A World of #PBL Possibilities

I am training myself to see more #PBL possibilities. Through the years, and from reading such works as Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind and Carol Dweck’s Mindset, I am convinced that being an artist largely involves practicing the acts of looking and seeing. Why would becoming a “PBL-ist” be much different?

Here are a few examples of how I am practicing being a PBL seeker, with resulting ideas for PBL. Oh…that’s project-based learning, problem-based learning, etc.

1. Using TED talks to spur thinking.

Each morning, thanks to an RSS feed, I watch at least one TED talk – it’s delivered to my computer, like a newspaper to a house. Before I even touch that beautiful red “play” arrow, I ask myself, “What is this going to show me that could be related to PBL?” This morning, I watched Geoffrey West’s “The surprising math of cities and corporations,” which I have embedded below. Throughout the talk, I imagined middle schoolers studying our city of Atlanta – understanding its historical growth, its environmental and business challenges, its political scene, etc. In my mind’s new PBL-eye, I could see students collecting the type of data that Geoffrey West describes, and I could see the students Skyping with other students in other cities as they exchanged city data and ideas. I could see them applying science thinking and sociology thinking and economic thinking to some of the issues our city faces.

2. I use my iPhone and iPad to capture pictures that spark inquiry and curiosity in me.

This week, I happened upon this growth in a nearby building. I wondered why this was growing here…what is it…how could we prevent it from growing here again? What a strong possibility for students to integrate science, math, history, and persuasive writing to enact a plan that addresses this unanticipated indoor fungi!

3. I combine #1 and #2 – I think in my mental Rolodex about what I have photographed and what I have seen on TED.

For example, with colleague Mary Cobb, I recently completed the 6th annual hanging of the Junior High School Permanent Art Collection (this is one of my greatest joys each summer!) This year, as we hung student art, we discussed Amit Sood’s TED talk, “Building a museum of museums on the web,” which I have embedded below. Can you imagine the “coolness” of students building such an online gallery of our JHPAC? Then, can you imagine this resource potentially being linked with Amit Sood’s project? The JHPAC could be another virtual gallery alongside the MoMA and the Louvre.

4. I listen to and talk with faculty.

Colleague Danelle Dietrich has become increasingly interested in various capabilities of the TI-Nspire (a graphing calculator and software). On Thursday of last week, she was sharing her excitement as she was thinking about the mathematics of leaf veins. She had some great ideas for importing leaf images and studying the vein-ation of the leaves. We started to brainstorm about the relationships of blood vein-ation to leaf vein-ation. Then, we hypothesized about the relationship of computer networks and communications veins to leaf veins and blood veins. Can you imagine students writing letters and websites to city politicians explaining their study of the communications systems of Atlanta and the need to rethink the vein-ation of our networks around town?

What ideas are you imagining? It all starts with imagination…just like a young child imagining a pretend world. We are only limited by our capacity to realize our imaginations through creative expression. And our capacities can expand – with teamwork, practice, and persistence.

Get your #PBL-lenses on!

1 thought on “A World of #PBL Possibilities

  1. I love the specifics you gave regarding what you do to get the creative side of your brain going by connecting your PBL ideas in pictures with a TED talk. Great practical suggestion.

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