discuss these two areas. It is also important to talk about and have them discuss this process as they go through it. (This is my favorite part of QFT because of the deep learning and meta-cognitive demands that it puts forward. I have seen lights go on as students discover that as they take an open question to close… they have also found a way to begin research with brand new questions that are closed. This leads to answers and also new questions. Think of this in relationship to a high stakes test that has an open question. I think you can see the win here!)

E. The students now prioritize their questions in some type of order. This may depend on the next steps that the class will take. It may be questions that students consider most important, will help with research, can be used for an experiment, will guide reading/ writing, can be answered as you read, or will help you solve a problem. It is now time to put into action the reason for the QFT Protocol. (Imagine the focus students will have in the next step. They now have owned inquiry and the engagement is exciting to watch and be a part of. Keep in mind that new questions will materialize. Many times these will provide questions that converge toward an answer, and more often diverge into even more questions. I call it the inquiry spiral! These new questions need to be recorded).

I have  provided a handout that I have created using QFT, and also encourage you to be sure to read all about this technique at (Steps For QFT).  Also, check out the RQI’s Education Page. Here you will find valuable resources such as two excellent books, Partnering With Parents and Make Just One Change. There is also some amazing free resources such as Informational Materials,  webinars and videos that you can watch and listen to such as Google and QFT and Formative Assessment and QFT… plus so much more. Perhaps you want to read some more articles on QFT,  or you may go to the RQI’s Education Page and select (Subjects) to explore specific subjects such as this English Article or look at the Levels to see how it is used in AP Literature. I hope I have given you a reason to explore this whole web site!

Last, many times educators at workshops ask me where to find artifacts to use. I like to tell people to check out primary documents at the National Archive. You may wish to find the right video on YouTube, PBS Learning Video, or that artifact at Discovery Education if you are a DE School. How about artifacts at your favorite museum or past newspaper headlines and articles? There are also some pretty cool webcams at zoos, historical sites, and interesting places that might make a curricular connection. There might also be something that a filtered Advanced Google Image Search will turn up. Sometimes you can even use just a portion of a picture. There is always the opportunity to make a Word Cloud or even create one.  I also like the NY Times Whats Going On In This Picture and don’t forget how Graphs can pose a question.  It is now time for you to think of a way to get your students to come up with just the right question!

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein

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… enjoy the Websites! – 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. My 2019 calendar is filling fast. In fact, it might be time to begin thinking about next January and 2020! Look for contact information at the Booking Site.

 

 

 

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PBL and Content … 15 Ideas To Make Sure Project Based Learning Supports The Standards

PBL_content

You might know that I am a big proponent of PBL.  I believe that as we work on helping students understand the content standards, PBL provides teachers with the how. I do hope you enjoy this content driven article. Also, please take a moment to subscribe to this blog by RSS or email and  join me on twitter at mjgormans . I have some great posts coming your way involving PBL, STEM, tech integration, and a continuing series on Professional Learning Communities!  Most of all, thanks for being one of those over 30,000 visitors a month and over 14,000 subscribers. Also, remember that I can come to your conference or school district and provide engaging authentic, practical, and purposeful professional development . See booking info and please contact me anytime at (mjgormans@gmail.com). Thanks so much.  Michael Gorman (21centuryedtech).

Booking Info… Yes… I do come to schools and conferences to share over 40 years of education experiences from my classroom and district office experience to working with hundreds of schools across the nation. I also teach a PBL Masters Class online at Wilkes University. When not providing Services for BIE (PBLWorks), Discovery Education, Wilkes, FETC, Alan November Consulting, and Tech and Learning Magazine… I provide independent consultation and professional development across the country. Check out my Booking Page and email me at mjgormans@gmail.com

15 Ideas To Ensure That Project Based Learning Is Grounded In Content And Standards

It is important that Project Based Learning provides students with wonderful opportunities that allow them to take part in a culture focused on rich activities and experiences. It promotes those important 21st-century skills while balancing this acquisition with important content knowledge and standards. The lessons and activities are intentional, aligned, and mapped to curricular standards. The standards and skills are constantly assessed in a variety of ways involving numerous stakeholders.  Most of all, there is an alignment between standards, skills, and assessment. By incorporating these indicators teachers are ensured that they have provided a project process that is built on standards and proper skill acquisition. The four areas that serve as indicators for grounding PBL  in standards are below.

1. Curricular Content
2. 21st Century Skills
3. Formative and Summative Learning Opportunities
4. Intentional, Aligned, Varied, and Constant Assessment

In this post, I would like to focus on the curricular content and standards that are one of the foundations of PBL. As I travel the country I will often hear teachers state that there is not the time for PBL because of the demands of the curricular content and standards. I understand this concern and the sincere desire that amazing teachers have in trying to prepare students for a successful future.  I do wonder about the difference between knowing standards and understanding standards, but I will save that for a future post.

First, I do agree that students do have the need to learn and understand base curriculum that focuses on important content standards. These are also those same skills that are many times tested on the standardized test, end of course assessment, and other high stake tests such as ACT, SAT, and AP. PBL, when done right, allows teachers to focus on and facilitate important content and standards. So what is PBL done right? Let’s take a moment to investigate and reflect.

I have heard many interpretations of Project Based Learning. Often I hear a description that suggests that the teacher delivers the content and students follow up with an inspiring and engaging cumulative project. While this involves student doing a project, it really is not PBL. I call this teaching and then having students do a project.  Resources from BIE/BUCK (now PBLWorks) describe this as a “dessert project”. This comes from the idea that first there is the teaching… and then a sweet project for dessert. While this can be useful and  can reinforce some learning, it is not truly Project Based Learning. In fact, I would like to give this practice its own acronym,  LBP (Learning Before Projects). I can understand how we as educators might not have time for this encore or dessert style or approach. PBL, however, is not an afterthought!

In true Project Based Learning the project uncovers and facilitates the learning of significant content. In PBL, there is a balance of learning that occurs throughout the project’s duration. It is this combination that allows for quality and rigor while helping students see the connection of content to the real world. It is important to understand that the ongoing project itself, through careful teacher planning,  must facilitate the learning.  Furthermore, it is  essential that a PBL unit is designed with proper scaffolding or mapping that includes both learning activities and effective ongoing assessment. In fact, some of these activities might actually be existing lessons that a teacher has always used. It is even possible and probable that part of the scaffold will include readings, lectures, and even a worksheet, although it is important to keep a balance using all of Bloom’s levels. While assessment is varied, there is nothing wrong with including a summative test. After all, our students will be facing these for awhile as they continue their educational careers. It is important to note that because the project is used as a base and point of reference throughout the learning, the element of time becomes much more productive than what might occur in LBP (Learning Before Projects). Through this process, the  learning, understanding, and application of  significant content  standards will become an important outcome. PBL provides the rigor of learning new content along with the engagement apparent in a student-centered program based on deeper learning. The content becomes the “what” while PBL is the “how”.  Below you will find twelve ideas to keep in mind in order to ensure that a PBL unit contains those important content standards.

  1. The entry event or launch should show a relationship to the Driving/Investigative Question promoting a “need to know” of the standards and content.
  2. The entry event serves as a link between student prior knowledge and what students are about to learn.
  3. The Driving/Investigative Question should allow students to uncover the curriculum standards in a student friendly and understandable manner.
  4. Student inquiry in the project allows for motivation, engagement and ownership of the learning and the standards. The inquiry allows for the cycle of learning in the project.
  5. PBL shoud get students beyond the nouns in the standards allowing real life practice of those verbs that are also in the standards.
  6. Any PBL planning sheets and activities for students should line up with the standards and content in the curricular area being studied and assessed.
  7. The project should be ongoing and made up of activities and lessons that facilitate the learning of significant content.
  8. Formative learning activities and assessments that teach and reinforce the significant content should be mapped and occur throughout the timeline of the project.
  9. While innovative and student-centered learning is encouraged,  the scaffolding of the project can still include traditional lecture, tests, and textbook readings that promote significant content. Yes… rich engaging lectures can be used!
  10. The PBL map should include a wide range of Bloom’s levels and deeper learning opportunities. While digital technology can amplify the experience, it is not always necessary. This map should see alignment in standards, driving question, lessons and assessments, and most important… final product.
  11. There should be rubrics developed that evaluate student learning outcomes and rubrics should be aligned with the significant content and student performance. Students and their peers should also be part of the evaluation process.
  12. The final project should not only emphasize the content standard verbs (21st century skills) but should show the learning and understanding of significant content at he highest levels.
  13. The final project should demonstrate student understanding and learning of the standards and content. At the same time it should provide an answer to the Driving /Investigative Question providing students the “why”.
  14. Since learning is embedded throughout the project, consider the number of standards when determining the length of the project. There should be a balance and productivity in the learning experience.
  15.  Remind students the importance of learning about and understanding the content standards throughout the project. This can be facilitated by providing important formative and summative assessment that ensures accountability while connecting the learning to real life.

The acquisition of content knowledge that has been deemed important by society is one of the key functions of education. Project Based Learning honors this by immersing students in the important content standards while providing that needed foundation. In a world that is seeing content multiply at an exponential rate, it is also important to help students become seekers of knowledge and lifetime self-learners. Along with those additional 21st century skills, PBL provides the avenue to both build the content foundation while activating the natural ability to learn.

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… enjoy the Websites! – 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. My 2019 calendar is filling fast. In fact, it might be time to begin thinking about next January and 2020! Look for contact information at the Booking Site.

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Project Based Learning Done Right … 10 Misconceptions: Plus… 10 Resources to Raise the PBL Bar

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I wanted to take a moment to share some of the thoughts I often hear from educators as I travel the country providing PBL Professional Development. I really believe it might be a helpful read for those wanting to make that PBL possibility in their school or district. Before continuing, I would appreciate having you take a moment to subscribe to this Blog by RSS or email and follow me at (mjgormans). Taking that moment ensures that we can continue to network, something that is very magical to me. Also, please share this post with others and even provide a re-tweet.  Last, please check my Booking Page to see how I could be part of your school PD or Conference plans.  I have some great posts coming your way involving PBL, STEM, Tech Integration and Makers. Most of all, thanks for being one of those over 30,000 visitors a month and over 14,000 subscribers.  I would appreciate it if you pass this special post on to others through email , your blog, school newsletter, or a retweet!  Help me honor all of those amazing educators!

Booking Info –  Please contact me (mjgormans@gmail.com) if you are interested in affordable and practical PD that can make an impact right away!. Days are filling up!

Also,  I will be at Alan November’s  BLC19 in Boston (July) presenting workshops and sessions to support educators and students. Checkout my conference half day workshops: Making Makers Mainstream and Project Based Learning Quick Start.

Project Based Learning Done Right … 10 Misconceptions: Plus… 10 Resources to Raise the PBL Bar (https://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/)

As I travel from state to state providing professional development in regards to Project Based Learning I see a confusion as to what Project Based Learning really is. Comments I constantly hear are phrases such as:

  • I already do PBL by incorporating a project at the end of the unit for learning.
  • I tried PBL and I just did not have time to cover the standards.
  • The problem with PBL is that projects cannot teach the standards.
  • My students just cannot get engaged in PBL.
  • I don’t think I can replace traditional teaching with PBL
  • PBL Projects last too long.
  • I cannot design cross-curricular projects because I only teach one subject.
  • I cannot fill my year with PBL
  • Our school does not have the technology to support PBL
  • PBL does not provide the rigor students need in order to be college/career ready.

These are all misconceptions in the area of Project Based Learning. Let’s take a look at these ten areas, and also how we as educators can use PBL as a vehicle for authentic student-centered learning. I am sure you will find the reading and resources valuable. Keep in mind that some resources go to PBLWorks which may require a free registration. You will be excited to explore all the resources in the PBLWorks Community.

