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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Summer PD: Use the News to Keep Projects Real

Suzie Boss

Journalist and PBL advocate

Unless your students are living on a desert island, they're getting bombarded daily with headlines from around the globe. As a teacher, should you try to tune out the world -- whether it's abuzz with news about natural disasters, social upheaval, or politicians behaving badly -- and stick to your lesson plan? Or can you use headlines to focus student attention on relevant, real-world projects that meet your instructional goals?

I'm looking forward to discussing that topic with educators this week at the ISTE 2011 conference. I'll be facilitating a session called "Ripped from the Headlines: Real Events Yield Relevant Projects" on Wednesday, June 29 (11:45am-12:45pm EDT in Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 113BC). Two teachers and a media guest will join me to share their experiences, insights, and resources.

That's just the start. After ISTE, we'll continue the conversation online with the Edutopia audience, setting the stage for collaborative project planning in the weeks ahead. If you're familiar with project-based learning, think of this week's session as our entry event.

Here's a preview of what's ahead.

Kickoff at ISTE

Guests who will be sharing their insights during the ISTE session include:

  • Paul Allison, English teacher at East-West School of International Studies in Flushing, New York. Active in the National Writing Project, Allison is co-founder of two student publishing sites where youth frequently address timely topics. He'll share resources and lessons learned from Youth Voices and Voices on the Gulf which he helped launch in response to last year's Gulf oil disaster.
  • Matt Van Kouwenberg, who teaches Engineering and Physics at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. He has been inspired by news events such as the Gulf spill and the rescue of Chilean miners to design engineering challenges for his students.
  • Katherine Schulten, editor of the New York Times Learning Network. Before joining the New York Times, Schulten spent 25 years in education as a high school English teacher, school newspaper adviser, literacy consultant, curriculum writer, and editor. She also has been active in the National Writing Project, which she credits for "saving her life as a new teacher and keeping her inspired since."
  • Our conversation is likely to touch on a range of topics, from media literacy to citizen journalism to STEM opportunities. Updates from the session, including digital handouts and other presentation materials, will be available afterward on the ISTE 2011 conference site.

Keep Connecting Online

If you're interested in planning real-world projects and are interested in collaborating with colleagues online, here are some online resources to help you in the coming weeks.

Edutopia PBL Group: To brainstorm with colleagues about project ideas, join the discussion about ripped-from-the-headlines projects or start your own discussion about a project topic that interests you.

Edutopia Summer PD : This series of summer blogs offers a variety of ideas to help you in the classroom, including a special focus on project-based learning.

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Paul Allison co-hosts this weekly webcast each Wednesday (6 p.m. PST/9 a.m. EDT). Watch for future conversations that pick up where ISTE discussions leave off.

Depending on interest, we might want to follow up later in the summer with an edchat on Twitter or other live events to keep the good ideas percolating.

Questions or ideas to share? Please add to the comments.

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