All posts by higginsb

Project-Based Learning – Resource Links

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Yesterday I shared the basics of what Project-based Learning is and key things to include when planning your own PBL units. Today I thought I might offer some resources to help with planning these types of learning activities and tools that may help when implementing Project-based Learning units for both a facilitator (you) and learner. Since a lot of you are eMINTS teachers I also included some extra technology tools you may find helpful.

What tools and resources do you think should be included in this list? Leave a comment and share your favorite PBL links.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

PBL – A Facebook Testimony

I admit it, I am a Facebooker. I keep up on what all of my “friends” are doing and of course watch for updates from eMINTS about eMINTS news and blog posts. I must say I was surprised when I saw this status update and knew I had to share it here.

As I read this update, I instantly remembered back to a project a high school History teacher assigned to make a documentary. Who knew that 20+ years later my friend (and others who commented on his update) would not only remember the project of making the movie, but more importantly, what they learned from it. This struck me as just another reason to keep doing what eMINTS has been doing for years…promoting Constructivist teaching!

Last week Zac shared many reasons for using Inquiry and Problem-based Learning in the classroom in his post Room for the Basics. The documentary project reminded me that we might want to share a bit about “The Other PBL” – Project-based Learning.

Project-based Learning is another constructivist based, student-centered pedagogy. Wikipedia describes it as an

“instructional method that provides students with complex tasks based on challenging questions or problems that involve the students’ problem solving, decision making, investigative skills, and reflection that includes teacher facilitation, but not direction.”

PBL is focused around a central question (we call it an Essential Question) that engages  and offers a central focus giving students a purpose for their learning. Teachers structure the guiding question around content and are continually assessing where students are in getting to deeper understandings about that content.

As in life, Project-based Learning activities are long term, learner focused, and interdisciplinary where students learn from addressing real-life experiences, issues, challenges, problems, etc. Students may be given the task to solve a problem or investigate an issue. Like Inquiry, students develop questions that guide their investigations, but in PBL those questions and answers lead them to create something new. Something new could be a tangible product, an idea, a new way of doing something, or even a performance all requiring both lower and higher-level thinking to complete the authentic task assigned.

Because teachers are facilitators and do not give students answers or solutions but guidance, PBL has been shown to improve students abilities to be responsible, self-directed, and critical thinkers; skills essential for moving on to higher educational settings. PBL provides the perfect opportunity for teachers to not only focus on teaching content but also habits of learning like self-direction, collaboration, time-management, organization, critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity. Developing these skills in students is essential so that they transfer them on to future projects and then to life.

Common Craft has created a great video for The Buck Institute for Education that explains Project-based Learning.

So as you are planning an upcoming PBL experience for your students remember these key elements to include in your unit:

  • focus around a guiding question (essential)
  • frame the project in a real life context
  • provide engaging topics for your target audience
  • embed problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, and creativity
  • require purposeful collaboration and independent learning opportunities
  • provide a variety of resources, information, and tools (including technology)

What PBL units have you had success using with your students? What might your students say about the projects they are working on in your classroom  20 years from now?

*image used with permission from my Facebook friend.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center who occasionally finds time to blog.

HD_Links: Teaching Digital Citizenship

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Year 1 eMINTS teachers are getting their student laptops up and running this month and thinking about how they can incorporate these new tools into their classroom lessons and activities. One topic some of the teachers I work with are interested in teaching their students is that of being responsible users of technology and becoming a part of digital communities. Here are a few online resources that may help in teaching those digital citizenship skills.

eThemes has a few themes that may help teach this topic including Teaching Tips: Digital Citizenship, Cyberbullying, Ethics for Students. Check the eThemes A-Z listing or search to find more.

Cybersmartcurriculum.org offers teacher K-12 lesson plans to help teach about the topics of Digital Society, Digital Rights and Responsibilities, Digital Safety and Security, Digital Etiquette, Digital Laws and Ethics, and Lifelong Learning. Lessons are identified by the grade level appropriate for each activity, whether they can be done without a computer or if they may include a web 2.0 tool, and if they require an Internet connection.

BrainPop has a whole group of videos (with additional activities and even quizzes) to help teach students about Digital Citizenship including Copyright, Plagiarism, Online Sources, Digital Etiquette, and many more.

Or check out this Digital Citizen Resources LiveBinder created by computer teacher and blogger, Vicky Sedgwick. The LiveBinder includes TONS of links and resources for teachers, parents, and students interested in learning more about digital citizenship.

What might be some of your favorite resources for teaching digital citizenship?

