Tag Archives: PBL

Never Underestimate A Motivated Learner ~ You Gotta Have Faith (TBT Remix)

Who has faith in you?  In whom do you demonstrate faith?

On November 20, 2011, AS announced that she wanted to learn to knit. She is seven. I’m embarrassed to say that I thought:

Is she really going to learn to knit? I’ve tried to teach my adult friends and have about a 50% success rate. I am busy; I have a list of things that need to be accomplished today.

But, she was determined to knit, so she sat in my lap while I coached her through 4 rows of 10 stitches – about a 20 minute exercise.  You can see the results of that one “lesson”  in the video below and on my Posterous mother-daugher-based-learning blog post.

On Dec. 20, 2011, her blue scarf was approximate 3.5 feet long, and she started a new purple scarf.

What if I had put my list of “desired outcomes”
ahead of her interests and determination to learn?

What if I told her that she was not ready?

What if I indicated that she did not have
enough maturity, experience, prerequisite skills?

How often do I become focused on “getting through the list of learning targets in the curriculum” without stopping to listen to their interests and questions?

Meet Thomas Suarez – an iPhone app developer and a 6th grader:

Meet Birke Baehr – an 11-year-old concerned with industrialized food systems and the alternatives:

What do our learners care about?  What do they want to learn, study, think deeply about, and investigate?  How can we use our curriculum to serve and support their learning and interests? We regularly check-in with our learners by reading and commenting on their blogs.  Here are a few quotes from our Synergy 8 learners about their interests and concerns:

One thing that each member and I realized after we were talked to about poor quality housing and affordable housing, was that there are many children that do not have a safe place to call “home.”  ~ TY

Did you know that from 1980 to now obesity rates have doubled among adults and tripled among adolescents (USA.gov, Facts n. pag.)? Also, did you know in 2010 according to the CDC 29.6% of people in Georgia were obese (USA.gov, Overweight n. pag.)? Before starting this project, I knew that obesity was a problem and I was very passionate about this issue. Although, I had no idea that obesity affected that many people, especially in Georgia. ~ SE

Using this data, we discovered that most people get less sleep than they should. Lack of sleep can affect your mood, attention span, and ability to retain knowledge. Most teens think that they can do their homework and mess around until 12 am and then go to sleep.~ RV

I am a person that doesn’t like to work in groups in fear that people won’t do their work and I will have to make up for the work that hasn’t been done. Being in this Synergy class and working in groups has helped me to trust other people to do their work.~ HD

What are the active steps we take to help our learners find tangible evidence of success and learning?  How does our feedback indicate that we have faith in their ability to learn, to work collaboratively, to problem find and problem solve?  How do we actively demonstrate faith (and trust) in our learners’ quest develop thinking and understanding? (And, what does it convey if we won’t let them try because we are afraid that they are too young, too immature, too inexperienced, or that they are just “not ready” because they haven’t mastered the prerequisites?

Just meet the amazing speakers at TedxKids@BC from September 17, 2011 and then think about these questions again.

Who has faith in you?  In whom do you demonstrate faith?

We gotta have faith.

Never Underestimate a Motivated Learner – You Gotta Have Faith was originally published on December 29, 2011

How to be a boring, bad writer…and other ideas (TBT Remix)

I hadn’t thought about it this way:

So, if you want to be a boring, bad writer:

  1. Never ever learn new words.
  2. Be afraid to say interesting things.
  3. Read as little as possible.
  4. Always play on your laptops.
  5. Never touch a dictionary.
  6. Copyright.
  7. Never make [the reader] see the action.
  8. Never revise your writing.
  9. Definitely take the easy way.

Since I want to be a better writer, I should practice 1) using new words, 2) saying interesting things, 3) reading as much as possible, 4) leveraging technology to enhance learning, 5) using available resources, 6) striving to be unique and citing my sources, 7) presenting a good story, 8) repeating a revision cycle several times, and 9) understanding to “embrace the struggle.”

