Few Bad Apples: Student Social Experiment Part 2/5

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 6.22.31 AM

Yesterday we launched the first part in this five part series showcasing student voice for the A Few Bad Apples project created by Lisa Barnes.

Today we bring you the first batch of projects created by students. Please check them out, leave some feedback, comments, questions, etc.

We will be sure the students check it out. They are excited to have their voices heard and to learn from others.

We will be sharing every project as it is not fair to only show what we consider high quality. Every voice deserves to be heard.

We have decided to release the projects in small batches so you take time to view them and provide them with your reactions. As much as we want them to share their voice it is just as important for you to share your voice.


Generation Z Link to Project
It’s Society Not The Teens Link to Project
Stereotypes Are Real Link to Project
Don’t Judge Us Until You Know Us Link to Project
Teens Chance To Volunteer Instagram Link to Project
A Few Bad Apples – PowToon Link to Project
Are Parents and Kids The Same? Link to Project


What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

028: A Few Bad Apples: #Stuvoice Social Experiment Part 1/5

I am so pumped to launch this five part series about how a class of 8th grade language arts students took a project and made something happen. I was lucky enough to see this project unfold through the lens of one of our amazing educators at Bettendorf Middle School.

Lisa Barnes, an 8th grade language arts teacher took a chance. She pushed her comfort zone and took an idea she developed to a new level. She had the kids move from just research and regurgitation which so often happens in schools into a phase of Doing Something! They students had to act on their own learning.

It was interesting to work with them briefly when I had time.

They did not believe that it mattered.

They did not believe that their voice held any power.

Some still are not quite sure that their voice matters.

However, they stuck with it and through the journey they found their voice.

This week I will be sharing a post each day for five days. Today the goal is to simply introduce you to the project. I will share a short podcast we recorded so you can hear from the teacher herself about this project. There is also an project outline form.

I will also share a few other things as well. This is the setup. The next four days I will share out the projects the students developed. They are really good. We have all types of students involved in this project. This is what makes it so special.

Please reach out. Leave comments, ask questions, let the students what you think of their work. The more we can bring back to the classroom the more powerful this all becomes.


Lisa Barnes, 8th grade Language Arts teacher explains the project in this podcast


Project Resources


To get them thinking about ideas to enact upon we did a brainwriting activity.

Brainwriting Activity, not Brainstorming http://wp.me/p4covo-121 

If there are other things you want information about please let us know.

Tomorrow we will show you the first batch of student work.

If you want to reach out to Lisa Barnes here is her email lbarnes@bettendorf.k12.ia.us

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

Don’t forget teacher confidence before authentic audience


Authentic audience is a vital component to any project based learning unit. As teachers across the nation strive to develop high level PBL I think there is one vital aspect that is often overlooked in the process.


Teacher Confidence


For many teachers, shifting to PBL is not something that happens overnight. We have to push beyond our comfort zones to change how we teach and how we deliver content. I don’t think there is one teacher who would love to have a project take off and connect with the world to showcase the work of students. BUT, in order for that to happen teacher confidence cannot be overlooked.

I don’t always think it is realistic for teachers to launch a new project and expect the community to be involved. Sometimes we have to test out a project idea to gain a sense of what works, what does not work, and how things will all fit together. Only after teaching a project for a year or two do we begin to think about introducing the ideas to the world.

Not every teacher has that entrepreneur mindset where they just launch an idea and have the tough skin to let it roll. We all bring our own flavor to our classrooms and that needs to be embraced.

Many times I witness the glitches that happen in delivery are many times due to overlooking the simple idea of teacher confidence. Teachers need to feel confident in their work and their ideas. We are no different than our students. Once we have a project figured out we can then begin to push our ideas out to the community. We need to make sure that we support the comfort levels of teachers as long as they are still pushing their own comfort zones. This is key. I am not suggesting we don’t change our ways. What I am talking about is that as teachers stretch the edges of their comfort zone we must support and help them gain confidence to continue to purse these paths and not cut them down with negativity and critique. This only shuts them down. There will always be teachers who push beyond the walls of the school, but to expect every single teacher to do so is asking a lot. It takes time and by encouraging and helping teachers move to this type of mindset takes time.

