This project-based learning class began their journey with the challenge to identify and understand the most pressing issues for their generation. This is a truly student-centered approach, and I have not found many other examples of this type of ground zero for #PBL. So if you know of classroom online, please let us know. After researching and writing upon these topics, some of which are teen mental health issues, ocean pollution, e-waste, hidden poverty, and automation, the students curated their learning on our classroom blog. Then the group was challenged to create a community project where they would be able to share their learning and show how they learned it. With this #PBL mantra in mind, the class navigated towards the compelling documentary Screenagers. We then researched the movie and conference called the office before we brainstormed the idea to partner with our freshmen leadership colleagues. The students are now in the exciting and challenging stages of preparing curriculum for this community program. Follow our progress on Twitter: https://twitter.com/caisct_pbl and Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/caisct_pbl/
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” These words of wisdom once spoken by Benjamin Franklin are words to live by especially as a student. Project Based learning teaches students skills that cannot be taught in a normal classroom setting. PBL is structured around the concept of student centered learning. This is where students do the teaching and the learning. In our PBL English class I have learned more in class than I have in any other class in four years. The lessons that I have learned in PBL translate to the real world where a class such as U.S. History or chemistry do not. Throughout the year each student has researched various topics about issues that teens face in today’s world that are more prevalent than ever. In the Winter, our class researched experts in certain fields and we encountered one that has changed the way I think. Marco, a classmate of mine in PBL was researching screen use among teens and found an expert by the name of Simon Sinek. Simon Sinek explains why having a purpose is more important than anything else. He talks about how having a why is much more important than having a what or how. After learning about Simon through Marco’s research I learned an immense amount of information to hold onto just from learning from my classmate in a student-centered classroom. Throughout the year in PBL we have learned many skills but one of the most important skills we have learned is using social media in a positive way. We have learned how to use large social media platforms such as twitter. Using twitter has not only helped our research skills but also our networking skills. Once again skills that will help you for life. PBL student centered classes don’t prepare you for high school or even college, they prepare you for life. The class teaches you lessons that will help you find that why.
One of my many takeaways from #PennPBL last summer was that reflection is a key component to the cycles of production in a #PBL classroom. Recently, I realize that celebrating the iterative process more deliberately creates a better scaffold for our #PBL learning and sets up a better path for even more reflection; in other words, when we take time to have students show what they learned during the process of learning, then we track their learning and provide them at the end a more productive reflective process as they can more efficiently review the tacks of their learning.
Now I think modeling a Twitter account for positive reasons is more relevant than ever today than a few years ago! The image below was created by the Langwitches back in the old days of 2012. That said, I thought I would utilize that classic image of the open road journey to celebrate how our Twitter routine could shed more light on the iterative process. I am also in the process of learning more about how other thought leaders, such as Laura Tierney form The Social Institute, who are rewriting the appropriate use guides and creating positive “To Do(s)” in terms of how students should use social media. So I am even more excited about what a classroom Twitter account can provide for student learning.Here are some tweets that connect with mid-winter learning that I shared during an iteration focus among my #PennPBL classmates.
Hello @Lizro27 & @d_roback: Our #PBL class wonders if this 19th c "Ginny" https://t.co/pEehkG8xFt worked at the Massasoit House. Do you know? If not, where can we explore this possibility? Or do you know of another Springfield hotel https://t.co/57rpRfGA2R Thx! #PBLChat #CAICT— #CAISCT #PBL (@caisct_pbl) February 11, 2019
Let’s have fun learning about how the founders of this now ubiquitous App Instagram developed this Billion dollar model, and then we will examine how we can adopt elements of their success story as we begin our first steps in our own project-based learning journey. So how can we use this Instagram’s story to teach the dynamic disposition and positive attitude a student needs to cultivate in a project-based learning classroom?
It is very fascinating to hear the early iterations of Instagram (see more here: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/07/instagram-used-to-be-called-brbn/373815/) and then realize all the changes they made to make the app what it is as a working app today. That process that is narrated here is design thinking, which is a process we will explore more this year. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design-based_learning
Perhaps an important moment in their start-up was when they followed the advice to ask their users about what they enjoyed about their app rather than investing time into wondering what others who are not using the app would want. What did they learn from this part of the process?
(Podcast Time: 6:30) Isn’t it fascinating that the best thing for any entrepreneurial is failure? The founders of Instagram cite Eric Ries and his ideas about the process of a lean startup. “Don’t ask why people don’t sue your startup. Ask why people who continue to use your start up use your startup.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_startup
(Podcast Time: 8:00) One of the founders tells a story of being burnt out and going on a break. Does he really take a break? Why type of thinking does he do on this “break” and how does it help the next iteration of the product of Instagram?
(Podcast Time: 9:00) Style topic. Did you notice how the music delivers a great downbeat when the divergent thinking that one of the founders has when his then girlfriend and now wife provides an insight while walking on the beach?
