Project Based Learning

10 Apr

I have just read the Boss & Krauss (2008) article and would like to share a classroom experience of mine a few years back when I first started teaching. Firstly, I have a Drama/Media/English teaching background and prior to teaching I worked in youth theatres and led workshops in film production and theatre with youth. The youth I worked with, both in my arts background and in teaching, have almost always been from what people term ‘disadvantaged’ (although, I am not so sure this is the term we continue to use today) backgrounds and often not engaged in learning.

When I started teaching media at a high school I introduced to my year 10 students a project alongside the curriculum already in place, therefore it did involve more work. This project was to create a documentary that would be part of a film festival for schools in the western metropolitan region. The whole class worked together as the producers/creators of this documentary. Shortly after we started, a terrible bullying incident happened at the school that shocked a great deal of the school community. This affected the ‘filmmakers’ in my class strongly enough to want to focus the documentary on the issue of bullying. The engagement in the process of creating this documentary was fantastic. There was some direct instruction in the film-making process, such as planning, research, filmic language, camera techniques, story-boarding, interviewing techniques, lighting and editing. In the scheme of the project this direct instruction seemed minimal compared to the actual process of working on the documentary. Students beyond the classroom were involved as extras, as students who were willing to share their stories in the documentary and as actors who reenacted scenes that students talked about.

The class learned about documentary as a form and were able to apply their learning as a result. Assessment was easy as it included various stages such as planning, process and final product as well as skills and attributes displayed by students. The assessment was certainly formative but achieving an end product also contributes to a summative assessment that is formed through a combination of the various tasks.

I know that this project was part of a media subject but I have also carried out a similar process in the English classroom through units focusing on radio plays or radio documentaries for example, and I have found it successful here also. I can certainly see how a class blog can work in writing a novel for instance, if that is what a teacher would like to explore with a group. Beyond this I managed to find a librarian blog recently (although, I can’t locate it right now) that had a wonderful feature for students to be able to contribute their stories to the library blog and this felt like such an exciting opportunity for student involvement in the library blog.

Even though I am comfortable with technology, and have studied film-making in the past, twenty years ago when I first was making films the technology was different and today that technology is not so relevant. Over time, I have had to adapt to new technologies, keep up, and maintain  the willingness to learn new things and, I suppose, accept that technology always changes. This last point has helped the most. No doubt, I am sure there are many who can share stories about not knowing how to use something and a student was able to show you how. I know this has happened to me many times.

As a summation of this post
1. Project based learning works for all from all backgrounds and can prove meaningful and most importantly remembered later in life. At the film festival, I know the students felt like ‘stars’ and were very proud of their efforts. The school now has this student-made documentary on ‘bullying’ that can be accessed and utilised as a starting point for further discussion. Further to this, the process although initiated by myself, had the overarching feeling of being student-led and this was important to the sense of achievement felt by the students.

2. technology is constantly changing and my ability to adapt and learn new things is more important than the technology itself. For example I, like many in my teacher librarian course, only learned to blog because of this subject. Yet, I am excited about the possibilities it can bring to the educational environment and even the creative possibilities that many may come up with as a result of learning to blog.

In considering how this applies to my role as the Teacher-librarian in any school setting, I suppose it links in closely with the idea of leading in curriculum and bringing these ideas to the school. Like the media class, it will involve some instruction but, the process should win out in the end and that is what ends up leading in the curriculum.

Another student in my course  mentioned ‘brekkie with a tekkie‘ (click on the link it is great). Maybe as the Teacher-librarian I may initiate ‘brekkie with the Teacher-Librarian’ as a way of sharing and demonstrating ideas. Working in a school will make me accessible for more collaboration hopefully.

The video following raises some of the issues confronted when thinking about education and transformation for the 21 century. It is within this context that Project based learning takes form.

Technology is not so relevant on its own and just adding technology to our repertoire of skills wont necessarily enhance teaching and learning. It is how we utilise technology as a tool to meet an end that makes a difference. Thinking deeply about the technological tools we have at our disposal and how they can contribute to meaningful learning and take education to the next level where creativity and problem solving is enhanced is the key.

Boss, S. & Krauss, J. (2008) Reinventing ProjectBased Learning: your field guide to real-world projects in the digital age. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: