George Lucas Educational Foundation
Technology Integration

Use Project-Based Learning to Meet the National Educational Technology Standards

April 25, 2012

The ISTE NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) are more than just simple content standards and learning objectives. If examined closely, they truly can foster an educational shift to engaging, relevant, technology-rich learning. In terms of project-based learning (PBL), the ISTE NETS, not only align, but can truly support a PBL environment. After my own examination, I felt we must have a #pblchat on the subject.

Weeks ago, this was our topic. Feel free review the storify archive of the whole chat to get more ideas. Here are some of my ideas and take-aways as well as inspirations from others on how some the ISTE Student NETS can support PBL. We will focus on five of the Student NETS this time, but keep in mind there are more, as well as the NETS for teachers, administrators and coaches!

Student NET #1: Creativity and Innovation

Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

Okay, I'm going to be a bit crass with this description. PBL requires that students create something new, innovate with content, and develop products that show this deeper learning. Students do not gorge on content and then throw it up in a pretty new genre or technology tool. This NET can help teachers ensure that they're asking for products that require innovation of the content and not regurgitation. Through an innovative project idea and driving question, your students are not only learning content, but creating something new with it.

Student NET #2: Communication and Collaboration

Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, sometimes at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

Two of the key 21st century skills in PBL are communication and collaboration. PBL projects balance the learning not only of content, but also 21st century skills that are transferable across disciplines and into life after K-12 schooling. Through this standard, students can communicate and collaborate, both in person with their teams and across the globe, giving an opportunity for global education. Using the right tools for the authentic purposes of collaboration and communication, students can engage in innovative PBL projects.

Student NET #3: Research and Information Fluency

Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate and use information.

When we unpack this standard, one of the key words here is "inquiry." Students are not simply doing research. PBL projects require students to engage in in-depth inquiry on a specific topic through posing questions, researching and interpreting data, and reporting it. However, as students move through this cycle of inquiry, they may find incomplete data, require further information or make mistakes. This NET lets students know that revision and reflection are critical to the inquiry process. In addition, it leverages higher-order thinking skills like synthesis and evaluation, which can ensure that PBL projects are stimulating deep learning.

Student NET #4: Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making

Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.

PBL projects must engage students in critically thinking around content, and they often have students attempt to solve a problem. In addition, this standard really pushes for student-centered learning. It is on the students to manage themselves, make decisions and more. The teacher's role is more of guide on the side, with "just in time" moments of instruction to help students with critical thinking and problem solving. PBL projects also leverage the 21st century skill of critical thinking and problem solving through assessment.

Student NET #5: Digital Citizenship

Students understand human, cultural and societal issues related to technology, and practice legal and ethical behavior.

As students engage in technology-rich projects, it is important to model and practice digital citizenship. Explicit instruction, lessons and activities must take place to ensure that students are creating good "digital footprints." In addition, this is a great theme inspiration for a PBL project. From a technology class to a language arts class, you can have students make recommendations about digital policy or teach other members of the school community and beyond how to be good digital citizens.

As you build your PBL projects, consider how the ISTE NETS can support your work. The NETS will not only help to hone and refine a PBL project, but also serve as an advocacy piece to stakeholders and other "naysayers." They can help you focus how to use the technology and keep that focus on student learning for the 21st century. Consider assessing these standards to leverage them! How are you using the NETS in your classroom?

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Filed Under

  • Technology Integration
  • Curriculum Planning
  • Media Literacy
  • Project-Based Learning (PBL)
  • 6-8 Middle School
  • 9-12 High School

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