Project-based Learning Theory Course 2019

In January of 2019, I will be facilitating a theory course on Project-based learning at the University of Winnipeg as part of the Post Baccalaureate programme. This will be followed by the PBL Applied course in Spring 2019. The description is below:

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I have had several people contact me regarding how the course will unfold, so I thought I would post this note as a means to clarify some of the details.

Online Format

This is an online course that is live. We will meet on Tuesdays (beginning January 8th, 2018) from 5:30 pm until 8:30 pm CST via Zoom. While each session will be recorded, members of the group are responsible for attending every Tuesday night. This is not an online course that is static. The advantage of this format is that it provides greater access for more participants while still bringing people together for rich and authentic conversations about how and why we learn. (It also means no winter travel on sketchy roads in the dark.)

Each week, we will engage in readings, guests speakers, virtual field trips, and project work. Participants will be asked to design a project that they can reflect upon throughout the course. Participants will be asked to think, read, listen, write, and speak about the theoretical underpinnings of PBL and about their own practice.

We will use Edmodo as a means for housing our online discussions and course documentation.

Rationale for course

As project-based learning schools become more and more part of the pedagogical mainstream in North America, the need for teacher education in is this area is paramount. While project-based learning can be a powerful platform for authentic learning, transformation, and growth, the danger is that project work is merely activities, teacher-led, or not rigorous. With several PBL schools in Winnipeg, and a desire at all levels, including higher education, to pursue meaningful and educative experiences for learners, a theoretical course on PBL is essential.

This course is designed to offer practitioners a foundational understanding of the evolution of PBL, while examining what we deem an educative experience.  Learners will look at a variety of critical issues related to the success of PBL and how PBL manifests itself in various contexts.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course, learners will:

  • Have explored a variety of different theoretical model so project-based learning
  • Will have entered into dialectic discourse as to what is meant by an experience
  • Be able to articulate the foundations of project-based learning
  • Have conducted an inquiry project whereby they pose a research question, offer an argument, and provide evidence for their rationale
  • Articulate how they would theoretically employ project-based learning principles into their own practice
  • Describe the process of introducing learners to projects and guide learners to propose and carry out these projects
  • Be able to discuss a variety of assessment practices and tools used in project-based learning.

Assigned Readings

Boss, S., Larmer, J. & Mergendoller, J. (2015). Setting the standard for project-based learning: A proven approach to classroom instruction. Alexandria: ASCD.

Roberts, J. (2012). Beyond Learning by doing: theoretical currents in experiential education. New York: Routledge.

Related Readings/Bibliography

Bassey, M. (2010). Education for the rest of the world: An illustration of John Dewey’s principles of continuity and interaction. Educational Studies, 36(1), 13-20.

Dewey, J. (1933). Dewey outlines utopian schools. Retrieved from: http://www.yorku.ca/rsheese2/3410/utopia.htm

Dewey, J. (1938). Education and experience. New York: The MacMillan Company.

Dewey, J. (2008). Democracy and education. Project Gutenberg eBook, retrieved from: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/852/852-h/852-h.htm

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: The Seabury Press.

Glass, R. (2001). On Paulo Freire’s philosophy of praxis and foundations for liberation education. Educational Researcher, 30(2), 15-25.

Hassan, S. (2013) Guiding high school students through applied internship projects in college environments: A MET School story. Education Canada Retrieved from: http://www.cea-ace.ca/education-canada/article/guiding-high-school-students-through-applied-internship-projects-college-en

Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling society. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning : Experience as the source of learning and development. Engelwood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Larmer, J. & Mergendoller, J. (2010). Seven essentials for project-based learning. Educational Leadership, 68(1), 34-37.

Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pearson, G. (2012). Success, but slowly, as MET School redefines learning. Education Canada, 52(5), 37.

Senge, P. (2012). Creating schools for the future, not the past for all students. Leader to leader, 65, 44-49.

Zull, J. (2002). The Art of changing the brain: Enriching the practice of teaching by exploring the biology of learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

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French Immersion & Project-based Learning – Together at last!

In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers launched the first hot air balloon and were able to sustain a flight of nearly ten minutes. The petrified farm animals who were the passengers probably were’t impressed by the experience, but the brothers pushed their passion for flight to the next level. This is a project!

