Sam Seidel Keeps It Real

Sam Seidel, author of Hip Hop Genius and a self-described “education nerd,” kicked off the second day of PBL World with three words of advice to improve learning: Keep it real.


He suggested expanding BIE’s eight essential elements of PBL to make learning “real-er” in three important ways:

  • Take projects outside the classroom so that students build real-world relationships
  • Ask students to create products that have real value and reflect the real work that people do in careers
  • Make learning relevant by having students build from their own identity and culture

In other words, Seidel said, “Keep it real. Keep it real. Keep it real.”

In an interview after his keynote, Seidel expanded on how teachers can scaffold and support such authentic learning experiences. “Keeping it real can, in some ways, make things easier for teachers,” he suggested. “Teachers sometimes go to great lengths to make things less authentic.” For example, he described a teacher who designed a project around a simulated city, which involved creating maps, demographic data, and other not-real information for students to work with. The next year, he had an epiphany and “just had students use their real city.”

Some projects challenge students to do the real work that professionals do—thinking as an historian or journalist, for instance. That can raise new challenges for teachers who have never been in those roles themselves. Seidel’s advice for teachers: “Bring in people who have those experiences, or even better, take the students out to meet them. The best thing is for students to meet those people in the places where they do the work.”

Connect with Seidel on Twitter by following him @husslington. He also takes part in a weekly #hiphoped chat and blogs at Husslington Post.

Bloggers Connect

At an edublogger panel on Monday afternoon, PBL World participants shared ideas for using blogging to reflect, connect, and help students share their work with authentic audiences. Panelists Bianca Hewes, a PBL World attendee from Australia, and Andrew Miller, BIE National Faculty member, described their own evolution as bloggers. Hewes goes for full-on honesty, with a touch of self-deprecating humor. She has built a following among educators by reflecting openly about her frustrations and successes with PBL. Miller says he has learned to think more critically about his audience and how to provide educators with ideas they can use. He also advised participants to use blogs to “celebrate your successes,” and shift the conversation about education.

At least a couple participants were motivated to blog their reflections. Take a look at posts from Heidi Hutchison and TJ Smith.

Here are a few resources that were shared Monday to support blogging in the PBL classroom:

Quadblogging is a free platform for connecting your classroom with three other classes. Students take turn commenting on each other’s blogs, providing authentic peer audiences.

Mentor Mob is a free site for connecting students with experts and finding curated resources.

#Comments4Kids is a Twitter hashtag you can use to encourage educators to comment on your students’ posts. Learn more here.
We’re tracking more tech tools and resources all week in the PBL World group in Edmodo. You don’t have to be at the conference to join. Learn more here.