Why PBL and Web2.0 make great ingredients for lifelong learning

As I come to the end of the week in Grand Rapids. There are many things that I’ve learned, and even more that I’ve unlearned about ‘what makes a great project based learning’ curriculum and EduTech.

Firstly, in order to learn how to teach teachers about PBL, you have to use the PBL process and tools to really immerse and engage the student experience. Perhaps this is why everyone is putting in 12 hour plus days.

Addressing the ‘norm’ expectations of teachers and students is key to delivery. This is not as simple as it may seem. Norms in PBL are more like benchmarks and way points, rather than ‘rules’. In order make these norms add value to the process, I am more adamant than ever that teachers need to be pro-actively involved in their own professional development – both as an effective and reflective PBL teacher (reflective practice by both students and teachers in the best way of determining if ‘real’ learning is happening) is a norm. It is not acceptable to ignore either the needs our students have in taking their place in the 21st Century or the need to scaffold and embed Digital Literacy (Web2.0) to demonstrate their learning. In an earlier post, I drew a chart to explain how I see the immersion of both staff and students in to core digital skills early, and then to build upon them.

I have been amazed by that all 8 US schools have no clue about Web2.0, let alone integrating it into the classroom. Powerpoint and brochures were deemed to be ‘exciting’. Well they are moving away from text books I guess, but all the ‘projects’ developed by the schools were squarely based around ‘searching the internet’ and making presentations, brochure and word documents (at least Bill Gates will be happy – Microsoft funded New Technology High back in the day). I am sure however that is a coincidence!

If we are creating Global Citizens, then I’m more than happy to know that the competition is still basing it’s ICT use around MS Word!

This has been a key learning from the conference. 1st year, 1st semester PBL students (and staff) need to have core Web2.0 methods embedded in their projects.

We must not use Web2.0 as an alternative to desktop applications. We need to use them as a key scaffold to turn them from ‘skill’ learning to ‘critical knowledge vectors (CKVs)’. Let me explain what I mean.

Specifically I see these skills in initial exposure to PBL/Web2.0 as:

  • A Blog – the beginning of reflective writing – (knowledge)
  • A Wiki – information processes – collaboration and organising (data and information)
  • Social Networking (Ning, Facebook et al) – Critical peers, Communication, Collaboration
  • Digital Rich Media – Flickr, YouTube, Ustream – ways of demonstrating multi-literacies
  • Basic Adobe CS3 – Photo manipulation, digital media, desktop publishing
  • RSS – bringing information to students rather than passively ‘Googling’

Of course there are plenty more tools. However I am talking about a key ‘concept methods’ rather than ‘blend’ or ‘product’.

Over the course of 2 years (9th/10th Grade) the level of scaffolding needs to reduce. The need to give away the answer reduces and students learn how to deal with frustrations. Ultimately we are aiming to have students who are using the these tools to facilitate:

The initial skills then become CKVs for life long learning. Given the speed of ‘new’ tools, this conversion list will probably be obsolete next week – however the ‘information, communication and knowledge’ vectors they represent will remain valid, though evolving.

  • Reflective Practice (Blog)
  • Organisational Skills (Management/Information) (Wiki)
  • A Personal Learning Network relevant to their needs and interests (Ning, Facebook et al)
  • Multi-modal approach to digital literacy (Flickr et al)
  • Effective Social Networking to become Global Citizens (Twitter et al)
  • Use professional applications to delivery professional presentations (Adobe)
  • Selecting focused information sources relevant to their learning (RSS)

The week has highlighted challenges in the way we approach the ‘culture’ we need in the school, the management structures needed to facilitate the environment and changing the roles of ‘mentor’ staff to continually support staff in terms of scaffolding, professional development and access to effective technologies in the classroom.

A huge week, but probably not as huge as next week, when I turn my focus from the problems and challenges now, to the methods and opportunities that the EduTech community are exploring for the future at NECC.

2 thoughts on “Why PBL and Web2.0 make great ingredients for lifelong learning

  1. It sounds like you are learning a ton. And here I was, thinking that you knew pretty much everything already. I think I could read this over and over again and learn something new each time. PBL sounds difficult to deliver, as though it could make keeping the weekend for family a real challenge…


  2. Dean,
    You really should have a much bigger readership – your thinking is so clear and so spot on. Like Jeff, I’m learning so much through your posts – thanks very much.
    Jenny Luca.

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