The Blended Digital Project-Based Learning Model: Playing the Game

20060623-3_p062306pm-0169-515hIn an  keynote speech at TIE 2013, Sylvia Martinez illustrated project-based learning by comparing how sports are learned. From early days of t-ball and little league, the game is still played with the same root structure as the grown-up game of baseball. Parents have come together to develop an experience that is similar in structure as the major league game is played today. This modified experience is indeed a project-based example of how we could structure our lessons. Students need to feel the big picture in order to deepen their understanding of concepts we teach them and help them to understand. Through project-based learning, students learn from investigative experiences in the class or lesson and apply them to the world outside of their classroom. Many creative thinking skills are used by allowing students to find ways to solve a problem

Traditionally math, science, english and social studies are taught in isolation. With project-based learning, the hope is to engage students with real life scenarios where all subjects are taught in a seamless concert of diverse learning. Combining these skills while maintaining a vision, goal, product will enhance and deepen understanding.

Now blend it up in a digital world and what do you have? The blended model allows students to tinker with concepts online through creative tools. They develop a larger picture and find purpose in their learning. They can make mistakes and “undo” them. It is an intuitive approach that enables learning to be fluid in a larger class size.

While teaching the project-based model with the blended model, applications and web tools, personal learning and content creation all need to flow together.  I’m looking for that perfect blended model which will help my students explore at their various levels of learning. For years I have looked to aggregate content for my students in my computer lab. My content involves teaching of computer applications and online applications. I’ve been using this blended learning approach for many years. I’ve found that my curation of content has become dated. For example, as MS Office changed versions, my video tutorials began to show their ages. I found myself trying to recreate videos every year. I need a platform which contains video tutorials which modify with the changing technology. I look to universities, Youtube and more, but rarely anything that is uniformly presented.

I’ve sampled many pay-wall online sites including AtomicLearning and Lynda.com.  I may consider these, however they are costly and I would like to find low cost/free alternatives. Today I visited two more vendors which are blended learning content providers. They are all offering curriculum and content for online/blended learning. A lot of product design has gone into these. Fresh content is updated each year. It is a text book in a digital from. I’m interested in a platform that comes with curriculum. It has to guide the learning in how to do various steps in an application but be project-based as well. Currently I built my units around a business simulation. While the project is engaging and promotes problem solving, the tutorials continuously need updating and replacement in my digital online learning management system (LMS). I’d like to find something that includes project-based instruction.

It will be interesting to see how these content companies compare as I research them further. I’m looking for ideas and suggestions from other educators who teach applications. Please comment with ideas.

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