Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The End of CTELE...a PBL in itself?

Goodbye CTELE!
Screenshot by Magda Galloway via Zoom

The semester is almost over and we only have a few more days left of CTELE. This semester has been an extremely challenging and rewarding one, and I have learned so much through this course. Looking back at my 'CTELE Expectations' blog post, I realized just how much I have learned. In my expectations, I was excited but nervous for the challenges in store for us. I knew that this class was a lot like Ed Tech & Design, but more rigorous and more open. While that scared me a little at first, I quickly got into the swing of things.

The ideas in this course were definitely more broad, and that led to challenges at time. There were moments when our group had no direction and felt confused about what we were doing, to say the least. We weren't sure if what we were doing met the expectations for the course, and we weren't even sure if our work was meeting our own expectations. Most everything that we did felt like a struggle, and we often found ourselves working up until the last minute on projects to get them completed. It was extremely challenging to not have someone telling us exactly how to do something.

But then I realized; this was probably the most authentic teaching experience I've had in a non-field-experience class thus far. None of my other classes have really taught me about the process of project-based learning. If you had asked me before this class if I could design a project-based learning unit, I probably would have said yes. How hard could it be, right? Well, boy, was I wrong. It is so hard to plan and implement a PBL. There is an incredible amount of thought and work that goes into it, and I think that it's harder than a typical lesson plan because you have to not only know what you want to teach, but you also have to figure out how to structure it so that your students figure out what they should learn (and not because you want them to learn it, because they want to!).

This was not a spoon-fed course. We were in charge of deciding what to learn, to an extent. The whole semester, in a way, was a PBL. We did little 'projects' throughout the semester that led up to a big project that encompassed our learning for the semester: how to create a PBL from beginning to end. Let me sum up those great 8 Essentials for Project-Based Learning that we've been discussing and see how they fit with our semester:

1. Significant Content: Our content in this semester-long PBL was in fact, how to create a PBL. Because we're going to be teachers, this content was significant for every one of us. We all want to know more/different/better ways to teach in our future classrooms. We're also all Ed Tech minors, so the technology aspect of this course was also relevant and interesting for all of us.

2. A Need to Know: I'll reiterate the above idea; we wanted to know this stuff. PBLs are becoming a more popular way to teach and are an extremely effective way to teach students. Students are more engaged, learn more, and do more than in a traditional lesson. We all want our future students to learn in the best, most effective way possible. We need to know this stuff.

3. A Driving Question: I'm not sure there was an explicit driving question, but there definitely was a Driving Idea: the idea that we had to figure out how to create a quality PBL that would integrate the 8 Essentials, Technology, etc. Maybe our professor even had a driving question written down somewhere that she never showed us. ;)

4. Student Voice and Choice: This class was filled with choices for us. Other than creating 'something' at various points during the semester, everything was pretty wide open. Our entire PBL was our choice, from the topic to the grade level and everything in between. Even more concrete mini-projects that we completed were very open; I think back to the personal presentation at the beginning of the semester. There was so much choice that some students didn't even know how to proceed. It took a lot of self-direction to figure out how to create a presentation without many, if any, requirements, but everyone did it and every presentation was different and awesome. The flipchart project had a few more requirements, but was still very open as far as what we actually created. As long as it supported our PBL, we weren't limited. My group chose to do a flipchart on summaries, but we could have made it about movie-making skills or how to collaborate with classmates. We had choices about what we could create, and we could voice our concerns to our professor and she adjusted things accordingly. If we needed extra time to complete something (like we did with our PBL), she heard us out and was flexible for us.

5. 21st Century Skills: This goes farther than just technology. Yes, we were using current technology to support and advance our learning. But we were also collaborating, problem-solving, and communicating. We were learning about our environments, problem-solving, being creative, and exercising our digital literacy skills. We learned how to self-monitor and use critical-thinking skills.

6. Inquiry and Innovation: We were constantly changing what we had created. Our PBL at the beginning of the semester had a whole different focus than our final PBL did. As we learned things, we integrated them into our PBL. We ran into problems that we had to figure out. We had to refocus and reassess our own ideas about PBL before we could continue. We had questions, found answers, then had more questions. This semester was an example of real inquiry; we were constantly thinking of new questions to solve and ways to solve them in order to learn about and create a genuine PBL.

7. Feedback and Revision: As I've said before, we were constantly revising our work. As soon as we'd create something, we were revising it to make it better. Sometimes that took direction from our professor, who helped give us feedback to steer us back on track, or some extra collaboration between our group to figure out what we should do next. Our professor was good about giving us feedback on the things we did in the class, from the concrete presentations we did to the work time we had in class to work on our PBL. She would come around and ask us to tell her about our ideas, then let us know how she thought we could make it even better. Our PBL probably wouldn't have come as far as it did without this feedback. We also had many opportunities for revision during the semester, thankfully; if we had turned in the original PBL we created? I cringe at the thought.

8. Publicly Presented Content: Our final task was to compile our PBL in a web presence, either a website or a blog, so others could access and use our PBL. It's amazing to think that other teachers with experience and students of their own will read our PBLs and potentially use them in their classrooms! We also presented our PBLs to our classmates, so we could see what our peers created and get ideas and insight from each other.

You can check out our PBL website here! Enjoy!

I have learned so much from this course throughout the semester. I feel far more confident about creating a PBL, and have had wonderful, authentic practice in creating one. I wish that more classes integrated PBL, but I hope that more do in the future (and it looks like they will)!

It's been a great and insightful semester! Thanks, CTELE!

1 comment:

  1. Erin, I was lucky to work with smart people. I am learning with you and from you as well. I loved your personal introduction. It takes a lot of confidence to sing and play in front of people you just met!
    As far as my driving question... How to create an open and challenging learning experience so students can successfully fly in a team-chosen direction ;-)