I had the honor recently of going through three days of PBL training with some great Garland ISD elementary teachers. The leader was Tim Kubik from the Buck Institute for Education (BIE). I have to say, it was one of the best trainings I have been through. It was a nice combination of mini lessons, hands on work, presenting, reflection, short lecture, and more. When you have veteran teachers corralled for three days, you have to be different or else you’ll lose them. Tim did the job.
Some quick background on BIE. BIE got its start in 1987 from a foundation created with the Leonard and Beryl Buck Trust. In the late 90′s, the focus of the foundation turned to project based learning.
Below are some of my reflections I posted to Twitter along the way as well as some additional thoughts. I am not going through my day bullet by bullet. I can do that for you, but it was not really what my day was about. My day was about experiencing a different kind of instruction with a new group. I learned tons, and most of it can be referenced in any one of the books on PBL. My reflections here are to remind me of the points that jumped out at me during the three days.
I also recommend you read the great article “Debunking Five Myths About Project-Based Learning” by John Larmer. It will help you get over those initial road blocks in your mind that might be holding you back.
I know there are more. Add them in the comment section.
Sure, this shows my geeky education side, but it got me excited. There are not many professional development trainings that actually offer to let you reflect on your learning at the end of each day. It’s almost as if the presenter wants your feedback or something. Crazy talk, I know. I’ll reflect more on these as I go through them later, but they are awesome ways to get your students’ toes wet in PBL thinkology. (yeah, I just made that word up)
Voice and Choice. That is a pretty nice way to summarize the point that students need a say in the direction of their learning. PBL allows a lot of that even though the real direction comes from the teacher based on standards and time frames. Allowing students to be a part of the group norms (discuss later), rubrics, final products, and leadership roles in the groups will be a huge benefit to them as they grow as learners. If the students really enjoy the topic, they will keep on learning even after the final presentation is completed. That’s called life long learning. You do it, too.
Michael Kaechele says it best here:
The most important part of PBL in my opinion is that it gives students voice and choice in their learning. It requires the teacher to step back and give power to the students in deciding how they will solve problems and present their solutions. (this is also where some resistance comes from teachers who are unwillingly to give up control)
While not completely on topic, it did slide through my Twitter stream during this first day. I’d say it is rather fitting for the day. Sit and get, or squirm and learn? I prefer the latter. Puts them on the spot for so much of their own learning.
So, you might wonder what the point is of using QR codes. In this instance, it was an opportunity for the kids to learn some new technologies (both QR codes and the iPods) while giving the visitors previewing their final products an opportunity to access the learning easier and in a little more “showy” fashion for the kids. They are kindergartners, so it will be pretty cool to see school board members struggling with these tools and the 5 year olds jumping in to show them how to use it all.
This came up because the teachers were brainstorming online tools they could use with the kids and then going down through them striking the blocked sites. Sad, really.
The kindergarten teachers I was learning with asked for some other K teachers to follow on Twitter. Who better to start with than my buddy Maria Knee? No one tells it like it is quite like this wonderful lady.
Tim Kubik was the facilitator of this training. Honestly, he is one of the best trainers I have experienced because he allows the work to move forward as a collaborative instead of making everything about him and his knowledge. It was great to be able to eat lunch with him each day and learn more about his work with other schools. By the end of the three days, he connected me with another school so my 4th grade could do some long distance collaborative PBL with butterfly migration. This is going to be a great tie into our nature center. I look forward to working with him more in the future.