Project-Based Learning and 21st Century Learners

Though I wanted to blog about my second day at the MACUL conference in Michigan, I couldn’t really bring myself to write anything worthy of posting. So, I began to think about the morning session I attended on project-based learning this morning. It reminded of the conversation I was a part of last night with my writing group. My writing group colleague wrote a piece about how students today are just settling for being average. If you don’t know already, being average is not going to cut it in today’s society. I share my colleagues frustration. To many times I see students just settling for “good enough”. I have often thought of altering my grading scale so if students met the requirements of the assignment, they only earned a “C” grade. It would only be when the learner went above and beyond those requirements would they earn an “A” grade. Anyways, it seems no matter how high our expectations are within our classroom, the students still aren’t pushing there thinking outside of the box.

I wonder if there could be something said about project-based learning with our 21st century learners. Now, let me be honest, I am just beginning to dabble into the realm of project-based learning. At best, I know very little. I do, however, understand the idea behind it and I have seen it work. In addition, my mother-in-law taught project-based learning in alternative education and had success. From what I understand it allows the students to collaborate, inquire, be challenged, think critically, and have the opportunity to have real world connections. Yes, I like all of these and if this is what is going to help my 21st century learners become a better global citizen and more competitive for the job market, I want to at least try it. I did like how the presenters warned this is not the shoe box project at the end of a unit and I can see where that misconception happens. They also shared a Creative Commons video that stated we do operate in a world of projects. To me, that does make sense.

I am seriously considering doing a trial run of project-based learning in my classroom next year. I still need to get my feet wet. I do see the potential for project-based learning being way to do thematic units across the curriculum. Furthermore, integrating technology could enhance students learning within their projects. Having a laptop to use within their groups and composing through Google Docs. Also, they can collaborate about websites through Diigo. I think there are numerous possibilities with incorporating technology.

I am not certain project-based learning is the total answer to getting our students to do more critical thinking or even go beyond “average”. However, I do feel it has real world application and can be implemented into a 21st century classroom where rigor needs to be ramped up.