(Podcast Time 12:00) Just appreciate this moment. No response necessary. This is my hook for our audience!. “It was trial by fire; so many chances to fail. Kept working; all nighters. The amount we learned in that first year was crazy. It was fives years of college in one.” I would make this the hook because I’m an educator, and the producer here chose a more entertaining hook.
(Podcast Time: 17:30) There is a great conversation about how the story of success is never linear. It’s always dynamic, an up-and-down journey. Reflect on this moment and also reflect on how the founders keep their eye on the experience of the user. Do you have a personal success story that was not linear and had several “false starts” along the way before you achieve a degree of success? Write a 3-6 sentences here about that experience. We’ll share these moments in class and expand more on them.
(Podcast Time: 23:00) Around minute 23 they discuss the currency that feeds an entrepreneur. Explain in your own words this experience and its value. Then reflect on our course description and explain what experience will make our experience valuable.
(Podcast Time: 24:00) They reveal another great moment where they learned a lot through failure. This moment had to do with a mistake. What was the mistake? Could the mistake been avoidable? What else did they learn about the relationship they had with her users?
What do you think of the founders’ thesis about luck and talent? What role do resilience, grit, and optimism play in capitalizing on luck?
Many people define a person’s mindset as an established set of attitudes, what did you learn about the mindset of these innovators? Does it help you realize your own mindset(s)?
Over the course of our school year, our class has had a deep connection with the town of Seicheprey in France. We first learned about Seicheprey through our research about Sergeant Stubby, the war dog of the 102nd US Infantry. After learning about Stubby’s heroic tales and service, we developed a curiosity to learn more about this significant battle for Connecticut history. Due to this battle being significantly historic for the Connecticut veterans specifically, the importance of this battle gradually faded in memory and history when the Connecticut veterans passed away in the 20th century. Our class discovered several interesting facts and stories from the Battle of Seicheprey, such as one of our Suffield veterans at the battle serving as a cook. When we learned of the details when the German storm troopers overwhelmed the trenches, we were shocked to learn that the cooks responded by picking up their knives and fighting off the Germans with hand-to-hand combat. Along with these facts we found new events that were happening in the town of Seicheprey today. We took the liberty to spread our findings across the social networks of our class blog and twitter. Our posts were immediately recognized by many WWI historians and eventually by Stéphanie Trouillard, a French journalist studying the history of WWI.
We reached out to Stephanie to find out if the town of Seicheprey was doing a commemoration for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Seicheprey. She took the initiative to reach out to the town hall of Seicheprey and received a response from Gérard Andre, the Mayor of Seicheprey. From this information we discovered that Seicheprey was honoring this historic battle on April 21st, 2018 and intend to make a fountain with several representatives from Connecticut in order to honor the 102nd division and Sergeant Stubby. After this interaction from Stéphanie, we were able to continue communications with the Mayor and other citizens from Seicheprey as well as students from the nearby school of architecture. While we were not able to attend the commemoration, these architecture students shared their local history project with us. Then we shared slides from our presentation with them. It was great to get positive feedback from students doing the same type of work that we were doing here.
Pauline, a student from Seicheprey reached out to us and gave us a very detailed overview of what the town presented and the different activities that were going on in the town to commemorate this battle. These connections to Seicheprey have been the foundation of our class and we are extremely thankful to everyone who has helped spread the story of this forgotten battle
The following image was captured from our classroom Twitter Account (https://twitter.com/caisct_pbl) and resides in our shared Google Document, which is one of the many documents in our Shared Google Drive #PBL folder. Students are working in pairs on writing original history about three Connecticut women who served in the #SignalCorps Unit during World War I. Elizabeth Cobbs recently published an amazing book telling the national story of this untold chapter in American history. It’s titled, The Hello Girls. I suggest that you order it for your school library so that students can enjoy this topic when they encounter the usual WWI topics in the typical US History Survey approach. The current World War I commemorative process rightly celebrates this forgotten episode, and our class is trying to dig a little deeper into the aspects of Connecticut history that illuminates this important story. We call these moments in our #PBL approach: #CTUntold
Many colleagues ask me how I use Google Docs in class, and I think some are afraid to ask me how I use Twitter. Here’s a great moment to explain both.
There are four small groups writing history about this topic, and everyone is approaching the stage of a good rough draft. We then thought it would be good for students to see what kind of feedback they could receive from experts outside our classroom before I grade a draft. Some teachers call this a #flatclassroom (paste #flatclassroom into the search bar of any Twitter account) moment because we are using social media to reach beyond the traditional walls of a classroom for this educational and authentic connection. Here are drafts of Tweets that we are peer-editing together in class before each student Tweets it from the one classroom account. With a standard of lyric poetry and a zeal to write unwritten history, I set a high bar for a tweet in that the composer should reflect on audience and have clarity of expression as well as a specific question (inquiry drives history!) that will hopefully illicit more useful information. I have included screen shots of some of this process.
