542 Final Reflection

What do you now understand best about Project Based Learning? What do you understand least?

The aspect I understand best about Project Based learning is providing choice and voice to students.  As a teacher, I have found students are more engaged and get more out of lessons/projects when they are either interested in the topic or have a say in the outcome/process.  There are no aspects of Project Based Learning that I don’t understand, just need more practice. I have a hard time creating and developing projects that are project-based learning and not problem-based learning.  When we were creating our project, I struggled with this area the most.

What did you expect to learn in this course? What did you actually learn? More, less, and why?

I selected this course because I had heard about project-based learning, but was unclear of the requirements and expectations.  Throughout the course, I learned not only what Project Based Learning is, but also the components that are involved in a successful PBL. The most important elements of PBL are that the project needs to be authentic to the students, students need to have voice and choice throughout and projects must be presented to an authentic audience.

What will you do with what you have learned?

Through this course, I have learned the benefits of Project Based Learning involve learning concepts, teamwork, and interacting with the community.  I will definitely implement Project Based Learning into my classroom. My plan is to start with one project and then build onto the project until I am more comfortable with the Project Based Learning process.

Final Project: Link

Peer Review

One of the most important aspects of project-based learning is critique and revision.  This step includes the process of students giving and receiving feedback on their work with the intention of revising ideas, product or conducting further research. (“Essential Project Design Elements Checklist | Project Based Learning | BIE,” n.d.) I believe the best form of feedback for students comes from their peers, however, students may be apprehensive about receiving this type of feedback.  Through my research this week, I found two techniques to incorporate into the classroom to help relieve the anxiety of peer feedback.

The first was the “consultancy” process, where the purpose of the feedback shifts from a critique to a discussion. In this process, a small group discusses a peer’s project.  The presenter (creator of the project) shares their project and any issues. The group then discusses the project while the presenter listens. The presenter has time to ask the group questions at the end. One of the key elements is the group offers “warm” and “cool” feedback, talking to each other and not the person who presented.  I would encourage this process because I feel like the student would not see their project as being nitpicked or attacked but rather the project is the center of a discussion. (Critical Friends, n.d.)

The second technique is modeling acceptance of criticism.  Many students have a hard time accepting criticism or any type of feedback.  It is important for students to see criticism and feedback as a positive and not a reflection of the student’s worth. An example of modeling acceptance of criticism would be when the teacher makes a mistake and a student points it out.  We need to thank the student and remark everyone makes mistakes and this is how we learn from each other. By doing this, you create a culture where reflection and critiques are positive and a learning experience. (“Why Every Student Needs Critical Friends – Educational Leadership,” n.d.)


Essential Project Design Elements Checklist | Project Based Learning | BIE. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2018, from http://www.bie.org/object/document/pbl_essential_elements_checklist

Critical Friends: A Process Built on Reflection. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2018 from https://depts.washington.edu/ccph/pdf_files/CriticalFriends.pdf

Why Every Student Needs Critical Friends – Educational Leadership. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2018, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov09/vol67/num03/Why-Every-Student-Needs-Critical-Friends.aspx


Taking Time to Reflect

One of the often forgotten aspects of teaching is the reflection upon a lesson, unit and/or project.  Reflection can be difficult for teachers because it is either hard to find time throughout the day or unit to reflect or they do not see the benefits of reflection.  Reflection does not have to be a long drawn out process, it can be as simple as making notes on a lesson plan. This is very similar to when you try a new recipe. Documenting ingredients or directions you added, substituted or deleted, or even your impression of the meal is an important step, so you remember for next time.  Reflection is key in order to improve on a specific project or the development of a PBL experience for the future.

The people that should be involved in the process are all of the same people who were involved in the project.  My reflection goal would be to every day or at each subtopic, think about the following questions and jot my response on a sticky note or the actual lesson plan. I would also have my students and parents complete a survey in order to get their point of view on both the whole and individual aspects of the project.  Reflection is not a one-time assessment, it is something that should be done both during and after the completion of an activity, even if you have done the same project multiple times.


  1. How did my students respond to the lesson?
  2. Was there meaningful student involvement?
  3. What aspects of the class were positive? Negative?
  4. Are my students willing to take risks?
  5. What evidence is there of student learning?
  6. Are my students working cooperatively with others?
  7. Did I give enough wait time?
  8. What should I do differently tomorrow?

