Students thrive in Project Based Learning environment. (PBL) Students in Albuquerque helped a bank, who had limited funds, figure out how to make their branch more environmentally friendly.
These ingenious students are located at ACE (Architecture, Construction, and Engineering) Leadership High School. They did research on the internet for sustainable design options, talked with engineers and compared costs and energy savings.
With their newfound knowledge, the students used SketchUp software to create their designs, which included 3-D renderings of floors made from recycled materials and a roof that would capture rainwater. In presenting their final plan, the students gave bank officials a digital tour of the new building, showing off various design options.
This effort could serve as a model of project-based learning (PBL), which focuses instruction on real-world challenges and requires collaboration, creativity, and problem solving. But what makes this particular project more remarkable is the students’ expert use of the SketchUp modeling tool to present and revise the finished product.
“It was a way to prototype ideas and make them visible to share with the client,” says Suzie Boss, author and educational consultant. “The students were working in the way that architects do.”
The message, Boss says, is that PBL becomes all the more powerful when students enhance their work with appropriate software programs or web-based tools. In fact, a growing number of educators are heralding the arrival of an era of technology-enhanced PBL.
Using educational software and online tools to promote learning is nothing new in most schools. Many teachers remember the days of steering students to educational internet sites and having them present reports in PowerPoint.
Now, says Boss, teachers and students can choose from an ever-expanding cornucopia of digital tools that enable a new level of collaboration, analysis, and presentations.
Google Docs, which allows multiple users to work together on a single document, has become a staple in many schools, while Skype has emerged as a path to communicate visually with other classrooms and experts worldwide.
But students are making productive use of less familiar web-based tools. With Animoto, for instance, they can create slides and video. Padlet serves as a “graffiti” wall that lets users share ideas, videos, and links.
Delicious provides a communal repository of website links, and with Geometer, a class can render sophisticated mathematical drawings. You can see why students thrive in a project based learning environment.