2017: A Retrospective

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My family after successfully defending.

2017 has been one of the most eventful years of my life. I became a dad; I earned my doctorate; I published an entry in SAGE encyclopedia as well as a few other neat moments along the way. Today’s post is dedicated to recounting and appreciating this past year, so fair warning that this post is selfishly about me and my family. I will unpack and reflect on my pedagogy, of course, but I’ll spend time doing the same about me personally.

A BIG thank you to the many in my life who made this year a special one for me. Continue reading

Studio Reunion 2: #PBL Chat w/ Former Students

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I’m excited to announce that early next week I’ll be posting another conversation with another group of former students who were part of my Studio program–a fully immersive project-based learning (PBL) classroom. You can see last year’s conversation with a few students here.

The students I’ll be meeting with are mostly students who entered the program after our inaugural year (and after we had learned a lot!). They are all in the midst of their college careers and will be able to speak to how a PBL environment in high school shaped (or didn’t shape) their post-secondary experiences. Look for the post to be up Monday afternoon.

What Work-Based Learning Has Taught Me about the Classroom, Work, & the Spaces Between

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In the state of Georgia, we have a work-release program for students aged 16 years or older coined Work-Based Learning (WBL). Essentially, if a WBL coordinator at a school uses the program well, WBL becomes a bridge for students from academics to the work force through meaningful internships. Most states have this sort of program and while I have learned more about it over the last three years, this is the first year I find myself in the coordinator position (along with a few other distinct roles). A coordinator is responsible for piles of data, including, yes, grades, attendance, applications, but also, inputting information into a state database, maintaining your own database, evaluations from various businesses, maintaining and developing a roster of businesses, sign-out sheets–the list really does go on and on. The amount of paperwork can certainly be justified. We’re talking about real work, real businesses, adolescents and adults working together for a common good. That all translates to a need for accountability from everyone involved.

In the opening weeks of this school year, my eyes have been opened to the challenges my upperclassmen face and the realities they face in the world waiting for them after high school. If you follow my blog, there is a good chance you know I am an advocate and proponent of using the classroom space as one where not only is content taught but soft/21st century skills are practiced as well. Hence, my strong belief in project-based learning (PBL) as a viable and important instructional method. The WBL program is meant to support growth in these areas as well. Really, before a student even qualifies for WBL at 16 the hope is they have taken at least one course in Career and Technology Education (CTE) where many of those skills are to be focused on continually. What has become apparent in the last few weeks is despite CTE, or even exposure to some PBL, many of WBL students really do lack the soft/21st century skills necessary for their success beyond the confines of high school. Continue reading

Teacher Innovation #9: “Teacher Reflection on PBL: Overcoming Obstacles & Making Changes”

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Post #9 is courtesy of Brooke Webb again. Brooke is a colleague and friend and contributed earlier to the series here. Brooke’s a dynamic and innovative teacher, so I knew I had to have her share more than once. Today she shares her reflections on growing as teacher who uses PBL (project-based learning) to enhance student learning over the years. Most of the post focuses on reflecting on two PBLs she conducted this past year. This reflection is as real as it gets. Brooke is candid and encouraging, which is perfect for teachers thinking of using PBL or still wary of it’s potential after trying it. This type of writing makes me very thankful for the people I work alongside day in and day out. Brooke’s teaching practices are iterative and reflexive much how any teacher should be. Enjoy!

Previous Series Entries: Post #1 // Post #2 // Post #3 // Post #4 // Post #5 // Post #6 // Post #7 // Post #8

by Brooke Webb

The following is a narrative based upon my experiences of overcoming obstacles and challenges I faced when planning and executing two different PBL projects in my classroom this past year. This musing is not an attempt to be scholarly with cited sources and cross-referencing academic texts, but rather, I wanted to share some real life insight into my triumphs and tribulations with PBL from the teacher’s perspective. Continue reading