Category Archives: PBL

Every Classroom Matters

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My Interview on BAM!radio for Every Classroom Matters with Vicki Davis, the CoolCatTeacher.

Dr. Ed Gragert, Craig Perrier and I will be talking about the Lesson For All at the online Global Education Conference on November 18th. Please join us to learn more. You can listen to the short interview on the link below.

Global Competence: Changing How Students Think About and Value Education.

Classroom 2.0 LIVE!

What an honor to be chosen as the Featured Teacher for Classroom 2.0 LIVE! If you are interested in Project-based Learning or 21st Century Learning, here is the recording.  Here’s the Livebinder link to all of the projects and resources mentioned in the presentation.

Make sure you visit the Classroom 2.0 LIVE site and check the calendar for upcoming events and archives. They are always a great resource for cutting edge education ideas and resources.

What’s the Most Valuable Trait in Learning?

If I was to choose one single quality that helps people the most, not only with success in school but also with happiness throughout life, it would be internal motivation.

Internal motivation is what drives passion. It drives the quest for knowledge, it drives interest and it drives repeat exposure to something…which in turn creates expertise. Some adults never possess that in their lifetime, and I think it has a lot to do with how we structure our teaching…therefore our learning.

I have a niece who is brilliant by all standard and practical measurements. When she was about 16, I asked her if she had any thoughts about college. She told me that maybe she’d like to major in guitar. Now don’t get me wrong, I deeply value music…both of my kids are musicians, and although my niece plays guitar, it isn’t her biggest strength by a long shot…it isn’t even something she loves to do or is particularly good at. Of all of the many interests she has ranging from science, medicine, social justice, engineering, economics, literature and the like…why guitar?

The question really is: why is it when we think passion we think extra-curricular? I think it’s because those are the times that we can be internally directed. It feels like playing, and when we become so engaged in what we’re doing, we do more of it, and become more skilled.  It’s like a powerful ongoing circle of interest, learning, practice and skill.

Many of the great inventors, scientists, writers, artists, whatever… the greats in any industry…many of them approach their craft like play. The motivation comes from within. They follow their interests and curiosities as they weave in and out…they follow the winding path as it leads to new understandings and possibilities. They are often the people we call geniuses after the fact. If our goal in education includes helping produce successful, accomplished, empowered, productive human beings…we need the cultivation of internal motivation as part of our learning culture.

If we want to create a system that supports internal motivation…and invites passion in science, math, literature, global issues, as well as music, athletics, art, theater and anything else….we have to start creating and supporting a system that includes 21st century learning such as innovation, choice, relevance and  self-direction.  Maybe you don’t think it’s possible to do that while teaching content. Many teachers, schools, and districts already do. A quick internet search with terms such as Project based learning, Problem based learning,  21st Century Learning, STEM, Genius Hour, or 20% Time will start to point you in that direction. 

Here is a related TedXTalk by Scott McLeod, author of Dangerously Irrelevant.

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Common Core & Project Based Learning in the Classroom

Anonymous Super Power hints? Worth a try!

Hero of the Day: George Petmezas, Principal Mill Creek Elementary
Hero of the Day: George Petmezas, Principal Mill Creek Elementary School

In our Hero in the Mirror project, 5th grade classes are hearing from every day heroes as we search for our own “Hero in the Mirror”.  We’ve had people from all walks of life tell us their very human qualities such as  inspiration, compassion,  niceness, connecting, listening, encouragement, helping and others…and we listen to them speak about  how they use their qualities to make their corner of the world a better place.

As we do this, we’re trying to  look inside ourselves for our own heroic qualities…and that isn’t as easy as it seems.

I had an idea. How about asking each student to write down a super hero power quality that they see in each classmate? I had a shoe-box with slips of paper. All done anonymously. This is generally a pretty self-focused age, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The box filled quickly…almost too quickly. Did they give this thought? Did they just write the same couple things for everyone? Was this a bad idea? Would I have to fudge for the kids that weren’t popular?

As I sit here in my empty classroom, I am struck by the wisdom of 10 year olds. Most were spot on.  Here’s a few about kids I generally keep an eye on. They are usually alone on the playground…not included in groups…pretty quiet and reserved. Here’s what their peers had to say about them:

  • responsible
  • thinker
  • caring
  • brave
  • good-hearted
  • listener
  • trustworthy
  • understanding
  • fair
  • respectful
  • peaceful
  • giving

When something is real, you can feel it. I hope that these kids can read these comments and feel that as well.

Another step closer to the Hero in the Mirror!

Heroes that Visited our Classroom

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Hero in the Mirror

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As happens frequently, I started a moderately small project called My Hero through iEARN, an organization that I love.  As I crafted it into my flavor of Project-based Learning unit, I wanted to end with my learners seeing how they themselves are heroes, and that who they are in this world really matters.  So, of course that reminded me of my lovely friend, Joan Steffend, who is the founder of peace begins with me (a small BIG peace project).  And so it begins.

