So I have been trying project-based learning (PBL) and the focus is on Canada's provinces and territories. I've read many articles on edutopia.org and follow discussions on Twitter to get my head wrapped around PBL.
I understand PBL is open-ended, inquiry-based, and ongoing. I realize it's not about the project and should be less teacher-driven. I am really having a hard time with that. I took a PBL planner from this website http://wvde.state.wv.us/instruction/pbltemplate.html and it seemed like I had the right idea. But now as we are approaching the third week I feel like they are just doing a project.
I started with this idea from Pinterest, where students made their own suitcase to prepare for the trek across Canada.
Then we brainstormed a list of things they wanted to see and what they would need to travel. And here I start swaying away from PBL. I had each student pick a province or territory to travel to. Some chose to work in pairs and there is one group of 3. So far, a few individuals are having difficulty with the driving question, what do I plan to see and do? The students that are striving have the basic skills to do research. I gave them a graphic organizer to guide their research, and provided books and a link to get them started.
The ones who are struggling either don't know how to ask the right questions or don't know how to find the answers. They are also my struggling readers. To accommodate I am letting them watch videos and getting them to use ReadPlease (a software that converts text to speech). I am also going to need to pull them aside and teach researching skills.
In the meantime, other students are starting to think about how they will present their information. At first most students wanted to make a poster, but then I prompted them to think beyond what they've done in the past and to think how they can share with technology. I suggest blogging because that's my push this year, and I also showed them how to do a PowerPoint - and they were amazed. I now recognize how little they know about using technology in the classroom.
Almost all my students have computers at home and most of them have iPods or some kind of tablet. They all use their technology for entertainment but don't know how to use them for educational purposes. After some discussion, students realized they could take pictures, make notes, and videos from their devices, but they were still all wanting to do a PowerPoint.
I was hoping while they were doing their research, they would ask more questions and dig deeper. I wanted to show students how to find their location on Google maps or even try a new food that we don't normally eat. How do I get them to think beyond the project?
I realize the learning I am seeing is still useful. Students are learning how to find images, copying and pasting onto PowerPoint. They are learning how to save. They are collaborating and teaching each other the computer skills that I take advantage of knowing. Most of them are engaged and they are excited so I guess this is where I have to let go of my preconceptions and see where it goes.