At the beginning of the year I have the students create their Learner Profile. The profile focuses on how they learn. The students need to think about how they learn best in the type of environment, choice of demonstrating learning, and how they learn new information. Having students reflect on their learning style enables me to customize their learning to fit their needs. Students then are able to work on a passion project during our Genius Hour. Students create an interest list of questions and ideas that they would like to pursue. Often one of these projects that was conceived by one student, becomes a group project.
Project-Based Learning (PBL)Using Project-Based Learning (PBL) in the classroom allows the students to solve a problem through collaboration. Students work together on a project to solve a problem that is important to them. Needless to say, they work together without the risk of failure. Using their passion topics has allowed students to take control of their learning.
A passion of one student was the treatment of elephants. From his passion we were able to reach out to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. We were able to Skype with the Sanctuary and learn about how they rescue abused elephants. After learning about elephants and the work of the Elephant Sanctuary, the students wanted to donate money. Together they created a craft, game, and prizes to have at our school May Day celebration. The students were able to raise $400 for the Sanctuary.Another project created by two students was to learn about Winter the dolphin at Clearwater Aquarium. The girls researched together and decided they wanted to raise money for the aquarium. Together they searched for ideas, spoke with our principal, and created “Yoga for Winter” night at our school. The girls involved others from our class to help with the preparation, Google presentation, and the evening program. They were able to raise $300 for the Clearwater Aquarium. The aquarium in turn made a video for the girls and answered questions they submitted.
Our class has been involved in several projects throughout the year. We have collaborated with other schools for Mystery Skypes by creating a movie about where we live. We have participated in global activities, such as the Cardboard Challenge, Global Read Aloud, and the Postcard Exchange. We have also worked on projects for our school by creating public service announcements about the lost and found, recycling in the school, and taking care of our technology equipment. We recently worked on a special project to raise money for a boy in our school with special needs. We were able to raise $200 for him and his family.
Using Technology for Collaboration & PBL
It would be difficult to customize learning for students and encourage collaboration without the necessary tools they need. Google Drive and SMART tools have allowed students to work together inside and outside the classroom. The students collaborate together on projects by sharing their work in Google Drive. SMART amp has allowed students to brainstorm about their projects or their presentations. Sometimes they use SMART amp as a presentation tool. We are fortunate to have SMART Notebook on the school computers. Students create interactive presentations for the class to involve them in their presentations, and check for understanding.
Collaboration is necessary for students to learn. We want to create learners that are able to think deeper, solve real problems, learn how to cooperate, and create meaningful learning experiences.