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

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.

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

EnableMart | Assistive Technology. (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2016, from

Team, T. U. (2014, June 1). Assistive Technology in the Classroom | Assistive Technology Tools. Retrieved November 15, 2016, from

Obstacles and Solutions for Integrating Technology in Social Studies

Technology in the classroom has many advantages and applications.  However, there are also obstacles a teacher faces when planning a lesson that requires technology.

Obstacle 1:  Not Enough Computers when 1:1 is Necessary

At my school, each teacher has only enough computers for a 2:1 ratio.  This is a problem when a lesson or activity requires each student to have an individual computer.  For example, during drill/practices and game-based learning.  There are two ways of approaching this obstacle, depending on the lesson.  One solution is to split the class in half.  While one group participates in the technology portion of the lesson, the other group works on a different activity.  If all students need computers at the same time, a second solution would be to borrow a set of computers from another classroom.

Obstacle 2:  Reliable Sources

History is similar to a game of telephone; the more times it is repeated, the chances increase that details are left out or changed.  When students are researching a topic, it can be difficult to determine if a website is reputable and its information is accurate.  One solution to this obstacle is for teachers to provide students with pre-approved articles, search engines or databases.  A second solution would be for instructors to have a lesson that teaches different characteristics a student should look for when determining the reliability of a site.  (“Identifying Reliable Sources and Citing Them |,” n.d.)  

Obstacle 3:  Multiple Points of View

Although reporters and historians strive to be objective and impartial, points of view are inevitable in any newspaper or journal article.  These points of view can skew a reader’s understanding of the facts or truth.  A solution to this obstacle is to teach students the difference between a fact and an opinion.  In addition, teachers can create a lesson where students have to compare two different newspaper articles on the same topic and analyze the similarities and differences.

Identifying Reliable Sources and Citing Them | (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2016, from

Integrating Technology into Social Studies

Technology can be incorporated into many aspects of a student’s day.  Technology increases student motivation, encourages creativity and allows access to concepts and information not normally accessible to a student.  Integrating technology into a social studies curriculum has content related advantages.

Technology brings real-life and problem solving elements to a social studies curriculum.  The topics I teach in social studies took place between 100 and 200 years ago, long before my students were born and many concepts are complex and confusing for a student.  The use of simulations, “[Technology] allows students to take an active part in historical situation that would otherwise not be possible due to historical or physical distance.” (Roblyer, 2015)

One of the most important aspects a teacher can incorporate into any social studies lesson is primary sources.  Primary sources “Provide a window into the past—unfiltered access to the record of artistic, social, scientific and political thought and achievement during the specific period under study, produced by people who lived during that period.” (“Why Use Primary Sources?,” n.d.) Technology makes it possible for students to have access to primary sources.

In 5th grade U.S. history, there are many facts students are expected to memorize; states, capitals, regions of the U.S and presidents, to name just a few.  Technology provides different resources to assist with the memorization, whether it be through videos, music, simulations or drill and practice games.  Technology opens up a variety of options to help best suit each student’s learning styles and needs.

Every student loves going on field trips.  A majority of the social studies curriculum centers around Washington D.C. or the east coast.  Living in Idaho makes taking a field trip to Gettysburg not realistic.  However, through technology we are able to take virtual field trips of these locations that are vital to our nation’s history.  A virtual field trip “Helps [students] see and understand a variety of cultures, sights and events outside their own communities.” (Roblyer, 2015)

Technology in a classroom is beneficial.  Technology in social studies has the opportunity to transport a student back in time, across the country, explore first hand documents and memorize key facts.

Roblyer, M. D. (2015). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching, Enhanced Pearson eText with Loose-Leaf Version — Access Card Package (7 edition). Pearson.

Why Use Primary Sources? | Teacher Resources – Library of Congress. (n.d.). [webpage]. Retrieved November 2, 2016, from

Relative Advantage of Using Digital Games

Digital game-based learning is defined as an instructional method that incorporates educational content or learning principles into video games with the goal of engaging learners.   (“Digital game-based learning,” n.d.)  There are many beneficial reasons to use digital games for student learning; increases interest and motivation, engages students, provides instant feedback, and builds confidence.

It is safe to say that a majority of students enjoy playing video games in their spare time.  87% of 8 -17 year old students play video games 13 hours a week.  (“Game based learning,” 09:13:37 UTC)  Students have to have interest in a topic, a connection to their lives or any type of buy in, in order to learn.  Video games help bridge the gap between student interest and academic curriculum.  When my students are given the opportunity to play various digital games, it is the highlight of their day.  I have a few reluctant readers who are more than eager to hop onto a Chromebook and play a reading based digital game.

Working in an elementary school, one thing I have noticed is that students can get tired of an activity or a game very quickly.  Many digital games allow students to “level up” after mastering certain tasks.  This provides students with a new challenge every time they log into the game.  Also, many games now come with a battle or challenge mode, where students are able to compete against other students.  Students thrive on competition.  Many games have a high score feature and students are always wanting to get their score higher and higher, which leads to an increase in trials.  Both the leveling up feature and challenge mode, makes a digital game engaging for students.  “Learners playing the handheld game [math fact game] completed nearly 3 times the number of problems in 19 days and voluntarily increased the level of difficulty.” (“Game based learning,” 09:13:37 UTC)

An additional positive aspect of game based learning is that students receive instant feedback while they are playing the digital games.  Feedback positively affects students because when they receive feedback, they get instant gratification.  Without the use of technology, feedback can take hours, days or weeks to receive.  Furthermore, digital gaming builds confidence in a student.  Confidence comes when students feel successful and this happens when students are working at their instructional level.  Educational digital games often allow teachers to set an instructional level or the game itself will place the student where they will be most successful.  

Digital gaming is a beneficial teaching tool in the classroom for any subject, yet it is uniquely useful in social studies.  One of the most difficult aspects of social studies is to connect with situations that happened hundreds of years ago.  Many times we ask students questions such as, “What was it like to be on the Oregon Trail?”  Students do not have the same life-experiences as someone had while on the Oregon Trail, making it difficult for them to truly connect with the lesson.  Through digital games, students are able to get a taste of what it was like to live and solve the problems that arose during a particular period in history.  The relative advantage of digital games is that they can virtually transport a student to a particular time period.  Digital gaming can provide a different avenue for students to learn curriculum in a fun, engaging way.

 Digital game-based learning. (n.d.). Retrieved October 22, 2016, from

Game based learning. (09:13:37 UTC). Retrieved from