Technology Supported Project Based Learning
Final Project of EdTech 542
Here is a link to the final product of the course; the AP Statistics Inference PBL website.
Learning Log for EdTech 542
I wrote the following entries as the class progress through the course. This class was quite doable as a fast paced summer course. I think I really have a product I can use in my AP Stats class next year!! This PBL will be much more interesting than lecturing to students everyday!! It is a student-centered approach rather than teacher-centered or teacher lecture…
Introduction to Project Based Learning (PBL) – 6/14/14
The first definition of Project Based Learning (PBL) that I discovered was that PBL is a “systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks”. (bie.org, 2014)
My experiences with PBL involved using complex instruction in my geometry classroom. However, I would like to incorporate the use of PBL in my AP Calculus BC and AP Statistics courses as well. It is much more difficult and time consuming to prepare an authentic learning activity and the higher math course levels. Therefore I look forward to gaining more knowledge and exposure to activities, especially for Calc BC.
The Beginnings of a Statistics PBL – 6/21/14
As I dove further into PBL research this week I found some great projects already developed, but not a great number of projects to use in math and statistics. I imagine this is due to many math teachers still using direct instruction or lecture style classroom structures. However many math teachers would also then state, to best learn math is to do so by doing not just watching. Students need to put pencil to paper to really begin exploring how to solve math scenarios. So why do math teachers still lecture?
With that said, I would love to incorporate more student centered activities that lead students to draw their own conclusions given a real-life scenario while also introducing new concepts. This week I decided I would focus on a PBL for my AP Statistics class. As AP Stats is a new class for me, having only taught it for one year, there is a lot of behind the scenes development of activities for me to do yet. Last year at beginning of statistics we had many mini activities that introduced or reviewed statistics and probability concepts. I wrote these activities using an activity organizational structure called Complex Instruction. By having these activities already in place towards the beginning of the course, students are familiar with the concept of learning new material in a group activity structure rather than by using direct instruction. However, when we began chapter 7 in the statistics textbook, I ran out of steam. I fell upon the mercy of direct instruction and the prepared Power Points that accompany the teacher resources. It is a lot of work to create good activities! However, I see fantastic potential in designing a well structured PBL for the statistical inference portion of the course (chapter 7-12). It is now time to focus on building a PBL for the second half of the course that introduces statistical inference to students while restructuring and minimizing the amount of direct instruction.
Designing a PBL for this course should be a natural transition for both myself and my students, as use of activities is already in place for my AP Statistics course. To begin the process I identified some excellent examples of PBLs already made. Here is a link to an example of a PBL using calculus and statistics that has students predict local flooding patterns. I found another PBL about investing and analyzing the risks versus the rewards. This well designed project has students studying both legal and illegal drug use and incorporates humanities, chemistry, math and technology. Finally, I also found this award winning PBL called “Cells gone Wild” that incorporates biology, statistics, community, and technology to just name a few. Here is a video outlining the project.
Using various organizational ideas and the integration of multiple subjects from these PBLs, I can build a new PBL that introduces statistical inference in an authentic way.
Getting Started on the AP Statistics Inference PBL – 6/29/14
Last weekend I prepared for the painter to paint half of the house, and now this weekend we are preparing for new floors to be installed starting tomorrow. Life is crazy busy! (Yes, I used my pronouns correctly. This weekend my husband was not sick and was able to assist! I am thinking he purposely was sick. Is that possible?) Thus the delayed response for this week’s learning log. I’d better hurry it up too, because we still are not ready for tomorrow!! Wait a minute…back on topic…
This week in EdTech 542, we started working on our own specific PBL. We designed two pages on our PBL websites, the Welcome and Overview Pages. Then we dove into the Driving Question that guides the entire PBL, as well as wrote sub questions guided by the standards for the course. Finally, we constructed a Visual Project Organizer that pulls all these pieces together.
I am definitely sticking with an AP Statistics project as it appears to be fitting nicely with what a PBL is all about! Likewise, this PBL covers what I did in SIX direct instruction units last year, my first year of teaching the course. (The topics listed under the driving question cover six chapters, 7-12.) I have been looking forward to having some time to develop more student centered learning ideas for AP Stats. Last year, being the only person teaching the course, I ran out of steam. It will be very nice to use this project instead of teaching via direct instruction.
More updates next week!
Assessing the AP Statistics Inference PBL – 7/7/14
Wow, what I lot of work it was this week to create all the assessments for the PBL. I must say, Google documents might be easy to embed into a Google site, but many times they are not so easy to format. Inserting a table into a Google document is very frustrating.
