Making an Impact with Problem / Project Based Learning

Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar with a new idea each day!

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. – Einstein

Our learners are creating, inventing, and problem-solving with digital devices in order to change the world. Unfortunately, too many students who transform the world often do it outside of school, on their own time, and find that their principals and teachers do not support them, because their projects aren’t part of the curriculum. Instructional methods like Genius Hour, the Maker Movement, and STEAM allow teachers to meet high learning standards while supporting innovation. Find an example of students transforming the world in this post, Kids Transforming the World Through Social Media. We have the opportunity to implement problem/project based learning and teach our students how to use web tools and social media to solve real world problems. It’s learning that shows results in a meaningful way. Below, I have included the steps of the process, bookmarks for tools and apps that support PBL, and two presentations to help you get your students transforming their world with digital devices.

Overview of the PBL Process

These are 4 basic parts of a PBL lesson with digital devices. I have highlighted these steps using Valerie Burton’s lesson, Teen Advocates Fight Against the Drop-Out Rate.

  1. Problem
    1. Introduce the problem
      1. Make it a powerful story that engages them or strikes an emotional chord.
      2. Ways to introduce the problem- through a blog post, show a video, take them through a case study, analyze an infographic, or have them play an online game or simulation. Valerie introduces the problem on her blog. In addition, students play a game at Boosthigh.org to learn about the drop-out rate.
      3. At this point, give students their mission with guidelines. Valerie’s mission is, “Create a website that hosts videos, blog posts, comics, PSAs, etc. to help decrease the dropout rate at our high school.” Keep it short and simple so students understand the task. You can include the solution product or leave that open and allow them to decide how to solve the problem. Most teachers will have a solution in mind, such as develop a safety poster or create a PSA.
    2. Give students time to reflect on the problem in pairs or groups. Find a variety of brainstorming tools here, http://pear.ly/bKmy9.
  2. Problem Research
    1. Options- Interviews, surveys, wikipedia, web quests
    2. Various online tools- http://pear.ly/bP38v
    3. Teach digital literacy, evaluation of online resources, bookmarking, curation, and annotation
  3. Solution
    1. You can give them the solution and guidelines when you introduce the problem. Examples may include, create a digital campaign or poster, make a Public Service Announcement (PSA), create an online game, create an ebook, organize an online project, create an advertisement, make a video, develop a product, design an app, host an event, create an infographic, or create a social network! Alternatively, you can give them a list of solutions to choose from like Valerie did.
    2. Generating solutions- in pairs/groups, students brainstorm possible solutions and the steps involved in implementing the solution
    3. Implementation
  4. Presentation
    1. Students present the solution, reflect on the process of implementing the solution, and discuss it’s impact
    2. Find various online presentation tools listed here,   http://pinterest.com/shellyterrell/presentation-tools/

Challenge:

Try implementing problem or project based learning using one of these tips.

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics. Subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

Links

Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar! Scroll the image below and each day discover free web tools, apps, and resources.

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Cultural and Language Struggles: Interview with a Teacher in Honduras

Natelee with a student
Natelee with a student

This is part of the World Education Blog’s #TeacherTuesday project in which they share interviews with  teachers from around the world. Stay tuned for the next interview which features a teacher who ran secret schools during the Taliban’s era in order to make sure girls could continue their education. You will find these interviews posted under the Global Issues in Education category. Continue the conversation by asking questions or leaving comments on Twitter to @EFAReport.

This is the second interview with Natelee, who teaches on the Bay islands, Honduras.

I still remember my first experience as a young teacher. I was 19 when I started teaching at a preschool. I was working in a bilingual private school and I was amazed by the learning pace and products of the students. I believe that everything hinges on the presence of intelligent, passionate, caring and sensitive teachers working day to day in country’s classrooms. We also have to find way to motivate and appreciate them. As a young teacher I realized early that I had to keep upgrading myself, which is why I attended self-development classes. I am hyperactive!!

