Beth Holland

Food for thought…


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Design Thinking and PBL

While project-based learning has existed for decades, design thinking has recently entered the education lexicon, even though its history can be traced back to Herbert A. Simon‘s 1969 book The Sciences of the Artificial. So why the resurgence of these ideas?

Lately, I have heard teachers and school leaders express a common frustration: “We are _______ years into a _______ initiative, and nothing seems to have changed.” Despite redesigning learning spaces, adding technology, or even flipping instruction, they still struggle to innovate or positively change the classroom experience. Imagine innovation as a three-legged stool. Many schools have changed the environment leg, but not the other two legs: the behaviors and beliefs of the teachers, administrators, and students.

Consider this conundrum: much of what we know about teaching comes from 16+ years of observation as students. In no other profession do you spend that much time watching the previous generation before being told to change everything once you take control. Without the framework or scaffolding for that change, it’s truly unreasonable to tell educators, “OK, start innovating.”

If we look at the science of improvement, systematic change occurs between the contexts of justification (what we know) and discovery (the process of innovation). What if we view PBL and design thinking as possible bridges between those two contexts? What if these frameworks could serve as the justification for discovering new classroom practice?

>> Read the rest of this article on Edutopia.


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Around the East Coast in 30 Days

I started to write a post yesterday and then didn’t. No real excuses, just didn’t get there. However, this morning, Cathy Rubin (@cmrubinworld) gave me a shout-out in her Around the World in 30 Days post for June, so I figured out my angle.

June 1 – Asking Essential Questions

Ever since I heard Jay McTighe talk about the concept of Essential Questions and read his book, I’ve been inspired about what it takes to get people to engage in deep inquiry. Leveraging the power of Visible Thinking, I spent the morning of June 1st with the teachers from the Williston Scholars program at Williston Northampton School in MA wrestling with the question:

How can the Williston Scholars teachers design a curriculum that encourages deep inquiry and exploration across cohorts as well as creates experiences unique to the individual courses?

June 3-4 – Strategies, Literacy, & Fluency

From Williston, I traveled South to work with teachers in Charlotte, NC. This group was preparing to go 1:1 with iPads next year. With a team of 5th and 6th grade teachers, we tackled questions of strategies – how to address note taking and active reading with digital tools, literacy – how to build an understanding of media and address the impact of possessing a global library inside of a tablet, and fluency – how to develop a growth mindset such that learners become comfortable regardless of the interface of various apps and tools.

In many ways, it’s because of these early workshops that I wrote about empathy as a key trait for teacher leaders.

June 6-10 – iPads & Chromebooks in Atlanta

To kick off our EdTechTeacher Summer Workshop Series, I flew down to Atlanta, GA and set up at Woodward Academy for the week. What most impressed me about that week was the amazing educators who arrived with open minds and a thirst to learn, explore, and challenge their own ideas. We continued with those themes of empathy, strategy, fluency, and literacy with a constant objective of empowering students to construct understanding and create artifacts as evidence of their learning.

With the Google & Chromebook group, we also had a chance to explore the power of DocHub for active reading and collaborative note taking. I wrote this post about it for Free Technology for Teachers.

June 17-19 – Minnetonka Institute & Skokie, IL

When I submitted my problem of practice to Johns Hopkins for the EdD program, I talked about the need to provide high-quality, sustained, professional development to teachers as a means to create lasting change. These three days helped to shed significant light on the subject.

In Minnetonka, the district has made an investment in PD. They provide consistent, high-quality opportunities inside of their schools and also invite in neighboring districts. For their institute, teachers drove from as far away as 3.5 hours (I now know where Worthington, MN is located) to take part in 2 days of learning.

After leaving Minnesota, I flew down to Chicago to kick off my first full-year program with the K-6 teachers in Skokie, IL. I am a huge fan of these learning opportunities because there is no pressure to race through concepts and ideas. We can iterate over the course of the year and build on various concepts over time. It’s after participants can begin to see the power of leveraging all technologies (yes, even paper and pencil) that they realize the power of student-centric learning. However, it’s also this experience that led me to write about the need for A New Metric for Learning.

June 22-26 – Chromebooks & PBL

Last week, I continued summer workshops in Chicago. For the first few days, I worked with a number of teachers in a Chromebook Classroom workshop. These three days reinforced my believe that we really need to address the concepts of strategy, literacy, & fluency in professional development. More on this coming soon…

With my Project Based Learning workshop, I hit a few snags – namely a misunderstanding of the concept. More on this coming soon as well.

Rounding out the Month

To end June, I’ll be kicking off an extended program with teachers in Westborough, MA as well as catching up on my homework. Keep an eye out on Edutopia (@Edutopia) as I have a new post running either today or tomorrow about The Art of Reflection.

July is going to get interesting as well!


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The Backstory of “Fitting in PBL”

This year, Greg Kulowiec and I added a Project Based Learning (PBL) module to our EdTechTeacher T21 Online Courses. While reading through the discussions, I found two recurring themes of interest:

  1. There was still a lot of confusion about the difference between Project Based Learning and having students complete projects. I like to think of it this way: The former is an instructional strategy that encourages students to engage in inquiry and engage in a real-world context. The latter is a form of assessment that typically does not appear in paragraph form.
  2. I got a ton of “Yeah but…” comments. As in “Yeah. I agree, but I don’t have time.”or “Yeah. Sounds great, but I have to get through my curriculum.”

With those two things in mind, I went on a quest to find great examples from excellent teachers who ARE fitting PBL into their curriculum. I can’t thank Meghan Zigmond, Kyle Pearce, Jodie Deinhammer, and Christine Boyer enough for their help with this post.

>> Read “Fitting In” PBL on Edutopia

Shameless Plug!

I am super excited to be teaching a Project Based Learning  workshop June 25-26 in Chicago. Come play with me!

ETTSummer


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“Fitting In” PBL

Regularly, teachers tell me that they don’t feel as though they have time for project-based learning (PBL). While they like the idea in theory, they can’t see a way to realistically “fit it in” with their curriculum given constraints of time, testing, standards, etc. A regular response to the concept of PBL is: “It sounds great, but. . . ” Too often, they see it as a manufactured experience that results in the construction of a massive project and requires enormous amounts of class time. However, I believe that this is often because the emphasis is on the final product rather than the instructional strategy.

The true focus of PBL is encouraging students to engage in inquiry, explore real-world contexts, and share their learning with others. In the examples below, every teacher achieves these goals while still meeting curriculum requirements and without sacrificing an abundance of class time. While PBL may seem daunting, these teachers prove that it is more attainable and manageable than initially perceived.

>> Read the rest of the article on Edutopia.