EdTech 542 Week Final Reflection

Final Reflection

Battle of the Ultimate Animal: a PBL project for 3rd grade students

I have personally learned a lot through this course about project-based learning.  I have learned that much of what we do in the classroom has some elements to PBL and we probably just haven’t been aware of it.  I feel like I have a good grasp on how to write a driving question and found the Tubric the most helpful when it came time to really write it.  I also feel like I have a good understanding of assessments (both summative and formative) and I really do understand the importance of detailed rubrics.  If I have learned nothing else from my time as a graduate student it is the value of a detailed rubric.  Clear and concise expectations eliminates a lot of fears and I have come to truly value them.  I really appreciate having the rubric BEFORE beginning any assignment as it gives me a clear direction of where the professor wants me to go.  I believe that all students, no matter the age, deserve the same.  The thing I feel I understand the least is how to “let go” and let the students guide themselves.  I suppose it is the teacher and parent in me that wants to resist that a bit.  I feel that it is one of those “practice makes perfect” ideas and that over time I will become more and more comfortable.  I just have a clear understanding of time constraints in the classroom and keeping students on task and moving at a similar pace is the most difficult.

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect in this course.  I had read the course description and I thought I understood the theory behind project-based learning but after perusing BIE.org it is just so much bigger and detailed.  I definitely learned more than I expected and am excited to implement more PBL into my practice.

Going forward I know that I need to “let go” of the reigns more and let the kids have more discovery opportunities for their learning.  I think the greatest thing I have discovered is that I do not have to invent my own PBL projects by myself, there is a plethora of resources already written and ready to go.  That is a huge relief to me and I know that it will be easier to get my team on board as well.  As a former professor once told me, “there is no need to reinvent the wheel.”  I believe that the information I have learned in this course will help me to “tweak” any PBL project I will use in the future to better meet the needs of my students without having to write a new one from scratch.

I was grateful for the peer review process.  Tammy Rodriguez offered many good ideas and questions for me to ponder and make better.  Not only was she a valuable second pair of eyes on formatting and links, she had some suggestions on some content I could improve upon.  She gave me some good insights on how I can improve my assessments from her own experience and I appreciated her wisdom and expertise.  While there were some things I would love to change and make better (including even more technology), I felt that given my current school issues with infrastructure I felt it was best to keep it as is at this point.  I know that the two major school districts I have worked for both in Idaho and Utah have been very short on funding and technology in the hands of every student is only available in Title One schools.  The majority of the children I have taught have not had daily access to electronic devices and computer lab visits are minimal.

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EdTech 542 Week 6

Reflection

My Final Project: The Ultimate Animal

“The culminating event is over, the project presentations have been presented, groups and peers have been evaluated, reflection journals are in. Is the PBL experience really over?”

This is the question I have been asked to consider for this week’s reflection.  It’s been a VERY fast and interesting journey stepping into the foreign world of PBL over these past 5 weeks.  I know that I have created and executed many lessons that have PBL elements built in but a full-blown project has never really evolved in my mind before now.

Going forward I believe the answer is that NO, the PBL experience is not over.  What I haven’t even really even considered or thought about before now is that THIS process of creating a PBL project for EdTech 542 has been a PBL project in itself.  Dr. Baek may be shaking his head in disgust at this comment and probably wants to smack me up side the head and say “no duh.”  I suppose that in the hurry hurry hurry aspect of this very short summer semester, I hadn’t really even given it much thought. I was just ticking boxes on a checklist to accomplish a task.  In the end I believe I have a pretty spectacular PBL project created for 3rd grade students.  And THROUGH the process of creating it for 3rd grade students, I have experience PBL for myself.  My deepest apologies to Dr. Baek for not figuring this out sooner.  This is what long sleepless nights will do to a student in a very short summer semester.

As I have submitted my project for peer evaluation I have dreamt about and come to the conclusion that this PBL project will be ever-evolving.  I know from experience that a good project is something worth repeating year after year.  However, each new batch of students offers new challenges and teachers have to adapt to those challenges.  The PBL project will likely take on many different shapes and forms for the future especially as technology becomes more available in my school.

As I mentioned to my peer-reviewer, our school has a shortage of computer lab time and mobile devices are far and few between.  When our classrooms do get the iPads it is for one day a month.  Technology integration is simply difficult in our school district.  WiFi is slow and cumbersome, about 1/3 of the classroom will get kicked off their device because of poor infrastructure.  It is sad that in the Boise State University EdTech valley, our elementary schools are so lacking.  Hopefully as the years progress, these issues will become a priority to our administrators and government and our students will have a better experience with technology.  Until then, tech-heavy PBL projects are just impossible.

