Teacher Innovation #4: PBL and Online Learning Platforms

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Post #4 comes from another esteemed colleague and ELA friend, Brooke Webb. Brooke was our school’s Teacher of the Year just two years ago and as you will read, truly deserved the accolade. I can always count on Brooke to be on the cusp of innovation in our school. I want to be careful to point out that innovation is not necessarily this concept of creating something entirely new; rather, innovation in our school is typically taking best practices and escalating them in way to build more authentic learning results for our students (i.e. calls for civil engagement, solving local problems, serving community members, building up resources, etc.). To get to this more authentic work, Brooke works diligently to help students see how their studies interconnect. Brooke, like myself, worries about how we continue to teach our content in silos, keeping students from seeing the benefit of cross-curricular learning and engagement. In her post today, Brooke presents the work she did taking on project-based learning and using our online learning platform (eCLASS) to help her students navigate the complexity of the tasks involved.

Previous Teacher Innovation Entries: Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3

by Brooke Webb

PBL AND eCLASS IN ELECTIVES: POP UP GREEK MYTHOLOGY MUSEUM

Project Based Learning (PBL) empowers students to take control of their own learning through self-directed research, creation, innovation,  revision, and authentic presentation or publishing to a larger audience. As a language arts teacher, I find that PBL lends itself very well to the high school language arts classroom as we have the choice to cover our standards via a plethora of avenues. This year, I am teaching a language arts elective class that focuses on ancient cultures’ mythology texts. Having never taught an elective class before, I decided that I would try something new in my teaching path and use only PBL projects to assess my classes’ mastery of the standards.

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My classes read the novel Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of Greek Mythology by Bernard Evslin, and I wanted to plan an event to remember! My class has students in 9th-12th grade and from each of our four academies (CDAT/STEM, Multimedia and Fine Arts, Global Business and Leadership, and Life and Health Sciences).  Thus, I wanted to design a project that would allow the students to work collaboratively on a common theme yet also focused on their own academies.

I thought that doing an actual walk through museum with exhibits would be awesome and align with what I hoped to accomplish. A colleague suggested that I create a Pop Up Museum, and after doing research and deciding on the standards on which to focus, I formulated an overview for students. As a launch event to get them excited, I showed them an Animoto video I created showcasing different types of museum exhibits, some of which they might not have seen before, and then I used 360cities.net to view interactive 360 camera photos of different exhibits in museums around the world.

Students were a part of two teams: a novel group and an academy group. In their novel group, students were to come up with an exhibit for their novel section (gods, demigods, nature myths, and fables) that showcased each individual’s end product and was cohesive with all other groups. Each group would then be responsible for planning a wing of the museum with the individual exhibits from each student in their respective exhibit halls.

Each student had an assigned role in the group decided upon by the members of the group. This allowed the students to volunteer for a role that he/she felt comfortable executing during the project. Some of those roles included: communications director, foreman, the closer, the spokesperson, and the The group had two days to brainstorm and three days to create and innovate.

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Formative deliverables included a brainstorming page for the first day, a floor plan of the layout of their exhibit, and weekly group progress logs; these were submitted to an eClass discussion forum created for each specific novel group.

Then students were regrouped by academies, and each was charged with researching some aspect of a real museum. Their task as an academy was to relate their academy focus into our museum. For example, how do real museums use multimedia? Or, how can business and leadership be applied to a museum? One Global Business & Leadership group marketed and promoted our event through social media campaigns on Twitter and Instagram while another created voting boxes to poll museum patrons on which exhibit students liked the best. The data collected (votes in the form of tickets) was then analyzed and the exhibit with the most votes got a prize.

The Multimedia, Communication & Fine Arts groups decided to write a script for a commercial to air during our school’s morning announcements—we never got to film it due to time constraints, but they did a great job! A  CDAT/STEM group decided logistically the best set up/lay out for our museum, flow of traffic, and positioning of tour guides to make the event flow well and the museum reach maximum functionality. Our Life & Health Science group used the health pathway to research types of foods that ancient Greeks would have eaten and the calories for the items, and they created an ancient Greek foods menu.

Our Pop Up Museum came to life over the course of two days. During their class times, my students presented their individual displays in full museum fashion. During Academy Time and all lunches, volunteers from my classes were tour guides and walked classmates, faculty, community members, and professionals through the museum and answered any questions while explaining certain aspects of the exhibits.

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The end products produced by my students were high quality because I allowed them to create through a medium with which they were comfortable and excited about. Some students were living exhibits dressing up as their characters, some created poems that could be accessed via QR codes, some painted collages, while others used Legos to re-enact important plot points in the myth. A couple of students even crafted their own replicas of the Minotaur’s horn and Medusa’s head.

Lastly, we reflected. I gave each group time to reflect in a peer evaluation sheet that only I see, so the student can give honest feedback on group members. I also tried something new: giving the class ownership of creating their own tailor-made rubric that I would use to assess their individual end products. After pulling several project rubrics off of The Buck Institute website (www.bie.org), I gave the groups copies of the rubrics. The students discussed and decided which component of each of the three rubric types (creation and innovation, presentation, and research and inquiry) applied to this PBL project and which did not. We then voted as a class on which features were important to keep and which to discard. I created the class’ student rubric as a combo rubric encompassing the three areas and the qualifiers in each area selected by the class. I then transposed the combo rubric into an electronic version in eClass and used that to assess the end products.

This adventure to test out PBL with an elective class was successful. I have a few areas that I want to redesign for next year, but what a fun and engaging learning event for my students and for me! From the launch event all the way to the reflection, I feel that the students were fully engaged and had complete buy-in which resulted in interesting and innovative projects that were authentic. The students and I will remember this project and all of the skills that were mastered for years to come. That’s what PBL and authentic learning are all about!

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