What are the shortcomings of project based learning?

I was searching around on Quora as I do for interesting ideas and conversations. One concept I never searched was PBL. So I did and I came across this thread: What are the shortcomings of project based learning?

As our school has moved to this model I gave this question some great thought because I think it is a good question to reflect upon and work to overcome those shortcomings the best we can.

One of the contributors to this question suggested the following four shortcomings

  • Teachers have to be taught to use the method.
  • Time and resource scarcity.  Project based learning requires more classroom time to present (often).
  • Challenge and/or difficulty of assessment.  What skills to assess?  How to assess them?  How to be fair and just on more subjective projects?
  • Its possible to water down PBL to be just “fun” without learning

These four items are spot on. I wanted to expand my thought on this topic a bit. In the Quora discussion I shared the following:

 I agree with a lot of what is shared here. As our middle school has transformed our teaching the PBL model we are working very hard to help shift the thought in learning for students, parents, and the community. PBL looks much different than how we all learned. However, the best learning memories are from programs after school that had elements of PBL so the question becomes why is it so hard to deliver in the classroom? It takes time to develop the culture and the mindset to make it happen. Many students have been trained for that one right answer and to follow a formula for success. PBL is open ended and the journey to an answer is where the learning takes place.

Over the course of this year we have to take time to celebrate all progress no matter how small it might seem. It does take time, effort, and special attention to help teachers move to this system if they are not used to it. The hardest part is helping them realize that their prior ways are not wrong, but can be tweaked to develop deeper learning opportunities.

PBL does take a lot of time. The projects are time consuming to launch, implement, and wrap up. Creating and developing that authentic audience is essential. However, I don’t believe that you have to have every student present to the class. That gets old real quick for everyone. Give them a real audience like the community during an exhibition night, invite professionals, have them present to a panel, etc. Move away from just the class.

The hardest element is assessment because the learning is invisible. What I mean by that is the learning takes place during the journey. A student could end up with an ugly looking project, but that does not mean he/she did not gain extensive knowledge about the topic and themselves. We have to be careful when assessing to make sure we are looking at everything to ensure the grade does reflect the learning.

Finally, I think you avoid the projects just being fun when you do project tunings and do the project yourself before you launch the project. We have students on our project tuning groups to give teachers feedback before they launch the project. It is important to critique and offer feedback prior to the project so that you make sure a crappy project does not happen.

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bow chicka wow HOW: Moving from What to How

Yesterday I delivered my presentation to my staff in an attempt to help them think differently about projects. I offered two HOW suggestions

1. Use the Common Core Appendices to work backwards in project development

2. Walk the hallways and think location of project first before planning

Speaking to your own school is tough. I always think it is the hardest audience to prepare for because they all know you. I think it is much easier speaking to strangers. I always reflect upon my presentations and share out. I think this one went pretty good. This time of year is tough for educators as students start to shut down, weather is up and down, and we are in the midst of final exhibitions and making sure we dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

My goal was to help educators think in a new perspective. Often time when we are stuck we cannot find the answers we keep searching for. We keep resorting to the same path of thinking that has always worked in the past. We sometimes have to go a different route. It does not mean that our original mode of thinking is wrong or invalid. I am not suggesting that we add one more thing to our plates that are already full. Rather, just taking a step back and looking at things differently. As I watched my high school art teacher do the other week when I visited her classroom sometime you need to take your art, step back, and rotate the work to gain new insight.

I suggested working backwards. I hope it works. I think it caused some gears to turn. I would love to share more and learn from others who are doing this type of thinking. The hardest part of HOW is that there is not a formula. The only way to discover HOW is to do it. It will never be perfect, but you won’t know how good an idea is unless we try. Teachers must be given time to think, learn, fail, and experiment. We must be given the same opportunities as our students. If classroom instruction is going to improve, then they have to feel comfortable stepping out of their comfort zone.

This is a great topic and I wish I had more time to dig deeper on this. I was brainstorming last night how I could easily make this whole topic a workshop. Perhaps that is my next goal to develop my first workshop. I have achieved the goal of making myself present a session and now maybe it is time to plan for something a bit larger in context.

My slides are above. They are not my best work as my Macbook Pro died and I am waiting for my new Macbook Pro to arrive. I had to resort to Google Presentation. But, they got the job done. If you have any questions please let me know.

