Contagious…I Can…We Can

Jonathan Martin’s post “Project Based Learning for the 21st Century: A Disappointing Video” has been “haunting” me a bit – in a positively good way. I responded with a comment on his blog, and I “thought out loud” by posting this early reaction – “Wanted: PBL ‘Coffee House.'” Even earlier, during Christmas vacation, I posted a vlog in order to contemplate some elements of PBL (“Vlogging is Thinking – PBL“) inspired by the same BIE video that spurred Martin’s “disappointing video” post.

More recently, Martin has posted “8 High Quality Project Based Learning (PBL) Videos.” Also, my learning and teaching partner, Jill Gough, has gotten into the blog-comment discussion, too. I am hoping for even more ripples in the pond…more learners and teachers entering the coffee house for PBL (see Steve Johnson’s TED talk if you are unfamiliar with the coffee house reference).

Now, I would like to offer another response to Martin’s blog post and provide an additional thread for the coffee house discussion about PBL. I am making an hypothesis that Kiran Bir Sethi’s TED talk comes closer to what Martin was hoping for in the BIE video about project-based learning.

Through the video story of Riverside School and “infecting India,” I believe that Sethi hits at the heart of what Martin says he finds to be missing from the BIE video – a meaningful and tangible connection of the student project to a real-world issue…and through media/experiences that make an impact on the issue (as opposed to just making posters for the viewing of members of the class). Relevancy – first-hand-involvement style relevancy – provides the “rigor” (I prefer “vigor“) that Martin wishes for the BIE video.

In the near future, I hope to publish a series of posts about PBL, what stands in the way of PBL implementation, and how schools can overcome those obstacles and integrate more PBL into their curricula. Engaging in this virtual discussion with Martin and others is invaluable to me as I think through the complexities of PBL. Additionally, I find the “What is 21st Century Education?” post to be particularly enlightening about the discipline of quality PBL. And, of course, Linda Darling-Hammond pubishes outstanding work about PBL. For me, the most revealing has been Powerful Learning: What We Know About Teaching for Understanding.

6 thoughts on “Contagious…I Can…We Can

  1. Pingback: Contemplating pbl vs. PBL « It's About Learning

  2. Pingback: Shouldn’t Practice Mimic the Game? « It's About Learning

  3. Chris Lehmann at Practical theory just put up a great guest post describing how one of his science teachers went about planning a project about the food system, and getting students to get in on the design phase of the project.

    Guest-Post: Planning A Project

    Last year, I found my students had a lot of dread around the word “project.” They almost always saw this as something extra and tacked on that would require lots of outside of class time, and be a pain to do.

    It occurs to me that the process of getting students to help in the design phase (particularly in how you will assess the project) might help overcome this.

  4. Also, I received this email from our Science Department Chair, and she gave me permission to pass along to others as an example of PBL in practice…

    “Inspired by my day on Monday (thanks Bob and Thad!), my students are working on a problem-based-learning scenario in which a student driver has minor accident by running into a parked car. Obviously none of this will involve anyone behind the wheel of a car, and we will not do a re-enactment of the event. I’m using a case from the Emory site [], and modifying it a bit to suit my class. I have attached the case if you’re interested. [Bo’s link to case through his Box:

    So, the reason I’m writing you is to see what resources we may have around that the students can use. I’m not sure exactly where this will go, as I’m having the students design all of the experiments. So far they want to have tires to work with and figure out the coefficient of friction. Different kids of tires would be great. They also want some hunks of asphalt that they can get wet, or freeze when wet. At this point they are interested in calculating safe speeds at various driving conditions for the curve leading to the JHS next to Robinson, as this is where our accident occurs. One group went out to look for a speed limit sign but didn’t find one. Another group was investigating the school-wide speed limit.

    I would like for them to do as much of the leg work as possible, but want to be on the side pointing them in the right direction so they don’t run in circles. Do you know if we have some tires or asphalt hunks around? If so, who should they go to? Also, is there a school-wide speed limit? Two days in, it’s a fun project, and they are really engaged. Please feel free to throw in any advice you may have, and thanks in advance for your help!”

    Juliet McClatchey Allan
    Science Department Chair
    The Westminster Schools
    1424 W. Paces Ferry Rd., NW
    Atlanta, GA 30327

  5. Another PBL resource that I experienced recently:

    “Challenge Based Learning is an easy-to-use framework that allows students to maximize the use of technology, collaborate with others while solving major challenges that have been presented to them.

    We recorded the webinar so you can watch it at your leisure: Feel free to pass along this link to other colleagues interested in Challenge Based Learning.

    If your institution is considering an implementation of Challenge Based Learning in the near future, contact me to obtain an instructional teacher guide that was recently authored by several of the speakers from the webinar.”

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