Questions are from https://www.getadministrate.com/blog/the-need-for-reflection-when-teaching/

Becoming a Facilitator

The key element of project-based learning is for students to learn the intended knowledge and skills, through research and completion of a project.  In order for this to happen, teachers need to take on the role of a facilitator, rather than a teaching role. This element is the hardest part of project-based learning for me because it is so natural to take on the role of a teacher.

There are many skills needed for effective facilitation. The first skill is the teacher’s ability to create driving questions.  The driving question needs to be both structured and open-ended. This will provide a structure for student research throughout the project, but will also allow for a variety of answers.  Another skill required for effective facilitation is reflection. A teacher may have an idea of the outcome and the path students will go down when completing the project, but this may not always happen.  Teachers need to reflect daily on the current state and needs of the project. By reflecting, teachers can better support and scaffold the students. Along with reflecting, teachers need to be flexible in both their planning and expectations of the final product.  Overall, teachers need to provide the structure, not the content of the project. By providing structure, it will ensure that students achieve the end goal of the project.

By teachers taking on the role of facilitator, students will learn how to work collaboratively with others, seek out resources, problem solve, become a critical thinker and recognize the real world applications for a variety of content and subjects.

Designing Integrated Curriculum

Interdisciplinary projects are becoming the norm in schools today.  These types of projects offer many benefits.  The first benefit is continuity throughout a student’s day.  Instead of learning six new concepts every day, students are able to relate and connect topics from math to science to history to language arts.  This allows students to come to the realization that core subjects are interconnected.  In addition, interdisciplinary projects can increase motivation or buy in.  For example, if a student does not like math, integrating another subject such as art could create motivation for that student.  One of the hardest aspects for elementary school teachers is fitting the standards from all the different subjects into the school year.  Having interdisciplinary projects allows teachers and students to focus and spend more time on the project because they are able to incorporate multiple standards.

I see the biggest challenge of interdisciplinary projects to be the planning aspect, especially if you co-teach or teach an isolated subject.  In the video, the team planned their crime-solving project over the course of a summer.  Once the school year starts, finding time where all teachers can be present could become difficult.  Another challenge is ensuring that all students come into the project with the same level of skills and knowledge, regardless of their previous teacher.  If I am a sixth-grade teacher, I want to make sure all of my students have the same baseline of knowledge, regardless of which fifth-grade teacher they had.  In my school, we have a table of what students should be able to do at the end of each grade.

Implementing an interdisciplinary project at my own school would be a seamless process.  Our teachers already instruct cross-curricular, therefore turning that instruction into a project would be an easy task.  Within my school, grade levels have the same prep time at least three days a week and in addition, once a week, we have professional learning community (PLC).  The purpose of PLC is to work collaboratively with both our grade levels and school. These scheduled meeting times give teachers the opportunity to plan projects, one of the challenges of an interdisciplinary project.

Video Link


There are four key principles of assessments.

Assessment is for students: The assessments for my PBL, Dream Vacation, were planned around the student.  My checklist assessment will help students feel ownership over the process because as they complete each component, students are able to check it off their list.  In addition, students are able to use all products produced, if their family chooses to go on the vacation they planned.

Assessment is faithful to the work students actually do: Students have multiple opportunities to reflect and discuss their planning, research, or overall products through 3-2-1 Countdown and peer review.  In addition, students are assessed on what they know and do, instead of what they don’t do; this is assessed through a rubric.

Assessment is public: Students are provided a rubric and the checklist at the beginning of the unit. This way students know exactly how they will be assessed for each product.  In addition, the students’ final products will be viewed by classmates, teachers, and parents.

Assessment promotes ongoing self-reflection and critical inquiry: The checklist, 3-2-1 Countdown, and peer review both promote ongoing self-reflection and critical inquiry.  All of these assessments ask students to reflect on their project and any questions they have for future research or how they can make their vacation better.  In addition, the expected standards are all ones that any travel agent would be expected to complete.

