Tag Archives: field guide

STEAM: Origami – Create and Innovate

Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age challenges educators to ask

Outside school, who cares about these topics?  What is their relevance in different people’s lives and in different parts of the world? (Boss, 57 pag.)

What if relevance isn’t obvious, or what if it isn’t known? How might we find and blend of content, relevance, aesthetics, and meaning?

Robert Lang folds way-new origami

At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a team found a practical way to fold and store a lens made of many segments using origami.

How might we choose to embrace the challenge of finding relevance to experiment with topics that integrate ideas?

A lack of meaning in our reality robs us not only of that joy but also of our ability to use our multiple intelligences to increase our success. (Achor, 65 pag.)

Achor, Shawn (2013-09-10). Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Boss, Suzie, and Jane Krauss. Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  “A Giant Leap for Space Telescopes.” Science and Technology Review. U.S. Department of Energy. Web. 15 Jan. 2010.

PBL Field Guide: Strive for Information Artists ~ Examine Essential Learnings

Can we help our learners choose and collaborate projects that they care about?  Can we join a team of learners to discover how the content of our discipline can be used in the process of finding, working on, and solving problems?  Can we use technology to move past rote learning to analyze, synthesize, create, and innovate?

Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age asks

What big ideas, what core concepts and processes, should students know after studying with you? [p. 43]

During our PLC-F meeting Thursday morning, LAL asked us to consider

Can we challenge ourselves to ask how our content serves the project rather than how the project serves our content?

Steven Walker of Tech High School during his 21st Century Thinking presentation on STEM teaching and learning indicated

We should use technology to help us perform routine procedures while we emphasize learning to analyze, interpret, and apply the results.

Our PLCs establish essential learning for our student-learners.  We research what is essential by reviewing local, state, and national standards.  We interview our colleagues who receive our learners in future courses as well as collaborate with our learners’ current teachers.  But, do we ask

Outside school, who cares about these topics? [p. 57]

In a discussion with Bo Adams, Paul Van Slyke, and David Stubbs concerning the design of collaborative spaces for learning, I responded to the suggestion that teachers initially say no to change and innovation with the idea

Sometimes we initially say “No, I don’t think that will work” when we really mean that “I don’t see how I can do that by myself.”

Look at The Blood Bank Project from High Tech High.

When we say, “I can’t do that” do we really mean, “I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t know who will help me?”  These teachers made the commitment to learn something new, to learn from each other.  Did you notice how these teachers are using technology?

Are we serious about being lifelong learners who serve and lead in a changing world?  Do we practice using technology and research to help us hone the essential skills: communicate and collaborate, problem-find and problem-solve, create and innovate, reflect and revise, serve and lead?

When it gets down to the brass tacks, is it really that critical to solve a quadratic function by hand?  How important is it to know the time period of the Era of Good Feelings?  How often, outside of school, will we need to know the formula for kinetic energy?

What are we willing to trade in our curriculum to make space for blended, complex, integrated learning experiences?

PBL Field Guide: Who forms your learning team?

The Professional Learning Communities reflection in Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age challenges the reader to model collaborative learning, learn and share, and develop learning teams. This is right in line with our Learning for Life vision statement, NET•S, and NET•T.

Three of the essential actions called for in our Learning for Life vision statement are

  • Problems that require critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration
    (Problem-based/Project-based learning)
  • Teachers in teams supporting learning and innovation
    (PLC/Critical Friends Circles)
  • Content and Relationships that connect us to the larger world and the world to us  (Global Citizenship)

Bo Adams (@boadams1, It’s About Learning) and I co-direct our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).  Our school makes a commitment to adult learning and collaboration by affording teachers job-embedded time to work and learn together.  For a glimpse into our PLCs, see Pull Together, Part II from It’s About Learning and Learning as a Team – A Big PLC Brightspot from my blog.

From Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age:

Professional learning can certainly support your shift to project-based instruction, but the fundamental program changes you make will require frequent and intentional collaboration with your colleagues.  [p. 31] 

In Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital AgeCarmel Crane describes her process when getting ready to launch a project with her students.

Before [introducing] the project to students, I presented it to about 10 teachers.  I laid out all the planning details, and they gave me critical feedback.  It was a great opportunity to see things I may have overlooked.

