Showing posts with label Project based learning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Project based learning. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Five Genius Hour Activities With Tract - Students Teaching Students

Disclosure: Tract is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Genius Hour or 20% time in a classroom provides students with an opportunity to pursue topics and projects of their choice. Rather than the teacher telling students what project they should complete and how they should complete it, students choose the topic and the project that appeals to them.

Genius Hour can feel empowering to students. But some students can feel overwhelmed by not being told what to do and when to do it. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a middle ground. I’ve always found that middle ground in providing students with a list of suggestions and examples to explore to inspire them to come up with their own projects. Tract is a great place to find ideas for Genius Hour activities. I reviewed one of those last month and this week I’ve gone through the whole library and selected a handful of Tract activities for Genius Hour inspiration.

Create Your Own Paths
As you may recall from my article about it in September, Tract is a platform designed for students to learn from students. Lessons found on Tract cover an array of fun and interesting topics including photography, gaming, cooking, music, sports, and much more.

Lessons are called “paths” in Tract and students can complete the ones they find as well as create their own paths. In fact, there’s a path called How to Create a Learning Path. How to Create a Learning Path is a seven-part path which begins with helping students identify topics they’re passionate about. From there students learn to research, outline, produce, and revise their own learning paths for other students to learn from. The learning paths can all be completed on each student’s own schedule as all of the paths are on-demand and self-paced. One thing that I particularly like about the How to Create a Learning Path path is that it includes helping students develop challenge or practice activities to include in their paths.

Esther Wojcicki wrote a comprehensive guide for teachers to follow when their students are doing the “How to Create a Learning Path” path. You can get a copy of that free guide right here.

Plan and Create Your Own Game
It seems like “professional gamer” is now a career aspiration for almost as many students as “professional baseball player” was for my generation. And while becoming a professional gamer is cool, becoming the person who owns the game is where the real money is. Some of my students over the last few years have realized that and started to list “game designer” as their career aspiration.

Tract has a learning path that teaches students how to design their own games. How to Plan Out and Create Your Own Game has all of the attributes to make it a great Genius Hour activity. It appeals to students’ interests in video games and it is one of the longest and most difficult paths in the entire Tract catalog. Students who are passionate about video games could really dive deep into the nuances of game development through this learning path.

Bigfoot and Legendary Monster Stories!
Is Bigfoot real? And if not, how did the legend of Bigfoot and other monsters begin? Those are questions that students can dive into through the learning path titled Legendary Monsters: Bigfoot, the Missing Link? This learning path concludes with students looking at the “evidence” to decide if Bigfoot is real. A great extension to this path is to have students create their own “legendary monster” tales. Heck, they could create costumes then go out and film a “monster in the wild.”

Legendary Monsters made me think about Halloween. And if you’re looking for some Genius Hour activities to do around Halloween, take a look at this set of Tract learning paths.

Create a TikTok Hit!
This learning path caters to students who want to become the next TikTok “star.” In this path students complete three challenge activities in which they learn the characteristics of music that goes viral on TikTok and beyond. It’s important to note that students don’t have to use the TikTok app to complete this learning path.

How Much Good Can You Do?
Students earn digital coins for completing learning paths in Tract. Those coins can be redeemed for prizes. But what makes Tract unique is that most of the prizes are donations to causes for the greater good. For example, students can redeem 250 coins to make a donation of one meal via Second Harvest of Silicon Valley toward the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger.

So a Genius Hour challenge for some students could be to successfully complete as many learning paths as possible to make as many donations as possible.

How to Start Using Tract
As a teacher you can sign up for a free Tract account at https://teach.tract.app/ (use the code BYRNE to get access). Once you’ve created an account take some time to explore the paths that I’ve highlighted above. Then in your teacher account you can create a classroom and invite your students to join (they don’t need email addresses) and start completing some learning paths. Watch this video to learn more about how Tract works from a teacher and student perspective.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

My Party PBL - Technology and Project Based Learning

This week I am welcoming some guest bloggers. This one is from Debbie Carona.

The PBL, My Party Election, originally written by Mike Kaechele, became a part of the U.S. History curriculum for 8th graders at St. John’s Episcopal School Dallas during the Presidential Election of 2016. Students worked in groups with politically like-minded teammates to create new and unique political third parties by developing a platform, creating a logo, writing a slogan and building a website. At the time, St. John’s was the only middle school to join this nationwide competition where the party of the winning presidential candidate submitted its website which is judged by other students across the United States. Over the past two years, as most good PBLs tend to do,” My Party Election” morphed into simply “My Party” with a stronger focus on the actual third parties formed in the process rather than the election of an individual from one of the third parties as president.

