Presenting as a model teacher at the Classrooms for the Future bootcamp last week threw everything off schedule. It was exhilirating to present some exciting things we have been doing in class. As a result, we are not as far as we thought we would be.
Both Biology and Science for Living are using iMovies instead of oral presenting. As iMovie 08 is formatted a little differently there is a light curve. Most students are not taught how to plan and carry out these projects and we are taking it slow. Biology is using Google Presentations to work collaboratively on their projects. Slides will be saved as images and used in the iMovie. I have thwarted their inclinations to throw many pictures and words on a slide as much of the content should be spoken. Though more time is spent than I would like, I think it is time well spent. We have spent much time on the message they wish to convey and planning out each slide.
Academic Biology is struggling with a monster of a project I am unhappy about. The Monocot and Dicot unit is relatively unfocused and has no oomph. It is part of the lack of knowing where we wanted to go. It became more of a unit of content vs. an actual project. Because of this, the students are not liking it and I am not as well. That should be amplified when I go to grade it.
So, why did it turn out this way? I guess it is because I originally did not want everything to be PBL or authentic instruction. I know that is odd if that is where I want to actually work towards, but it is easy to forget where you are going and the year slips away. It is also hard to manage that many large projects. Instead, we tried to reign in, keep it focused, and missed some great opportunities.
This seems like a crossroads. I would really like a class where we ask big questions and it drives what the students do and they run through the meadows of knowledge picking what they need (nice thought impression...) But, there is still content. Is the best that I can achieve maybe one or two actual authentic activities, a handful of meaningful projects with many choices, and a few (like the project on monocots and dicots) activities that are just too teacher centered?
I realy should be happy that I have made any type of change and that I still have a vision to look towards. I heard once that this is a process that takes a few years to achieve. I can say I am getting better.
So what have I learned?
- More assessments of a greater variety.
- Student input on assessments.
- More student feedback throughout the process.
- Use the KWL chart more often (something I have not been consistent with)
- Use checklists to help drive motion in the project (not used as often with academic though they need it just as much)
For those who have or have not tried project based learning, what are your thoughts on creating projects? Is it difficult to keep focused on content that needs to be discovered by students in the time frames that you have? What works in your classroom?
Tags: PBL, project based learning, biology education, classrooms for the future