The rubric was also very time consuming. First you need to find a decent rubric app online. Then you need to tinker with it to see if it is really helpful. I found a very flexible rubric maker called iRubric. However, when you have 25 items to assess on a rubric and there are 3-4 levels to write about, you get to 75 entries very quickly. The advantage to iRubric is once the rubric is done (with weighted grading available too), you can click on each box to grade a student, and the percentage score pops right up. So the work you put in up front will pay off during the grading process!!
Then you try to embed the rubric and it doesn’t work! I highly recommend the following video to anyone having issues embedding non-Google supported material into a Google Site.
One of the PBL learning outcomes will include that students will be able to understand when to use a significance test for a mean versus a significance test for a proportion. This will be vital when students begin analyzing various scenarios as the tests are different for means and percents and even more so when they take the AP Statistics exam and do not have any hints as to which test to use.
One of the assessments to help students understand the use of different tests will be in the form of a flowchart. Students can design a flowchart asking specific questions that will lead them to the correct test. In order to do this, students will need to carefully research each test and understand its specific use. For example, a z-test (and a z-statistic) is only used when data is presented as a proportion. Then students need to determine if there is one set of data or are they comparing two sets of data? Do they need to test the data or build a confidence interval. By building a flowchart, each decision box can lead a new statistician to the correct final test and mechanics necessary. This an important skill students need for the AP exam.
Here is a link to the assessment page for the AP Statistics Inference PBL. Once there, you will see several other formative and summative assessments as well as a rubric for the final presentation of the PBL.
Scaffolding in PBL – 7/11/14
Scaffolding for students in a classroom has become a more natural consideration for me in recent years. So when given the opportunity to look up and read a scaffolding article, I jumped at the chance. Although the article by Jamie McKenzie has outdated links since this was published in 1999, the content is fabulous! Jamie lists eight features/reasons everyone should scaffold a lesson in the classroom.
- Provides Clear Directions
- Clarifies Purpose
- Keeps Students on Task
- Offers Assessment to Clarify Expectations
- Points Students to Worthy Sources
- Reduces Uncertainty, Surprise and Disappointment
- Delivers Efficiency
- Creates Momentum
(McKenzie, 1999) My favorites are numbers one through eight!!
My personal experience with scaffolding is that it is a very sensitive line to find for your own personal classroom. How much should you scaffold? If you scaffold too much, then there is not much left for the students to discover. If you don’t scaffold enough, then students will give up due to frustration.
So what do you do as a teacher when planning a new activity? My suggestion is to under-scaffold the first time through an activity. However, you need a structured classroom plan such that you can quickly and efficiently deliver new information to students when the occasion presents itself. There are many ways to have this plan in place. Many structured group work organizational systems now assign students more specific roles. For example, I use a group system called Complex Instruction (CI) (Cohen, 1999). (By the way, besides the Pacific Northwest AP Institute in Bellevue, WA, this was one of the three best trainings I have ever attended!!)
In CI, I have assigned roles to students; Team Captain, Facilitator, Resource Manager and Recorder/Reporter. So when my class embarks upon an activity that is also new to me, I never know when an issue may arise. In the event that I see group 1, then 2 and now group 3 all struggling with the same instructions, I call a time out and call in for some experts. Assigning an expert to the group is a way to scaffold. Many different group activity organizational systems will assign experts. For my activities when I see a frustration point that was not anticipated, I will call for “all Facilitators to see me outside”. Then once we are all outside, I will give those students the hints they need to get the group back on task and help jump start the group momentum. A side benefit is the efficiency this creates. I can tell one person from each group and then they tell the other 24 students in the room. I could have called for the attention of the entire class, but by only telling the Facilitators, I am also assigning status to that student. This is an important idea behind CI so that your classroom group tasks stay running at close to 100% student participation. You want all students to always be contributing.
Then after an activity is done for the first time, sometimes I fix to provide clear directions and clarify purpose but other times I leave the group task as is. Instead I will make note of when I need to call for an expert from each group. This way I am reassigning status to students and it helps keep them on task.
Inadvertently, by scaffolding group tasks in this way, I also noticed that kids do not get frustrated and give up. They trust me in that if there is an issue I will help, but not just give them an answer, thus reducing uncertainty, surprise and disappointment. Students also begin to trust themselves and take more responsibility for their learning. I see this after a few activities. They have success on one or two activities, then they more likely to fully participate during the next task.
Keep in mind, I have been teaching for 21 years. After 18 years and complex instruction training, I changed absolutely everything. Direct instruction is now limited to only those topics where I can’t envision an authentic group task; something too easy or something too hard to discover in a reasonable time frame! What did it take? I had to relearn how to teach and I am so glad I did!! It is vital to scaffold for student success, but not for ease of student efforts.
