Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Planning #PBL - Where to Start?

One of the things that stands in the way of many teachers engaging in Project Based Learning is finding out where to start. Not knowing where to begin can paralyze people and prevent them starting and that is a very normal thing. Also, there are so many resources out there, it is easy to be overwhelmed by it all and just stick to what you already know. I wanted to share a little bit of help on where to start when it comes to project based learning that I know has helped me on my journey and has worked with other teachers I have coached. 

1. Do not focus on your entire curriculum

One of the biggest mistakes teachers make when exploring PBL is thinking about their entire curriculum and how it can be converted to a PBL approach. Not surprisingly, that be overwhelming and things top before they get started. Start with one lesson. Pick one lesson that you have been thinking about revamping and take another look at through the lens of project based learning. 

2. Identify what students are supposed to know by the end of this lesson

It is important to have a clear idea of what you expect students to know at the end of the lesson. These clear objectives will be needed by the students as they explore the ideas and create something to demonstrate understanding.

3. Ask yourself this question, "Is there something students could create that would demonstrate understanding of this material?"

Not every lesson is perfect and easy to convert to PBL. In ELA, it was easy to have students focus on themes, symbols, characterization, etc when creating projects for a novel or short story. Doing it for a grammar unit, for me, would have been a tough place to start. Everyone knows their strengths as a teacher and should focus on those when starting something new like PBL.

4. Consider how you will assess the projects

If you are required to grade all of the work done in your class, consider using a rubric for PBL. It is a great way to provide feedback and let students see where they can grow and what specific expectations they are expected to meet for each level. 

If you are not required, just let the kids have a go at the project and see the things that students create. Sometimes, you can get a better idea of how to assess in the future by taking a non-assessment approach for the first project.  

5. Let the students know you are trying something new

I always let students know when I was trying something new in class and let them know I would like their opinions when it was done. I also told them I might pivot quickly if the lesson is not working. The kids respected the fact that I was willing to try something new and liked that they would get to try it out. Sometimes kids like to be guinea pigs for lessons. Some of the best feedback on lessons has come from students over the years. 

My last bit of advice on getting started with project based learning is to be ok with failure. Exploring PBL in the classroom is really no different than implementing any other new lesson into the classroom. Sometimes you hit a home run right away and other times, you strike out. Either way, you get back in the box and try again. 

If you have any questions about Project Based Learning, feel free to reach out and I will see how I can help.

Hugs and High Fives!

N Provenzano

Monday, January 11, 2021

Remote Project Based Learning #PBL #EdChat

Teaching during the pandemic has forced many of us to reevaluate how we approach instruction. Trying to "do school" in a remote format is a recipe for failure. For those of us that have focused on a project based learning approach to the classroom, remote learning was not a terribly difficult switch to make. 

One of my favorite parts of project based learning is giving the students the freedom to create something that demonstrates their understanding. There are so many different ways that can be done, but remote learning has limited those a bit in the makerspace. One tool that has not been hurt by remote learning has been Minecraft Education Edition. MEE has been a wonderful tool in my design class before the pandemic and during the pandemic. It allows students to collaborate from home and engage in creation. 

One of the projects that I have students in my 6th grade design class work on focuses on the design thinking process. I ask students to build me a house, but they are not allowed to ask me any questions. They are not given any information on how long they have either. After a couple of days working on the house, I tell them that time is up and I inspect their homes. The houses are nice, but none of them ever fit all of my needs. I tell them I would not move my family into any of the houses and they tend to be very frustrated. When I ask them why, they say it is not helpful to build without a known deadline and without any information about me and my family. I ask them if they want to try again, but they will be allowed to ask me two questions each and I will set a deadline. They agree to this and get to work. 

After taking notes on the answers to their questions and working on a set schedule with a hard deadline, here are some of the examples that students created for me and my family. 