In assessing my own project, I know that this process will recur often especially as it gets implemented the very first time.  A smart teacher will make notes of what does and does not work and make adjustments as necessary.  The beauty of assessment is that while we are looking for a final product, HOW we get there is fluid and can change.

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EdTech 542 Week 5

Reflection

I have been asked to consider the following questions for this week’s reflection:

  • Will my role in the teaching/learning process change?

I think as with all new things it will be hard to “let go” and let the students explore.  As this will be a new process both for me and for the students, I believe it will include a learning curve that all of us will benefit from.  I would hope that over time I will see myself give in and trust my students to follow through.  As has been stated in other forum discussions, clear concise directions are going to be the key.  Giving the students a rubric to follow for guidelines and entrusting them to rely on themselves to find answers to their questions will help them become more independent.  As my students are only in 3rd grade, this whole concept of PBL will likely be relatively new for everyone involved.

  • What are the skills of effective facilitation?

Ruth Hill (n.d.) suggests that an effective facilitator is responsible for designing and planning the group learning process while guiding and controlling students to participate, mutually contribute to the learning process, and share responsibility.

In further researching, I found an an excellent website at Community Tool Box.  The article by Marya Axner outlines some excellent ideas in helping newbies, like myself,  move beyond the role of teacher and more of a facilitator.  Axner (n.d.) suggest 3 basic principles:

  • A facilitator is a guide to help students  move through a process together, not the seat of wisdom and knowledge. The facilitator  isn’t there to give opinions, but to encourage opinions and ideas from the group.
  • Facilitation focuses on how people participate in the process of learning or planning, not just on what gets achieved.
  • A facilitator is neutral.

I found a great website from Community Tool Box about developing facilitation skills in the work place or as a chair person for a group.  As i read through the suggestions I found that most of the information could EASILY be adapted to a classroom of students.  Axner (n.d.) outlines ground rules for group discussions, interventions should group discussions go astray and so many more ideas I found extremely useful.

  • Will the students develop the competencies and skills needed to be successful?

As I stated earlier, for 3rd grade students, this may be their first experience with PBL.  It is likely to take some time and encouragement from the teacher.  Clear concise instructions combined with adequate question/answer time during group discussions is sure to be helpful.  I chose to include a lot of smaller activities with individual rubrics and graphic organizers so students would not feel overwhelmed and would feel successful every step of the way.

  • What changes will you need to make in order to become an effective facilitator in your PBL unit?

This is going to be a tricky experience to balance as this will likely be a first-time experience for both me and the students.  I will need to be sure to give the instructions/rubric and answer questions but then step back as students explore and work.  My job will be to remind students to be on task and stay on schedule and only assist if asked.  I will attempt to redirect questions back to the student to make them come up with their own solutions.

I have thought a lot about testing and how to fit PBL into the curriculum.  As a parent I want to see more PBL but as a teacher, it takes a lot of creativity and mental know-how to pull it off.  The trick is truly to be proficient at multi-tasking.  These days it is getting harder and harder to justify anything that won’t be on that dreaded test at the end of the year because now salaries and jobs are depending on those ridiculous test scores.  True learning and engagement is falling by the wayside.  Many kids are losing interest in school at all and anxiety/depression is on the rise due to the increased pressures.

I believe that while administrators may push back a bit on using PBL in the classroom, it is important to try it anyway and simply start small.  PBL is learned and is a learning process for both teachers and students.  Starting off big is probably doomed to failure.  Start small with shorter PBL projects and try to integrate other subjects as much as possible.  As there is such a push for proficient writing, I believe that writing activities can be addressed in any PBL project through reflection and learning logs as well as research writing.

Effective instructional strategies is more than just a score on a standardized test.  Effective instructional strategies include student engagement and motivation towards learning.  The PBL project I have created will still be somewhat teacher-guided because many 9 year old students haven’t been let loose yet to work independently like more advanced PBL opportunities would allow.  My goal in creating this PBL project is to introduce students to a long project, one that integrates science, collaboration, writing, and research techniques.  Even though the teacher will be guiding many of the activities, students are still working independently and as groups while the teacher oversees the process only offering suggestions and guidance as needed.

Axner, M. (n.d.). Section 2. Developing facilitation skills. Retrieved from http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/leadership/group-facilitation/facilitation-skills/main

Hill, R. (n.d.). The role of a facilitator. Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/RoleofAFacilitator.htm

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EdTech 542 Week 4

Reflection/Assignment Part 1

With all the rubrics that are available online, a teacher has very little excuse for not using one. The benefits are that the expectations are clear and concise of what is expected of the students. Rubrics can be used as form of a checklist for students to know exactly how they will be grade. It is to the benefit of the students and to the teacher if the rubric is given to students at the beginning of any project or assignment. Rubric clarity is one thing that can become a problem for students. If a teacher does not explicitly list ever expectation then students will not understand what needs to be done. I have personally seen many “vague” rubrics. As the student, they are very frustrating as I don’t know EXACTLY what I will be graded upon.