  1. I already do PBL by a project at the end of each unit for learning. – This might be the most common misconception that I hear. In this statement, we need to examine the definition of PBL. The pedagogy of PBL is exactly as is states, Project…. Based… Learning! The project is the foundation for the learning experience. This is quite a contrast to what I see as turning the letters of PBL around to LBP… Learning… Before… Projects. Please understand that while LBP has its place, such as learning reinforcement and performance/portfolio assessment, it is not PBL. The concept behind PBL is to have the learning occur throughout the project in a careful scaffolding manner. Through intentional and careful facilitation by the teacher, the project is used as the teaching/learning tool. Check out this video that explains scaffolding in PBL. Note how the planning for the project is front loaded, complete with project products, learning targets (standards), lessons, and assessment. It really does not require much additional planning, as it requires deliberate planning and design before the start of the project. A good starting place is to take a past project that might be closer to LBP and seeing how it might be re-engineered to become closer to real PBL.
  2. I tried PBL and I just did not have time to cover the standards. – This is an understandable problem and can have for several reasons. First, if the teacher is involved in LBP (Learning Before Project) imagine the teaching time followed by students’ project construction time. In this scenario, it is very possible that time could run out. Second, please understand that with PBL teachers sometimes get very enthusiastic as students experience the inquiry process to uncover the standards. (Please note the difference between teachers covering and students uncovering.” This sometimes makes the project become larger than expected in either the planning stage or project stage. One PBL rule I always emphasize is that the project timeline should equal the number of standards taught. It is important that PBL when done right, is standards-based, including content and process skills. It is important that the teacher set a timeline and stay with it. While the pedagogy of PBL may take a little longer, remember to keep time in mind. Last, realize that not every unit has to be PBL based. In some math and even science areas, the content standards may actually be best delivered through PrBL (Problem Based Learning). The question is not as open and the process is somewhat abbreviated. Take a look at a look at possible differences here provided by John Larmer at BIE.
  3. The problem with PBL is that projects cannot teach the standards. – This misconception once again comes from the idea of projects being completed after the learning. In PBL the lessons,  learning targets, and assessment… all represent scaffolding inside the overall project. Standards go beyond learning to actual understanding, as students go through a cycle of learning. These experiences are student-centric with an emphasis on doing. John Dewey stated: “You can have facts without thinking but you can’t have thinking without facts”. The process skills, often referred to as the 4C’s or 21st Century Skills, are not only facilitated… but are also assessed. Students experience authentic learning and understanding by the doing, already found in the verbs of most standards. A wonderful resource for the 21st-century skills can be found at P21, the Foundation for 21st Century LearningLast, keep in mind that the project really isn’t teaching, it is the teacher facilitating and guiding the learning opportunity that the project provides. I like to think of it as true student centered learning!
  4. My students just cannot get engaged in PBL. – Just because students are taking part in a project, does not guarantee engagement. One way to make sure that PBL is effective is to study the Gold Elements as highlighted by the PBLWorks (BIE). You can read about them at this link. It is really only when a project contains all of these elements that a project becomes powerful. Perhaps the most important element in our students’ eyes is that of authenticity. It is important that students see the purpose of what they are doing, as they learn. One of the best areas to base a project on is to cross reference standards with local news and current events. It is also important that students own the learning, and  PBL allows for this student ownership. A very first attempt on a project may also require some teacher critique and reflection. Last, culture is the foundation for effective PBL. It is important that teachers build a culture that includes relationship, caring, excitement along with an emphasis on process over product.
  5. I don’t think I can replace traditional teaching with PBL – First, it is hard to define traditional teaching.  As educators reflect they will see many things they have always done fit into the mapping of PBL. At the same time, there is still a need for a lecture or a really good story, perhaps after an exploration. Students still may have to read a chapter in a book or an article of their choosing. There is still a place for summative assessment that appears as a test or a performance task. This should follow important formative assessment, including even a possible quiz or checkup. Rubrics perhaps become even more important and student input could become invaluable. There is still a place for homework and it is inspiring to see students start asking for it, and even making their own as they get in the flow of a project. A teacher does not have to make up new ideas for projects. Learn how to adjust past projects and even explore ideas on the internet. Take a moment to check this database of projects from PBLWorks (BIE) to explore some more.
  6. Projects in PBL last too long – This can actually be true! On the other hand, there is no rule that states that projects have to go week in and week out. They can actually be as short as a couple weeks depending on schedule set up. In fact, when starting out, I suggest that teachers begin their adventure with smaller projects. Watch for jumping into a project with too many ideas and the over planning that comes with this. Make sure that the project is based on standards and these standards are carefully aligned from the opening entry event to final assessment. Do not spend significantly more time on a project than might be used in the traditional delivery. If there is the temptation to grow the project, make sure that additional standards are part of the growth. Discover more about project length from Al Solis at this wonderful post on PBL timing.
  7. I cannot design cross-curricular projects because I only teach one subject. – Keep in mind that PBL does not have to cross disciplines, nor does it require teaming. PBL can be part of a single subject classroom. In fact, I often suggest keeping it to one discipline for teachers first starting the PBL path. It is much easier since one can plan on their own and teaming does not have to occur. If possible and appropriate, it is always helpful to show some of the obvious connections to other disciplines and the outside world. If a group of teachers wants to cross curriculum it is important to make the cross meaningful. It is essential to realize the difference between Interdisciplinary and Trans-disciplinary Learning. Trans-disciplinary uses a PBL approach by providing a driving question that is answered through multidisciplinary studies. This is an amazing approach and a powerful final goal as schools reform pedagogy, learning spaces, and daily schedule. Take a look at this video from the School for Tomorrow to learn more about a Trans-disciplinary approach. While it is important to make connections outside of one curriculum, as a teacher learns PBL this can be done within the constraints of a single classroom. As teachers become proficient with the process there will be a natural desire to take the next step as both an individual and a group of educators in a building.
  8. I cannot fill my year with PBL – A year does not have to be filled with PBL, although lessons should begin to take on and reflect a few of the Gold Standards. There are some schools that are built on a total PBL culture, and because of that will have projects from the start to the finish of a school year. Read more about the New Tech Model which incorporates a whole school PBL approach.On the other hand, many schools have teachers practicing PBL and may not see this practice as “door to door” PBL all year. In a traditional school setting, I suggest teachers try possibly one or two projects the first year they try to extend their teaching into a PBL environment. It is important to take small steps and to not feel that these projects have to be large. It may take a while to feel comfortable in handing the control and responsibility of learning to the students. There may even be a need to check student understanding and learning through traditional means. Understand that students are also experiencing a change and could feel some frustration and uneasy feelings as they progress. As a classroom enters a PBL culture there will be a new understanding involving the learning that takes place, even if students are not part of a project every day. The individual elements of PBL (Gold Standards) will begin to take hold throughout the daily learning experience.
  9. Our school does not have the technology to support PBL – I think it is important to define technology before going any further. Many educators think that the introduction of digital technology with computers and devices began the idea of technology integration in the classroom. We must all be reminded that technology represents the tools for doing! Students have been “doing” in various classrooms throughout and beyond the past one hundred years, and more! They have been using tools such as pencils, paint, markers, rulers, compasses, and so much more. If one looks at the era of Dewey it is apparent that PBL was being incorporated long before the first digital device. I often remind teachers that allowing students to make and create does not necessitate digital technology. What is necessary is for a teacher to understand that real learning and understanding demands that students be a part of an active learning experience where they have a sense of ownership. Keep in mind that today’s digital technology allows for an amplification of this learning experience. It promotes new possibilities and avenues never before available. With this in mind, it must be understood that rich and powerful PBL is, and always has been possible without digital technology. You can learn more at my past article in Tech & Learning Magazine linking four technology indicators to PBL.
  10. PBL does not provide the rigor students need in order to be college/career ready. – From my experience, I have actually found the contrary. Rigor should not be defined as “more work”, but instead should involve work that incorporates deep and engaged learning opportunities. Often, true rigor can be difficult to incorporate without authenticity and true student buy-in. Watch students in a classroom that are truly in the “flow of learning” and you will also find rigor. With rigor comes perseverance, student self-regulation, passion, and a deeper understanding of the content. As students are engaged in projects, the never ending inquiry and the sense of creating and solving with a real purpose develops a culture that promotes a drive for success. Perhaps we also need to look at the idea of “College and Career” ready. I think it should be stated the opposite…. “Career and College” ready. If we start thinking of career possibilities, the important 21st-century skills become more apparent. PBL often allows students to discover their passion. This newly found passion will produce a rigor that drives and prepares students for next path, whether it be college or a different amazing post K12 experience. Take a moment to explore this article on rigor from Edutopia. As rigor is truly defined, one can see that PBL is a perfect fit

