Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Project Based Learning

My previous post was a note that I wrote back in August and posted on my Facebook Account to several of my friends and relatives that are also teachers. I was just browsing my PLN and landed on Richard Byrne's site Free Technology for Teachers. I was glancing over his most recent entries and this video by Common Craft was posted and deals with Project Based Learning (PBL), a teaching style I've been learning and working with my students on more and more. You can watch the video below. Thanks to Richard Byrne and Larry Ferlazzo for the heads up and BEI for commissioning the video! This is an excellent source that describes exactly what I am feeling in my post below and how I feel, teachers should teach! Thanks! Here are some free resources for you to start using PBL in your classroom!

A Note To Teachers

As a teacher I am quickly (or is it slowly?) learning that students do not learn the things that I tell them, nor do they learn the things that I show them, but they learn the things that THEY do. As a teacher thinking back to being a student, I am realizing that the things that I learned, the things that actually stuck with me, are the things that the teacher made me do, not the things that told me or showed me, but the experiences that I have had.

Granted I did learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but I also know that until I had to put those things into practice I struggled with them- a lot. I know that my teachers often lectured me on the subjects that they were teaching, but I don't remember anything that they said unless I was being entertained. I remember my US History teacher in 8th grade acting out the Battle of Gettysburg for us and the class laughing hysterically at her acting skills. I remember making chili in my 7th Grade Texas History class, although I'm not sure why. I remember going on Field Trips and actually learning about the things that were there (although at the time, I was more excited about being out of the classroom and getting to hang out with my friends), but each day in the classroom, meh, not much there...other than what notes were being passed around, who I sat next to, and what class I was in (Math/Language/History/Science).

This makes sense, because I don't remember "stuff" anyway. I couldn't begin to tell you what someone has bought me for Christmas or my birthdays, but I do remember who was there, what we ate, the smells, the laughter, the sounds, the things that I EXPERIENCED.

I am not on a daily conquest as to how to get my students to actually learn, what is actually important for them to learn, and what I want them to take away from my class. As an "Elective" teacher, I have a unique opportunity in which, although I have to meet state standards, students are not required to "know" anything from my class to move on to the next grade. Yes, I still want them to learn in my class, and learn from things that they do in class, as well as continue to build upon things that they already know and are doing in other classes...yada yada...I'm sure you all know the foundation, house, roof scenario that I am talking about here...I'm not wanting them not to learn by any means, quite the contrary actually, I am wanting them to learn and thrive. I am wanting to know what is the MOST important thing for them to learn to be successful in the future. (And yes I know that was one of the worst run-on sentences ever, but I'm on a roll so hang in there.)

When I start thinking about this, I have come to the conclusion that the most important thing I can teach them is how to teach themselves, or at least how to find out information for themselves. Additionally, I think that teaching them how to communicate what they have learned, not only verbally or through a test, but to communicate in ways in which others will remember what they have said (to give other people experiences) is going to serve them far better than anything that I could ever teach them about art or technology. Yes, I could explain to them how to properly discuss a painting, but they can figure that out if they ever actually need that skill, they just have to "Google" it. Wouldn't it be better if I taught them HOW to figure out how to talk about a painting help them more?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

QR Codes

I have been reading a lot about QR Codes from Jeff Utecht's blog The Thinking Stick. I have taken his QR Code Challenge and hung a QR Code outside my classroom and am waiting for a student to figure out how to read it. I hung it outside my room one day after school and the very next morning it was causing quite a bit of buzz in the hallways...what is that black square thing?...some students even knew what it was, but still haven't figured out how to read it. They just said it was something that you read with a phone. I can't wait until they figure it out!