Learn how to implement online project based learning through attending this interactive institute, July 29-31

Learn how to implement online project based learning through attending this interactive institute, July 29-31

For the first time ever, PBL Ohio is virtual and provides teachers workshop experiences in learning PBL and how to implement it in an online classroom. The event is hosted by PBLMatters, but entirely facilitated by PBLWorks and their National Faculty. This event mirrors the same event that PBLWorks references as PBLWorld. Workshops include PBL 101, PBL 201, PBL Leadership and Project Slice. To learn more about it visit PBL Ohio Institute website.

Dr. Teresa Dempsey of the Fairfield County Educational Service Center, the fiscal agent for the institute, provides details:

Q: Tell us about the Fairfield County Educational Service Center (ESC) and your role there. How is the center connected to PBLMatters and PBLWorks, and what is the mission of these two organizations?

A: I work as the director of professional learning and leadership for the Fairfield County ESC. The Fairfield County ESC hosts PBLMatters, a fully dedicated suite of professional learning pathways to support project-based learning (PBL) for schools throughout Ohio. The PBLMatters team facilitates various PBL workshops that are directly aligned to PBLWorks’ gold standard design and teaching practices.

In addition, I work as National Faculty for PBLWorks – the national provider for gold standard project-based learning. In this capacity, I facilitate PBL 101, PBL Coaching and PBL Leadership workshops for educators across the country.

In a nutshell, PBLMatters caters to educators in Ohio, and PBLWorks caters to educators nationally and internationally.  I work in both of these arenas.

Q: How is project-based learning defined today?

A: This is the PBLWorks official definition: Project-based learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem or challenge.

This is how PBLWorks informally defines it (either version works for me): Students work on a project over an extended period of time – from a week up to a semester – that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They demonstrate their knowledge and skills by creating a public product or presentation for a real audience. As a result, students develop deep content knowledge as well as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication skills. Project-based learning unleashes a contagious, creative energy among students and teachers.

Q: How does STEM-based education and PBL connect? Is all PBL learning also STEM-based learning?

A: We sometimes talk about STEM as an acronym for “Strategies that Engage Minds”– in that case, all PBL is STEM. If you define STEM as only the disciplines that the letters represent (science, technology, engineering and math), that is not true. While many STEM subjects use a problem to frame student learning, students aren’t always given the agency in the class to pursue actual solutions.

So, if a math textbook uses a smoothie company scenario to frame a few chapters about ratio and proportions, that doesn’t make it PBL. But if students create a product using ratio and proportions to taste test, market and sell to students, teachers and/or parents, they are learning the content for a reason beyond a test and outside their classroom. In this case, students “own” the learning in a different way.

The “sustained inquiry” part of PBL fits really nicely with STEM, but again, student ownership is key. Just doing hands-on learning isn’t STEM or PBL. Design challenges that take a class period or two are not PBL. Doing a lab where students just follow directions and turn in a lab report to the teacher is STEM.  It’s not PBL.

The link to this Edutopia video does a good job at the end of using a typical STEM activity and explaining why it isn’t PBL – but showing how it could be (the Mars lander).

YouTube video

Q: Share how this virtual PBL Institute will look like to participants.

The change to an online format is a remarkably smooth one. The online format brings you the same features that have made in-person PBL workshops so effective.

  • Your learning is grounded in research-informed, Gold Standard PBL training.  You’ll walk away with a draft of a standards-based, PBL project unit ready to use in your classroom  – or to adapt for remote learning if need be.
  • Your facilitator is an expert member of our National Faculty. They’re current and former classroom teachers and leaders ready to create powerful learning experiences for you.
  • No “death by PowerPoint”!  for three days listening to a presenter…You’ll  experience a fully interactive, hands-on workshop that models PBL in action. No “sit and get.” There will be activities that get you out of your seat, opportunities to have fun with other participants, and time to work on your project design by yourself or even offline. You’ll have moments to reflect on your own teaching practice, engage in critique protocols and share ideas with others.
  • An added benefit: the workshop models how teachers can do projects with students in remote learning.  PBLWorks  is eager to share some best practices and tips from our own firsthand experience in online collaboration in recent years. The PBL Ohio Institute workshops model the PBL process, and models how you might facilitate PBL in your own remote classroom.  You’ll learn how to set norms, facilitate inquiry, and foster collaborative conversations online, using tech tools like Zoom, Nearpod, and Google Docs.

Q: Tell us about the various workshops offered during the institute, including the pre-conference option, Project Slice.

In a nutshell we offer:

  • One-day pre-conference
    • PBL Slice – an opportunity for teachers to experience PBL as a student
  • Three-day workshops:
      • PBL 101:  “The” foundational workshop for learning gold standard PBL design
      • PBL 201 – for those that have had PBL 101 and want to return for more in-depth learning of PBL teaching practices.  This year the focus is on “Improving the Quality of Student Work”.
      • PBL Leadership – for leaders that are seeking the structures and conditions needed for Project Based Learning to thrive in their systems.

All of the workshop descriptions for the PBL Ohio Institute can be found here.

We’re very proud to offer PBL 101 workshops that are dedicated to different grade-level spans (K-5 and 6-12) and PBL 101 workshops that are specifically geared for STEM schools. We believed it was important for STEM educators to be working together in the same room so they can network and share their PBL ideas.

Q: How is the PBL Ohio Institute different/better than other PBL seminars/conferences?

A: The PBL Ohio Institute is the only sanctioned institute experience by PBLWorks. No other Ohio ESC or learning organization has permission rights to offer PBLWorks gold standard PBL design workshops.  Working alongside like-minded teachers from all over the country (and around the world), you’ll do deep and challenging hands-on work with a small cohort of up to 35. Together, you’ll bring transformative and sustained change to your PBL practice.

Our goal was to bring the PBL World conference to Ohio – and that’s exactly what we did. Now in our fifth year, the PBL Ohio Institute offers the same workshops and the same amazing PBLWorks National Faculty that is offered at PBL World – for a fraction of the price – we offer a $150 savings from PBL World and the opportunity to earn Ashland graduate credit.

The PBL Ohio Institute is open to Ohio educators, but we also have educators throughout the country and the world attending. Last year, we had nearly 600 educators representing more than 30 states and 14 countries. We’re very proud of the quality reputation we have built in providing a world-class learning experience to educators in the state of Ohio.

Q: How can our readers learn more about the 2020 PBL Ohio Institute?

A: I’m so glad you asked! They can visit our PBL Ohio Institute home page to learn more, or contact Rob Engel at [email protected] or myself at [email protected], or call 614-563-9457.

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