I wonder if the same set of ideas can be applied to PBL.  How to avoid PBL, Design Thinking, and makery:

  1. Never ever learn new applications and strategies.
  2. Be afraid to try interesting, complex problems.  It might take too long.
  3. Read and research as little as possible. Don’t read and watch Edutopia, Deep Design Thinking, or It’s About Learning resources or ideas from 12k12.
  4. Always use technology for one-way communication.  Just tell them what to do.  Don’t offer students the opportunity to have voice and choice in learning.
  5. If you try PBL, and it doesn’t work; just give up.  Never seek additional support and resources.
  6. Never collaborate with others on projects and problems that integrate ideas and/or concentrate on community-issues.
  7. Avoid applications and real-world experiences.  Never offer the opportunity to present to an authentic audience.
  8. Never say “I don’t know,” or “let’s find out together.” Answer every question asked in class, or better yet, don’t allow questions.
  9. Definitely do the very same thing you did this time last year.  It’s easy.  Take the easy way. Remember…the E-Z-way!

How about applying these ideas to balanced assessment?  How to be single-minded about assessment:

  1. Never ever try new techniques, methods, and strategies.
  2. Be afraid to try alternate forms of assessment: performance based assessment, portfolios, etc.
  3. Read and research as little as possible. Don’t read anything by Tom Guskey, Jan Chapuis, Bob Marzanno, Dylan Wiliam etc.
  4. Always use assessment to generate grades.  Never try non-graded assessment to make adjustments to learning that improve achievement.
  5. If you use rubrics or standards-based grading, and students don’t respond; just give up.  Don’t allow students to revise their understanding and assess again.  Let them learn it next year or in summer school.
  6. Rely on results from standardized tests to compare students.  Just follow the model set by adults that have not met you and your learners.
  7. Never assess for learning and reteach prior to a summative assessment.  Think that you are teaching a lesson if failure occurs with no chance to revise.
  8. Never offer 2nd chance test or other opportunities to demonstrate learning has occurred.
  9. Definitely use the very same assessment you did this time last year.  It’s easy.  Take the easy way. Remember… E-Z-way!

I find this approach connected the anti-innovation ideas from Kelly Green in her 2/21/2012 ForbesWoman article I found by reading Bob Ryshke’s post, What schools can do to encourage innovation.  It also reminds me of Heidi Hayes Jacob’s style in her TEDxNYED talk I found by reading Bo Adam’s What year are you preparing your students for?” Heidi Hayes Jacobs #TEDxNYED post.

I like the provocation of the video and the anti-ideas.  I appreciate the challenge of rephrasing these ideas as statements of what I could do to get better.  I wonder how we should practice to become better at PBL, balanced assessment, innovation and creativity, etc.  In the comment field below, will you share how would you answer this prompt?

Since I want to be a better ___________, I should practice 1)  _____, 2)  _____, 3)  _____, 4)  _____, 5)  _____, 6)  _____, 7)  _____, 8)  _____, and 9)  _____.

How to be a boring, bad writer…and other ideas was originally published on February 26, 2012.


If a picture is worth 1000 words, what is video worth? (TBT Remix)

Which is most appealing to you?  Which draws you in and generates questions?

Infographic from Bits of Science.

Infographic from Data Visualization Encyclopedia, Information Technology, Symbols, Posters, Infographics

Video from NPR.  (Watch the video, seriously; it’s only 2:34 and well worth it!)

So…Which is most appealing to you?  Which draws you in and generates questions? I think we need all of the above, the hands-on investigation of the data with technology, the infographic that gives perspective, and the video that offers an alternate way to visualize and think about this population growth.

How are we “leveling up” concerning visualization?  Have our learners been introduced to infographics?  Better yet, have our learners produced infographics to communicate data creatively?  How are we using video to engage our learners?  Have our learners produced video to communicate data, learning, and growth?  Are we teaching (and learning) Information Age skills if we are not expecting multiple representations of ideas from our learners?

So… with lots of technology at our fingertips, if a picture is worth 1000 words, what is video worth?…and…what if we only communicate with text?  What learning is lost when/if we only offer one representation of what we want others to learn?

What is lost when we don’t show and tell?

1 image ~ 1000 words…think about it.

If a picture is worth 1000 words, what is video worth? was originally published on January 3, 2012.

