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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Critical Thinking and Project Based Learning

What is project based learning?  Watch the above video from Commoncraft to get a clear definition.

As our students progress to more web based learning,  we can encourage them to use their critical thinking skills more often with project based learning.  Challenge based learning is more problem solving directed, encouraging motivation and higher level Bloom's taxonomy thinking skills.  This is something our students can get excited about, and what many teachers could be incorporating into their classroom or home school environment.  Many teachers incorporate this already into their courses, and with the use of multi- layered media technologies available on the web, project based learning becomes more feasible for home schoolers.

Take for instance the upcoming election.  In this Challenge Based Learning website the video shows a student how to focus on essential questions to get his research started with regards to upcoming elections. Solving real world problems can be fun even for your elementary students.  Homeschooling is an amazing arena for us to work on our critical thinking skills, because in many ways we are learning "out of the box".  Now if we could use the areas that our students are already interested in researching, to inspire them to problem solve at the same time!

Teachers we can assess the knowledge and pre-conceived thinking a student may have, before launching them on their topic.  But of course we need to let go of the idea that we are in charge.  We need to take a step back and become facilitators!  Students are allowed to make mistakes and learn from the process, as they compare data from different sources.  We can be there to help them with the "who, why, where and how" questions.  But the students need to be directing the process of problem solving. 

In Project Based Learning for the 21 Century students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Rigorous projects help students learn key academic content and practice 21st Century Skills.

Here is an example of using Math in the classroom from Computing Technology for Math Excellence, which gives lots of examples of how project based learning can flourish using math and other subjects.

How do we inspire our younger generation to start using new technologies, learn creativity and critical thinking? Watch Mitch Resnik, talking from his platform, Lifelong Kindergarten: Design, Play, Share, Learn” at Stanford.  You might get some ideas for your elementary students in terms of using such amazing computer programming tools like Scratch.

I would love to hear how your students are using project based learning in their environment?

Blessings to you
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  1. That was a great video and write up Pippa! Thanks!

  2. You are welcome Katina! Blessings to you:) Pippa

  3. Hi Pippa. Thank you for this great article. I just commented in an email to a discussion I was having with HCOS educators in how to make our Online Courses more relevant. After visiting the Project Learning Website I did come away with a bit of a challenge. I think there is a significant role this methodology can have in our pedagogy. I used this method when I was teaching computers. I am not sure if it is a one size meets all methodology. Consider how we would teach some of the deeper issues in theology or history. We can create projects around this like the Comparative Civilizations trips to Europe but there still must be ways in which we teach the foundational principles that create the grid for critical thinking.

    We must teach our students to think deeply on issues and this constructs worldview, which in turn constructs the platform for critical thinking.

    Project based education is the best tool for problem solving and context.

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  5. Hi Greg, Thanks for your comments. I appreciate this debate which is important for all of our students to have a firm foundation in their faith while thinking critically at the same time. One can do this by asking those who, why, where questions when your student grapples with a problem. So where was God in this picture, why did God allow this to happen. When our students come to us we can challenge them to think of essential questions and then some more...But I think as teachers if we don't allow our students to grapple with critical thinking, and just keep getting them to regurgitate information we are not equipping them for their God given potential. Love the debate... Blessings Pippa

  6. Hi Pippa,
    I was following your links and then I ended up at "Working the Web for Education" by Tom March. Is this a good site? You are way ahead of me with techie stuff so I wanted your opinion.
    Thanks, Lorenna


  7. Hi Lorenna, Thanks for the question. One way to check out the validity of the site is to check on the links and see what happens. Many of the links are dead, and if you check when it was last updated at the bottom of the page you can tell it is not current. But there are some good reliable links included in the site further down the page. Hope this helps:) Blessings!! Pippa

  8. Thanks Pippa! That was very informative and I will definitely be checking out the website.

  9. You are welcome Joanne. See you soon at convention:) Blessings Pippa


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