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 7.55.04 AM
EIB Teacher Training Program

During my third year of teaching, I realized that one of students was an autistic child. I wanted to ensure that I cater to his needs, so I had to get training to try my best to make my class dynamic. Sometimes we have limited resources, however that did not detour me from changing the décor in my class every month, I also invited speakers to come speak to my class. I brought in people (police, firefighters and dive masters) as a way to complement the curriculum. As the years went by, so did my need to do more, so I got myself certified as a teaching instructor and did a lot of traveling to help me better understand why intercultural education is important in a multicultural context. Building a solid relationship with parents was a way for me to motivate them about getting more involved with their kids learning. By integrating all those elements into my teaching style, I feel like I’ve become a better teacher. The kids that I taught in 1st grade are now in the 9th grade, and it’s so nice when I see them, I can say I did something!

Children writing in Natelee's class.
Children writing in Natelee’s class.

My teaching style is based on the teachers I had in school because they saw I was hyperactive so instead of bashing me, they helped find ways to respond to me and to integrate it into their teaching. It was important to have teachers who understood and saw my potential. Those teachers helped shape the way I teach and learn. For that I am thankful. And most importantly my mother and grandmother are teachers, as was my father. Teaching is in the family!

In Honduras there are 9 indigenous groups (Miskitu, Tawakha, Lenca, Tolupan, Maya-Chorti, Garifuna, Nahao, Pech, Negro de Habla Ingles) and 7 languages. Two groups have lost their language and became fragmented. One of those languages (lenca) is almost extinct, there is now a process of revitalization to try and keep that language alive.

As a result of the historic and cultural background in the Bay Islands, English is the main language of instruction. On mainland Honduras, Spanish is the main language of instruction.

The English speakers on the Bay islands are descended from Grand Cayman and Jamaica and we speak English. The others speak Spanish or Garifuna language. The Garifuna people have lived in Honduras for the past 216 years and have become very important for the cultural framework. They live in the North eastern sector of the island and we are trying to revitalize their language. When people don’t know how to read or write, that’s how a language becomes extinct.

Some of the children who are impoverished are black minority people. Their first language is English and their second language is Spanish. There are attempts to help them, this is done by developing volunteer programmes where people send or donate materials, books, pencils, colours, rulers, backpacks, uniforms.

Language definitely has an impact on how children learn and how they perceive themselves as being part of the teaching-learning process. As a young child growing up in the Bay Islands, there were many times in school when we were not allowed to speak English. (Bay Islanders are English speakers living in a Spanish country). To not be taught in your mother tongue, leaves a gap, and makes you feel that your language is not important. Over the years you tend to develop certain humps.

Natelee on a fieldtrip with her students.
Natelee on a fieldtrip with her students.

The first thing teachers need to do if teaching in a multilingual classroom is to keep an open mind. They need to be stay focused and motivated and not to let the system itself get the best of them. They need to build a strong relationship, integrating parents, the community, teachers in the school community and the students. They must strive to use a learner-centered approach, which places the child at the centre of the process. If we find ourselves in a multilingual classroom, it is vital that we bear in mind that our approach must be multicultural, multilingual and needs multi models to reach all students. We must teach the majority language speakers to speak the minority language and the minority language to speak the majority language, which builds on the principles of inclusion.

In classes with children who speak different languages, I tend to use a lot of visual cues. I divide the class into groups, those who don’t speak the majority language, those who are beginners, and those who are advanced.

Children need their early education to be in their mother tongue but then should be exposed to other languages at grade 3,4,5. When they’re taught in their mother tongue, they can better understand the context and the world, in turn developing a better understanding of the culture around them, and of what’s happening in their surroundings. I also think that they should be exposed to other languages, which aids in developing global learners. Our educational system must strive to enable us not disable us. It should help ground students in an ever-changing and globalized world.

