Project Based Learning

So this week I’d like to talk about project based learning…….this is not a new concept in teaching I know, but one that seems to be at the forefront of every professional conversation that I’ve been having lately. I’ve been inspired recently by a few different organizations (see links below) who are currently doing some amazing things in their communities using this approach to learning, and I’m excited to continue to dig deep into our own initiatives and conversations around this idea here at SCIS. With the pervasive and ubiquitous use of technology in education over the past few years, project based learning has truly been taken to new heights, and the opportunities now to share, assess, and collaborate have increased dramatically. Giving students the opportunity to transfer their conceptual understanding to real life experiences is what authentic learning is all about, and with a well thought out and delivered focus on project based learning the world truly becomes the classroom for our kids.

Here’s how the educational organization ASCD describes the idea….. “The core idea of project-based learning is that real-world problems capture students’ interest and provoke serious thinking as the students acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem-solving context. The teacher plays the role of facilitator, working with students to frame worthwhile questions, structuring meaningful tasks, coaching both knowledge development and social skills, and carefully assessing what students have learned from the experience. Advocates assert that project-based learning helps prepare students for the thinking and collaboration skills required in the workplace.” I know that many of you have been using this approach to teaching in your classrooms, and I’ve lately been inspired when visiting our MS social studies and technology classes. I see engaged students who are asking complex questions, and thinking critically about their topics, and collaborating effectively, and using different forms of media to research their project and to present their findings. I see that transfer of knowledge come to life as they connect and unpack their conceptual understanding, and put it all together in a real world and real life context. The learning is rich and deep and enduring, and it sparks of love of learning that will follow them throughout their lives. The tricky thing about project based learning however, in my opinion, is that it really does need to be carefully planned out and diligently supervised/directed in order for it to be used effectively. It takes a great deal of teacher expertise to manage and facilitate project based learning in a meaningful way I think, and if it isn’t done properly then I fear educators can run into issues with classroom management, time, issues with technology, and an inability to assess students in a meaningful and authentic way.

Anyway, I’m excited about the idea honestly, and I’m really enjoying researching and exploring the many instances where it is paying huge learning dividends for students around the world. I encourage you to sift through the many links and articles below, and to try and get a better sense of whether this is something that you’d be keen to explore. We’ll be talking about it in our upcoming curriculum meetings, and I’d love to see one of you present in an upcoming SIPS if you are keen to share how you’re using this approach successfully with our students. I think we have a great opportunity here within our community to bring this to life in a meaningful way……. but we’ll take it slow. Come and talk to me about it if you have some ideas and information to share, and we’ll look to take this further. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week……
If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow – John Dewey

Project Based Learning Websites and Videos
http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning
http://www.bie.org/tools/online_resources/pbl-online
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/sept10/vol68/num01/Seven_Essentials_for_Project-Based_Learning.aspx
http://www.gsn.org/web/pbl/
http://www.hightechhigh.org
http://www.ligercambodia.org/liger-learning-center/

Project Based Learning Articles
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/feb08/vol65/num05/Project-Based_Learning.aspx
http://creativeeducator.tech4learning.com/main/articles_pbl
http://www.questia.com/library/education/educational-psychology/learning-styles-and-theories/project-based-learning

Must watch video (thank you Laurie Williams) – Shane Koyczan and Hannah Epperson
http://www.upworthy.com/hes-speaking-shes-playing-and-im-just-over-here-trying-to-pick-my-jaw-up-off-the-floor?g=2&c=upw1

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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