When used with 21st-century tools/skills, Project Based Learning (PBL) is more than just a web-quest or internet research task. Within this type of project, students are expected to use technology in meaningful ways to help them investigate, collaborate, analyze, synthesize and present their learning. Where technology is infused throughout the project, a more appropriate term for the pedagogy can be referred to as iPBL (copyright 2006, ITJAB), to reflect the emphasis of technological tools/skills AND academic content.
The PROMOTE Georgia Project is an excellent example of iPBL. This 2002 Georgia Department of Education initiative was developed by a team of instructional technologists. When used effectively, research has shown PBL, and iPBL, helps teachers create a high-performing classroom in which teachers and students form a powerful learning community. The aim is for real-life context and technology to meet and achieve outcomes in the curriculum through an inquiry based approach. A PBL approach is designed to encourage students to become independent workers, critical thinkers, and lifelong learners. Many teachers and researches involved in PBL believe it makes school more meaningful as it provides in-depth investigations of real-world topics and significant issues worthy of each individual child's attention and investigation.
Another example of a successful PBL interdisciplinary school is located in Pomona, California. International Polytechnic High School, commonly abbreviated as I-Poly High School, originated in 1993, is a public college preparatory high school (9-12) located on the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) campus and operated by the Los Angeles County Office of Education in conjunction with the College of Education and Integrative Studies at the university. I-Poly is also a teacher training site working collaboratively with Cal Poly Pomona. (http://www.lacoe.edu/orgs/1021/index.cfm)
Another example of a different PBL is Muscatine High School, A four-year comprehensive high school located in Muscatine, Iowa. The school and has recently started the G2 (Global Generation Exponential Learning) consists of middle and high school “Schools within Schools”, which deliver the four core subject areas. The concept is based loosely on High Tech High’s model of education practiced in public charter schools in San Diego. 16 teachers and 9 administrators visited High Tech High in the spring of 2010, worked with High Tech High Staff in Muscatine, and spent days of curriculum development and planning over the summer. Approximately 380 students, representing MCSD demographics, are involved with the inquiry-based approach at the middle and high school levels. At the high school, activities may include making water purification systems, investigating service learning, or creating new bus routes. At the middle school level, activities may include researching trash statistics, documenting Muscatine history through interviews, or writing essays related to a community scavenger hunt. Classes are designed with an emphasis of assisting a group of diverse students to become college and career ready as they graduate from high school. Design principles that form the foundation of G2 include Personalization, Adult World Connection, College/Career Ready, and Teacher as Designer.
Yet another example is the New Tech Network, http://newtechnetwork.org/, is a non-profit organization that helps high school students gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life, college, and the careers of tomorrow. We work nationwide with schools, districts, and communities to provide services and support that enable schools to implement innovative high schools that promote deeper learning.Beginning in the mid-90s in Napa, California. The local schools were meeting education standards, and the community thought of Napa High School as a good school. However, local business leaders remained concerned that meeting basic standards would not be enough to ensure that students were graduating with the skills needed to meet the needs of the new economy.These business and community leaders decided to make a difference. Working with the local school district, they began researching innovations in education to re-imagine what a truly great school might be like. In 1996, the Napa Valley Unified School District established Napa New Technology High School with the first class of 100 students.As Napa New Technology High School thrived, local business leaders and education advocates came together to ensure the school’s long-term success and sustainability by establishing the New Tech Foundation. In 2001, New Tech was awarded a $6 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Today, their name is New Tech Network and they support 87 public high schools in 16 states. New Tech schools leverage what research tells us about how people learn to create an exceptional teaching and learning environment. Based on this research and our own experience, we create a rigorous and engaging high school experience that features project-based learning, the seamless use of technology, and a positive and empowering school culture.
Most recently in 2010, Super Star Learning Company introduced ProjectBasedLearning.com utilizing the research The Framework for 21st Century Learning as designed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
High Tech High in San Diego is yet another example of successful project-based learning with a 21st-century flair (iPBL), as presented in this Jim Lehrer News Hour video.
Within the last several years, a handful proven models organized by PBL educators have received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to start holistic PBL schools across the United States. A few of those organizations include:
- EdVisions Schools
- Envision Schools
- North Bay Academy of Communication and Design
- Big Picture Schools
- New Tech Network
Read more about this topic: Project-based Learning
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“There is, I think, no point in the philosophy of progressive education which is sounder than its emphasis upon the importance of the participation of the learner in the formation of the purposes which direct his activities in the learning process, just as there is no defect in traditional education greater than its failure to secure the active cooperation of the pupil in construction of the purposes involved in his studying.”
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