Final Reflections of Project Based Learning

Our project is winding down and the link is attached here. This has been an amazing experience for me. Initially, when the class began, I was a little put off by the thought we would be responsible for our own learning. I felt considering the fees and what I was paying (or had paid through military service), I should be getting very focused instruction. I expected that I would not gain a great deal, or if I did, it would be in spite of the lack of visible instruction.

Shortly after beginning the course, we were given the opportunity to join into small groups or do the project on our own. Still not fully vested and unsure of what the composition of my group would be, I moved ahead. Boy, did I ever hit jackpot. I joined a great group of minds.

We all seemed to get excited about the project. As a result, we experience a PBL while creating a PBL. Certainly, this creation was not easy. We spent a great deal of time with each other every Monday night. Through the week, we communicated by text and email. However, the time flew by. It just did not seem laborious. However, I am not living on the east coast, as one of my cohorts, so the few really late nights we had might have taken a steeper toll on him. Considering how we all were energized each time we added a layer, I am not certain I would have had that energy off which to feed if I built a PBL on my own. In hindsight, having a group to work with was the greatest windfall for me in this course.

I would have liked to witness more PBL experiences incorporating Differentiated Learning. In my experience with students with learning differences, talking about it, reading about it and actually incorporating students in the mix are three very different things. I do understand the literature; I would just like to see it in practice.

I will take away a greater respect for use of Project Based Learning and Habit of Mind to create a culture shift. I look forward to the opportunity to help mentor teachers weave PBL into their coursework to make teaching and learning a collaborative experience for all.

Self evaluation of our PBL follows:.

Advertisements

Debrief, Reflect, Review and Revise

Once the event is over, all paperwork is done, and the guests are gone, I have found that most students experience a let down in the same way someone misses the show once the school play is over. The big fun project/labor of love is done and usually it is missed. I would want to create a highlight video of the presentations and reception/project defenses and share that video with the students. That way, they could all see what the audience saw. It is always hard to gauge your own performances. I would want to praise them, as the video should capture the students engaging with the community professionals and executives.

I would also want to share the results of their survey using the data sans names. Once the data is finished I would encourage them to talk about the data and process what could be done differently to make the experience better. Engaging the cohort class and gaining their feedback using the End of Project Survey on our PBL website would be valuable, as well as feedback from the cohort educators.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, German philosopher and playwright used to ask three questions before reviewing a play:

1) What was the artist trying to do?

2) How well did he/she do it?

3) Was it worth doing? Does it have value?

I think with minor refinement, these questions would serve this project well, although there are many quality feedback forms on the BIE website. I would want to get feedback from some of our guests from the culminating activity. This would help assess the end products and if they could be market-ready and if they weren’t what the projects lacked to make a professional connection. I also think that feedback might be valuable for the students to see and process as well.

A discussion with my collaborators and quite possibly either the Dean of Faculty, Assistant Head of School or Head of School would prove time well spent. We should examine the student, cohort and guest surveys and assess the final products. At our meeting, posting the results would frame further conversations. Exploring the data, we could share our praises and our changes we would like to implement should we do the project again.

I think assessment should happen each and every time this PBL is used. Change is inevitable and that will happen with students, teachers, school, and community populations. As things change, the dynamics change. Self-assessment and analysis of any PBL should occur with each use. In addition, teachers should continually appraise the needs of each group of students to insure they are meeting the needs of the students while addressing the mandates of the school system.

Emerging Technologies, Learning Theories and Theories of Educational Technology – 504

This week’s videos and readings, combined with some of the readings for the Annotated Bibliography and the Synthesis Paper, have proven to be some of the most valuable yet. As a future Technology Integration Specialist, I will be incorporating all the tools I have learned to help my school truly integrate what they do with technology and maximize the potential of human, software and hardware to achieve educational goals. The historical background is certainly important. I feel the newer theories reflect a digital infusion that many called for years ago.

John See (1993) stressed the need to incorporate an annual analysis, mentioning the speed of change in technology. Twenty years removed and his words are still accurate.  Thirteen years ago, David Hawkridge addressed three critical areas affecting all facets of education, professional training and educational technology integration: “cost, access and quality” (1999, p. 301). I have seen schools that did not listen to either of the above authors and their cautions. The computers sit idle because of poor choices, plans and knowledgeable integration. The deal to get X computer was important because XY district said everyone would use them. No one seemed to challenge why they needed X in the first place. What were the students in XY district doing that would be made better by that device? Eleven years ago, De Castell, Bryson, & Jensen urged educators to challenge each and every use of hardware and software thereby creating an “educational theory of technology” (2002, para 13).