And now it is back to finalized my keynote to the National Honor Society students coming up in a few weeks on leadership, service, scholarship, and character. My first keynote and the most stressful of all things I have done.

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12 Innovation Lessons for Education in 2014

Ideas based off Letter from the Editor in Fast Company March 2014. What I am doing here is taking those ideas, changing some of them to apply to education, but more importantly taking the lessons and explaining how they work in education. The descriptions are my own. The lessons come from the magazine. I did tweak a few.

1. Exceptional is Expected – This should be a mandatory for everyone involved in education. Educators work with students, communities, and families who don’t always have this expectation. I think it is imperative that we lead the way by believing and teaching with this mindset. The key is to do things at a high level over and over again. Not just one time or for one project, but day in and day out. When we have people involved in education that don’t expect exceptional quality a division is created and issues start to arise. We must all be in this together. Not easy, but needed.

2. Innovation is Episodic – As we push for more hands on learning, creative thinking, innovation, etc. in schools we have to remember that we are pulling students 8-10 different directions daily. We have to remember that we are not creative and innovative on a daily basis and we have to remember that students are the same way. As we push to a more creative and problem solving environment don’t forget we deal with humans who happen to be in a kid phase and therefore cannot be creative day in and day out all day long. We have to have an ebb and flow. Even more important, we cannot forget that we are human also and we can’t always be creative day in and day out as educators. Give yourself time to recover and find that new path of innovation.

3. Making gains matters – the letter stated money, but money is not a goal for education. Rather we need to broaden our reach and work to bring in our customers over and over again. The customers are the students. When we have classes of 20-30 students every 45 minutes are we reaching as many as possible? Can we continue to work to gain more interest each and everyday? This is the goal we should strive for as educators.

4. Sustainability has a new found gear. Work to sustain your classroom on your own. Yes, we could all use a little bit more of this or that, but don’t let those barriers hold you down or keep you to making more excuses. What can we use around us to make ends meet? We can make an impact with the resources we have around us.

5. Unlocking Global Talent Unlocks Possibility – if you are not developing a PLN that extends beyond your school to people and educators from around the world, then you are missing out. Even more important is that if you are not reaching out, then your students are not reaching out and that is not fair to them. They should be sharing their learning journey, connecting with others, and building a PLN that shifts and shapes as they grow older to becoming a tool and network they go to when they need help.

6. Passion is Underrated – I get it! I am on the passion bandwagon. I do see the value of the other point of view. However, there is nothing more powerful than connecting with others who have similar interests and passions and working together to develop something even better than what currently exists. Crowdsourcing, teamwork, and collaboration will move ideas into action and not just an idea you thought of once. Reach out with #5 and make things happen.

7. Conflict isn’t required – Sometimes you don’t need conflict to get your idea across. Rather, you just have to work around the system and create your own path. If you have an idea that you think is worthy of pursuing go for it. Instead of building a wall of defense anticipating others to critique it, be an advocate and pursue the proper course.

8. Happy Students Make You Happy – so why would not work to make this happen? Teaching can be a real pleasure when students “get it”, are active in their learning, and the classroom just develops a wonderful vibe. So, what are we doing to help them feel this way so we feel this way? We have to launch our teaching moments just like the announcement of a new product. Bring it with pride, enthusiasm, and a passion. Don’t let this job become a job!

9. Software Beats Hardware – We have to equip students with the skills necessary to design and innovate. As educators we cannot always do things about the hardware that the school supplies us with. However, there are enough free or low cost software titles available to really create powerful learning moments.

10. “Made in China” is a compliment – When others copy your style and want to do what you do, then you should be proud. Don’t be satisfied, but take time to pat yourself on the back. We don’t do this enough. When people seek you and want to use and do what you do, then you have something good. In order for this to happen you need to share what you are doing. Go back to #5 and develop that PLN.

11. The Biggest Winner in the App Economy Remains Apple – this lesson has no direct connection to education, but what I see here is this – don’t be afraid to be yourself. If you don’t like the system that you have to adhere to, then create a new system. Don’t go getting fired, but create your own space to create yourself and share your ideas. We are not going to be able to eliminate standardized testing or other top down systems, but we can do enough of our own thing in the day to day life to make things happen. Don’t be submissive. Do what you know is right.

12. Dreaming Big Isn’t Folly; It’s Required – the most important to me personally. Develop grand ideas and every once in a while let your guard down and go for it. Just dive in! Enjoy the journey and who cares the outcome because it is about the journey.

