Monday, March 18, 2013

Project Based Learning VS. Project

I am deepening my search for projects and working towards Problem Based Learning. I have been content in developing and stealing project ideas that are meant to be an end-of-the-unit assessment to see students collaborate and make connections and applications for the skills they are learning. For example, in the last blog, we did the radio project.  I was happy with the type or problem-solving and collaborative spirits that came out of my students for the project.

I recently did another project where students were to transfer their skills of vectors to a challenge problem, which I will call a project. First of all, I learned the pretenses of calling a problem a challenge problem. The mere connotation of the word “challenge” made some students assume impossible/too hard to do without the teacher. AHHH!!! We had to talk about how life poses challenges all the time. I expressed my hope for them to be the ones to persevere and fight through challenges that came up.

After taking notes on vectors and vector operations and completing a vector operation assignment, I thought they could tackle the challenge problems worksheet. It turned out to be a real mess. We spent extra time trying to straighten things out. The motivation of the students was pretty low too. I had a target marked on Geogebra (which I love now!) where they would give me the direction and the time in the air, I would enter the date, add the wind, and viola!, we would all see if the direction they took along with the wind would end up hitting the target. One group out of the 20 students managed to do it. I am very frustrated with how it went.

I had a handout for the vector vocab and notes- just because there was so much vocabulary
After doing an assignment on the component forms of vectors, operations, and working with direction and magnitude, students faced the following challenge problems.

I have to mention: I also have a student teacher right now. I have gotten a lot of time to be reflecting about the atmosphere of the classroom. I have felt a little overwhelmed with the question of "how do I get them to think for themselves?" Are my students really facing the everyday challenges and transfering their knowledge to face the unknowns. The process and fight of problem-solving is the real fuel to my fire, or real passion of my teaching. How do I get that fire going in my classrooms? 

I felt I had to recenter my goals, so I do not get overwhelmed with all I have been taking in and observing from my classes. Observing as a person in the back can really shine some light on things to work on in the classrooms.

Goal 1: Design a unit that is truly PBL and not just a project at the end of the unit. I need that students to question and push hard to create understanding for themselves, so they are ready to face the end-all CHALLENGE at the end. I have read and article that is helping me see the difference between a project and  a true PBL set-up I will be working towards that.

Goal 2: Work on my own “Three-Act Task” like Dan Myer’s which I believe falls in line with my goal 1.

Goal 3: Work on a project with the English department and the Ag department at my school about sustainability of rural communities that will build on the BIG IDEA: Students will research their community, investigate population changes, and economic impact and decline. Students will learn how to address issues that affect the sustainability of a small rural community, create