Top 10 PBL News Stories

Feb. 20-24, 2017

Each Friday we post a list of articles, blog posts, research studies, and other resources we’ve run across that relate to Project Based Learning.

Here’s what we liked this week:

11 Years Later, Would Sir Ken Robinson Find Creativity in Our Schools?
Education Week
In this post Melissa Weatherwax, a K-12 technology coach in the Averill Park Central School District, NY, reflects on how schools have and have not changed in three generations. She offers some sample projects she’s seen, as rays of hope.

Performance Assessments Are 'Adaptable, Accessible, and Forgiving'
Education Week Teacher
Another good one from Larry Ferlazzo’s “Question of the Week” blog. This time he features BIE National Faculty member Mike Kaechele, who says, “PBL is a natural platform for performance assessments” and gives several examples of how authentic projects include them. Also featured are Dr. Bena Kallick and Alison Zmuda, who offer good advice and examples of performance assessments that reflect many of the features of Gold Standard PBL.

18 Tips for Making Blended Learning More Student-Centered
Getting Smart
Tom Vander Ark provides lessons learned from “schools seeking to boost motivation, engagement, agency and collaboration (that) are adding student-centered learning strategies to their blended learning plan.” Tip #7: “Add Projects,” citing our friends-in-PBL Katherine Smith Elementary School in San Jose, CA.

Research Matters / What Skills Do Students Really Need for a Global Economy?
Educational Leadership/ASCD
Here’s a great argument for teaching 21st-century success skills, not just rote memorization and “disconnected-from-reality instruction.” After citing the value corporate executives placed in a recent survey on teaching students the “4C’s,” the author says we should show students “how they can contribute to that world by solving complex problems. We might start by telling our kids to do their homework because their neighbors—locally and globally—are counting on them.”

Clarifying the Truth: Teaching Islam in Our Age of Misinformation
Education Week Teacher
High school history teacher Rachel Otty doesn’t mention PBL explicitly, but her ideas could become the basis for great projects about Islam or other religions. Love this quote about history teachers: “We are called to continue the work that has always been critical to historians: to put what has happened in the past and what is happening now in the proper and complicated historical context.”

School students interpret classic literature with modern tech
District Administration
This article describes how New Rochelle High School, in New York, combines its writing, filmmaking, and English programs in projects; students write screenplays based on short stories, poems, or Shakespeare’s sonnets, then pitch their ideas and project-manage the production of a short film.

Why Group Work Could Be the Key to English Learner Success
KQED Mind/Shift
A nice profile by Katrina Schwartz about San Francisco International High School, with a great video and lots of tips that PBL teachers can learn from. Sample: “teachers have found that their students are more motivated to engage with content — and practice English — when they work in groups that include speakers of many different first languages on authentic discussions or problems.”

Highlands Ranch students use virtual dialogue with WWI kaiser to spark interest in history
Denver Post
The subtitle sums it up: “STEM academy teachers were having trouble engaging students, so challenged them to use tech to bring history to virtual life.” Some super-creative, cutting-edge projects included, such as one where the Colorado students used artificial-intelligence programming and created 3-D printed talking heads to stage a World War I dialogue with U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and Russian Czar Nicholas II. In another project, students used virtual reality technology to create walk-through museum exhibits about the rise and fall of civilizations. (Wow!)

Four Cs play powerful role in kindergarten schools
District Administration
Superintendent Cathy Gomez of the Evergreen School District in San Jose, CA makes the case for PBL, the 4C’s, and Deeper Learning for all students. I like her comment, “Project-based education starts young children on college and career paths.”

Creating more collaborative cultures within classrooms, schools, and organizations
Ran across this nonprofit yesterday; it’s a great resource for teaching collaboration skills to primary school students.


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