One of the biggest trends in education over the few past years has been an increase in project based learning. This style of teaching allows students to develop real world skills and gain knowledge by investigating complex problems and challenges.
Students are encouraged to create their own workflows and make autonomous decisions as to how their results will be presented. Another important element of project based learning is the inclusion of cooperative learning techniques. This involves bringing multiple students of varying abilities into a project to collaborate and work together towards a final presentation.
Michael Burke and Josh Clemmer are Biomedical Science educators at Bel Air High School and they incorporate project based and cooperative learning through Project Lead The Way (PLTW). Project Lead The Way is the nation’s largest science, education, technology, and math project based learning organization and, as it turns out, Bel Air High School is a PLTW national model school.
At Bel Air High School, Michael and Josh focus on the biomedical PLTW curriculum. Students enrolled in one of these classes have no tests or quizzes.
As Michael says, “The entirety of their assessment is based on projects, so one of the key aspects of that is organizing your project, creating a timeline, responsibilities, and checklists. All the types of things you can use Trello for, which is why we enjoy using it so much.”
Getting Cooperative In The Classroom
Michael and Josh usually start cooperative learning projects by dividing students up into groups of three or four. They then create a new Trello board for each group and add the group members to the board. Groups are given instruction sheets for their project and from this sheet the students pull out all of their project’s requirements and create a new card for each task they need to accomplish to finish their project.
Since students are only given a due date for their final presentation, they assign due dates to each card to allow themselves to plan accordingly. From there students assign each other to tasks and create checklists to breakdown the steps required to complete those tasks. As students finish their pieces of the project they move those cards to their done list, and we like to imagine that a round of hi-fives ripple through the classroom.
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Of course, sometimes student groups forget that collaboration is key to these projects, and instead employ a “divide and conquer” philosophy, but Josh likes to stress to his students that this is one of the biggest pitfalls that groups will encounter.
“Trust, but also verify, that everyone is getting their jobs done effectively,” says Josh. As he tells his students, “The collaboration part is where you will really get your strengths. You need to have this agreement with your group that everybody is making progress and you’re seeing everybody’s progress. Where you know what your partner is doing and you know what your group members will be doing next.”
By keeping each other accountable, students are better able to work together and develop higher quality projects.
A New Perspective On Peer Review
Once students have completed their projects they present the final product to their peers, and Michael and Josh have incorporated Trello into their peer review process. As students present their projects, their peers are able to leave comments and feedback about the project on each group’s Trello card.
At a recent poster show Michael and Josh hung the student’s posters throughout the school’s hallways, then utilized the school’s iPads to allow each student to walk up and down the halls leaving peer feedback for each other on Trello while reviewing the posters.
The Tip Of The Trello Iceberg
Michael and Josh are still exploring all the ways they can incorporate Trello into their classroom and throughout Bel Air High School. Recently they used Trello for an emergency room triage lesson. Students were given 15 patients, each with case files on why they were admitted to the ER. Students had to decide who should see a doctor and who should wait.
Michael and Josh created a card for each patient and students would drag the cards to urgent or non-urgent lists. Students would then comment on the patient cards and debate their choices.
They’ve also begun using Trello with their Bel Air High School colleagues for the school improvement team, and they say this is just the tip of the iceberg.
At the end of the day, Michael and Josh like that with Trello they have to teach students only one system, but that they can use that one system for so many things.
As Michael puts it, “The biggest skills that we push through Project Lead The Way are collaboration, self motivation, and all those soft skills that people need in today’s market place jobwise. We thought Trello was a great way to introduce them to that and take it to a higher level.”
Thank you to Michael Burke and Josh Clemmer for taking the time to share with us how they are bringing a new perspective to the digital classroom.
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