Design Your Own Projects for Effective Project-Based Learning
Meet the Maker
Matt Watson, Director of Maker Outreach
Would you rather have invisibility or flight?
Here’s a better question: Did you ever notice how Wonder Woman had an invisible jet, but she herself was not able to be invisible? What’s the point of that? Who is she sneaking up on? And doesn’t that jet still make a lot of noise? And how did she make the fuel invisible? I’m calling bologna on the whole premise…
What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
Guinea pig. When I travel, I like to be adventurous when it comes to participating in local customs. In the eastern highlands of Ecuador, guinea pig is quite popular. They call it “cuy.”
What is your favorite holiday and why?
Thanksgiving. Gratitude is a powerful force in our lives. It takes the focus off of ourselves and releases great potential. I love when the entire country turns its heart toward gratitude.
What is the “why” for this month’s “Making Magic”?
Wouldn’t it be easy to pull next year’s projects from a file of tried-and-true projects that work? The PBL design process is hard and takes time. But it is vital that we take the time to go through it as PBL practitioners. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts if we want to do it right.
This Week’s Focus
Designing Projects to Address Real-World Challenges
Why is it important for facilitators to design their own projects?
As I’ve visited Maker Learning Network and iLEAD Schools sites, I’ve had the opportunity to see (or hear about) some pretty amazing projects. Our facilitators are all so creative! But designing each project takes a lot of time. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just grab a project that’s already designed and roll it out?
Of course it would! But it’s the very time we take designing each project that makes them so effective. Imagine your learners presenting a POL for someone else’s project. It wouldn’t work, right? They might be able to do a decent job of faking it for a while, but eventually the experiment wouldn’t work, or the audience would ask questions, or something else would come up. But when they have developed their project for themselves, they understand the process intricately and can explain, improvise, or modify as needed.
As facilitators, we must be able to do the same during the course of our projects. There are nuances, differences, and specific circumstances within each group of learners and each time we roll out a project. If we are not deeply involved with the design process of our project, we will not be able to make the adjustments, modifications, or other tweaks that will invariably be necessary.
Does that mean we should never use a project that was designed by someone else? Of course not! But when we do, it is important that we still take the time to deconstruct the project and reconstruct it so that we understand the why, what, and how for each portion. So here’s a tip that will make that a little easier: collaborate! Consult with the project’s original designer if possible, and always parse out each project with your team.