Project Based Learning – High Tech High

Project based learning (PBL), or performance assessment, is an authentic assessment and learning approach which allows students to actively explore real-world problems and challenges while acquiring a deeper knowledge. I believe PBL is a great assessment AS learning strategy which actively engages students in the learning process. When developing PBL, the Gailelo Educational Network provides and excellent rubric for such inquiry based projects.

High Tech High, provides excellent examples of PBL within classrooms, that use advanced technology and really focus on student centered classrooms. These schools really show the implementation of the New Story of Education in the Digital Age through not only the above characteristics, but they also involved inquiry based PBL, global connections and multiple literacies.

“This exhibit shows you what we love about ourselves. We are all unique and have different thoughts. In this exhibit, you will see photographs and writings. We want you to see that writing isn’t just a story, it is life. This project took a lot of hard work, and all photographs were taken by each of us. We learned to experiment, to try different vantage points. A picture is special, no matter how it turns out… Each picture, even if it’s not a picture of you, it still tells about you.”

One of the neat projects explored by a third grade classroom in Explorer Elementary involved integrating photography across curriculum’s with a project called “Through My Eyes“. There are several smaller activities within this one project which integrate multiple curriculum’s including: science, art, social studies, writing, and literacy. On the topic of literacy, 21st century literacies are embedded deep within this project.  When you read the caption to the left, for a group of previous third graders at Explorer Elementary, they talk about how they all have their own perspectives, both in how they think and in the photographs themselves. This is a great exemplar of media literacy, as the students recognize that each photograph portrays it’s own message based on the photographers personal constructs and stories.

Another great incorporation of literacies can be seen within the activity Picture Me, Picture You. Quoted exactly from the website: “This year-long cultural exchange promotes global understanding through photography and writing. Students from Explorer Elementary first learn about Africa, then share letters, poetry, and photography with children from the Tunahaki Foundation orphanage in Tanzania”.

Global and multicultural literacies are explicitly stated in the description as students aim to understand a different culture around the world, and how that culture creates knowledge and shares their perspective through their own photos. The photographs add a more creative and fun aspect to the idea of pen pals, so as students develop their writing skills they are also developing other skills associated with the literacies I have previously mentioned. This type of project could be developed to become more inquiry based through many ways (i.e. recognizing issues the Tanzanian children may face such as lack of access to clean water, or conduct an environmental experiment and compare the recycling or pollution in both countries, through photos and writing).

High Tech High provides a plethora of examples of different projects students have completed in a variety of grade levels, and is definitely a website I will continue to explore to find ideas for my own classroom. The inquiry based rubric from the Galileo Network, as mentioned before, is a great resource for teachers who are developing their own performance assessment for students, as it is clear and organized in a way that makes it easy to understand, even as a new teacher.

Check out other projects on High Tech High!


Quick Addition for RPAT:

As a future 21st century teacher I will be using High Tech High as a place to find new ideas for Project Based learning. There are so many different resources on the High Tech High website, I only chose a few to comment on above. But, while skimming through the other projects, there are clear connections to other literacies, as well as opportunities for integrating curriculum’s within one project. I believe using the website as well as the Inquiry based rubric from the Galileo Network, will allow my to strengthen my ability to create deep-learning and inquiry based tasks for my students.