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


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Part 8: FAQ and Conclusions

Student-centered, ICT-Assisted PBL is a powerful aid to student learning. If used extensively in a course, it changes the role of the instructor from a "sage on the stage" to a "guide on the side." A faculty member can learn to do ICT-Assisted PBL in a "learn by doing" mode. This can be an incremental process, with the faculty member learning along side the students.

All educators are lifelong learners. However, some learn more than others while they are on the job. Some are "risk takers" while others are not. Thus, some turn out to be early adopters of innovations in education, while others are late adopters. Research suggests that 5% to 10% of educators fall into each of these two extremes. Most educators fall someplace between being early adopters and later adopters. Everett Rogers has written extensively about the adoption of innovations. Quoting from his 1995 book on the diffusion of innovations:

A change agent is an individual who influences clients' innovation-decisions in a direction deemed desirable by a change agency. Change agent face two main problems: (1) their social marginality, due to their position midway between a change agency and their client system, and (2) information overload, the state of an individual or a system in which excessive communication inputs cannot be processed and used, leading to breakdown. Seven roles of the change agent are: (1) to develop a need for change on the part of the clients, (2) to establish an information-exchange relationship, (3) to diagnose problems, (4) to create an intent to change in the client, (5) to translate and intent into action, (6) to stabilize adoption and prevent discontinuance, and (7) to achieve a terminal relationship with clients. -- Everett M. Rogers. Diffusion of Innovations, Fourth Edition, New York: The Free Press, 1995.

FAQ 1: Should K-12 students be learning to author multimedia and interactive multimedia documents?

Note that most people no longer ask the question whether students should learn to read and effectively use multimedia and interactive multimedia. However, most students are still not receiving adequate instruction in how to effectively read and learn from interactive documents. There seems to be an assumption that if a person can read, they can effectively read interactive hypermedia documents.

As discussed in Part 5: Authoring a Hypermedia Document, there is considerable difference between authoring linear written text (even if it includes graphics) and authoring interactive nonlinear hypermedia documents.

Given proper instruction, elementary school students can develop considerable hypermedia authoring skills by the time they finish the fifth grade. (This is consistent with and supportive of the International Society for Technology in Education National Educational Technology Standards for Students.) A number of teachers support having students learn to author hypermedia.

However, the majority of teachers lack the knowledge and skills to do an effective job of teaching students to author hypermedia. Thus, the quality of instruction that many students are receiving in this area is not as high as would be desirable. This then raises the issue of whether relatively poor instruction is better than no instruction in this area…

FAQ 2: Our school is placing great emphasis on preparing students for statewide assessment. Our superintendent and principle are telling us that we should specifically teach to the test. I don't see how PBL fits well into that kind of setting.

There is considerable support for education leaders (and, growing research), that curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment should be closely linked and intertwined. Instead of talking just about authentic assessment, one should talk about the combination of curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment being authentic and aligned.

Another very important aspect of education is achieving an appropriate balance between lower-order skills and higher-order skills. This has led to increased emphasis on higher-order cognitive processes and problem solving in recent years. Indeed, there now seems to be a struggle going on in state and national assessment between assessing mainly lower-order knowledge and skills, and assessing mainly higher-order knowledge and skills.

Well done Project-Based Learning has authenticity and alignment. Such PBL can have considerable emphasis on higher-order skills. Thus, PBL is one vehicle for achieving high quality education.

Now, returning to the FAQ. If the state assessment is of high quality (reliable, valid, fair) and authentically aligned with the curriculum, instruction, and assessment goals of the state's educational system, then use of PBL will be consistent with and supportive of preparing students for such statewide assessment.

The problem arises when the state assessment is seriously flawed (as it frequently is). (Gerald Bracey has written extensively in this area.) This puts teachers in a bind. My personal opinion is still strongly supportive of routine use of PBL (indeed, ICT-Assisted PBL), but I recognize the strong pressures that teachers face to spend their time directly teaching to the test. Many teachers are able to effectively resist such pressures and continue to place their major emphasis on helping their students to get a high quality education.

FAQ 3: How does ICT-Assisted PBL fit in with portfolios and portfolio assessment?

A project results in a product, performance, or presentation. Thus, a typical project results in something that can be part of one's portfolio, especially if it an electronic portfolio. 

 FAQ 4: Give me an example of a good ICT-Assisted PBL activity for use in a Social Studies class.

Within any subject area it is relatively easy to think of PBL or ICT-Assisted PBL activities that are both quite challenging and may well be controversial. For example, think about the topic "diversity." A social studies course might decide to address the following topic.
Make up a definition of diversity that you feel is appropriate to your school. Then develop a Diversity Index. To do this, first decide on a number of quantifiable items that relate to your definition of diversity. Then decide how these various items will be weighted in your Diversity Index. Finally, gather the needed data and compute the Diversity Index for your school.

Note that if this activity is done in teams, each team will likely come up with a different definition and with different data to be gathered. In addition, even when data items overlap between teams, they will likely be given different weights. This activity lends itself to being done in a number of schools simultaneously--schools located around the district, state, and country. It also lends itself to groups of people taking action. For example, the students doing the activity may well decide that their school could and should take steps to increase diversity.

 FAQ 5: Can ICT-Assisted PBL be used at the lower grade levels?

Yes. At the lowest grade levels, a project might be quite short in duration, have quite limited goals, and include a major focus on learning to do a project that extends over two or more days.

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