Use Project-Based Learning to Meet the National Educational Technology Standards


This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >


The ISTE NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) are more than just simple content standards and learning objectives. If examined closely, they truly can foster an educational shift to engaging, relevant, technology-rich learning. In terms of project-based learning (PBL), the ISTE NETS, not only align, but can truly support a PBL environment. After my own examination, I felt we must have a #pblchat on the subject.

Weeks ago, this was our topic. Feel free review the storify archive of the whole chat to get more ideas. Here are some of my ideas and take-aways as well as inspirations from others on how some the ISTE Student NETS can support PBL. We will focus on five of the Student NETS this time, but keep in mind there are more, as well as the NETS for teachers, administrators and coaches!

Student NET #1: Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

Okay, I’m going to be a bit crass with this description. PBL requires that students create something new, innovate with content, and develop products that show this deeper learning. Students do not gorge on content and then throw it up in a pretty new genre or technology tool. This NET can help teachers ensure that they’re asking for products that require innovation of the content and not regurgitation. Through an innovative project idea and driving question, your students are not only learning content, but creating something new with it.

Student NET #2: Communication and Collaboration
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, sometimes at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

Two of the key 21st century skills in PBL are communication and collaboration. PBL projects balance the learning not only of content, but also 21st century skills that are transferable across disciplines and into life after K-12 schooling. Through this standard, students can communicate and collaborate, both in person with their teams and across the globe, giving an opportunity for global education. Using the right tools for the authentic purposes of collaboration and communication, students can engage in innovative PBL projects.

Student NET #3: Research and Information Fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate and use information.

When we unpack this standard, one of the key words here is “inquiry.” Students are not simply doing research. PBL projects require students to engage in in-depth inquiry on a specific topic through posing questions, researching and interpreting data, and reporting it. However, as students move through this cycle of inquiry, they may find incomplete data, require further information or make mistakes. This NET lets students know that revision and reflection are critical to the inquiry process. In addition, it leverages higher-order thinking skills like synthesis and evaluation, which can ensure that PBL projects are stimulating deep learning.

Student NET #4: Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.

PBL projects must engage students in critically thinking around content, and they often have students attempt to solve a problem. In addition, this standard really pushes for student-centered learning. It is on the students to manage themselves, make decisions and more. The teacher’s role is more of guide on the side, with “just in time” moments of instruction to help students with critical thinking and problem solving. PBL projects also leverage the 21st century skill of critical thinking and problem solving through assessment.

Student NET #5: Digital Citizenship
Students understand human, cultural and societal issues related to technology, and practice legal and ethical behavior.

As students engage in technology-rich projects, it is important to model and practice digital citizenship. Explicit instruction, lessons and activities must take place to ensure that students are creating good “digital footprints.” In addition, this is a great theme inspiration for a PBL project. From a technology class to a language arts class, you can have students make recommendations about digital policy or teach other members of the school community and beyond how to be good digital citizens.

As you build your PBL projects, consider how the ISTE NETS can support your work. The NETS will not only help to hone and refine a PBL project, but also serve as an advocacy piece to stakeholders and other “naysayers.” They can help you focus how to use the technology and keep that focus on student learning for the 21st century. Consider assessing these standards to leverage them! How are you using the NETS in your classroom?

Webinars on Games for Learning

Recently, I’ve been doing webinars on Games for Learning, from Gamification of Education to using games effectively in the classroom. Below you will find links to various webinars, as well as descriptions for them. Enjoy.

Using the Video Game Model to Build Curriculum Units
Webinar Description: Games are engaging our kids in and out of the classroom. Components of gaming can be leveraged to increase student engagement and achievement through careful instructional design. In our next webinar, Andrew Miller, game-based learning expert, will provide practical tools to utilize gaming elements in the the classroom to plan a curricular unit, from larger structures to individual lessons. Participants will learn essential elements of gamification of the classroom as well as the complexities of implementation. Andrew will share example units and provide tips for effective planning. James Paul Gee says that Andrew “is fast becoming one of the leading mediators and “cultural brokers” for those of us working across many fields to make game based learning a force for a paradigm change in education.” Please join us for this innovative webinar.

The Potential for Game-Based Learning
Webinar Description: Games are engaging students, young and old, whether we know it or not. Learn about the potential games have to not only engage, but have us learn critical content. Andrew will hight both K-12 as well as professional development games and gamification to help you gain real ideas.

Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom


This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >


Minecraft in the Classroom is a recent addition to the field of game-based learning. It is a sandbox game where players can create and build, fight off enemies and explore vast landscapes. As is the nature of sandbox games, players can roam free, choosing objectives as they go. Because Minecraft has such open possibilities and potential, the teacher can choose how he or she wants to use it. Just as the student has the ability to be creative, the teacher has the same. That can be overwhelming, but luckily, there is a tool for using Minecraft created by teachers for teachers.

MinecraftEdu provides a custom mod, basically a customized modification of the game, that helps facilitate organization and focus for teachers to use Minecraft effectively. In addition, Joel Levin, the founder of MinecraftEdu, provides ideas and updates at The Minecraft Teacher blog.

For those noobs out there that need a push in the right direction, here are some introductory project or lesson ideas.

1) Explore Real Life Buildings
There are many already-created structures that you can import into the game and have students explore. From the Roman Coliseum to the Globe Theatre, they can wander through and literally see three-dimensional replications of buildings that are no longer there. You might have students identify aspects of a theater, or use it as a tool for presentations. If you really want to go nuts, have students create these models themselves.

2) Practice Ratio and Proportion
Minecraft allows students to build whatever they want, so use the opportunity to have them create scale models when you need a practice unit about measurements and proportions. The building of scale models might integrate social studies content to allow for cross-curricular connections. Coupled with in-class lessons and activities, Minecraft can help students apply the knowledge they have learned in technological and playful ways.

3) Learn about Survival
You can contextualize the concept of survival for students by having them play the survival mode, which demands players take into account resources, hunger, tools and more as they build and expand their world. Students have to explore in order to collect resources, and they have to process what they find, such as smelting ore to create metal. Doing this in the game can give students a basic understanding of how things work, and help them analyze the different components of survival and settlement.

4) Visualization and Reading Comprehension
One of the best ways to improve how students display their reading comprehension is asking them to create a visualization. They could reconstruct various settings from the text, and even recreate scenes and plot events. They could also use these recreations to give a presentation or make predictions on what might happen next, and then physically create those predictions in Minecraft.

As you consider using Minecraft in the classroom, make sure to have specific objectives in mind for implementation. Teachers do need to pay for it, but MinecraftEdu has opportunities to pay less, as well as a variety of editions. You might consider using to help back your project financially. Remember that you can have students collaborate in multiplayer mode or do independent practice in single player mode. I’m excited to see the creativity that teachers will bring to using this game in the classroom. I’m sure many of you have more creative ideas. How do you already use Minecraft in the classroom? How might you use it in the future in new and innovative ways?

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