Continuing on from my last post I’m going to assess how well #projectAwesome13 went in meeting the final 4 essential elements of project based learning from BIE.
Need to knows
The driving question for project awesome was ‘How can we teach others about the importance of sharing life stories’? In order to answer this question, students needed to know the features of a life story.
What makes a life story interesting? What can we learn from the life stories of others, and how can this information help/benefit others? What are the key events that make up that particular person’s life story? What are the key events in my life that I think are interesting, memorable and worth sharing?
Students designed project products which also demanded that students knew how to see through the process of production from beginning to end. Most of these products included a technological aspect, with many students deciding to create videos.
All of the life story products were planned using mind mapping and timeline tools with which students brainstormed and sequenced their interesting and significant life events.
For the students who made videos, these timelines were used to create a script which then formed the basis of a voiceover for their life stories.
For Project Awesome, I’d say the established need to knows were:
Concepts (life stories – around the DQ)
Knowledge (life stories – around the DQ and also of language features used by others to create an interesting life story)
NB: for above we read and analysed The Little Refugee as well as several ‘Draw My Life’ videos to help students gain this knowledge.
Skills (the technological skills to create their products and the ability to plan and produce these by the presentation deadline; presentation and team-work skills)
Project Awesome was my first ever attempt at PBL and I think it went pretty well. However in regards to establishing need to knows, I think that in future I’d like to think through this aspect of a project in a bit greater detail at the planning stage.
In fairness, planning for #projectAwesome13 was a little unconventional, as much of the planning was done via Google docs with Michael living in a rural community some seven or eight hundred kilometres away. Also I was honestly very excited about the idea of being lucky enough to try PBL during my practicum, so perhaps it’s understandable that some of this was overlooked at the planning stage.
Having said that, however, as mentioned above I think there was still a lot that students needed to know in order to get through Project Awesome.
Voice and choice
I’ve mentioned this previously, but one of the things I’m really happy with is that at the beginning of #projectAwesome13 we gave the students the choice between two DQs. As I’ve already said, this resulted in a conversation with students around the differences between the two and how this altered the projects, making one a little bit more tricky than the other. I’ve also previously mentioned that students ended up going for the trickier project.
Some good things about this were:
a) giving students the choice between two DQs allowed them some ownership and direction over what they were doing
b) by choosing the trickier DQ and project students were openly accepting to be more challenged
c) the trickier DQ and project permitted a greater range of products, this allowed students a greater freedom to choose what they were going to do and make in answering the DQ
One day I’d like to have the kind of classroom that (at least from time to time) that has the kind of trusting teacher-student relationship whereby we can look at the curriculum together and negotiate some cool, student-led ways in which we can approach it together. This didn’t happen with Project Awesome, but I still believe that we gave students a good deal of freedom (and responsibility) as to how and what they were doing.
Incorporate revision and reflection
Reflection … aagh, there’s that word again! Lulz.
I think that #projectAwesome13 did pretty well in relation to this element of PBL.
The project included a project wall, on to which we’d post things related to what students were doing. The project wall also had a KWL table which we referred back to quite regularly, noting down things that the students had learned and making sure that we had answered the ‘want to knows’.
We also held a couple of Skype sessions with the year 8 students from Davidson High School in which students discussed what each of the classes had been learning. These were quite good, informal discussions between the classes whereby Bianca, Michael or I would pose a question for one of the classes to answer, a student or two would nominate themselves to answer it and share what they’d been learning. These discussions characteristically focused on similarities and differences between the texts that they were reading.
Typically, each session would begin with a discussion of what we had been doing in the previous session, allowing students to recap and figure out where they were.
One of the final tasks that the 3456 students had to do was complete a short interview video answering the DQ. This was a reflective task in which students revisited the KWL table and were asked to again focus on what they had learned, giving at least one answer to the following three questions:
- What have you learned from reading The Little Refugee?
- What have you learned from connecting with the Davo kids?
- What have you learned about the importance of sharing life stories?
Finally, students presented their work at an end of project presentation, and several of the students got up to speak to the parents and other students about what they had been learning.
I think when incorporating revision and reflection into projects like this it is important not to ‘force it’. Something like a project wall with a KWL, KWHL, PMI or some other reflective table or tool is good because it allows you to go back and discuss what everybody has learned and assess how well the project is going.
The DQ itself is also a good way of evaluating where everybody is at, and I found myself looking at the DQ and assessing whether or not we’d looked into it deeply enough.
The public audience for Project Awesome included YouTube, where students were posting their video introductions to the Davo kids, their answer to the DQ and also their final products if they were making videos.
The year 5 & 6 students also have class blogs and wherever it was appropriate they would post #projectAwesome stuff there too, for example the 6 word memoirs that they did at the very beginning of their project, as well as their video products at the end of the project.
I’ve mentioned that they connected with the Davo kids, who provided an audience for what they were doing and making in class as well a peer group to discuss what they’d been learning.
Finally, Project Awesome culminated in a presentation at which the class presented everything they’d been doing to their parents, grandparents, and the students in years K – 2.
We weren’t able to track down an expert, or ‘rock star’ for the project, and this is something that I should have considered more deeply at the beginning. Some of the students filled out Anh Do’s contact form at his website to see if he’d be interested, but as is understandable, given the short notice, his people didn’t respond.
Having an expert is something that I think would add a degree of authenticity to a project and something that I want to make happen in future.
Well, there you go. That’s my evaluation of #projectAwesome13, my first ever attempt at PBL. Now I can stop spamming with #projectAwesome13 stuff!
I think it went pretty well, and I’m pretty keen to have another go during my upcoming internship.