Monday, October 29, 2007

See yourself in this picture?

Educators participating in our ISTE webinar last week had no trouble describing the qualities of teachers who embrace project-based learning. A few samples: innovative, willing to take chances, not afraid to give up control in the classroom, flexible, respectful of students, collaborative, high energy, open to possibility, not afraid of new adventures. Combined with their energy and optimism, PBL teachers also have a solid understanding of how students learn. As our participants pointed out, they prefer a multidisciplinary approach, encourage student dialogue, facilitate hands-on learning, and know that kids have to be engaged to learn. A certain feistiness also came through loud and clear. As one participant put it, "We're willing to fight for what our students need--including technology."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Projects Worth Joining

With its 20th anniversary fast approaching, iEARN (the International Education and Research Network) continues to foster international dialogue and collaboration among teachers and students from more than 100 countries. If you're new to the project approach, consider getting your feet wet by joining an existing iEARN project. Or, if you're already a veteran at project design, extend your reach by sharing an idea that others can join. What iEARN projects have in common--in addition to sound instructional design and effective technology integration--is a focus on global thinking. When they contribute an idea, participants are asked to answer this important question: How will this project improve the quality of life on the planet?

How big is your classroom?

Terry Smith, fourth-grade teacher from Hannibal, Missouri, makes a habit of connecting his students with learners around the globe. Right now, just in time for Halloween, students from Pakistan, Texas, and Taiwan, among other places, are collaborating with Smith's students on the Monster Project. Classes trade written descriptions of monster "parts," then build prototypes, and eventually work their way up to full-scale monsters (which may go on to star in videos or get motorized in a robotics lab). Along the way, students practice collaboration, compromise, and group decision making, all in a multicultural context. As Smith explains, "That makes our classroom as big as we want it to be, stretching out to other rooms in other states and countries." Read more, or take a look at a photo from Smith's class in our Reinventing Project-Based Learning Flickr group.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Standards, Public Opinion Support New Literacies

Feel like we are paddling upstream in our efforts to employ pbl?

The political current might be working against us, but thought leaders and the public have grabbed an oar. ISTE's recently revised NETS*S, the American Association of School Librarians 21st Century Library Learning Standards (due Oct. 25), and this week's survey of public opinion all support the rigor, complexity and authentic tasks are at the core of PBL. Let's keep our shoulder to the oar a little longer.

Below is a draft version of the AASA learning standards. When the entire doc is released you'll see that AASL describes the skills, responsibilities, and dispositions associated with each standard, and also suggests self-assessments.
AASL 21st Century Library Learning Standards
Learners use 21st century information skills, resources and tools to:
I. Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.
II. Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge
II. Share knowledge and understandings with others and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society
IV. Pursue personal and aesthetic growth

Can you think of any better way to address these standards than through Project-Based Learning?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Join Us for an ISTE Webinar

Announcing ISTE Innovative Educators' Express Webinar
Reinventing Project-based Learning
Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 1:00 Pacific/4:00 Eastern

Join us in an interactive Webinar as we introduce the book, Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age. We will share classroom stories from around the globe and show how digital tools support rich and meaningful projects. Leave with a sense of the essential learning functions you want technology to deliver, and start planning your next project. Visit ISTE to register.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Social Networks and Education

Edtech maven Andy Carvin has gone to work at NPR. On October 4 he joined Talk of the Nation to discuss The Sociology of Social Networks. Not surprisingly, many educators joined the discussion and offered advice. See what you think.
Using social networks in the classroom is a bit complicated but one thing is clear, social networks give educators a unique opportunity for just-in-time, peer-to-peer professional learning. No longer do we wait for course offerings or workshops delivered by "experts". We ARE the experts and social networks allow us to teach and learn from each other. And given the "long tail" access social networks allow, we can dig into discrete and sometimes arcane topics and find others who are interested, too.
In Ning group Classroom 2.0 educators explore everything from pedagogy (how learning can change in the Web 2.0 era) to specific practices (enhancing spatial awareness with Google Earth). In another Ning group, Global Education, we form classroom collaborations across many time zones and discuss global citizenship and the digital divide.
It's wonderful to find optimistic and adventurous colleagues through social networks. The profession is better for this development in collaborative engagement, and we encourage teachers to join in.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Chip In for an XO

It's Here!
Help make education for the world’s children a priority, not a privilege.
For two weeks starting November 12, One Laptop Per Child is selling the *XO computer to the likes of you and me.
For $399.00 you can purchase one for yourself and one for a child in a developing country. I want an XO to learn from and teach with, and am thrilled that I can send one to a child. See the ChipIn widget in the lower right? You can help. I'd like to raise half the amount from kindred spirits. In return, I'll give the computer a workout and share stories about using it with kids and in professional development. I also plan to track down the school where the XO gift goes and make connections there. Stay tuned! Chip in!
* aka the "$100 laptop", a name that's no longer suitable... but $200 is still an astounding price!