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At the Maples Met School, we love projects! As a project-based high school, we offer learners the opportunity to pursue their passion, work with passionate adults in the field, and demonstrate their learning in authentic ways.

And now, just like the Montgolfier brothers, learners can pursue their projects in French!

Beginning this fall, the Maples Met School will be offering French Immersion at the Grade 9 level. Learners will be able to engage in high quality project work, internships in the Francophone community, and exhibitions of learning all in French.

For more information about the Maples Met school, call 204.632.6641 or visit us at www.7oaks.org/school/maplesmet

As a Big Picture Learning school, our mission is to cultivate a safe and educative environment by which learners engage in critical issues of interest to them so that they can develop the skills and knowledge essential for affecting positive change through meaningful and informed action, or praxis.

 

Projects! Projects! Projects!

Over the winter break, I spent a lot of time reading, thinking, and hanging out with my kids doing projects. I also spent a great deal of time speaking with people throughout the world as to what they think a project is. What is a project?

Based on this line of inquiry, I started to comb various media outlets to get a sense of what people were doing in the world in terms of projects that might inspire Maples Met School learners. There is a huge difference between a project and an activity or hobby. Projects come from a place of questioning, of curiosity, and of purpose.

While we all know that great projects begin with a powerful essential question that questions our role within the universe, here are links to potential final products, resources, platforms, and other supports for our inquiry:

Preserving the History of a City

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Why is it important to preserve the history of a city? 

 

Create a Student-run Newspaper

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Newspapers are critical to any democracy, as they hold governments to account. Why not connect with other writers, artists, and thinkers to create your own press!

Create Your own Solar Panel

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Create a Bike Generator!

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Images of Winnipeg

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The Winnipeg Free Press recently published a photo essay of aerial views of the Winnipeg. What parts of the city are missing? Why? What would you include? How could you use GIS to create maps of areas of Winnipeg that are ignored? What are important areas for youth?

 

50 Book Pledge

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The 50 Book Pledge is an amazing way to motivate yourself and also share your research with people throughout the world. No matter what essential question you’re attacking, this is a greta way of creating a digital library.

 

Radical History Poster Project

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The Graphic History Collective has launched a project called the Radical History Poster Project. This is a fantastic way for learners to use their artistic talents to think historically (The Big 6!) about Canada, Treaty 1, and what it means to live in Red River.

 

Manitoba Robot Games 2018

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Take a crack at the Manitoba Robot Games!

 

Northern Hydroponic Project

 

Can Flying Machines Help Save Lives?

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Create Work Benches for your School’s Fabrication Lab

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Hint: We need these at the Met for great projects!

 

Lego Crane (Why not?)

 

Create an interactive Periodic Table!

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CBC Nonfiction Prize

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What a perfect final product for a project! (And you could take home some loot!)

 

Mennonite Central Committee Hygiene Kits

 

Design a New Arlington Bridge

Banning Plastic Bags

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There is some recent support for banning plastic bags in Winnipeg. This might be a really cool, authentic, and impactful project to investigate!

 

Imagine Portage & Main

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What should Portage and Main look like? Design it!

 

Create Your Own Zine!

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Go underground and create a zine that reflects your manifesto!

 

Make your own Wind Turbine!

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Aquaponics System

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Lots of essential questions and tangents with this project!

Big Bang 2017

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Things got real at the Improv Everything event on Thursday at Big Bang. 

July 24th to 28th marked the second Big Picture Learning conference, Big Bang, that our school has attended. As the Maples Met School opened its doors last year and now is expanding heading into September, this second conference was a brilliant time to connect with friends throughout the BPL network, to engage in deep conversations about student-centered learning, and to begin thinking about what educative experiences we want to create and foster for the upcoming year.

Big Bang is also a time for the faculty at the Maples Met School and the Seven Oaks Met School to get to know each other better and to learn from each other. The host city, St. Louis, was an outstanding venue to connect with themes related to reconciliation (it was hard to ignore the overwhelming celebration of Manifest Destiny), to poverty, and to the arts, innovation, and urban revitalization.

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The Maples Met and the Seven Oaks Met crew kidnapped Greg Young from Project Foundry and hit the streets of St. Louis!