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Student Voice and Participation in Teacher Project Tuning Session

As our building continues to push forward with Project Based Learning (PBL) and striving to challenge our students and ourselves I have reflected on the many key areas we need to work and develop to make the necessary steps to achievement.

As an instructional coach I have noticed that one of the key elements to developing a quality project for learning that is missing is project tuning.

Project Tuning is a systemic approach to helping a teacher tackle a question or mental block that they have in their development of their project. It is an approach that is very powerful and allows the staff to bond and offer insight. It allows the teacher who is tuning to hear perspectives from outside of their department and/or grade level.

Project Tuning is awesome and is something that we have continued to improve upon as we do more and more of these. The issue is that we don’t have enough teachers using this key piece. As we work to provide a structure and schedule for teachers to tune I also started working on another key element to project tuning: STUDENT VOICE

This first semester we had 8th graders work on a Choose2Matter project that we titled #BettPassion. One of the groups, Iowa High Five, is focusing on Student Voice. I brought them in last week to discuss the possibility of branching out student voice to a “behind the scenes” element of project tuning.

Last week we met with them and the principle to discuss this idea. They were excited at the opportunity. We talked about the system and things that need to be worked out.

I typed up two documents for them as well as the teachers to provide them with some structure.

Wednesday we were able to pull four of the girls into my room to do an actual project tuning and give them some practice. We had the opportunity to tune a project for a teacher that has an idea and is able to put his guard down to allow these students to practice.

It was amazing! We had one other teacher show up along with our principle and myself. The students jumped right in and nailed it. They provided some great insight that we don’t always think about as teachers and adults. They were open and honest and really provided a lot of great ideas. I was quite impressed by their maturity and honesty. I know it can be tough to really open up as a student to teachers and admin.

We are going to continue to find ways to include at least two students in each project tuning session from here on out. We will have to work on developing a pool of students to use. It really needs to be thought through because you need students who are honest and willing to speak the truth while also having a maturity level to handle this opportunity.

I am so excited to continue this journey and help enhance the power of student voice in our building. I will continue to provide documents, reflections, and hopefully a few video sessions to show how these project tunings operate.

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What are your keys to being productive? I want to know!

After reading several profiles of successful people in magazines, books, blogs, websites, and social media I have decided to begin to compile information about trends of people who are productive.

I have created a very short Google Form to gather and compile key aspects of being productive from people in all fields of occupation.

Below you will find seven questions. I will be sharing out what I find. Please help spread the word and have your friends and colleagues complete this as well.

I am excited to find out more as I am sure that there will be something we can all learn from.

This is one of the most exciting things I have decided to do. I thank you in advance for contributing to this little research project.

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007: Living on Edge of Chaos – Todd Henry

Todd Henry is the author of two great books – The Accidental Creative and his latest release Die Empty. You can check out his website http://www.accidentalcreative.com/ where you can find his podcasts and all social media links. 
I read Accidental Creative a few months back and absolutely fell in love with this book and his work. http://coffeeforthebrain.blogspot.com/search?q=todd+henry
I then pre ordered Die Empty and absorbed that book even more so. I liked it even more than Accidental Creative. The basis of the book is to help people, companies, businesses, and organizations do their most important work. As I read this book I could relate almost all of it to education and to the many ideas that I am striving for within my own job in education.
I sent Todd an email about chatting with me on this podcast and I jumped for joy when he said yes. 

Here is the link to his latest book, Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Everyday

Show Notes


All Social Media for Todd Henry – Please follow and learn from one of the best!
Twitter: 
Websites
Facebook

All Social Media for Coffeechug – I would love to have you join my PLN
Links to items mentioned in the podcast


Google Glass for Bettendorf Middle School Students
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You’re Not That Innovative(and that’s okay) by Adam Bluestein and Converting Ideas to Education

This post is going to be based on the following article written by Adam Bluestein posted in Inc. Magazine in the 9.2013 issue. You might want to read the article first.

You’re Not That Innovative(and that’s okay) by Adam Bluestein – http://www.inc.com/magazine/201309/less-innovation-is-better.html

Below are excerpts from the article in bold with my thoughts applied to education. Always open for your thoughts.

