Welcome to our blog

This is the story of two educators on one journey. Each day we will record our reflections on the process of being involved in an innovative educational environment. The decision on our part to leave the public education system was deliberate due to our growing frustrations over the factory "one size fits all" model of education. This model has dominated the educational landscape and is not designed to meet the needs of the 21st century learner. Step one in our journey was to find a place that would allow us the freedom to break out of the system. We needed a chance to just breath and facilitate learning in the ways that we both know are best for children. That step has led us to Rosemary Beach Florida to work with the students attending the OH Institute. The OH Institute is a unique educational environment that we find humane. The curriculum focus is on the individual learner with an infusion of technology project based learning. Currently, it has 20 students in grades 4-11 all of whom are seeking something different than what the factory system of education has to offer. This is where our adventure begins...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Monday January 17th

Today was neat because it was nice to enter a slower pace for a bit and work more closely with high school. I am able to better see their perspective on the guided more traditional pbl.

We did some more navigation with elementary and it is neat to see them actually get better from last time. These lessons are especially interesting to me because of the incredibly strong tie between math and geography. I'm going to keep this a theme that they receive every so often. I would like to look more into repeating themes like this with math so they get repeating practice with inquiry so they can continually grow with their skills.

Today the structured pbl work moved forward nicely but I cannot help but watch the students stop thinking because structure squelches thinking. Structure is almost the enemy of PBL work if it is meant to be student centric. Students need to understand the process and be able to navigate their way through it. However, adding this step by step, check in before moving on is teaching students again that the facilitator/ teacher is the one that controls the learning. Sometimes we think we are just nuts to keep fighting the system because it is so ingrained. But I cannot help but wonder where is the passion or spark for learning that students have when they get to decide what to learn and explore?

The more structured the PBL process the more work it is to get the students to do high quality work. The trick of structure is that to the outside "eye in the sky" it looks good and makes sense. I mean who wouldn't want to see student check ins and structured points along the way that guarantee that the students are covering things? However, once the structure becomes the thing that is driving the process then it becomes a teacher centric project not a students centric process. Students need to understand the basic steps and process of PBL but they should not be pushed into a lock step process if true excitement and learning is to occur. The more structured the PBL is the more teacher directed it becomes and the closer it comes to the traditional lecture type classroom. It teaches students that they are not to be trusted to make judgements within their own learning. Students are taught to wait for the teacher/facilitator to tell the what to do. There is not meaning construction anymore but rather construction of an assignment that the teacher tells them to do.

I will push on because the light at the end of this structure PBL tunnel is that students will have been exposed to the process again and they will be able to choose their remaining projects for the year.

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