The current My Party PBL is now a fundraising event where each party conducts extensive research on various aspects of the role of third parties in American politics as well as four assigned current issues that are to be built into the planks of the platform. The required issues include healthcare, immigration, gun control, and energy. Each party member plays an important role in creating the party and planning the event. Students take on the roles of Director of Fundraising, Media Coordinator, Branding Coordinator, Webmaster and Steering Committee Chairperson.

Using Word documents shared on One Drive, students work simultaneously on the creation of their platforms. The Fundraising Director spends time editing and researching the planks of the platform while the Branding Coordinator works on designing the logo to match the party’s ideology. Many of the logos are developed digitally on iPads using apps such as Canva or Notability. Each logo is revised and reimaged until it is satisfactory enough to be sent on to the Webmaster who uploads it on the Home Page of the website. The Branding Coordinator has the option to create a trifold brochure using PowerPoint to hand out to potential donors at the final presentation. To read about the logo process of one student Branding Coordinator, click here.

While the Branding Coordinator is working through iterations for the logo, the Media Coordinator creates the storyboard and develops ideas for shooting the political party commercial. Students take advantage of the school’s green screen using the app Do Ink. Final edits and tweaks are made using iMovie. Click here to see one of the most successful commercials this year that was created using the iStopMotion app with colorful caramal-flavored M&Ms. Each group submits the completed advertisement to Webmasters for display on the party’s website.

Webmasters use Wix.com to develop the party websites. Each website is required to have color and font choices that fit the branding of the party. Student webmasters work diligently to develop a template for showcasing the work of the other students. Each site contains pictures and bios of party members, the platform, commercial, logo, moto and bibliography for each party.

For the final presentation, each party creates a PowerPoint that explains the platform and showcases the work of the party. A panel of entrepreneurs, educators and parents are invited to view the presentation as “donors”. Each donor is given a hypothetical $10,000 and can split their contributions between the three parties in any amounts they choose. At the final Fundraising Event, students handout their brochures and give-away items. Students create items such as magnetic party badges and coasters using their logos and party names using the GlowForge, a laser engraver.

The My Party PBL allows students to work with peers in an open collaborative environment. They have the opportunity to practice strategies learned in lessons on civil discourse as they discuss current event issues. They have an opportunity to use their personal strengths and talents to create their political parties and develop the poise and self-assurance to present to an authentic audience.

LeAnne Wyatt is the 8th grade US History and the 8th grade Speech teacher at St. John’s Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas. She also serves as the Grade Level Leader and as the Service Learning Coordinator. For several years she has collaborated with Debbie Carona on numerous project based learning units. Ms. Carona is the Technology Integration Specialist and PBL Coach at St. John’s. To learn about more PBL, go to Ms. Carona’s blog or check out her Twitter feed @DebbieCarona.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Reminder - Real World Problems = Problems That Matter to Students

As the new school year gets rolling many of us will be considering using problem-based learning to engage our students in learning experiences. Some of us will try to incorporate "real world problems." When we do so we have to remember that what we think of as "real world problems" are always "real world problems" to our students. I was reminded of this as I went through my notes from a workshop that I ran earlier this year. In that workshop we brainstormed some of the problems that matter to our students. Here are five of the problems that were mentioned during that workshop (I wrote these notes in the voice of a student):

  • Make/ save money for tuition. 
  • How can I get more people to notice my YouTube channel?
  • Keep toes warm while waiting for the school bus. 
  • What's for lunch (and healthy)?
  • Review apps or site that makes sense to me. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Project Based Learning - An Explanation and Model Rubrics

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was the second most popular post in May.

Last week I had the privilege to work with Tony Vincent to lead a workshop about project based learning. Two of the resources that we shared during the workshop were a video explanation of PBL and set of rubrics from the Buck Institute for Education.

The following video, produced by Common Craft for BIE, explains BIE's essential elements of project based learning.


BIE offers rubrics for assessing critical thinking skills, collaboration, presentation, and creativity and innovation in project based learning assignments. The rubrics are available with or without Common Core alignment. You can download the rubrics as PDFs or Word documents.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Project Based Learning - An Explanation and Model Rubrics

Last week I had the privilege to work with Tony Vincent to lead a workshop about project based learning. Two of the resources that we shared during the workshop were a video explanation of PBL and set of rubrics from the Buck Institute for Education.

The following video, produced by Common Craft for BIE, explains BIE's essential elements of project based learning.


