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 >
You read that correctly: Zombie-Based Learning. When I started learning about it, my inner geek squealed with joy. I’ve always loved zombies. I’ve watched all the movies and even read the original Walking Dead Comics before it became a hit series in the classroom.
One Teacher’s Curriculum
Geography has always been a learning target for social studies teachers, and David Hunter, who teaches at Bellevue, Washington’s Big Picture School, decided to create a curriculum using Kickstarter as its funding source. He sought to make geography relevant through engaging scenarios and stories with a zombie theme tying it all together. The whole curriculum is standards-based and includes over 70 lessons where students must “consider how to duck the undead invasion, secure their supplies and, eventually, rebuild society” through a variety of activities, worksheets and discussions.
Mr. Hunter’s story was featured on an NPR affiliate if you would like to read more. In addition, he has made available one of the comics he created which serve as the textbook for the curriculum. Mr. Hunter created this work in order to engage students, and I believe we can use the topic of zombies to explore further curriculum areas.
English and Language Arts
While much of the world of zombies is portrayed in comics and films, ELA teachers can use these various texts to engage students in learning important reading standards. Even the Common Core calls for reading a variety of texts and comparing and contrasting those texts (such as a film and a comic). These stories feature compelling, complex characters under extreme situations that many of us can identify with. Students could analyze the various features of the comic/graphic novel genre, or engage in character analysis. Consider using these zombie-based materials as scaffolding for more complex texts.
Many in the zombie community (did I just write that?) believe that people become zombies due to a virus, and many of the films and literature echo this as a possible method of transmission. This being the case, students could investigate the subject of viruses and bacteria using zombies as the disease being passed. They might come up with scientific methods for eradicating the disease or simply mitigating its effect. They might even hypothesize the biology behind zombies. Again, the topic of zombies is an entry point to engage students in learning significant content.
Related to the science component of zombies, many diseases increase at an exponential rate. Students could analyze different population centers and predict its spread using exponential functions. They could determine when everyone is infected and map the spread using the math data they calculate, or even explore rate of decay. Students could also investigate what happens when a certain number of people are vaccinated to help prevent the spread.
These are some ideas I have either implemented as part of a PBL project or believe might be a good entry point for zombie-based learning across the curriculum. What are your ideas for zombie-based learning to teach content and 21st century skills? (And if anyone could instructionally integrate Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, that would be awesome!)
This post originally appeared on The Whole Child blog, an ASCD initiative to call on educators, policymakers, business leaders, families, and community members to work together on a whole child approach to education. View Original >
Many schools are making major changes in structures and professional development to make sure teachers are implementing effective project-based learning (PBL) schoolwide. I’ve been honored to be part of that journey with many schools. I have seen many different kinds of PBL schools, and with it, many kinds of PBL projects. This work has also reaffirmed the belief that the principal is one of the cornerstones to effective PBL implementation. We know this! This is not new news, but because PBL is a change in the paradigm of curriculum and instruction, it means that implementation has unique strategies and challenges as well. Here are some straightforward ways I have seen principals at PBL schools lead toward excellent PBL implementation.
Create the Buy-In
It’s easy to jump right in and start PBL trainings and professional development, but this alone will not create the momentum. Some of the best schools I have worked with spend a lot of time creating the buy-in before even starting training or professional development. I’ve seen principals organize school visits to great PBL schools as well as debrief the process. I’ve also seen principals allow teachers to read short articles of blogs at staff meetings and create inquiry questions so that staff can explore and learn what they want about PBL. This requires a “hands-off” approach by the principal to truly honor teacher questions and concerns. If considerable time is given to this buy-in process, a principal can lead as a guide to bring teachers to a PBL implementation that will work for them and their schools.
Model the PBL Process in Professional Development
Whether using the inquiry-circles method for investigating a problem practice or setting up a driving question aligned to school goals, principals can easily model some or all of the aspects of the PBL process. Principals might present a problem of practice to a team of teachers, have them investigate, and then have them present their information and solutions to other teachers and stakeholders. “Need to know” lists might live in the staff room or virtually, where all can access the list, ask questions, and provide answers. Additionally, protocols that are used for student revision can be used by teachers to receive ongoing feedback on their projects. Through modeling, principals can built trust and also help ground teachers in the PBL process.
