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Remote Learning? Project-Based Learning can still happen!

By now, a large proportion of students around the globe are faced with remote learning, with students having a range of accessibility to online resources. However, project-based learning can still be applied in such circumstances due to its focus on real, authentic problems. This week’s The Sunday Pause article looks at how PBL can still be used in such circumstances. Here are 5 key take aways form this article.


Title: School Closures? Using PBL in Remote Learning

Author: Ben Owens

Source: PBL Works

1. The author mentioned that PBL is tough in a remote learning environment due to the high level of student collaboration, focused teacher support and community interaction. That is why a PBL classroom cannot be scaled down to worksheets, watching videos, reading texts, taking quizzes, etc. It is not an online course, students should still experience inquiry, questioning, reflection as if they were in a face-to-face classroom.

2. Education specific technology has allowed a transition from in-person classes to virtual learning much easier. Some apps the author mentioned were:

  • Zoom: Video conferencing software that can be used for whole class, small groups or one-one conferencing.

  • Mural and Explain Everything: Virtual whiteboard that can be used for specific lessons or for brainstorming.

  • Trello: Project Management that allows student teams to keep track of their project’s progress.

3. PBL teachers can also adapt a number of apps to each specific element of Gold Standard PBL:

  • Challenging Problem or Question: Parlay Ideas

  • Sustained Inquiry: Insert Learning

  • Authenticity: SketchUp/AutoCAD

  • Student Voice and Choice: Padlet

  • Reflection/Critique and Revision: Seesaw

  • Public Product: Canva

4. Remote learning unfortunately is not the same for everyone. All apps mentioned above need viable internet connection and the technological know-how of operating them. However, the author mentioned ’no tech’ options should not be a packet of worksheets. Here are some guidelines:

  • Do engaging, hands-on activities that build towards a bigger project.

  • Provide open-ended problems along with project checklists so students can run their own projects, they see the problems and design solutions to solve it using the checklist as a guide.

  • Students can interview family members or the community (mindful of social distancing) to receive feedback or expert opinions for their project.

  • Pick a topic of interest and explore on their own and create a project based upon their interest. Depending on mediums available, students can video, podcast, poster, book, etc.

5. Although things are tough now, the skills we are gaining as educators to build quality, and relevant online learning we will have with us all the time. Due to the popularity of work nowadays being remote and mobile, having the chance of using PBL in such circumstances gives us the opportunity to really hone our PBL pedagogy into the realities and future realities of this world.


Some additional notes:

Where I am based, we are fortunate to have a brilliant IT Team and a faculty that sees the value of tech in education. Currently, for PE we use:

  • Seesaw (digital portfolio and more),

  • Microsoft Teams (collaboration, file sharing, chat, video chat),

  • OneNote (seamless editing, organisation),

  • PowerPoint,

  • iMovie,

  • Zoom (conference calling).

Some open-ended problems that I have seen being done that you could pursue with your own kids or students:

  • How can we stay healthy while indoors?

  • This is a driving question my grade 3s are investigating now. Watch this space!

  • How can we make sure our community is safe and happy?

  • How can we generate less garbage?

This article mentioned a project checklist but couldn’t fine one in the article. So, I made one that uses the elements of Gold Standard PBL. Feel free to use it for your own use. Click on the image to download a PDF.

A few words about the first picture:

Although our school community is spread out all over the world, one of our grade 5 teachers decided to host a Zoom birthday party for one of our students. It was so great to see the birthday girl, her friends and her teachers celebrating her special day. Despite the distance, we still had a chance to spend a little time together, using Zoom.

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