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. Continue reading

Reflecting on My Recent Professional Development Effort: The Power of Teacher Vertical and Cross-Curricular Collaboration

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All professional fields incorporate professional development (PD) into the structure of their occupations. There are always ideas to share and experiences to be had with the intent of growing employees or to simply improve one’s self. The unfortunate reality–at least in education–is a great deal of professional development can feel inadequate at best and a waste of time at worst. It is with this understanding of my own PD experiences that I went into planning a professional development of teachers in my cluster of schools with trepidation. To be transparent, I was nervous I would let my colleagues down and planning a PD experience that lacked the right substance and the right balance of experiential learning and collaboration with some dreaded sit-and-get as well. This was not my first rodeo–I had developed and delivered PD for others before, but rarely do I feel I hit the mark or pushed a narrative forward. Well, this time, this PD, felt different. I walked away after three days of rigorous work with my colleagues believing we had all experienced a PD worthy of our time, energy and effort. Continue reading

Final Mrs. C Update/Reflection: When All Else Fails, Adapt!

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Yes, those are live hermit crabs!

To be clear, I was absolutely going for a bit of a science pun with having “adapt” in my title today. Did it land? Eh, in any case, I’m excited to share with you the conclusion of the five week Oceanography project with Mrs. C’s class. Being Mrs. C’s first foray into project-based learning (PBL), there was plenty of concern about where to start and how to finish, but as her reflection today will show the mess in concern to PBL I am always talking about was worth it. For anyone reading not familiar with the start of this process, you can check out part 1, part 2, and part 3. Inside today’s post, I’ll share some reflections, but most of what you’ll read is from Mrs. C herself. Check it and out see for yourself how our adventure concluded! Continue reading

Update on Mrs. C: An Interactive Museum Takes Shape

As promised, here is the latest on Mrs. C’s Oceanography project. You can see the initial start of the process here and here.  The first link talks about developing a PBL (project-based learning) toolbox and the second specifically talks about the beginning of Mrs. C’s project. Today’s post really reflects on the ebb and flow of PBL and how flexibility on the part of the teacher and student is a valuable attribute to successfully working through PBL. As I’ve stated before, PBL is messy as it reflects how projects in our life operate. This is especially true the first time we attempt a project that has foreign components to it. (I’m thinking about the process of me building an outdoor table for my deck at the moment–in the long run, it got done, but not without some headaches and learning along the way.) For Mrs. C, the combination of limited travel time, AP exams, and a few apathetic seniors definitely impacted her PBL–yet, the project is moving forward and there are some very cool installations coming together. Continue reading

A Former Student’s Video Easily Conceptualizes Project-Based Learning for All

 

The video above is the product of a former student of mine–Tiffany–who is closing out her third year at Georgia Tech. In one of her design classes, she was given the choice to develop media of her choosing on a topic of her choosing. She choose to highlight project-based learning (PBL) and use the opportunity to explain succinctly what PBL is and its potential value. She agreed to let me post the After Effects animation here to share. While a short video certainly cannot explain the complexity of PBL, it will serve as a quick primer for students, parents, and teachers alike unfamiliar with the instructional strategy.

When Tiffany shared her first draft of the video with me several months ago, she wrote in an email–

It’s… 1:10am…My final project is finally due today, and while I am still planning on fixing a few minor things, I have finally finished the PBL PSA.
Looking back, it isn’t exactly what I was imagining and honestly is quite imperfect, but after spending over 60 hours laboring over it, I think I am as happy as I can be.
She was clearly exhausted and ready to put this project behind her. Tiffany is also a self-described perfectionist, which I can confirm from her time in my Studio classroom. That said, her pursuit of perfection in many cases is a labor of love, especially when tackling an authentic project. How do I know? Tiffany finished that same email, writing–
Overall, as I was making this video, I could not help but smile at all the amazing memories I had as a high schooler. Both you and Coach Carroll truly made my high school experience so one-of-a-kind and so worthwhile, I just cannot thank you both enough. And I know I have really delayed sending you my “blog post” that may or may not ever get to you (Hopefully it does! Summing up a life-changing portion of your life in a page or 2 is SO challenging), I hope you both know that while this video does not say it, I truly appreciate you both changing my life and showing me how far passion can take you. PBL taught me to truly put my all in everything I do, to play far outside the box, and to follow my passions no matter what (as cheesy as it is).
So Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. (Bold emphasis from the original email)
Tiffany, you may have never written that blog post, but this video and your email says it all. So, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.