As a former teacher, I have used rubrics countless times. Teaching 6th graders can be frustrating at times and especially if the expectations are not clearly mapped out in written form somewhere. Teaching students to use the rubric as a checklist of what he/she will be graded on is very valuable to the teacher and eliminates the constant explaining of “now what are we supposed to do teacher?”

I love using rubrics to help students evaluate both themselves and others. I have found that when they know they are being held accountable to each other, they are more likely to make sure the task is done completely. I have also found that students are FAR harder on themselves than their peers or even me as the teacher. Self-assessments gives students an opportunity to reflect on their work and if there are any areas they can improve upon.  For my project, I have chosen to use a checklist as the peer evaluation rubric.  It will be easy for 8 year old’s to mark the boxes of the items the hear mentioned in the oral presentation.

For this week’s assignment (Part 1), I chose to focus my efforts on an assessment for the oral presentation as my learning target.  I browsed through multiple different options online and on BIE.org.  I created my own that will best serve the 3rd graders and Common Core Standards  for which this project is aligned to.  The following rubric shows my criteria for assessing a successful oral presentation, for an unsuccessful oral presentation, and for exceeding expectations on the oral presentation.

Ultimate Animal Oral Presentation Rubric

For this assignment, I have been asked to identify 3-5 ways in which students can assess themselves for mastery during the oral presentation portion of my project.

  1. Students will show mastery by using the checklist provided and making sure that all 13 questions are answered during the presentation by writing each question on a note-card along with the answer.  Students will equally distribute the note-cards amongst their group members so everyone will have a turn to speak.  This will satisfy 2 portions of the rubric:  Section 1 presentation participation) and Section 4 (checklist Items addressed).
  2. One of the formative assessments is to practice the oral presentation.  This will not only give every group member an opportunity to organize thoughts and ideas but to practice delivery.  This will work to satisfy Section 2 of the rubric (presentation skills).
  3. The graphic organizer can also serve as a checklist for students as they write their note-cards.  By making sure that all 13 items are covered, they will have all the information they need to achieve the highest score possible during the presentation of their Ultimate Animal

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EdTech 542: Week 2

Article Reflection

We were asked to research some articles on the effectiveness of project-based learning in diverse classrooms.  I found multiple articles, many even dating back into the early 1990’s.  Project-based learning has clearly been around for some time.  In the article I found by English and Kitsantas (2013), the abstract states:

Students must take responsibility for the learning process by setting goals, monitoring, reflecting, and sustaining their motivation from the beginning of the project until the end. However, for many students, these processes do not occur naturally or easily. Therefore, the learning environment and teaching practices in PBL must be designed with intention to support students’ self-regulated learning (SRL).

The authors suggest in this article (and cite other research) that the challenges teachers find are that many students do not possess the motivation “to learn and be able to focus their efforts and attention appropriately, monitor and evaluate their progress, and seek help as needed” (English & Kitsantas, 2013).

The authors outline a multi-phase process to teach students how to take responsibility in their learning to be self-regulated learners:

Through Phase 1 (Project/Problem Launch), a well-crafted driving question, clearly stated learning goals, launcher activities, and activities that support  skills of goal setting and self-motivation.   During Phase 2 (Inquiry and Product/Solution Creation), the teacher supports the students by employing techniques that make students’ thinking visible, such as whiteboarding, formative assessments, journaling, and prompts for explanation. Further, the teacher should interact with and guide students, encourage searching, asking for reflections, and providing additional support as needed.  Phase 3 (Conclusion) activities include presentations, role plays, poster sessions, pin-up sessions, and gallery walks- anything that facilitates reflection.  Reflections is a a key point in the learning process and through all three phases of PBL and provides an opportunity for students to engage in thinking about their learning outcomes in relation to their goals, to identify the strategies and resources worked well and those that didn’t, and to determine what questions they still have.

From this article I learned that PBL is a great tool for students to learn from but there IS a learning to curve to the execution both on the part of the teacher and the students.  If I were to start implementing PBL into my classroom intensely, I would really consider starting small.  Students are not use to thinking for themselves, after all don’t we all love a very detailed rubric?  Giving students to create their own learning environment is daunting and scary unless very clear goals are written and adhered to.

References

English, M. C. , & Kitsantas, A. (2013). Supporting student self-regulated learning in problem- and project-based learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 7(2).
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.7771/1541-5015.1339

Week 2 Assignment

This week we were instructed to search for sample PBL projects online.  We were asked to keep three criteria in mind:

  • Identify some common features among projects that you examined.
  • Share one PBL project that you were able to locate during your search.
  • Explain why you like this project, and how you might be able to adapt it for your own use.