Create PBL Projects
If you want teachers to believe you “get it,” know what it feels like to create a rigorous PBL project, and know the essential elements of design, then you must create a PBL project. Principals can show efficacy by creating, revising, and reflecting on PBL projects they design and implement. As teachers build their projects, principals should build with them and participate in the professional development and training. Principals will not only learn more about PBL but also build relationships and create a culture of revision and reflection with faculty and staff.
Set Clear Expectations for Projects
It’s important to start small, but this can look different from school to school. Some teachers are more ready for project-based learning than others. Some schools have structures that allow for easy collaboration and integration of subject areas. All of these factors contribute to making reasonable goals for the number of PBL projects in the first year as well as the level of integration. Set these goals with the input of teachers and be clear to all on the rationale.
Although these suggestions for leading PBL might seem basic, they are sometimes overlooked in the process or sometimes seen as not needed. I feel that as an instructional leader, it is critical for the principal leading a PBL change to model these attributes by creating meaningful buy-in, modeling the process, creating projects, and setting reasonable goals that come from experience in PBL. These are just the first steps in a long journey of growth for the PBL principal, teacher, and school.
Posted by Andrew K. Miller on Apr 25, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments
This post originally appeared on SmartBlogs for Education, where SmartBrief readers exchange ideas and practices. They publish original content on many topics in education. View Original >
I spend a good chunk of time on Twitter, often participating in or lurking on a Twitter chat. I have seen project based learning — PBL — a topic of discussion, but at the same time, I see a lot of claims about PBL that are just not true. What bothers me about these claims is not that they are wrong but that these misconceptions lead to further problems when implementing PBL. I’d like to take some time to dispel some of these misunderstandings in hopes that they clear up other issues teachers may have with PBL.
“I do projects all the time.” Often when I talk to teachers they respond, “Oh I’ve done PBL for a long time. We’ve always done projects in my classroom.” To me this is often a red flag. Projects and PBL aren’t the same. However, I do know teachers that have done projects in the past that have had many of the elements of PBL but might be missing some. I use the Project Essential Elements checklist to ensure that I am in fact doing PBL and not projects.
“I don’t have time to do a PBL project and all the scaffolding needed and lessons.” A PBL project includes both the creation of the authentic product aligned to the project AND the scaffolding, learning activities, drill and skill, etc., that must occur to support student creation of the final product. When I say I am doing a PBL project with my students and it is going to take 2-3 weeks, I mean that it will take that amount of time not only to have students collaborate and create together to solve an authentic problem or address an issue, but also to get the important skills that they need to do so. Worksheets will occur. Direct instruction will occur. Group work will occur. All of the important and effective strategies we teachers use will occur within the context of the project.
“I have to focus on standardized test prep and don’t have time for PBL.” I wrote a blog on Edutopia to give some specific strategies on how PBL and standardized testing can coexist. Instead of making PBL and test prep separate, find a way to embed test prep within the context of the project. Let’s face it; it’s hard to get students to do test prep. Instead of fighting this by begging and pleading with them, make it somewhat useful. Use testing stems as formative assessments and quizzes. Have written products that mirror the template of the test they might take. Because students are engaged in the project, they might be more inclined to participate in a few moments along the way that feel like test prep. The difference is that the test prep serves an important function for both you and the students within the context of the project.
“Students will copy each other’s products.” Even though you may create a PBL project that targets specific content for all students, you must still provide voice and choice for students. We know that students can show their learning in different ways so make sure you are allow that. Voice and choice is an essential element of PBL. In addition, if you are noticing copying, it might be a project design issue. The project might be focused on facts and ideas that are easily copied instead of using the content in a new way. There might not be an authentic need of audience for the project, which in turn does not require students to create a product with the content that is specifically tailored to that audience and need.
Obviously, there are many more concerns and misunderstanding teachers may still have about PBL. There is another blog on Edutopia that goes over some of these. Instead of trying to put up roadblocks for PBL, try to problem solve, just like we want our students to do in a PBL project.