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PBL Camp Clinic: Ask a PBL Expert (Week 2)

PBL Camp Clinic: Ask a PBL Expert (Week 2)

Related Tags: Project-Based Learning
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As you get started on project planning, we know that you're likely to encounter questions about everything from Driving Questions to assessment to project timelines. Fortunately, three PBL experts have generously offered to serve as Camp Counselors. Please pose your questions to this trio: * Jane Krauss, co-author of Reinventing Project Based Learning, is a tech-savvy elementary classroom veteran, PBL presenter and consultant, and former director of professional development for the International Society for Technology in Education. * Tristan de Frondeville, who heads PBL Associates, has been a PBL consultant to schools across the country and internationally. A former math teacher, he is on the National Faculty of the Buck Institute for Education and facilitates Edutopia's PBL group (this one!). * Telannia Norfar, currently a high school math teacher in Oklahoma, came to teaching after a decade in the corporate world. She brings the real world into her classroom through PBL, with her students acting as math consultants to individuals, families, and organizations. She has experience with interdisciplinary PBL as well as math and technology. ' * And, if you've done PBL in the past, don't hesitate to jump in with your own experience as well. Looking forward to some great work this week!

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Telannia Norfar's picture
Telannia Norfar
High School Math Teacher

[quote]Jane, I have no flexibility with this class arrangement this year. I am still clinging to the hope that some of the teachers will get on board with us. I do like your idea of project experts so I will probably start an afterschool club for students who want to go deeper with this project. I will probably use them to create short videos on the topics, ads for our closed circuit TV system and posters to keep the excitement up. I uploaded a file to the Project Folder in the wiki called Eagle Problem Solvers Class that gives a brief outline of what I am thinking about with this class. This is the first year for the class and we have only done minimal 3-4 day PBL projects in any of our classes before.[/quote]

Would you like any of the experts to give you more advice on your project form?

Suzie Boss's picture
Suzie Boss
Journalist and PBL advocate
Blogger

I'm reposting this question from Patti Lewis-Ward (originally asked in Grades 3-5 thread). Experts, what do you think?

I am working with a group of 4th grade ELA teachers writing lessons from the new Common Core Standards. We would like to create a PBL having to do with tutoring younger students utilizing the Foundational Skills from the ELA standards. I am wondering if I am heading in the right direction or 'off base' with the intent of PBL?

Jane Krauss's picture
Jane Krauss
Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

[quote]Jane, I have no flexibility with this class arrangement this year. I am still clinging to the hope that some of the teachers will get on board with us. I do like your idea of project experts so I will probably start an afterschool club for students who want to go deeper with this project. I will probably use them to create short videos on the topics, ads for our closed circuit TV system and posters to keep the excitement up. I uploaded a file to the Project Folder in the wiki called Eagle Problem Solvers Class that gives a brief outline of what I am thinking about with this class. This is the first year for the class and we have only done minimal 3-4 day PBL projects in any of our classes before.[/quote]
I'm just going to press this flexibility point a tiny bit. What do teachers (and you) expect students can/should learn within the framework you've got set up? Just curious because I imagine it might fall into learning tech applications and keyboarding and I can tell you are eager to do more than that! OK I'll let up now and say I think your after school idea is TERRIFIC! If you build buzz around that and help others see what can be accomplished with fewer constraints maybe you'll have the evidence you need to change things next year. It will be great to use your close circuit tv system and posters as you suggest. How about the project serving as a call to action so other kids can get involved? I can imagine after school kids informing the student body of the issues and solutions and then guiding them to make critical decisions about where school fundraiser funds might be best spent. That might be a cool "outreach" project that benefits all.

Telannia Norfar's picture
Telannia Norfar
High School Math Teacher

[quote]I'm reposting this question from Patti Lewis-Ward (originally asked in Grades 3-5 thread). Experts, what do you think?

I am working with a group of 4th grade ELA teachers writing lessons from the new Common Core Standards. We would like to create a PBL having to do with tutoring younger students utilizing the Foundational Skills from the ELA standards. I am wondering if I am heading in the right direction or 'off base' with the intent of PBL?[/quote]

Hi, Patti.
I think you might be a "little" off base. Tutoring is just tutoring. It is not a PBL. However, I think it would be a great thing to have students tutor younger students. It harnesses their understanding of the material as well as helps them to be understanding of other students.

Shannon Wentworth's picture
Shannon Wentworth
Technology Teacher

Hi Donna,
I do projects like this regularly. I also see my students once a week for @ 45 minutes (28 classes this year). The biggest pitfall I've run into is having all 28 class projects come due at the exact same moment. Make sure you stagger the length of each project and the due date. No matter how great the projects are, if the all come due at the same time, you will NEVER be able to get them all graded and displayed in a reasonable time frame.
Hope that helps!
Shannon

[quote]My situation this year will have me meeting once every two weeks with each class in the school for thirty minutes. I hope to get some collaborative support from the teachers but can't bank on it. I want to handle the classes with PBL projects all tied to the question - How can we become a "green" school? I will have 4 classes of each grade K-5. My underlying curriculum is Information Literacy and Research. I feel that those skills can best we taught in the context of some larger project such as a PBL environmental project. Can you tell me some pitfalls I may need to avoid to make this successful?[/quote]

Jane Krauss's picture
Jane Krauss
Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

[quote]Hi Donna,

I do projects like this regularly. I also see my students once a week for @ 45 minutes (28 classes this year). The biggest pitfall I've run into is having all 28 class projects come due at the exact same moment. Make sure you stagger the length of each project and the due date. No matter how great the projects are, if the all come due at the same time, you will NEVER be able to get them all graded and displayed in a reasonable time frame.

