3 Ways Technology Supports Project-Based Learning

3 Ways Technology Supports Project-Based Learning
Contributed By

Mike Smit

Educator turned Education Reporter

3 Ways Technology Supports Project-Based Learning

Posted in Evolving Ed | June 15, 2018

Lectures and memorization are so 20th century. Have you thought about project-based learning (PBL)?

As technology continues to change the workforce around us, educators scramble to prepare students with the skills they'll need to succeed in a work environment that doesn't even exist yet. Though no one can predict what much of the workforce will look like even a decade down the line, it's a safe bet that technology will continue to handle more of the grunt work, which will free us up to handle more of the cerebral work.

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This is why we hear so much about project-based learning (PBL) these days. According to an article from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, PBL develops 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.

Another important 21st century skill is digital literacy. Fortunately, the use of technology enhances PBL, and PBL enhances comfort with technology. Here are three ways the two can go hand in hand.

Using Realia to Make the Lesson Real

"Realia" is a fancy word for when we use real-life stuff for teaching aids. Dissection in a biology class? That's realia. Tasting foods mentioned in a short story? That's also realia.

The purpose of realia is to connect what students are learning in the class to actual life outside. It helps students see that the lesson is more than a grade on an assignment, but actually preparation for their life.

With PBL, it's very helpful for students to see realia before they begin working on their projects. Educators should do everything they can to help students forget that they're working on an assignment and instead feel excited about creating something real.

By allowing students to use Chromebooks or tablets or some sort of internet-connected device, you can open up an entire world of realia for your students. If your project is for students to design a zoo, don't just have them go into it with no sense of direction. Give them time to go online so they can research real floor plans for real zoos.

This helps students to understand the real-life implications of their project, and it also develops digital literacy as students search online for the results they want.

Creating Opportunities for Communication and Collaboration

The internet has already changed the way we communicate with each other for work, and it's bound to continue changing it in the future. Already, there's a movement called "digital nomads" of people who live anywhere they want because they work entirely online. In the future, we might all be digital nomads.

PBL lessons are the perfect place to increase your students' digital literacy by practicing online communication skills. Students should brainstorm and communicate in person so they can learn how to communicate positively as a team in person, but they also need to learn how to do so online.

Consider setting up an online channel for your students to collaborate over a project as homework. Applications like Trello or Asana are real workflow apps that businesses use to manage projects, and they happen to be perfect for project-based lessons as well. Groups within Schoology's LMS can also be powerful tools for communication and collaboration, allowing members to work together to create shared resources and post updates (with videos, links, and polls).

Using apps like these help students to not only work more efficiently, but they also get experience using professional management tools. Of course, it will be important for the educator to monitor communication over these channels, just like it's important for an educator to monitor small groups when working in class.

Educators can monitor the communication online by making sure they join each group's Google Docs group. Of course, simply knowing that the educator is in the group is likely to prevent most of the immature behavior.

Showcasing What's Been Learned

One of the most important parts of any PBL lesson comes at the end, when students put their project on display. Showcasing their work instills students with a sense of pride, and it encourages other students. Additionally, it can add a sense of ownership to a project when you tell students that they will display their creation once it's complete.

It's a great idea to display student projects around school. Some schools have taken it a step further and found ways to display student projects to the public. The natural progression is to share projects online.

Whether your students have created a text document or a visual design, provide a place for them to put their projects online in a public space. You don't need to worry about sharing the projects, because students will certainly take care of that aspect on their own. If you're using Schoology, media albums are an excellent way, though less public, to showcase work and allow members of the course to comment on individual works.

This is an element of PBL that directly correlates to students' future careers. Out in the workforce, it's not only important for people to create great projects but also to prove the work they've accomplished.

By proving the work they've done, students are not only taking pride in their work beyond treating it like an assignment, but they're also showing authentic understanding of the material.

PBL and Technology Go Hand-in-Hand

Project-based learning is the future of education, and technology is the future of the workforce. Finding a way to combine the two not only gives your students the skills they need to succeed in the future, but it also makes the lesson more interesting to students in the present.

Use technology to introduce real-life elements, increase collaboration, and give students a stage to show off their work. The result? A successful project-based learning lesson.

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