ICT-Assisted Project-Based Learning

 "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." (Confucius)

Dave Moursund

This Website is designed to support a workshop, a short course, or self study on Information and Communication Technology (ICT)- Assisted Project-Based Learning. There are enough materials for a two-day workshop or a one-credit course.

The cartoon suggests a conflict between general ideas of ICT-Assisted Project-Based Learning and the "back to basics" philosophy inherent in many people's approaches to No Child Left Behind.


While the copyright for this cartoon by Jerry King belongs to From Now On, readers may distribute and republish provided they reproduce the credit with a link to Jerry's Web site http://www.jerryking.com/ and to From Now On http://fno.org.

Visits to this page since 3/28/02: many

Dave Moursund's Blog for the discussion of his current and past writing projects.

Updated 11/08/06

This is the PBL Home Page

Outline of These Materials

1. Future of ICT in Education

2. Learning Goals in a PBL Lesson

3. What is ICT-Assisted PBL?

4. Planning a PBL Lesson

5. Authoring a Hypermedia Document

6. Timeline and Milestones

7. Assessment

8. FAQ and Conclusions


Syllabus for a 1-credit (quarter hours system) course

Google Search of Local Domain

Send Email to Website Author Dave Moursund

Click here for a detailed Syllabus for a one (quarter hour system) credit course/workshop based on the materials in this Website.

Click here for a Microsoft Word version of a 1 1/2 hour PBL guest lecture presented 11/9/04.

This Website has been used to facilitate a number of workshops, short courses, and units of study on Information and Communication Technology-Assisted Project-Based Learning. More details on the ideas contained on this Website are available in the book:

Moursund, D.G. (2003). Project-Based Learning Using Information Technology. International Society for Technology in Education: Eugene, OR.

Workshop and Course Goals

Prerequisites for the Workshop

Brief Summary of Each Component of the Workshop

Eight Component Parts of the Workshop: See Sidebar Menu.

Educational Philosophy of Dave Moursund

Search Engine for the Domain Containing this Website

Outline for a 3 Hour Workshop Based on These Materials.

Some Additional References


Workshop and Course Goals

This workshop, like all of Moursund's workshops, has a two-part mission:

  • To improve the education of students and their teachers.
  • To improve the professional preparation, satisfaction, and careers of educators.

All people are both learners and teachers. They help themselves to learn, and they help others to learn

  • The primary workshop goal is to help each individual participant make progress in learning to make effective use of ICT-Assisted Project-Based Learning in their teaching. Many of the same ideas also apply to ICT-Assisted Problem-Based Learning, but this topic will receive only brief treatment in the workshop.
  • Secondary goals include participants and the facilitator having an enjoyable time, and everybody learning some things that may be only vaguely related to the primary goal.
  • The workshop content is guided by a number of key "ICT in Education philosophical ideas" that Dave Moursund feels are particularly important and that are woven into the workshop content.
  • The workshop content is also guided by two important learning theories: Constructivism and Situated Learning.


Prerequisites for the Workshop

The workshop that is presented here is specifically designed for any mixture of preservice and inservice K-12 teachers and faculty in higher education. The assumption is that participants have given some thought to a project that they would like to develop for use in a class they teach. Participants will have widely varying levels of ICT knowledge and skills. All will know how to make use of a word processor, email, and the Web.


Some ICT in Education Ideas that Dave Moursund Feels are Especially Important

Over the past 30 years, a substantial "Science of Teaching and Learning" (SoTL) body of knowledge has been developed by researchers and practitioners in the field of Cognitive Science.

    1. Many of these ideas are applicable to the teaching and learning of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and all other disciplines by students and teachers at all levels.
    2. In addition, many are applicable to making increased effective use of ICT as an aid to teaching and learning.

Areas in which substantial SoTL progress has occurred include:

    1. Learning theory, such as adding a variety of Cognitive Learning theories to Skinner's Behavioral Learning Theory. Constructivism and Situated Learning are both particularly relevant to Project-Based Learning.
    2. Transfer of learning, such as moving from a "Near Transfer, Far Transfer" theory to the more "Low Road/High Road theory of transfer, and other.
    3. Brain science. We now have a variety of instruments that allow us to study what is going on inside the brain during certain types of teaching, learning, and problem solving activities. Our increased understanding of such brain activities, as well as the plasticity of the brain, is contributing to significant improvements in addressing some teaching/learning problems.

Within every discipline, one can think of people moving up a scale from being an absolute novice to being a world class expert. Our formal education systems are designed to help students move up the expertise scale in the various disciplines covered in the curriculum. Here is an example of such a scale for teacher knowledge and skills in ICT in education.

  1. Within each discipline there are a variety of mental and physical tools that are integral components of the discipline. Increasing expertise within the discipline involves gaining increased knowledge about the tools and skills in using the tools.
  2. We have steadily increasing knowledge about transfer of learning between disciplines. Such transfer of learning can help a person more rapidly move up the expertise scale when studying a discipline the person has not previously studied.
  3. There are a number of "basic skills" that cut across many different disciplines. If basic skills such as the three Rs are appropriately taught and learned, they add expertise to the learner in many different disciplines. The same holds true for ICT.

The concepts of higher-order skills and lower-order skills is closely related to the Expertise Scale. SoTL stresses the desirability of teaching for understanding, and it points out the failures of education based on rote memory (inert knowledge and skills that do not transfer to new settings and tend to disappear quite rapidly over time).

