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EDTECH 542 Course Reflection

August 3, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s been 8 short weeks, and I can truly say that I have learned enough in the course to change my view of PBL.  I started out skeptical about project learning because of personal experience with lackluster or poorly designed projects.  I now know that project-based learning requires a high level of design and thought prior to implementation.  Teachers need to think about the outcomes, the presentations, and the purpose of students doing a project.  What I understand best about PBL is that it requires purposeful design built around a carefully-crafted and open-ended driving question.  The part I understand least or the part I am least comfortable with is relinquishing class time and control to the project.  I believe this stems from a desire to ensure that we don’t waste time; successfully completing a project should alleviate this issue.

I am not sure what I expected to learn in class as I began skeptical of PBL.  I guess I expected long discussions about constructivist theory and cooperative learning.  What I actually learned is that PBL is not throwing a project into my lesson plans so that I don’t have to teach that day.  PBL requires thought, deliberate action, constant monitoring and reflection, frequent feedback opportunities, and teacher-student engagement.  I learned that every project done in a class is not PBL, even if the project has merit.

I plan to teach this project in my honors classes this year.  I built my project around a book that we already read and a line of inquiry that we already pursue.  The project will take that inquiry much further than we have in the past and should also be fun and engaging for the students.

All-in-all, I have had a great experience in this class.  I feel that my eyes have been opened to benefits of true project work, and I am excited to incorporate PBL into my teaching.

Here is the link to my project.

PBL Reflections

July 26, 2013 Leave a comment

How can I effectively debrief and reflect upon the project as a whole?

I think the first step is to complete my own self-reflection of the project.  As a teacher, I will complete the same reflection as my students do at the end of the project.  It’s important that the students look back on the project and their performance in order for them to see how far they’ve come and how much they’ve learned during the course.  I plan to review these reflections personally to solicit information on the project itself and ways to improve it in subsequent years.  Also, we will have a full class debriefing on the project where I will draw questions and comments anonymously from the reflections.Pictures

Once this process is complete, I will also complete the BIE teacher review of the project.  The review and reflections are meant to help me see the effectiveness of both the overall project and the pieces that comprise the project.  I plan to have concluding discussions with the Law teacher and the History day judges to garner their thoughts on the project and determine if changes need to be made.  These people are all teachers and can offer professional advice and support for the project.

The process of reflection should be done throughout the project.  It’s not just a one time assessment of what happened.  I plan to keep a project journal throughout that details the process and effectiveness of the project.  It’s possible that students only need 3 days of research or maybe they need 5?  Perhaps there are examples and documents that will assist them or we could have students showcase their work more throughout for examples and evaluations?  My journal will reflect these types of suggestions and culminate in the self-reflection and teacher review (both found on the BIE website).

The process of reflection is vital to the project as it allows for a final review of all the materials and activities.  Good teachers should work formative assessment and reflection into every project or assignment as these are the tools for improvement.  I don’t think I will ever be done reflecting on my course materials as there is always something I can add, remove, or change to make the experience better for the students and for me.

Photo Credit

Integrated Curriculum

July 14, 2013 Leave a comment

My students have an alarming tendency to compartmentalize their classes.  They aren’t prepared to discuss science in English class or math in history class.  Some of them are quite uncomfortable when asked to do so.  I think this is partly because teachers don’t integrate curriculum so students are out of practice with it.  Also, they walk in to English with a set of expectations that do not include being graded for math.  So, educators do need to break down some barriers and stereotypes to get the students on board.  It doesn’Jigsaw Geographyt usually take me long to get them to understand how English and history are related.  But why is this important?  Because life is not compartmentalized.  If school is about teaching the skills students need for life, then they should expect to use those skills in ways they would in life.  This means that educators need to teach students how to recall prior knowledge regardless of discipline when the knowledge is needed.

