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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Project Based Learning For Rock Hill Schools?

Rock Hill School Teachers will hear a presentation on the benefits of project based learning this Friday. Below is some information on the subject:
Click here for a link to High Tech High information.

From edutopia:

Ten Tips for Replicating Project-Based Learning

How you can get started today.

Five middle schools and one high school in the Whitfield County, Georgia school district are in their second year of a transition to project-based learning. Their model is High Tech High, a San Diego charter school renowned for its hands-on student projects that have real-world impact.
Whitfield educators have taken big risks, tried things that failed, and then improved their work based on those mistakes. They're still learning. Yet they've also succeeded in making a huge transition in a short time. The words they use for what it's like to see their students so thoroughly engaged include exciting,amazing, and fun.
Here are some key lessons from Whitfield County -- often learned the hard way -- on how to tackle the challenges of replicating a model PBL school.

1. Deliberately build trust among colleagues

Any process of change -- not to mention project-based learning itself -- requires teamwork and learning from one another. "One of our biggest mistakes was assuming that teachers could jump in and collaborate and have those critical conversations," says Andrea Bradley, principal of North Whitfield Middle School. "It's very, very hard not to make it personal." After some initial friction, North Whitfield Middle School started using High Tech High's procedure for constructive criticism to help teachers learn to go "hard on the content, soft on the people," as High Tech High describes it.

2. Grant the freedom to fail

It requires courage and a willingness to take risks and experiment to try anything new. Teachers in Whitfield County say a crucial part of their success results from knowing that administrators will support them even if they try something that bombs. "Teachers need to feel that if I walk into their classroom and they're trying something and it doesn't work, it's OK," explains Bradley. "Otherwise, they're not going to try to grow."

3. Allow for flexible scheduling

Engaging, hands-on projects often don't fit neatly into a 50-minute class period. A teacher might need just 20 minutes for an introduction one day, then 90 minutes for students to work in groups the next day. So Bradley and Tim Fleming, principal at Whitfield Career Academy, the high school, did away with bells at their schools. Instead, each group of teachers shares the same set of students, and each group has the freedom to adjust its schedule depending on the demands of the day.

4. Build in time to plan and collaborate

An essential part of the High Tech High model is integrating multiple subjects into each project, which requires teachers from different disciplines to plan together. Plus, teachers need one another's support and coaching as they undergo this change. So principals at each of the schools shifting to PBL changed the schedules to allow for daily common planning time. At Whitfield Career Academy, teachers literally share an office; Fleming moved their desks from separate classrooms into a big, shared workroom.

5. Don't forget the standards

Teachers at Whitfield Career Academy and North Whitfield Middle School say that last year, they were so intent on designing meaningful projects and personalizing the work for their students that they didn't always build in enough academic rigor. This year, they're working to correct that."One of my biggest mistakes was thinking that a project has to be a grand display, the more butcher paper and scissors and glitter the better," says North Whitfield Middle School seventh-grade teacher Samantha Bacchus. "Now, I feel like a project really works when I start with the standards and incorporate aspects that I know the students will be able to use to learn the standards."

6. Remember, not everything is a project

"When you jump into something and teachers are excited about it, they may want to force, say, this math into this science, but it doesn't always fit," notes Bradley. "I keep having to say to teachers, 'It's OK if I come into your classroom and it looks very traditional,' because a project for everything is not appropriate, but engaging work is always appropriate."

7. Cultivate an evangelist

Whitfield Career Academy teacher Eric White went on the first of the district's several visits to High Tech High, and he took to the school's rigorous project-based learning right away. Given his passion for the practice and his skills as a presenter, he became a key evangelist who explained project-based learning to his colleagues and led training sessions across the district. As usual, it helps for teachers to hear this message from a fellow teacher -- someone who understands the daily challenges of a classroom.

8. Pilot with a small group of enthusiasts

Rather than trying to convert their entire schools to project-based learning all at once, principals in Whitfield County started with a single grade and tried to place the teachers who were most eager to make the transformation in that group. That way, the enthusiasts could work out some of the bugs and demonstrate the benefits of PBL for their colleagues to see. The principals chose the earliest grades in their schools, sixth and ninth, because students in those grades would more likely be open-minded about a new kind of learning.

9. Use the available free resources

The nonprofit High Tech High aims to share its best practices openly, not make money off them, so it posts a host of materials on its website for free. The Projects page details projects created by High Tech High teachers, with timelines, assignment descriptions, and examples of student work. The Videos page contains dozens of videos on teaching and learning at the school, some produced by students. More resources and videos on project-based learning are available from the Buck Institute for Education and Edutopia's own PBL page.