So by teaching students other languages, we open the gateway for them to interact with others, to become global leaders and to embrace diversity. Just because you speak a different language, doesn’t mean you’re less important than others etc… It also promotes a cultural sensitivity.

Over the years there have been a number of dropouts in our system, this in part is due to fact that students feel lost in the classrooms. Sometimes it’s because their learning style is not catered to, and others it’s because the language at school is not their first language.

The General Direction for Intercultural Multilingual Education (DIGEIM) is to ensure that indigenous and afrodescendent people are a part of the agenda; lobbying with representatives of the various ethnic groups to integrate the cultural elements into the curricular framework. Inclusion is at the forefront of education, and we’re not excluding their cultural content from entering into the curriculum.

The majority of materials are in Spanish, however part of my work at the DIGEIM is development; create allies to lobby for resources, to be printed. As well as ensure that teachers being allocated to communities where children who speak minority languages, have been trained adequately.

Children who spoke the minority languages were not getting the best teachers ten years ago. But there have been training programmes for intercultural bilingual teachers since 2003 in Honduras, and those teachers are now certified to teach with a focus on diversity. The DIGEIM provides training once or twice a year, to get feedback, to see that assessments and evaluations are being done, and that they’re culturally focused.

There are cultural differences that we need to be incorporate in our teaching as well. The arts and crafts are different, the astronomy and traditions, and there are religious and spiritual differences. Some chant, some are more evangelistic, some rain dances, or drum, and appreciate connections with the earth and the ground. Those are big differences and need to be appreciated. We integrate that into the arts and crafts classes, and into maths and science and music.

Last year at the Lunsford Johnson School, the teachers worked with the students to make instruments, using coconuts, wood and boxes. By using the elements around them, they become aware of their variety of resources around them, as well as the creative value. Some of them use coconut shells as a drum. Some used an empty metal can and attached a piece of cloth and bound it with tape, and used a mix of water and flour around the edges. Very fun and very culturally focused. Sometimes you don’t have money to buy expensive stuff, but teachers are taught to use all elements. It’s amazing what you can do when you teach outside the box, and how that can affect big changes.

In maths instead of using counters, we used to invite them to use almond seeds, rocks, or shells and leaves of the coconut palm.

In science kids are exposed to the natural environment. We help them understand the coral, and how do their part to educate others about pollution. We have had a problem recently with lionfish. We want them to consume our lionfish so they don’t kill other fish on the coral. They learn about how sand comes about. Learning about fishing and consumption. And we focus on recycling. We are happy to have the RMP collaborating with us.

I traveled to Chile to specialize in indigenous law and I took out a certification in special education. Those trainings helped me to understand the learning styles; by identifying my own style, and why different methods are important. I also did a lot of training on natural resources which helped me integrate those concepts into my teaching. I learnt how to teach ESL or EFL students.

In Honduras, regular training courses prepare teachers to teach only in Spanish. If you want to specialize in other subjects, you go to university level. In the govt. programme there are sub-programmes catering to the development of minority languages. But not every teacher learns that. The majority do not have training or skills to teach in multilingual classrooms.

The Ministry of Education has declared that 2014 is the ‘Year of inclusion’ ‘el Año de la inclusion’. In our country they’ve realized the need to prepare every teacher to create an inclusive classroom, embracing learning styles and cultural baggage of the children they will come in contact with. Whether it’s due to economy or a result of the internal migratory movement- people move around. There’s not just one particular group of students in one school, they’re all interacting and you have to be sensitive to their needs.

There are some adults who went to the public school system and now they can’t read Spanish well due to the system that was used in the public schools. There are many cases of that. The elderly English speakers also most of them do not speak Spanish.

Finally, it’s essential that to teach students in the language of their thoughts. Some children won’t be able to read or write because they’ve been taught in a language they don’t understand. They’ve been pushed beyond the limit, and they simply don’t understand. However if we teach from the heart with sensitivity and a focus on diversity, we will serve as change agents whose sole goal is that their students become lifetime learners, proud of their cultural identity and respectful of others.