Throughout the project, I see both the checklist and the final rubric being fluid documents.  This allows students to have input on the assessments. The purpose of the checklist is to provide structure for students on planning a vacation, however, a student might have different ideas or more ideas to add to the checklist.  I do not want to limit student creativity.  

Link to view my assessments.

Is It Still PBL Without An Authentic Audience?

An authentic audience is required in order to be considered Project-Based Learning.  The purpose of Project-Based Learning is for students to gain knowledge through inquiry, in response to an authentic and engaging question.  One of the key elements of Project-Based Learning is a public product which is directly related to having an authentic audience.  Having an authentic audience for students to present their final product or findings, can create buy-in for the students because it gives the project purpose by relating it to the real world.  In an article on Edutopia, there are three questions that an educator needs to ask when determining the audience. (“Focus on Audience for Better PBL Results,” n.d.)

  1. What do you want students to gain from the audience interaction?
  2. Who’s the audience for the “real-world” version?
  3. How can technology connect students with larger audiences?

In my own project, Dream Vacation, students will have an authentic audience of their parents.  Throughout a three week project, students will be planning a dream school break vacation.  The final product is a proposal to their parents, where students will try to convince their parents to take them on the trip.  This will give students motivation to plan the best vacation, with the hopes of going on it themselves.  

Focus on Audience for Better PBL Results. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/focus-on-audience-for-better-pbl-results-suzie-boss

Effectiveness of Project-Based Learning

Many teachers and schools are incorporating Project-Based Learning into their teaching and curriculum.  Project-Based Learning is a “Systematic teaching method that has its main emphasis on learning through projects.” (Karaçalli & Korur, 2014)  Just how effective is Project-Based Learning in an elementary classroom?  Karaçalli & Korur conducted a study to answer that exact question.

The study consisted of 143 fourth graders from Turkey, with a wide range of demographics.  The subjects they were learning was electricity in particular circuits. The fourth graders were split into two groups, traditional teaching, and project-based learning.  In order to determine the effectiveness of attitude, achievement, and retention of knowledge, both groups were administered a pretest, post-test, and survey.  In the Project-Based Learning group, students worked in teams and used a variety of materials to turn on a light bulb.  In the traditional teaching group, students learned about circuits through direct instruction.  The researchers found no significant difference between the groups in overall attitude towards the subject, however, there was a significant difference in achievement and overall retention of knowledge.  The researchers concluded that having students complete self-evaluations throughout the unit was the reason for an increase in achievement in the Project-Based Learning group. I also felt that another reason for the increase in achievement was due to students actively working with the material and being able to see the results of their experiment with each change of the circuit.  The retention of knowledge in the Project-Based Learning group did not decrease as drastically as the control group.  This was due to students completing experiments, writing reports and making presentations.  When students are able to work with knowledge in multiple ways, students are able to retain more information, “It is known that with project-based learning studies, the knowledge gained by the students due to learning by seeing, hearing, analyzing, writing, participating, and sharing increases students’ achievement.” (Karaçalli & Korur, 2014)

While reading this article, I was not surprised by the results of the study in terms of the increase of achievement and retention of knowledge.  I was shocked by the conclusion that PBL had no effect on attitude.  I thought there would be a positive increase in attitude because PBL students are doing more hands-on activities and working with real-life scenarios.  I have found my students enjoy those types of activities more than traditional teaching methods.

Karaçalli, S., & Korur, F. (2014). The Effects of Project-Based Learning on Students’ Academic Achievement, Attitude, and Retention of Knowledge: The Subject of “Electricity in Our Lives.” School Science & Mathematics, 114(5), 224–235. https://doi.org/10.1111/ssm.12071

Ed-Tech 541 Final Blog

Part One: 

Throughout this semester, I have learned about the abundance of online resources available to both teachers and students.  Each week when I was researching different types of technology to integrate into my content area, I found myself saying “I love this!  [student name] would totally benefit from this resource.”  With this new found knowledge of online resources, I also learned how to evaluate and critique a variety of resources.  I found some resources where the content was what I needed, but it didn’t fit my target audience, the navigation was awkward, or it was confusing.  Now on each resource, I go back to the SAMR model and ask, does this piece of technology or resource substitute or redefine my lesson?

