All posts by cjpetersen3
Defense of Unit Activities and Assessments
The desired outcome of my unit is social change. The underlying objective is for students to recognize that every one of us is part of the water shortage/pollution problem and every one of us has the ability (and responsibility) to initiate positive change for the benefit of the environment and the survival of mankind. The intended audience for my unit is 4-6 grade, and the lessons are scaffolded for students to construct knowledge.
The first step in change is recognizing there is a problem. My first lesson focusses on the limited availability of fresh water on our planet. The visual simulation format was created to capture attention and physically demonstrate how precious fresh water is as a resource. The assessment for activity one is designed to solidify the understanding that, although it seems that water is everywhere on our planet, the freshwater we use daily is in very limited supply.
The assessment for lesson one is also designed to spark conversation and stimulate critical thinking regarding how each of us waste water and contribute to pollution. This concept is explored further by the Home Environment Checklist in Activity two. At this age, students have limited exposure to environmental issues, and daily routines are filled with reading, writing, and math. Self reflection and meaningful dialogue can be a powerful tool in constructing knowledge. It is important to note the characteristic of the learners for this unit is somewhat unique. My unit is designed as a field trip where students from a variety of classrooms would come to me for a portion of the learning. Some sections of the unit are designed to be facilitated by the teacher in the classroom while others will be hands-on with me during the field trip. I hope this unit would be related and connected to a curricular topic of study in the classrooms, but it is possible that it will be somewhat artificially inserted into a rigid schedule. The discussion and follow-up activities are where much of the real potential for learning lies. All are designed with collaboration and social interaction in mind. Discussing new ideas and understandings with classmates, as they brainstorm lists and define vocabulary terms, helps make meaning of the new information.
Activity two involves the whole class in a role play scenario. Students are assigned an occupation and a container of contaminants. As the Catchment Story unfolds students physically dump their pollution into a clear tank of water. Because water waste/pollution is a real-world, collective problem, I chose to incorporate a Project Based Learning model. The use of storytelling and role playing in this activity aims to immerse students in the problem, and collectively generate possible solutions. Differentiation is incorporated through multiple methods of communication and delivery, thereby catering to various learning modalities. The Home Environment Checklist bridges the gap between home and school. It is designed to critically examine habits and behaviors that add to pollution with the assistance of a parent (who will be paramount in initiating any lasting change). The Checklist offers real-world examples to begin solving real-world problems.
Activity 3 involves students in another role-playing situation. Students learn about, and conduct various indicator tests to measure levels of pollution in different water sources. The activity and discussion, based on The Water Quality Interpretation Chart, is designed to help students understand how human behavior leads to the diminished water quality from samples they just tested. This is a very busy, active-learning experience with characteristics of the learners in mind. Because this is not my class of students and therefore I don’t know individual learning styles, preferences, or disabilities, this activity incorporates a variety of learning modalities. The assessment is largely built into the activity. The predicting, comparing and contrasting, and measuring water quality with indicator tests are all objectives and activities in which the students will participate.
The final activity brings the unit together with a deliverable. Students take their newly gained information and create a product that shares a message with the greater community. This fits into the model of Project Based Learning as well, by engaging student voice as well as collaboration with peers, teachers, professionals, and community. This activity is designed to be completed with the guidance of the classroom teacher, and the provided prompts, resource videos, and student created projects will assist in idea generation. I would like to facilitate publicly posting brochures and posters at the store to create incentive and add perceived value to the final product.
Throughout this course, and specifically through the study of learning theories, I have discovered that my philosophy for teaching and learning is deeply rooted in constructivism.
The lessons and activities in my unit are developed so that students are active participants in constructing knowledge through social interactions and hands-on learning.
In general, assessments are designed to reflect the knowledge that students have constructed through learning activities and discussions. Assessments are measurable and speak directly to the learning objectives outlined.
