About me

Welcome to my new blog, for use with my learning at Boise State University.  I look forward to keeping you up to date, and showing ideas I am using in my school.

The above video I recorded for my introduction, I posted to Google + for the EdTech 501 course, but also for my current job hunt.

I recorded it using my webcam on my mac, a blue snowball microphone, and using a teleprompter web app, and a little re-touching in iMovie.  I was able to find some royalty free music from bensound.com, to add a little magic.

Here is a little more about me, and where I come from.


My PBL project is designed to get students moving in a task of creating and evaluating the news.  Below is my self assessment, and the link to the original rubric.

Here is how I scored my Rubric

Overall Project Idea

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 11.15.43 AM

When I look at my overall project idea, I believe that my concept of creating a student news program helps students to ‘gather and interpret data’, ask further questions.  If they are looking to report the news, they need to look at the events around them, and generate the news production.

Student Voice & Choice, Independence

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 11.19.38 AM.png

I have looked to create opportunities for students to discover their news, and report what they feel is important.  Students will be expected to create videos in groups, and find their news item.  Some decisions will be group decisions, and others more individual.  Students will also have to take responsibility to take care of various equipment.

Driving Question

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 11.23.34 AM.png

My Driving Question: “What makes the news… important?” attempts to create an overview of the problem of creating a news program.  There are several sub questions, that might help lead to more specific contexts, but are all interrelated to the main topic.

  • How do we report on real news that is important to our school community?
  • What skills do you need to get your ideas across in video?
  • Where does news happen that is important to students?
  • What is the difference between real and fake news?
  • How do we show multiple points of view?
  • Why is freedom of the press protected?
  • What is the role of journalism in our school community?
  • What makes a good photograph? …Video? … Audio Recording?
  • How do students become leaders in the school community?
  • How do we work as a team to create?

Content Outcomes

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 11.29.31 AM.png

My goal with the content standards was to look for standards across curriculum areas, showing as well as looking for 21st century skills that will help them adapt for the future.  I feel that the standards are essential for learning what the news is all about, as well as some standards as to creating quality in their products.

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 11.40.56 AM.png

Students will work in groups to build multiple video products.  They will need to collaborate, to make sure that the final class products have enough content.  Students will need to think critically, to learn to create better products.  Technology drives the product to show understanding, and creativity.

Entry Event

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 11.45.29 AM.png

My entry event was a club to show students some of the skills necessary to get moving.  But it did not start the enquiry.    As I will be looking to create the PBL as a course for next year, I thought it would be good to create a club this year to help generate interest. This is an area where I will be looking to improve.  This may be about generating a name for the program, and looking towards analysis of other student news programs.


Assessments are listed on my site here.

Formative Assessment

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 11.51.56 AM.png

I will look to have students create a blog to post individual work.  As some group tasks may not always fit during class time, such as filming a school event, other tasks will also be necessary to plan, produce, and show other understandings.

Small group work will also be evaluated in class, so students can look to improve their group work.

Summative Tasks

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 11.54.58 AM.png

There are rubrics, and content is explained well.  As the program runs in cycles, the opportunity for multiple summative tasks is in the nature of the course.

Overall I feel that I have learned many things during the 542 course.  It has helped me to generate my thoughts about how to approach the new course for my school for next year.  I may not have a perfect PBL unit, but I feel that I can adapt the ideas here to generate improvement as I attempt to get started with this unit with students.


Project Design Rubric

Project Design Rubric (Google Doc template)

Managing the process of PBL in the classroom.

When creating a PBL unit, we need to consider the process and look forward to how some may perceive the unit outside of the class.  It may just look fun, and some may perceive that learning is not happening.  Having some answers to common problems is important.

What are some potential criticisms that you might receive from administrators, parents, and colleagues?

Assessment in group projects: How do you keep everyone working, and doing their part? As each part of the process is a cog in the machine, each role a student takes on is important. As roles will rotate throughout the process, students will need to train each other to move forward. Students not working on an active role, may be creating other important resources that may be assessed. Class reflection is more important than the final.

