A new journey in education

My first Project Based Learning adventure-Part 2

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Before I go any further I wish to make it clear that I am by no means an educational expert or even a teachers teacher. Most traditional teachers leave my classes thinking how did this idiot get a job.

To start where I left off in the last post we actually need to travel back in time a little. I cannot remember the exact time when I first heard the term PBL used to describe project based learning, though I do remember who said it to me. I give much gratz to Dean Groom. He introduced me to PBL sometime last year I think, though it could have been earlier. When I first read a little about PBL my first reaction as a TAS/IA teacher was that’s what we do already. Students learn by doing projects and to some extent that is true. However when you delve deeper in to the structure of true PBL, it is so much more then an end product.

So as I wrote in the previous post, around week 5 holes were appearing in the work and structure assigned to both classes. It was around this time I first approached the approachable Mr Groom about what I could do. Dean immediately replied with a PBL project. At first I left the idea just sit there. Then I saw a tweet by Bianca Hewes, talking about her personal success using Dean’s suggested PBL.

By this stage I was becoming desperate at what I could do in a short time frame for the year 9 class while I was away at the SWSR conference, so I copied the work that had been set into a Google Doc to share again with the ever obliging Dean. Unfortunately for me Dean was also presenting an important Keynote at SWSR, so he was unavailable for the help I needed in the timeframe.

From the conference we now land on Sunday afternoon and my panic at seeing what I was being asked to teach. I decided to stretch my twitter generated friendship to the limit and posted in another Google Doc the basics of the work left with a begging help me please message. As you would expect on a Sunday afternoon everyone is busy with their lives so there was not much action on this front.

So I turned to my friend the Google search. I simply typed in PBL and got all kinds of stuff. The first of which I clicked like one of my students was Wikipedia, though as is the case these days the Wikipedia page had some doubts about it self so I dodged it and went looking for more. So I first ended up here this lead to some free documents to download and read. I clicked further and was soon here plenty to read. Not to keen to sign up to something else I looked at the freebies and stole this page with Evernote for future reading. Then I moved on to the next result in my search, which was full of examples and ideas. I grabbed what I thought I needed, printed off some reading material and quickly tried to grasp the behind scenes of PBL.

From some hurried notes I had what I believed was the meaningful question to start my PBL project and based loosely on one of the templates I had downloaded earlier I preceded to write up the project as to be presented to the students in the same Google Doc I had shared earlier. When I was happy with what I had rushed I went looking for the hook event required to set the premise of the question. I remembered showing a video some years to my last year 10 Metalwork class of a CNC-Milling machine shaping a V8 engine block from a solid block of aluminium. Granted this was not my hook though it would open the student’s eyes to what was possible in the real world.

On the great YouTube’s I re-found the old video and promptly stole it. After a quick search for how to use a milling machine I had found my hook event. It is your typical American do-it your self-video by an amateur workshop magazine web site, perfect for asking the students to make a newer hipper version, their version.

Again I went to my twitter horde asking for anyone to look at my idea, I pasted the same tweet out there three or more times hoping for some reflection. I also tweeted both Dean and Bianca individually to try and get their input being the people who I believe to be the experts in the field of PBL.

Here I have to be thankful for two things, one my PLN, as a legend once said “I luv youse all” you are simply the best. Your patients, skill, collaboration and input are second to none. Secondly the great Google Docs, where would be without you? They way people can collaborate in real time is still amazing and an under used resource in education in NSW.

Now I had more to do work. My project had holes in it. Dean suggested that the students could make an instructional video on the milling machine using the common craft style. I was miffed, common craft? A quick paste into Google and I was on the common craft website. Bingo that’s it; I will go with that. Problem the kids do not know how do that. More searching. Common craft have a series of videos and pages dedicated to how they do what they do. From there I went looking for more of the YouTubes to assist the kids in learning about making these style of videos. Stop motion was the closet I could find and plenty, many by kids around the world in the same age bracket.

With a handful of possible resource links nearing midnight, I went to the filter check to see what the students could access and what I would need to find other ways of making permanently available to them as a resource. Surprisingly most of the links I had found were accessible.

Next to the rewriting of the project, I rewrote one page by 2 am Monday morning before falling asleep at the keyboard, something I had not since I was in university. Luckily at school the next day I had a free first up and as a bonus woke up way to early. By lunch I had my project well I was hoping. Soon after promised works by others came to my inbox, I had a peer assessment model to look at, I had a part of Bianca’s PBL documentation to read through. Plan was coming together.

Later when I was home I started looking for more information about PBL. I ended up on Their curating process leaves a little to be desired though I did find some interesting pieces four of which I gladly paid my $6 to download. Before reading them closely I tweeted the latest version of my project for my PLN’s approval or denial. Most responses were very positive yet I still craved two particular responses, those of Dean and Bianca. Later in the evening unfortunately after my print deadline (I printed out a full class set of everything at home) their responses came. Both were positive which was a huge relief to me. Again there was extra reflection and extra ideas generated from their input.

I was pleased with my rushed result and eager to see how these boys would react in class the next morning. I also found my self waking up around 1.30 am writing down notes from nowhere on three different ideas for PBL in year 9 IST and ordering another Windows laptop to facilitate it. Yeah I have another one.

Tomorrow I will post the actual project as I delivered it in class today in all its PBL glory along with resources, plus my early (very early), observations of student reaction. I cannot wait for every bodies feed back.

Written by themolisticview

April 5th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

One Response to 'My first Project Based Learning adventure-Part 2'

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  1. Thanks for sharing your journey. I can’t wait to read the next installment. I reckon your students will learn so much from this project, both about collaboration and the more obvious metalworking aspects. Cheers, Pip


    5 Apr 11 at 9:05 pm

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