Friday, March 2, 2012

How can you use Web 2.0 to enhance your projects?


In a 21st Century classroom, you would expect to find 21st Century technology. Unfortunately, the stark reality is that unlimited access to technology in a classroom is not a given. Therefore it is necessary for teachers to become creative in their manipulation of the technology resources they do have available. Perhaps it means rotating students through one or two desktop computers, sharing a computer cart with several teachers, or scheduling weeks in advance to have access to a computer lab. In all of these situations, as well as for those teachers fortunate enough to have a 1:1 computer environment, the key is to utilize the technology for a clear and direct purpose that is in support of student learning.

The technology used in a Project Based Learning unit should not be an “add-on” to the project. Just as the significant content is at the foundation of any class, PBL is at the heart of creating an engaging classroom. Integrating Web 2.0 technology enhances collaboration and critical thinking, and promotes creativity within the project. It is important to “Turn Up the H.E.A.T” in your classroom as created by the Levels of Teaching Innovation (LoTi) Framework. Directly connecting student learning through the use of technology to the project is imperative. Additionally, integrating the ISTE NETS for students and teachers is an essential design element for technology integration into a PBL unit.
Here are some tools to support the design of your PBL unit that focus on demonstrating content mastery and critical thinking.

  • Use Wikispaces as a “warehouse” for the collaborative content that is acquired by your students as they conduct an in-depth investigation surrounding the Driving Question for the project. Wikispaces will allow students to upload documents, conduct discussion boards, and link to outside sources. The use of Wikispaces also promotes the need to create a clear and concise summary of all research completed by students.
  • Unfortunately, Wikispaces only allows for one user to edit a page at a time. Thus, the use of Google Docs creates a collaborative space for students to create and edit content simultaneously. Students may engage in continual reflection and revision during this phase of the collection of research. Once the information is edited to its final format, it is ready for uploading into Wikispaces.
  • For a possible final product for sharing via the Web, students may choose to create a website. The easiest and most professional Web 2.0 tool for website creation that I have found is Wix. The drag and drop method doesn’t require knowledge of programming nor does it require extensive time to learn this tool. A finished Wix website is an impressive visual presentation to an expert panel or a remarkable teaching tool for a global audience of learners.

Web 2.0 tools aid in the assessment of student learning during the course of a PBL unit. Whether formative or summative assessment is your target, there are many tools to meet your needs.

  • While Wordle isn’t a new tool to many, perhaps you haven’t thought of using it for assessment purposes. Copying and pasting the text is easy for a visual product that immediately allows teachers to assess student writing. As a quick visual tool, now it is easier than ever to determine what ideas have been mentioned the most frequently in a student’s writing. This is useful for teacher, peer, and self-assessments. It is also a visual way in which students can assess primary source documents as a part of their research analysis of the significant content.
  • I use Edmodo as a Learning Management System in my classroom. In fact, you can see how here. I am also able to use Edmodo for some of my more traditional assessments throughout the duration of the PBL unit. The quiz feature of Edmodo is easy to master. Once you create a multiple choice, true/false, or short answer quiz, you can use it in the future for other classes. Simply create the questions and answer key and Edmodo will do the rest. Students immediately receive their graded quizzes and Edmodo creates a graph of the correct responses for each question. This data is useful in determining what significant content you may need to reinforce or re-teach to the entire class or to a select few students.
  • “Talking to the Text” is a useful reading strategy to improve comprehension. Diigo brings this strategy into the 21st Century and allows for more collaborative reading and sharing of ideas. Students bookmark and share online articles and documents to the class group. Text is highlighted and comments on the text are embedded. These shared comments provide the opportunity for interactive reading between peers, as responses to the original comments can be required.

The process of managing a PBL classroom is a daunting task to master for many teachers. While there are numerous effective strategies for classroom management that don’t require the use of technology, Web 2.0 tools certainly aid in the management process. Whether you are seeking to manage individual students, collaborative groups, or the project itself, there is a tool for you!

  • I want my students to retain most of the responsibility for managing their own projects. Facilitating and monitoring are my job. Scrumy is just the tool to allow this. Students create a list of “stories” or jobs that must be completed within the project. The necessary tasks for the completion of the stories are then broken down and assigned to individual students within a group. These tasks are moveable within the Scrumy document and are color-coded for each student. Thus, the teacher has a visual representation of where each group and each student are in the process of completing the project. Tasks can be moved from to do into in progress, through verify, and ultimately into the done column.
  • If you have ever tried to manage several group conversations by merely walking around the classroom to monitor the discussions, you’ve probably felt a level of ineffectiveness. Primary Pad creates an online environment that allows you to manage multiple group discussions from your computer. Open each pad in a new tab and toggle between them to track the color-coded discussions. Jump into the conversation as needed to prompt a student or to redirect the entire discussion. Check the level of participation by students, simply by monitoring their assigned color. Primary Pad allows you to manage and assess at the same time!
  • Glogster can certainly be used for students to showcase their level of understanding of significant content. However, it can also be used for project management. The creation of a Glog that contains all of the information needed for students to complete the project is helpful for student and teacher organization. Create a calendar of project milestones, upload your project overview, and remind students of the focus of the project. A Glog can also be shared with parents!

If you would like additional tips, tricks, and many more tools for integrating Web 2.0 technology into your PBL units, please watch our archived webinar on PBL and Web 2.0. We would also like to extend an invitation for you to join us in Napa, CA this June at our inaugural PBL World. We will be offering our signature PBL 101 workshop, in addition to a variety of PBL 201 workshops at this weeklong event. An in-depth look at PBL and Web 2.0 is one of the many topics that will be offered in the PBL 201 format.

BIE National Faculty


  1. As always BIE has great resources for us. This post is a very useful list of resources for both the beginning and seasoned PBL teacher. Thanks.

  2. It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks for sharing this with others.

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