As an educator and English teacher, I find revising Tweets to be akin to collaborating on poetry. We really want to refine our communication and be sure our question is clear. The first screen shot is early in the process and students are still in the composing stage. That’s good because writing is a process. The second shot is a more revised version from our collaborative work in class. Of course, the most final draft is on the Twitter Account itself. You will see that we take a little time in the Twitter Account window that opens when one begins composing a tweet and revise there one last time! Then rubber hits the road and the real test of authentic writing occurs. Will anyone respond? Follow our work here: https://twitter.com/caisct_pbl
PS: I drafted this post after class, and before I hit the blue publish tab, The Connecticut Historical Society answered the students 26 minutes after they Tweeted! Wow! Get thee to Twitter, fellow educators. And model appropriate use, good manners, and excellent prose.
The American Studies class presented highlights from their fifteen week investigation about the history of Suffield’s homefront during WWI at the April meeting of the Suffield Historical Society.The program was also open to the public, and attendees entered the room hearing popular songs of the era, including the 1915 hit, “I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier” as well as the iconic rally cry written just after our entry into the war in 1917, “Over There,” by George M. Cohan. The class presented over 130 slides of information, many of which were archival materials from Suffield Academy and the Suffield Historical Society. While many in the audience knew a good deal about the evening’s topic, many of the seniors wrote in their reflective writing assignments that they “enjoyed presenting to the Historical Society because this was a topic that they were interested in and they were able to learn new things from us.” Working together as teammates in a project-based learning environment, the students engaged well with the community audience and appreciated most the question and answer period and further discussions over refreshments. Please add your reaction to comment section on this post, and the class will get back to you with a response.
Many in the class play varsity sports, and Myles leveraged that spirit and stepped up to be a captain on the spot by helping everyone focus and leading the introduction gracefully. His contributions about Connecticut culture and the role of Connecticut manufacturing elicited great dialogue after the presentation. His insights about the anti-war movement, in particular about Carl Sandburg’s contribution to the peace movement was appreciated. Later in the presentation while he was elucidating trends in propaganda posters, Ben Sylvester also explained how the two above songs served as cultural markers that showed first the country’s stance for isolationism and then the spirit to enter the war and fight “Wilson fight for democracy.” Each student also conducted family research to how many ancestors were involved in WWI, and Senior Sedley Benitz pursued research similar to her ancestors’ services, such as ambulance driving and nursing. Along with researching espionage, a topic related to his own family research, Rory Tettemer also pursued important Connecticut history topics such as the 1920s census, the 1916 election, and the sinking of the Lusitania; the closest figure to Suffield from the event turned out to be one the heroines, Theodate Pope. Chase Moran adroitly explained how partisan politics polarized Wilson’s neutrality stance throughout the early years of the war against a strident national preparedness movement. While many in town knew that Suffield Academy was called Suffield School during WWI, they learned how Suffield School was one of the first schools in the area to order uniforms for students and have experienced officers conduct military training exercise. After Michael Burch explained how Sgt. Stubby (now a motion picture), was the first war dog in the history of the American Military, he shared the campaign that he, Rory, and Chase helped launched on Twitter (#BringStubbyHome) to request from the Smithsonian that Stubby be installed during this commemoration year in a Connecticut Museum. Michael explained how much the class learned of the request protocol of the Smithsonian Museums from their thoughtful response and how the campaign enhanced our Twitter network among Connecticut historians. He then illuminated how the class discovered an unwritten Connecticut chapter of history regarding the new national history being written about the “Hello Girls,” the untold story about America’s first female soldiers who were telephone operators along the front lines organized by the Signal Corps. While Owen shared narratives regarding the manufacture history of Connecticut and the national economy during the second decade of the twentieth century, he also explained his original research regarding data about an African-American enclave in Suffield from 1900-1930s. Using Stacey Close’s thesis from the seminal work, African-Americans Connecticut Explored, the class followed Rory’s insight to delve into Suffield’s 1920 census records as Professor Close explored Simsbury’s 1920’s census records to illuminate Great Migration trends in Simsbury. Owen reported the significant results when the class tested Professor’s Close’s thesis. Since the presentation, the class hopes to publish more content on this chapter later in the month on the classroom blog. Along with explaining the complex causes of WWI as well as each significant turn at the Battle of Seicheprey, Connecticut’s finest day in WWI, Dylan Chase leveraged his past courses on presentations and digital mediums and communicated some of our most challenging topics with clarity and confidence. On his reflection prose he appreciated the experience to share our learning in an authentic setting with an audience who turned the questions period into an engaging dialogue. Dylan was a great academic ambassador during the subsequent conversations that occurred over refreshments. Dylan’s reflection prose also captured the spirit of the night as the class had not had the time because of our recent schedule to rehearse the whole presentation in one setting. “I really enjoyed the presentation and getting the chance to be a part of a class that worked so well collectively. Everything really came together last night, and I can speak for everyone when I say I’m proud of our work.”