These students did an amazing job creating something that meets the needs of my entire family. They discussed the advantages of being able to ask questions and how it impacted their designs. As part of the building process for this project, I wanted students to see that when they are designing something, they are designing for someone. That someone will change, but it is important to keep that in mind when focusing on the entire process. 

Using Minecraft Education Edition during remote learning gave students the chance to connect and collaborate to create something awesome. They have great skills in Minecraft, but they were able to focus them and create something specific based on their ability to ask questions and listen to the answers. 

Project Based Learning allows for the flexibility in the classroom if you are in person or remote. It gives students the power to focus on creation, instead of sitting behind a screen focusing on consumption. We need to give students a chance to create amazing things if we want to keep them engaged. This is true if they are in our classroom or in their bedroom. If you have any questions about project based learning, please reach out. I'm happy to connect!

Hugs and High Fives, 

N Provenzano

Monday, January 4, 2021

Moving Forward While Looking Back #EdChat

My website turned 11 on Saturday and it had me thinking about where I have gone since that first post 11 years ago.  

It is hard to even cover all of the amazing things I have done and learned in the past decade thanks to starting this blog. I've written books, presented internationally, been recognized within my state and by ISTE for my work, and I have made some of the most meaningful friendships of my life. This blog led me to Twitter which opened a world of information to me that made me a better teacher. 

"Let's see where this thing takes us"

Those final words on my first post resonate with me. As I look forward, I make sure to look back and see what it all started and that helps center me. When it is all said it done, my goal is to learn and share. My love of Project Based Learning and Makerspaces is something I will continue to share to anyone that will listen. Covid-19 will be a part of my journey that forced me to re-evaluate what learning can look like and how my pedagogy can change for the best to support learning no matter what it looks like in the moment. 

I look forward to sharing stories and learning from others in 2021. I'm not sure when the next time will be that I can be shoulder to shoulder with all of you learning and growing as colleagues and friends. 

If you ever want to talk about connecting and talking about Makerspaces, Project Based Learning, or other things, please let me know. I'm hoping I will be able to visit some of you this Summer if possible!

Hugs and High Fives, 

N Provenzano

Friday, December 18, 2020

Sharing Failure #EdChat #MakerEd

As I look back over the course of the year, I flip through my blog posts, my Twitter and Instagram feeds, and think about all of the things I have shared. I have had so much fun sharing the fun things I have been learning as I build various projects on my own or with students. I did notice I was missing something from my feed and it was my biggest project failure of the year. I have been working on this table project on and off for a year and it has become this Frankenstein's Monster of a project. I keep trying to tweak and make it better, but it ends up worse and worse. It is rough and I have not shared it with anyone until now. Here is my first attempts at an epoxy side table.

You might be thinking, "Hey, that doesn't seem so bad" and you would be very wrong. The table isn't flat. The side pieces are not jointed together smoothly. That is my 2nd attempts at an epoxy top using the Atari cartridges and there are still bubbles and inconsistencies in the top. There are hundreds more of errors I can see that drive me crazy. Every time I try to fix them, I make something else worse. To take a lesson from Edison, I did not fail in making a table, I learned about a dozen different ways NOT to make a table. 

We learn from failure and I know that is not a revolutionary idea, but it is important to share those failures once in a while to remind others that we all make mistakes, learn from them, and try again. It's these failures with this table that I was able to create this desk I use at work. 

I spent hours sanding the top to get it level and worked on the live edge sides to chip away excess bark. This desk has a built in wireless charger so I can just set my phone down while I work and have it charge. I used a beeswax to bring out the color and a a few coats of polly to seal it. It is a cool desk and I used so many different techniques I learned from my failed side table to make it happen. 

This year has been full of success stories and stories of failure. Instead of being too hard on yourself, remember that, while you may have failed, you learned something along the way. Even if it was just how not to do something. 

I hope everyone has a great end of 2020 and prepare to make some amazing things in 2021.

Hugs and High Fives, 

N Provenzano