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Originally posted at OCM-BOCES
In a PBL project, students answer the driving question or solve the problem through their public product. The public product is used to display learning, and is often presented to an audience who provides feedback for improvement of the product and/or the accuracy of the learning. Public Product is one of Gold Standard PBL’s Essential Project Design Elements.
Presenting student learning through a public display is an important aspect to Project Based Learning because it adds to the authenticity of the learning experience. I’ve seen this in my work at the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison Board of Cooperative Educational Services (OCM-BOCES). For example, student teams can create interactive timelines of the history of their community using www.dipity.com, www.tiki-toki.com/, www.timetoast.com, or www.hstry.co. The learning is made public when two local historians, both members of the local historical society, view the timelines, provide feedback on the accuracy of the history, and choose one interactive timeline to feature on the historical society’s web site. Making student learning public in such a way provides credence to the work students are doing. It is not just another presentation students make to their classmates and teacher. In this case, it is a product critiqued by professionals who are using student work in a real way.
Piece of cake, right? Not always. During coaching sessions with teachers, I hear the frustration of making products public for a variety of challenging reasons, some of which include:
- Locating an authentic audience
- Overcoming apprehension and fear of presenting
- Finding the time to schedule and host presentations
Let’s first tackle a common misconception of Public Product: that students must formally present their product to a live audience. We can shed this misconception because there are other options to display student learning publicly while conquering the challenges listed above.
Option 1: Display student work digitally.
Students can make the product public to a digital audience. They can create a product—a flow chart, an infographic, or a web site—and send the link or the product to the audience. Displaying learning digitally and using a digital audience will save time and overcome apprehension of presenting to a live audience. Ideas for an authentic audience might include experts from your local community—government officials, college professors, business owners, etc. If you live in a rural area with limited resources, consider using www.nepris.com. Nepris is a free, web-based resource that connects teachers with experts. You might even create a public feedback forum using Google Groups, Google Hangouts, www.schoology.com, www.wikispaces.com, www.wix.com, or www.weebly.com.
Option 2: Record student presentations and/or send products via email for feedback.
In one project I know, for example, students revised their school menu to include meals that are healthy and appealing to adolescents while meeting school lunch regulations. Each team plans for one healthy meal for a day of the week. Students present their daily meal plan and explain how the meal meets the daily dietary guidelines while meeting school lunch regulations. The teacher records the presentation and sends the video along with the weekly meal plan for feedback from the school dietitian. Recording students privately is particularly helpful when working with students with special needs or student teams who have experienced setbacks due to attendance or deadline issues.
Option 3: Schedule student team-led conferences with authentic audience members.
Student teams can present their learning to an authentic audience in a 10- or 15-minute block of time, which can be completed either face-to-face or virtually using Skype or Google Hangouts. While one team is presenting, other teams might be preparing to present or engaging in the next unit of instruction in another location.
Here’s a table to help you visualize a Public Product for your next PBL experience.
Although the Public Product element of a PBL experience can be challenging, it does not have to be daunting or dreadful. It can be a delicious “piece of cake” – with some pre-planning that will make the learning experience one that is memorable and meaningful.
Do you have questions, tips, or stories about making products public in PBL? Please enter them below.
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