Participating in Each Others Stories: Global Connections & Microlending (TBT Remix)

If shown a world map, could I find Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, or Ecuador?  Do I have any idea how to connect with someone or something in a country that I can’t even find on a map?  How will I find content to promote global citizenship while teaching content that falls under my responsibility?

So I joined Bill Ferriter (@plugusin), Dan Sudlow, and three of their students, E, C, and J, for a webinar discussing their Kiva Club and how they use microlending to help people in developing countries throughout the world.

Screen shot 2011-12-22 at 8.18.06 AM

E and C are 6th graders and J is an 8th grader. With expert and supportive facilitation from Bill and Dan, these young learners taught us about microlending through their experiences and stories. Worth emphasizing…I learned about microlending and integrating content and relationships that connect us to the larger world and the world to us from these three young learners.

The connections to math and geography are obvious to me, but I still have questions.  You can read more about microlending on Bill’s blog The Tempered Radical.  In High Tech High’s video What Project Based Learning Is, Jeff Robin strongly suggests to be successful with PBL you need to “do the project yourself.”  While the math and geography seem obvious to me, what will be learned from a microlending project?  So, I have taken the challenge to learn by doing.  I am participating in funding multiple loans.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 6.07.24 PMI have a better idea of where Kyrgyzstan, Uganda and Ecuador are when I look at a map, and I have the opportunity to connect to these women’s stories.  I also know more about Kiva.  Listen to and watch this beautiful story from Jessica Jackley about poverty, money, and love:

In her talk, Jackley says

The way we that we participate in each others stories is of deep importance.

I collaborated with 18 others across the world to help Carlina improve her business and family income.  Her dream is to have a well-constructed house; her current home is made of reeds.

Each of the green pins in the map represents the location of a lender.  The map and pins tell part of the story, but while informative, it is not very personal.

Don’t you think there is a big difference in seeing the pins in the map and seeing the faces of the lenders?  The faces show humanity; the faces share more of the story.

If integrating “content and relationships that connect us to the larger world and the world to us” is an essential action, then what do we do? What actions do we take? How do we “do the project” ourselves?  How will we practice? What will we learn?

Still wondering how social media can be used for learning, leading, and serving?  Read One Tweet CAN Change the World from The Tempered Radical.  I cannot physically take my young learners on a field trip to Uganda, Ecuador, or another part of the world.  Social media (blogs, Twitter, YouTube, iChat, Skype, etc.) affords us  opportunities to “connect us to the larger world and the world to us.”

Let’s experiment.

Let’s learn by doing.

Data collection from TSA…Can we transfer to school?

Here’s the final product right before the TSA representative collected it from me:

photo 3

So, there is an error. Could I use this picture to offer our learners an opportunity for error analysis? Could this picture be used to discuss communication and correct notation?

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 6.32.23 PM

Here’s what happened.  I arrived at the airport in Seattle for a 1:15 flight to Atlanta. Upon arriving at the security checkpoint, a TSA representative handed me a slip of paper (shown below) and asked me to hand it to the ticket checker.

photo 1

Fun! How might we use this type of data collection at school?

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 6.37.49 PM

What if we used this method to collect data about carpool? Having the time I arrived at security told me how long I had been standing in line.  I wonder if, when in a hurry, it feels like it takes longer to get through than it really takes.

The TSA agent checked my ID; I scanned my e-boarding pass, and she recorded the time.  Another opportunity for math.  How long did this portion of the process take?

photo 2

Only five minutes passed. A basic, everyday math problem. How often do we subtract times? How authentic are the questions on our assessments? Do they have context? Is this a (dreaded) word problem?

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 6.45.19 PM

There’s one more stop before passing through security.  My line – I always pick the slow one – stalled as the TSA representatives changed shifts.  Again, I wondered if this felt longer than it really was taking.  Holding the slip of paper allowed me to say to the nice but fidgety man in line ahead of me that we’d only been in line twelve minutes at this point.  He said “Twelve minutes; that’s not so bad.” Ahh…to have data.

