How to start a PBL movement

At the start of this week, John Mergendoller, our Executive Director & Resident Banjo Player at BIE, sent out this video via email.  When I first started watching this video of "the shirtless dancing guy", I thought it was joke.  But the video ended up starting a great conversation amongst the staff.


NOTE: The transcript by Derek Sivers is available at

Here are a few highlighted reactions from our staff along with recent serendipitous emails.

It suggests that it may be important to get one or two good projects in a school, that people can be encouraged to join/follow/support/celebrate together...rather than a dozen isolated projects.

Everyone cannot be a leader, so encouraging one or two in a school could be a good strategy -- or at least finding a way to establish leaders who can be followed.

 Email reaction from Jason Ravitz, Director of Research & Jazz Musician

 Right before Jason's email, I sent an email to our staff about...

TED TALK: Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action.  Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers -- and as a counterpoint Tivo, which (until a recent court victory that tripled its stock price) appeared to be struggling.


Simon Sinek mentions Everett Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations and highlights the tipping point at 15-18% for Mass Market Success.  First followers (or Early Adopters) are the majority that get a movement moving.


During our professional development, we stress to administrators the importance of supporting those first teachers (or first followers) trying to do PBL in the schools .  We also use the term "first followers" when it comes to the states that will hopefully join PBL innovators like West Virginia DOE, our biggest client.

Today an email newsletter (that I subscribe to) sent out Google Apps available to New York schools.  This is amazing news because Oregon was the first one (the innovator) to implement Google Apps statewide.  The Early Adopters were Iowa and Colorado and now followed by New York.  This is a great start for a technology-use movement.  You might be wondering, what does this have to do with PBL?  I'm glad you asked. Research has shown that technology using teachers were more likely to use PBL too.  More technology-use, hopefully more PBL!

This video is soooooo cool.  I'm going to start using it when I do my PBL introduction to administrators.


Staff meeting reaction from David Ross, Director of Professional Development & Speed Reader Extraordinaire


Administrators are always asking how they could "start" or support a PBL movement in their school/district.  One way to help movement or keep momentum is to get barriers out of the way.  Administrators at a Project-Based Learning Institute in Indiana discussed barriers and thoughts & ideas to deal with them.  Mark Raffler just emailed me his Wiki, PBL Network, that graciously captured those conversations.  Great timing!

Alfred: It makes you wonder who is the administrator in this video?
-  The shirtless dancing guy
-  The first followers
-  Someone in the crowd telling others to join[I stole this from Jason]
John L: The administrator could also be...
-  The band playing the music
-  The people throwing the event
It also makes you wonder who is BIE in this scenario?  More importantly, do you want to get some Thai food for lunch?
Alfred: I'll drive!

  My hallway conversation with John Larmer, Director of Product Development & Restaurant Enthusiast

What do you all think out there?  Who is the administrator?  And who is going to be our Innovator to help get some First Followers on this blog?