Thursday, April 17, 2014

Project-Based Learning in Teacher Education

Teacher educators are sometimes guilty (me included) of teaching students about effective pedagogical approaches instead of teaching students through those effective approaches. Over the past two semesters, I have been intentional about explicitly modeling effective pedagogical techniques and providing time for students to reflect on potential applications for their future classrooms.

One approach to teaching and learning that I want my students to be comfortable with is project-based learning (PBL). To have students explore trending topics in educational technology, I've designed a PBL task for my Technology in the Classroom course. My students and I will meet via Google Hangouts, I'll pose the challenge and set some parameters, and then I'll turn them loose. Instructions for the PBL task are below.

  1. Choose a partner.
  2. Choose one of these trending topics in educational technology:
    1. 1-to-1, flipped learning, BYOD, gamification, or gaming
    2. Record your names on this Google Spreadsheet.
  3. Find information & resources related to your topic. Learn enough about it that you could talk about it to someone else without sounding like an idiot.
    1. What is it? What are the benefits? What are the pitfalls? What details would a teacher need to know?
    2. Record your responses to these questions on the Google Spreadsheet.
  4. Connect with educators who are interested in, experts in, or involved in your topic.
    1. Twitter search, hashtag, Google+ community, blogs
  5. Develop 3 questions for educators who know a lot about your topic.
  6. Reach out to educators about your topic and try to gather some responses to your questions. In addition to getting real-time answers, you may also find answers in blog posts or other places. You’re trying to get responses before we come back together at the end of class.
    1. Think about how to get your questions out to a broad audience as well as to specific people you’ve targeted.
  7. Record what you find out from others on the Google Spreadsheet.
  8. Join our GHO at 5:30 to share, process, and reflect!

This is my first time with this particular assignment, and I'm very much looking forward to learning alongside my students. As I revise this task for future sections, I realize that I need to remove some parameters and provide only a question that needs an answer. I'm hoping to gather feedback from my students about how to improve this learning experience and incorporate more PBL into our teacher education program.

After students complete the task, we're going to come back together in a Google Hangout to reflect on the experience. I'll be using the following questions to guide the conversation.

  • In what ways does today’s information-abundant society change the role of the teacher?
  • What does school look like when the teacher no longer has (or needs to have) all the answers?
  • What are some implications for your future classroom?
  • What are some other ways I could have structured today’s class so that you could learn this content? What would be benefits and limitations of those different approaches?

Have you considered your own thoughts about the questions above? Teachers who don't embrace the implications of today's information-rich society risk quickly becoming irrelevant. It's imperative that we engage other educators in conversations about implications for schools, teaching, and learning in light of the abundant information our students have in their pockets.

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