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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Learn Virtually Alongside Global Gathering at PBL World

Suzie Boss

Journalist and PBL advocate

More than 450 educators from around the globe, including 27 U.S. states, are converging on Napa, California, this week for the first-ever PBL World conference. Focusing on best practices in project-based learning and featuring a stellar line-up of daily keynote speakers, PBL World is co-sponsored by the Buck Institute for Education and the Napa Valley Unified School District. Can't make it? No worries. Thanks to social media, there will be plenty of virtual opportunities to expand your PBL toolkit right alongside attendees. Today is the first in a weeklong series of Edutopia blogs coming to you from the conference site, New Technology High School in Napa.

The Big Picture

Interest in project-based learning is on the rise as schools look for proven strategies to engage students while promoting deep learning. The push to develop students' 21st century skills adds more momentum. When done right, PBL delivers on several fronts: developing students' critical thinking and other 21st century skills; building a lasting understanding of important content; and making learning more enjoyable for students and teachers alike. (Learn more in Edutopia's Research-Supported PBL Practices.)

To achieve these benefits, teachers who are new to the project approach need time to learn and apply classroom practices that make PBL effective. Projects may start with the spark of a good idea, but high-quality PBL requires thoughtful attention to project design, management and assessment. (Learn more in A Step-by-Step Guide to the Best Projects.)

Collaborative learning gives PBL newcomers a chance to learn with their peers while benefitting from the insights of veterans. John Mergendoller, Executive Director of the Buck Institute for Education, explains the motivation for bringing educators together for in-depth professional learning: "For some time, BIE has recognized the need for an international gathering where teachers could develop their PBL chops, share their knowledge, and be inspired by the true visionaries of 21st century education. PBL World Napa provides this and more in a beautiful setting."

What's on Tap

I'll be sharing insights from participants, facilitators and keynote speakers in upcoming posts. I'll also keep an eye out for project ideas that you can borrow or adapt to use with your students, along with collaborative projects that you might want to join.

Here's a preview of the big ideas you can expect to hear more about during the week:

Global Education

Claudia Urrea, director of learning for One Laptop per Child, will share her perspective on global education trends. Her keynote should set the stage for lively follow-up conversations by PBL World attendees coming from Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Costa, Rica and Saudi Arabia, along with public and private schools from across the U.S.

Student Engagement

Sam Seidel, author of Hip Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education, will talk about engaging diverse learners through real-world, interest-driven projects. (Learn more about his work in Finding the Genius in Hip Hop Education.)

Creativity and Innovation

Yong Zhao, author of Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization and presidential chair and associate dean for global education at the University of Oregon College of Education, will help us understand the urgency to encourage more creativity and innovative thinking through PBL.

Rigorous Curricula

Cindy Johanson, executive director of The George Lucas Educational Foundation, will share new research highlights of an initiative to develop rigorous PBL high school curricula that can enhance deep engagement and learning for diverse students in a variety of school settings, including urban, poverty-impacted high schools.

How to Engage

How can you take part from afar? Here are three ways to connect with the growing PBL community this week -- and beyond:

Join via Twitter

Use the Twitter hashtag #pblworld to keep up with conference highlights. If you have a specific question about project-based learning, tag it #pblworld and we'll track down answers for you.

Join via PBLchat

PBLChat is a weekly edchat that focuses on project-based learning (Twitter hashtag: #pblchat). Many of us at PBL World will be joining the chat from Napa. This week's hour-long chat starts Tuesday, June 19, at 6 p.m. PDT, hosted by Theresa Shafer (@TheresaShafer on Twitter) from the New Tech Network (@newtechnetwork). Learn more about using PBLChat as professional development here.

Join via Edmodo

Connect with other PBL educators on Edmodo, a free social network for education. The fast-growing PBL group, hosted by BIE, has more than 6,600 members.

More to Help You Get Started with PBL

Looking for more resources to help you get started (or get better) with PBL? Check out these Edutopia resources for some DIY professional development:

An Introduction to Project-Based Learning

If PBL is new to you, this video will introduce you to the basics.

Project-Based Learning: Start to Finish

For a more detailed look at a project, check out this video and related resources from Edutopia's Schools That Work series. You'll see what high-quality PBL looks like in action, from the day a project starts until it wraps up with student reflections. You'll find useful resources to borrow from Manor New Tech, a Texas high school that incorporates PBL across the curriculum.

One Teacher's Story

Why do teachers become such powerful advocates of project-based learning? Listen to veteran teacher Susan McCray explain why she wouldn't teach any other way.

More questions? Please add them to the comments below, and check back for future posts with resources and ideas to help you and your students capitalize on the benefits of PBL.

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