Brooke Higgins is an on again, off again blogger and instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read this and more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Friday 4All: Teacher's Pet – Pinterest

For more than a year now I have been a Pinterest addict. I helped introduce it first here back in August on a guest post fromKrissy Venosdale(veteran eMINTS teacher) called “Pinspiration“. More recently you may have read about Pinterest on two different Tuesday Tool posts “Best of 2011” and “Pinterest”.

If you haven”t checked it out, now is the time. Teachers all over the world are using Pinterest to improve instruction. Whether they are pinning bulletin board ideas, images they might use in their lessons, links to technology resources, or to resources that help teach different topics, all are discovering new ideas to improve teaching and learning. Teachers are gathering teaching ideas visually and then sharing them with others.

Here are some Pinterest links to get you started or to keep you hooked…

The Basics and Goodies
What is Pinterest?
How to… with Pin button instructions
How everyday users are using Pinterest
Pin Etiquette
Pinterest Goodies – PinIt button, downloadable Pinterest logos, Pinterest casino spiele “Follow Me” buttons
Copyright and Pinterest

Teachers and Pinterest
Teaching Blog Addict – “What Have You Found”blog post about Pinterest link-up with pinboard links
Teaching” Boards Pinterest Search
“Teaching” Pins Pinterest Search
Kelly Tenkely
Krissy Venosdale
Teaching Friends
IdeasFromFutureTeacher
Nyla”s Crafty Teaching

Want to get started…all you need is an invite. Leave a comment here asking for one and I will send it your way. And if you want…

Follow Me on Pinterest

Brooke Higgins is a Pinterest addict and Instructional Specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

The Pinterest logo was created by Michael Deal and Juan Carlos Pagan and can be found at http://passets-cdn.pinterest.com/images/about/logos/Pinterest_Logo.png

Tuesday’s Tool: Evernote – Making Research a Bit Easier

In a recent session our cohort talked about teaching students information literacy skills. The group spent a lot of time dialoguing about how to help student organize and use the information they find online. Most everyone agreed that no matter what age they work with students lack the ability to paraphrase or summarize information, gather information in one assessable place (not left at home on their desk), and properly cite sources.

Teaching skills on how to summarize and paraphrase, is a strategy that can be used on a daily basis. Teaching these skills can be embedded into many types of lessons whether studying changes in the Earth’s surface or Spanish explorers.

The web offers quite a few online tools designed to aide in the research process for both recording research information and the location where that resource came from. Some of these tools also allow for sharing and/or collaboration between students and teachers.

Evernote

Who knows why, but I somehow forgot to share my very favorite tool of all for this purpose…..Evernote. Evernote allows a user to take notes anywhere and sync them with all their devices when they have a web connection. A user can include text notes, web clips, audio notes, and image notes using the webcam on their computer. Notes can be tagged so that searching notes is a simple task and notes can be share with others and multiple users can collaborate on projects. Unfortunately there is no built-in citation builder but those are easy enough to create using sites like Son of Citation or the Citation Maker in Recipes4Success and then can be easily copied and pasted into Evernote.

With Evernote, a user creates a free account and then has access to their Evernote notebooks whenever and where ever through a web browser or downloadable application for Windows or Mac. Evernote is even available on many mobile devices.

What are tools you might suggest students use to support them in researching on their quest to complete authentic projects?

Friday 4ALL: Wikipedia – The Debate Continues

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The question still comes up (as it should)……can/should students use Wikipedia as a resource when researching?

In the past I have read about the peer review process and the electronic programs and systems that aide in the review process that Wikipedia articles go through. I have personally felt it was a suitable source of information to use for quick reference and alongside other resources. More recently it occurred to me that maybe Wikipedia has an opinion on this topic of discussion. So I decided it was time to go to the source…

Wikipedia offers many articles on this topic specifically including Wikipedia: Researching with Wikipedia, Wikipedia: Why Wikipedia is so Great, Wikipedia: Why Wikipedia is Not so Great, and even Wikipedia: Citing Wikipedia.

In a nutshell they suggest “You should not use Wikipedia by itself for primary research (unless you are writing a paper about Wikipedia).” (Wikipedia contributors ) Researchers should cite the original source of information and use Wikipedia only as a secondary source to back up that information as they would with other encyclopedias.

Students and teachers must have conversations about author authority and credibility, bias, purpose, and timeliness to completely understand that content on the web can be written by anyone and is not always accurate. Teachers may wish to have their students follow a process or use an evaluation tool such as the How to Evaluate Wikipedia Articles (Ayers) a one page PDF with recommendations on how to judge the information found on Wikipedia pages. One other suggestion from Wikipedia, make sure the information is cited properly including the date and time the information was accessed since information on Wikipedia is ever-changing.