10. Educate parents and the community

Helping parents and community members understand and buy into project-based learning is one thing educators across Whitfield County agree they haven't done enough of. "The word project can mean so many different things," Bradley points out. "Parents thought it meant we were going to cut out cute stuff and stick it on a poster. For us, project-based learning doesn't mean you have to use paint or glitter or build something. Really, it's about designing an experience that children want to be a part of."
click here for a link to the video. Click here for a link to the video.

From The 21st Century Learning Academy:

While understanding that educational experiences can be very diverse and that every group of
designers will offer up a different dynamic to learning, we feel as a group that the adherence of our
10 core beliefs will help preserve and maintain the momentum we have achieved with our 9th
grade students during the 2009-2010 school year:
1. Teacher as Leader and Designer - We believe that teachers must be at the forefront of design.
Our core business in the 21st Century Learning Academy is designing challenging and
meaningful work for our customers, which means it is critical for us to know them and their
needs very well.  Teachers must be committed to achieving collective action when designing
learning experiences.  We view collective action as a shared effort in which the decision of the
group is binding on all its individual members.  Without this unity, the integrity of design will be
lost.
2. 21st Century Skills - We believe our students must be equipped with the skills to compete and
succeed in our emerging global economy.  In order to gain these competencies, we believe it is imperative that we infuse 21st century skills into our academic curriculum.  We embrace the framework set forth by The Partnership for 21st Century Skills:
o Mastery of Core Subjects
o Global Awareness
o Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy
o Civic Literacy
o Health Literacy
o Environmental Literacy
o Creativity and Innovation
o Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
o Communication and Collaboration
o Information Literacy
o Media Literacy
o ICT (Information, Communications & Technology) Literacy  
o Flexibility and Adaptability
o Initiative and Self Direction
o Social and Cross Cultural Skills
o Productivity and Accountability
o Leadership and Responsibility
3. Project-Based Learning - We believe a project-based approach is the best avenue to achieve
the much needed 21st century skills listed above.  Unlike some misconceptions of projectbased learning, we do not believe that a project is a supplement to the curriculum; the project is the curriculum.  All projects should be driven by inquiry and include and product and presentation that demonstrates learning.

4. Engaging Work - We believe that profound learning is facilitated by engaging and meaningful
work.  We believe that work is most engaging when that work includes the 10 Design Qualities
set forth by the Schlechty Center:
o Product Focus
o Clear and Compelling Standards
o Protection from Adverse Consequences for Initial Failures
o Affirmation Of The Significance of  the Performance
o Affiliation
o Novelty and Variety
o Choice
o Authenticity
o Organization of Knowledge
o Content and Substance
5. Presentations of Learning - We believe that presentations of learning are crucial to maintaining
relevance, rigor, and meaning to learning experiences.  Presentations of learning may happen
small scale (classroom and Academy-wide presentations), but we feel that the greatest
benefit comes from high stakes events that involve presentations to the community at large.    
6. Academic Integration - We believe that profound learning is best retained when the
academic curriculum is integrated.  Simply put, we do not believe learning should happen in a
vacuum.  Learning is richer and more dynamic when students can see the connections across
academics.
7. Excellent Work - We believe that excellent and beautiful work is truly transformational.  We
understand the power of reflection and revision in learning.  As Ron Berger states in his book,
An Ethic of Excellence, “One of the first things a school or classroom can do to improve the
quality of student work is to get off the treadmill.  This doesn’t mean an end to deadlines – the
real world is full of deadlines – but rather a clear distinction between rough research, rough
drafts, and finished, polished final draft work.”  The first draft will never be the best draft.  As Mr.
Roberts so eloquently puts it, “No more junk!”  
8. Common Mission - We believe that common goals and expectations should be applied to all
students.   Learning is rigorous and qualifies all students for college and success in the world of
work.  All students create digital portfolios.  Assessment is performance-based; all students
develop products, solve problems, and present their findings to others in the school and
surrounding community.    
9. Personalization - We believe that a personalized approach to student learning is one of the
cornerstones of our academy.  Students learn best from teachers who know them well and
allow them to pursue personal interests through product-based assessments.  Students with
special needs and English speakers of other languages receive individual attention in a full
inclusion model.  Classes are tailored to support individual and small group learning.
10. Real World Connections - We believe students experience some of their best learning outside
the confines of the school building.  Students participate in projects that involve impacting
and contributing to the community.  Experts in many fields are used to provide students with
relevant and real world applications of their learning.  Students’ learning should reflect work
performed in the real world.

1 comment:

smo hwguiders said...

Really, this is very nice site and thank you very much for giving the ten most important tips about the replicating project. Thanks again and keep it up.....

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