I have myself a project! I have called it “Project: Me.” I have also created a website that highlights various components of this PBL unit.
Project: Me will take students on an exploratory journey both close to home and far away. Initially, students will be asked to consider the characteristics, cultural background, language, social issues, family traditions, holidays, and history that make them unique. They will also explore various ways they use technology and how technology has an impact on the way they interact with the world. They can do this through interviews, writing prompts, group discussions, and other ways. Students will work collaboratively with another classroom in a different geographic location that is implementing the same unit, and they will communicate about similarities and differences. Both classes will participate in a one-day photo essay where each student takes several photos throughout the day that represent various aspects of his/her life. Some data can be integrated into charts and diagrams for comparison. Students will develop a multimedia presentation or website that showcases their findings, including elements such as art, photos, music, recipes, poetry, writings, and a timeline.
This week I researched what makes a good driving question. As I first started reading, I wondered about the word choice of “driving,” not quite sure of its meaning. Did driving mean “energetic, vigorously active” geared to keep the students engaged, or more of the “vroom vroom” driving that gets students where we want them to go. It probably means both, though I like the idea of a class of students sitting in a car driving to a destination. This project will certainly be a journey, one full of discovery and exploration. Students will need to dig deep within themselves, their families, and their sense of community and culture. I hope they will emerge with a better appreciation of who they are and how they fit into the world around them. One of my fellow classmates commented that this type of soul-searching project is perfect for this age group (grades 6-8) who are still sorting out their identity. I hope they enjoy the ride.
I particularly liked an article about the importance of teachers using essential questions as a powerful tool to focus student efforts toward a meaningful goal (TLC, Using Essential Questions to Focus Teaching and Learning section, para 2).
Driving Question: What makes me and the life I lead unique?
I left it purposefully open and simple. I think it sums up the whole of what the project is about: uniqueness. Looking at the criteria of a good driving question, it has the main elements: it is challenging, relevant, and interesting (who doesn’t like talking about themselves?); it is open-ended, complex, and requires higher-level thinking; and it is linked to the core standards of what the students will learn (Buck Institute for Education, Writing A Driving Question section, para 3). Ten subquestions will help students get thinking about the various aspects of this project and tie in well to the overall question.
I explored various technology tools and started a list on my PBL website. Part of our assignment this week is to create a visual organization of our project using a web-based tool. I experimented with Gliffy, Bubble.us, Inspiration, and xtimeline, but in the end I used Google Docs drawing tool for its ease of creating and sharing.
I have a long way to go on this project, but at least now I have a focus and a direction that I’m pleased with.
Buck Institute for Education. (n.d.) Writing A Driving Question. Retrieved from www.bie.org/diy/getting_started/writing_a_driving_question/