Once again you can see, it might just take a few tweaks to do PBL well! Enjoy the links and discover ways to connect even more to Project Based Learning. As you begin the process, take small steps. Projects do not have to go week in and week out. They can actually be just a week or two depending on your schedule. Keep in mind that PBL does not have to cross disciplines although trans-disciplinary projects can be powerful. A year does not have to be filled with PBL, although lessons should begin to take on and reflect a few of the PBL Gold Standards. Allowing students to do… demands the use of technology, although it does not have to be digital. PBL promotes student-centered learning, that allows for passion, which plants the seed for rigor. I will highlight some of these ideas plus more in some upcoming posts.

Thanks for joining me on another journey dedicated to learning in the 21st Century! As always I invite you to follow me on Twitter (@mjgormans), I will return the favor and we can teach each other! I also encourage you to sign up for this blog by email or RSS.  I invite you to share this posts with others through email or a retweet!  Thanks for your visit and know that I will keep  sharing, teaching, and facilitating all learners! – Michael Gorman (21centuryedtech)

Booking Info – Check out my Booking Page… Please contact me soon (mjgormans@gmail.com) if you have an interest. I am finding my calendar becoming full but still have some dates through January 2020. Also,  I will be at Alan November’s  BLC19 in Boston (July) presenting workshops and sessions to support educators and students. Checkout my conference half day workshops: Making Makers Mainstream and Project Based Learning Quick Start. Mike

 

 

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