Thursday, January 7, 2016

Moving To The Side: Student Project Support #PBLChat #PBL

I've been a big advocate for Project Based Learning. I love watching students create something brand new and share it with the class. I love the look on their face when they finally figure something out and are excited to let everyone know. One of the hard parts of being a super nerdy teacher is getting out of the students' way and letting them explore the project at their own pace.

I currently have students who are working on a project involving Raspberry Pi. I have never used Raspberry Pi before and was eager to learn along with the students as they worked on the project. As they encountered problems, we worked together to brainstorm solutions. At one point, it hit me. I'm  not a member of the project. While it is fun for me to help the students work on something that interests me, I can't be the one that does the Google search to find out why the wifi is not connecting. I can't be the one to figure out why the SD card will not format on the Mac. I love  a challenge and want to answer questions and solve problems, but they need to be my problems, not the problems students are having on a project.

I'm not saying that students should never receive help from teachers. That would be crazy. I'm suggesting that it is important to remember that there are times where it is important to let the kids try and figure it out and explore the possible solutions on their own instead of doing it for them. When I realized I was helping too much, I simply stood up and told them that I trusted they could  figure it out and let me know when they solved the problem.

I think students need to know that their teacher trusts them to solve their own problems and not just do it for them because it is easier. That trust can help build confidence in students and encourage them to try different things and look to tackle larger problems. Some people will call it grit or some other buzz word that is popular, but it is just a simple matter of letting kids do the work and learn from their failures and their successes.

Even though I am super excited about their project and I ended up buying my own Raspberry Pi kit (posts coming soon), I need to remember that their learning journey needs to come first and then I can learn from them when they are done.


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  2. I've enjoyed reading your blog. I found myself resonating with your comments, as you shared being willing to step aside and let your students solve those problems themselves. Having started PBL this year, that has been a challenge but you are right. Students need to know that teachers trust them and their judgment. I went into the summer PBL training as a fifth grade teacher, and I was really excited about the possibilities. It seemed like a logical next step in helping students use critical thinking skills and applying them to real world situations. I am now a kindergarten/first grade combination teacher, and what seemed intuitive and logical, implementing PBL with my fifth graders, became intimidating and a little daunting when looking at my kindergarteners and first graders. How would five and six year olds be able to problem solve and come up with creative solutions? However, I was amazed to find how creative they could be when faced with a challenge. They were not intimidated at all, and I hope that as they go through school, they will not lose their creativity and risk taking. There’s such value in letting students struggle and persevere. I think my biggest challenge for me has been remembering my students can do this. I have had to consciously stop myself from giving answers, to asking my students questions. It’s not up to me to be the instructor all the time, but especially when it comes to technology, they can figure things out easily. I am starting to have them use iPad apps to communicate what they’ve learned, and they can do so much, without me hovering and leading them step-by-step.


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