03.20.2024

Presentation of Learning

Presentations of Learning

To Keep or Not to Keep: Project-Based Learning

Last November, a group of iLEAD Exploration middle school learners had a heady and important real-world question to explore: Do old buildings and architecture matter? Should we keep the old or build something new? City and state officials, architects, builders, museum curators, and preservationists must often wrestle with these questions: Is something valuable just because it’s old and has history attached? Should something new be privileged because it has a modern sensibility and marks a fresh start?

Olivia B., Bryce H, Zozie H, Asher K., Ezekiel P., Malik R., Caitlyn S, and Joy T. made up the core group of middle schoolers exploring these questions. The group met live on Zoom four times over the course of the month with asynchronous instruction in between, all facilitated by Andi Palmatier, iLEAD Exploration EF and Project-Based Learning Coordinator.

You may have heard the term used before but might be wondering: What exactly is project-based learning (PBL)? Project-based learning is a teaching method where the facilitator poses an intriguing real-world question and ends with the learners proposing their answer to the public via a presentation or product that answers that question. In between the “question” and the “answer,” learners investigate, research, debate, ask questions, collaborate, build, make designs, learn new things, and, of course, think. A good PBL involves student choice, technology, literacy, and a soft-skill focus — usually collaboration and/or peer feedback. The result is always learning more from each other and less from the instructor.

iLEAD’s “To Keep or Not To Keep” Learner University PBL course was fast-paced, rigorous, and lively. The unit kicked off with several rounds of “This or That,” a game where learners had to choose which of two historic monuments to keep and which to discard. In a series of spirited and dynamic debates, learners argued for their choice among landmarks such as London’s Tower Bridge vs. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge; the Eiffel Tower vs. the Statue of Liberty; and the Pyramids at Giza vs. Stonehenge. Of course, personal preference played a part, but so did the landmark’s proximity to the learners and its age.

Next, learners chose a large metropolis, small country, or state and researched three to five landmarks. The learners created three-minute digital presentations on the Flip platform, which allows learners to submit at their leisure and receive feedback from peers. Below are four screenshots from a few of the presentations: Elizabeth Tower, London, Rome, and Taiwan.

At a subsequent class meeting, learners discussed the sometimes controversial history of some of our local Southern California landmarks, including Dodger Stadium and the California Missions. Following this lesson, the learners were tasked with writing an article about a favorite landmark or building near them. They then collaborated by writing a digital newspaper titled Keepers’ News (click here to view student work) with contributions on Disneyland, the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, and more.

The culminating assignment was to reflect on their own lives. They presented personal landmarks — good and/or bad, real and/or symbolic — and discussed how they have been affected by these landmarks. Using Canva or Google Slides, learners shared their presentations live in front of their peers, parents, and EFs. Their presentations were all quite impressive.

In the end, most of the learners ended up as preservationists and favored keeping national, state, city, local, and personal landmarks, but they also had a much deeper understanding of the questions and concerns involved.

If you are interested in participating in a PBL opportunity, visit events calendar to see a list of Learner University opportunities.

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