Review of Tools
The first tool I chose to review was Socrative. I picked this tool because it was relatively new to me and because feedback on my unit suggests the assessments need work. I’m planning to present my unit online for other teachers to utilize. It seemed that Socrative could be an alternative and possibly engaging way to assess knowledge acquisition.
When I first navigated to Socrative.com, the first thing that jumped out at me was “Get a FREE account. I’m all about free things, especially at the exploration stage when you don’t know if it’s going to be a value-adding tool or not. The main page is attractive and uncluttered, offering a brief product description and demo video. The website states: “Socrative empowers you to engage and assess your students as learning happens. Through the use of real-time questioning, result aggregation, and visualization, you have instant insight into levels of understanding so you can use class time to better collaborate and grow as a community of learners.” Essentially, the teacher has a digital device that collects and organizes data submitted from student devices. The demo was really helpful in giving an overview of the software capabilities. New users are then given an option of looking at the user manual. Maybe it defines my generation, but I’m still one to look over a manual before jumping in and “mucking around” with something new. One of the potential barriers to effective use that I found was that the user manual is very cluttered and confusing. There are arrows from text boxes to screencast images everywhere and in no particular sequence or structure. The lack of continuity with this makes it hard to know where to start reading a page and what description is related to what graphic.
After briefly reviewing the manual, I dove in, starting with a quiz for my first unit activity. When creating a quiz, you have the option of selecting a multiple choice, true/false, or short answer questions. The format of Socrative makes this process a breeze. It’s simple to add, delete, or re-order questions to fine-tune your assessments. One of the best features of this program is the “explanation” box following each question. Teachers can choose to include an explanation that will appear after students select or articulate their answer. I love the immediate feedback this provides students. If they answer correctly, the explanation is a confirmation of their understanding. If they answer incorrectly, the explanation immediately addresses the shortcoming. The feedback happens instantaneously, allowing students to reflect on their answers while the new ideas are still fresh in working memory. The “explanation” box would also be an asset to a teacher who finds the unit online and wants to teach it, but has a limited knowledge of the subject matter. There was one problem I encountered while creating quizzes in Socrative. I couldn’t find a way to add graphics, shapes, or text boxes to the quiz. One of my original quiz questions focused on the proportion of freshwater available relative to the total amount of water on Earth. I used text boxes in Pages to graphically represent volumes. I wasn’t able to replicate anything close to this in Socrative.
Beyond simple quiz generation, there are other features of Socrative that I think would be advantageous in education.
Teacher Collaboration – Teachers can share quizzes based on the code assigned. Importing/exporting quizzes is efficient for sharing course design and delivery.
Real-Time Questioning – The Quick Question feature allows teachers to stop instruction at any point, ask a question of the class, and gauge understanding based on instantaneous results they receive. This “snapshot in time” seems like it would provide the basis for real data-driven instruction. If results show most of the class “gets it,” the teacher can move on. If results show one particular concept is proving difficult, they can re-teach that day. Teachers have the ability to see exactly who is giving each answer, providing opportunities for differentiation. The live results provide an option for customized teaching difficult to match with paper.
Exit Ticket – This is another assessment option, which the teacher would have students complete digitally at the end of the lesson. Teachers can customize questions for the Exit Ticket that tell them whether students understood and can achieve objectives. The Exit Ticket could be used to solicit personalized and confidential feedback from students about delivery, effectiveness, gaps in understanding, etc. Based on this, teachers could work individually with students or choose to cover a lesson again on a subsequent day.
Space Race – A fun and engaging way to introduce a little competition into assessment. Students can compete individually or in teams against others. Students are “competing” to correctly answer quiz questions. Results are displayed as rockets moving along a racetrack and show competitors progress as well.
Overall, I thought this tool was easy to use with a fast learning curve. If one can get past the equipment resources necessary to implement, the advantages of real-time feedback are constrained only by imagination. Once I got over my initial (predictable) hurdle of diving in and messing around to learn how to use the tool, I began to see many educational advantages. With about 3 hours invested, I learned the software, revamped, and re-producing all my lesson assessments on Socrative.