Cohen, E. G., Lotan, R. A., Scarloss, B. R., & Arellano, A. R. (1999). Complex instruction: Equity in cooperative learning classrooms. Theory into Practice, 38(2), 80-86. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/909852737?accountid=9649
McKenzie, J. (1999). Scaffolding for success. From Now On: The Educational Technology Journal 9(4). Retrieved from http://fno.org/dec99/scaffold.html
Thoughts About Implementing a PBL – 7/19/14
This week we were asked to reflect on the following three main ideas. I thought I should share my responses.
What are some potential criticisms that you might receive from administrators, parents, and colleagues?
- There is always the possibility that parents and students will resist change. However, in the case of the AP Stats PBL, it will occur during the second half of the school year. At this point I hope to have the students trained about expectations for both the students and myself during structured activity time. After using the technique of Complex Instruction over the past three years to organize my group activities or group tasks, I have run into a very small amount of resistance. The only complaint from students thus far has been “How am I supposed to learn anything if you aren’t teaching it to me?” (a.k.a. I am not in the front of the room lecturing.) This comment has come from two students in three years and maybe as many parents…not bad since change is tough for most people.
- My administrator started at our school two years ago (he is formerly a middle school math teacher) and in the beginning asked me why do activities? Why don’t you just show the kids the steps? After two years of watching and hearing about student progress and student enjoyment of my course, he asked me a new question towards the end of his second year. “Why don’t all the math teachers do complex instruction?” Mission accomplished!!
- As for colleagues, about half of my math department uses complex instruction for group tasks. I think that is a pretty high percentage considering 5 of the 7 full-time teachers have been teaching math 20 years or more. I completely changed how I run my classroom after 18 years: change is tough! Everyone does group roles a little different. Those who do not use more activities may have tried but just are not quite there yet. I think it is because they need to adjust their own mindset as to how the role of the teacher shifts from teacher-centered to student-centered. It takes some finesse to walk away from student questions that ask you to just teach it to the group, but instead leave the students in the group trying even harder to get it. Then there is trust. You must teach the students that they can trust you as the teacher in this role. Likewise, the teacher needs to be trustworthy. That as the teacher you will get them through the journey with hints and questions that will lead them in the right direction. The students need to also trust each other by listening to each other and trusting each others input no matter what math status a student may carry with them from the past.
- There is also fear of change by teachers, because it does take work, effort and practice to change. I did not do a great job the first year of implementation. However, like everything else in life, you get better the more you practice and make adjustments for your own personality style. Then there is the time factor. It takes a lot of time to write an excellent activity, time most teachers already lack.
How will you respond to those criticisms?
- Student and parent criticisms have come up at the same point at the beginning of the school year and mostly only in geometry class. In all cases, the students and the parents wanted to know why I wasn’t teaching them the vocabulary. The entire first chapter is vocabulary, both new and review. I suppose I could have stood in front of the room, read the word, read the definition, had students write it down and move to the next word…but how boring is that? Instead the students were doing matching activities, arguing about the correct definitions, learning how to make a good definition, making posters of vocab words, doing gallery walks, arguing about what should go on the posters, making a notebook to keep track of everything for the year, and moving about the room as needed. Once I explain the two options (avoiding words like constructivism and objectivism let alone John Dewey), I have not received follow up complaints.
- Balance is my next response. We will do some lessons as activities and some as direct instruction. I listed my rationale for this below.
What rationale can you give for incorporating PBL into your repertoire of effective instructional strategies?
- I believe the key is balance. Especially when teaching AP Calculus, as some concepts took centuries to develop therefore an activity may not be possible. I like to have some activities mixed in among some traditional lecture style lessons. This breaks up the monotony of doing the same thing every class. Honestly, I do think students would get bored doing activities every single day as well.
- In geometry, balance is even more important. There are authentic group tasks, some direct instruction and some computer lab days. The biggest thing I have noticed after starting authentic group tasks is the student participation rates have drastically increased! The first three to four weeks of school, I have the students dive into activity training. Almost everything is group task oriented. When we do our first traditional math lesson, everyone is taking notes! EVERYONE!! This was not a result I was not expecting when I decided to dive into using complex instruction. Apparently, by setting the expectation that we are all doing something in the room, it carried over to guided notes.
- Also, I try to find a good topic for the computer lab once per chapter. At first students are lead by the teacher as they learn the Geometer’s Sketchpad software. By the time we go to the lab the fifth time, the kids are teaming up and learning the geometric concept in an activity style setting. They help each other, read the instructions, follow the steps and I can go around and help those teams that struggle with a step. The growth is amazing. I sincerely hope these learning and coping skills carry over for my former students for years to come.
