Digital PBL – Still light on delivery?

There seems to be no lack of information around ‘Project Based Learning these days. This is good, but also a problem in that information spans several decades. The more recent incarnations, popularised by companies such as New Technology Foundation never really capitalised on Learning Management Systems. The result is a vast amount of graphic organisers, KWL charts and expert-advice, and very little actual ‘projects’ which could be ported from one context to the next.

The advent of better LMS systems promotes using learning analytics as well as a range of tools which can act as project manager, organiser, communicator and most recently, provide learning pathways based on both academic progress and student choice. We are then living at a point in time where no one project suffices: as it’s entirely possible to provide students with several pathways, gamification and tracking.

The LMS can provide both negotiable and non-negotiable learning experiences; wherein protocol based lesson activities can be leveraged into the enquiry, challenge and problem-solving. But where are they? In the case of Canvas’s Learning Commons, it’s a mixed bag of material content – and very little in the way of learning design.

It also takes time to design a project in this way. There is a vast difference between ‘using ICT’ and being able to create a ‘learning design’. Far too many teachers (from what I can see in terms of projects) are handing out a binder of ‘resources’ for students – aka worksheets – and materials. To be honest, this could all be done in an eBook or stuffed on a Flash Drive. The worst designs are simply a scroll of non-wonder where students start at task 1 and end at task Yawn.

Surely we can design learning so that it looks enticing? Surely we can present materials using tools like Canva to at least make it look ‘modern’. I mean, since when did kids see a YouTube video that didn’t have some kind of ‘graphic’ intro. And that leads me to the use of video in PBL courses. Very few examples because it either takes way to long to ‘find’ a video to use or too long to make a video in the zero spare time many teachers have.

So here I am, a decade or more into PBL wondering where the projects are – not just the information about projects. Links and tips welcome!

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