To view the quizzes created for my unit of instruction, first sign up for a Socrative account. Then, log into Socrative as a teacher, and select manage quizzes. From here, choose import quiz. On the next screen you will have the option of importing a quiz from another teacher using the SOC share code (there is also the option to upload quizzes an from Excel file). The SOC code for my quizzes are:
Water Availability: SOC-19023441
Water Quality Testing: SOC-19025827
A Day in The Life of Campbell Creek: SOC-19025308
The second tool I chose to review was Camtasia. I picked this one because a classmate suggested I might use it for creating and sharing videos during our Peer Review session. I had no experience with it, so this was an ideal opportunity. The Camtasia website describes the software as follows: “A powerful, yet easy-to-use screen recorder, Camtasia helps you create more professional videos without having to be a video pro. Easily record your screen movements and actions, or import HD video from a camera or other source. Customize and edit content both on Mac and Windows platforms, and share your videos with viewers on nearly any device.”
Although they tout a “30-day free trial” it seemed to me they tried hard to make the free-trial process confusing enough to encourage frustrated people to just sign up for a paid subscription. In attempting to download the free trial version, I kept getting prompted for the activation key. I ended up downloading it 6 times trying to figure out where the activation key was displayed. Finally I called their support center for help and was told the activation key was only for customers buying a paid subscription. I was told how to skip this step and proceed with the free version. I find this type of thing very manipulative. I understand that companies are in business to make a profit. But if you offer trial product to stimulate interest in your for-profit product, you have a responsibility to cater to that user as well.
I wish I could say things got better when I finally got my free version downloaded. After looking over the new platform and exploring the menu bar, I found a “start a new project” tutorial. I watched this and the process for capturing a screenshot video seemed pretty straight forward. I set the same controls they recommended and tried to create my own. The video worked fine, but there was no audio. I tinkered with the internal input and output on my computer, changed settings, and tried every combination of built-in microphone, built-in input, built-in speaker possible. I made a dozen test screenshots and simply couldn’t get the audio to work. I’ve taken classes with Collaborate that require use of a headset, so I tried this next. Plug in the headset, change audio settings in system preferences, and try again. This yielded the same results. I spent another hour messing with connections, verifying that the headphones worked on another computer, changing settings, and trying to make a simple test video. Same results. The screen capture function worked fine in two dozen test videos, the audio never picked up sound.
Now I will be the first to admit that I’m not terribly tech savvy. I think it somewhat likely that operator error was to blame in this scenario and not necessarily a problem with the software. But if I’m having this problem, isn’t it likely that someone else has experienced it? I searched their in-house help service extensively trying to find answers to my questions, but there was nothing on the topic. I ran out of time and finally walked away. With 24 hours to reflect on the process though, I don’t know exactly what I would do differently. I had already spent 20 minutes on hold and conversing with tech support to just get the free version. I felt stupid calling back with another simple issue. I would argue that a service is hardly free when it takes 2-3 hours to figure out how to access the point where you start learning the tool.
I spent enough time scratching around the software to realize it isn’t what I thought it was anyway. I had a vision of a movie making software, this wasn’t it. Camtasia is great if you want to teach how to navigate somewhere online or demonstrate some technical skill that requires multiple steps. It basically records your cursor actions, what’s on your screen, and your voice (apparently). It would be very beneficial for teaching someone the process of getting to a desired location or the steps necessary to set something up. The editing capability appeared to be efficient and the sample screencast I watched look very polished. I see plenty of value in the software for educational purposes, sorry I can’t give a better review.
The third tool I chose to review was TeacherTube. I selected this one because I thought supplemental videos may help hook interest and engage students in the activities I’m putting together. The TeacherTube website states: “Stop wasting hours looking for learning tools and relevant content. TeacherTube is your one stop shop for user generated educational videos from around the world. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Find exactly what you’re looking for within a quick search.” It was love at first read. They had me at “stop wasting hours looking for learning tools,” after my Camtasia experience.