Joan

Other classes in my district jumped on, and everyday heroes started coming out of the woodwork to talk to our classes about their ‘inner hero’. Our website for the project includes a VoiceThread on the homepage that allows anyone to stop by and record their voice and tell us what their super hero power is.  Joan describes, “I’d love if you’d go to this website and record your thoughts on what you are passionate about…what you do every day…why being a caring, thoughtful person is important to the world, why it’s important for kids to believe in the power of their own actions and thoughts…why hero is a word we may have to add a new definition for…how what we do in our individual lives matters, you get the idea! You don’t have to answer all of those, I’m just priming your pump to get you started! If you’d start with your name, location, and maybe what you do for a living, that’d be great! Much love!”

I have no idea where we will end up, but so far I know that the kids involved will be the very lucky recipients of some amazing heroes among us. Watch for updates!

Please stop by our site and record your voice! It’s easy. The directions on the homepage

Personalize Learning ™ Guest Post

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2013

Guest Post: Donna Román about Starting out School Year

donnaroman-smDonna Adams Román is a 5th grade teacher at Mill Creek School in Geneva, Illinois, blogger, trainer, and presenter committed to providing rich learning opportunities for her learners and professional learning network. She is a recent recipient of ISTE’s first place SIGOL Online Learning Award. Donna is active in Professional Development online and in her district, CoSN, ISTE, Flat Classroom®, and iEARN (International Education Resource Network). We met Donna at ISTE 2013 with Lisa Parisi, a 5th grade teacher in Long Island, New York.

Welcome Donna! Her first guest post with us is a cross-post of the September 20th post from her blog “Map without Borders” about starting out this school year.

Month one: hold on, here we go!

– See more at: http://www.personalizelearning.com/2013/10/guest-post-donna-roman.html#sthash.xx0dkSFQ.dpuf

PBL and the 21st Century Competencies

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PBL for the 21st Century Success: Teaching Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity, looks like another wonderful edition to the Project-based Learning books published through the non-profit Buck Institute for Education (BIE).  Suzy Boss, lead author, and John Larmer, Editor-in-Chief  of BIE, summarized the book in their June 5th webinar. Although it was written for middle and high school, as 5th grade teacher, I think it would work for upper elementary as well. I’ll give a few highlights here, but it is really worth a closer look.

  • Focuses on integrating and explicitly teaching the 21st century competencies, the 4Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication
  • There are chapters that focus on each of the 4Cs that provide:
    • Example projects
    • Classroom ‘Look fors’ that we should be seeing over time to demonstrate learning
    • Infographics that deliberately explain how the Cs can be integrated in every aspect of the project
    • Rubrics to assess the Cs at all of the four stages of the project

In addition, you will find:

  • Research highlights throughout
  • Non-fiction emphasis
  • Alignment with the Common Core and explanations
  • Reflection prompts
  • Tech tips to help support the development of the 4Cs

You will find the webinar archived here.

The book, as well as their introductory PBL books,  can be purchased here.

You can find all of their webinars:

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Through the Eyes of an Eagle, by Grade 2

I just have to share this amazing video by our partner school, Mr. Matt McGuire’s Grade 2 class at Kingsclear Consolidated School in New Brunswick, Canada. This song was written, performed and recorded by the class as a culmination of our Eagle Eye to the World Project. It will make your day!

Creating Innovators

Creating Innovators

“What you study is not that important. Knowing how to find those things you are interested in is way, way more important. . . . I’ve got this momentum, and the idea is to figure out what interesting opportunities there are around you and use them to get to the next point.” A quote by Kirk Phelps, Product Manager for Apple’s first iPhone, from Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, written by Tony Wagner .

As educators we have to wonder, are we so focused on what we are teaching, that we miss the boat on the things that make a human being resilient and successful in a world that calls forth different skills than it demanded in the factory-driven, company loyalty mindset of the past?  Shouldn’t every person going through our education systems need to develop the capacities to solve problems creatively…in other words to innovate.

The quote above goes on to describe that kind of inquiry as similar to navigating a satellite though space…being interested in one area and going there for a while and then moving on to the next….all in a process of personal integration. This has been my way to learn, so I can say that this type of inquiry cannot be forced by super specific curricular objectives. I see attempts to take the old style of curriculum planning that starts with the standard objectives, and then almost as an after-thought, tries to force in creative problem solving. Can’t happen. What can happen, and what frequently does is my classroom and classrooms all over…is that the structure of the planning is focused on the thinking…the thinking…not the objectives. Then the objectives are put into that structure. The Common Core State Standards are getting some well deserved criticism, but they lend themselves much better to this kind of learning than our previous attempts.

To learn to be innovative, and all the things that go along with that: inquisitive, creative, logical, critical thinking, persistent, resilient… requires some specific conditions. First, it requires freedom to explore and play with the topic. In a school setting, this naturally reflects curriculum, but there are so many possibilities for doing this.  I use Project-based Learning to wed these innovator skills with curriculum. Second, it requires a balance of collaboration and solitude.

Co-founder and teacher of the Phoenix School in Salem, Mass, Betsye Sargent asked me this question about teaching for today’s world, “How does this fit with the current direction education seems to be going? How do we get it to change tracks? If 65% of grade school kids today may be doing work not yet invented (MacArthur Foundation), then the future really isn’t a multiple choice standardized test.”

As the push and pull between testing, curriculum standards, and an ever evolving planet continues…we as educators must become the student the world needs…the innovator. It is in becoming that ourselves that allows us to lead our educational systems, classrooms and students in that direction.