What are your thoughts and ideas about how to get students to evaluate  resources including Wikipedia, and how they can be used during the research process?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

*quartermane. Wikipedia T-Shirt. 2008. Photograph. FlickrWeb. 8 Dec 2011. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeeperez/2453225588/sizes/m/in/photostream/>.
*Wikipedia contributors. “Wikipedia: Researching with Wikipedia.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 nov 2011. Web. 8 Dec 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Researching_with_Wikipedia>.
*Ayers, Phoebe. “How to Evaluate Wikipedia Articles.” . Wikipedia, 2008. Web. 8 Dec 2011. <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/16/How_to_evaluate_a_Wikipedia_article.pdf>.

Friday 4ALL: What I Learned on my Summer “Vacation”

This has been the craziest summer I have ever had.  I did a couple of presentations, went to SpaceCamp, visited the White House, saw the final shuttle launch, traveled with my family, and through it all have been continuing my doctoral coursework. I think I literally blinked and it’s over.  I’m ready though.  A new year is here.  I’m thinking of ways to make this the best school year ever.  I don’t want to take any of my summer experiences for granted, nor have them be a waste of time.  Each one of them taught me something.  As I start the year, I’m thinking about how to make it a great one.   So, what did I learn on my summer vacation?

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1.) Final Shuttle Launch:  “Teach this year like it’s going to be your last.” Watching the final launch and the final landing of the space shuttle taught me to teach this year like this is it.  Don’t wait to take that risk and try something new.  Just go for it.  Don’t wait for opportunities to come your way, find them.

2.) White House: “Accept that there are things you cannot change, and stop complaining about them.” As I listened to President Obama answers questions from all over the world, I realized how many problems and issues there really are in our country.  There are things everyday in our world, and schools, that we cannot change.  But, we have full control over ourselves.  This year I’m going to seek to learn and improve myself.  It’s really the only thing you have full control over, right?

3.) Space Camp: Set your alarm everyday to get up an inspire kids.” It doesn’t matter WHAT is on your lesson plan if you you’re not there to inspire kids.  Find out what they love to learn about, support them, mentor them, help them.  Provide experiences where they can struggle and help them find their way.

4.) Doctoral Studies: “Be open, be honest, be authentic.” After ten years in education, and lots and lots of classes, I’m having authentic discussions about ‘change’ with some amazing people in my cohort and realizing that change IS possible.  But, it’s not going to happen without difficult discussions. It’s not going to be some magic-wand experience where everything gets better.  It’s going to take some open, real dialogue.  So, don’t be afraid of it, embrace it, listen to others, share your thoughts, and make a difference.

5.) Twitter: “Never underestimate the power of collaboration.” People you’ve never met are willing to help you.  Learn to rely on others when you need to, and more importantly, learn to be there for others when they need you.  Share. Collaborate.  Truly collaborate.  Open your door to the teachers you work with and open your door to the global community on Twitter.

6.) Blogging: ”Keep learning…forever.” Stop. Think. Reflect. Repeat. Learn something.

7.) Reading. “Education is about Passion.”  I read the book “Passion Driven Classroom” in June.  I’m still thinking about it and what it means.  I ‘m going to have discussions with my students in the fall about their passions.  It’s also about embracing your own passions and sharing them with students.  Telling kids about your hobbies just might inspire them to share theirs.  Don’t overlook the value of learning what kids truly love to learn about.  The passion driven classroom is one in which kids LEARN.

8.) Traveling with Family:  ”I love my family.”  They support me.  They make me laugh. They are the reason I keep going.

I also learned that my dog loves pickles and was once again reminded that I truly love my job.  I’m pretty sure those things have no relation to each other, but I also know that I am excited to make this the best school year ever.

What did you learn this summer?

Post by guest contributor Krissy Venosdale of TeachFactory.com. Veteran eMINTS teacher, gifted education teacher, Tweeter, photographer….. and that’s just her day job. Original post August 2, 2011 on TeachFactory.com.

HD_Links: Five Websites to Inspire Your Students

I’m sharing five of my favorite tools for the classroom to inspire kids to get creative. Check them out!