Focus on your own school. Make your walls and halls shine with deep learning of students. Turn your school into a marketing department of deeper learning so when the community sees the work they will want to be part of the process. They will be asking how they can get involved. Start with the culture of your own building first before moving the community.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

Need Guidance and Feedback on Next Big Project in Education

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 7.39.20 AMI have decided to post my idea to the masses in hopes of gathering a few final insights before launching. I am stuck on a few items and need some help. I have been working through a new project idea and I need some feedback……honest feedback. Feel free to hammer it, tear it up, and let me know what you think. Tell me what you like. Tell me what sucks. I want this to work and I know it still needs some work.

Below is a link to a project that has started last year with our school and village in Africa. I am ready to crank things up a notch and move to a more massive scale and challenge not only myself, but teachers and students.


I realize I have to start small which is why we will focus on our friends in Africa(read our whole journey here , but I have a vision of more schools, more connections, and powerful projects.

If you have time please check it out and give me your honest feedback.

I am hoping to get the site launched next week and begin. I have started to post books on eBay to get the ball rolling, but it is time to go all in before school starts and this gets left behind.


What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

BrushArtBot Presentation Reflection

Today I traveled to Johnston Middle School in Johnston, Iowa to present as a Master Teacher for Iowa Public Television. This was a small conference as this is something new for IPTV.

I decided to challenge myself by presenting in a new way. I did not use any slides and I did not use my computer or any tech. What I wanted to do was create more of a hands on workshop. I have sat through enough sessions and keynotes and PD where we sat, listened and walked away with intention but not IMPLEMENTATION.

I had 40 minutes to present my project BrushArtBot which is a page here on the site(see top menu)

This was a bit tough because I was not sure how many people were going to show up. In the end I had probably around 20 of the 30+ people here at the conference. What I wanted them to do was play, tinker, and experiment. In order for that to happen I had to talk less and let them do more.

I briefly talked about who I was and what I do. I then explained the materials in their baggies. Very quickly I explained how to assemble the brushbot.

Keep in mind they all had access to my lesson plans as well as the page on my website to see everything if they wanted.

What I found interesting was that like our students in the classroom the audience was quiet and bit hesitant to experiment. However, as soon as one guy had his bot moving everyone decided to move. They all wanted their bots to move as well.

Cheaply, I set up some board to create a short little racetrack so they could race their bots. They loved this. During this time I talked about the various extensions and connections about how we could connect these to any subject, any grade, and any learning from circuits, electricity, art, design, wiring, science, math, etc. I told them how they could create challenges about fastest by moving the motor, the battery, weight, etc. This really got their gears turning a bit.

Next, we had about 18 minutes left so I challenged them to the true design of converting their brushbot to an artbot. I had everything laid out for them to play. It was great to watch them try and make it happen. We had some success of bots painting some patterns. It was so fun to watch them go.

One thing that I was bummed about was having enough time to share with them how to connect the dots to true learning and standards. This is more than just a “fun” activity. True learning could occur with adding elements of a design notebook and the specific content you teach. This is something I will have to do a follow up video on to help with those that continue to use this project.

Additionally, I need to create a database of bots created. Some really wonderful designs were created. Also, I need to add more layers of challenges and post those videos online as well. I have several videos to add and finish editing.

In the end I was satisfied more than what I thought I would be. It was a great test run for this idea with many things for me to think about, fix, enhance, and improve upon.

I present at a conference next week and was not thinking about using this project, but I might change things to add this as part of my Tink Tank because the interest of the audience was high. To prepare is not cheap, but if I can excite teachers to add new ways of teaching, then it is worth the cost.


Created with flickr slideshow.


What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

The Power of International Collaboration: Iowa – Africa

This will take time to properly develop, but I wanted to
Uganda - America.png
keep a running log of what we are learning and doing.
We have connected with a village in

Uganda, Africa where we are examining success, education, and life between our location and theirs. It is becoming very powerful as we learn that not everything operates like it does in our little bubble in Bettendorf. This is so powerful and when connections are made, the kids really gain a sense of what the world has in store.

Project Goal

The question that we are working with for the unit on Africa is something like this

“What does success look like to you?”

Our goal here is to force students to look at what traits or values they believe personally captures the essence of success. We will then move them towards looking at people they know, local, country, and then global. We would then like for them to find a country or location in Africa that is successful based on their personal definition. The goal here is to connect their personal beliefs and ideas with a country they know very little about and to try to bring down the walls to some of their American mindsets.

As I worked with Eden we started to think deeper. Here is an email from Eden, where he has really upped the thinking to the project. This showcases the power of collaboration.
“That is a great question to start a unit with. There are so many levels to it.