    1. Metacognition, reflective practice, and self assessment are tools that all students can learn and that contribute significantly to increasing higher-order skills.
    2. Problem solving is an important aspect of every discipline. Many aspects of problem solving transfer from one discipline to another. For example, the strategy of breaking a big problem into smaller, more manageable components is such a strategy. ICT enters into this because computers can quickly and accurately solve many of the types of "smaller problems" that are building blocks for solving more complex problems,
    3. In this document, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving includes:
      • Do critical, wise, higher-order thinking.
      • Pose and solve challenging problems.
      • Propose and accomplish tasks.
      • Pose and answer questions.
      • Make wise decisions.
      • Analyze complex issues and make informed decisions.
      • Synthesize information in order to arrive at reasoned conclusions.
      • Evaluate the logic, validity, and relevance of data.
      • Use knowledge and understanding in order to generate and explore new topics, intellectual areas, problems, and challenges that you encounter.
      • Learn to learn and to develop and understand your potentials as a learner.

As you can see, this "definition" is quite broad. We are dealing with a continuum, as pictures in the diagram below, and the points on continuum are not particularly well defined. All of the ideas in the bulleted list fall on the right side of the "scale."

Most "real world" problems are interdisciplinary. This suggests the value of teaching problem solving in an interdisciplinary manner and providing students with interdisciplinary aids to problem solving. This is also linked with the need to teach for transfer when teaching discipline-specific topics, such as math. While learning math and ICT can be important goals in their own right, one of the reasons for an emphasis on math and ICT in the curriculum is so that students can learn to use these intellectual tools throughout all disciplines and problem areas that they encounter.

The roles of ICT in problem solving is now an important discipline in its own right. If an ICT system can solve or significantly help in solving a type of problem that is currently addressed in our schools, what should students learn about "traditional" methods for dealing with this type of problem, and what should they learn about use of ICT in dealing with this type of problem? The following diagram helps to picture this situation:

  1. This basic question suggests that our educational systems should place significant emphasis on people and ICT systems learning to work together in a manner that leads to performance above what either people alone, or ICT systems alone, can accomplish.

  2. If schools decide to seriously address the question, then they are faced by the rapid pace of change of ICT capabilities. Our educational systems were not designed to deal with such a rapid pace of change in areas that are specifically relevant to curriculum content, instruction processes, assessment, and a wide variety of other aspects of students' and teachers' lives and careers.

  3. And, thinking along the lines of this fundamental question leads to asking whether there are topics that should be dropped from the curriculum and/or topics that should be added to the curriculum as a consequence of ICT and other areas of human intellectual progress.

Some Additional References

Edutopia (n.d.). Grant Wiggins on assessment. The George Lucas Educational Foundation. Retrieved 11/08/06: http://www.edutopia.org/php/interview.php?id=Art_935&key=005#paragraph2. Includes a short video of Wiggins talking about PBL assessment.

Mathews, Jay (5/9/06). Educators blend divergent schools of thought. washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 5/11/06: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/08/AR2006050801180.html Quoting from the article:

Some educators on both sides of the old debate say they think the marriage of opposites will fail or produce schools that compromise away their best parts.

"If we want kids to be deep thinkers, then why blend an educational model that features deep thinking with one that's focused on memorizing a list of facts?" asked Alfie Kohn, an author, lecturer and leading proponent of progressive educational philosopher John Dewey. Dewey and his followers are often called constructivists because they want students to construct their knowledge and skills through exploration of their lives and their environment.

Karen Budd, a mathematician and parent activist in Fairfax County who is opposed to Dewey's views, said she shares Kohn's doubt that the two sides can be joined. "Rich content with lots of constructivism mixed in is like saying we are going to let the free markets work, but we are going to mix in collectivism," she said.

Stansbury, Meris (3/3/08). U.S. educators seek lessons from Scandinavia. eSchoolNews. Retrieved 3/5/08: http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/?i=52770;_hbguid=31475690-290f-4e70-8ce4-2742f7b52b83&d=top-news.

Quoting from the article:

A delegation led by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) recently toured Scandinavia in search of answers for how students in that region of the world were able to score so high on a recent international test of math and science skills. They found that educators in Finland, Sweden, and Denmark all cited autonomy, project-based learning, and nationwide broadband internet access as keys to their success.

What the CoSN delegation didn’t find in those nations were competitive grading, standardized testing, and top-down accountability—all staples of the American education system.

In all three countries, students start formal schooling at age seven after participating in extensive early-childhood and preschool programs focused on self-reflection and social behavior, rather than academic content. By focusing on self-reflection, students learn to become responsible for their own education, delegates said.

Note the last paragraph in the quoted material. In essence, the education systems in those three countries believe that students are empowered and will succeed at higher levels if they are given increased responsibility for their own education and taught how to make use of this empowerment. Here is another quote from the article:

Therefore, teachers are extremely autonomous in their work. So are students. For example, internet-content filtering in the three countries is based largely on a philosophy of student responsibility. Internet filters rarely exist on school computers, other than for protection from viruses or spam. As a school librarian in Copenhagen said, “The students understand that the computers are here for learning.”

Search Engine

The Google access given below has been configured to make it easy to do three different categories of searches:

  • A search on the WWW.
  • A search on the domain darkwing.uoregon.edu. This domain includes all of Moursund's Websites and many other University of Oregon Websites.
  • A search on the domain otec.uoregon.edu. Moursund is the Webmaster for this site that focuses on Information and Communication Technology in Education.


Search WWW Search darkwing.uoregon.edu Search otec.uoregon.edu