A couple months ago, I was really looking forward to the Midwest Meeting of the Minds where I would get to meet other teachers in my region to see what they were up to and how they were dealing with some of their classroom struggles. I got a lot of valuable advice (even some that deviated away from the model) that helped me regain some traction on learning. I finally let myself shove some direct instruction back in and felt that I could cover some of the content requirements not yet met by the projects we had done.
Tonight, I wasn’t planning on it, but I attended my first #PBLChat, hosted by the New Tech Network. Trying hard to continue to grade essays, I was also trying to keep up with the stream of suggestions popping up about how to brainstorm or where to find the seeds that turn into good projects. There’s a blessing and a curse in this juxtaposition. On the right-hand side of my couch, I have a dismal percentage of essays actually turned in this week (after we’ve been writing them for a month). On the other, I see the excitement I should be feeling for moving on and having a blank canvas come semester two. I know that I’m finding ideas in the right places (TED, Wired… even textbooks), thanks to the ditto-ing of my contributions to the discussion. But I also am heavily marking up work that should have been improved now three times before getting to the final grading pen. Everyone who followed the scaffolding seems to have much improved, however. I’ve got some samples from students who are finally buying into the model and finding their own self-guided, peer-supported successes, however — just one at a time per project.
After tonight, I know that I want to put students more in charge of their projects. I wrote before about hearing November is always a battle. Well, that went by pretty quickly. Hopefully break doesn’t, because I need that to get some of these great, peer-tested or -brainstormed ideas into more concrete frameworks to see where they’ll fit for my own uses.