A World of PBL: 25 Authentic Resources To Connect Students Beyond The Classroom

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” ― John Dewey

Learning must be authentic and meaningful in order for the content to really be understood and usable. While there are several education models that promote this idea, it is a necessity in a well-planned Project Based Learning (PBL) Unit. While memorizing and reciting facts may actually give some positive results on a test, it demonstrates only the lowest levels of learning as represented at the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy. PBL provides students that authentic learning experience that allows for real world applications, immediate purpose, student relevancy, and an audience beyond their classroom walls. The idea of authenticity is amplified when connections are provided!

Why are these connections important? Knowledge does not thrive in isolation. In fact, content knowledge is only useful to students when applied to concepts found outside the classroom. For students, PBL allows for connections that provide important links from their knowledge acquisition to their real world experiences.  Sometimes these connections allow student to use areas of past knowledge to understand and construct new knowledge… many times the role of a PBL Launch or Entry Event. Equally important are connections to future career and college possibilities.  Let’s not forget how valuable connecting with experts and institutions can be. Of course, collaborating with other students on a meaningful topic across the district, town, state, country, and world can have a great impact on learning.

While teachers have always found a way to make connections for students, the internet provides a wonderful and exciting opportunity. There are numerous organizations and sites that can help make this happen for you and your students.  I wish to share with you some that I have discovered. Please enjoy your journey through these. I am certain you will get excited as you explore new ideas and possibilities. At the same time, we must remember to connect to the content standards while facilitating and assessing 21st century skills. Last, always be sure to check your district AUP and administration before putting students online in this way. You may need to get parent permission.  I also see a need to provide students appropriate lessons on proper digital citizenship. Whether it is a short lesson, or a PBL unit connecting beyond the classroom walls, connecting with the real world will provide an authenticity that makes learning come alive!

  • Roots and Shoots – Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots is the Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) global youth-led community action program, comprised of thousands of young people as they connect knowledge and service with the real world.
  • ePals – Another wonderful site allowing students to collaborate across the globe. Check out the amazing possibilities. It provides ways for teachers to connect with other teachers and decide on projects their students can do together.
  • Pen Pals School – Are you interested in implementing more project based learning in your class this year? Check out Pen Pals School. Whether your students design robots with PenPals in Asia, write poetry with PenPals in Europe, or create environmental solutions with PenPals in Africa. Keep in mind there may be a cost to this service.
  • Taking it Global – Visit one of the world’s leading networks of young people learning about, engaging with, and working towards authentic solutions to world challenges. TakingITGlobal is one of the world’s leading networks of young people as they collaborate and learn with each other.
  • The Globe Program – Take a look at this organization that inspires to promote the teaching and learning of science, enhance environmental literacy and stewardship, and promote scientific discovery.
  • iEarn – Join interactive curriculum-based groups where students are creating, researching, sharing opinions and becoming global citizen. This is a wonderful program with years of experience behind it. There may be a small cost.
  • Edutopia Resources for Building Community Partnerships – Learn how schools can benefit from the support and expertise of local businesses, organizations, and individuals, and discover strategies for fostering successful business and community partnerships
  • Empatico – Empatico empowers teachers and students to explore the world through experiences that spark curiosity, kindness, and empathy. We combine live video with activities designed to foster meaningful connections among students ages 7-11.
  • Global School Net – Explore a site that combines education and technology to strengthen communities and benefit humanity. You will discover support brain-friendly learning and improve academic performance through content-driven collaboration.
  • Skype in the Classroom – You will enjoy this free community that offers live transformative educational experiences for students including Virtual Field Trips, talks from Guest Speakers, classroom to classroom connections, and live collaboration projects.
  • Dream Makers – This is an organization that focuses on providing consistent exposure to career opportunities and dynamic professionals.
  • Virtual Field Trip Data Base – This is a spreadsheet that I discovered filled with over 300 virtual field trip possibilities from multiple sites. Discover something that connects to your curriculum.
  • Global Learners Project – The Project includes several topics and activity suggestions to create engaging and interactive class to class connections. Each topic includes at least one activity that requires little to no prep, while other activities take students deeper into learning. Use this for ideas, you will still have to find a school to connect with.
  • Worldvuze – Take some time to explore this map-based question and answer education platform where elementary and secondary students around the world can learn directly from each other!
  • The Global Read Aloud – The project was created in 2010 and had a simple goal in mind; one book to connect the world. From its humble beginnings, the GRA has grown to make a truly global connection with more than 4,000,000 students having participated. This is a project that usually starts in October.
  • Projects By Jen – This a wonderful site that has been successfully encouraging teachers since 1999 to use online projects in their PreK-6 classrooms.
  • Flat Connections – Flat connected learning is where all learners have freedom to communicate across borders rather than up or down – with no hierarchy. There may be a small cost for portions.
  • Teachers’ Guide To Global Projects – This organization id made possible through the support of the Longview Foundation, iEARN-USA has compiled an online Teachers’ Guide to Global, Collaborative Teaching and Learning.
  • Online Collaboration Curricula – Explore this awesome collection of ideas that students can collaborate on using the internet. You may need to find that partner classroom.
  • Art In All Of Us – The objective of the AiA Pen Pal Program is to promote creative and artistic communication among children worldwide. They have setup a network of schools around the world, through which schools are paired and exchange informative artworks on their own country and culture.
  • Journey North – Now in its 25th year, Journey North is one of North America’s premiere citizen science projects for children and the general public. The project has broad participation, with over 60,000 registered sites in the US, Canada, and Mexico — including families, teachers, schools, nature centers, professional scientists and novices.
  • The Global Math Challenge – Global Math Challenge (GMC) is a worldwide math competition held online and hosted by Sony Global Education, Inc. Great brainteasers in this contest will excite & fascinate math lovers both young and old. Enjoy competing with math fans all over the world.
  • QUADBlogging – QuadBlogging was born in 2011 and since its conception, over 500,000 students from over 65 countries have taken part. The concept is simple, once signed up, you will be allocated a Quad containing 4 classes including yours. Each Quad will have a Quad Co-ordinator attached to it. Once contact is made between the four teachers
  • Kids Go Global – Green Fairs, theatre about global issues, water audits, wetland protection and lots more. Share your projects with others. See what the rest of the world is doing. There may be some cost to some projects.
  • Biblionasium – Explore this site that is the fun, reading-focused social network for kids in elementary and middle school. The site emphasis is to connect kids in an encouraging community of friends, family and their educators, Biblionasium excites, engages and encourages a love of the written word. Kids can log their reading, play games, complete reading challenges and earn rewards. Requires parents to sign children up.

Booking Info – Are you looking for a practical and affordable professional development workshop for your school or conference? I have traveled the country delivering PD relating to technology integration, PBL, STEM, Digital Literacy, and the 4 C’s. I have done 100’s of workshops and presentations. Check out my Booking Page… Dates are going fast, with time up to and including December just about filled, and I am taking 2019 dates.

cross-posted at 21centuryedtech.wordpress.com

Michael Gorman oversees one-to-one laptop programs and digital professional development for Southwest Allen County Schools near Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is a consultant for Discovery Education, ISTE, My Big Campus, and November Learning and is on the National Faculty for The Buck Institute for Education. His awards include district Teacher of the Year, Indiana STEM Educator of the Year and Microsoft’s 365 Global Education Hero. Read more at 21centuryedtech.wordpress.com.