BIE offers rubrics for assessing critical thinking skills, collaboration, presentation, and creativity and innovation in project based learning assignments. The rubrics are available with or without Common Core alignment. You can download the rubrics as PDFs or Word documents.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Curriki Geometry Goes Mobile

Last October Curriki launched a set of project based learning activities for geometry students. This month Curriki revamped their geometry site to accommodate viewing on mobile phones, iPads, and Android tablets.

Curriki's geometry course features six PBL projects. Each of the projects is aligned to Common Core Standards. The course is not a self-directed course for students. The course is designed to be taught by mathematics teachers who want to incorporate PBL. The projects in the course can be used in sequence or used as stand-alone units. All materials needed for leading the projects are included available on the Curriki site. You will have to create an account and sign-in in order to access the materials. Curriki accounts are free.


In reading over the project descriptions the one that intrigues me the most is the House of the Future project. In the House of the Future students watch a short TED Talk about the future of housing then formulate their own predictions for the future of housing design. After making predictions students use geometric modeling to design a building that supports their predictions.

Monday, December 30, 2013

By Request - Ten Helpful Resources for Middle School and High School Math Teachers

Recently, on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page someone asked for suggestions for math resources for grades 7-12. That covers a broad range of topics in math, but I've done my best to cobble together a list of resources that I think will help middle school and high school math teachers and their students. I have not included the obvious option of Khan Academy.

Get the Math is a super website designed to provide teachers and students with Algebra-based mathematics challenges. Get the Math tries to put the challenges in the context of the  "real world" scenarios of fashion design, video game design, basketball, restaurant management, movie special effects, and music production. Get the Math features short videos of professionals explaining and showing how mathematics is used in their professions. After watching the videos students try to complete a series of challenges based upon the work done in the professions of fashion design, video game design, and music production. For example, after watching the Math in Fashion video students have to design a shirt to match a specific price point

A couple of months ago Curriki released a series of six PBL geometry projects that could make geometry interesting and fun for high school students.Curriki's new geometry course features six PBL projects. Each of the projects is aligned to Common Core Standards. The course is not a self-directed course for students. The course is designed to be taught by mathematics teachers who want to incorporate PBL. The projects in the course can be used in sequence or used as stand-alone units. All materials needed for leading the projects are included available on the Curriki site. You will have to create an account and sign-in in order to access the materials. Curriki accounts are free.

Opus is a service that aims to help middle school mathematics teachers discover sample math problems aligned to Common Core standards. To find problems on Opus search by entering a topic and selecting a grade. You can also find problems by clicking the "browse the Core directly" link on the Opus homepage. Either way when you find a problem you can save it to your free Opus account where you can then generate a Word doc or Google Document of all of your saved problems. You can also create an answer sheet in your Opus account.

MathDisk is a service that teachers can use to develop interactive mathematics worksheets. Through MathDisk's "Math Builder" tool you can design mathematics models that your students can use online. The models and worksheets you develop online can also be downloaded to use offline if you also install the MiBook software on your desktop or on your Android device. If you don't have time to create new materials, the MathDisk gallery has pages of models and worksheets that you can choose from. Everything in the gallery, like everything you create through MathDisk, can be downloaded and or embedded into your own website or blog.

TenMarks is a service that offers an online mathematics program designed to supplement your in-classroom mathematics instruction. All of the problems in TenMarks' bank of more than 20,000 are aligned to Common Core standards. Within TenMarks teachers create class rosters and accounts for their students. After creating rosters teachers can assign practice problems to students. Teachers can assign problems based on the Common Core Standards that their students are trying to reach.

If you use GeoGebra in your classroom, you should bookmark GeoGebraTube. GeoGebraTube is a community site for teachers who teach with GeoGebra to share and find a wide range free resources. On GeoGebraTube visitors will find user-created tutorials, lessons, and worksheets. Visitors can search for resources by age group, language, and material type. All materials are freely available for noncommercial re-use.

Math Open Reference is a free online reference for geometry teachers and students. Math Open Reference features animated and interactive drawings to demonstrate geometry terms and concepts. The table of contents on Math Open Reference is divided into four basic categories; plane geometry, coordinate geometry, solid geometry, and function explorer tools. Click on any subject in the first three categories to find definitions, examples, and interactive drawings. In the function explorer category users can select linear functions, quadratic functions, or cubic functions to explore how changes in variables affect the graphed output.

Dan Meyer has a site called 101 Questions on which he is sharing images and videos as prompts for developing math questions. Each image and video has a 140 character field in which you can enter your question. Questions are compiled and can be Tweeted. Take a look at the top 10 to get a feel for what you will find on 101 Questions. I've embedded one of the videos from 101 Questions below. I won't pretend to be able to explain the larger purpose of the site as well as Dan does, so I'll just encourage you to go read his blog post about it. And if you need more background on who Dan Meyer is, watch his TED Talk Math Class Needs a Makeover.

