In a project based model of learning other educators and administrators don’t see the the students as “learning” because the teacher isn’t standing in front of the classroom “doing” the modeling of each and every step in the process. The student centered approach to learning has not been the “preferred” methodology in most of the schools I have worked during my educational career. Most educators, I have found, are more comfortable using scripted programs, fill in the blank worksheets, and canned curricula. This seems to be more prevalent at the elementary levels than the middle and upper grades. The thought of looking at the standards and using that to drive instruction rather than the teachers manual to many is intimidating. With this said as an I.C.T teacher there isn’t a one size fits all curricula with a teachers manual. Project centered learning with the teacher as a facilitator, coach, and problem solver is the nature of my position.
What I find eye opening is that this philosophy is embedded into my position as a specialist, with learning that is project centered on process, quality, and product seems to be an ongoing contradiction to the philosophies ingrained in elementary classrooms.
How do we as educators respond to criticisms about project based student centered learning? That is a great quadry. I find that I am backing my instruction by using the standards and pointing out to others the shift in the language. For example many of the K-2 ELA standards use the phrase “with adult assistance students will”. This phrase appears a lot less in the 3rd grade and is almost non-existent come 4th grade. The language changes to “students will create, publish, type, cite, etc.” The shift in the standards indicates a shift in instructional strategy from being teacher centered instruction in K-2 to that of student centered in grades 3 and up.
An effective classroom facilitator knows when to coach, engage, and directly instruct given the needs of students. When acting as a facilitator rather than a teacher on the stage one tends to have smaller more meaningful conversations with students given the current phase of the process they are in. As a facilitator you need to be flexible and be able to change direction with the changing needs of the students as they work their way through the project based learning tasks moving towards the culminating end result.
Students will even in a project based learning environment develop the skills and competencies need to be successful. In the positive digital footprint project students are gaining valuable skills of organization, research, citing sources, uploading files, editing an website, and reflection upon learning. All of these 21st century skills are an integral part of being a great digital citizen in what is become a global economy. Students need to recognize that their internet presence is visible and they need to put their best foot forward by showcasing their skills.
In order to be an effective facilitator in my PBL unit, I will create screen-casts of how to use the various digital tools available to students in the project. As these are needed, I will push these resources out to students in Google Classroom so they can access them when needed. We will have students give status updates in classroom along the way so classmates can give feedback and as the facilitator I can monitor progress and jump in when students may need additional assistance and guidance along the way. Paper copies of resources will be organized in a central location of the classroom and digital copies of these will be available in Google Classroom as well.
This week additional refinements have been made to the PBL unit on Creating a Positive Digital Footprint.