THREE ENGAGING WEB RESOURCES FOR EDUCATORS

Happy Sunday, everybody! The forensic science presentations by my students were postponed slightly due to some various scheduling issues. The presentations officially happen tomorrow, Monday, January 28th. So, next Sunday’s blog post will be about the presentations. In the mean time read about some amazing web 2.0 tools and other possibly little known resources that you can utilize in your classroom!


The New York Times Learning Network

This one is my personal favorite for many reasons. Over the past year, I have learned to love integrating current events and journalism into my curriculum. I briefly discussed this in my post about our school’s interview with Sarah Koenig. The New York Times Learning Network is a resource that utilizes the brilliant reporting by the Times. Lessons plans are pre-made and neatly laid out for educators from all backgrounds to easily understand and implement. The blog is organized and easy to navigate. They put on regular student contests for students participate in. The current ongoing contest is their 5th Annual 15-Second Vocabulary Video Challenge! The blog has a section dedicated to categorizing the various activities available for students. Just below that are lessons plans separated into the various subjects (ELA, social studies, science and math, ELL and arts, and current events). This obviously comes in handy when you are looking for a quick lesson plan and have little time to spare for planning. You can also search the blog to find any teaching activities for a specific topic that has been archived. The Learning Network is, hands down, a fantastic resource for those educators who occasionally have little time for planning, need something authentic or meaningful, or who just wants to try something new!

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Buck Institute for Education (BIE)

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) is an organization dedicated solely to the wonders of project based learning. The website houses a selection of materials for educators to be introduced to or strengthen their PBL knowledge. Available for readers are blogs, books, and articles to peruse. What may be even more helpful for you, though, are the variety of rubric, planning forms, and student handouts that are available to download for free on their site! These documents are highly professional and can be used in a multitude of subjects. Wether you are a beginner or a pro at PBL, these resources are sure to help you!

My personal favorite on BIE is the interactive project search. I practice PBL in my classroom everyday and when I am struggling with developing a project, I need some innovative ideas to spark my imagination. This is where the project search comes in. Here, you can search by source, subject, and level to find incredibly creative and authentic projects that your students can engage in.

BuckInstitute


National Center for Case Study Teaching In Science

I came across this great site by linking through on BIE. Based at the University of Buffalo, SUNY, this site contains a vast library of case studies (721 to be exact!) from virtually all areas of science. The premise of the case studies is that students are introduced to an authentic scenario that could easily be present in the real world. From there, the students answer a series of questions in which there are to problem solve and critically think their way to the answer. This site probably provides the most realistic application of science than either BIE or The Learning Network. These case studies also come in handy when you are short on planning time and need an engaging, easy to understand activity. Just a note: If you sign up for an account to access the answer keys, you will need to prove that you are an educator at which time the organization will provide you with a password.

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PROJECT-BASED LEARNING WORKSHOP

This last Friday was a half day for our students which means that teachers had an opportunity for some professional development. I was lucky enough to be asked to lead one of the workshops on my passion and specialty: project-based learning (PBL). The workshop focused around the very basics of PBL and how it can engage students in authentic, meaningful learning. We also discussed how teachers new to PBL can dive in and get started with the daunting task of project planning. I am more than happy to share the details of my workshop below! I discuss the workshop as it happened in chronological order. I hope that it helps you in your potential adventure into project-based learning or, if you have tried it, is a nice review for you. Enjoy!


Step One: Project Exploration

High Tech High is a charter school organization located in San Diego, California. They are incredibly famous in the local San Diego community and with those who read consistently about innovation in schools. It is strictly a project-based learning schools that also, impressively enough, runs its own teacher credential program and Graduate School of Education (offering a Masters in Educational Leadership).

When exploring HTH’s website, an excellent place to start is on their Student Projects page. From here, you can analyze specific projects by doing the following:

  1. Look through the long list of projects and choose three (3). One should be a project dedication to your field of teaching. A second one should be a project outside of your field of teaching and new to you. The third one should be one of your choice.
  2. For each project, read through the project details.
  3. As you learn about all three projects, respond to and discuss the following three questions
    1. What impressed you?
    2. What similarities did you see between the three projects?
    3. What questions do you still have?

The purpose of this introductory activity is to show what is really possible with PBL, especially for those who are beginners. Seeing the innovative techniques that can be employed can spark some great inspiration for readers.


Step Two: The 6 A’s of Project-Based Learning

While this is obviously just a guideline, many PBL designs should center around the six A’s. Each of these characteristics are detailed in the PowerPoint below.

Now that you have a very basic understanding of what it takes to design a project, let’s design one! Use the following guidelines and, if available, design a project with teaching partner who is is in a completely different discipline than you are.


Step Three: Project Design

The details of this activity are discussed in the last slide of the PowerPoint above. To complete the activity, use the following Project Design Template to help you get started. This is my design template which was adapted from the many that can be found from various sources online. You can also find a link to the template here.

MISSION TO MARS

Student Mars Colony
Sample student work of a model of their Mars colony

My most successful product on my TeachersPayTeachers store is the Mission To Mars project.

I first devised this project after reading constant news about Mars One, SpaceX, and the Orion spacecraft back in 2014. This inspired me to designed a project in which students design a working, habitable Mars colony completely from the ground up. The project involves groups of four propose a colony including a name, food sources, technology, religion, etc. From there, students do research based on the role that they chose within their group. They will then design colony blueprints, technological advancements necessary for survival, a colony flag, and a marketing campaign to convince others to move or visit their colony.

Two great ways to introduce this project and get the students excited is either watching The Martian (starring Matt Damon) or reading excerpts from The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. From there, I guarantee that students will be hooked! In the end, this project could last anywhere from 1-3 weeks depending on your commitment and district standards. You may even see some incredible results from your students! Just check out the physical model (pictured above) of a Mars colony built by one of my students from the first time I did this project!

This projects includes elements of scientific research, engineering, astronomy, entrepreneurship, budgeting, collaboration, and innovation! It’s the perfect PBL project to engage all types of learners. There is technology involved for those who learn best using that resources. Textual resources for those who enjoy reading. Visual resources for those who enjoy creativity and design. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Regards,

Mr. Noondi