Integrating curriculum seems so important and, yet, is so rarely done on purpose.  Why is that?  Maybe because I have Aug-May to teach skills that will master a set of standards, and I could easily take twice that time.  Also, I am unsure how math or physics is going to enhance the English curriculum to meet those standards.  So, I am a bit gun shy about turning over my time to another discipline.  That being said, I have always thought that integrating curriculum was a must.  I cannot teach English without engaging with history and language.  Perhaps some teachers can do this, but I feel that we need to have a solid idea of the time in which literature is set and when it was written.  Authors are a product of their environment like everyone else, so we should know what that environment was like.  It’s fairly easy to integrate English and history.  The harder part is to integrate other subjects that don’t seem as involved, science and math come to mind.  However, when I think about it, the scholars and writers of the past were also the philosophers and the scientists.  They knew how to write and speak multiple languages.  So perhaps the disciplines are more closely tied than I first thought.

I think the biggest challenge of integration is to get an entire group of teachers and administrators to see the benefits of interdisciplinary projects.  There is much at stake if the project fails and students can’t perform on standardized tests because the curriculum failed them.  I dislike using the standardized test as the benchmark of success, but that’s what’s done whether I see the value or not.  So, the challenge is to get the teachers to discuss and find value in an interdisciplinary project and then propose an integrated project to administration.  This means that much work has to be done before going to admin.  However, this is a crucial step to ensure that all the teachers are on board with a project and plan to contribute and work through it in their own classes.  If even one teacher drops the ball, the project could die.  I am currently working on an integrated curriculum project with the AP history teacher.  I see where I can and should do more, which means that I need to make some plans and add some activities to enhance the project.  It takes planning!  I think that’s the issue.  Teachers are all so busy that no one wants to add to the amount of planning we all do daily.  Using some success stories as inspiration should help everyone see that the planning is worth it.  The way to get the interdisciplinary project started at my school is to start it!

PBL Assessments

July 6, 2013 Leave a comment

I have to say that writing assessments is my least favorite part about teaching.  I like the process of learning, discovery, and discussion, although, I do find as an English teacher, that essays are a great way to check student understanding.  I am including a final essay for my PBL project, but there are many more steps along the way.  I h800px-Abacus_2adn’t considered how many steps I would need until I started breaking the project into pieces and considering the formative assessments.  For some reason, my mind tends to fixate more on the summative.  I really like the formative process of project-based learning because it informs the project from start to finish.  The formative assessments help the students to focus their efforts and guide them through the learning process.

I have decided upon 3 formative and 3 summative assessments.  In planning my assessments, I have learned that this project should take much longer than I had planned for it to be successful.  The assessment process is helping to see that I need to build in more stops and checks for understanding and student discovery.  I may need to add one more formative assessment to my plan, but so far, I think I am on the right track.  I like the mix of assessment that seems to go with PBL.  I have a rubric for a research journal, peer evaluations for essay content mapping, assessment by an outside expert, and the final essay that students turn in to me.  The assessment that I am considering adding is a self assessment of the student’s own performance as I think a little reflection might be a good thing.

Here is the link to my PBL assessment page.  I think it is coming along nicely!

My PBL Site and plan

June 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Well, this week was really busy!  We had quite a bit of work to do to get our project-based learning ideas started and planned.  (Here’ the link to my PBL site).  I decided to call mine:  Guilty as Charged?  While not entirely original, it does spark a little interest about the justice served up in The Merchant of Venice.  I am having a hard time coming up with the presentation part of the project.  My idea for a mock-trial is more of an activity than a PBL deliverable.  So, I am thinking about having students find a current event that deals with injustice in some way.  Students will have to apply what they’ve learned about justice from their research about the play to propose a just solution for the current event.  Also, students will need to create a presentation that compares Shakespearean justice with modern justice.  It’s still a work in progress.

We’ve been asked to consider this question:  Is it still PBL without an authentic audience?