Challenge

Continue the conversation with Natelee by asking her questions or sending her comments on Twitter. Tweet to @EFAReport.

What kind of cultural and language struggles do students face in your area?

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Ideas for National Bullying Prevention Month (Infographic)

“Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.” ~ Dr. Seuss

From kindergarten to high school I was bullied. I love books, wore bifocals for a long time, won a lot of academic awards, and always made the honor roll. Yup, I was a pretty good candidate to be bullied. I learned later to make friends with the toughest and most popular. This sometimes involved doing their homework, going to detention for some, etc. I know you might think that is morally wrong, but when you are bullied you will do what it takes to make it stop. In kindergarten it started with a girl who always pinched me. In 6th grade, it escalated to two girls a foot taller than me and 2 grades above me who made each school day hell. Each day I walked home, they would call me horrible names. In gym class, I dreaded any kind of sport, because it meant I’d get hit by a ball or hurt by them “accidentally.” In high school, it was seeing my name scribbled on the bathroom wall with obscenities. The kids in my schools were not nice. They knew how to bully. I wish my experience was the worse I had seen but I knew kids who were bullied worse than me.

Bullying in the school environment and online is a problem we must continually strive to solve. Bullying has lead to numerous suicides as well as impacts the learning environment.  October is National Bullying Prevention Month. The National Bullying Prevention Month Infographic below, created by the Liahona Academy for Boys, highlights some of the different campaigns that help people get involved in the stop bullying movement. My favorite is the Choose Your Own Adventure Texting game. Below the infographic, I share more resources and ideas.

Bullying Prevention Infographic October 2013

Bullying Prevention Month October 2013

Provided by:Liahona Academy

Additional Resources:

These are more resources to get students reflecting on the issue. The idea is to get students to feel the impact and confront these feelings.

Challenge:

Do at least one activity, even if not from this post, to help your learners reflect on the impact of bullying.

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BYOT: No Internet Access, No Problem

Part of the Mobile Learning Series!

“The principle goal of education in schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.” ~ Jean Piaget

I have been traveling throughout Slovenia and Croatia for the past month training teachers in integrating Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) effectively with their classes. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to teach various classes of teens throughout the two countries to show teachers how BYOT works. For the days I was teaching the students, these schools lifted their policies and allowed the students to use their devices as a way of getting technology in the schools. The teachers wanted to see BYOT in action, especially with students who were never allowed to use their mobile devices or other technologies before for learning. BYOT was a great option because many of these students would not usually be able to learn with various technologies in schools if they didn’t bring them in. I’ve posted a video created by Marijana Smolcec who filmed me working with the students at her school in Ogulin, Croatia.

10 Offline Activities with Mobile Devices

One problem with integrating most technology is that schools and teachers rely too much on Internet access. We forget that even without the Internet, laptops and mobile devices are very powerful learning tools. Simple cell phones come with the ability to create videos, take photos, record audio, and take notes. Students carry these powerful learning tools in their pockets and don’t realize the learning potential, because we do not open their eyes to it. We can get our students to do so much with these tools while they are riding the bus, walking home, visiting their favorite places, etc. Here are a few ideas of the many, I do with students that do not require “a class” Internet connection:

