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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Project-Based Learning for Digital Citizens

It's award season, so I'm giving my students an award. A major award! I'm honoring them for stepping outside the comfort zone of the school system that they have been subject to for most of their lives, authoring their own learning, and in the process, enjoying it. However, this transition did not come easily, and it took them some time to adjust to this format. It's a format where they are no longer the recipients of their learning; now they're the authors.

With this post and the audience that Edutopia reaches, I would like to share their work in hopes that you will steal, adapt or remix some of these approaches in your own classroom. I want to share their highlights and their occasional fails. I do not teach a core subject; however I try to incorporate a variety of skills from other subjects. I teach digital literacy to a mixed group of high school students. I cover grades 9-12, and my class is roughly 20 students. I spend most of my class time serving as a facilitator and a resource for their learning. They do the rest.

I also attempt to make what they learn in this class relevant and applicable to their lives. Instead of a test that assesses basic recall and memorization, they present and demonstrate their learning. I remind them that this skill is imperative for their future no matter what path they choose. At one point they will have to present themselves and defend their work to a potential employer or thesis panel. They will have to adapt to a variety of work environments, people and tasks. There will rarely be a situation where recall and memorization are the only skills that will get them through the day.

Critical Thinking in Action

My classroom procedures are rather unstructured as well. Students know when they walk through the door that they have a task and a deadline. They collaborate with their teams, schedule weekly meetings with team leaders or project managers, and we meet as a class to assess the progress and address any questions or problems. A few of my students that are building and designing our digital citizenship website check Google Analytics daily to see how they can restructure the site so that it appeals to our audience. This is my formative assessment. In fact, it gives me real data that I can work with so that I can gauge a better understanding of my students' progress.

At the beginning of most units, I present a concept or idea through a video, image or article that leads to a discussion, provokes their thinking and drives further inquiry into the subject at hand. They present understanding through a video, a presentation, and by creating a website or posting to their blog. They're employing critical analysis and critical thinking by seeking out the answers to the questions they generate. They are discerning between credible and bogus information and understanding how to properly cite, organize and share their findings. They are creating surveys to elicit quantitative data and creating support for their assertions. They are building relationships and making connections. In every scenario, their questions and curiosity motivate their learning, while the technology tools available give them the opportunity to connect, share and promote their work a wider audience.

Awards and Rewards

And for all of their hard work and content creation, I am giving every one of them an award; however most of them wouldn't accept it. My students get more excited about their reach and how others react to the content they created. They are excited about this post and how many new users will hopefully visit their website and comment on their video.

They will receive a grade for their work, but a grade isn't the focal point. The focal point is the experience and what they are learning. They're learning that empathy matters in a digital world. They're learning that technology can be used to showcase their talents to a wider audience. They're learning to make the web work for them. They're learning to discern, filter and organize the information they collect. They're learning that transparency and responsible sharing can only help them. They're excited about new challenges daily and learning in a collaborative environment where they are not told what to do, but instead are learning through the decisions they make themselves.

Here is a list of links to the projects mentioned above:

As for me, the only award I need is feedback like this from student evaluations:

"This class has to be one of my favorites so far in high school because Mr. Marcinek is not really a lecturer and allows us to learn on our own and through hands on experiences. Lastly, the collaboration and networking techniques we learn are ones that I will need for the rest of my life and thanks to this class I will be one step ahead."

Comments (8)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Terry Heick's picture
Blogger 2014

Thanks for sharing. Love the ideas. How do you sketch out or plan at the unit and curriculum level?

Brock d'Avignon's picture
Brock d'Avignon
Real Client PBL EdTech Industrial Arts Social Sciences Teacher 7-12