George Siemens created a new theory of learning – Connectivism. Unlike previous theories that stress the teacher demonstrates or articulates a concept, Connectivism stresses that the teacher knows where to find the answer (Siemens, 2004). Connectivism relates directly to how the learners are connected through devices to various learning communities. They get their information through these various connections. The knowledge comes as the learner recognizes patterns in the information. Web 2.0 tools make this situation even more interesting as information may or may not be vetted by an expert in a given field. Gone is the old Encyclopedia Britannica and hello Wikipedia.

These changes in the information landscape have impacted the ways that students search for and synthesize information from various sources, and they are of particular importance to academic librarians who seek to connect students’ learning networks and to improve students’ information skills (Dunaway, 2011, p. 675).

Educators help teach how to research and how to filter good information from bad.

Many researchers in the first decade of the new millennium seemed to take this one step further as they explored theories of PCT or Pedagogical Content Knowledge  (Shulman, 1986) and (Shulman, 1987) and attempted to interweave technology to create Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (Angeli, & Valanides, 2009). This finally began to fill the void in teacher preparation. Teachers began training to teach their content incorporating, planning and executing through technology. I reminded myself as I read this particular journal article that our program here integrates as we learn.

The podcast/videos see the future when teachers can no longer teach the test because the test evolves and changes to measure what they know rather than how to fill in a bubble sheet. The expectations will change to teach 21st Century Skills and prepare students to learn in the same way they will be expected to work as an adult. They will need to collaborate and then seek knowledge, return and collaborate more and then make a plan to follow. Then they will do it. I am fortunate to attend BSU and their Master of EDTECH program. I am glad we integrate technology and incorporate our given content area as we work and learn. This way the learning is not just rote, separate training; but rooted in theories of educational technology as we explore our given content areas. It is this way we will prepare for the challenges of the future as technology and educational technology continue to evolve and mesh.

References:

Angeli, C., & Valanides, N. (2009). Epistemological and methodological issues for the conceptualization, development, and assessment of ICT TPCK: Advances in technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK). Computers and Education (0360-1315), 52 (1),154-168. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2008.07.006

De Castell, S., Bryson, M., & Jenson, J. (2002). Object lessons: towards an educational theory of technology. First Monday, 7(1), 1-11. Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/923/845

Hawkridge, D. (1999). Thirty years on, BJET! and educational technology comes of age. British Journal Of Educational Technology, 30(4), 293-304.

See, J. (1993). How to develop technology plans. Education Digest, 58(5), 28-30.

Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15, 4-14.

Shulman, L. S. (1986). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-22.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: a theory for the digital age. 1-6. Retrieved from http://www.ingedewaard.net/papers/connectivism/2005_siemens_ALearningTheoryForTheDigitalAge.pdf

 

Manage the Project – Week 6 – 542

The group work this week was stimulating to say the least. Tasked to explore Differentiated Instruction, we discussed the concept of RAFTs. It was probably one of our most interesting conversations so far. Both my cohorts are light-years ahead of me when it comes to engaging with technology and web tools. This topic was more in my wheelhouse having spent so much time working with students who learn differently. We discussed various learning differences (disabilities seems to imply there is something wrong with students, when we are just wired differently for processing) and how they might impact on RAFT construction. From a reflective standpoint, it was one of my top moments with this group, as I felt valued. This is not a pity-party, as I have felt valued in other areas, as well. This was different.

I have over twenty years experience teaching the Holocaust in a religious school setting. I have directed numerous plays and mentored students directing plays that were shared with the community regarding the Holocaust. That content knowledge aspect and the solid background integrating theatrical coursework with other departments established my place in our group without my ever having to share what I have done previously.

The difference for me is how I have changed as an educator. I have always enjoyed working on stage with a variety of learners. I repackaged instruction on more than one occasion to reach actors struggling to understand their role or motivation on the stage. I have not always provided them the various tools they needed for success in the classroom. As I have grown, I have absorbed different strategies to accomplish the same goals I had when I started teaching – to help as many young people get excited about learning as humanly possible and to have them want to reach and attain high standards.

PBL is yet another strong tool for changing the culture of a school toward student-driven learning. It is not easy work. Like directing a play or commanding soldiers, a leader or educator must be willing to spend a great deal of time preparing and collaborating. At times, teaching is like herding cats as the students will want to follow their own inquiries. It is THAT moment when it is most exciting as they move to seek and test their thoughts and ideas.

How do you herd them? That is where assessment comes in. I learned as a young officer, soldiers will do what you inspect, not what you expect. Students are no different. Clear instructions, solid scaffolding, differentiated instruction, stimulating content coupled with assessments ending with a high stakes activity will keep students wanting more. In fact, they will value the experience when they have sweated and strained to achieve, as long as they are not sweating the construction of the assignment. Implementing Habits of Mind and seeing the students demonstrate those and the 21st Century Skills in addition to mastery of the content area would be benchmarks to evaluate and celebrate.