I arrived at the security checkpoint, unloaded my MacBook, put my shoes and bags on the belt, and passed through the detector.  I handed over the slip and then asked if I could take one more picture.

photo 3

What was the total time I spent in line? How do we explain the error in the data collection? Could this type of data collection help us in our school community? Could our young learners use this type of data collection to find context and meaning for their learning?  Would we make different decision if we collected data and made data-driven decisions?

How might we show math in action?

PBL PD: Integrating Formative Assessment, Twitter, & Brain-based Research #ettipad #ettlearns

Today, I’m presenting at EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA in Atlanta.

PBL PD: Integrating Formative Assessment, Twitter, & Brain-based Research

“Want faculty to engage in a project together? Want faculty to try a non-graded formative assessment technique? Want faculty to investigate a little brain-based research to work on retention of information and learning? Want faculty to learn and explore using social media for learning, communication, and collaboration? Hear one school’s story of such a project that you can implement with learners next week.

Note: This session will be interactive, so please have a Twitter client on your iPad and an established Twitter account prior to attending this session. “

With the mountains of “stuff” our teachers need to learn, practice, and do, how do we get it all accomplished? How can we, the adult-learners, practice and learn while continuing our work? In other words, how do we create PBL experiences for adult-learners that teach through experience and out of isolation?

What if we created a movement to learn more about Twitter and formative assessment while investigating the primacy-recency effect as described in How the Brain Learns by David Sousa?

“This research indicates that there is a higher probability of effective learning taking place if we can keep the learning episodes short and, of course, meaningful. Thus, teaching two 20-minute lessons provides 20 percent more prime-time (approximately 36 minutes) than one 40-minute lesson (approximately 30 minutes). Note, however, that a time period shorter than 20 minutes usually does not give the learner’s brain sufficient time to determine the pattern and organization of the new learning, and is thus of little benefit.”
How the Brain Learns, David A. Sousa

What if we integrate reflection and quick-writes as the down time or cognitive break as the bridge between the 2 prime-time learning episodes? What if we leverage social media – Twitter – to share learning and questions across our school to paint a picture of learning?

Here’s the idea and implementation plan for a 50-60 minute period.

      1. Pause at approximately 18-20 minutes and ask our student-learners to do a quick write about what they are learning or doing in class.  (a form of self-assessment; do I know what I’m supposed to be learning?)
      2. Let learners quickly share what they wrote.  (a form of formative assessment, are they learning what I intend?)
      3. Tweet a summary of what is being learned or done using a common hashtag. (this models using social media for learning)
      4. Follow the tweets from this hashtag to be more informed about each other and what we are learning/doing in class to possibly find curricular connections and common ground.

What if we check for understanding 20 minutes into class and let this check inform our practices for the rest of the learning time – the 2nd prime-time interval?

Many teachers can’t find purpose for Twitter.  It is too much information, or they feel they have to be connected all of the time.  What if we change that? What if we use Twitter as a communication, learning, and celebration tool? (I think Grant’s post last weekend supports this and the need to change.)

I’m going to try something different in this session.  I’m going to ask the participants to practice, to go on a learning walk and tweet and then come back and analyze the results.  Experiential learning rather than sit-n-get. (We are going to use #ettLearns in addition to #ettiPad.)

Keep your fingers crossed!


For reflections and artifacts of learning about this PBL PD experiment, read more.

“I’ve thought about your problem…” Posh Problem Posse in action – Part 3

I’ve thought a lot about the Posh Problem Posse question of painting my shoes.  On Saturday, I ran after it rained.  I discovered that I had worn a hole in my right shoe. (Yuck, I discovered this while running. Wet socks are gross!) Yay! New shoes.

I sent the following email to Kate for the Posh Problem Posse. I wanted them to know how much I value their feedback about my safety, running, and shoes.

From: Jill Gough
Date: Sunday, February 3, 2013 5:36 PM
To: Kate Burton
Cc: Maryellen Berry
Subject: Dear Posh Problem Posse
Dear Posh Problem Posse,
After 145.8 miles, I had to retire my Lance Armstrong running shoes.  I discovered – the hard way – a hole in the bottom of the right shoe.  Your guidance and good questions helped me select my new shoes.  Thank you.  I cannot wait for you to see them and give me your thoughts.
As you can see from the attached photo, they have some serious neon colors per your suggestions.
I’ll be in Dallas this Friday when we meet, but I hope to Skype with you again.  I will leave my vest and wire with Ms. Burton so you can work on my illumination.

