PBL: Driving Questions

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This week in my project based learning class we began to plan a project that can be applied to a group of students.  My classmate, Aaron Dore and I began to put our heads together to see if we could create a cross cultural project.  He first began with the overall idea of having students research supply and demand.  As I began to share with him some of the cultural and societal differences in Saudi Arabia, compared to living in the USA, we began to see unlimited possibility to collaboration ideas that can be done between students from both cultures.  So we set out to see what we can accomplish.

Fortunately, these projects slowly unfold, discovering all the enrichment that is waiting for the teachers and the students.  Aaron and I were full of ideas and potential, but piecing them together in the jigsaw of purpose would soon become a rather big task.  During this assignment, the professor asked us to make a driving question and sub questions that will support the goal and efforts of our students in this project.  As I began to piece together an appropriate driving question with the subsequent sub questions, I discovered that our project will probably need to be narrowed down to a more specific focus.  As I already mentioned, there are many ideas, but focusing them to a clear outcome is still up in the air.  As Aaron and I continue to collaborate, we will explore ways of making are project and questions more precise and focused.


Reflection: Community Building Strategies

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This week in my K-12 Online Teaching class, we were introduced to the idea of establishing an online community where people feel that they belong.  Since online learning sets up a class that is not based on proximity and physical contact, certain strategies must be considered to create a feeling of belonging and interconnectedness.  Therefore, I have written these strategies with the idea of creating a community for an online class.  Many of these ideas were inspired by my textbook, Making the Move to K-12 Online Teaching: Research-Based Strategies and Practices.  However, since I don’t actually teach online, I had to imagine how I would structure activities in the event that I am preparing an online course.  Here is my plan:

My Plan for Online Community Building Strategies

The initial strategy involves me introducing myself.  Because I am trying to personalize this introduction, I would use my skills with video editing to create an entertaining introduction.  This will also model the same type of information that I want to receive from them in an introduction.

I will not obligate students to make a video, so I will provide them with general guidelines about the information that I want them to present, but let them choose the type of delivery (e.g. information post, audio recording, drawing, or presentation).  The information that I will ask for the students to include is: photo or image of themselves, family information, location, hobbies, technology background, experience with online courses, and educational goals for this class and beyond.

Many of these activities provide for a safe environment, yet it also motivates students to create good quality responses, because they know that other students will be reading or watching.  Requiring students to first, answer a teacher made quiz about other students, then, make their own quiz about themselves, will be the most effective way to make a community because they will have to depend on each other to accomplish each individual task.  These activities have the purpose of deepening interpersonal relationships online, so later they will be able to place confidence in their classmates when collaboration is required.


Rice, K. (2011). Making the Move to K-12 Online Teaching: Research-Based Strategies and Practices (1st ed.). Allyn & Bacon.

PBL Research Summary: Studies Validate Project-Based Learning | Edutopia

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PBL Research Summary: Studies Validate Project-Based Learning | Edutopia.

Despite being a bit dated (Edutopia, 2001), this article provides ample information about the effectiveness of project based learning (PBL).  The purpose of this article was to give a brief overview of various research projects, which studied schools that implemented lessons and activities that were more student centered, meaning that the students took more charge of their learning and funneled it into a purposeful project.  Of course the teacher in this role, was not as active in lecturing, but rather directs the students with a goal, or give them the tools to create their own goals.

In all the cases of PBL in this article, the students showed gains in their academic progress.  In many cases, the research projects were done in schools that had suffered through low results in standardized testing, and they all not only showed great gains, many of them were performing at higher levels than the standard level of other schools in their district.  Some of the data also showed that there was a decrease in absentees.

As I read through these accounts, of course I am inspired toward using PBL.  However, the thought is a little intimidating, because I think of how it requires a big idea.  Wrapping my head around something of such magnitude is a little overwhelming, but I am confident that I have the creative juices to tie in many standards and criteria into a project.  However, because I am not sure how well students will buy into the idea, I am always hesitant about taking on a project that goes more than 1-2 weeks.

For the EDTECH 542 course I will be required to layout a project that can be implemented for my students.  Likely, I will team up with other students, who are teachers in other subject areas.  This type of project is intended to be across subject areas, what we call in IB “Horizontal Planning”.  However, I do see myself very involved in setting the project goals and standards for multimedia use.  I can see either a project requiring students to make a commercial or do a role play in video.  This will require students not only to work with video, but also use video editing software.  At the same time they will develop concepts of effective communication and marketing.


PBL Research Summary: Studies Validate Project-Based Learning | Edutopia. (2001).Edutopia. Retrieved June 13, 2012, from http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-research

PBS Teachers | Resources For The Classroom

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I like that I can specifically choose grade level and subject area to search for project ideas.

PBS Teachers | Resources For The Classroom.

Project Ideas: The way we are, class sharing project

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This project seems appropriate for my international students, if I have all the right community and elements in place.

ePals Global Community.

Project Idea: ePals Global Community

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Follow this link to see a great site that shows a great project exchange between classrooms and students, via the internet.

ePals Global Community.

