Project-Based Learning: A Student Comment

Out of the blue last night I received a new comment on a two year old post… and it’s one of my favorite comments in over three years of blogging. In response to a brief post about the U.S. Falling Behind in the Global ‘Brain Race’, an anonymous high-school student left this comment:

I am a high-school student, and I believe we need more project-based learning in our schools. Of all the classes I have taken, I have learned best in those that are interactive. Anybody can read from a textbook, memorize the information, take a test, and forget what they read in a week. American schools are focusing on just that. Students take tests on words, words they found in a book for the sole purpose of testing. They don’t need to learn what the words mean, because they only need that information until the test. Also, I think we need to rethink our testing strategies. Vocab tests are insane. We get fifteen words on Monday and test on Friday. We forget the words over the weekend and get fifteen new words on the next Monday. History is a little harder. Students are required to remember dates and names. I personally only remember what happens, not who made it happen or where. I consider myself a good learner, but I have a good short-term memory, so I have been successful so far. However, if I was asked what happened in World War I, I would be able to tell you it was called the Great War, involved most of Europe, and started in 1914 (I think…). This coming from an A student. In addition, many of my peers are happy with C’s and don’t try to accel in school, so I think the United States of America needs to find a motivational tool to help American students reach their potential and continue to better our economy. -I apologize for the lack of structure in this comment. (My thoughts aren’t always organized.)

Coincidentally, I just recently was involved in leading some Project Based Learning workshops, including a rather bizarre one. And, just this week I received a marketing email from ISTE about the new (Will Richardson endorsed) book, Reinventing Project-Based Learning. I’m glad to be involved with (formal) PBL again, and it’s good to see it’s alive and kicking in our professional circles as well. More importantly, this comment reminds me that it does make a difference and it is well worth the effort. I hope other teachers and educational technologists might find this comment inspiring as well.

Of course, on the other hand, I’ve actually had A students tell me, “you can’t do this to us, Mr. Wagner” when I was using project-based learning. They were not so much concerned about having to learn a new system when they’d adapted well to the old one; they were more concerned that it was not the system their colleges and universities would use. In essence they felt they had to get through the traditional higher education system before learning in a better way!

From another perspective altogther, as much as educational technologists (and edubloggers in particular) have taken issue with the how of our current educational system, I’m finding increasing fault with the what as well. I find myself thinking more about the lack of Financial Literacy in our schools (I’ve only just begun thinking about the intersection of edubloggers and financial literacy) – and about the lack of environmental literacy (or Green Living) in our schools. The last thing we need to do is raise another generation of overconsumers… but more on that in my next post.

Edubloggers and Financial Literacy

Out of the Box Thinking About Education and Teaching (Via Will’s post about the Personal MBA, and his related reflections, were thought provoking for me, especially in light of some of what I’ve been reading over the “break.” Here’s my comment – perhaps some of you have been thinking along the same lines:

Will, I appreciate this post for a few reasons. First, I’ve been investing some time in my own financial education lately… so stumbling upon the personal MBA here is timely for me and I’ll probably be chipping away at the reading list this year. Second, of course, I’m excited about network learning and am interested in any efforts to find a formal system for implementing it on a large scale – and perhaps more importantly, monetizing it on some scale. I’m also excited to hear you “seriously considering” opening a school. It seems like a step many edubloggers have flirted with and I like to imagine what would happen if many came together and made it a reality. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’m not sure the consulting model is a sustainable (or particularly effective) one for many of us now engaged in it. I’m looking for a new system in which we might work… to make a living, and to make a difference… without burning out. And I think some new web 2.0 technologies might help make this possible.

Clearly there’s more to come on this subject, and though I’ve fairly well filled up the break at this point, I hope to post something more before everyone starts back in school on Monday. In the meantime, let me know if these thoughts hit home for any of you as well. I suspect the answer will be in the power of the network.