Friday, November 10, 2017

PBL: Planning for Success ECET2CNKY 2017

What do you think when you hear the word project?  

Top Google search results for "School Projects" returns Pinterest pages of 25 best projects and plenty of science fair projects. Image searches are full of planet models, tri-fold boards, and dioramas. In contrast, ask someone in the business world what they think of when they think of the word project, and you might get a much different answer.

With the rise of Project Based Learning (PBL), we often see much confusion about what it is, and what it isn't.  PBL, Genius Hour, Projects, Service Learning - these are all terms that might be discussed during PLCs, conferences, on Twitter chats, and explored through countless professional readings in the form of books, research papers and blogs.

Designing PBL? Check out some of the Basics:

From format, to planning, to collaboration, to integrating technology in a mindful way, there's a lot to consider before the project begins. 

When designing a PBL experience for your students, it is important to plan ahead, develop your assessments, project calendar and expectations ahead of the project.  BIE has a number of incredible planning tools to help you do that, and you can find excellent ideas at Teach Thought and Edutopia.

A simple planner I have had success with can be found as a Google Slides file.  Choose to copy the document to your Google Drive, and you will be able to add text boxes and information where appropriate. 

Managing the Project in Progress

When it comes to extended inquiry, having a plan for how students will conduct the research, and how they will synthesize it into a project can be aided by formats such as the: Super 3 (appropriate for grades K-2), Big 6 Research (appropriate for grades 3-6), and Guided Inquiry Design (grades 6 and up).  You can encourage students to design their projects using design thinking.  Check out resources from Stanford's d.School or I have developed a model that can be used with elementary students called ICE  -Imagine, Create, Evaluate.

You might consider setting up a self serve area in your classroom that has research sheets, graphic organizers and project materials available.

I have found that using these models is often best supported by putting together a project website, or providing steps and resources on an LMS or using a Digital Interactive Notebook. You can check out this "generic" project notebook by clicking [here] and saving a copy to your Google Drive.

What technology tools or tips and tricks do you have for keeping a project organized and moving forward?

Need Ideas?

There are some great resource out there if you need ideas for projects.  Be sure to see BIE's searchable database or Teach Thought's "A Better List of Ideas for Project Based Learning".

For elementary teachers, you can find ideas that I've tested by searching PBL on this blog or the PBL posts on FTISEdTEch Blog

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Pd While You.... October

Second in my "PD While You..." series.  The image is hung in "strategic" places around schools:)  Originally shared here.

Links to Get You Right Where You Need to Go

  • Make Learning POP! Check out the resources for My BrainPOP.  You will need the code from the print flyer to set up your account.  But you can have your kids making movies just like the real deal BrainPOP videos in no time! Check out this playlist to get you started:

  • Learn how to make a BrainPOP movie here - perfect for letter writing!

  • Gettin Appy With It - Solve Me Mobiles get your students thinking in algebraic terms with fun puzzles
  • Do This Tomorrow! Toontastic 3D is an amazing storytelling tool for kids to use - check out this example my 3 year old made:)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Focused on the Future with Future Ready Libraries #KLAConf17


These materials were for a collaborative presentation built by librarians in Fort Thomas Schools to show the progress we are beginning to make towards supporting students in a future ready way.

Check out our slide deck for Future Ready Libraries to see images of how we are working towards supporting a focused on the future vision.


What ideas do you have or are you doing that fit in each of the areas of a Future Ready Library?  Insert your thoughts on the padlet
Made with Padlet


Hover over the ThingLink below to see links to tools and web pages you might find useful

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Quest to Personalize Professional Learning Begins... #SYD17

From the first day I stepped into my very first library assignment, after 10 years in education, I realized that a million things had prepared me for the moment, but if I was going to leap beyond that moment, I was going to have to take full control of my own learning. 

This was a novel idea to me, as up until this point, I had always been told professionally what to learn based on what initiatives were important to a district and a school. But here I was, the only person in my building in my role, and I had a full school of children ready for something - anything.  

To hold myself accountable and to push my learning in new ways, I began this blog. The Work in Progress page, written in July of 2012, explains that premise, and I took my own learning to heart.  At the beginning of each school year I chose topics and dove in deep to learn everything I could.  I read books, found blogs, and began to connect with people on Twitter.  From topics like using centers in Elementary libraries, to genre-fying a library, to Flipping learning, Makerspaces, PBL and lately Design Thinking, I have expanded my professional toolkit in ways I didn't expect. I learned everything I could about the topic, put it into practice for myself, reflected on my failure here, adjusted my practice, and intentionally signed up to present on these topics to really hold myself accountable in public ways.