Hope that helps!

Shannon

[quote]My situation this year will have me meeting once every two weeks with each class in the school for thirty minutes. I hope to get some collaborative support from the teachers but can't bank on it. I want to handle the classes with PBL projects all tied to the question - How can we become a "green" school? I will have 4 classes of each grade K-5. My underlying curriculum is Information Literacy and Research. I feel that those skills can best we taught in the context of some larger project such as a PBL environmental project. Can you tell me some pitfalls I may need to avoid to make this successful?[/quote][/quote]
Shannon - You give me hope that this kind of schedule can work! Thanks for your good advice to Donna - I would love to know what kinds of projects you do, and she might too.

Tristan de Frondeville's picture
Tristan de Frondeville
Project Learning Consultant for PBL Associates
Facilitator

I have sadly been on my back with that ol' "my back is out" until now.
So many excellent and supportive suggestions have been proferred, it is hard to see how to be of benefit.
SHANNON, I am sure Donna, and all of us would benefit from a few more details on your projects and how you cope with 45 min every week, although I have to admit that two weekends apart (for Donna) sounds even more daunting.
You have heard all of the experts refer to that as daunting because one of the goals of PBL is to highly engage students and keep their excitement level high. We all know that a certain amount of regular interaction with the material and with the enthusiastic teacher/leader/coach is critical as kids have so much 'pulling on their attention' these days.
Nevertheless, the most powerful suggestion is to have kids CREATE material (posters, closed circuit TV) that has an authentic purpose (a real audience), AND most importantly to have a refining process, where they get critical supportive feedback on their DRAFT and then re-do, refine their product to create a really high quality product. This benefits immensely when the feedback is from a 'real' adult expert in the industry (for closed circuit TV one could imagine an Advertising Executive or a television producer) who could come in and teach the kids what 'excellent, high quality work' looks like.
One of the great sweeteners to a PBL is when kids are learning from outside adults skills that they know allow that adult to 'make a living'. The kids really respond to that authentic learning.

Donna Milner's picture
Donna Milner
Elementary Media Specialist

What kind of projects have you been doing? How long do you usually let a project last? Donna

Suzie Boss's picture
Suzie Boss
Journalist and PBL advocate
Blogger

Hi PBL Experts,
I'm reposting this question from another thread and invite your feedback. Question comes from Dale Glass, a PBL Camper who has started planning a project called Oil & Water (http://pblcamp.pbworks.com/Oil-and-Water). Dale's question gets to a key PBL issue: How do you design projects so that they add up to more than a collection of interesting activities?
Here's the original question:

"...I am in the same situation... well-established FOSS curriculum has small projects built-in at the end of each unit; kids are supposed to generate questions all along and then select one for a project to do at the end, but I would like to start the other way around - the question generates the learning and curriculum, but am not sure how to go about it.
I posted a project (Oil&Water) and have started work on it, but have not found any collaborators, probably because it's too standards-specific. My best plan at the moment is to use the project to jump-start the unit, then work on the project 1xweek while continuing to teach the regular lessons the rest of the time.
Any suggestions are welcome!"

Experts, what advice can you offer Dale?

Jane Krauss's picture
Jane Krauss
Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

[quote]Hi PBL Experts,

I'm reposting this question from another thread and invite your feedback. Question comes from Dale Glass, a PBL Camper who has started planning a project called Oil & Water (http://pblcamp.pbworks.com/Oil-and-Water). Dale's question gets to a key PBL issue: How do you design projects so that they add up to more than a collection of interesting activities?

Here's the original question:

"...I posted a project (Oil&Water) and have started work on it, but have not found any collaborators, probably because it's too standards-specific. My best plan at the moment is to use the project to jump-start the unit, then work on the project 1xweek while continuing to teach the regular lessons the rest of the time. Any suggestions are welcome!"

Experts, what advice can you offer Dale?[/quote]
I congratulate Dale for wanting to go bigger with his Foss Oil and Water unit! I've used those kits too and they are great but, like he says, they're a bit piecemeal. Starting with a compelling project that is supported by the kit is a great idea. I'd start by looking to the overarching "big ideas," which are likely listed in the objectives in the teacher manual or can be derived from your state standards.(I'm guessing the unit is about properties of matter?) From there I'd think about the oil spill connections and link those with the standards right away. Then there's planning the entry event and project. What do you think would resonate with kids about the spill, and how could that tie into the science content? I'm sure oily birds have come to mind. Oil+birds is good when they are preening/oiling feathers for waterproofing (using their own oil that is). Oil+birds is bad when it's from a nasty spill, but why? Why doesn't cleaning the birds always help them survive? I know one kindergarten teacher is having kids attempt to get oil off of feathers (as if they were birds) using experimental methods.This might make a good entry event for older kids, causing them to wonder about the properties of water, oil and dispersants such as soap. By getting their hands literally dirty I think other properties and forces would come to mind that kids could investigate. Why did the oil blast to the surface of the water from underground? Under what conditions does oil sink? Can you simulate an oil well leak? Can you stopper one up once it's sprung? Where and how does oil travel on water? How many gallons IS in that oil leak? What's my fuel footprint? These are a few questions that come to mind. Shaping their investigations mostly toward properties of matter but being open to other aspects of the spill could make for some interesting studies alongside the kit lessons. Hope this solo brainstorming is of some use to Dale! I'd be ready to kick it around some more.

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