PBL: Final Reflection

What do you now understand best about Project Based Learning?

That PBL is truly a collaborative effort, not just among the students, but the teachers developing the project.  A good PBL lesson involves the input of many people to design, create, implement and review.  While a single teacher can conduct a PBL class, it enhances the students’ chances to retain learning when it is a school wide approach.

What do you understand least well?

This class provided a good foundation for beginning to use PBL.  However, not actually doing it in my school, I am still unsure what it will look like in action.  I have seen some videos that showed elements of a PBL class, but I still would like to see what one looks like live and be able to ask questions when I am uncertain as to what is happening.

What did you expect to learn in this course?

Since I had no experience with PBL, I expected to be introduced to what it was and how to use it in the classroom.  I believed this course would provide me with the necessary tools to develop a PBL classroom.  I also hoped to be able discuss the benefits of PBL at my school in order to persuade the administration to consider giving it a test.

What did you actually learn?

I learned that PBL requires a lot of time to prepare.  Teachers must coordinate with one another to ensure learning is focused on the driving question.  Math can be taught in a more meaningful way that excites even the least interested students.  Students can be given more voice in the choices they make, thus better furnish them with the tools and skills needed for the 21st century world.

More or less, and why?

I learned more than I expected because I had no real idea what PBL entailed.  I only knew it had something to do with projects.  The work required to develop a PBL classroom is incredibly large.  The potential resulting benefits for student learning is even larger.  I don’t know if PBL would be feasible in my school because it would require a shift in thinking among administrators and teachers, but I do know that my students would benefit immensely from it.

What will you do with what you have learned?

I started this course about the same time I reviewed a PBL program for possible inclusion in my school.  I am now better prepared to create a proposal for my school to consider adopting PBL for a test run to increase our students’ motivation, test scores and employability skills.

Designing Integrated Curriculum

When my students take the GED Ready Test for Social Studies or Science, I hand them a calculator.  Their first response is, “Why do I need a calculator for the Social Studies/Science test?”  I explain to them that there is Mathematics in Social Studies and Science.  Inevitably, they say “That’s dumb.”  Therein lies the biggest challenge in interdisciplinary projects.

Education has done a disservice to students by separating learning into disciplinary courses.  In real life, scientists, engineers, archaeologists – anyone and everyone – uses skills learned in all courses in an interconnected way.  Students, however, if they have never been exposed to this, don’t see that connection (this helps explains why students in Algebra have trouble conceiving letters as numbers).  Once students begin working on interdisciplinary projects, they will begin to make those connections (a relief for the Math teacher who tires of the question, ‘why do I need to know this?’).  If students are exposed at an earlier age to this process, it will be more natural for them as they age.  The longer the delay, the harder it will be to reshape their ways of thinking what is a Math/English/Social Studies/Science class.

A second challenge is from educators themselves who may have never taught this way before.  Like the students, you are taking them out of their comfort zone and they may resist.  As a Math teacher, I can teach about numbers, but when it comes to English, I don’t teach too “good”.  But, in an interdisciplinary approach, I don’t have to teach English.  I will work with a team providing the students with the mathematical education they need to successfully complete the project.  Working with fellow teachers, especially those outside our field, can be another new and rewarding experience.  As a team member, you will be designing and implementing a curriculum together.  You will have peers to discuss ideas with (similar to most business environments) and develop a stronger plan.  An added benefit is that the students will see teachers working together, modeling how to collaborate.

Currently, my school is not a traditional one.  We do not have courses like a high school.  When it comes to academic education, we are focused on basic skills and credit recovery or high school equivalency.  I am the only GED teacher.  I am responsible for educating my students in all four GED subjects.  Our high school diploma programs are through established online diploma programs.  We don’t have any say in curriculum.  In order to implement an interdisciplinary approach, it would require a radical change in thinking at our administrative level – something that I don’t foresee happening.  Unfortunately, our students, many who have been failed by the traditional approach to teaching, would benefit greatly from an interdisciplinary curriculum.  They are in dire need of 21st century skills in collaboration and communication and yet we focus on getting them to pass the GED (or obtained their diploma) just so we can meet our quotas.