Perhaps you could ask your students to do a video interview type project, they could interview their peers or teachers or members of society focusing on that question. Then wrap it up in a short video.
Then, you could ask what success means to people in an African country focusing on the children and/or adults.

I think the contrast in answers would shock your students and be a good education to them. Also, it is a realistic project that your students could do. They could develop skills in interviewing and video work.Flag-Pins-Uganda-USA.jpg

As part of the project, you could also turn the question around and ask “Who does success look like?” They could point out their hero and then research why they became successful.

Example of Success in Uganda:A boy who I taught to in Uganda in 2007 called Ronald met my friend Crystal who came to visit me. Crystal was impressed by this boy and decided to sponsor him. He didn’t disappoint, five years later he came second in the entire state in his exams recently.

The reason for his success: he got up at 4am everyday to start studying and didn’t finish until 10pm at night.

So that is how you get some of the best scores in the state, get up before dawn and start revising, stop studying when the electricity is switched off in the evening at your boarding school.

Ronald = Focus, determination and the understanding that he was given a chance in life which he took with both hands and didn’t look back. You could even turn the question around again and ask “What does failure look like to you?” For Ronald it would have been ‘missed opportunity’ if he hadn’t done his very best he would have missed a great opportunity to do well in life. He plans to become a teacher in the future.”
Eden shared with us a video of students talking about their school from 2008. This was a good video to give us and our students a sense of school in Africa where we would be communicating.


We started communication between teachers. We were working on the issues and how to make sure we could connect.

Over the summer the Atiira School was being built and updated when a lack of funds has kept it from being completed. Below are some images of the village and school.

Inline images 1
Inline images 1

The teacher’s accommodation that fell down.

How far we have built:

Inline images 2
Inline images 2



Inline images 3
Inline images 3


We prepared our materials, packed a camera with batteries and memory cards as well as some other goods and mailed off a package to Uganda.

Atiira Primary School is located in Soroti, central Uganda. It is seven hours north of Entebbe. Entebbe is where the largest airport in Uganda is located. It is a nice town and many rich people have their home there, including the President. It is half an hour from the capital, Kampala City.
We were trying to figure out the mailing system and this is something our students are still intrigued with. We learned that the post can be unreliable and the process can take a long time of sometimes months to reach certain areas. We had learned patience which is a good thing in our culture of instant and now. We wanted to make sure we provided money to send goods back to us. We learned that teachers make about $100 a month, so shipping costs of $5 – $10 are just not feasible for them. It was interesting packaging everything and hoping we hid money and the goods properly.


As we waited for our package to arrive, we viewed another video to teach some lessons about Uganda. Students received a complete view of what Uganda is like and began to understand the reasons why the meaning of ‘success’ is different. 

We watched Midian’s story. The video had a huge impact on students and really opened their eyes and lead to some great class discussions. Most have no idea what the life of a child in Uganda is like day-to-day.

Here is what I shared after viewing the video.

I am eternally grateful for what you are helping us do. We have one of our students who is considered one of the biggest bullies in the grade completely absorbed in this project. It has been an eye opener for her in ways that no other platform has been able to reach her.

I showed the video you linked of the beautiful Midian to the teachers doing this project. They were caught off guard a bit by what they saw. We have decided to show this in our 7th grade classes as well as the 8th grade group working on soccer equipment.

We were discussing a few things today and not sure if you have any answers or insights.

1. What are the possibilities of establishing a pen pal type structure to this project? I think if our students can connect to one person at the school they will be emotionally connected. I was thinking a picture and letter (very basic) might be something we could pull off if we supplied the materials and template of a letter. I don’t know enough yet about the school and the community to know if this would be too difficult or not.

2. We were also talking about transportation. How often do vehicles come to the village? We were on Google maps and just trying to make sense of the area. Do people in the village leave and travel elsewhere or remain permanently where they are located?

Thanks again for everything. I love it when the teachers are as excited and devoted to the project as the kids. That is when you know you have something special developing.

We later learned that the School location is here
All the children walk to school. Some walk for up to 45minutes to an hour to get to class. There is a main road near the school that vehicles pass along. This school is lucky in that fact, some schools are miles away from the nearest good road.

If a family is very rich they may have a car, rich family = motorcycle, middle class = bicycle, poor = no transport. People travel to the nearest town for supplies, using a friend’s motorcycle, cycling, or in the back of a truck.