Edtech 521: K-12 Online Education, Introduction

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This is the first assignment for my Edtech 521 class, K-12 Online Education.

What are best practices in an online environment?

Where is your place in the history of education?  Many people believe that education is in a paradigm shift and we are barely crossing  the threshold of the potential of online education.  There are many terms associated with online education: distance or virtual education, 21st century learning, e-learning, etc, but I prefer to think of it as modern learning.  Throughout the history of education, kids and adults have been taught how to function in their society.  We just happen to be living in an age that has increased the forms and exposure of communication, which naturally affects education.  In my opinion, one of the biggest factors of effective online education is in the paradigm shift.  There are the remnants of old ways of thinking being transformed to new ways.  Anyone who teaches in an online environment will be challenged by this in their own process, but they especially need to be aware of this for the sake of your stakeholders.  However, education has had massive increases in the use of online mediums over the last few years, and with this, so has the research increased for effective practice.  Therefore, I shall take a look at some of this information for effective practice.

  • Describe qualities of a successful online environment.

As Kerry Rice has pointed to in her book, Making the Move to K-12 Online Teaching, there are noted practices that lead to an effective online environment.  One of the key paradigm distinctions between traditional classroom and online classroom is learner-centerdness.  Even though this is a quality that can be found in the traditional classroom, it is only in the online classroom that it is absolutely necessary.   The predecessor to online learning, which is distance learning, failed to engage the students due to lack of communication technologies and delivery strategy.  The best practice of online learning is to engage the learning to problem solve, research, and communicate their findings.  One form of the engagement is called Project Based Learning (Rice, 2012).

Other qualities include learner autonomy, active participation, and community building.  All three of these work together to place opportunities and expectations on the students and their involvement in the course.  They have to do more than just listen or read.  These qualities clearly raise the bar for student involvement in the course,  because they find purpose and fulfillment in their investment of time.

  • What issues must a teacher consider that are specific to teaching in an online environment?

A teacher that is making the shift from a traditional classroom setting to an online setting must consider the necessary adaptations for lesson planning, lesson delivery, and inter-relational dynamics with the students and other teaching professionals.  Good teaching skills, such as being an educator, a project manager, and instructional designer can produce results in both traditional and nontraditional environments, but for the teacher to be successful in an online environment, they must have the technological knowledge and creativity.

Social presence is a term that is used to describe the amount of access between a student and teacher or with other students.  In the past, online environments were assumed to be inferior because it was perceived to have low social presence.  However, many experts are beginning to see how the online environment, in certain aspects, provides superior social presence than the traditional class (Kemp, 2012).  Nonetheless, if a teacher is familiar with this but a student is a novice with online learning, this could cause problems of withdrawal.  The teacher must be aware of the amount of participation each student is putting in to the lesson.

  • What types of students might be most successful in an online learning environment? How do we ensure that all students are successful in online environments?

For both of these questions, I will attempt to address them based on my opinion, and try to give logical support to my ideas.  When I try to think of a student profile that would be successful in online learning, I think back on the many students that I have had in traditional classroom settings, and I try to imagine which ones could make a successful transition.  I immediately think of all the times that my classes actually created a distraction to the learning process.  I will admit that I have struggled at times with classroom management, but while working with younger students, who often lack social maturity, I have seen how a few students can really destroy learning environments.  I have often thought that if I could just isolate the students, so much more learning could take place.  However, I am not so naive to believe that all students will do better with online instruction.

I do think of the high achievers that often have more responsibility and organization to handle online lessons.  I also think of the students that are too intimidated by their own lack of confidence, and I know that online environments provide less intimidating ways of engaging those students.  Lastly, I think of those same trouble makers, whether in jest or mischievousness, they often act out just for attention.  These students can also benefit from online learning environments because they know whatever work they produce, they will have an audience.

Many educational programs, both local and national, have been implemented for the purpose of allowing all students to be successful.  There are many great stories of people who did a lot with just a little bit of opportunity.  Unfortunately, the opposite, people who do nothing with a lot of opportunity,  is very true too.  So I don’t think online learning has the cure to make all students successful.  However, I do believe the online environment has more advantages for engaging the students with low motivation.  I think the communication online can be less threatening for many students.  Communication can be both private and public online, which means it can be more discrete in times of confrontation or support.  From a legal perspective, the online environment provides instant documentation for troubled cases.


Rice, K. (2011). Making the Move to K-12 Online Teaching: Research-Based Strategies and Practices (1st ed.). Allyn & Bacon.

Kemp, D. S. (2012). Social Presence in Online Learning (A Special Contribution to D-E.c) | Distance-Educator.com. Retrieved June 7, 2012, from http://distance-educator.com/social-presence-in-online-learning-a-sepcial-contribtion-to-d-e-c/

This assignment has met the following AECT requirements:

1.1.5.c Demonstrate congruency among goals/objectives, instructional strategies, and assessment measures.

1.2.b Apply principles of educational psychology, communications theory, and visual literacy to the development of instructional messages specific to the learning task.

3.3.1 Use appropriate instructional materials and strategies in various learning contexts.

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