So Saturday marked the date of the second ‘Project Learning Swap Meet’ for 2013. I’m writing this post as a run down and reflection of the event for those who didn’t attend but may be interested in what went down. I must say that I didn’t get as much in terms of learning this time around because for this event I was involved much more in the running of it than I was as a participant for the last one. So anyway, this is what happened.
We didn’t have any internationals Skyping in this time around so we kicked off with a bit of a Q & A in which Bianca tried to get through some of the questions on the padlet that may not have been answered through some of the day’s later activities. This is pretty much what happened at the January swap except, rather than having the awesome Suzie Boss and the epic Tait Coles field the questions, we had the brilliant Bianca Hewes. This was great because personally, as much as I LOVE Suzie and Tait, having Bianca speak of her extensive experience with project-learning as a teacher of English within the context of an Australian classroom added to the homegrown feel of the day; the relevance to us as a mob of Australian teachers.
We posted some ‘need to knows’ onto the glass of one of the doors in the hope that we could answer these as the day went on.
From here Bianca asked me to speak awhile and I let people know about some of the stuff that I’ve been doing at MEPS over the last few weeks. I mainly mentioned how Bianca and I have started using ‘project packets’ with our classes lately, ‘project walls’ and how I think that one of the most powerful and important elements of PBL is the sourcing and inclusion of an expert and public audience for the students’ work.
Bianca and I then got people to break into five groups to complete a hands on activity in which they matched ‘Products to Experts’, ‘Products to DQs’ and chose which items from a list to include on a project wall before we all had a break for tea and coffee. Yep, we made ‘em work hard!
OK so the next thing that happened was the swap. This is the noisy and energising part of the day where people swap their ideas about anything and everything project-learning. We tried to frame it by asking people to share:
1) Some brilliant idea they had in relation to project-learning (a project idea, a strategy for generating DQs, an idea for an expert, anything they thought worth sharing)
2) Something they were finding difficult (a PBL concept, troubles with assessment, ways to implement project-learning in their classroom/school).
Man it was noisy!
This was awesome, not only for having everybody get to know each other but just fantastic to hear everybody sharing their ideas. With all of this energy and excitement came quite naturally some hunger and fatigue. We asked that people take a break to get something to eat, walk around the museum (the event was at the Powerhouse, thanks to the radical Peter Mahony), or even better, get back together in their groups and start planning some future classroom projects whilst doing the aforementioned two.
And that’s what ended up happening.
We dispersed awhile and came back to the August #plsm13 space to work through the process of project planning together, our heads abuzz with new ideas. I walked around with Bianca and Ashleigh and spoke with people as they worked through the process of designing a future project for their students. Some really cool ideas here … honestly amazing, I can’t wait to see some of these projects ‘come to life’.
We then embarked on a process of refinement by giving each other feedback on our project plans via a ‘gallery walk’. This involved everybody posting their projects onto the windows of the museum for all of the participants to give their ‘warm and cool’ feedback using the ‘star, star, wish’ method – two things good, one avenue for improvement. We had Mr. 12 provide his evaluation by placing a fluro post-it note to his 3 ‘favourite’ project plans. Of course, one of these was a stage 4 scince project with a hand-drawn picture of a rocket on the outline!
For our final reflective activity of the day we discussed the possibility of compiling our project-learning experiences into a book. The purpose of this would be to document and share our experiences as we progress through the project-learning journey in an Australian context. The trials, the tribulations, and any advice we might give to educators considering a step into project-learning.
I said at the beginning of this post that I didn’t think that I learned as much as last time, I’m not sure that this is true. I had a very interesting conversation on the day with a couple of educators whom I greatly respect. They each shared with me some metaphors for education which come from opposite ends of the spectrum but, to me, say the say the same thing.
A teacher takes their class to a public space. There is an escalator. The teacher stops the class at the escalator and gives a lengthy, detailed procedure for boarding an escalator. By the time the teacher has finished, the students are falling all over … bored and in peril.
A particular nation has no traffic rules. Pedestrians and motorists alike must negotiate their use of the road. The people take it upon themselves to organise this chaos. Somehow this system works.
There are obvious problems with both scenarios but I know which I’d prefer. I very much see the project-learning process and events like the one I was lucky enough to attend on Saturday as the latter. And I like it that way.
By putting the learning into the hands of the learners you give them the ownership and responsibility to take their own direction. Things can be done in a different way.
Now that’s open, but that’s what I learned.
We very much look forward to regrouping with these educators in term 4 and would be massively excited about welcoming more swappers to the fold.