Meaningful and Life-saving Project Based Learning with major CEOs, nationwide and national leaders is founded on George Lucas' Edutopian idea of presenting a problem to be solved, then all technology, mentors, money, and cooperation follows. PBL is now important to opinion leaders. My students have designed:
Central Asian TRAADE routes for prosperity, peace, and freedom with pipelines carrying water, oil, gas next to road and railways going north and south where none exists now.
Red Cross Robotic Search and Rescue Ambulances (SARA) vehicles for firefighters and DARPA Grand Challenge. Research contacts given to university students winning $2M prize.
Flood ending half-buried porthole pipelines carrying water elsewhere where needed.
Asteroid Detection Deflection Development (ADDD) solar system wide with banking collateral value to pay for it all at 6% discovery rights to title, 1/10,000th of dollar severe discount equals $1.9 Trillion in assets for California schools and colleges; 145T for US & A; more for other countries with telescopes; parcelization of 5 moons to every human with individual property title; and a Space Property-title and Asteroid Resources Company (STARCO).
New Island Creation Consortium (NICCO) pizzahedron truss structures, electro-deposition of sea mineral hulls, and Freedomaxium new country projects and open deep ocean fish-farming.
Identifying Moammar Ghaddafi's deep space rocket capability with nuclear batteries for space rock renavigation as WMD plus launch disguise, satcom interference, and satellite blinding alliances.
Resetting global economy to personally held space resources instead of oil, and achieving property title for all humans on Earth using Percentage As You Earn (PAYE) finance of houses and farms ending repossession vulnerability.
Achieving free market curative and preventative care for all as an outcome of a new charging method of percentage-of-income medical finansurance. Adding Quality Immortality (QI) percentage of income PAYEments while students decide to crack the supergene that controls aging.
Historical examples of income contingent business models in immigration of redemptioners of debt replacing indentured servitude and slavery; privateers; mountain men; old country doctors reckoning of percentages of income to take care of all; rePAYEment of college tuition with the outcome of equal opportunity to attend college while achieving the Separation of Higher Education and State in 11 years. Non-property tax based revenue cycle replacement with anywhere on the globe rePAYEment from college students to either taxpayers or Human Investors in a Career Futures Exchange.
Leg protection motorcycles.
Earthquake Preparedness-box Towers (EPT) on Wheels for all school homerooms including water bottles, MREs, rubble tools, warmth and personalized medical supplies; revision of disaster plans at schools to meet law, insurance, and civil defense shelter needs with Red Cross and sponsors, not taxes.
Creation of franchise images for Flying Saucer Pizza and Yellow Submarine Sandwich Galleys as examples of Communications English for local businesses.
Historical character relationships for screenplays The Star Spangled Banner and The Bear Flag Revolt.
Not bad for 7-12th graders some people think can only be janitors for some pocket change. Education should give something back to the businesses, community, and civic leaders that support it. Thank you George, would you like to help schools and students with licensing dealmakers and lawyers like universities have to reward intellectual achievement via property rights to all involved? Like to set up a CAFEX with me? Would you like to make a few movies about all the PBL and CBL teachers and students you've collected best examples of over the last few years? Ready when you are! Brock d'Avignon 831-512-6572

Brock d'Avignon's picture
Brock d'Avignon
Real Client PBL EdTech Industrial Arts Social Sciences Teacher 7-12

Options to work alone or in a task team are valid. Meaningful and Life-saving Project Based Learning with major CEOs, nationwide and national leaders is founded on George Lucas' Edutopian idea of presenting a problem to be solved, then all technology, mentors, money, and cooperation follows. PBL is now important to opinion leaders. My students have designed:
Central Asian TRAADE routes for prosperity, peace, and freedom with pipelines carrying water, oil, gas next to road and railways going north and south where none exists now.
Red Cross Robotic Search and Rescue Ambulances (SARA) vehicles for firefighters and DARPA Grand Challenge. Research contacts given to university students winning $2M prize.
Flood ending half-buried porthole pipelines carrying water elsewhere where needed.
Asteroid Detection Deflection Development (ADDD) solar system wide with banking collateral value to pay for it all at 6% discovery rights to title, 1/10,000th of dollar severe discount equals $1.9 Trillion in assets for California schools and colleges; 145T for US & A; more for other countries with telescopes; parcelization of 5 moons to every human with individual property title; and a Space Property-title and Asteroid Resources Company (STARCO).
New Island Creation Consortium (NICCO) pizzahedron truss structures, electro-deposition of sea mineral hulls, and Freedomaxium new country projects and open deep ocean fish-farming.
Identifying Moammar Ghaddafi's deep space rocket capability with nuclear batteries for space rock renavigation as WMD plus launch disguise, satcom interference, and satellite blinding alliances.
Resetting global economy to personally held space resources instead of oil, and achieving property title for all humans on Earth using Percentage As You Earn (PAYE) finance of houses and farms ending repossession vulnerability.
Achieving free market curative and preventative care for all as an outcome of a new charging method of percentage-of-income medical finansurance. Adding Quality Immortality (QI) percentage of income PAYEments while students decide to crack the supergene that controls aging.
Historical examples of income contingent business models in immigration of redemptioners of debt replacing indentured servitude and slavery; privateers; mountain men; old country doctors reckoning of percentages of income to take care of all; rePAYEment of college tuition with the outcome of equal opportunity to attend college while achieving the Separation of Higher Education and State in 11 years. Non-property tax based revenue cycle replacement with anywhere on the globe rePAYEment from college students to either taxpayers or Human Investors in a Career Futures Exchange.
Leg protection motorcycles.
Earthquake Preparedness-box Towers (EPT) on Wheels for all school homerooms including water bottles, MREs, rubble tools, warmth and personalized medical supplies; revision of disaster plans at schools to meet law, insurance, and civil defense shelter needs with Red Cross and sponsors, not taxes.
Creation of franchise images for Flying Saucer Pizza and Yellow Submarine Sandwich Galleys as examples of Communications English for local businesses.
Historical character relationships for screenplays The Star Spangled Banner and The Bear Flag Revolt.
Not bad for 7-12th graders some people think can only be janitors for some pocket change. Education should give something back to the businesses, community, and civic leaders that support it. Thank you George, would you like to help schools and students with licensing dealmakers and lawyers like universities have to reward intellectual achievement via property rights to all involved? Like to set up a CAFEX with me? Would you like to make a few movies about all the PBL and CBL teachers and students you've collected best examples of over the last few years? Ready when you are! Brock d'Avignon 831-512-6572