One of the incredible highlights of the conference was the keynote discussion facilitated by BPL Co-Executive director Carlos Moreno with actor/artist/activist Wendell Pierce. Most will know Pierce from his incredibly impactful role in what might be considered the best television programme ever created, HBO’s The Wire.

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Photo form Big Picture Learning featuring Carlos Moreno on the left and Wendell Pierce on the right.

Pierce spoke at great length about his experience growing up in New Orleans and how this shaped the work that he does now. His message, bathed in historical thinking (be leery of those who ignore history), emphasized a need for social entrepreneurship, collective resistance, and a need for our schools to nurture the knowledge and historical thinking required to confront the very real forces determined to maintain an inequitable control of resources and the means of production. (Pierce did claim to be a capitalist and argued that “real” capitalism would create some sort of social justice through innovation. I wish there was time to have challenged this, as capitalism at its core is about the exploitation of resources, both human and natural.)

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Image created by Rachel Brian, an artist from Providence who created incredible pieces of art representing our discussions throughout the week. You can check her work out at: http://www.blueseatstudios.com

What was striking about Pierce’s positioning was one particular sentence: “There are those who do not have our best interests at heart.”

This sentence, which he used with intention throughout his conversation with Carlos, was perpetually scaffolded by linking cause and consequence of historical events and forces. (A brilliant example of the use of the Historical Thinking Skills.) The past 500 years of European oppression, imperialism, and genocide has created deep trauma and deep chasms in how we treat each other on this continent.

Pierce created a clear line of historical reasoning as he linked recent events in Ferguson and the ubiquitous murders at the hands of police in the United States to centuries of oppression. (Let’s not pretend that this profound marginalization has not and does not happen north of the 49th parallel. Canada just might be better at covering such marginalization up.)

From government, government agencies, corporate interests, and a constant desire to maintain the status quo, Pierce succinctly articulated the dark clouds which prevent many within our society from achieving self-actualization. (And I am absolutely checking my white, male, European privilege and understanding that I might be a cog in this oppression.)

If we bring things back to the local, what are the examples in Winnipeg and Manitoba where people most certainly do not have the interests of our learners at heart? Might it be with city zoning failures, the failed attempts to inquire into missing and murdered indigenous women, the elimination of funding to women’s shelters, the lack of desire to service railways to the north but to support further beautification of urban parks, or the elimination of lactation consultants and other essential health services?

These are attacks on our community’s best interest and the antidote is where Big Picture schools, or Met schools, are well positioned. With our focus on relationships, relevance, and rigour, our mission is to fundamentally expose our learners to how their lives have been interwoven in a complex trajectory and to question their purpose on this planet and this universe. That’s why we leave to learn, that’s why we connect them with powerful mentors in the community, and that’s why we base everything we do on critical ways of thinking and deconstructing powerful existential problems and questions.

As a faculty at the Maples Met School, many of our discussions leaving the conference in various airport lounges were based on empowering our learners — empowering them, as Pierce suggested, “to exercise their right to self-determination.” The challenge, as it always is, is to know as the adult when to shut up, step out of the way, and let the learner drive her inquiry and purpose.

This is the magic of BPL and student-centered learning — placing the interests and passions of the learner before anything else.

 

 

PechaKucha Youth Night

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On June 16th, PechaKucha Winnipeg is inviting youth in the Global Issues course to participate in the first ever PechaKucha Winnipeg Youth Night. The evening will take place at the Park Theatre in Winnipeg.

PechaKucha presentations require presenters to create 20 slides which move every 20 seconds, whether they like it or not. These types of presentations have proven highly effective and rigorous and are a perfect fit for the Grade 12 Global Issues course. All students in Manitoba who take the Global Issues course are tasked with an inquiry project called a Take Action Process. Many educators have found that the PechaKucha presentation is a perfect vehicle for learners to discuss their planning and process while presenting their action in a compelling manner. (See an example below.)

Ad Culture to Permaculture – PechaKucha Victoria #10 from Christopher Heffley on Vimeo.

If you are a teacher or parent of a Global Issues students or if you are a Global Issues student and want to present you Take Action Project on June 16th at the PechaKucha Youth night on June 16th, please fill out the following form. Deadline for application is March 16th, 2016.