EdTech 542 Reflection

I’m not certain exactly what I expected to learn in this course, after recently starting the program again after 8 years. The last 3 courses I took in Spring 2016, focused on What EdTech is about and using technology, ie: using various software and Weebly to create lessons & pages, etc. I guess I expected this class to be similar to those, but after completing this course, I now know much more than I thought I did about lesson building and how important it is to allow students choice and voice.

In addition, I believe that I have learned why it is so important to teach students about higher thinking skills, rather than memorization. Deep down, I have always known that, but I haven’t gotten the chance to apply it yet, being that I just retired from the Army last year, after a long 18 years of rucksack fun. I hope that within a year or two, I will be able to put my knowledge to work and reach out to those students who need extra help or those looking for a challenge, and honestly, everyone in between.

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Post-project Reflection

The culminating event is over, the project presentations have been presented, groups and peers have been evaluated, reflection journals are in. Is the PBL experience really over? Absolutely not. One of the most powerful forms of assessment and project evaluation is the post-project reflection. Use the resources from this week to assist you as you think about how you intend to debrief your PBL experience (Dr. Baek, EdTech 542).

Assessing a project based lesson is very important, because if that does not occur, the same project would become mundane to the teacher using it and therefore expired and uninteresting to the subsequent students completing it. Additionally, times change! Therefore, documents, links, ideas and resources need to be updated, along with rubrics,m standards and Formative & Summative assessments.

To really assess the project, I believe that peer educators should take part in the lesson’s entry event and be provided background.  Then, they should periodically view the project during the process, taking notes, to better help the teacher understand what they really thought and observed. In addition, they should be brutally honest, where constructive criticism should be taken as such and used to improve upon the lesson, time after time.

 

From Teacher to Facilitator

Within a project based lesson, roles for the teacher and learner differ than a typical one-hour lesson in Mathematics, for example.  I believe that my role as a teacher would change from teacher to facilitator, which would imply that the student’s role would also change, from passive learner to a student taking responsibility of what he or she wants to learn and how they learn it.

Effective facilitation provides the best benefit for implementing a project based lesson, because the facilitator must ensure that students have the skills they need to complete their tasks, understand the instructions and timeline, stay on task and understand what their final project and formative assessments are graded upon, etc.  An effective facilitator understands what is expected of him or her and constantly checks in with the student groups, observing, asking questions and offering assistance.

I believe that if the facilitator and the students both take responsibility for their roles, the students will develop the skills and competencies needed to become a successful individual, and the teacher will develop his or her skills as a facilitator, providing effective project based lessons to students and advice to his or her peers.

Scaffolding in PBL

According to John Larmer, editor in chief of BIE, scaffolding was defined as “a process in which teachers model or demonstrate the problem-solving process, then step back and offer support as needed”(2016).  This is essentially a differentiated learning process where teachers provide the students with “lessons, modeling, coaching, workshops, tools, or any other resources they might need” (2016).

In addition, McKenzie states that, There are 8 characteristics of scaffolding, including, (1) Clear directions (2) Clarity of purpose (3) Students staying on task (4) Assessments clarify expectations (5) Students pointed to good sources (6) Reduces uncertainty, surprise & disappointment (7) Efficient and (8) Creates momentum (1999).

Scaffolding in PBL is essential, because it allows the students to first learn about the problem/project or why it matters, and create questions like, “What can we do to fix it and how?”, supplemented with teacher insight or materials, and finally, leading to original and creative solution(s) by the students.

I plan to address scaffolding throughout my PBL, by:

  • ensuring students understand appropriate core skills & standards prior to the PBL, ensuring they are prepared
  • providing clear guidelines & an entry event that sparks motivation among the students
  • establishing a realistic timeline with the class & “checkpoints”
  • discussing & providing rubrics with the class, allowing for feedback and/or alterations
  • discussing & providing access to project examples, concept maps, applicable websites, writing, presentation & organization tools
  • regularly reviewing group work and individual student writing journals, providing constructive criticism
  • allowing feedback from each group to address questions or issues
  • providing a safe environment where students can collaborate w/o fear of reprisal or embarrassment

References

Effective Assessment

According to the resources provided this week, effective Project Based Learning assessments are considered “progressive,  rigorous, and accountable”.   Meaning that there is no final test for a few small lessons within a project based lesson, where knowledge gained by the student is lost after an exam, but where each activity builds upon the previous, leading to more in-depth knowledge that will not easily be forgotten.  Additionally, as an educator, you should ask yourself, “How will I know?”.  How will I know the students understand and can apply what they have learned to real life scenarios and what can I do to make that happen.

During my project based lesson, I will be focusing on the How-To of Community Garden Plots with 3rd grade Math students, resulting in professional presentations provided by each group to the class and also a new school garden, that is created, managed and shared with the community.  This lesson is progressive in nature, where each activity builds upon the previous.  It is rigorous in nature, including cross curriculum subjects like Math, Science, ELA, ISTE & 21st Century life skills.  Also, students will follow a specific timeline for the lesson, completing activities and assessments throughout, which are relevant to real-life scenarios.

References:

  • Markham, thom. (2011). Education trends: Strategies for embedding project-based learning into STEM education. San Rafael, CA: Edutopia.
  • School of the Future. (2011). Schools that work: What is authentic assesment? San Rafael, CA: Edutopia.
  • 4teachers. (2009). Project based learning: Involving students in checklist creation. University of Kansas: ALTEC.
  • PBL in the Elementary Grades: Developing a Balanced Assessment Plan pp. 47-52; Using Formative Assessment & Setting Checkpoints pp. 104-107; Rubrics for Assessing Presentations & Collaboration pp. 132-135.
  • PBL Starter Kit: Summative Assessment: Culminating Projects pp. 46-49; Formative Assessment pp. 59-60; Rubrics pp. 60-62; Collaboration & Presentation Rubrics pp. 124-125