Final thoughts on Project Based Learning

I began EdTech 542 not even knowing the definition of Project Based Learning. I couldn’t have had even a one-minute conversation about it. I took this course as part of my Technology Integration Certificate, but it wasn’t a class that jumped out of the course schedule and piqued my interest. Now, after only eight weeks, I feel I have an educated and applicable understanding of PBL concepts and many great resources to refer to as needed. I have seen my classmates create comprehensive PBL projects on a wide variety of topics. I have grown in both content knowledge and supporting technology tool expertise. I have designed a PBL unit from the ground up and feel the final product is ready for any teacher to pick up and implement. I feel the topic I chose is applicable and will instill strong content knowledge and 21st Century skills. In short, it’s been a journey.

What do I now understand best about Project Based Learning? What do I understand least well?
The most critical things I learned were the basic eight elements of PBL units. Each of them makes sense to me and I tried to build my own project around them. I am still trying to wrap my mind around content area curriculum and corresponding assessments, which does not come naturally to me since I am not a certified teacher. I really liked starting backwards and designing the assessments first. It was good practice and kept me focused on what I really wanted the students to take away from the project.

What did I expect to learn in this course? What did I actually learn? More, less, and why?
I expected to learn the academic rationale behind PBL and I did. I didn’t expect to see so many good examples of PBL projects in action, as we followed each one through the process. That was really helpful and made the end seem attainable. I was most impressed with the idea of authenticity. I feel so strongly that education should be real for students. I get so frustrated when there is such a disconnect between what is learned and what is remembered, what is taught and what is applied. One of the reasons I really enjoyed this class is because PBL is the type of learning I always wanted when I was in school and seldom received. I’m determined to do better with any student in my care.

What will I do with what I have learned?
I recently saw an old friend who has been a teacher for the past 10+ years. She is a big advocate of PBL and incorporates it into all that she does. She is an expert with years of experience using the PBL principles I just learned. I am certainly not at that level, and do not have a class of my own to apply my new knowledge. However, as I dive into my new job as K-12 Technology Integration Coordinator, I am glad I have some PBL knowledge behind me. I will be able to offer teachers ideas, encouragement, examples, and support as they try to implement more PBL in their classrooms.

For me, Project Based Learning is an exciting opportunity to instill both content knowledge and 21st Century skills in students. If the project is planned and implemented well, students will emerge not only more educated but more confident. They will remember more longer since they have authentically applied the knowledge in a real scenario. It is a win-win for everyone.

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