Lucas VL's picture
Lucas VL
High School English Teacher

This kind of project-based Digital Literacy class sounds really cool! I think it so needed in our high school curriculums today across the country. Thanks for sharing. I love the ideas and am impressed by the sample student videos I found online. Teamwork and group collaboration is the way of the future for the increasingly complex problems found in our world today. The days of isolation and solving problems alone seem all but gone. What a great way to target this skill in a creative, engaging, and critical thinking type of way!

I do have a couple of questions, though:
*How hard was it to migrate to a project-based class? I would love to try something like this but like most teachers I think there is a fear of releasing our control and turning it over to the students.

*How do the students first respond to a classroom structure like this? How long before they adapt to it and thrive?

*More importantly, what kinds of questions do you pose for students to work on?

*Where do project ideas or questions come from for each unit? Do the students generate them as well? Can you share some more ideas?

Bekah Lund's picture

I am so inspired by what you're doing here. I feel like I want to change it up in my classroom, but I am afraid to. I am afraid I will lose control, like I don't trust the students enough to give them more freedom. You are truly using a 21st century approach, and I applaud you. I hope to explore your projects more deeply and perhaps even borrown some of your ideas... Thanks.

VinceS's picture
VinceS
Instructional Tech

I emphasize project-based lessons when collaborating with teachers. I make every attempt to develop relevant project based lessons covering curriculum content and standards; however, I go beyond the content and standards and tie- in real-world tasks. I am big on data, so I have more than once persuaded a teacher to have students perform a classroom or grade level survey gathering real life statistics. Once I developed an Access database allowing student to input biometric data, so they could later look at hereditary characteristics. Once they had input their individual information, they were required to perform simple queries using basic SQL commands. The information they gleaned from their queries allowed them to generate graphs and look at the data visually. From the graphs, they generated presentations explaining their findings. For example, they were able to show dominant and recessive hereditary traits for eye and hair color. This is not far from what a marketing department or a scientific laboratory might be doing. I have done variations on this project, but they all begin with gathering some data either through observation, voting, or surveys. The students come up with some really interesting questions. The students are fascinated by what they discover. I think project-based learning teaches the same processes performed by professionals. The technology can definitely help facilitate these projects and lends credibility to them.

VinceS's picture
VinceS
Instructional Tech

The student authored Digital Citizenship web site is a great example of cooperative learning. I have had success with students authoring web sites as a collaborative effort. I have found project-based learning lends itself well to cooperative learning tasks. Engaging students in cooperative tasks teaches students project management and communication skills. These skills are vital for success in the 21st century. I have found the more creative freedom students have the more enthusiasm they have for the project. For web sites, as a class we decide on how many pages, page themes, navigation, and the basic web site scaffolding. This sets up some parameters for the students and helps them understand the criteria for the project. The content is dictated by the curriculum and standards. The students become involved in developing the rubric for the assignment. Everything becomes a collaborative effort.

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