Thursday, October 25, 2012

Google Maps and PBL

In this PBL video, students are synthesizing various disciplines together to create a 12 week long project for display to the community. It incorporates many features, but most impressive is the use of GoogleMaps.

Google Maps PBL


This case shows the value of GoogleMaps and how it can be incorporated into social studies.

Students used GoogleMaps to trace local art throughout the city and create a virtual walking tour that is published online. This required students to work in collaborative teams and visit sites, research their creations and photograph them. They then wrote about each and connected them together on GoogleMaps.

I never thought about using GoogleMaps in social studies, and I'm a social studies teacher. I don't even know how to use GoogleMaps.

I could see using this in my classroom. However, local history and geography has nothing to do with any middle-school history standard. Where is the justification for such a project. I think it's totally a social studies project, of value, and more important than state standards. Where does one get such freedom and choice to do such a project?

Daily Challenges of PBL

In this video, teachers discuss the daily challenges of PBL and their trails and errors.

Daily Challenges of PBL


This case shows the collaboration between teachers and how they debrief on the challenges of managing technology and projects in their classrooms.

At first PBL was just random and there was no best practices,  There was a refining period that required teachers to collaborate.  Expeditionary learning projects require teachers to make it first and feedback and reflection from students at the end of a project is critical because teachers can refine projects. Scheduling is the biggest challenge, and deadlines are a challenge because there needs to be flexiblilty. The use of laptops are key and necessary.  Research for students is organized by teachers and holds kids accountable.         Developmental appropriate materials for all learners is a challenge (both on-line and off).

In conjunction with David Grant's interview, a big piece that I took from these shared reflections was that best practices cannot be used at random by teachers, but shared and unified throughout a staff. Likewise, on-to-one laptops are critical for PBL success. Also, teacher created products up front before a project are necessary.

Expeditionary Learning Challenges

In this interview with project-based learning teacher David Grant, he describes the challenges and struggles of creating a framework for PBL. Kids engage in real world problems that are complex, work with real professionals, and make products that are meaningful. Some components to the framework are having between six to seven adults to help guide the projects and modifying it to meet student needs.

To make PBL work and to have a PBL school, there needs to be a gradual shift and change within the school that includes staff summer institutes for planning, schedule changes and flexibility to meet the needs of projects, staff created practices that are used throughout the school, end of the year reflection systems for teachers and students, and support systems for teachers to plan and collaborate.

Some other critical components that need to be in place are student designed rubrics, on-to-one laptop access, staff and student critique sessions for refinement . Provided below is the link to this video and a reflection about its impact


This case gives us some insight into what are necessary frameworks for sustaining a successful PBL school environment. The case also shares what potential challenges there are and how to make this framework successful.

The interview is significant because David Grant offers institutionally based parameters that need top be met to make PBL successful. For example, schedules need to be flexible for project needs, student need to be a part of the rubric creation process, and a summer institute for planning and implementation is necessary. I also appreciate how he identifies that projects need to be created by teachers prior to the project launch and students need to see what is being asked of them.

More than any other piece of information shared here is the teacher created project. I often ask my students to make a product without having made it myself first. Students need a model and something to work towards. This is a difficult process for me personally because of both time and skills. I'm great at writing and reading, but anything that requires "making something" is a challenge.