My intent was to let these young learner-problem-solvers know that I was listening and taking them seriously.  What would they do with the above information? I had no learning targets or outcomes planned.  I hoped they would take it as positive feedback.

Imagine my surprise and delight upon receiving the following email after school Monday.

From: K
Date: Monday, February 4, 2013 5:16 PM
To: Jill Gough
Subject: Shoes

I have thought about your problem and have come to a conclusion. My mom just ran a marathon and her shoes of choice were Asics. She has always used these and has never used Nike. I have done some research and they are dramatically less expensive without losing any quality. I also may I add that the shoe you see there is NOT custom colored. In fact, if you go to their website, http://www.asicsamerica.com/Footwear/Running-Shoes/ all their shoes are bright and neon. Also, because they are centered only on shoes they are typically better. They are great for any foot shape or size and have so many choices. I used to have Asics, but have just gotten a new pair of Nikes. I wish I hadn’t changed I loved my Asics. So now I have to wait and grow out of these before I can go back.

Other brands
saucony– more for racers and focused more on how light they can make a shoe for your running you want something with more support
Newtons – I think they are a bit trumped-up I looked at their website and it had things such as performance, or gravity but they all looked exactly the same I’m not to sure they are all that great however I must say I have never worn them.
karhu- if you want to run with style I do not suggest these they look like little nurse lady shoes with neon colors

I have found not to let the colors or the advertisement under sell you on a pair. Just imagine the shoe completely white and think is this really a  good shoe. Look mostly at the sole, the support, and the materials. I strongly advise not to get any with a foam bottom unless there is a thick covering of tread and rubber on top or you will wear them out like your old pair. But most of all look at heel support and the width of the shoe and know how wide your foot is. Don’t go against buying an expensive pair, because I assure you the cheapest will make up in surgery and doctor visit expenses.  Also, because you run it the dark I advise lots of tread that will prevent your feet from sliding.  If you have any questions just ask. K

Isn’t K’s reply great? Aren’t these awesome connections she’s making? How often do we use our research skills to serve others?

I absolutely love how relational her email is.  K connects me to her mother.  K shows she knows me with her comment about the karhu shoes.  Wow! “If you want to run with style I do not suggest these they look like little nurse lady shoes with neon colors.” She knows me well.

How much can and will our young learners research, do, and learn when we allow them to direct their learning and problem-solving?

I’m not smarter than these 6th graders…Posh Problem Posse in action – Part 2

At the first Posh Problem Posse meeting I explained my problem.  I’m running – training for a 10K.  I run very early in the morning in the dark.  I wonder if I am visible enough.  I wear a reflective vest, but can I be seen? Also, because it is cold, I wear a fleece vest which has a pocket to carry my phone.  When it gets warmer, how will I carry my phone?  I need it for safety. I need it for the app that coaches me.  I need it to listen to books and podcasts while I run.

There has been a week between the last meeting and this meeting.  I arrived in my running gear so they can see what I described when we last met. I’m wearing my gloves, vest, shoes, headband, etc.

Color me surprised… They have ideas, questions, and a mock-up prototype for me to see.  Wow!

I’m so sorry I didn’t capture more on video.  It was awesome! I’ve never heard of luminescent wire.

We spent about 20 minutes in a question session.  I wanted to know if the wire was washable.  Would wire on pants help me in the spring? Would they suggest luminescent wire on my running shorts or skirts? Should we consider only wiring my running vest? (I don’t wash it as often as I wash my running clothes.)

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 8.10.56 PMThe boys designed a sketch for me to discuss with them. They feel I need more reflective tape on my vest, and I need lights on my shoes. My current vest has reflective tape at my chest.  Their design has reflective tape spanning from my chest past my waist.  Notice the tuxedo stripes of luminescent wire on the pants. Teamwork in action.

They also are concerned about my fall.  Their hypothesis is that I need lights on my shoes to see when the pavement is uneven.  They are attempting to design lights for my shoes that help me see and also help me be seen.