What if innovation is not the panacea it’s said to be?
Innovation and Creativity is a huge push in education right now. I push it more than anyone and live my life on the Edge of Chaos continually trying to come up with new ways of doing things. However, not everyone is like me. And that is okay. Do we need every educator to be this way? I don’t think so. Schools need a wide flavor of teaching styles and mindsets. I did not always think this way, but am starting to realize the importance of variety of a staff to ensure quality education.

How much disruptive innovation do you really need to advance your business goals?” 
Schools need disruptive innovation. You need educators pushing the boundaries to make new things happen. BUT, you don’t need your entire staff. You need a few out exploring the new frontiers. Much like history. Countries did not send their entire population to new uncharted territories. They sent a few to figure things out and once established sent more. Education and schools need to be the same way with new crazy ideas.

On average, the most successful companies devoted about 70 percent of their innovation assets (time and money) to “safe” core initiatives; 20 percent to slightly more risky adjacent ones; and just 10 percent to transformational, or disruptive, ones.

I love this excerpt. Perhaps schools should be the same. A majority of the staff should be “safe” and tweak existing practices in small steps, but nothing too crazy. 1/4 or so of staff should be a bit more risky taking on new ideas to see what happens that eventually the “safe” group could adapt once things are worked out. You need just a small group to be the crazy disruptive ones. They are the ones that are way out there doing things that challenge the status quo and things that have never been done. They are two steps ahead. Then the next group adapts their ideas over time and the safe group implements. 

This seems like a safer approach to ensuring quality education while still pushing the frontiers of education. I think this keeps teachers grounded without feeling like a failure while still challenging everyone within the confines of where their comfort zones exist. Schools cannot be too overboard with disruptive innovation, but on the flip side schools cannot just sit back and be happy with how things are going.

Core innovation involves making incremental changes to improve existing products for existing customers

We don’t always have to be drastic in decisions. Look at any successful company or product and it is just a minor tweak on existing platforms. Education should be the same. Educators should never be satisfied, but we cannot lose our focus on what we need to accomplish.


Transformational (a.k.a. disruptive) innovations involve inventing things for markets that don’t exist yet–say, iTunes or Starbucks. Of course, when a disruptive innovation succeeds, the returns can be enormous.

Love this passage as well. When the educators who are way out there do get a hold of something special it is going to be awesome. Yet we cannot expect all teachers to be out there hoping for their ideas to be the next greatest thing. Students lose out in the end. Consistency is still a must for their day to day routines.

Coming up with ideas isn’t nearly as hard as determining which ones are any good and figuring out what to do with them. 

Educators are just like students and we don’t like to be criticized. Sometimes we have to put our big boy pants on and accept that our ideas are not the best. That is life. We adapt and learn. We adjust. We learn from the ideas and tweak them to make them better. Don’t get pouty and give up. Be open and honest and adapt to make the ideas good. Feedback is essential. Have a backbone. Be ready for criticism. If you never get any feedback, then you really know your idea is bad.

A cool idea that excites your engineers should never become a working project until someone can articulate how it actually solves a pressing problem that your customers have.

When we come up with ideas we must have time to have conversation about the idea. We need feedback and suggestions. Educators should project tune. They should also do the project or idea before implementing with students. We have to ensure the idea is a good one before entering the classroom and impacting student learning.


 “You never have enough resources and time to attack all your opportunities,” says Sher. “You want to focus on the best ones, so you can finish them first. Two nonessential ones get done, the important ones don’t, and there’s no value created.”

Time is always a complaint in education. It is a complaint in all aspects of life. The goal should be to figure what is the most important idea to tackle and tackle it. We cannot spread ourselves so thin that we never really get anything accomplished. This is a major flaw of mine that I am working on currently.

Doblin found, companies get the highest return on investment when they focus on things such as improving business models, internal processes, and customer experience.

Education for students will increase when schools focus on their education models and organization, communication among staff and taking care of their educators, and ensuring the students have opportunities to learn.
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I Lied! I am sharing Caffeine For The Brain Issue 2

So, last Saturday I shared out via blog post my first issue of my newsletter that I have created to share out every Saturday morning.

In that post I said I would not blog about future issues, but today I have decided to lie and share out my second issue.

Why? Because it is loaded with some good tidbits for thinking as we wrap up this holiday weekend.

I just did not want you miss out on the goodies shared in the newsletter.

Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on future issues.

Enjoy  http://eepurl.com/Jp91f

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