Having left the front of my classroom years ago, moving to seating in the round and ultimately to a Harkness Table, being facilitator will not be a new experience. Having more tools in my toolbox will make the experience richer for my students and then for me.

Though I did not share it at the time, I found an excellent slideshare that would help anyone interested in this for the future – http://www.slideshare.net/ulamb/differentiated-instruction-strategy-raft and will share with my cohorts.

Here are the notable products for this week:

Culminating Activity

Products & Performances

Differentiated Instruction (at bottom of page)

Reflection Methods (at bottom of page)

Scaffolding – Week 5 Reflection -542

This particular lesson this week was Planning and Preparing with an emphasis on scaffolding our learners. As we clarified where we wanted to end, we analyzed what it would take to get our students there. We wanted to provide the students a vision into our collective passions. Coming from our separate backgrounds, we listened to one another and added pieces to the whole.

One of our strengths is our difference. Viewing from our various experiences, we explored reaching all learners. One of my cohorts is a former teacher and now in IT and a Google Docs trainer. The other, also in IT, is our Spanish, sound and technical specialist. My background is both in teaching Theater and students with learning differences.

So on we went, detailing the specifics we would need in our Teaching and Learning Guide and we discovered areas that contained gaps in reaching our students. Rather than filling with wasted space documents and time, we challenged each other to talk out how to support our students. We looked to reduce assumptions we made about teaching high school students.

Jamie McKenzie addresses that “scaffolding clarifies purpose” (1999) as one of her eight characteristics. Our entry event is designed to evoke emotions since it centers around two unlikely friends during the Holocaust. Through underscoring innocence of the children of the world, even in the midst of great cruelty and prejudice, we start them caring about the future of their world and HOW they should make a difference.

At each level of this project we provide them structure and guidance to keep them focused on their mission. Starting at the end, we have worked backward leaving them materials they will need to build a road to where we want them to arrive. Our assessments are clear as they can be prior to implementation, so our charges know clearly our expectations. We have provided them a class glossary, adding some words we find essential to the information gathering, to use with their class and with their cohorts. We collected the best websites to get them started and information to analyze web information of their own choosing. We have provided them a tutorial on using VoiceThread and two opportunities to use it in the course of nine weeks. The use of Google Docs will encourage Peer editing and contributions so all feel included and heard. Adding a cohort element integrates curriculum and offers written and spoken immersion while providing direct contact with students halfway around the globe as they explore global issues.

I would love to test this PBL. I feel we have built a strong superstructure around their site of exploration and creation. I feel like we addressed all eight of the characteristics McKenzie addressed. All that remains will be the editing and revision that can only take place after a test with high school students.

Reference:

McKenzie, J. (1999). Scaffolding for success. From Now On, The Educational Technology Journal, 9(4). Retrieved July 14, 2013, from http://fno.org/dec99/scaffold.html

Week 4 Reflection – 542

Arthur Costa stated in the book Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, “Educational outcomes in traditional settings focus on how many answers a student knows. When we teach for the Habits of Mind, we are interested also in how students behave when they don’t know an answer”(2008). I feel strongly our project assessments meet the criteria established in Key Principles of Effective Assessment. What I am more intrigued about this week is how to change culture. Assessment can play a part.

In order to make the shift in culture the tasks must be rich and challenging. The Holocaust PBL fits as it connects past to the present and future. This project will be something of interest and intrigue. That said, as I explored 16 listed Habits of Mind as learning outcomes, I realized I found something that could help. The sixteen listed Habits of the Mind are “patterns of intellectual behaviors that lead to productive actions” Costa, (2008). The list is not suggested to be complete. It does represent something teachable and able to be assessed. So the assessments and the actions of the teacher must model the behaviors I want from my students. Consequently, my assessment and my behavior should reflect the six dimensions that are integral to Habits of the Mind:

  • Value: If I want my students to value intellectual behavior over other things, I must be that model. I must value their presence and their time. My assessments must be real and an honest yardstick of their learning.
  • Inclination: I can promote student input on the type and nature of the assessment, teaching them to self-evaluate on their internal scale
  • Sensitivity: I can help model this dimension by channeling their inputs to find the appropriate time and method to chart their journey
  • Capability: I must learn all I can about assessments so I have many more tools in my toolbox. I do not have to know every answer about assessments; but I should know where to find them.
  • Commitment: I must be willing to explore my own work, analyze and modify for successful learning and communication. That includes assessments and structure I set in place. At the end of the day, I am responsible, whether or not I share the journey with students.
  • Policy: If when the going gets tough, I shift to other, less productive habits or assessments, the whole bubble bursts. Teaching teenagers is tough. They expect and demand that you walk the talk.

Costa, A. (2008). Describing the habits of mind. In A. Costa & B. Kallick (Eds.), Learning and leading with habits of mind: 16 essential characteristics for success. (2008). Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108008/chapters/Describing-the-Habits-of-Mind.aspx