PBL: Effectiveness in the Diverse Classroom

Find an article on the topic of the effectiveness of Project Based Learning in diverse classrooms. Post a reflection on your thoughts regarding your research this week on Project-Based Learning. What were you able to find? How do you think PBL will fit into your teaching style? Do you have an idea for a project? If so, begin articulating it now.

From the research I have done, the strongest aspect of project-based learning is in how it develops skills beyond intellectual knowledge that students will need when they move on.  By working in teams, students must learn to interact with one another.  Placing students in groups with others who they might not normally associate with at school prepares them for a working environment where they will not know co-workers when they first start working.  They need to learn how to integrate in order to form a cohesive team.

To increase the chance for success, teams need to be accountable for the success of each individual.  This I believe would be the hardest concept for students new to PBL to accept.  Many have always learned in an environment where only what they did mattered for their own grade.  Students who have been previously successful might be initially agitated that they have to assist their fellow classmates in order to obtain a satisfactory grade.  However, if the project is thoroughly planned and introduced to the students with clear and concise assessment rubrics, the students will be fully aware of what the requirements are from the beginning, then they can begin to understand how this different approach will benefit them.

Over the years, I have generally adapted my teaching to my students under the philosophy of whatever it takes.  If my students need a whole class lecture approach, that is what I will do.  If one-on-one tutoring is needed, then I will do that.  This is not to say that it will be easy to incorporate PBL.  The aspect of PBL that I think will be the hardest adjustment for me is in how the content is presented.  As a math teacher at a school that is very test/numbers driven, I have always focused on teaching my students how to solve certain problems.  Many of my students come from schools where they were unsuccessful in direct instruction, however, that is what they know and it is what they are comfortable with despite the results.  Therefore, switching to a PBL classroom would be a big adjustment.  Considering that we have an open entry/exit system, I will always have to deal with this issue.

I am a GED teacher.  I cover each of the four subjects (Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies).  I have students who need to pass all four test mixed in with students who only need to pass one, two or three tests.  They are at different levels of ability with different strengths and weakness in each subject.  Having a class on just one topic in a given period would not be beneficial as possibly half the students don’t need to focus on that topic.  My thoughts are that for my project to be the most productive, it must involve students creating some sort of study guide or game that centers around concepts they need to focus upon in order to be successful on the GED test.  This would allow students to develop the skills they need while creating material that their peers could use to strengthen their knowledge base.  Teams could be assigned based upon whichever test(s) the students need to pass.


Vega, V. (2012). Project-Based Learning Research Review. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pbl-research-learning-outcomes


Project Based Learning: The Beginning

This is my first experience with Project Based Learning.  I come in to this class with 8 MET courses behind me and yet, I come in still feeling uncertain about what to expect.  While I have begun introductory research on PBL, I still do not know what a project entails in time, resources and planning.  My early readings have me believing that PBL could be a good strategy for where I teach, but my unique situation creates many questions that I want to answer. Can PBL work when students enter and exit the class at different times?  How do you conduct PBL when students are working on different content and at different levels?    I teach GED students. Their focus is on learning what they need to pass the test.  They know they only have to be in classes until they pass.  Therefore, there is no set time for them to be in class like a traditional school.  What kind of difficulties does this pose for PBL and how can they be overcome?  Hopefully, when this class ends, I will have answers to these and other classes


Obstacles and Solutions to Integrating Technology

“I’m petrified that we’ll apply new technology to old pedagogy,” Professor Elliot Soloway at the University of Michigan said…. “We are not exploiting the affordances of the new technology to give kids new kinds of learn-by-doing activities….What a waste!” (Cuban, 2012).

In this statement, we find the obstacles to integrating technology in the mathematics classroom.  The question is, “Why?”  Why are we applying new technology to old pedagogy?  Why are we not exploiting new technology?  The answers can be simplified as lack of time and lack of resources, but that only begs more questions of “Why?” Therefore, it might be better to answer the questions of “Who?”  Who is responsible for these obstacles?  That is an easier one.  It is everyone involved in education.

