Jumping into Project Based Learning

I’ve been implementing PBL into my practice in baby steps over the past few years and decided it’s time to just dive right in this semester. No more worrying about whether or not it would work or if the students would respond. Time to jump.

I love teaching the grade 12 World Issues course. It is by far my favourite course to teach because I learn so much every time I teach it – and most of that learning comes from my students. And really (in my opinion), there is no better course for PBL than World Issues.

Two of my former students have recently formed a NGO (REACH Diagnostics) that “provides urban slum citizens with access to inexpensive diagnostic tools that will promote detection and regular screening of non-communicable diseases.” I was inspired by their work (and what teacher wouldn’t be) and thought, why can’t my current students do this as well?

So here it is, the International Development Project. In teams my students will find an existing problem in the developing world and work to find a solution. So far my students have decided to focus on the challenges faced by women and children in Syrian and Darfuri refugee and IDP camps, child marriage, child trafficking, female genital mutilation, and the lack of girls education in Afghanistan (amongst other issues). We will spend the next three weeks exploring these issues and seeking solutions.

I had two former students come speak to my class to help kick-off this project. Dhaman Rakhra (CEO of REACH Diagnostics) spoke passionately about his work in social enterprise and outlined what eventually became the inspiration for this project. Omer Aziz shared his experiences writing and speaking about international relations and inspired my students to follow their passion.

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One element of the project that I am particularly excited about is the requirement that my students involve mentors, like Dhaman and Omer, in the process. I have a number of great former students who have volunteered to serve as mentors. Via social media, email, and video conferencing my students will be able to draw upon their expertise in foreign relations, law, politics, global issues, public broadcasting, and journalism.

The products that the students will be producing are a happy marriage of some of the products I have used in the past, including my favourite, Radio World Issues. But like I told my students today, it is not the product at the end that is important in this process. In fact, it is the process that it is important. It’s time to let go as teachers and allow our students to find meaning and purpose in the material that they discover, on their own. It is time to empower them to inform, inspire, and interact with a global audience.

What does learning in the 21st century mean to me?

So Jason Richea and #peel21st have asked me to reflect on what learning in the 21st century means to me. Thanks Jay, that’s a pretty straightforward question. 😉 Oh, and I only have 100 words? Even better.

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So, lets get right to it (that’s 40 words already). Our role as teachers is changing (and quickly). We need to get on board before the train blows past us in the station. We must get over the idea that we are the keepers of knowledge and the notion that all of our content is so incredibly important that we need to make our students write our every word in a notebook (that will find itself in the recycling bin in just a few short months).

Teaching and learning today should focus on equipping students with the necessary skills to think critically about the information they find and should empower them to construct their own learning. As teachers we must provide our students with a skill set that will allow them to effectively synthesize, present, and otherwise use information to problem solve, influence change, and innovate. The ultimate goal being intrinsically motivated students who are producers of content rather than passive consumers.

So, only 200 words in the end. Hey, that’s close enough Jay.

Check out some of the other #peel21st bloggers who are joining in on this blog hop!

Susan Campo @susancampo
Jim Cash @cashjim
Greg Pearson @vptechnodork
Phil Young @_PhilYoung
James Nunes @jameseliasnunes
Donald Campbell @libramlad
Ken Dewar @Bestbefore2030
Graham Whisen @grahamwhisen
Lynn Filliter @assessmentgeek
Debbie Axiak @DebbieAxiak
Alicia Quennell @AliciaQuennell
Jonathan So @MrSoClassroom
Jim Blackwood @jimmyblackwood
Jason Richea @jrichea
Tina Zita @tina_zita
Sean Broda @MrSeanBroda
Josh Crozier @Mr_Crozier
Heather Lye @MsHLye