I found and chose this project to share:  Caution! Dangerous Situations Ahead.

I found multiple projects on BIE.org that looked interesting to me however the projects I loved the most seemed to come from Teach21 (http://wveis.k12.wv.us/teach21). Some common features I found:

  • Clearly written objectives
  • Common Core standards linked
  • Target audience identified
  • Evidence that objectives are met
  • Rubrics
  • Know/Do section
  • Materials needed
  • Resources are all linked
  • Downloadable materials (worksheets, rubrics, etc.)

I really appreciated the projects that required a reflection log as a way to make students think about what they did and what they learned/observed. I believe that connections are made when we are required to write. There was an old adage years ago about ways to remember things: read, write, and recite. There is so much truth to this.

My teaching experience is with elementary students.  I found and chose this project to share:  Caution! Dangerous Situations Ahead. I like this particular project because it connects and utilizes 5th grade buddies to work with and guide the project. This gives the 1st grade students a one-to-one instructor, which allows the teacher more time to work with those that are struggling or to do informal assessments. While there is a lot of prep work involved, the author of this particular project has done an excellent job outlining everything needed and all the downloads embedded into the website.

While I am not currently teaching I have found (from past experience) that younger students really enjoy working with other students and look up to them in a way that isn’t evident in many other classroom situations. An instant bond of trust is formed and the younger students really thrive with an older buddy. The younger children still have the independence and freedom to make choices but the guidance comes from the older children to stay on task. Students unfamiliar with project-based learning might not understand how to work independently. By pairing with older buddies, the students learn the process through basic modeling.

Caution! Dangerous Situations Ahead! http://wveis.k12.wv.us/teach21/public/project/Guide.cfm?upid=3414&tsele1=4&tsele2=101

Publish My Profile: http://wveis.k12.wv.us/teach21/public/project/Guide.cfm?upid=3450&tsele1=1&tsele2=105

Can Immigrants Work? http://wveis.k12.wv.us/teach21/public/project/Guide.cfm?upid=3533&tsele1=1&tsele2=105

EdTech 542

Introduction to Project-Based Learning

According to an Edutopia article by Larmer (2014), problem-based learning follows a series of steps involving a presentation of an open-ended problem, a defined problem, assessment of background knowledge and what is needed to know going forward, list of possible solutions, self-directed or coached learning, and finally the sharing of solutions. Problem-based learning is often on a single subject and tends to be shorter. The final product may simply be a solution proposal and often uses case studies or fictitious scenarios.

Project-based learning (PBL) is often multi-disciplinary and may take a lot of time (weeks or even months). It follows general steps, includes the creation of a product (or performance), and involves real-world authentic tasks (Larmer, 2014).

While the two to have differences they also share some similarities in that they both focus on an open-ended question or task, require application of skills, emphasize independent learning, and are usually multidimensional in contrast to traditional classroom lessons.

According to BIE.org, project-based learning focuses on student learning goals (including core standards/objectives), requires students to be in engaged in a rigorous inquiry process, and provides problems in real-life context. Students are given the choice and freedoms to make decisions and evaluate their project and then reflect on the published product.

Teachers are considering using PBL for a multitude of reasons. According to BIE.org, PBL is simply more engaging for students. It is not a passive learning experience and feels relevant in the lives of students. Upon completion of a project, students retain the learned information longer and understand the content more deeply. With PBL, students are required to take responsibility for their own learning, which is a necessary skill for 21st century successful careers. Other reasons teachers are moving towards PBL is because it Common Core standards are requiring higher-order thinking and processing skills of students. Teachers find the PBL process rewarding because they are seeing their students engaged and developing life-long meaningful learning opportunities.

To be considered a “Gold Standard PBL” project the project must meet eight key criteria as outlined on BIE.org:

  1. The project must be focused on standards and teaching students information including critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and self-management.
  2. The project is based on a meaningful problem or question and appropriately challenges students.
  3. The project makes students generate questions, find and use resources, and develop answers/solutions throughout the process and over time.
  4. The project has a real-world context and is connected to students’ own concerns and ideas.
  5. The project allows students to make choices about what they create, how they work/use their time, and are guided by the teacher (dependent on age and experience).
  6. The project allows for student reflection.
  7. The project allows students to give and receive feedback on their work and the ability to revise or ask further questions.
  8. The project is presented, published, or orally shared to people beyond the walls of the classroom.

Larmer, J. (2014). Project-based learning vs. problem-based learning vs. X-BL. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-vs-pbl-vs-xbl-john-larmer

What is Project Based Learning (PBL)? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://bie.org/about/what_pbl