Mrs. Daubert ELA

Instructional Media Weblog

Category: EDIM-502


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


In studying the three PBL exemplars, “More Fun Than a Barrel of…Worms?,” “March of the Monarchs: Students Follow the Butterflies’ Migration,” both by Diane Curtis and “Geometry Students Angle into Architecture Through Project Learning,” by Sara Armstrong all accessed from Edutopia, there are many commonalities. All three exemplars begin by discussing student inquiry and collaboration. Additionally, each piece touches on the importance of feedback from individuals outside of the school and the necessity of communication with outside experts as part of each project. While they do differ slightly in some of the finer nuances of their PBL experiences they generally agree that field trips and field experience must also be included in a successful project.


In all three cases, the majority of the work is student driven and based on collaboration. The teacher steps back into the role of guide or facilitator as the students move the learning forward. This creates more opportunities for student choice than “traditional” learning experiences and, therefore increases student engagement many times over. When students feel they have not only a say in the process but also a stake in the final outcome, they become engaged in learning is ways studying from a textbook simply cannot allow. Because these learning experiences are rooted in doing rather than passive listening the acquisition of skills and synthesis of content-based knowledge in unrivaled. Through these projects, students have learned by doing and there is absolutely no substitution for the deep learning that takes place.


Technology is used in all projects across the exemplars for research purposes. In Diane Curtis’ piece on the monarch butterfly inquiry technology is used heavily as a means of collaboration both with peers and experts across the globe. In Curtis’ other article regarding the projects at Newsome Park Elementary, students rely heavily on their available technology for research and also in the production of their end presentations. In Armstrong’s piece, students involved in the intensive architecture project use their technology for planning and implementing their designs.


Nearly all of the projects present come close to the Gold Standard for Project Based Learning, but none meet it perfectly. The Newsome park projects lack some of the public/community feedback necessary. They do invite parents to view projects and presentations but this doesn’t quite fit the bill of a true public source of feedback. The monarch butterfly project involves the least amount of student choice. The is some student choice involved, but not nearly enough to meet the Gold Standard. The architecture project is somewhat lacking in the aspect of authenticity. Yes, there are real world architects involved in the process, but the students are planning for a school that will never and can never be built.



“More Fun Than a Barrel of . . . Worms?!” – Diane Curtis, Edutopia

“Geometry Students Angle into Architecture Through Project Learning” – Sara Armstrong, Edutopia

“March of the Monarchs: Students Follow the Butterflies’ Migration”
– Diane Curtis, Edutopia


“Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements” – John Larmer and John R. Mergendoller

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