Series: New Tech Network Deeper Learning

Milton Chen on Project-Based Learning
Lesson Objective: Milton Chen, educational media expert and author, shares his insights on the approach of New Tech Network
All Grades / All Subjects / Collaboration

Thought starters

  1. How can project-based learning support the Common Core?
  2. How do teachers and students learn from working in teams?
  3. How can teachers create collaborative classrooms?
I am a wholesale subscriber to the idea of project based learning. Learning should be as organic as possible. Allowing students to go out and discover the information for themselves, and then turn that information into a product, fits real world scenarios (post secondary education) and allows educators to concentrate more on the learner as opposed to (solely on) the content.
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I like the idea of doing authentic work and using project based learning in the classroom. I want to build on students free thinking and creativity on the concepts being taught in class. I want to be more of an innovator in the classroom
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  • Milton Chen on Project-Based Learning Transcript

    +++ 00:00:11 +++
    New Tech Network
    Expert commentary by:
    Milton Chen

    Milton Chen:

    Milton Chen on Project-Based Learning Transcript

    +++ 00:00:11 +++
    New Tech Network
    Expert commentary by:
    Milton Chen

    Milton Chen: I'm Milton Chen. I'm a senior fellow at the George Lucas Educational Foundation.

    +++ 00:00:14 +++
    Lower Third:
    Milton Chen
    Senior Fellow,
    George Lucas Educational Foundation.

    Milton Chen: Project based learning is, we believe, the modern form of curriculum, that we can move from the textbook based curriculum, reading the chapter, answering the questions in the back, read the next chapter, answering the questions in the back. And there's 25 chapters and that's the entire school year. We want the students to be doing authentic work and that's what PBL is.

    +++ 00:00:37 +++
    Milton Chen: In these videos, you see project based learning, you see deeper learning and you see a much more creative and innovative approach to the common core standards. These three variables, these three factors, really nest well together, that the common core offers this opportunity to teach in a more innovative way, not just to teach the same old skills that we've taught for 20 or 30 years, with new clothing, but to really reinvent what happens in the classroom.

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    Milton Chen: I very much like the approach of the New Tech Network in showing how project based learning and technology can also come together to support the common core. In these videos, you see teachers and students, each with their own devices, while they're communicating in small groups. They are recording what they're saying, they're filling out rubrics. It's real time learning and they're able to refer to those documents. So the fact that we now have internet based platforms for recording and analyzing data, a very powerful way of doing project based learning.

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    Milton Chen: I was also impressed by the teacher collaboration in the New Tech Network, the team teaching. Team teaching used to be something that teachers did decades ago. There are still teachers who remember team teaching and now it's coming back in a new form. But just as we say that students ought to be organized in teams and collaboration, there's a lot to be learned when teachers can work across subject areas. We saw Tom Morrell [ph?] as a social studies teacher. We saw Leah Penneman [ph?] as a science teacher. Very powerful, what we saw in their video about how they're collaborating across the humanities and the sciences. It's a great model for future interdisciplinary teaching.

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    Milton Chen: There's been a lot of discussion about moving from the teacher-centered to the student-centered classroom and my view of that is, you need to create a more collaborative classroom. You need to organize students in teams to carry out projects, to address different kinds of learning activities, as we saw with that one video about the solar oven. Students working together, very innovative, very open ended, but they themselves have to go out to the internet and find information about how to create a solar oven.

    +++ 00:02:49 +++
    Milton Chen: What that requires then is students beginning to understand that they're in charge of their own learning. It's not up to the teacher to tell them what to learn, but they then have to be much more independent and therefore have to rely on their classmates, on their peers for some of that learning. So the collaborative class was very much part of this shift from the teacher-centered classroom. I thought the contracts video that we saw was very important. Before you do that collaborative classroom, make sure that students understand that there are rules of engagement for each student, and I thought the
    +++ 00:03:19 +++
    contracts video from the New Tech Network was very good in laying out the specifics of how to talk with each other respectfully, how to get your work done on time. What happens when you don't do your work? All these issues come out when you create a more collaborative classroom. I think the urgency of getting the students involved with project based learning speaks to the time that we're living in, the second decade of the 21st century. The urgency of
    +++ 00:03:44 +++
    setting issues as they were doing at New Tech Network, around climate change, around environmental learning, water issues. Some of the students were working on a project around biodiversity, aquatic biodiversity. Some students were working on a project about overpopulation. These are issues that we need students to become much more conversant with. We can no longer separate the learning that happens in the classroom from the urgent issues we're facing as a world, and certainly as a nation. So I was very
    +++ 00:04:14 +++
    encouraged to see that we're breaking down the isolation of the classroom. That's what project based learning does. It makes what happens inside the classroom very similar to what happens in the real world.
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Lesson Idea

Grades 9-12, All Subjects, Class Culture

Lesson Idea

Grades 9-12, ELA, Class Culture

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Students / Class Culture