Professional Learning

Success Stories: Encouraging Teachers to Try a Project-Based-Learning Approach

May 12, 2006

Katherine Parr, one of my students in a Lesley University course I recently taught in Reno, Nevada, has graciously agreed to let me share her posting on a discussion-board thread about chapter 2 of Edutopia: Success Stories for Learning in the Digital Age, the textbook I required the students use for the course. You'll notice that Parr found lots of valuable resources and ideas in the Edutopia book. You will, too! I highly recommend it as a course text or reader.

Chapter 2: Project-Based Learning Online

This chapter gave several samples of online projects for K-12 students. Here are the names and URLs of some of the sites that specifically appealed to me, plus brief descriptions for your own analysis:

International Schools CyberFair (Global SchoolNet). Students create Web sites to share pertinent information about cultures and communities.

The Global Schoolhouse: Geogame (Global SchoolNet). This skill-building game for mapping encourages deductive thinking and collaboration.

The Global Grocery List Project (the Landmark Project). What do eggs cost in Istanbul? This database collects information on the price of grocery goods throughout the world. Students can compare prices, analyze information, develop theories for cost differences, and build on what they know.

The iEARN Holocaust/Genocide Project. Students from around the world research, discuss, and share their thoughts, writing, and artwork through an international magazine, An End to Intolerance. With the focus on the Holocaust, students learn about themselves and others as they develop into global citizens. (One of our teams at Traner Middle School, in Reno, Nevada, is involved in this project. I will let you know how it goes.)

The Jason Project. Yearly virtual expeditions, which have included underwater voyages and trips to rain forests, provide curriculum materials, professional-development programs for teachers, and online networks connecting students, educators, and scientists. The trips are taken through interactive broadcasts from sites using advanced technologies in robotics, fiber optics, television production, computer science, mechanical and electrical engineering, and satellite communications.

Journey North: A Global Study of Wildlife Migration and Seasonal Change (Annenberg Media). This site uses databases, email, and the Internet to track all aspects of the migration of monarch butterflies.

Space Day (Lockheed Martin). This once-a-year live, interactive webcast allows participants to share time with a group of astronauts and other luminaries at the Smithsonian Institutions's National Air and Space Museum to salute achievements, benefits, and opportunities in the exploration and use of space. Design challenges are given to the children along with quizzes, live polls, and message exchanges.

The ThinkQuest International Challenge. Students ages 12-19 collaborate with others on topics such as views on aging and older people, ways to become more knowledgeable about Shakespeare and his works, fractals and how they are made, and human nutritional needs.

At the end of chapter 2, several research projects that support project-based learning are referenced. I was thrilled to have this information, because I have been looking for reference material such as this for grant writing and program promotion! I am thrilled!

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