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 “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

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: The Changing Face of Books & Reading

I have a family member, that will remain nameless, who can’t even fathom reading anything other than a REAL book. She doesn’t understand why anyone would want to have a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or any eReader for that matter. Reading to her isn’t just about words, its about words on a piece of paper held in her hands. It’s about feeling the texture of the paper, smelling the pages as she turn each one of them, sinking into a chair and losing herself in the story, and it’s about passing on that love to others (as she did with me). She is shocked, and a little annoyed, that I might “let” her Grandson read a book on our iPad.  She asked me how he will learn to love a book if he can’t hold it in his hands and turn the pages back and forth.

Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when I got a frantic text from her the other day letting me know that Borders, the second largest book store to Barnes & Noble, is closing their doors for good. It made me think of You’ve Got Mail, the movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, where the big book store puts the Mom & Pop store out of business. But I wonder….is this such a bad thing??? Are ereaders going to be the end of the world…Judgement Day, Armageddon, 2012, The Apocalypse?

Now I realize, all book stores are not closing, just like not all magazines or newspapers have shut down, but there is something in the air….a shift….a transfer of practice…a growing change in reading habits. A study that was done in September of 2010 found that only about 8% of Americans read on ereaders. But of that 1-in-10, 21% say that they now read more than they did before.

What this means to me is that a small portion of readers have changed reading habits and maybe it means that those that once didn’t read have now found a new way of reading that works for them. I don’t really care either way. What I care about is that people are reading. Whether they grab a book or their iPad, they have found the love of reading and that is what we, as teachers, try to instill in kids.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, realized that readers want more and that the use of interactive environments and social networking is very popular. In June, Rowling announced a new online environment where the stories and characters of Hogwarts will continue to develop in the years ahead. Readers around the world were so excited that her announcement video has over 1.6 million views on YouTube. Learn more about Pottermore, and possibly even be a beta tester for the site, by visiting the website July 31st. Maybe this is an example of another way to hook reluctant readers and encourage kids (and adults) to read.

I believe that reading is: fundamental, power, fun, important, essential, etc. Whether you choose to read a book or an ebook it’s really win/win. So what might this change in practice mean for schools, teachers, students, testing, bookbags, trees, etc?

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

lib-girl (Photographer). (2011). Diving into Digital Books 5. [Web]. Retrieved from
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lib-girl/5682456926/

HD_Links: Graphic Novels or Comic Books – Whatever you call them they are WRITING!

Saturday morning cartoons on TV, the newest X-Men comic book, or even the Sunday morning comics in the newspaper can captivate kids and adults alike?  Allowing students to create authentic products like these may engage some more than simply asking them to write a story.

These tools focus on writing and illustrating comics/cartoons. These resources allow students to create their own comic strips or custom animations to be integrated into writing projects across the curriculum.

What kinds of projects using these tools might engage your students?

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

Tuesday’s Tool: Create Video Snippets with Tube Chop

Have you ever wanted to show a small portion of a video from YouTube during a lesson or presentation?

What I usually did was create a link to the full video and then during the lesson/presentation I would drag the play-head to the exact time I wanted to start playing. I usually ended up waiting forever for the video to load, taking up tons of time that I didn’t have, and it never seemed to work out as I had planned.

Now TubeChop makes this task simple.

1. Before your lesson or presentation copy the YouTube video URL and then go to TubeChop.
2. Insert the URL in the text field at the top of the page and click search.

3. Once you can view the video use the beginning and ending play heads below the video.

4. Then click the Chop It button and presto – you have your “chopped video” clip, an embedding code, a direct link, and more.

Hopefully this easy to use tool will help you to have more effective and efficient lessons and presentations.

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

Thursday’s Tip: Authentic Projects/Products

A goal of eMINTS classrooms is to actively engage students in learning experiences with real world connections and/or authentic contexts. This means that students often times create products that are authentic or something that someone in a real job somewhere would create. Below are a couple of product ideas that meet this goal and could be authentic assessments of learning. These products could be used in many projects across all subject areas and grade levels.

The Student Author: Students create eBooks (electronic books). There are a lot of debates about traditional books versus digital books and the benefits of each. Why not teach  students how to create both? After following the writing process, students can publish books traditionally or electronically. Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano shares step-by-step instructions to create eBooks that can be loaded onto iPhones or iPads alike.  It is as simple as creating a document in Word, Pages, or even a PDF then using  ePub Converter to convert the files that can then be easily dropped into iTunes and synced with the iBooks app on a device.

InfoGraphics: Kathy Schrock put together a presentation/webpage called Infographics as Creative Assessments to help teachers plan lessons where students make Infographics as end products. She provides links, ideas, and tips for planning authentic learning activities. Watch the Vimeo video (below) to learn what Infographics are, why you might use them in lessons, see examples, and learn a process to have students follow to create their own Infographics. She has tons of links to help you plan lessons and to support students in creating their original graphics. Schrock also shares the importance of teaching about copyright, design, font use, layout, and citing sources other media literacy skills.

Please share your authentic product ideas with us. Leave a comment telling about your projects and include links to your examples.

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

Monday Message: Global Learners

The world is becoming “flatter” by the day and schools are now focusing their efforts on preparing students to participate, interact, and thrive in a global society. With the goal to support schools in accomplishing this task, EdSteps, led by the Council of Chief State School Officers, created the Global Competence Matrix as a tool for teachers to use to help build Global Competence into their students, classrooms, and schools. Global Competence being the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.

The matrix focuses around 4 main areas, the definition of each, and how students might demonstrate their ability to meet those expectations.

Find the Global Competence Matrix PDF and see the Global Competence – Content Area Matrices PDF for more detailed examples for Communication Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, and more. If you are interested in helping build an archive of authentic examples, you can visit the site to submit work samples.

As you begin thinking about incorporating Global Competence into your classroom lessons, in what ways does this mesh with what you are already doing and where might you need to adapt?

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

Image: “Global Competence.” Global Competence Matrix. Web. 11 Jul 2011. <http://edsteps.org/CCSSO/ManageContent.aspx?system_name=I5nka44NofDD3IY38QBonx+Crwfdw+uF&selected_system_name=DRkDdjiObdU=>