I started exploring this tool with the intention of eventually creating a short video introducing topic(s) covered in my unit. After searching the site for a half hour, however, I realized there were already a plethora of videos hosted there that were relevant to my project and probably better than I could produce with time constraints in place. However, the creation of a video was a part of my unit, so I further explored TeacherTube by creating and uploading a video. (The tool I used to create the movie is an iPad app called Doodlecast Pro Video Whiteboard
https://appsto.re/us/6P8-B.i This awesome resource is available for $4.99)
Learning curve – I was quick to pick up the basics. Within 20 minutes I was searching for content related to my unit. I was pleasantly surprised to find a pool of videos related to catchment.
Ease of use -The site was relatively easy to navigate. The help section needs some improvement. All tutorials are screen recordings without audio. It is difficult to watch a tutorial video without audio because I am wasn’t really sure what skill I was learning in the help video. Constant pop-ups and advertisements are distractions that take away from the instructional value of the resource. In my search, I did not find enough videos that would warrant a paid subscription.
Time required to create – TeachTube is not a tool for content creation. It is a resource to host instructional videos. I choose to use Doodlecast Pro as the tool to create videos. In order to upload content to TeacherTube, you will have to have software to create content. According to TeacherTube, the following file formats can be uploaded: wmv, avi, mov, flv, mp4, jpg, png, gif, mp3, doc, docx, .ppt, .pdf, .txt, .csv, .xls, .mp3, and .wav. Having used Doodlecast Pro in the past, it took a total of about an hour to create the script, graphics and compile the content to upload it to TeacherTube.
Problems encountered – Constant splash ads. Every time a user selects a video to view, a splash ad appears in the video window. This is confusing, annoying and distracting from content. While I watched many good videos, there were a lot of movies that were poor in quality. For example, some movies had pixelated images and very poor audio.
Barriers to use – A paid subscription is required for many of the features. This also does away with all the advertising pop-ups. When videos are uploaded they are not available immediately, so teachers will need to plan ahead if videos are included in lesson plans. Also, when I uploaded, I received notification my movie needed to be reviewed before publishing. I imagine content is vetted for copyright etc; however, in order for me to endorse and recommend this resource, the review process needs to cover video quality.
Educational Uses – There is a lot of value in using movies as instructional resources. I support video use (creation of instructional content, telling stories, PSAs….) in the classroom. As a parent, my children’s privacy is a concern. I think schools should consider internal servers and software services for video use, especially if the videos include students. To me, resources such as TeacherTube should be local (site based) to assist in student privacy and quality control.
View the short video I produced with Doodlecast and posted to TeacherTube here: https://www.teachertube.com/video/catchment-404285
Final Water Quality Unit
Reflections on digital tools
As of Saturday afternoon, there were less than twenty tools on the list. I am thankful the list is still short; I feel I have a lot of exploration ahead.
This list seems to have a balance of digital tools that would support direct instruction as well as engage student demonstration of knowledge. Tools such as TeacherTube and Khan academy appear to focus on videos for direct instruction. I am planning to explore TeacherTube as I continue building the resources for my unit. I will be creating a movie for one of my resources, and TeacherTube has potential to assist me in developing that instructional video. (I would have to sign up for another account. My username and password list is growing and growing…). Camtasia is another instructional video creation resource that I am interested in exploring. Kim mentioned this as a resource during our Peer Review. I haven’t had the chance to look into it further, until now. The RF clickers were used in the school where I student taught, and they seemed to be effective and efficient methods of assessing students. I didn’t have a chance to use them, but there seems to be quite a few options for polling and assessment as a web based resource. I signed up to explore Socrative because I’m looking for assessment options for activities in my unit. My daughter’s preschool has just begun using Remind to send notifications when school is canceled. Communication is key component in education, and this resource has a lot of promise as a modern communication tool.
