I used to think that I was solely responsible for teaching my students. I ran a traditional classroom where the objectives were more skill-driven. I provided lecture-based teaching where I stood in front of the classroom, worksheets were distributed, text books were referenced, students worked independently at their desk, and more standardized testing was given.
But now I Know that I am responsible for guiding my students as they take ownership for their own thinking and learning, participate in collaborative group work, take part in project based learning where they problem solve real world situations, and receive ongoing feedback making shifts in their thinking and learning as needed. The integration of technology enhances learning and provides immediate access to information, differentiated and personalized instruction through adaptive learning programs and Screenflows, and enables global collaboration as new perspectives are gained.
I had the opportunity to participate in Project Zero which is an educational research group at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. Its mission is to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts. I had the privilege of hearing David Perkins who works along side of Howard Gardner give a wonderful presentation that followed the theme “The Tame and the Wild.” He talked about this being in all aspects of our lives. He used a manicured backyard as an example of what Tame is where you have your lawn chairs for comfort and you sit and enjoy a cookout with friends. And then he made reference to a ravine, deemed as wild, that is thick with vegetation and filled with water that is at the edge of the manicured yard. Even though it is considered wild, there is still order to it and contains wild life that thrives within it; there is a system in place. He then proceeded with the same concept for the classroom. It is doing what is comfortable and what is known but carrying it too far before anything is done with it. Some examples were thrown out such as underlining topic sentences, using the quadratic formula, diagramming sentences, and knowing the four causes of the industrial revolution. Then he talked about how to “Wild the Tame” by risk-taking, going from teacher to student-directed lessons, using more collaboration, thinking a certain way instead of about it…which he termed as having “about-itis.”
Creating and developing skills by doing is the product of understanding. So all of this supports and leads me to share about “Wilding the Tame” with project-Based Learning. I first became familiar with PBL when reading Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap, the chapter about schools that work. He defined rigor as not how much content is covered but how deep the analysis of the content goes. Rigor is about the pursuit of inquiry, which results from hands-on learning and showing what you know.
Wagner’s 21st century skills:
Critical thinking and problem solving
Collaboration across networks
Agility and adaptability (quickly move and adapt to situations)
Initiative and entrepreneurship
Effective oral and written communication
Assessing and analyzing information
Curiosity and imagination
Every bit of these 21st century skills can be accomplished through interdisciplinary projects such as Project Based Learning (PBL) that guide students in inquiry answering a central question (driving question), solving a problem, or meeting a challenge. PBL allows a shift from traditional teaching to an environment where the students become active participants in their learning.
First of all, with PBL it is important to know my role as a teacher:
- I serve as the facilitator or guide on the side -
- Create a positive learning culture- encourage the students to be risk takers and that it is ok to make mistakes
- Incorporate standards
- Develop, model, and nurture inquiry (manager of the inquiry process)
- To be flexible prepare for things to go in an unexpected direction
- Model the willingness to be a learner- there will be many times that I don’t know the answer but will model for them how to go about finding the answers.
- Assessor of learning- it is important to use formative assessment throughout
- Conductors of Research
- Peer/self evaluators
Assessments: It is important to begin with the end in mind thinking about the standards that I need to cover as well as thinking dispositions that need to be developed among the students; with that in mind I can come up with the understanding performance or essential questions.
Good questions: The students have to know how to pose real open-ended questions, find resources and determine validity of information on websites, they have to interpret that information, and report their findings while using the inquiry process.
Ways to assess throughout the PBL process: There are many nontraditional ways to provide formative assessment which is the most important for learning and developing understanding. This can be accomplished through the following:
- Rubrics Problem
- solving guides
- Reflection journals
- Reflection essays
- Small/Whole Group discussions
- ePortfolios where students compile a collection of their digital writing where they self-reflect and apply metacognition.
- Screenflows for recording instruction for flip teaching, providing reinforcement, or small group situations for one-on-one instruction
- Digital tools such as Glogster, Prezi, and Google for presenting research findings or self-reflection
- VoiceThread for global sharing, collaborating, and providing feedback
- Learning Management Systems such as Edmodo, Haiku, or Google for organizing instruction, collaboration, and assessments
- Google Documents, presentations, etc. for creating a paperless classroom and enabling collaboration and feedback to occur outside of the classroom.
Edutopia. (2010). Project-based learning: an overview. Retrieved on July 15, 2013 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v= LXpfCfuDqnY#at=545
Harvard University. (2010). Project zero. Graduate school of education.
Mills, S. (2006). Using the internet for active teaching and learning. Upper saddle river new jersey: Pearson education.
Perkins, D. (2009). Making learning whole. Published by Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, CA.
Wagner, T. (2010). The global achievement gap: why even our best schools don't teach the new survival skills our children need--and what we can do about it. Published by basic books. New York, new york.
Wagner, T. (2012). Creating innovators: the making of young people who will change the world. A division of simon & schuster, inc. New york, new york.