How do you keep student’s privacy balanced with the final products? As the final product is in it’s nature a public performance, this is something that needs to be handled properly. When necessary, students with a known privacy issue, some of the on camera roles for that student may be diminished, and replaced with more active behind the scenes roles. Parent permission forms would be sent to ensure that proper permission has been obtained. Student journals can be set up so that only members of the class can see the results.

How do you manage the process, when students might be working with less supervision on location?

Students will need to obtain permission for locations ahead of filming on a location. Common areas of the school may be fine, but students will need to fill in a Travel log for moving and returning to class. Time would be limited, so students need to accomplish their task, and get back to class. Some additional resources may be needed, such as more adult volunteers or school assistants, when student behavior issues are a problem.

What rationale can you give for incorporating PBL into your repertoire of effective instructional strategies?

The benefit of PBL is the ability to engage in subjects/topics across the school. It provides more opportunities to learn about other parts of the project over an extended time. Thus, the learner may have deeper learning, and can connect the learning to make real world connections. They can apply their learning to make products they are interested in. They are working with other teachers, students, community members, experts, and each other to experience real world situations to create their products.


Learning Guide


Products and Performances




Designing an Integrated Curriculum

An overarching PBL unit across a school is a neat concept. Teachers working their content areas to show interconnection on an Authentic task.  It works to build upon skills that need to be taught, but gives students an opportunity to apply learning in a new context.

This is not for the faint of heart.  Not for the teacher that would rather teach from worksheets behind closed doors. Not for the teacher who would rather work in isolation.

But, if you want your students to apply their learning in a real world context, this is where you need to push your administrators for time to plan together, and build something more interesting.

Watch below.

PBL Assessment

In this part of the PBL 542 course, I was working on Assessment.  I had looked at the course I was adapting, and many concepts fit.  I love my students to blog.  I want them to develop their ideas, and these could be as simple as creating a video or written blog.

The big idea here is:  What makes an assessment authentic?

Authentic Assessment involves:

  • Real world work or opportunities.  Would this be done in the workforce?
  • Relevant or meaningful for the student.  Something that they can engage in…
  • Synthesis of ideas and critical thinking.

Start with the end goal in mind.  How will I know if learning has occurred?  And plan backwards from those concepts.

Edutopia Link on Authentic Assessment.

My assessment plan is written here.  My plan is to look for student engagement in creating the news, I want them to understand what makes the news.  Why should their audience care?  How can we grow our skills to make better quality broadcasts?

Some resources that the 542 course suggested for this task are below.

Driving Questions

In this part of the 542 course, we looked to develop driving questions.  A driving question is the overarching concept, to have the students explore throughout the unit.  It is the focus of the inquiry.

Some resources are below.

For my School News PBL Unit, I needed to develop my driving questions.

Driving question:

What makes the news… important?

My PBL unit is about School news.  But helping students to build an understanding of the concept may take other ideas of development along the way.  Why is news important? These sub questions may help deliver more ideas on the bigger concept.

Some other questions that may help to drive this question forward in discussions:

How do we report on real news that is important to our school community?

What skills do you need to get your ideas across in video?

Where does news happen that is important to students?

What is the difference between real and fake news?

How do we show multiple points of view?

Why is freedom of the press protected?

What is the role of journalism in our school community?

What makes a good photograph? …Video? … Audio Recording?

How do students become leaders in the school community?

How do we work as a team to create?

PBL research and topic choice.

Project Based Learning is a process where teachers are not meant to work as the expert. They are there to facilitate students through a process of learning.  Through the 542 course, I have been developing a PBL unit for my classroom next year.  I have also had the opportunity to test some of the parts of the unit, in a club.

We were asked to review several PBL units that were published online, and to view several webpages, including:

Identify some common features among projects that you examined.

PBL projects were student centered, with a teacher working in more of a mentor role.

Projects had a published product as a component, such as a blog, video, presentation.

Support within the community / school.

Curriculum connections across multiple areas within the school.


Share one PBL project that you were able to locate during your search. 

Where News Happens is a PBL unit that speaks to me, within my context of my school.  As current events have shown, many people do not have great skills at understanding the difference between real news, with proper sources, and fake news.  There have been attacks on the media by the government.