Some tools on the list have potential for content creation. Prezi, Toontastic and Bubble.Us are all tools where students can produce a product. When reviewing Project Based Learning, one component that jumped out at me was that storytelling enhances learning. Direction instruction and resources that allow students to convey understanding through storytelling promote higher level thinking skills. I had the chance to use Toontastic quite a bit in a Classroom Research course last semester. My daughter and I used the story spine outline provided by the app to develop her new stories. Then she was able to draw or select characters, create scenes, animate characters, and add music to make a final product that was pretty polished looking for a 4-year old. That experience was pretty powerful. She likes creating stories, but gets easily frustrated with writing text or coloring for very long. The active learning aspects of Toontastic kept her highly engaged for longer than working with marker and paper.
Storytelling isn’t the only social aspect of learning. Communication and voice are essential.
Learners need to be able to ask questions, discuss answers and opinions, and draw conclusions (in online or face to face classes). Discussion forums can be an effective way to bring students together when they are not physically present. I am under the impression that both Moodle and iTunes U are virtual classrooms where teachers and students can create discussions.
On my initial overview of the list, it seemed like several of the tools used for teacher presentation could also be utilized by students in a final project demonstrating knowledge they’ve acquired. Likely, this would be in the upper middle to high school level. It was tough choosing resources to explore for next week. Right now, I have decided on two, Camtasia and Socrative. I think they could be potential tools that will fit nicely with my unit of instruction.
Here’s a draft plan of my: Unit
Reflections on Work in the Public Domain
As a parent to two young children, I have a lot of reservations about my children and digital life. At the same time, I am realistic of the day an age in which we live. More dialogue and education is needed in order to acknowledge existing laws and to create balance between comfort and apprehension.
If children’s online presence wasn’t a concern, there wouldn’t be Federal laws aimed at protecting them online. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) allows parents of children under 13 to control the type of information websites and services collect about the user. Under COPPA, children need parental consent to sign up and utilize many online services. COPPA 101 for educators was a document I found to be helpful in outlining factors teachers should consider as personally identifiable information https://ikeepsafe.org/coppa-101-for-educators/ According to iKeep Safe:
The definition of Personal Information that falls within COPPA compliance requirements includes: children’s names, nicknames, email addresses, telephone numbers, home addresses and other geo-location information, social security numbers, photos, video, and audio files of the child, any persistent identifier or tracker that can be used to recognize an individual’s use over time and/or across different websites, as well as any information that enables physical or online communication or contact with a specific individual.
In my mind, this is a comprehensive list outlining what can be considered personally identifiable information. Another law aimed at protecting students is The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This law prohibits teachers and schools from sharing personally identifiable information about students. (FERPA also provides families the right to review and request amendments to academic records.) An example of a potential FERPA violation could be posting class lists /physically or online at the beginning of the school year or in an online homework space. Dissecting this and trying to find which concerns are valid and which are hype can be complex. As a parent, I know I don’t want my child advertised on YouTube delivering the Pledge or daily announcements. I don’t want my child on the school’s Facebook page promoting an activity or event without my consent. Some of my apprehension is protected under the law. Could there be a balance? I think so, the school could have an internal method of delivering the daily pledge an announcements. Special school activities advertised on social media can include pictures highlighting an event rather than the people in attendance. As my children grow, I believe there is merit to creating work in a digital public space, Collaborative presentations, creating screencasts, and making digital stories are just a few valuable skills I hope they learn because of the educational benefits such as: problem solving, group work, producing a product, and practice with voice inflection and fluent speech. I am not trying to downplay the merit of Internet based resources, but I want my students to be taught critical thinking skills about Internet presence in conjunction with work assigned via the Internet. I think students presence online should be scaffolded and include explicit instruction in safety and privacy. We need to increase digital education for our students, so we can teach them how to have personal management of their digital life. Students learn citizenship on many levels in school: classroom, local, country…and it is time to include global digital citizenship.