Other teachers could see how we might work together on future projects to reach our shared goals.  [p. 31]

On Friday, the 4th Period Math-Science PLC took another step toward PBL and Lesson Study by participating in the Eggs Over Easy project that our Science 8 team is planning for the Monday-Tuesday prior to our Thanksgiving break.

In the 55-minute period, we assembled our carriers, did the drops, and debriefed the lesson.  There is more video coming about the debriefing session.  Our plan for Monday is to “do the math” and the reflection questions concerning potential and kinetic energy.  But, the lead teacher for Algebra I has already asked how we can support this lesson in our Algebra classes – another step in integrated studies.  Woohoo!

Again from Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age:

A project-based learning collaboration among students is a lot like a professional learning community among teachers.  For both, the learning is relevant and rigorous, and the “students” learn to learn together. [p. 32]

Bo and I co-facilitate Synergy 8, a non-departmentalized, non-graded, transdisciplinary, community-issues-problem-solving course for 8th graders.  A new school policy about student images on faculty blogs prevents me from showing you how closely the work of our Synergy team matches up with our PLC teacher teams.  [If you want to know more about #Synergy, then you can search that category/tag on either of our blogs.]

Paraphrasing Professional Learning Communities at Work: Best practices for enhancing student achievement:  PBL delivered by a high-functioning PLC of teachers can be the “engine of improvement” that drives a school forward.

Once again from Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age:

Anne Davis, an advocate for blogging with elementary students, suggests using your personal blog as a tool for making connections with like-minded colleagues.  A team of two is better than no team at all, but image the compounding effect of a large team, an entire faculty, or an international community of colleagues. [p. 33] 

If you could assemble your “dream-team,” with whom would you collaborate for PBL? How and with whom do you learn, reflect, and share?  How do you create opportunities for your learners to build their “dream-team” to learn, reflect, and share?  How do we leverage technology to engage with our learning teams?

PBL Field Guide: Start with the big picture

The second reflection in Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age challenges the reader to take of tour of online resources to help “see the big picture” of PBL.  [pp. 23-24]

My initial thoughts about online PBL resources include Ted.com.  Have you seen the following TED talks?

John Hunter on the World Peace Game


Kiran Bir Sethi teaches kids to take charge

I prefer the PBL examples from John Hunter and Kiran bir Sethi over the videos from Edutopia.  I think I have struggled with the videos from Edutopia because they seem “canned” to me because of the announcer voice that talks over parts of the videos.  I should not discount the message and example because I don’t appreciate part of the package, right?  Encouraged to start with the big picture, I went back to Edutopia today for more stories, research, and ideas.

From Edutopia.org, I am drawn to Anatomy of a Project: Kinetic Conundrum which integrates art, history, engineering, language arts, and technology.

I am curious about the assessment plan for the Kinetic Conundrum project.  It is tagged with comprehensive assessment, but I have not found any rubric or explanation of how the learners were assessed.

I had not explored www.pbl-online.org before today.  It seems connected to Edutopia and BIE.  From the website:

PBL-Online was created under the leadership of the Buck Institute for Education, with major contributions by the George Lucas Foundation, the Department of Educational Technology at Boise State University, and a group of University partners.

I think www.pbl-online.org might be a good resource for teams looking for support and scaffolding to begin to design projects for their learners.  I am particularly interested in Design your Project which has organized project planning into five design principles: 1) begin with the end in mind, 2) craft the driving question, 3) plan the assessment, 4) map the project, and 5) manage the process.  There is also a PBL Co-Laboratory where you can search for projects and contribute your projects.  It is the Learn-and-Share model we have been working toward.

The National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS·S) strike me as similar to our essential learnings in Synergy.


  • Inquiry & Deep Questioning
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Problem & Solution ID
  • Data Gathering & Analysis

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

My questions revolve around assessment and integrated studies.  We are looking for PBL with PBA.  How can we assemble a team to facilitate a project that crosses over multiple disciplines?  Will our PLC facilitators and/or department integration specialists (DIS) help us orchestrate whole school or multi-discipline PBL?  How do we develop a balanced assessment plan to provide our learners with dollops of feedback throughout the project?  How do we design a summative project-based assessment to assess learners the way they learned?