They asked if they could paint my shoes with neon paint.  Now, I have a thing about my shoes! I don’t think I want my shoes to be painted.  They immediately wondered if they could find reflective tape to add to my shoes.

We, again, discussed my need for a pocket to carry my phone.  They asked if I used an iPhone.  They asked if I wanted the pocket to be padded.  “Just in case you fall again, it will protect your screen from getting smashed.” Sweet!

When I left, they were brainstorming next steps based on my feedback and their new ideas.

How often do we underestimate young learners?  What if we engage as learning partners with our young learners? What if we ask questions that have many answers? What if we ask questions without knowing the answers?

I have a problem…Posh Problem Posse in action – Part 1

Kate Burton, teacher of 6th graders, and I had a conversation about problem solving.  What could we do to promote more problem solving and critical thinking for a few of our 6th graders? We talked about Synergy, having an Alpha project, and gradual release of responsibility.

Kate and I are reading Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana. Could we (she) apply what we are learning with an Exploration about problem solving called a Posh Problem Posse?

I offered to be the first client for the Posh Problem Posse. I have a problem that I’d like for these smart, creative learners to consider.

I arrive for the first Posh Problem Posse meeting and explain my problem.  I’m running – training for a 10K.  I run very early in the morning in the dark.  I wonder if I am visible enough.  I wear a reflective vest, but can I be seen? Also, because it is cold, I wear a fleece vest which has a pocket to carry my phone.  When it gets warmer, how will I carry my phone?  I need it for safety. I need it for the app that coaches me.  I need it to listen to books and podcasts while I run.

The Posh Problem Posse asked me several questions.  Would I wear my phone on an arm band?  No. It will leave a tan mark. What problems have I had running? I fell in October because the uneven sidewalk caused me to trip.  Why do I run so early in the morning? I run before my family gets up so that I don’t miss any time with them and because I don’t sleep very much.

I only had 15 minutes to meet for this very first meeting.  Kate facilitated a question generation session with these learners and sent me the following email:

On 1/22/13 1:42 PM, “k8burton” wrote:
Below are the questions and then responses plus some extra notes.  It’s not formatted and there are a few abbreviations… Speed note taking at its finest.
Posh problem posse
What the budget that you would like us to have? A couple hundred
Would this be a gift, are we donating it to her? Bump in clothing is x 4
Would you be opposed to something larger like a puffer vest?
Would you rather have light wire around a pant leg
How much extra weight are u opposed to? Less than a pound
Do you want actual lights on some of you or reflectors
Does it have to be a vest? Would it work to have a light shining on you?
Would you like to have duct tape that might be a little less reflective?
Would you like reflective other places? Like jewelry or tuxedo stripe or head band hair tie or something in your head
Do you like listening to things when u run?
How close of a fit do you want? Adjustability
Do you have an iPhone
Where do you want your iPhone to be? Can it be on your arm?
What if the padded pocket for phone is on the inside of the jacket?
Do you want zip up or pull over vest? Pull over
What would you like the name to be?
What colors would you like? Orange pink
Would you like removable reflectors/ lights so that you don’t have to have them on at home? Removable for laundering
Velcro way to attach the airhorn
Lots more neon
longer on the vest
ID tag with info
Make an alley for the light wire
Sent from my iPad

There is a week between this meeting and the next meeting.  I plan to arrive in my running gear, so they can see what I have described.  I like the questions, and the way they are thinking.  I can’t wait to see what they are thinking!

Caine’s Arcade #PBL #DoDifferent #STEAM

Do you still wonder if we should make time and space for project-based, student-directed learning? Can you spare 11 minutes to watch Caine’s Arcade?

Can you find the content that you teach in Caine’s learning? I found design, engineering, math, physics, art, problem-solving, creativity, communication, strategic planning, perseverance, and many other important, fundamental, essential learnings.  I have to say that I just love his built-in security system with the calculators.  Amazing!

If you have 8 more minutes, please watch the next step,  Caine’s Arcade 2: The Global Cardboard Challenge & Imagination Foundation.

Who are the learners in this project? What was learned?