On November 2nd the package finally arrived! We were so excited because we were starting to worry about it not making it to our friends.
As we continued to move forward with our project here locally we watched

Hans Rosling: Let my dataset change your mindset

On November 22nd, 2013 we received their video. It is AMAZING! And I cannot help but watch with a smile each and every single time.
The video was sent by a young man named Eddy, who is helping with video, editing, and communicating. He is working hard to ensure things are being done between schools. He has been fantastic in helping despite our minor setbacks due to the language barrier and technology needs. I am hoping to help him out as he is working hard to rise above and make something of himself.


Due to crazy weather, winter break, and other things to wrap up first semester the project stalled a bit

January 2014

We worked to capture photos and videos of our area and what success means to us. Students brought in thousands of images and videos. After sorting through it all, a computer crashing, then crashing again, and issues with audio we finally had our video ready in……

2.13.14: Our video in response to our friends in Africa


We received word today that the video is in the hands of our good friend Eddy. The issue we have now is once again waiting. It is hard for the students and our friends to see our students on a small phone screen. He is working to find a laptop that could be borrowed so the village can view our video properly. Once again this proves to be a powerful reminder that we are quite fortunate to have what we have. We often complain that our 11 laptop carts are just not enough to do proper learning. Perhaps we need another reality check.


We received a video from the children of Atiira Primary School produced by Eddy!

It was great to see the children’s reaction to our video from Bettendorf. We also saw glimpses of their life, for example, how they collect drinking water.

A fascinating video! Thank you Atiira for making and sending it!


As we wrap up the year we are hosting a school supply drive. As students clean out their lockers we are having boxes placed in the social studies classrooms. We are working with the headmaster to reward the students in Atiira for working hard in school. We are learning some very important lessons in human connection. We have learned that we just don’t give out freebies because what is there to be gained for them in the long run? We are currently developing the system now to deliver the supplies to the school and continue an international communication between two schools who are very different, but are striving for the same thing – excellence in character and academics for their students.

We have larger and bigger plans for the next that we don’t want to unveil yet, but this has been one incredible journey this year. We have learned more than expected and are so excited to work together as a school to provide supplies to others who can really benefit.

I will continue with the updates throughout the summer as things develop.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)



(this post is a cross post from my ALCOA Eagle Eye to the World blog)

It has been sometime since I have last posted here on the blog. Things are going as fast as the development and growth of Rudy.

Ever since the beginning of the year we have had students from all over the world connected using tools like Edmodo, blogs, Google Hangouts, Voicethread, and other tools to help share the power in watching and observing the ALCOA Bald Eagle Nest.

The last few months students have been working to connect and make a global collaborative project. This is not as easy as it sounds. I know we read all the time about technology and how simple it is, but there are many factors that come into play.

When working with various classrooms we must consider


-vacation days of school districts

-weather implications

-requirements of a regular school

-age differences

Despite these factors the teachers and students involved in this project (you can check them out here) made it happen. It has been a pleasure and honor to work with so many amazing educators and students.

This is only the second year of doing this project and once again I have learned so much. I will be sharing these thoughts soon, but today I want to unveil the projects created by the kids.

They used their research, their voices, and their artwork to showcase to the world what they have learned. We have students from kindergarten on up to 5th grade represented.

If you go to our project page  and on the menu locate Student Pages you will see several categories. Each category has Voicethreads created by the students. These are voices from all the classrooms.

I would love for you to take a listen and to provide any feedback you can. I am always striving to improve as a leader of this project, but more importantly it is vital that these students understand their voices are being heard by the world.

So, please leave a comment on this blog or email me at aarmau@gmail.com

I will share it all with the teachers so the students can gain feedback as well.

I have a few more things I will be sharing as we continue to watch Rudy grow and test the boundaries of the nest.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

Classroom 2.0 Live Featured Teacher Presentation and Reflection on Student Voice, STEM, Teacher Tinker Time, and Pushing Boundaries

Saturday, May 17th I had the honor to be a featured teacher for Classroom 2.o.

It has been a while since I presented online. I did not want to have a boring presentation and wanted to cram as much in as I could.

I loved this chat. I loved that two of my students came online to speak. I left this open for any of my students who I work with to jump in. It is just another sign of the amazing student voice that we have developing in our school. I tried to convey not just student voice through action and in a general situation, but also through STEM activities. I wanted to showcase that student voice can look different based on the students and how you operate in your school.

