PBL World last week in Napa
Last week in my home town of Napa, California, we had the privilege of hosting the first ever PBL World Conference at New Tech High School. There were nearly 500 people in attendance, from all over the US and 8 countries, including Canada, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, among others. If you were there also, please post some of your impressions and reflections about the things you learned in reply to this post. I would enjoy learning from you what your take aways are from the conference!
As for me, I was thrilled to meet many of my special friends and colleagues at Edutopia, including Cindy Johanson, Elana Leoni and Suzie Boss. Suzie blogged each day for us, and you can read her posts here @Edutopia. Suzie captured many of the big ideas, so I don't wish to be redundant here. My special thanks to Suzie for all her hard work blogging so we can keep a record of our hard work at the conference. It was a joy to meet you, Suzie, and to discuss the exciting things we were challenged to explore at PBL World!
I really enjoyed our keynote speakers, but especially Yong Zhao. How about you? I have ordered his new book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students(link here). I appreciate his advocacy for what really works in schools, and his insights into global education. He asks us to think about the media stream which constantly tells us that our system is failing here in the US. He encourages us to move beyond the question of failure to ask questions about what we need to do in schools to meet kids where they are and to engage them meaningfully. American culture and business have been known for embracing the drive toward creativity and innovation by seeking solutions to complex problems. We must not succumb to the simplistic reactionary approach instilled by the testing movement. I am not opposed to accountability, even by testing if we must, but I do not believe we can meet the objective of supporting all students to success through "death by testing!" Rather, I prefer to pursue deep inquiry, significant content, 21st century skills, reflection, and meaningful assessments which help students pursue their own education. This is why I am an enthusiastic supporter of PBL!
Practically speaking, one of the highlights of the conference was the opportunity to work closely with my colleague and friend Lauren Scheller at BIE (@laurenbie on Twitter). Lauren, like me, is a French teacher, sold out on PBL. We have been collaborating on thinking deeply about what PBL looks like in the World Languages classroom. We began mapping a document to help in the planning of a linguistically and and culturally rich project in the PBL model. What we need to remember as language teachers is that our significant content is found in culturally authentic contexts infused with language acquisition objectives. We must also keep in mind that we have proficiency goals, and refer to our documents to make those choices, including our state or provincial WL standards, as well as to our national standards. Im the US, that would include the ACTFL 21st Century Skills Map for WL and the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. Other important documents to consider include the Common European Framework for Languages and your own country's documents. If you use something other than these which I have cited, please post the links to the documents you use in reply to this post! I would love to see what your state, province and/or country is using to formulate the significant content you seek to teach to your students. The point is this: an authentic WL PBL project will always have language and culture objectives in addition to the critical thinking, deep inquiry, collaboration, creativity and presentational skills objectives of the project. We need to plan for these just as much as we need to craft a strong driving question, rubrics and our know/needs to know lists.
Lastly, though certainly not least importantly, I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet other WL teachers from around the PBL world! We enjoyed getting to know one another, and comparing ideas and experiences on WL education from the various places from which we hail. Thanks for coming to PBL World and sharing your lunchtime with me. I will look forward to our on-going collaboration in the months ahead, and hopefully again next year here in Napa.
Until next time, best wishes to all for a fun and relaxing summer,