Technology is ever evolving.  What is capable today was not available when today’s teachers were going through school as a student (Dickey, 1997).  For many of them, it is a foreign language and they feel comfortable with doing things they have always done.  They have also developed ideals that are contradicted by technology in the math classroom. One of the major ideals they believe is that students need to be able to do mathematics without use of a calculator (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  Breaking through this barrier is necessary, but it won’t solve anything if we stop there.  Even if we could get every math teacher in the world to become educational technology experts, we still face other challenges.

In the 1970’s, “New Math” was introduced.  In the 1990’s, graphing calculators made their appearance.  Both of these events had a commonality to them:  professionally generated curriculum material came with them (Norris & Soloway, 2011).  Math teachers did not need to re-write all of their lesson plans; they were provided new ones to use.  Today, technology changes are coming so fast and without curriculum that the teachers are being overwhelmed.  I personally experienced this twice in the past 5 years.  First, when we received interactive whiteboards.   We were provided a week of training on how to use them.  However, designing activities was entirely left up to us.  I dived in and tried to create constructive lessons, but quickly saw how much time it took and was forced to scale back considerably.  You can imagine how the rest of my colleagues, who aren’t as technologically inclined, felt.  Then, this past year, they introduced a new GED test.  The test went under an intensive makeover from low-level skills on Bloom’s Taxonomy to one requiring higher-order thinking in Webb’s Depth of Knowledge.  All of my lessons became obsolete.  In this case, new curriculum has been developed, but it was not available until recently and my school has yet to purchase much of it.  All of this despite the fact that we are four months into the new GED Test.

What are the solutions?  Unfortunately, real solutions can only be accomplished at administrative level and require a complete reversal in educational philosophy.  This does not mean that a math teacher can’t have any solutions to the challenges of integrating technology into the curriculum.  The first step is to understand the limitations and work within them.  Select technology that can be used for long periods of time and develop it completely to create an active learning experience for your students (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  Refine this technology before adding more.  Expand your network by subscribing to blogs of like-minded teachers, where you can get ideas.  If you don’t have the resources to replace your curriculum, look for technology to support your current one.  Most importantly, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and look how good that turned out.


Cuban, L. (2012). Integrating technology into a math lesson. Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice. Retrieved from http://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/integrating-technology-into-a-math-lesson/

Dickey, E. (1997). Challenges of mathematics teaching today. Retrieved from http://ed.sc.edu/ite/dickey/nassp/nassp.html

Norris, C., & Soloway, E. (2011). The 10 barriers to technology adoption. District Administration Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.districtadministration.com/article/10-barriers-technology-adoption

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed., New International ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

Relative Advantage of Using Spreadsheets and Databases in Education

Charts and graphs are an enigma in Mathematics Education.  I say this because from my experience I find them to be so self-explanatory that they need a lot of explanation. WHAT?!?!?!  Hence the mystery.  Most of us look at a chart or graph and think, “Okay, I know what this is telling me.”  It is obviously right there.  I mean it’s like writing “2 + 2 = 4” on the board and asking a student, “what is two plus two?”  But, not to the mind of the adolescent.  Many times as educators we forget it isn’t that easy.  Charts and graphs need to be explained thoroughly like any other lesson.  They need to be dissected and created by the students.  Spreadsheets help eliminate some of the issues with doing that.  A lot of students (I was one) are not extremely artistic.  And, if they are also perfectionists (like me), they can be frustrated when drawing charts and graphs.  They also are very time-consuming to make, not just for the students but, for the teacher.  Spreadsheets allow for almost anyone to make a high quality chart in a short period of time.

Spreadsheets, a tool many teachers might be familiar with for recording information about their students, might be more beneficial providing information for their students.  Here is a short list of other reasons to use spreadsheets in the mathematics classroom.

  • Spreadsheets allow for easy data manipulation and the resulting effects to be quickly seen (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).

  • They are very useful when dealing with perimeter, area and volume problems.

  • Other formulas, such as temperature conversion, can be demonstrated.

  • The concept of proportions is more readily understood.