When trying to answer the question of advantages outweighing concerns, to me, this is a no-brainer. Safety should never supersede convenience, fun, or school assignment. I think this can be balanced with employee education. The creation of guidelines, on-going professional development, revisions and audits of district materials, and student education are effective proactive approaches for districts to scaffold digital curriculum and digital presence for both staff and students. I believe it is the responsibility of any district to educate teachers of Federal law and district guidelines. I also believe it is important teachers receive quality instructional resources and assessments that have been vetted for quality and are in legal compliance (and receive professional development with integration). The creation of established guidelines for employee online behavior is necessary, as it creates known expectations. Guidelines for teachers can articulate expectations regarding educator’s online/social media presence, use of instructional tools, and review of district media guidelines. I believe educating teachers, students, and parents creates an environment where the question of advantages of the internet outweighing concerns such as safety, privacy and litigation will be lessened because elements of concern will be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Reflections on project based learning
In my article review this week, I was looking for something that could help me refine my unit. I was searching for a method or model to help me structure meaningful, cohesive, and manageable lessons that would involve distance learning with a solid pedagogical approach. In one of my recent readings, I noticed a reference to project based learning being ideal for realistic, thought-provoking problems. My unit idea centers around the real world problem of water waste/pollution, so I explored the concept further this week.
The more information I discovered about project based learning, the more I felt I had found a valuable resource. Project based learning is grounded in some of the following elements.
real world experiences
collaboration with peers, teachers, and professionals
role playing in the learning process
multiple methods of communication and delivery
use of storytelling
Reflecting on these elements as they might relate to my unit of instruction evoked a few ideas to incorporate in lesson delivery, assessment, and structure. I began to ask myself how I could involve elements of storytelling or how role playing could assist in the pedagogical structure. At this point, I am not going to lie, I started panicking a little about the digital component. However, I have been able to brain storm a few digital tools (Skype, iMovie, Google, Camtasia..) that could be used to support and enhance the delivery of this unit.
The one element of project based learning that drew the most of my attention was the use of storytelling. A quote from one of Jason Ohler’s recent Keynotes states “Story – the most effective information container humanity has ever created.” (Keynote 2015) https://jasonohler.wix.com/final#!about2/cj88 This quote resonates with me because when I think about it, I am astonished by how much my children have learned through story. We have spent hours and hours reading stories. I have spent hours and hours telling them stories real and make believe. When I they ask questions, my answers often include a story. Reflecting on how story has impacted my own children and their learning makes me want to focus on making stories a part of my unit. Here are a few of my brainstorms:
telling a story and having students role play and create simple props
student created public service announcement for water conservation
the creation of a digital story students will view as a lesson before arriving to the store
using a story to impart the cumulative effect of pollution along a watershed
I still feel I am at the drawing board with some of my lessons. Continued research and collaborating with Kim has really helped me iron out some of my thinking. Kim and I discussed our lesson ideas and she was extremely helpful in providing suggestions, identifying some holes (like vocabulary instruction) and knowledge of digital resources. It was time well spent this week. Thanks for the help, Kim.
Article Review 5, Better late than never…
While researching flipped classrooms for the last article review, I noticed a reference to project based learning being ideal for realistic, thought-provoking problems. My unit idea centers around the real world problem of water waste/pollution, so I explored the concept further this week. Surprisingly, there was very little hard research on the topic, and those studies were fairly outdated, 2002 and earlier. I ended up finding an article that did a nice job consolidating and summarizing the available research out there.
David, J. (2008, February 1). What Research Says About … / Project-Based Learning. Retrieved October 29, 2015, from https://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/feb08/vol65/num05/Project-Based_Learning.aspx
The article is succinct and objective, but lacked breadth and depth of concrete details I appreciate with new ideas. The author leads with a solid working definition, “The core idea of project-based learning is that real-world problems capture students’ interest and provoke serious thinking as the students’ acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem solving context” (David p.82). Because project-based learning (PBL) involves investigating meaningful questions and seeks to develop social skills, advocates say it better prepares students for the critical thinking necessary in the workplace than traditional learning.
