A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to a Project

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Happy accidents are the best you can have I always say. In my last post, I lamented a mistake I had made with my first period class, and I’m happy to report that I think I may have already learned from that mistake. As mentioned last time, my first period gives me trouble from time to time. It can be difficult to get full focus from them, but really worse is they can be very complacent to accomplish the bear minimum task. I’m at a point in my career that I’m simply not okay with that anymore. So you’re not labeled gifted–who cares? A label only defines you if you let it; unfortunately, I think many of my students in that first period are often times okay with the label of being ‘on-level,’ ‘college prep’ students. The point here is that I wanted to challenge them with a project I would usually reserve for my honors/gifted group. When I did earlier this week, they bucked against me hard! They wanted nothing to do with it; the requirements were confusing, would take times, and lacked a connection they could see. Now, I could have gotten frustrated again, and I did to a degree; this time, however, I turned their complaints around on them to help them help me revise the project to be something they had some actual ownership. Continue reading

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Join Us at GACTE July 12th!

My protege and partner-in-crime, Mr. Nic Carroll, and I will be presenting at this year’s GACTE (Georgia Association for Career and Technical Education) conference at the Cobb Galleria Center in Atlanta on Friday, July 12th.

We’ll be focusing on the topic of using Google Apps, specifically Google Sites, as a way to develop student e-portfolios:

Digital Portfolios: Using Google Sites and Tools to Build Student Developed Project Portfolios

We’re excited for this opportunity to share what we’ve been doing with our PBL Studio students for the last few years. Feel free to visit the GACTE website for more information if you’re interested in joining us!

We’ll be presenting at 10:00 AM that morning. Hope to see some of you there!

GACTE

The Wonderful World of Google Apps: How We Use Spreadsheet in PBL

This is part three of an ongoing series. To see the previous entries click here and here.

Spreadsheets in Google Drive is probably the most significant of the apps we use through Google in our PBL classroom The Studio.  One of the tenants of PBL is to have students take ownership of their learning and to have choice. Well, if you’re an educator you know all to well that choice has been restricted quite a bit in many cases due to standardization. To be clear, I am not anti-standardization. There is something to be said for having everyone work towards a common goal; however, a classroom’s, teacher’s and student’s autonomy has to fit into the balance as well. I feel strongly that PBL (Project Based Learning) allows this to happen. Just last year, the federal government implemented the Common Core in an attempt to revamp the country’s educational focus and try to bring cohesion to our nation’s schools learning practices. I, for one, was very impressed with the end result of the standards presented to the country. They are everything PBL needs to thrive including a heavy focus on the development of skills and not just rote memorization of random facts and ideas. (Not that there is anything wrong with memorizing something from time to time.) The problem is that most school systems took these standards and decided they needed to tweak them for their own needs. Good intentions, sure, but the result is nothing more than further bureaucracy and more force-feeding of underdeveloped curricula. Really, my point here is that the Common Core is steering us in the right direction, even if our own school system is to some degree bastardizing them.

So what does this mean for my class and Google Spreadsheets?

As mentioned above, PBL is about student ownership and choice, and although we are stuck with the standards the nation and state hand us, that doesn’t mean we can’t give choice to our students. Whenever we begin a project, students are first to go to a spreadsheet that is already set up for them with a preexisting rubric that contains every standard of every subject they are attempting in the PBL class. From here, students can then choose the standards in which the believe they will achieve by conducting their next project. This simple idea gives us a two-fold effect by allowing students immediate choice in their learning while adhering to important standards, and it causes students to take immediate ownership of their learning due to this choice. Below are a few screen shots that show the basic set up of the spreadsheet:

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It takes quite a bit of effort and time to set up this kind of spreadsheet, and it has evolved over the course of the last three years; however, by taking the time to create this, we’ve been able to really allow students more autonomy while holding them accountable for the learning they will be tested on later. It is also a simple tech skill they develop by learning to navigate and manipulate a spreadsheet.

To be successful, we do set ground rules with the amount of standards that must be implemented in each project. We learned the hard way that with no set criteria some students will simply choose only a few standards to hit, which defeats the overall purpose of our expanded learning. We sell this standard by calling it a ‘strong suggestion’ but the students know what it really means. We advocate that students use no less than eight standards for the LA and APHG and they actually implement all the standards for the BC  as they hit most of those standards in every project anyway.

There is certainly more to this than just what I’ve shared here, but this should give you an excellent idea of how we manage our project rubrics and basic scoring. Spreadsheets is just another reason why in The Studio we love Google Apps.

The 3rd Annual Studio Fall Expo

It’s that time of year again!

If you live near or around the Atlanta Metro Area, we’d like to formally invite you to come see what our students really do. Every fall we hold an expo-style event that showcases our student’s projects throughout the semester.

The event is Wednesday, December 12th @ 6PM in the North Gwinnett High School commons. It is always a great event, and we love to see the community come out and support the students and their work.

20 Level Creek Road, Suwanee, Ga 30024

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