  • Data analyzing (mean, median, mode) isn’t restricted in sample size.

  • Data collection isn’t limited to the size of the class.

  • Patterns can be expanded to find the 50,000th term (or more).

As with any tool, students will need to learn how to use spreadsheets (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  While you can use already created templates allow for students to enter in data and gather results, spreadsheets support a student-centered learning environment by allowing students to create their own manipulations.  Much like students can not be handed a calculator and expected to know the correct procedure for entering in data, they need to learn how to format functions.  For many students, there is an added barrier from a fear of mathematics that must first be overcome (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  Remind them that although mistakes will be made, this give rise to the opportunity to problem solve.

While I have made it seem like spreadsheets are primarily a tool for the mathematics classroom because they are primarily used with numerical data, spreadsheets are effective in other content areas (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  Instead of losing precious time doing all the math, spreadsheets can accomplish that task and allow for exploration of the lesson. Here are some non-math class uses of spreadsheets.

How old are you on Neptune?  I like that this one still refers to NINE planets (Go Pluto!)

It’s ‘Element’ary


Climate Data Workbook

How Much Tax Would You Pay?


Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed., New International ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

Module 5 Summary and Reflection

Module 5 Summary and Reflection

In order to create my synchronous lesson evaluation, I decided that it would be pretty presumptuous of me to think I could top Chickering and Gamson’s 7 principles.  I started with them and researched the internet for expanded information to create the specific points to look for when evaluating a synchronous lesson.  Finally, I used this  SynchronousLessonEvaluation to review the two lessons below.


  • Was the strategy used appropriate for the content/material being covered?

This was a hands-on tutorial on using various Photoshop features.  The instructor gave the student the opportunity to choose which features she wanted to learn about.  The instructor demonstrated the tool and then the student was given control to practice.  This was the right strategy to use.

  • Might another strategy have been more effective? How? For example, if direct instruction was used, can you think of another instructional strategy that might have been more effective, or just as effective – like a cooperative group activity. Or perhaps the lesson didn’t need to be delivered live at all.

This lesson could have been done with more students with the cracker barrel strategy. Prior to this lesson, certain students would be assigned a tool to instruct in a given virtual room.  The other students would then move around the rooms and learn from their classmates how to use the tools.

  • One of my objectives is to get you to identify instances when content delivered asynchronously might be more appropriate given the time and energy involved in developing and delivering live instruction. Another is to start thinking about some alternative ways to deliver instruction. Even if the strategy was totally appropriate for this lesson, can you think of a way to improve the lesson with the addition of other activities involving alternate instructional strategies?

The lesson could be done asynchronously by recording the instruction and having the students view the video and practice what they learn.  However, by having the instructor there in the synchronous environment, the student is able to get immediate help if they are having difficulties.  Personally, I would rather have the synchronous learning for this topic as I know how frustrated I would get if I could not get the tool to work right.


  • Was the strategy used appropriate for the content/material being covered?

This was an icebreaker activity where students meet other students.  Pairing up in breakout rooms to ask each other questions is very appropriate.

  • Might another strategy have been more effective? How? For example, if direct instruction was used, can you think of another instructional strategy that might have been more effective, or just as effective – like a cooperative group activity. Or perhaps the lesson didn’t need to be delivered live at all.

This lesson could be done asynchronously, but if time is available for the students, it is better handled in a live environment.  I feel the icebreakers in the courses in the MET program take up too much time; time that could be added to some of the longer, more content-related projects at the end of the course.  Instead of breakout rooms, the activity could have been handled in a whole class setting.  This wouldn’t necessarily be more effective, but just as effective.

  • One of my objectives is to get you to identify instances when content delivered asynchronously might be more appropriate given the time and energy involved in developing and delivering live instruction. Another is to start thinking about some alternative ways to deliver instruction. Even if the strategy was totally appropriate for this lesson, can you think of a way to improve the lesson with the addition of other activities involving alternate instructional strategies?

A magnetic brainstorm, where students post words that describe themselves.  If you see a word someone else posts that fits you, you can increase the font size.  This would be similar to how tags increase in size the more they are used in a blog.