1. Aviary: This site can really do it all!  Photos can be edited instantly online and saved right back to your hard drive!  You can create music with it.  There is even a design option that allows you to draw!  I think this is one of those sites that could come in handy in almost any project.  Imagine if students are making a digital story and one member of the group is the “Musician” and gets to design the music?  Or, if they are working on a poster for an Earth Day project and they take their own photos outside of your school and edit them in the classroom.  I love Aviary most because it’s one of those sites that is ready to use.  There is not much to read or figure it… it’s just click and get creative! Perfect for the classroom. :)

2.  Wonderopolis This site gives kids LOTS to think about.  There is a brand new “Wonder” posted everyday.  You will learn things here you didn’t even realize you wanted to know.  It’s a great site for kids with writer’s block or kids who just love to learn…and really…what kid doesn’t love to learn?  I would bookmark this one on your classroom website and let kids visit whenever they’d like.  It can inspire them to learn about new things and think more creatively about everything they study!

3.  Cartoonster & Fluxtime:   Cartoonster has several tutorials that take kids step by step through the artistic process of creating a cartoon.  It will teach them about the simple act of making a flip book, adding perspective to drawings, and how to spruce up a cartoon.  Fluxtime is another site that they can use to draw and create their own animation!   Making an animation could be a wonderful way to summarize a book, demonstrate cause and effect, make a public service announcement for a cause that students have researched, or just to create a story!

4. Incredible Art Department: I spent just a few minutes at this site, and with a couple of clicks, there are tons of links to explore.  Beware of Google Ads cleverly placed around the pages, but the content here is wonderful.  I visited a site to make a Jackson Pollock of my own.  When the Pollock page loads, it’s white, click around to throw paint – okay, it’s EVEN fun for the teachers. :) .  I also discovered a Van Gogh project I think I know a few students would love.  There are lots of project ideas organized and I  found a list of tons of creative art sites for kids.

5. Glogster.edu: Glogster is a great tool for getting students in the creative mode. It has tons of fun, flashy moving graphics, colorful designs, and the ability to put music, video, and voice audio right onto your page.  You can create a digital poster that can be published for the world to see or kept private for your classroom only.  Text and links can also be added.  It would be a fun way to make a ‘book report’ or use as a place for gathering research for a collaborative project.

Hope one of these fits right into your classroom…. now I’m going to go finish my Jackson Pollock painting…   Afterall, it is summer.     If you have any favorite tools, please leave a comment, I’d love to hear about them! :)

Post by guest contributor Krissy Venosdale of TeachFactory.com. Veteran eMINTS teacher, gifted education teacher, Tweeter, photographer….. and that’s just her day job. Original post August 2, 2011 on TeachFactory.com.

Tuesday’s Tool: PInspiration

It’s almost August!  Ive been browsing the internet looking for some fresh inspiration to get my classrooms ready.  There are many, many things that I love.  I have fun with my camera, I love quotes, I’m always searching for new ideas to make my classroom better, and I love colorful graphics.  When I stumbled on Pinterest, I found a place where I could somehow keep track of all of them little random things that inspire me.  When I read that  Michelle’s Math in the Middle was hosting a Pinterest Linky Party, well, I knew I had to join.  I can’t wait to follow all of the great teachers sharing their Pin boards!

The good news?  You can join, too! Follow Me Pinterest Badge displayed on your teacher blog!  Then, write a post on your teaching blog about the Linky Party and link the post HERE

Happy Pinning!

Pinspiration!

Learn more about how you might use Pinterest in the classroom from Kelly at the iLearn blog in her post Pinterest: My New Obsession. If you leave a comments, she might even share an invite with you.

Post by guest contributor Krissy Venosdale of TeachFactory.com. Veteran eMINTS teacher, gifted education teacher, Tweeter, photographer….. and that’s just her day job. Original posted July 23, 2011 at TeachFactory.com.

Monday Message: Guest Blogger – Krissy Venosdale

We are excited to announce this week’s Networked Teaching & Learning blog will be hosted by guest blogger, Krissy Venosdale. Krissy has been a teacher for more than 10 years, she’s a veteran eMINTS teacher, and now teaches 3-6 gifted education in Hillsboro, MO. She writes at the Teachfactory.com blog sharing her creative ideas, projects she works on, and her beliefs about teaching, learning, and so much more. Krissy’s main passion is teaching and her students. She hosts their classroom website, A Great Day to Learn. The site is the hub for everything happening with her students including projects they participate in and even ones she hosts.

The poster above is just one example of her creativity at work. Krissy creates lots of classroom posters and decorations using Photoshop (another one of her hobbies). She shares some posters through her blog and publishes them on Flickr under the Creative Commons license allowing anyone to download and print them for classroom use for FREE.

On top of all of this, Krissy is a wife and mother who enjoys spending time with family, traveling, and photography.

We thank Krissy for all that she is sharing this week and look forward to other guest bloggers in the future. If you are interested in being a guest blogger on the Networked Teaching & Learning, please submit your ideas here.