That is the short description of my conversation for Educon Philly 2012. My aim is to have a discussion around what it takes to create a PBL unit and to show those thinking about working PBL into their classroom that it can be done. And, it is much easier to be successful if you have people help you with the planning.
To start I want to figure out the level of expertise, in PBL, of the people in the room. For that I'm debating using some sort of mobile polling app or maybe just a google form. Either way I'm hoping to have it updating as people are coming into the room so that, as we begin, I already know where I need to head with the initial discussion.
Things that will effect my starting point for the conversation: (1) Grade Levels represented. PBL may be PBL but there are differences that need to be addressed. Are we mostly Elementary or Post Secondary? (2) Experience with PBL. Is my audience mostly new to PBL and really need to understand what the heck this PBL stuff is? Or, are we dealing with knowledgeable teachers of PBL who we can really dig deeply in our conversations. (3) Subject Areas. Are there mostly math teachers? Social Study Teachers? Lower Elementary or Home Schoolers who want to discuss multi-content PBL's?
One of the things I will want to share is this post with links to key items. That includes the Buck Institute. They do wonderful workshops on PBL and have "how to" books on the subject that I reference before the beginning of each school year. Also, Edutopia has started really building their reference materials and videos about PBL. And, lastly, the newest resource for great PBL information - PBLChat on Twitter. PBLChat is every Tuesday evening at 9 EST. And the archive from each week is saved in Storify. Here are two of the better chats: Engaging Entry Events, and, Doing Projects vs. PBL .
Mainly, though, we will have (as the name says) a conversation. I want to hear what people are doing with PBL in their classrooms and schools. I want to hear questions and fears from those wanting to take the plunge. I want honest questions and honest responses. PBL is hard, for example. That needs to be made clear - yes, it is hard. But only because you become like a new teacher when you start with PBL. You are learning pacing, you are learning group dynamics, you are learning a new form of classroom management... The list could go on and on. But when you stick with it you will suddenly get to the day where you get the class started and suddenly there is learning going on all around you. Groups are having thoughtful discussions. Groups are handling issues with one of their members. And, most enjoyably, students are asking you "how?" or "why?" or some other higher level thinking question.
PBL is different. PBL may not be for every teacher. But PBL works. Those classrooms having success can see it; they can feel it; and they can hear it; the learning is in the hands of your students.