Identifying the Problem

Last year I took on a new role as a Digital Learning Coach in my district, with a focus on elementary schools and iPads, and I found that I had to not only invent my position based on the needs of the elementary schools I was working with, but I also had to figure out a way to help other teachers connect to their own learning.  I tried a number of strategies from PLCs, PD in your PJs using Schoology, to morning Tech Tip sessions, to face to face after school PDs, and even newsletters.  But I never really felt like I was helping teachers discover what they needed to improve instructional practice in the 21st Century.

When my district began to explore ways that we were supporting our district vision of fostering an experience that allowed students to be creative, curious, innovative, global leaders, I began to realize that it would help if teachers felt like they were experiencing that themselves.  I spoke with Ginger Webb, our Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction at the time, and said it might help to encourage teachers to identify needs and create more personalized goals that aligned with our vision. She came up with the idea to work with a teacher cohort to try out some different methods.

With this I was off and running.  

Formulating a Pre-Plan
I attended ISTE this year with the idea in mind that I would seek out all I could about edtech coaching and  working towards developing strategies for personalized professional learning. I attended sessions where I learned about ideas that used Pineapple Charts, Sandbox Classrooms that included flexible seating and technology tools that teachers could reserve to try out concepts, PD in your PJs and different models of short PD similar to the 20 minute sessions I was already providing. 

When I got back from ISTE, I had made a few new mental connections and had a reading list as long as my arm to read with Personalized PD in mind, but I knew I was going to need something more. Through some brainstorming and sharing ideas with others, I settled on calling the cohort The Polaris Project.  Our District motto is "Rich in Tradition, and Focused on the Future".  In my mind, Polaris, meaning North Star, traditionally helps provide direction to travelers, and there's also the connotation that to think big we should 'shoot for the stars'.   To me there was no better combination of tradition and forward thinking. I began fleshing out the cohort expectations and put together a flyer for approval.  The idea would be that teachers in the cohort would take a chance at my own model of learning: dive deep into a topic of choice related to the district vision, test it out with their class, and share it.  They would also be working towards Google Level 1 certification and Apple Teacher badges. 

Jumping Into Google

Realizing that I needed a bigger push, I reached out to Donnie Piercey  to ask him about the Google Innovator program.  Donnie had been encouraging me to apply for a while, but the timing just always seemed bad.  I knew I needed to take a leap and just go for it with this problem of personalized professional development in my mind.  After a bit of talking through, with one day left before the due date, I decided to submit my application, believing that I would likely need to apply a number of times before I was accepted.

Innovator Application

In my application I really tried to highlight the idea that I wanted to help teachers develop ideas that would support our district vision.

Application Slide Deck

Application Video

On July 7, 2017 I found out that I was selected to be part of the August Google Innovator Cohort in Sydney, Australia.  My own personal journey in this quest to find ways to personalize professional learning was getting ready to take a new direction.

This is the beginning...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Improving PBL Practice with TeachThought

At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, we were very fortunate to have a three day Project Based Learning (PBL) workshop led by Drew Perkins, Director of Professional Development at TeachThought.

For me, the three day workshop was an opportunity to fine tune my understanding of PBL, work with teachers on new ideas and dig into strategies that can help teachers think through the planning process.

Day 1: Aligning from the Top Down

Some of my big takeaways from the first day of our professional development with Drew was that when designing a project with specific skills or standards in mind, it helps to begin by brainstorming possible products, purpose and audience and projects, in terms of Bloom's Taxonomy, really start at the top and as students work through the project they move down into understanding and remembering. 

In my role as coach, when I work with teachers to develop PBL, I think the audience piece is really important for us to consider more carefully. Often when planning we think of a possible audience last or we skip it because it's easier to think of potential projects. When you can identify an authentic audience (and with that purpose) for a project the learning and the product of that learning becomes more meaningful for the students. For example, when the Johnson third grade class designed their entrepreneurship project this year, they worked closely with the Fort Thomas Sesquicentennial Committee to design souvenirs for the city's 150th Anniversary. The students were incredibly invested in this project, hitting the streets to make sales quotas so they could be sure to donate money to the city's big projects.