‘Where News Happens’ is a Middle School English PBL unit, which looks to have students look at news articles that interest them from their community or a region that they are interested in.  They look at the differences of opinion that are expressed, and form their own opinions on their own blogs.

Explain why you like this project, and how you might be able to adapt it for your own use.

I like this project, in that it looks to push students to form opinions.  I look to adapt this in another way.  My principal is interested in having our school to have a short, school and local news video program, created by students across grade levels.  I have been asked to create a course for students for next year on this topic.  I look at this ‘Where News Happens’ PBL unit, and see ways that it could be adapted to suit this need.

With the president’s attacks on mainstream media, it would be valuable for students to have a better understanding of what it takes to report facts and opinions.  Not getting political here, just showing that an appreciation can be formed by students for the work that the media should do, and the difference between fake and real news.

I came across this website, that helps to talk through some concerns, including technical, with creating school announcements.  It looks like a good resource, especially for someone who has little experience in working in video.

There are lots of items to consider, but the problems I am coming across at this time is with our school schedule.  It is very difficult to start a multiple grade level subject, and find a time where students can all meet.  As the school is currently trying to get a ‘soft’ opening of the project, we are starting with an after school club.

Questions to consider when thinking about your project idea:

  • What do you want to accomplish through your PBL unit?

For me, I was looking to fill a school need.  My school community needs another venue for showing what it does well, to remind students that people can succeed in different ways.

  • What do your students need to learn?

My students need to learn to collaborate.  How to lead. How to ask questions, and finally, how to develop an idea of quality.

  • What will your students know and what will they be able to do?

There are many qualities that I would look to generate as we move forward, but the goals here will always be about helping students understand what makes the news important.  There will always be different technologies to learn, and skills to grow, but understanding why people care about topics, and build empathy for the people involved is vital.

Some questions you may want to ask yourself as you begin planning:

  • What do your students know at the present and what is important for them to learn next?
  • What skills would benefit them most at the moment?
  • Are they ready to take on a project?
  • Can they manage themselves?
  • Has your class developed a sense of shared values & standards that will provide them the foundation for a good project?
  • Are you and your students operating as a leaning community?



Photo Credit:  fishbrain.randy@sbcglobal.net

I was meeting with a team of teachers brainstorming what their school would look like in 2020.  This team has been developing concepts for a Design Learning Center, where students can follow a Design Thinking model to show 21st Century skills, and the 4C’s: critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.

This discussion reminded me of reading John Larmer‘s blog post, Project-Based Learning vs. Problem-Based Learning vs. X-BL

The room of teachers were broken down into 3 groups:  Specialist teachers, Upper Elementary teachers, and Lower Elementary teachers.

When I was talking with the teachers, there seemed to be two schools of thought:  PBL and PBL.  They both thought PBL, but didn’t really understand that they were talking about similar, but not the same idea.  These ideas are Project Based Learning and Problem Based Learning.

The Specialist teachers seemed to show more of a collaborative approach, with the Project Based Learning model.  Their ideas were to collaborate, and develop whole school projects.  They were discussing ideas about how the school could create a community garden or creating a school play, bringing working collaboratively across the school and local community.  Building in concepts that each area of study can contribute.

Where the Upper Elementary Teachers approached the topics more with a subject based lens, and their ideas followed more of the Problem Based Learning model.  These teachers were looking how to bridge the curriculum through thematic units, that tackled problems that could be taught across the grade level.

The 3rd Group, the Lower Elementary teachers tended to lean toward a more blended approach.  They were also very concerned that adequate time needs to be spent on the basics, so the learners have the skills to communicate their ideas.

The Lower Elementary teachers are normally not concerned with Multidisciplinary studies, because that is what they do best.  Shifting from one type of learning to another happens all the time in Lower Elementary classrooms.

This group was concerned with how to scaffold the problems for their learners, so they can communicate their ideas effectively.

At the end of the task, all the teachers were concerned with how to best engage their learners with their curriculum.  Understanding how PBL (whichever version you like) can add variety and show new ways for students to showcase their new learning.