In library media, my field of study, a big focus is teaching students the skills needed to be life long learners in the 21st century using a constructivist approach (constructing knowledge). Students are actively learning in a constructivist approach, building on previous skills and lessons, and guided by the teacher. While project based learning reminded me of the constructivist approach I am familiar with in the library media program, the series of videos developed by Dr. Strange and Anthony Capps on project based learning taught me several new things about authentic, student driven projects. In project based learning (PBL) teachers assign projects that are designed for students to learn the course objectives through the completion of the project as an alternative to traditional paper and pencil tasks like worksheets. Anthony Capps described a good project as "having an authentic audience, having student interest, involving the community, and driven by content" Project Based Learning Part 1: Experiences of a 3rd Grade Teacher. Teachers that use project based learning, integrated with 21st technology tools to meet Alabama College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS) have stepped away from the traditional methods of teaching.
To find 12th ACCRS relevant to this essay I used the Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX). It has the ACCRS organized by subject and grade level ALEX Course of Study. The screen shots below show 12th grade writing standards that are correlated with writing essays.
|ACCRS 12th Grade Writing Standards|
|ACCRS 12th Grade Writing Standards|
After watching the videos by Dr. Stange and Anthony Capps on project based learning I wonder how many teachers are actually using project based learning in the classroom versus teaching technology. The video titled Don't Teach Tech - Use It emphasized the importance of having students use technology in order to complete a class assignment instead of a lesson that’s only purpose is to teach a particular technology. For example, “How to Use AVL” with no core subject objectives tied to it?
Ten years ago when I taught a senior level Math in Society Class, the students completed several PBL assignments. The objectives and standards of the class revolved around real life math skills, like doing your taxes, so PBL assignments naturally fit into the units. At the time technology had not integrated into the every day classroom; one teacher computer per classroom, and one computer lab the entire high school shared. The class used the computer lab a few times for research. The final projects were presented on poster boards or hand written text and analysis. There of course is nothing wrong with that but the students were not excited about the final products. Technology tools add a new level to PBL. Technology opens the door for students to take the project beyond the original scope of the project, to discover, to learn. Technology opens the door for students to be creative and to reflect on what they have learned.
Now ten years later I am interning in the library of a school where each classroom has a handful of computers and a smart board. Students are encouraged to bring their own devices. Digital cameras and video recorders are available for classroom use. Class sets of laptops are being created as teachers get new laptops. Two computer labs are available. I am not in the classroom observing how much students are learning ACCRS using technology through project based learning, but the library is the technology hub of the school. I am able to motivate, collaborate, and encourage teachers to use PBL and the technological tools we have available in the school. Projects can be developed that are cultivated for grade level, prior knowledge, and the amount of time a student will have access to a device. The opportunities are endless.