Despite this, PBL has yet to become widespread in public schools. The author cites lack of teacher training and time demands as the main reasons. With current educational focus on quantifiable measures, state and district standards, testing, pacing guides, RTI, and teacher evaluations based on these, it becomes easier to see why teachers are reticent to try PBL. The impact or return on investment of PBL is not immediate and not easily measured by the type of tests currently administered. Further, PBL requires tremendous front-end loading of time. For teachers that are struggling to keep up with the demands of the job, it’s a challenge to find the time and resources to build a quality unit that is outside the scope of day-to-day operations.
As I mentioned, studies measuring the effect of PBL on student achievement are few and outdated. This article briefly examines two. A British secondary study from 2002 found that students using PBL for 3 years “significantly outperformed the traditional students in mathematical skills as well as conceptual and applied knowledge” (David p. 83). Also, three times as many PBL students in this study passed the national exam as those receiving traditional instruction. Details of the study were non-existent, so I was left wondering what made this PBL so effective. Did the individual teachers create the units, or were they done, approved, and available for teachers to select? Was this methodology initiated and supported by administration? What was the socio-economic status of the school and what was their access to technology? The only other study was from Vanderbilt University’s Cognition and Technology group in 1992. Compared to the control group, PBL students in this study performed better planning and solving word problems, but both groups scored the same on basic math skills. I was a freshman in high school in 1992. I remember a taking a basic keyboarding class with dinosaur machines. I wonder how much the idea of PBL had been developed at that point and how effective the project was at engaging students. Again, there are no details of this study in the article, so I’m left to speculate. Judging by how far technology has come since 1992, I’d bet PBL isn’t the same animal it was back then either. It seems that the education world is overdue for a comprehensive study on the impacts of this constructivist approach to teaching and learning.
One interesting outcome surfaced many times as I searched and perused articles this week. PBL almost always reduced student math anxiety and led to more positive attitudes toward math. This was an anomaly to me because math is such a linear concept. Although I don’t excel at it, I’ve generally enjoyed math because of this; there is a single, concrete, correct answer that requires application of a specific formula. Knowing there are a variety of learning styles, I wonder if the reduction in anxiety with PBL is a product of the social interaction inherent in the process. Students that struggle in math can ask questions of classmates, observe problem-solving strategies, and somewhat diffuse responsibility across the group. Appearing incompetent in a small group of peers is a lot less intimidating that looking dumb in front of the teacher and the entire class. The increase in positive attitudes likely has to do with the realistic, practical, thought-provoking immersion of PBL projects. Motivation and engagement increase with student choice, a principal of PBL. Harnessing the conceptual nature of math into real-world scenarios puts the topic of math in a language we understand and care more about.
There is a final point that I want to attempt to articulate before wrapping up. The author points out that “although projects are the primary vehicle for instruction in PBL, there are no commonly shared criteria for what constitutes an acceptable project” (David p. 82). In the interest of conducting research, I can understand why one would want to establish a “criteria for what constitutes an acceptable project.” But the author seems to imply that this is a negative aspect beyond the research ramifications. Like the variability among projects, learning outcomes, and assessments acts as a barrier to legitimizing and embracing PBL. Although I think standardization can help initiate the process by reducing teacher apprehension, I firmly believe the process of designing a unit around a real-world problem and intentionally selecting active learning experiences to support critical thinking is a worthy end unto itself. Any seasoned teacher knows that some lessons really hit the mark and others miss completely. Good teaching is a work in progress. PBL is organic, developing and evolving as the process unfolds. Are we to avoid trying something we believe will benefit our students because there is no “standard” for good projects? Or do we best serve our students by trying something new and messy, knowing the end result will be a deeper connection and caring about a problem that really exists and needs the passion of the next generation?