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Project based learning: Is it an answer to a school’s economic crunch?

June 10, 2010

Remarkable…That is the word that came to mind when I heard this podcast. Any podcast that is slightly offensive, (because it makes you think about what you believe) and makes you want to listen to it more than once, is a good one. This is one of those. The point he makes is that if schools are going to continue with the goal of raising test scores in the traditional way they have been trying to do it, it is going to increasingly take more money. Problem based learning, according to Wyckoff, is the answer, and I think he makes several valid points. PBL requires fewer teachers but does not decrease the quality of the learning. Check out how this charter school in Kansas delivers education to their students. It’s fascinating to me that this school gives students the option to complete traditional classes or to complete project based learning classes. Students keep track of the standards they have mastered and they go to subject experts (teachers of the subject) to be evaluated on the standards after they have mastered a concept by completing a project that incorporates those standards. One question I have is, what if a student doesn’t know that they are fascinated about space science until it is taught to them in a formal classroom? When I teach I should complete this sentence, “I am teaching this so that my students can ___________________________”. If my answer is, to answer a test question, is it worth my time and effort teaching that? I love the example for why project based learning works that Wyckoff gives in the podcast. He asks the question, which means more the divers permit written test, or the actual driver’s test? The drivers test shows application of knowledge, so duh… the answer is the driver’s test. Someone can memorize the distance at which you turn on your blinker, or how far away you should be from the car in front of you, but it is totally different once you are behind the wheel. The person that aced the permit test can still make you fear for your life when they are behind the wheel. As a teacher I get tired of teaching when I feel like what I am doing is spoon feed, test, repeat. I get bored, and the students get bored. Has anyone out there gone to a totally project based classroom? What does it look like? What if the teachers around you do not go to that? Does it take a team of teacher or can an individual pull it off?

Wyckcoff brings up three problems with the way technology in schools are used. In general schools use technology for: entertaining kids while they are bored with the other stuff, to remember the stuff that doesn’t matter or, we really would like to figure out how technology is used in the real world and we hope that if we give students technology they make that connection…. YIKES If we want students to make a real world connection with technology they need to be given a real world problem and the appropriate tools to solve that problem. Wyckoff puts to words things I have been thinking about. Take some time and give his podcast a listen. Thank you Wesley Fryer for recoding this podcast and putting it on your blog Moving at the Speed of Creativity.

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