This article is written by Casey Thomas, Instructional Coordinator at Morgan County Charter School System (MCCSS), in Georgia. MCCSS is one of the most advanced school districts nationally when it comes to using technology in the classroom. We are proud to work with Ms. Thomas to develop the next-generation PBL tool to support our teachers and further the education of our students. Note: This article has been edited from its original format.
Have you heard of PBL?
It has been whispering its way down the pipe from the upper echelon of schools to the everyday classroom.
PBL, or Project-based Learning, is an instructional model that is based on the idea that solving problems engages and involves students more than anything else.
This way of teaching and learning makes school relevant, while as well making student lives outside of school relevant. Seems simple and powerful enough, yet it isn’t easily adoptable without the right support.
Confused & Frustrated?
Those that get confused and frustrated simply give up. Those that persist see results that hint at a grass roots revolution in education as we know it. Bottom line: PBL is worth it. If you’ve heard of PBL or have attempted PBL, you have probably realized that transitioning to this model whole hog is a mountain you aren’t sure you can move. Again, how do you support a paradigm change to the point of acceptance, embrace, adoption…? It’s possible, you just need the right support.
So what can you do to ensure your teachers are exposed to and can eventually implement PBL the right way?
You support your teachers, and if you can’t hold their hands from point A to point B yourself, you purchase something or hire someone who can.
Enter PBL GO
Finally, a tool that teaches teachers something new without talking over their heads with the acronyms and metaphors of academia (that, honestly, makes us all gag); something that tells teachers how to take baby steps, then turn them into adult strides. A software, not a person, that is intelligent enough to teach, as well as guide teachers throughout the day to day of their PBL planning and implementation.
PBL causes teachers to love their jobs again, and students to want to have skin in the game without being asked.
As I toured our district teaching and supporting our teachers (and sometimes those of other districts) in PBL, it dawned on me that we don't have the right tool. Even those commercially-available were lacking in the actual features we need (and very expensive!)
I imagined a simple PBL tool, with a snazzy and easy-to-use interface, that guides the teacher through the design, build and monitoring of a new PBL project.
I reached out to the folks at ZeGenie (who made ClassroomAPP, formerly ZeSchool) to see if they are interested in partnering to help our teachers, and other teachers learn and use this powerful pedagogical tool. And PBL-GO was born! As they say, the rest is history (well, not quite, we just launched the first version of the PBL teacher tools in our classrooms).
Want to make history?
We are looking for districts, classrooms and teachers who want to pilot with us. The more, the merrier. We need as much teacher feedback as possible so we stay true to the motto, Made by teachers for teachers.
So please reach out, we'd love to have you as part of our pilot as we make history by designing our own complete yet simple PBL tool!
And oh yeah, I almost forgot, PBL-GO will be ready in time for Sept 2017! That's round the corner.