Based on my research about PBL, I say that no, it isn’t truly PBL without an authentic audience.  The authentic audience raises the stakes for everyone involved in the project and allows for authentic feedback.  That being said, I am having a hard time finding another audience for my project.  I just don’t know who would be a good choice of audience for a literature project.  My first inclination is to use real lawyers or judges for the mock-trial, but the PBL deliverable is going to be at the History Fair.  So, this is still something I am working on…

I have found some great tools that I think will help students with their presentations.  I really like Wordle for definitions of justice.  I also like the idea of video and infographics for the final history deliverable.  I like WeVideo for video and Visual.y for infographics.  I plan to keep adding resources to my PBL site as I continue to develop the project.  These are currently listed under Instructor Resources>>Tools & Resources.

I am looking forward to developing this project more thoroughly.

My Thoughts on Project-Based Learning

June 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Ask me anytime before this class, and I would tell you that I am not a fan of projects.  They take too much class time, and they don’t support my learning objectives.  It seems that I have been doing it wrong.  I haven’t yet determined how projects can help my students in their AP Literature & Composition course, but I remain hopeful that I can learn and create a meaningful project for the AP students.

I guess it makes sense that a project should start with a leading research-type question.  This is what was lacking from my own experience with projects.  My former teachers handed out a packet and said get to work.  It was neither effective nor inspiring.  However, if we had started with a problem or a question to solve, that might have made my experience better.  What I have found so far is a list of resources that I want to keep in mind for project-based learning (PBL).

This article was the first I read that suggested the problem or question is important.

I also really like the following videos for examples of PBL:

bie.org:  PBL Explained 

and Edutopia’s PBL Introduction

I think I am still going to have a challenge with projects because I am a literature teacher.  I have always been focused on the literature itself.  I don’t want to change that focus, but I would like to create a project that helps students to discover the literature that is meaningful to them.  So, stay tuned…

EDTECH 543: Final Reflection

December 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Final reflection upon EDTECH 543

Well, I am normally a lurker, and I, frankly, don’t have the time to spend on social networking sites.  I would far rather bury myself in a book than jump on the computer.  That being said, I believe that this class has helped me to see the true value of social networking.  In today’s American culture, the term social networking is commonly misused in my opinion.  I feel that people engage in the social just fine; however, most people aren’t truly networking.  This class has helped me to realize that there are many valuable resources to help make my life easier and help me to be more effective in my areas of interest whether they are professional or personal.

I am now active in an AP Literature forum for AP teachers.  I have already gotten valuable feedback from my peers that I have used in my classroom.  I absolutely loved the unit on curation.  I am trying to maintain my own ScoopIt regarding teaching English.  Time gets away from me when I’m grading essays, but I have been making more regular time for archiving information.  I have even offered to teach a workshop to our high school seniors about social networking for college success.  I would love them to see that there is more to Facebook than chatting with people they see at school all day.  If I can help them set up social networks with their chosen college before they even get to college, I think that would really help set them up for success.

I think the main point that I will take away with me is the idea that participation doesn’t have to be a full time job.  I can participate as much as I have time for, and if I am properly filtering my interests, I can eliminate information overload.

In terms of the coursework, I am actually not very sold on the idea of a MOOC.  I hope to do more research to be able to see the advantage for students as well as teachers.  The idea of taking a class with so many other students isn’t really attractive to me, and I can’t image how hard it must be to facilitate so many students.  I do appreciate the work on the MOOC, though, as it is such a hot topic in education.  I now feel prepared to be a part of that conversation.

As a high school teacher, I am unlikely to teach a MOOC anytime soon, so a lesson on integrating social networking in K-12 would have really been a benefit.  One thing that I would like to have done in this class is something about integrating social networking into my own classroom teaching.  I can absolutely see how social networking is beneficial based on my own use, and I don’t think I would see that as clearly without having first done it myself.

I have truly had a great experience in this course, and I plan to keep up with my social networking and my curation.  My Twitter activity has also increased, and I am following some incredible discussions about teaching Language Arts.  Personally, I find Twitter to be the most helpful resource to me in finding and disseminating information.

Thank you!