Saturday, 16 January 2010

Book review: Reinventing Project Based Learning, Boss and Krauss, ISTE

This book looks at mainly technology driven project based, cross curricular learning.

The part that I am reading at the moment talks about possible pitfalls:

  • Long on activity, short on learning outcomes
  • Technology layered over traditional practice – internet research then powerpoint is not a quality project.

  • Trivial Thematic units – really this points at theme based learning not necessarily being project based. What this means , I think, is that it does not naturally hang together as a cohesive mass of learning. I know from experience that sometimes it isn't possible to make a project that includes all of the elements you need to cover, if you are curriculum led. Some themes can be effective – year long themes such as:
    • change,
    • survival,
    • justice...
    • another one which came to my mind was the theme of connections...this crops up more and more with me in my classroom.
  • Over scripted with many many steps – this will lead to learning which looks very much the same – again,, I think that sometimes you need to have learning which looks the same. PBL is not always the best way of learning or teaching for every student (I can think of many students for whom the lack of structure is at best confusing and at worst, terrifying). Educating children to have the confidence, resilience and persistence to tackle open ended projects is the challenge which faces teachers.


Chapter 4, p65

Best projects:

  • Are loosely designed with multiple learning paths
  • Are generative, causing students to construct meaning
  • Have a driving question
  • Capture student interest (compelling reallife or simulated experiences)
  • Are realistic and multidisciplinary
  • Involve others outside school – this really lends itself to blogging/wikis
  • Tap into rich data or primary sources
  • Enable students to learn from each other
  • Promote enquiry
  • Incorporate 21st century skills such as communication, project management and technology – didn't we do these things in the 20th century as well? I must find out what that phrase is commonly meant to mean
  • Encourage/rely on key learning dispositions such as persistence, risk-taking, confidence, self reflection and cooperation.

  • Make students learn by doing...maybe we should rename schools as Doing.

Chapter 8, Building connections and branching out
One section focuses on parents as a bank of experts. One such connection (Kathy Cassidy)was with preservice teachers.  This made me wonder how technology is being taught at PGCE courses in UK.

Are students at University of West of England, where I graduated, being taught about either PBL or 21st Century skills?  Is their training to mine, 15 years ago? Kathy Cassidy has a great site dedicated to primary web 2.0...I've been looking for an age specific site for a while ...this is a wiki and has some interesting wiki links for sifferent areas of the primary class.  Great to see them in action rather than just some ideas about how they could be used.  Here's one - a choose your own adventure about a tennis ball, which was written collaboratively.
I like the idea of linking up with preservice teachers.  A pool of interested, knowledgable adults mixing with a pool of children writers.
I stumbled, via the Kathy Cassidy link, onto Dr Strange, who teaches an Ed Tech based course (here's a link to becoming great at using twitter in 15 minutes a day) and has lots of online conversations here.  He mentions MrC, a teacher whose blog I follow.  
It made me think about how closely connected our blog/web connections are.

Things I want to look at:

PBL schools in SW England

PYP schools in UK

Flat classroom


Sites I have looked at:

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