Reflecting back I think the chat went well. I hope it provided benefit for others. As I continued to talk I was getting all fired up with my passion for student voice, play, tinkering, and just challenging ourselves to be better. I wish I had more time as an hour flies by when you get going.

If you have questions or want to know more about what I shared please reach out to me.

I plan on sharing out product descriptions, material lists, costs, etc. on all the projects I shared. I have some new ideas that generated from this presentation and will be sharing those soon.

Thanks to all who listened and joined. Thanks to my two awesome students who jumped in. This won’t be the last that we hear from them.

Here is a description of the presentation

We are so excited to have Aaron to help us wind down the school year and ramp up our motivation as our awesome May Featured Teacher! Aaron Maurer, known as Coffeechug, is a former gifted education teacher for Bettendorf Middle School in Iowa and is currently an Instructional Coach for the district. He was also a 6th grade social studies and literacy teacher prior to that. But his day doesn’t end there…after school he is a First Lego League Robotics coach, boys/girls basketball coach, and runs intramural football for 6th grade. Aaron was an Iowa Teacher of the Year Finalist for 2014 and is a member of the LEGO Education Advisory Panel. He advocates and operates several global projects and communications with students all over the world.

Aaron  and his students shared some of the amazing things he is doing with his students and teachers and three of his many passions: (1) STEM and the Power of Play, Tinkering, and Coding (including things beyond curriculum with after school programs, bringing students in to tinker and develop, and some of his current projects with robotics, Arduino, and Young Engineers of Today); (2) Student Voice, his heart and soul, where students are part of project tunings, and a student group called Iowa High Five (a group of students whose mission is to educate and inspire youth to reach their full potential as leaders) and (3) PBL which is being implemented school-wide in his middle school of 1100 students that incorporates a process called project tunings.

Recording (full): https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/jwsdetect/playback.jnlp?psid=2014-05-17.0906.M.ACE02B5F35AA7E7975F015AAC6F794.vcr&sid=2008350

Tiny URL for Recording: http://hnyctt.me/cr20live-AaronMaurerFeaturedTeacher-5-17-14

Recording Chat: http://wiki.classroom20.com/May17_2014

Here is a list of all resources shared and discussed


Here is an archive of the presentation


What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

Reflection of Exhibition Nights for PBL

Our middle school of 1100 students has tackled project based learning head on this year. It has been a radical shift for some. It has had both the amazing breakthroughs and the moments of frustrations as we try new things, push our comfort zones, and find what works best. After each grade level has completed two exhibition nights I took time to talk with those who wanted to about the process of exhibition night. I spoke with students and parents as well.

Below is a gathering of all ideas shared and expressed. I decided to post the ideas here for two reasons.

1. Perhaps these ideas can help other schools as they plan

2. Other schools and educators have ideas or suggestions to help us tackle some of the thoughts.

This a collected gathering of about 40+ voices. I think that whether you agree or disagree with the ideas shared they are all worth considering as we strive to improve and make things better. You will see ideas from all angles. None of these are right nor are they wrong. These are just perceptions and thoughts of many.

What I would like to do after sharing this is move into an action phase where we start to figure what we are going to do next year.

Please let me know what you think.

Overarching Issues To Think About

  • Students who are pulled out from classes sometimes don’t have projects or are not completely on the same page as other students. Their curriculum is more skills based. How do we help merge their levels of learning with the classroom subjects when there are times they don’t have the opportunity for all the interdisciplinary opportunities due to their schedule?
  • Communication – this is a far reaching concern that has always been around. I am working on some solutions to possibly help, but here are some areas of concern
    • Communicating with special education teachers in advance so they are aware of projects and expectations. I think this goes beyond special education teachers to all teachers not in the core subjects so that everyone involved understands the scope, sequencee, and expectations. Many people are being left out. I personally don’t believe it is intentional, but we will need to come up with ways to help bridge the miscommunication pockets.
  • Grade level vision – Can we get grade levels to have same vision and expectations?
    • Perhaps we start at department level
    • Bigger idea is that of equity to ensure that all students are gaining the necessary experiences to reach that deeper level of learning
  • Group Projects(in perspective of strictly projects for exhibition)
    • Do we need group work for the larger/exhibition project
    • Are we grouping properly? When we put one high level student with others who are not high level are we striving for deeper learning or equal learning?
    • Can projects have group components but solo end result?
  • Commitment to PBL Exhibition Night
    • Some teachers/staff spend a lot of time preparing, organizing, etc.
    • How do we strike a balance for all staff to play a role?
    • How do help all staff feel part of the PBL movement and not standing alone on the outside?
    • Clarification of job roles and duties i.e. team leader, teachers, students, etc.
    • Perception of some doing everything and some doing nothing.
  • Showcase project NOW
    • What if our projects don’t align with exhibition night?
      • make video of project in the moment that students could present during exhibition.
      • host our own smaller exhibitions
      • what is too many events for students, teachers, families