Boss, Suzie, and Jane Krauss. Reinventing Project-based Learning:  Your Field Guide to Real-world Projects in the Digital Age. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education, 2007. Print.

PBL Field Guide: Where are you starting?

I’m reading Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).  This field guide encourages the user to focus on and record details that matter.  Blogging these reflections is strongly encouraged.

The first reflection asks “Where are you starting?” [p. 10]

  • Where are you starting your journey?  Why?
  • If you have already used the project approach with students, what did you like or dislike?
  • What would you like to learn to do better in the future?
  • Do you have regular opportunities to collaborate with colleagues?
  • Where do you turn first to sound out new ideas for your classroom?

Our Learning for Life vision statement calls for six essential actions in our community to embrace the challenges and opportunities for 21st century teaching and learning.

  • Integrated Studies – Studies that integrate rather than separate
  • PBL – Problems that require critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration
  • 21st Century Learning Environments – Schedules and Spaces that fit learning
  • PLC/Critical Friends – Teachers in teams supporting learning and innovation
  • Balanced Assessment – Assessments and Feedback that promote learning and growth
  • Global Citizenship – Content and Relationships that connect us to the larger world and the world to us

I have been using pbl in the math since 1996.  In 1996, I was appointed as the laptop program coordinator at The Kiski School.  I embarked on a journey to develop real-world data collection lessons for our learners to search for data online to mathematically model data, real data.  See Phases of the Moon…Middle School Connections with Trigonometry and Science, Stopping Distances, and Turnpikes, Toll Roads, Express Lanes as three examples.

Since 2010, Bo Adams and I have been facilitating a PBL course called Synergy for our 8th grader learners.  Synergy is an interdisciplinary, non-departmentalized, non-graded, community-issues, problem-solving course.  See Synergy 8 Update – Week 3, Synergy 8 Update – Week 3, Part II…Game Plans from Bo’s blog It’s About Learning, Synergy: a course I’d love to take, then teach from J. Burk’s blog Quantum Progress, and Synergy: Complexity~Simplicity, Collaboration & Brainstorming from my blog.

I like teaching with inquiry and data collection through projects because of the engagement, interest, and questions from my learners.  They are in control of the curriculum.  A book does not bind their learning.  Their questions lead to new questions and new learning.  They find application of what is to be learned.  I like that my classroom is student-centered, conversational, loud and active.  Learners feel empowered to ask and answer questions.  Watch our learners in actions (Synergy 8 Update – Week 3, Part II…Game Plans and Synergy: Complexity~Simplicity, Collaboration & Brainstorming) to have a glimpse of how in charge of their learning they have become now that they are in a PBL course.

Bo and I continue to work on assessment and feedback for our learners.  The same is true for our Algebra I team.  We are working on a formative assessment plan for our learners to help them level up in the skills and competencies of our essential learnings.  For examples of our rubrics see:

We have a good start, but assessment and feedback is an important area of learning for my teams and me.

Bo and I serve as the co-directors of our Professional Learning Communities (PLC), which provides us daily and weekly opportunities to collaborate with colleagues.  I meet daily with the math and science teachers in the Junior High.  Bo and I meet weekly with the JH English, JH History, and JH Language teachers.  We also co-facilitate the PLC Facilitators PLC.  We regularly sound out ideas for essential learnings, projects, lessons, pedagogy, and assessment in these team meetings.

The Algebra I team practices pbl as a team and conducts peer observations as a form of lesson study.  See Beginnings of Lesson Study ~ We rather than me and Lesson Study, Observation 2.0, Algebra I, Jet Plane for examples.  Bo and I plan, implement, and debrief regularly to improve and hone our skills.  Our most important team of collaborators is comprised of our Synergy learners.  As a 26-member team, we learn together.  We brainstorm ideas and strategies together.  We give each other feedback.

So, that’s where I am… Where are you on your PBL journey?   How have you constructed your support and learning team?  Who and/or where do you turn for motivation?  Who serves as your sounding board?  How are you using current pedagogy and technology tools to learn by doing?


Boss, Suzie, and Jane Krauss. Reinventing Project-based Learning:  Your Field Guide to Real-world Projects in the Digital Age. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education, 2007. Print.