Tag Archives: project based learning

Google’s Team Drives are a Great Tool for Project Based Learning

A few months ago, Google began testing a new feature in its Enterprise suite – Team Drives.


Google Team Drives are shared spaces where teams can easily store, search, and access their files anywhere, from any device. Unlike files in My Drive, files in Team Drive belong to the team instead of an individual. Even if members leave, the files stay exactly where they are so your team can continue to share information and get work done.


Courtesy of G-Suite Learning Center

If you are incorporating more project based learning into your classroom, Team Drives are a great way for students to collaborate and share, especially on robust projects. In addition to creating content, they can use it to store materials, bibliographies, media, and more. Additionally, as everyone in the group “owns” the product, you don’t run into a problem when one of them tries to submit content via Google Classroom.

To learn more about Team Drives in G-Suite, click here. If you do not yet see it as an option for your G-Suite account, contact your administrator.

Transforming Project Based Learning with iPad

The next session I’m attending is “Transforming Project Based Learning with iPad” by Ah-Young Song from Phillips Exeter Academy. Ah-Young tells us that she will be discussing some of the PBL projects she has implemented in her own classroom. She will be covering communication tools, gamification, audio/video tools, and media resources.

Ah-Young has just become teaching at Phillips Exeter, which is a harkness school. Harkness is a form of teaching that engages students collaboratively.

“Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge.” – Buck Institute for Education.

Ah-Young believes that even without institutional support we can, as teachers,

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

advocate for our own students and innovate in our classrooms. Some examples of PBL projects include:

  • track migratory species
  • beautify space with a public art project
  • meet with local officials to address local concerns
  • create a tech start-up budget
  • analyze and project sports statistics

There are numerous resources out there for PBL lessons. in the process of building a project based lesson, students develop a variety of skills, including:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Curiosity
  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Content
  • Resilience
  • Resourcefulness
  • Analysis
  • Reflection

There are numerous tools that educators can use with their students as they develop their PBL. One of her favorites is Blogger, which students can use to post text, video, images, etc. By posting a blog, students can publish small writings and engage in collaborative feedback. She does this through a Google+ community.

AScreen Shot 2014-11-13 at 2.34.33 PMdditionally, she likes to have students backchannel book discussions using Today’s Meet or SMS Generators to engage with a fictional character! She uses Google Sheets as a rubric for certain activities, such as a jury trial of Lady MacBeth. The jurors created the rubric for the trial and used it to assess the verdict.

She also uses Google Docs to create a paperless environment. She distributes content with Google Drive, grades on Google Drive, and returns content this way. However, Exeter is not a Google Apps for Education school. However, the students have their own accounts so it works.

If you want to gamify your classroom, there are several fun tools you can play with. You can run a Space Race using Socrative.

Socrative introduction video (new) from Socrative Inc. on Vimeo.

I’m a fan of Socrative. You should also check out Poll Everywhere and Kahoot!.

Another tool she shares is Qrafter, which lets you read and generate QR Codes (paid version). You can use this to create a scavenger hunt. Voice Record Pro 7 is a robust audio recording tool that will let you record audio and share with others. You can use it to teach language assessments, read poetry, or for students to engage in alternative assessments. Adobe Voice will let you build an audio slideshow. Canva is another really cool tool that will let you build posters and infographics.

She is going to have students produce vignettes using a tool like Canva or Penultimate to explain their learning.

Screencasting tools like Doceri or Explain Everything can help students to explain their learning.

iPad Tablet Technology – Student Centered iPad Projects

The second presentation I attended today was “iPad Tablet Technology – Student Centered iPad Projects” by Vince Delisi. Vince is a Canadian educator at Holy Trinity School in Ontario, a 1:1 iPad school. As an iPad pioneering educator, Vince has a great deal of experience, both negative and positive, with an iPad roll-out. Also, he says “aboot” which makes me smile 😉

Again, he highlighted Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model and emphasizes the need for us as educators to move past the substitution and augmentation level – that we need to be modifying and redefinition. Research demonstrates to us that our students will only advance in achievement with students working at the redefinition level.

The most prolific, collaborative tools available to educators and students are Google Apps (like Google Drive, Google Earth, etc). Still, he highlights that Google Apps are still best used on a traditional computers rather than the iPad – it is still a work in progress in mobile form (at least for the iOS platform). Google Applications can and do fill roles across the board on the SAMR model – they can be purely substitutional (Word Processing) or entirely redefined especially by using the collaborative features of the tools.

Google Apps are just one example of tools that students and teachers can use to create. What was most interesting about Vince’s talk is that he discussed not just the finished project (many of which were impressive), but rather the journey. No project went simply from point A to point B. Rather, there were pitfalls and struggles all along the way – software compatibility issues, budgeting struggles (how do we buy this software we just learned we need?), learning new skills, time budgeting, etc. What struck me was that the learning process, for both teachers and students, was about overcoming obstacles.

Ottawa Collage courtesy of WIkipedia

As an “ed tech” implementor at my own school, I try to learn as much as possible from others’ journeys, but I also know that I’m going to run into my own struggles.

One of my favorite projects that he discussed was application of an iPad project during a field trip. The sixth grade annual field trip to the Capital, Ottawa. The teachers established a project along with a rubric for the field trip assignment; essentially a visual journal with detailed notes.

The student projects, however, far surpassed the rubric’s basic requirements and the file sizes of the projects became too large for the application, Notability, to handle! What a wonderful problem to have – students being too excited about the project and the assignment that their work was too detailed and thorough. Still, it led to problems of (virtual) space and limitations of software as well as readily drained iPad batteries (primary lesson learned – bring chargers!!).

Sim City Deluxe Mobile ©EA Games

The most interesting student project that he demonstrated was an Urban Planning unit (3rd grade) in which they used the program SimCity Deluxe. Students built a large urban settlement and had to solve common urban problems like – natural disaster, crime, transportation, allocation of resources, etc. As the game progresses, you have to solve common issues in an urban settlement. If you are unsuccessful, the city will die.

Not only does this program allow students to explore real world problems and solutions, but it does it in the setting of a game environment, which just keeps the kids coming back for more. It’s one of the few times when a problem is that students are spending too much time on their homework! I’ll admit, I loved this game as a child and I may need to re-download this application on my phone for the flight home.

What struck me about these projects is that many of them were highly sophisticated and required extensive understanding of various subject matters – sociology, english, mathematics, science, art, and more. The iPad is an innovative tool that allows full integration across various subject areas. More importantly, students have to collaborate and learn from one another – they got advice from others who were successful and shared their struggles.

Another interesting technological infrastructure note, as all of the students and educators have iPads, they have moved to Apple TV integration in the classroom so that they no longer have to worry about constantly plugging and unplugging dongles into the projector.  I wrote about the Apple TV in my article, “The iPad, Apple TV, and Classroom Management.” As an educator, it’s a huge time saver for me. However, I have not opened it to the students yet – there are management problems that need to be addressed. I think it’s time to become twitter buddies with Vince Delisis and explore some solutions.

Overall, what I’ve taken from this talk is that the iPad not only has the potential to be used powerfully in education, it already has! Teachers every day across the world are actively employing the iPad in their classrooms and changing the ways that students learn.