Have you ever felt overloaded by acronyms?

This week I sure did.

My task was to explore PBL, PBL, and CBL and how they fit into my IB PYP first grade classroom.Try saying that 3 times fast.

In order to clear up any confusion and eliminate this acronym overload, let me first start off by expanding upon each one with a few key points about them.

Project Based Learning (PBL): Learning through meaningful projects, student centered, inquiry based, real world context, collaboration focused, self and peer evaluation, final designed product is presented to an audience.

Problem Based Learning (PBL): Learning through solving an authentic real world problem, student centered, inquiry based, real world context, collaboration focused, self and peer evaluation, solving the problem is the end goal.

Challenge Based Learning (CBL): Learning through solving real world challenges, student centered, inquiry based, real world context, collaboration focused, self and peer evaluation, teacher and student as learner together, final solutions are implemented in authentic settings.

International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP): Learning through inquiry, student centered, concept based, transdisciplinary, end goal is student driven action.

So what is the role of technology in all these? In order to accomplish any of these frameworks for learning well, technology needs to be utilized. The effective integration of technology is really their driving force and is used as a means to acquire knowledge, work collaboratively, design and create, and present/share the findings or product.

My Classroom Implementation

As you can see from all of the frameworks previously discussed, they are all very similar, include student driven inquiry, and have few distinguishing differences between them. I work at an IB PYP school and we adhere to teaching the programme of inquiry using the IB framework for planning and concept based instruction. Because of this, any of these frameworks could be used within my curricular area. Throughout the units of inquiry in my classroom, we have some clear evidence of a mix of PBL, PBL, and CBL happening. Here are a few examples:

Who We Are Unit: Our first unit of inquiry centers around how people work together in different ways to achieve common goals. During this unit, students learn through completing a variety of teacher and student driven STEM challenges. This allows students to solidify their understanding of the necessary skills needed to cooperate, communicate, and be caring to one another. Our final project for this unit is for students to build a LEGO building. In order to do this they put themselves in a group, make a goal, create a plan, implement the plan, revise the plan along the way, and do continuous reflection and self evaluation as it progresses.

Where We Are In Place and Time: This unit centers around how humans create and change things to improve their daily lives. This unit is very project based. Students begin by spending lots of time researching how different inventions have changed as time has progressed and why. At this time students focus on developing digital and visual literacy skills as well as research skills. Students are then introduced to the idea of making through the design process. The project that is the end product is that students must choose an invention from our daily lives they want to improve upon. Students then design it and create it using the resources and tech tools we have available. This unit is also integrated with writing where students then write an essay to explain how they improved their invention they chose, and also persuade someone to purchase it.

Sharing The Planet: This unit is all about how plants are complex living things. During this unit students spend a lot of time researching different kinds of plants, how they grow, and their specific parts and their functions. Students also begin learning about the scientific process at this time. The culminating project for this unit is integrated with writing in which students follow the scientific process to create and perform a plant experiment. They write up a lab report, perform the experiment, observe and record data using technology, and share their findings.

The Hurdles

All of these frameworks don’t come without hurdles to overcome. Here are the ones I find specifically for doing these at my grade level.

-Fear of running out of time to learn ‘everything’

-Fear of giving students control

-Fear of student driven inquiries lacking depth of concepts

-Fear of the lack of independence necessary to complete tasks from young students

-Fear of balancing the assessment of standards with inquiry

In order to overcome these hurdles, I just need to constantly remind myself that this kind of learning can be a messy process and when working with small children, you never know where it will lead. Only when I let go of these fear hurdles and give my students control does the authentic learning happen.