Structure of Exhibition Night

  • Format of not moving was well liked and perceived by parents and teachers
  • When we group by TA we must not forget about the TA’s that have BD and At Risk. How do we make sure that these rooms have audience, how do we make sure that there are shining moments, and making sure we don’t forget that these TA’s have possibly more work than others. How can we streamline this process so they don’t stand out, but can still be part of the night?
  • Many people liked the format of one room, no movement, and presenting for x amount of minutes. However, just because we liked it does not mean it is the right format.
    • helps elderly not having to walk
  • Placement of rooms and hallway displays
    • as we cannot please everyone when we bundle up a lot of hallway space by classrooms being used it can congest the halls
    • finding that happy balance of flow in the school
  • TA structure format was nice because we could see all students. As a teacher you are able to see your own TA students that you don’t always get to see in the classroom
  • Assessment for presentations to hold it accountable – Some houses grade and others don’t. We need to think equity. Either all grade or nobody grades. Must be equal in expectations
    • Can there be one presentation rubric that we all use?
    • Is grading even the goal of the night?
  • Splitting students in half
    • two sessions works so much better than all at once
    • some students have expressed that by house with smaller audience would be nice
    • 45 minutes standing at one station was too much
    • If interactive 45 minutes is fine
    • Repetition can be issue hearing same thing over and over
  • Monday night does not work
  • Our Exhibition Night should be most important event of that night.
    • Need to mark on calendar and stick to it.
  • Clean up Process after the night
    • how do we make this easier simpler and more effective
      • students to help
      • assign jobs and duties
      • ownership in the whole night by staff and students
  • Open space where it can be free flowing and open. Students able to see that work was good receive proper attention.
    • allows chance to mingle, but see all work
    • classrooms look full you don’t want to go it
    • don’t want to be stuck in one room all night
  • Formal vs. Informal
    • can we have one formal with presentations and one informal that is more laid back
    • adjust to time of year and busy schedule of everyone

Exhibition Night w/ Audience

  • How do we develop more discussion/conversation?
  • Ambience – how do we get more perspective/decoration in hallways
  • What exactly is the goal/expectation of exhibition night? There are various opinions about this night. Clear vision
  • Parents
    • Perhaps parents are not the audience we should be focusing on? Perhaps the audience should be community or experts in that specific field
    • Parents don’t care about others kids. We have worried about this since day one. Is this something to worry about or just accept? As an educator I care about all kids and how they do. As a parent, I only care about my own.
    • Still a divide between what parents know/understand vs. students and staff
    • Parents view the night as a social event/gathering where they have a chance to connect and not be running around all over
      • Do we embrace this mindset? Do we offer a social gathering at the beginning and then give them some quick reminders before we send them off?
      • Do they have to go through and get stamped before they get cookies and punch?
  • Consistency to make sure students, teachers, and building are on same page
  • Parent Confusion – Open House vs. Exhibition – can we work language
  • Have we done enough to help teach, prepare, and guide parents about PBL and what this night is about?(no)
  • Educate parents ahead of time
    • bring them on board
    • help them see the power of PBL
    • teach them, guide them, and don’t assume they know how to ask questions and interact
  • Use college students in the education department as part of their hours to be audience for exhibition
  • Weave in student body as audience? Give them time to see projects during day and then community at night?


  • How do we help students see the importance of exhibition night
    • Honors class students present all the time and exhibition night is not a big deal because they do it all the time. They are at a different level and this is just not as heavy of a load compared to others so they don’t view this night as important.
    • Low end kids to help find their voice and confidence to do well.
    • Raise kids in the middle to a higher level
  • Clear expectations for students
    • Must eliminate the tacking on as we go because it causes stress on kids
    • Clear agenda of where product will be placed, used, presented, etc.
  • Students – stressed with projects
    • some stress is good
    • find a balance so big projects not happening at once
      • work towards interdisciplinary projects
      • Instructional Coaches work with coordination(I have some ideas)
What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (2)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

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.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)