Time to Get Busy! Week One of EdTech 542

6/10/14 – Yesterday, I registered for the 2nd course of 3 at Boise State EdTech.  As this is a summer course, it is on warp drive.  I have already finished about 70% of the 1st assignment!

I finished the introduction for the group and learned how to make a “Moovly”. There are several sites to animate content, all with free lower grade subscriptions.  I liked PowToon and Wideo, but I liked how my content came out with Moovly. 

I signed up for several login’s from adding this Blog to my existing WordPress account, to Diigo, ePals, and the BIE site. I also added Powtoon, Prezi, Wix, Wideo, PBLU, and am taking some of Google’s online educator courses.

My response to the Week 1 Discussion:

Group 3: What are the current and potential issues surrounding the use of Project Based Learning in traditional or nontraditional schools?

  • What do the numbers say? How many K-12 teachers/students/schools/programs are involved in the move toward PBL?
  • Are at-risk students served by programs that incorporate PBL? How?
  • What role does NCLB play in encouraging/inhibiting the use of PBL in traditional classrooms?

Here is the answer I posted:

GROUP 3 Discussion  – What are the current and potential issues surrounding the use of Project Based Learning in traditional or nontraditional schools?

In exploring the questions, I discovered that much of the research on Project-Based Learning has taken place in the past 15 years and there seemed to be quite a bit around 2009-2010, but very little that is current, even at the BIE website.

Current Issues

One main issue at any type of school is making sure that the project is meaningful.  “A project is meaningful if it fulfills two criteria. First, students must perceive it as personally meaningful, as a task that matters and that they want to do well. Second, a meaningful project fulfills an educational purpose. Well-designed and well-implemented Project Based Learning (PBL) is meaningful in both ways.” 7 Essentials for Project-Based Learning,” by John Larmer and John R.Mergendoller, in Educational Leadership, 68(1). © 2010 ASCD

Another issue is that project-based learning is still a somewhat new idea for most teachers. “It’s not the kind of instruction most of us ever had a chance to experience as students. Bringing digital-age technologies into the picture makes it even less familiar. For teachers who have never observed technology-rich, project-based learning in action, it may be hard to even imagine what a 21st-century project looks like” Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss. 2007, ISTE ® Reinventing Project-Based Learning

Other research* on Project-Based Learning, states that  Projects can go off track when the day to day activities and tasks associated with the project  result in the pursuit of questions that aren’t relative to the main subject matter, by both teachers and students.  According to this research the solution is to find ways for projects to center on “learning appropriate goals”. The recommended strategy is to help teachers develop “driving questions,” that will ensure that students encounter and struggle with complex concepts and principles. *ON PROJECT-BASED LEARNING  John W. Thomas, Ph. D  March, 2000 Blumenfeld et al., 1991

Potential Issues

In the blog, Reinventing School  From the Ground Up For Inquiry Learning by Thom Markham, he argues that traditional schools are not set up for 21st Century Learning and PBL.  “Under this world view, the inquiry goals of the Common Core State Standards are “strategies” to be added to the existing list of classroom techniques, while skills like collaboration, communication, or creativity can be taught despite 43-minute periods, desks in rows, and pacing guides set in stone. But the combination of seat time, instructional minutes, five-minute passing periods, zero periods, and other encrusted structures more often resemble a well-designed holding pen than the open architecture that meshes mind and surroundings to create joyful inquiry”.  With this view, he paints a picture that the redesign looms as a large issue and I agree. He identifies that only small number of schools around the country that began life as charters or academies have developed successful inquiry-based systems.

1) What do the numbers say? How many K-12 teachers/students/schools/programs are involved in the move toward PBL?

PBL has been component of teaching practices since the early 1900’s and most of the documentation suggests that it will become one of the major teaching approaches going forward.

It was difficult to extract numbers, but it appears the PBL movement is moving forward at a pretty good pace and gaining momentum in K-12.  It appears that Higher Ed has employed this methodology for much longer.  In fact, when I completed my BA in 2003, we had a Cohort Group of 20, which was often centered on PBL.  When you “Google” it, over 193,000,000 results come up!  On Facebook, there seems to be a few pages directly related and the page called “Project Based Learning” has 4756 “likes”.  Interestingly enough, a similar page called “Project Based Learning for Homeschooling” has 6596 “likes”!  Buck Institute has 1922 “likes”, and last year more than 550 attended their PBL course in Napa (I am bummed that I can’t go this year, because it looks great).  I also found a lot of resources toward Middle and High School and ideas for implementing PBL in schools.

2) Are at-risk students served by programs that incorporate PBL? How?

PBL seems to be a great way to reach and teach a variety of students with different learning styles, as well as incorporate the rigors of Common Core.  When you look at the basic components of PBL which include Critical Thinking, Analysis, and Collaboration, it presses many of the CCSS buttons. I can see both sides of the at-risk student, where if they were lagging,that CCSS seems to make them even further behind. But on the other hand, PBL could allow that at-risk student to participate in a group that all may have individual strengths, and uncover skills and abilities that were previously invisible. A lot depends on the Teacher!

According to Thom Markham, in Fixing the Flaws in Project Based Learning: From learning to inquiry , “the greatest number of failures in PBL occurs in schools that attempt to graft PBL onto a traditional, row-centered, front of the room classroom culture. Unless a teacher uses the tools of a positive culture and high performance, students don’t engage at the level necessary to persist, investigate, and hold themselves accountable for mastery. “

I believe that when considering this approach with “at-risk” students, you need to create a culture of trust and engagement.  At- Risk students are not always at the same level as their peers in Bloom’s hierarchy.  They may be more concerned about basic needs being met and not relate to the tasks at hand.  However, the use of PBL can help create a learning environment that is more equitable for students from different backgrounds.

3) What role does NCLB play in encouraging/inhibiting the use of PBL in traditional classrooms?

NCLB has reams of documentation, but none that directly address PBL.  I believe that many Charter and non-traditional schools are set up to encourage inclusion.  I found data on multiple non-traditional schools with excellent results.  PBL research also shows that it engages reluctant students and accommodates the needs of a diverse population, which is the basis of NCLB.  With so many states and school districts obtaining NCLB waivers, and a move to do away with it entirely, perhaps it won’t be a factor.  I can see where Title 1 schools may not have the resources available to implement quality PBL, but I also know that creative Principals in those schools find ways to spend money on technology, all of which can be used for PBL.

Here is a great example of success:

Standardized Test Outcomes for Students Engaged in Inquiry-Based Science Curricula in the Context of Urban Reform – Abstract on Detroit Public Schools, Nov  04


Findings demonstrate that a standards-based, inquiry science curriculum can lead to standardized achievement test gains in historically underserved urban students, when the curriculum is highly specified, developed, and aligned with professional development and administrative support. A scalable systemic reform effort in Detroit Public Schools used highly specified and developed project-based inquiry science units supported by professional development and learning technologies


I really enjoyed reading all the responses to the 3 groups of questions and learned so much.  I chose the hardest questions for myself, not only because I wanted to know those answers, but to hear the responses of my classmates and I was not disappointed. The responses I got were thought provoking and ended up heading off to do more research!

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