Making an Impact with Problem / Project Based Learning

Making an Impact with Problem / Project Based Learning

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. – Einstein

Our learners are creating, inventing, and problem-solving with digital devices in order to change the world.

Unfortunately, too many students who transform the world often do it outside of school, on their own time, and find that their principals and teachers do not support them, because their projects aren’t part of the curriculum. Instructional methods like Genius Hour, the Maker Movement, and STEAM allow teachers to meet high learning standards while supporting innovation. Find an example of students transforming the world in this post, Kids Transforming the World Through Social Media. We have the opportunity to implement problem/project based learning and teach our students how to use web tools and social media to solve real world problems. It’s learning that shows results in a meaningful way. Below, I have included the steps of the process, bookmarks for tools and apps that support PBL, and two presentations to help you get your students transforming their world with digital devices.

Awesome Tools & Apps for Student Projects from Shelly Terrell

Overview of the PBL Process

These are 4 basic parts of a PBL lesson with digital devices. I have highlighted these steps using Valerie Burton’s lesson, Teen Advocates Fight Against the Drop-Out Rate.

  1. Problem
  2. Introduce the problem
  3. Make it a powerful story that engages them or strikes an emotional chord.
  4. Ways to introduce the problem- through a blog post, show a video, take them through a case study, analyze an infographic, or have them play an online game or simulation. Valerie introduces the problem on her blog. In addition, students play a game at to learn about the drop-out rate.
  5. At this point, give students their mission with guidelines. Valerie’s mission is, “Create a website that hosts videos, blog posts, comics, PSAs, etc. to help decrease the dropout rate at our high school.” Keep it short and simple so students understand the task. You can include the solution product or leave that open and allow them to decide how to solve the problem. Most teachers will have a solution in mind, such as develop a safety poster or create a PSA.
  6. Give students time to reflect on the problem in pairs or groups. Find a variety of brainstorming tools here,
  7. Problem Research
  8. Options- Interviews, surveys, wikipedia, web quests
  9. Various online tools-
  10. Teach digital literacy, evaluation of online resources, bookmarking, curation, and annotation
  11. Solution
  12. You can give them the solution and guidelines when you introduce the problem. Examples may include, create a digital campaign or poster, make a Public Service Announcement (PSA), create an online game, create an ebook, organize an online project, create an advertisement, make a video, develop a product, design an app, host an event, create an infographic, or create a social network! Alternatively, you can give them a list of solutions to choose from like Valerie did.
  13. Generating solutions- in pairs/groups, students brainstorm possible solutions and the steps involved in implementing the solution
  14. Implementation
  15. Presentation
  16. Students present the solution, reflect on the process of implementing the solution, and discuss it’s impact
  17. Find various online presentation tools listed here,


Try implementing problem or project based learning using one of these tips.

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics. Subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar! Scroll the image below and each day discover free web tools, apps, and

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Shelly Terrell is an education consultant, technology trainer, and author. Read more at

Shelly Terrell is an education consultant, technology trainer, and author. Read more at