Incredible Shrinking Dollar from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

ULearniversity is a free site featuring arithmetic and algebra lessons. On ULearniversity you can watch tutorial videos and practice the concepts taught in the videos. ULearniversity provides instant feedback on your practice problems. As a registered ULearniversity user you can track your progress.

Math Shorts is the latest addition to Planet Nutshell's line-up of  animated educational videos. Math Shorts will eventually have twenty videos in the series. Right now the series contains eight animated videos for elementary school and middle school students. Each of the videos has a Common Core standard aligned to it. All of the videos have supporting materials from PBS Learning Media attached to them. The first video in the series is embedded below.



Suggestions welcome: I have never taught math and I'm open to suggestions for resources that should be added to this list. If you have a suggestion please feel free to email me at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers (dot) com. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Check Out This Award-Winning Android App Developed By Students

(Cross-posted from one of my other blogs, Android4Schools.com)

Yesterday, on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page I shared a post about MIT App Inventor 2. In response to that post Christina Winsor DiMicelli shared an app that her students at Hampstead Academy in New Hampshire built using MIT App Inventor.

Chow Checker was developed by students was developed by students at Hampstead Academy. The app was submitted to and won Verizon's Innovative App Challenge.

Chow Checker is a free Android app that anyone can use to search for foods and discover which allergens may be in them. Chow Checker users can create profiles of their own allergens to help them keep track of the foods that contain allergens that can affect them. You don't have to create a profile in order to use the app. You can simply enter a food's name or part of the name ("trail" instead of "trail mix" for example) and view the common allergens that it contains.

Applications for Education
Chow Checker is a fantastic example of a real-world project for students. If you would like your students to try a similar project, the MIT App Inventor is a fantastic tool. App Inventor does not require you to have any prior coding or app development skill in order to create a working Android app. MIT provides excellent support documentation and curriculum for classroom use for new users of App Inventor.

Monday, December 2, 2013

CCSS-Aligned Rubrics for Project Based Learning

In a Tweet over the weekend I mentioned that the Buck Institute for Education offers good project based learning activities. Most of what BIE offers is not free. There is some good free content on BIE. The most notable of that free content being their rubrics for assessing critical thinking skills, collaboration, presentation, and creativity and innovation in project based learning assignments. The rubrics are available with or without Common Core alignment. You can download the rubrics as PDFs or Word documents.

Applications for Education
Even if you don't use BIE's rubrics exactly as they're written, the rubrics could provide a good model to get you started on crafting PBL rubrics specific to the projects your students are working on.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Curriki Presents Six PBL Geometry Projects

Of all of the math courses that I took in high school and college, geometry was the only one that I enjoyed and aced (the others were a massive struggle for me, remember those Mom?). I attribute some of that to my teacher who in hindsight did a masterful job of making geometry interesting. Curriki has recently released a series of six PBL geometry projects that could make geometry interesting and fun for high school students.

Curriki's new geometry course features six PBL projects. Each of the projects is aligned to Common Core Standards. The course is not a self-directed course for students. The course is designed to be taught by mathematics teachers who want to incorporate PBL. The projects in the course can be used in sequence or used as stand-alone units. All materials needed for leading the projects are included available on the Curriki site. You will have to create an account and sign-in in order to access the materials. Curriki accounts are free.

In reading over the project descriptions the one that intrigues me the most is the House of the Future project. In the House of the Future students watch a short TED Talk about the future of housing then formulate their own predictions for the future of housing design. After making predictions students use geometric modeling to design a building that supports their predictions.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Join This Hangout to Learn More About PBL

I've just learned from Steve Dembo that on March 14th Discovery Education's Wilkes University Instructional Media Program is hosting a Google+ Hangout to talk about PBL. The Hangout's featured guests include Kathy Schrock, Ginger Lewman, and Cynthia Treichler. Some of the questions to be discussed during the Hangout include:
  • What types of project based learning is there and how does one decide which to use? 
  • What is authentic learning? 
  • What kinds of resources are available to support teachers who want to teach using PBL? 
  • Are there any projects that can serve as models for people getting started?
To join the Hangout on March 14 just head over to http://gplus.to/discoveryed or you can sign up for reminder emails here.

