There’s an old adage that says, “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” Of course, that statement is the basis for “authentic instruction,” which is any teaching that promotes the use of real-world issues and authentic problems to facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity.
The more authentic the problem is in a project-based learning application, the more likely it will be to engage students in a meaningful way and create a lasting learning experience. (For more on authentic projects, here’s a great blog post by John Larmer at the Buck Institute for Education.)
The point of the driving question at the heart of PBL is to enable students to ask important questions, design and conduct investigations, collect, analyze, and interpret data, and to apply what they have learned to the problem. While these steps can be performed without technology, the websites, databases, research reports, and documentation available through global internet access make the performance of these key steps much more effective and, ultimately, allow for an undeniably more comprehensive breadth and depth of data on which to draw conclusions.
In a world where job openings are posted on Twitter and corporate networking invitations are advertised on Facebook, it’s becoming very apparent that ignoring the impact of social media is no longer an option for teachers.
I’d even take it one step further, and go so far as to say that it’s now incumbent on schools to not only use social media, but teach students how to use these powerful tools effectively.
The question isn’t whether to use these social media or not, but how to integrate them into the classroom. Something simple all teachers can do is set up a Facebook or Google+ group for their classes where they share lesson plans, provide additional learning resources, or answer questions, providing both a back channel for students too shy or intimidated to engage in a classroom setting and a chance to foster collaboration and discussion. Wise teachers will count this communication as classroom participation.
Mystery writers often say that they start with the end in mind. The same strategy needs to be in place for major assignments. I always develop a rubric before I plan the steps of class work.
Rubistar.4teachers.org, an online site for designing evaluations, is a good starting point. The service is free and can be used as a guest to create a one-time sample. By registering for an account, teachers can store products online and share them with others.
As an English teacher, I felt comfortable describing the requirements of a good research paper, but I was challenged trying to decide how to grade a web site, a poster, a game, and many of the other creative outlets for literature projects.
I could look at a finished poster and recognize excellent work, but how could I spell that out for students before our assignment began?