As we learned through the morning, my second big take away was when Drew talked about how Bloom's Taxonomy relates to Project Based Learning. Because students are grappling with creating a project to demonstrate their learning for a specific audience and purpose, they are working from the top of the Bloom's pyramid down to deep understanding and remembering.  When students begin with the end in mind, they can sort through the content to analyze and make new meaning.
Morning Sketchnote of PBL Workshop Day 1

Day 2: The Importance of Assessment

I am infinitely grateful for the guidance Drew has given me as I have wrestled with learning all I can about PBL. One of my earliest and biggest mistakes was really poor assessment practices. During the first time I used PBL in the library I did not have project check points or even a rubric.  As a librarian I knew I wasn't going to grade projects, and I didn't bother with check points because I figured I would just tell students what to do each week.  This resulted in student projects that had nothing to do with the driving question - one 3rd grade group made an 11 minute video about princess and squirrel and forgot entirely to discuss the dangers of poor digital communication. 

By year three of using PBL in the library with students, I had learned, with Drew's coaching, that I needed to post a timeline of due dates, build in check points through formative assessments like conferences, graphic organizers and project expectations charts and I even began to design, at Drew's recommendation, Single Point Rubrics that all really helped to guide student work and the quality of the projects received. 

When I work with teachers to develop project based learning experiences for students I try to use some of these experiences to help them see possibilities. This year we worked a lot with digital interactive notebooks that included built in rubrics, conference checkpoints with reflection based questions and planners.  

As we discussed assessment, I realized that one piece I may be missing with teachers is encouraging the use of project calendars or timelines that are embedded in digital notebooks or posted on Schoology calendars.  This could be a great way to communicate to students due dates and expectations for successful time management. 

Here is an example of a notebook template I worked up for a 5th grade Math PBL.  For this work-up, I added the timeline/calendar option, and the teacher would be able to fill in the missing pieces like rubric, final driving question, dates, expectations etc.

Our discussion that day was a good reminder to me that I need to make sure I check in on assessments so that teachers can be sure they're getting the best quality work out of their students.  So often I work to help teachers figure out the possible projects and standards and I slack off on helping them fine tune their assessment practices.  PBL is not a time for slacking on assessment.

Day 2 was also the day we began looking at strategies for critiquing work. This is a topic that I really needed to hear about as a "new" coach, and it will for sure be a topic I continue to explore as I add tools to my coaching toolbox.  During a "gallery walk" time, teachers posted project ideas on large chart paper and informally wandered around the halls to preview the beginning steps of the project and left "I wonder" statements.  The feedback in the gallery walk was to be focused on the project tuning rubric that TeachThought uses in their workshops, which considers their five levers of quality PBL.  

During the gallery walk I tried to think of ways that I could use this same strategy digitally with teachers. So often we don't have time to meet during the year to talk through our ideas.  I think teachers could do a similar exercise virtually across district with slide deck templates ( like the example below). Teachers could use our project planner and upload to O365 or Google Drive, share with others virtually and make comments using comment features in those web based tools.  I think this is a long term idea, and we can work to build skills to move towards that approach.

I really enjoyed seeing new ideas being generated and connections that could be made between disciplines and specials areas with the PBL. I was also excited to see teachers discussing how the strategies we were using in the workshop would be perfect to use as their own students developed work as a peer or class conference strategy.  I hope in the near future we see students and teachers using digital tools to conference and peer review their work.

Day 3: Strategies for Success

On the third day we discussed some of the nitty gritty things that would have to happen to make the projects a success.  Teachers need to think of grouping, managing projects and hooking the kids in.  We do focus in our planning guides quite a bit on "entry events" but we do not often in that planning phase think abut grouping of students.

We worked on a Project Tuning Protocol through part of the afternoon, and that was extremely fascinating and beneficial to me.  The project tuning phase, unlike the gallery walk, is done in small groups that rotate.  The tuning protocol relies on fairly structured procedures with each person being designated a time for talking or time for quiet/listening. The quiet/listening phases was the hardest since by this time people were bursting with ideas and explanations. 

I keep trying to consider if this is a model that can be moved to a digital environment, but I can't help but think that something in this process would be lost without the group being in the moment together.  I think processes such as this would be best utilized periodically during faculty meetings. With a process like this, teachers could use it as a project design check point, or as a review of completed project that looks to troubleshoot problems.

Final Thoughts

I am so glad that I finally got to participate in an authentic PBL workshop.  So much of my learning with this topic has been on my own or virtual that it has been nice to take some time to learn new strategies, review ideas and work with others as a collective, with the idea that the more minds there are working to support each other, the better.

I really believe that after those days the teachers who participated are better equipped to think through possible scenarios and are ready to take on critically looking at their own work to improve their practice.