During this course, I created artifacts that demonstrate my understanding of numerous AECT standards.  I assessed and evaluated technological resources that could be used in order to best support my students’ needs in the area of United States History.  I was able to use pedagogy of technology in the classroom to create and implement my own resources, specific to my classroom and content area.  In addition, I provided a wide variety of articles, websites and books that I used to support theory and application of educational communications and technology.  Finally, through my weekly blog, I demonstrated my ability to reflect on a variety of educational technology strategies and applications in both the general classroom environment and also my own specific teaching practice.

I have grown professionally in my ability to share, critique and develop resources both I and colleagues can use.  In addition, my overall lesson planning improved by incorporating a variety of different sources that meet a diverse student population and by developing lessons that are cross curricular.

My thoughts on technology in the classroom have not changed.  I still believe that technology is an integral part of the classroom.  Technology allows students to become interested in a topic and then share thoughts and ideas in a unique way, access curriculum through assistive technology and practice concepts.  Technology needs to be strategically implemented in the classroom in order to maximize learning.  Technology can be like Thanksgiving dinner; too much food can leave you tired and sick, whereas food in moderation can leave you satisfied and delighted.  My educational technology theory is constructivism and I incorporated the principles of this theory into my various projects.

Part Two:

Content – 70 points

Within my blog post each week, I provided concise, thoughtful, responses to each topic.  In each response, I provided facts and ideas from weekly readings and resources.  In addition, I made connections to my own teaching or real-life experiences.

Reading/Resources – 20 points

In my blog entries, I used both resources provided by the instructor and ones I found on my own to support my blog.  In addition, I used APA format when citing my sources in-text and at the end of each blog.

Timeliness – 20 points

For all my blogs, I posted 4 days before the due date to allow other students ample amount of time to provide feedback and respond to my post.

Response to other students – 30 points

Each week, I responded to two fellow student’s blog entries.  In those responses, I commented on ideas, asked questions, offered suggestions and made connections to my own teaching.

Assistive Technology

There are over 54 million people or 20% of the United States population that have a disability and require a form of assistive technology. (“assistive technology,” n.d.) Assistive technology is defined as “Any device, piece of equipment or system that helps a person with a disability work around his challenges so he can learn, communicate or simply function better.” (Team, 2014) Adaptive technology can help students with a disability access information or participate in activities with same age peers.

One misconception about assistive and adaptive technology is that the technology or devices are expensive.  In some cases this is true, for example, the cost of a text to speech device averages $600 dollars. (“EnableMart | Assistive Technology,” n.d.)  However, assistive technology does not always need to be sophisticated, high-tech devices, it could simply be a calculator or a timer.  In addition, a majority of assistive technologies are programs or apps designed for three platforms; computers, tablets and mobile devices.  There are many free apps and programs through Chrome and Apple that perform the same function as expensive devices.  These platform devices are in every classroom or school and are used on a regular basis, so there is no need to buy additional equipment for assistive technology to work.

The second misconception surrounding assistive and adaptive technology is that when a district or school purchases a piece of technology, it will only be used by one particular student.  Although some adaptive technology is only purchased to be utilized by one particular student, in most cases, the adaptive technology can actually be used by a variety of students.  For example, a text to speech program could be used by both a person who is blind and a struggling reader.

Adaptive technology is a crucial part of universal design for learning.  Universal design is a framework that assists in accommodating a broad range of learners.  A real life example of universal design is a video call.  Video calling may be used by an individual who is deaf, calling a distant family member, showing an individual an item in real time or as a meeting spot when everyone can’t be in one location.  Video calling may have been designed for one specific function, however it has grown to reach many different populations and used for a variety of functions.  School administrators need to change their mindset from thinking that a device or program will only assist one particular student, towards how will this device  help a variety of students.

Assistive technology can be affordable, reach a wide audience and likely requires no additional equipment that is not already found in a typical classroom or school.

assistive technology. (n.d.). Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://www.dmd-aapd.org/assistive-technology/

EnableMart | Assistive Technology. (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2016, from https://www.enablemart.com/

Team, T. U. (2014, June 1). Assistive Technology in the Classroom | Assistive Technology Tools. Retrieved November 15, 2016, from https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/assistive-technology/assistive-technologies-basics/assistive-technology-what-it-is-and-how-it-works