  • Commercial Ads- students often create short video commercials in groups. We have created commercials with invented apps and objects. We also did a project where we observed the stereotypes in commercials and recreated them without the stereotypes.
  • Previews- students create a movie preview of a book they enjoyed and want to see adapted to film.
  • Memes- students create videos of various memes such as a flash mob, the Harlem Shake, or lip dubs.
  • Digital Stories- students work in groups to create a digital story. There are various video editing apps on any device that once downloaded work offline. For example, students can create videos with Sockpuppets, Puppet Pal, VidEditorFree, etc.
  • Show N Tell with a Cell- students show pictures they took on their devices to their peers and have a discussion of where they took the picture, what it is about, etc. You can give students topics. For example, if you teach math, you can tell them to bring in an image that represents various geometric shapes. If you teach science, the image can represent a concept such as centrifugal force.
  • Show N Tell Image Story- a follow-up activity is to have the students take the images from their group and create a story with these images.
  • Visual Vocabulary- each week the students take photos or record a video representing the concepts, vocabulary, and topics we are covering. They upload these collected artifacts to a class laptop via flash stick. If Internet access is available, they can upload the videos or images to a class Flickr account via email. Check out an example here, http://www.flickr.com/photos/shellyterrell/tags/restaurant1a/
  • Howto Videos- each learner can take a concept we are learning and teach us about it or create a how to video on something they are great at. Have them create a video cooking a recipe or instructing how to play their favorite video games. Cooking often involves vocabulary, math, and science lessons.
  • Field Observations- students observe an object, environment, or animal for a series of weeks. They take images, video, and journal about this observance daily. At the beginning, they make predictions about this observance. We did this with spiders and their webs.
  • Reporting the News- students work in pairs or groups. Assign them a section from the text or item they are covering and have them create a short news segment about the topic.

More Resources

Pearltree of Useful BYOT/BYOD Bookmarks

Challenge:

Implement one of these ideas then write about what occurred. Feel free to leave a link to your post in the comments below.

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This post was adapted from one I wrote for Smartblogs of Education.

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Why the PopuLLar Project is Popular with Teens

What’s great about the PopuLLar project and how can you and your students get involved?

It’s a project that is ‘Owned’ by the students who work autonomously and collaboratively; teachers are facilitators and guides to the project process.

It uses the students own love of music as the motivator and we know teenagers love their music. Their music is personal and an important part of their lives. Teenagers are overwhelmingly engaged with music, 92% of 14-17 year olds own an Smartphone or MP3 player and they listen to an average of nearly 2.5 hours of music per day. We also know that there is a huge need to motivate secondary school students, in particular, to learn languages, focus digital competencies and be creative.

What do the teachers involved do?

Well actually the teachers do very little. They introduce the project to the students, stand back and let them run, and run they do. They can ask teachers for help, if they want, and you can help them with facilities to record and edit.

What do students do?

The project asks students to write their own lyrics to songs of their choice. They then translate their songs in to the target language they are learning; this will require adaptation to the music of the chosen song. The students then record their song (audio or video) and share it with other students all over Europe. The receiving students then have to comprehend the songs and translate into their native language and record their version for sharing.

The first groups of students in Czech, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the UK have completed their videos with incredible results, see the 2 examples: The kids have thrown teachers out of the project and are learning autonomously.

PopuLLar-Piloting in Brno, Czech Republic

PopuLLar – Buongiorno Principessa – Piloting in Spain English

Each participating school will have a page on the project wiki to share their videos and to choose other videos to work on http://popullar.wikispaces.com/

All the resources to use the project are freely available in 6 languages on the project website http://www.popullar.eu/resources.html It is best to start by showing the students the step by step guide http://share.snacktools.com/AEAED958B7A/fzp5bfsm

PopuLLar, http://www.popullar.eu/, is a European Union, funded, education project designed to harness music, the primary social interest of secondary school students, in to their language learning.

Reference

Statistical evidence (Source University of Hertfordshire’s Music and Entertainment Industries Research Group Summer 2009)

The most important entertainment type for 14 – 17 – 90% music
The size of the average digital collection is 8,000 tracks = 17 days
Average of 1,800 tracks on a pocket MP3 player or phone.
92% of 14-17 year olds own an MP3 player

Teenagers listen to an average of nearly 2.5 hours of music per day.
(Source: The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine)

Note: Thanks to Joel Josephson for letting me know about this project!

Challenge:
Involve your learners in this project and have them record their first music video.

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