One of the many benefits arising from the use of digital technologies in schools, is the ability to better prepare students to enter the workforce. This objective can be achieved particularly well through the introduction of project-based learning. Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge. The Buck Institute for Education is an organisation 100% focused on project-based learning and teaching, and their description of PBL is –
“In Project Based Learning, teachers make learning come alive for students.”
Fundamentally, with PBL students extend the use of digital technology to work on solving a meaningful problem, or answering questions of varying complexity. Clearly, the problem or questions must connect back to the curriculum, but the advantage of a project-based approach is that the project will be both relevant to the curriculum, and also deliver and exercise a number of skills and disciplines that will benefit students in the work environment.
Deep Learning and Computational Thinking
Regardless of the career students choose once they complete their formal education, employers are looking for essential capabilities such as oral and written communication skills, and critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These skills are essential to the preparation of students for university and/or a career. How to develop these skills in students is referred to as “deep learning” or even “computational thinking.”
There is a set of competencies associated with “deep learning” that are collectively referred to as “the 6 Cs.” They are:
- Creativity – this includes having an entrepreneurial eye for economic and social opportunities, asking the right questions to generate new ideas, and leadership to pursue those ideas and turn them into actions.
- Communications – communicating effectively with a variety of styles and tools (including digital tools), tailored for a range of audiences.
- Citizenship – thinking like global citizens, considering global issues based on a deep understanding of diverse values and worldviews, and with a genuine desire to solve complex real-world problems.
- Critical thinking – evaluating information and arguments, seeing patterns and connections, constructing meaningful knowledge, and applying it in the real world.
- Character – learning to deep learn armed with essential character traits of grit, tenacity, perseverance and resilience.
- Collaboration – work interdependently and synergistically in teams with interpersonal and team-related skills including effective management of team dynamics and challenges, making substantive decisions together, and learning from and contributing to the learning of others.
Project Based Learning
It is project-based learning that provides a context or an object for the encouragement and development of the 6 Cs. Depending on the class-level, projects should be framed by a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer. High school students might be given a project – in teams – to design a working windmill water pump from easily accessible components for a third-world village. Students at primary levels might work on a project that measures water pollution in the local area.
In addition to the development of the 6 Cs, project-based learning has some additional advantages.
- Projects can provide a significant enhancement of traditional curriculum topics.
- Students develop the habits of using productivity tools such as word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations to document and present the results of the projects.
- Projects have real-world context and can reflect on student’s personal concerns and interests.
- Projects can last as long as an entire school term, or be shorter. Either way, the project is a sustained effort allowing plenty of time for asking questions, finding resources and applying information.
- The projects provide a great opportunity for students to better understand how technology can be applied to solve real-world problems.
- The skills developed are an excellent preparation for post-education work life.
Project Based Learning accelerates the development of skill sets that employers are looking for in new hires, but PBL would not be possible without the use of and access to appropriate digital technologies such as laptops, tablets and a variety of software.
Cyclone Computer Company has over 60 education-focused staff employed nationwide, and are proudly 100% NZ owned and operated. Cyclone employs staff who have been school principals, teachers, education ICT advisors, and engineers. Cyclone has expertise in Microsoft, Google and Apple and their eco-systems ensuring that whichever platform your school chooses (or all of them!) our services will support your direction. Pedagogy, infrastructure, wireless networks, device management, security, BYOD and licensing are all important to ensuring success.
Cyclone believes that their proven and education focused experience in cross platform education-specific solutions and the integration of these solutions is unparalleled in the New Zealand market.
Please feel free to reach out to us to discuss Project Based Learning at Phone: 0800 686 686