Reflections on Deeper Learning: Chapter 4 – Powering Up Learning with PBL Plus Technology

Last year, at the ASCD conference in Atlanta, I ended up sitting next to Suzie Boss in one of the sessions. A little star-struck, I was super excited to talk to her because I knew our entire school would be studying and utilizing PBL in the coming year. I always enjoy reading Suzie’s writing on its own merit, but it means that much more to me because I met her in person. I looked forward to reading this chapter because of our school’s intense work with PBL this past school year, and because of my role next year in the educational technology arena.

This chapter refers to project based learning plus technology as PBLT, which makes me think about sandwiches and I had to refocus my thoughts every time I saw that term 🙂

While I am by no means an expert in PBL, I have had the opportunity to work alongside teachers implementing individual and interdisciplinay PBL units all year. Throughout the school year, we worked with a fantastic coach through the World Leadership School, who helped guide our planning and implementation. This particular chapter was an excellent refresher on all the high points of Gold Standard Project Based Learning.

Because I am pretty familiar with the elements of Gold Standard PBL, the pieces of this chapter that stood out the most to me were the parts related to technology integration. Below are some of the ideas that resonated with me, and the tools I’d like to explore further:

  • For teachers who are new to PBLT, it helps to see technology-infused learning in action. Pioneering school models such as High Tech High, Expeditionary Learning, and New Tech Network open their doors to visitors and share project resources. (p. 115). Road trip, anyone?
  • Some digital tools, such as the following, are uniquely able to open new windows onto student thinking, thus setting the stage for more productive classroom conversations. (p. 117)
    • Chronozoom – interactive timeline tool
    • Tuva Labs – platform for analyzing, visualizing, and interpreting data
    • SketchUp – 3D modeling software
    • Quadblogging – platform that connects 4 classrooms of writers
  • “In an environment that fosters deeper learning, technology needs to be like oxygen – ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible” (p.119).
  • Opportunities to integrate technology to support instruction in a project:
    • Online surveys to identify student passions before the project begins
    • Virtual reality/videos/songs to engage students at the start of a project
    • Student blogs (written or video) and podcasts for reflection throughout
    • Collaborative tools that allow for easy feedback and iteration
    • Digital tools that foster rapid prototyping
    • Online publishing tools
  • The use of technology often overlaps with and connects to maker spaces…

One thought on “Reflections on Deeper Learning: Chapter 4 – Powering Up Learning with PBL Plus Technology

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  1. I just finished reading Chapter 4 in our “Deeper Learning” book, and enjoyed your summary of this chapter. I, too, connected with our work with Suzie and our WLS consultant on PBL at Mount Vernon. Both partnerships were so helpful and we learned many lessons in these collaborations.

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