In his article “Essential Connections of STEM, PBL, and Tech Integration…What Would Dewey Think?” author Michael Gorman leads with the famous John Dewey quote, “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.” These words are the essence of Project Based Learning. Through PBL, students explore, manipulate, think, challenge, and do. The result? They learn. It is a natural process that facilitates not only student achievement in the classroom, but fosters the skills necessary for students to become competitive in the global workforce. We are no longer a society of Industrial Revolution factory workers. Sitting in neat rows and being good little vessels for content delivery no longer suits our students.

This is where PBL, technology integration and the SAMR model come together (More about SAMR). The first two levels of SAMR, substitution and augmentation, are the lowest levels of technology integration–using a Google Doc instead of a notes sheet, an etext instead of a text book, a self-guided Nearpod presentation instead of a teacher lecture with a PowerPoint, etc. PBL skyrockets students to the end of SAMR: redefinition. Through projects with high levels of technology integration, students redefine their learning. They aren’t theorizing about how they can help other students in the developing world; they are Skyping with a class in the Dominican Republic, asking what the students there need to help them learn better, and then formulating a plan to help them. This is not something that would be part of their learning experience without the available technology. The teacher isn’t over-extending herself trying to figure out the logistics and cost of busing to get her students to an elementary school for a mentoring experience; the class can do this without leaving the room freeing the teacher up to focus more on content.

Without the constraints of the four walls of the classroom holding them back, PBL can take on a life with a class that wouldn’t be possible. Technology helps students in the midst of a project to go beyond that trifold brochure or that posterboard and create a professional looking Prezi students are excited and proud to present to a global audience. When used at the end of the SAMR technology integrated PBL deepens student learning and provides for rich experiences that simply couldn’t happen without the technology to support them.


“Essential Connections of STEM, PBL, and Tech Integration…What Would Dewey Think?” – Michael Gorman

“Introduction to the SAMR Model” – Common Sense Media