- These are 21st Century skills that employers want their future employees to have. By mixing in authentic group tasks, I have also inadvertently incorporated many 21st Century skills such as: (Another pleasant surprise!!)
- Critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, analysis, interpretation, conceptual synthesis
- Research practices, interrogative questioning
- Creativity, artistry, curiosity, imagination, innovation, personal expression
- Perseverance, self-direction, planning, self-discipline, adaptability, initiative
- Oral and written communication, public speaking and presenting, listening
- Leadership, teamwork, collaboration, cooperation, using virtual work spaces
- Information and communication technology (ITC) literacy, media and internet literacy, visual interpretation, data interpretation and analysis
I am very excited to take everything I have learned from doing smaller 1 or 2 day authentic group tasks, and apply it to a PBL in AP Statistics. After a semester of complex instruction training, having students complete a PBL should be a natural transition!!
Cohen, E. G., Lotan, R. A., Scarloss, B. R., & Arellano, A. R. (1999). Complex instruction: Equity in cooperative learning classrooms. Theory into Practice, 38(2), 80-86.
The origins of Complex Instruction http://cgi.stanford.edu/group/pci/cgi-bin/site.cgi
Training is available. Here is one source of training that I used. http://depts.washington.edu/matheduc/#Summer
I am also glad I looked up the training information to share with others. I did not realize there was a follow up class!! I would love to attend another class as this has been one of the three best trainings I have ever attended. (The other two were AP Calculus BC training and AP Statistics training at the Pacific Northwest Summer Institute in Bellevue, WA)
Reflecting and Perfecting the AP Stats Inference PBL – 7/24/14
The first reflection I would have this week is regarding perfection, I don’t know that I will have perfection ever, let alone on the first final product I produce. The first attempt will quickly turn into a draft. Until someone else proofreads my site and the students and I have actually experienced the PBL in my classroom, then the real editing begins. As for the proofreading, it seems as though no matter how many times I read over my own work, I will always miss some sort of typing error! So I hope someone will proofread the AP Stats PBL for me and send feedback, please. Also, it seems as though no matter how many scenarios I try to envision in a group task (or in this case a PBL), I will always overlook something that will happen with the students. There will be something I considered to be an easy discovery but then students have lots of trouble. There can also be something I thought would be difficult and it turned out to be “a snap” for the students. For these instances, I count on the student experience, feedback and my own reflections.
Reflect, Reflect, Reflect!
Whenever I help out a new teacher, I emphasize personal reflection. Teachers new to the profession will grow quickly into veteran teachers and be successful in the classroom with students and behind the scenes with their own organizational skills if a teacher regularly reflects and adjusts based on those reflections. I always wonder about what a teacher is thinking when the same things go wrong year after year. They complain about the students, student behavior, lack of student learning, but don’t reflect. Complaining does not equal reflection. Then worse yet, the complaining instructor does not make adjustments or ask for honest peer feedback. One thing that maintained some consistency was the assessment piece. I did spend a lot of time developing my assessment points in the project and I think that paid off in the form of minimal changes. The assessment piece greatly helped the development of the teaching/learning guide and the products/performances pieces. At first I was skeptical about completing the assessments first, but it was indeed the correct guidance to give us in designing the PBL.
This Week and the AP Stats Inference PBL
So this week we were to polish our PBL. As stated above, I doubt this PBL will be free of typos! However, I did need to add the last two pages of information. These were the Resources Needed Page and the Files Page. Also, we were to review a PBL for a peer in the course. I love giving feedback before the final project is due, because it gives the person time to fix their work before the due date! This is something most job sites will complete regularly, but in education, many times it is overlooked. Also, this process is excellent in helping the grader evaluate their own work. When I need to use the rubric to evaluate someone else, it really helps me understand the rubric better. I know some key items I plan to improve within the PBL next week.
Finally, we were to write in our learning logs; mission accomplished!
The End of PBL Class = The Completed AP Stats Inference PBL – 7/31/14
Today marks the day I finished my PBL revisions for EdTech 542!! When I signed up for this class, I thought I would be learning how to incorporate computer technology into the classroom. Well, we did that AND created a PBL that is ready to use for next school year. I would definitely recommend this class to other EdTech students studying at Boise State. Here is a link to the final AP Statistics Inference PBL website. This website is structured to guide the teacher through an AP Stats PBL.
Signing off of EdTech 542,
Course Syllabus for EdTech 542