June 16, 2014 • Archbishop Wood High School


9:00 Introductions
9:15 What’s important to learn nowadays?
10:00 Defining project-based learning
10:10 Example projects
10:35 Questions
11:15 Investigation
11:45 Lunch
12:30 Continue Investigation
1:00 Ways to Share
2:00 Reflection & Wrap-Up
2:30 Start Enjoying Summer Break

What’s important for students to learn nowadays?

Using Pic Collage (iPad & Android), Google Drive Drawing (Laptop & Chromebook), or another app of your choosing, answer this question by creating a poster. The poster will explain to students what your group thinks is essential for them to learn.

Saved posters can be found on the Padlet at padlet.com/tonyv/arch. Want to learn more about Padlet? Watch Tony’s video.

Here are the Padlet settings Tony recommends:

  • Log into Padlet.com and create a new wall.
  • Click the Modify Wall button.
  • Under profile, give your wall a title and description.
  • Under Layout, change from Freeform to Stream.
  • Under Privacy, checkmark Moderate posts.
  • Under Address, give your wall an easy to type web address.

Defining Project-Based Learning

Students work in small groups (or individually) to answer a driving question. The question is so deep that it requires much thinking and investigation. Students make a product to share their answer with an audience after refining and reflecting.

Project-based learning is a form of authentic learning, which includes inquiry, problem-based learning, and challenge-based learning.

Project Based Learning Explained by Common Craft - Video and Transcript

Differences between PBL and “doing projects.” - Amy Mayer

You might think of project-based learning as the how to learn and the Common Core State Standards as the what.

The best projects empower students to make a difference by:

  • educating others
  • solving a problem
  • calling others to action
  • building something useful
  • planning an event
  • raising money for a purpose
  • recognizing or inspiring others
  • designing a better way to do something

Example Projects

The internet is full of students projects! These can be great inspiration for you and serve as examples ripe for critique by students.

Here’s a PDF with the set of example projects, teacher blogs, and videos about project-based learning at each grade level.

Projects have a driving question. The question is deep, interesting, and relevant. Here are some examples:

  • How can we best stop the flu at our school?
  • How can we teach other Arizona students about helpful insects?
  • Make the case for using the metric system in Arizona.
  • Imagine you are taking a young child on a road trip across the United States. What should he or she explore and learn along the way?
  • Design a better lunch menu for our school.
  • What if we had a chicken house at our school?

Driving questions shouldn’t sound like test questions. They should be as short as possible and appealing to students. One of the best ways to make         questions relevant to students is to make it personalized or localized. Embedding an audience into the question can help focus the project.

A driving question leads to many more questions. These branching questions can serve as what students will investigate. For example, the driving question “What if we had a chicken house at our school?” might lead to these branching questions:

What do chickens eat? How often do they eat? Do they live with families or have to be separated? How much does it cost to feed chickens and how do we pay for it? Do chickens need sunlight? What size should the house be? How many rooms? How often does it need to be cleaned and by whom? Where would be the best place to put the chicken house?

Entering branching questions into a mindmapping like Popplet can help capture and organize the questions. See Tony’s example.


Spoon Feeding vs. Feeding Themselves Comparison by Steve Morgan

Teachers provide opportunities for students to uncover learning through:

  • books • websites • videos • interviews • photos • experiments • data collections • observations

Teach students how to do good Google searches.

There are some great options for sharing resources online:

  • Symbaloo: Each web link has a clickable icon
  • Listly: Make a list with a screenshot for each item
  • Blendspace: Collect web resources into one spot
  • Google Sites or Weebly: Create a simple website to link to resources

Edutopia has a nice collection of videos about project-based learning. Anatomy of a Project: “Give Me Shelter” highlights that investigation can take the form of interviews.


There are hundreds of ways students can present their project. Below are just a few. Listed first in each category is a web-based tool for laptops and Chromebooks. Listed second are iPads apps.

SLIDESHOWS: haikudeck.com & Haiku Deck

NARRATIONS: narrable.com & 30hands

PRESENTATIONS: prezi.com & Prezi

PUBLICATIONS: smore.com and Book Creator Free

SCREENCASTS: pixiclip.com & Educreations

ANIMATIONS: wideo.co & Adobe Voice

Show What You Know with Web and iPad Apps is a document full of tools for students to express themselves.


  • Assessment is ongoing throughout the time students are working on a project.
  • Before beginning the project, students should know how they will be assessed.
  • Create checklist for projects at pblchecklist.4teachers.org
  • Create rubrics for projects at forallrubrics.com
  • Sample rubrics available at BIE.org

Reflecting and Refining

Reflection is essential to learning.

Get a random reflection question by clicking this link: tonyv.me/reflect. Read Tony Vincent’s post Reflection Facilitated by QR Codes.

Because a project has an audience, it's important that students have opportunities to refine their end product before it takes its final form. Refinement can happen after receiving feedback from the teacher, peers, or experts.

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