Monthly Archives: October 2012

PBL Starter Kit: “After the Last Bell: Closing Thoughts”

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Reading this chapter could not have come at a more perfect time. I have just about completed my first PBL, and have been reflecting quite a bit. I have not only been reflecting on the project as a whole, but also on future projects. I thought that reading this chapter guided my thinking very nicely, and really allowed me to examine my own feelings and thoughts of when to implement my next PBL.

I think by now it is obvious as to what the focus of project-based learning should be. I know that major topics in both the courses I teach and in my students’ lives would be starting points for future projects. For my first PBL, I have been working with students who are reading To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the major themes of the novel is innocence, which is the focus of my PBL. The students in this class have been working for almost a month to answer the question of “When do we lose our innocence?” Although I was a little skeptical at first of how successful this project would be (mostly because it primarily revolved around the subject of ELA), it has been going great. The students are really engaged in the project and have been using many resources to find the answer to the driving question. This experience has shown me that project-based learning can occur in any subject area, with the appropriate resources and tools. I know that in the future there virtually is no limit to what my projects can focus on.

I think for me, the biggest question of future PBLs is when to implement them. From my first experience I can see the huge positives on student learning, but I also realize that PBLs can take up a lot of time and planning. This question is hard for me to answer right now because I currently am not teaching. I suppose it all depends on the freedom I have with my curriculum and instructional planning.  The behavior and attitude of my students would also affect my decision. From completing this first PBL I have noticed that the students I have been working with are definitely engaged in the project, but some have gotten a little tired. I would need to make sure all of the students are ready to begin another project, and excited to put forth their best effort. Ideally I would like to implement PBLs whenever I have the opportunity to do so.

I definitely do think project-based learning will be a big part of what I do in the classroom. I feel as if so much student learning occurs. Students not only learn new content, but they also learn 21st century skills. With these types of experiences students really will become global citizens. Since I do plan on using PBL in the future, I am happy this book has included the chapter “Useful Stuff.” I have already used some of these tools for planning and managing my first project. In fact, their website also includes more resources that I will continue to reference.
Project Based Learning

PBL Starter Kit: “Managing Your Project”

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I have found PBL Starter Kit to be a great resource for project based learning. From reading each chapter I have learned how exactly to plan and implement a PBL in my own classroom. Several weeks ago I took what I read in the first few chapters of this book and used that knowledge to develop my own PBL. I think that planning a PBL definitely takes a lot of work, but in order for PBLs to be effective, teachers need to know how to manage that project from start to finish.

This chapter stresses the importance of having the right classroom culture for a project. Since I do not have my own classroom, I have been using a ninth grade English class to implement my own PBL. I have been lucky enough to be working in a classroom where the culture is perfect for project based learning. The students in this class know that they can ask questions, voice their opinions, and discuss their thoughts. They are often probed to think deeper about topics, and relate what they learn to themselves and the real world. Coming into this type of classroom culture has made implementing my PBL easy. If a climate similar to this one is not evident in a classroom, project based learning may not occur. How can we get all teachers to develop this type of environment for their students?

“Managing Your Project” gives good tips for familiarizing students with the project’s requirements while simultaneously allowing students to ask questions and discuss their thoughts on the project. I know that I had a tough time introducing the whole project to the students, because I did not want to overwhelm them. I also was not able to identify specific resources for the project, nor did I have time for the students to meet in groups. If I had been more prepared in supplying resources for the students and assigning them their groups, there would have been less confusion. Although it took some time to familiarize the students to the topic, I know what I need to change when I implement another project similar to this one in the future.

I also liked how this chapter touched upon the importance of monitoring student groups. It is important to allow the students to work in their groups with limited teacher guidance, but there has to be some accountability. In my PBL, the students have only met in their groups a few times. During their meeting times I have talked with each group to see what place they are at, and what tasks they need to complete in the future. I do think I have been helpful when talking to my student groups, but I think I could provide more guidance or make sure they know that they are required to be aware of their progress in the project. Next week when I work with my students again I will be sure to spend more time with each group. I may even ask each group to complete a work plan or task list, so that we all know what needs to get done.

Another topic of this chapter that I thought was interesting was the need for the teacher to ask questions following a presentation. To make sure students thoroughly understand a concept, they can be asked to restate what they present in different ways. Students can also be asked questions that require them to think about their topic in new ways and how that topic applies to other areas. I think that by asking these questions students will be forced to critically examine their knowledge of a concept and their ability to apply what they already know to different situations.

The Digital Diet: “Twitter”

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About a year ago almost everyone I knew who was online started signing up for Twitter accounts. I originally did not want one because I had no idea how to effectively use a Twitter account, nor did I think anyone would listen to what I had to say. Even though I tried to avoid Twitter as long as possible, a few months ago I found out that one of my responsibilities for my job in PC Athletics was to run our Twitter page. This meant that I had to learn as much as I could about Twitter in a very limited time. My supervisor expected me to tweet from our account immediately. Although at first I was a little confused and overwhelmed, I have come to enjoy using Twitter for work purposes. I feel as if the PC Athletics account enables me to fully experience Twitter. Followers actually retweet what I put out on our account. I even get several new followers each day, which is great. The only time Twitter gets tricky is when I have direct conversations with fans. I need to make sure I tweet out the most correct and appropriate response to questions that followers ask. As a result of using the PC Athletics twitter every day, I finally broke down and signed up for my own personal account. Honestly I do not tweet very much from my own account, nor do I have many followers. However, I do think it is an important way to say connected, and I will try to put more effort into my own twitter account in the future.

I thought it was great that Cindy had us all create our own professional Twitter accounts, and taught us how to send a tweet and follow others. I do think it is important that we have both a personal and a professional Twitter account. My classmates and I were pushed to encounter an unfamiliar type of social networking which may potentially help us in the future. It is amazing that there are so many educational resources and important people to follow on Twitter! Teachers and other professionals who are not on Twitter are really at a disadvantage.

Not only can Twitter supply users with resources and the latest information, but this type of social networking can also foster communication in the classroom. Reading about Dr. Monica Rankin in this chapter and then seeing what she does in the classroom was definitely a learning experience for me. Dr. Rankin’s students already spend their time online, so bringing Twitter into the classroom really engaged them. The discussions that Dr. Rankin had with her class on Twitter allowed all students to participate. Even though I think this is a great way to learn, I do have some concerns about the character limit of tweets. If students are participating in a conversation online, they have to shorten their thoughts to be only 140 characters in order to post online. Is this enough space for students to adequately express themselves? Or does it teach them to be more concise with their words? Since I will primarily be working with younger students, I wonder if I can bring Twitter into my classroom. How old should students be in order to create a Twitter account? Perhaps Twitter can be implemented in the upper elementary grades, as long as student accounts are set to private and they understand that their accounts are only to be used for school.

Sometimes Twitter can be seen as a negative thing, especially when younger people are involved. After reading this chapter and experiencing Twitter myself, I do not believe this. I think if Twitter is used appropriately it can be a meaningful and engaging way for students to participate in their own learning.
PC Athletics Twitter