Disclosure: Discovery Education's Wilkes University Instructional Media Program is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Differences Between Projects and Project Based Learning

Amy Mayer recently published a nice chart that breaks down the differences between "doing projects" and "project based learning." The chart, which you can get in its entirety from Amy's blog, does a nice job of breaking down the differences between these two commonly and incorrectly interchanged terms. Amy published the chart using Google Drive and you can get a copy to save in your Google Drive account if you visit Amy's blog.
This is a cropped image of the chart. The actual chart is much longer. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Using Google Sites in Second Language Instruction (Guest Blog Post)

I am a Canadian French Immersion Educator at École Wilfrid Walker School in Regina, Saskatchewan. That means that I teach students whose first language is English, in French. Students in a French Immersion program are taught all subjects in French starting in Kindergarten. By the time they reach middle years, they have strong oral, reading and writting skills in both languages.

As a second language instructor, I often find it a challenge to find relevant resources for my students that are both at their reading level and at their interest level. I teach Social Studies and Science to students in Grades 6/7/8. These subject areas are often a challenge at this grade level in French Immersion as most resources for middle years in French are written for first language readers in Quebec which means that the vocabulary and verb tense can be difficult to understand. Having students read a text and fully comprehend it can be a frustrating experience. Being a small market, publishers who create fantastic materials in English to support our provincial curriculum often ignore the Saskatchewan French Immersion market, as it is not profitable for them to produce the same resources in French. As a result, I have come to rely on online resources to support my instruction of our curriculum. How to present, share and utilise these online resources with my students is always a challenge.

As an avid user of technology in my classroom, my students and I have experimented with numerous sites and applications over the years to enhance our learning experience and to showcase our deeper understanding of curricular outcomes.

Our school division uses Google Apps for Education. All of my students have their own accounts that I can control. This has revolutionized how I teach and interact with my students. Through one platform, my students can access their work at school or at home. I can share documents and presentations and decide if they are public or private. They can email me their questions and comments and I can reply anytime I choose from my computer or even my phone. They can also build collaborative documents and presentations with their classmates. We have also cut back on printing costs because my students simply share their assignments with me for evaluation. No need to waste paper in my classroom.

Google Sites has become an easy way for me to share links and resources with my students. This year we have used this platform in numerous ways in both Social Studies and Science. Being able to easily create a site and have numerous editors has empowered my students to become responsible authors who are excited to learn about the world around them and share their knowledge in a second language. Knowing their site has the potential to reach a global audience adds an extra level of engagement.

My first experiment with Google Sites was to create a site to frame a project my Grade 8 students were working on about the ownership of water. Le GRAND Débat  linked resources and presented the steps each group had to follow to prepare for our class debate. It was easy for me to embed video tutorials and explanations into the site. Groups also created podcasts using their iPod Touch and Sonic Pics to introduce their arguments. Using Google sites for this project was very well received by my students. It was easy for me to create a site, use a template and add resources.

Other ways I have used Google Sites in my classroom include:
  • Building sites to showcase student projects: Grade 7 Mining project and Grade 6 First Nations Legends and Constellations project
  • Coordinating virtual literacy and numeracy centres where Grade 6 and 7 students work with Grade 1 and 2 students on different skills: Centres 1 and Centres 2
  • Students building their own sites to present their Science projects (modelled after Google Virtual Science Fair): La Foire de sciences virtuelle
  • Building collaborative inquiry driven projects. My students wanted to learn more about the recent disaster in Japan. We built this site in groups (Une catastrophe au Japon) based on questions we had about the disaster in Japan and making connections to our lives in Canada. We then used the site to promote our student council's efforts to raise money for the relief effort in Japan and to educate other students in the school about the disaster. They were rewarded by raising over $1000 for their charities of choice in a school with less than 250 students in two weeks. 
The more I use Google Sites in my classroom, the more I love it. I would be interested to learn how other educators are using this tool in their classroom with their students.

Joanna Sanders Bobiash is a French Immersion Middle Years Educator and Teacher Librarian in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Joanna maintains a blog entitled My Adventures in Educational Technology. Joanna is also on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Video - Project Based Learning Explained

The Buck Institute for Education, a service I've used in the past for ideas about teaching economics (this is the activity I used), recently commissioned Common Craft to create a video explaining project based learning. In typical Common Craft style, the video explains BIE's essential elements of project based learning. Watch the video below.



H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

Applications for Education
This video could be helpful to pre-service teachers trying to get a grasp on the concepts and purposes of project based learning. As mentioned above, I've used some BIE materials in the past for teaching economics, but their work isn't limited to economics. You can find their free PBL materials here.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Economics Lessons Using Planet Money Podcasts
Captains of Industry - Economics Simulation Game
Interactive Bills and the History of the US Mint