Saturday, November 5, 2011

Project Based Learning - Project Tuning Experience

Say what? Project Tuning? Count us in!!!!!
Friday afternoon I met over my prep period with some other educators in my building to run a Project Tuning session for one of the projects a teacher needed help with. This is an amazing process that we learned when we visited High Tech High in San Diego.

We have now sent two sets of teachers out to San Diego and most have come back really excited for project based learning. This particular aspect of project based teaching is one of the best things I have experienced.

This past Friday, I was privileged enough to be the facilitator of the session. It was a great learning experience for myself as I had to be the one to run time and also keep teachers on track. I found myself feeling like a student again and I loved it.

I will post and share the steps that are involved in a Project Tuning session in a future post, but for now I want to share some things that I reflected on when I went back and wrote down some notes about the experience.

  • Project Tuning allows teachers to receive a mass amount of information and ideas in a limited amount of time without feeling berated or talked down to.
  • Project Tuning really forces the teacher who has presented the project to really think deep about their project.
  • Project Tuning is a process that will really unite the staff as we all work together to help each other become better at what we do.
  • Project Tuning makes teachers more aware of what is happening in the classrooms and also brings in a personal investment into the teaching process and classroom of others.
  • Project Tuning really helps keep teachers focused on the task at hand without wandering off topic which then leads to teachers walking away from a meeting without getting much accomplished
To elaborate on these key points I think that this is one of the most important processes I have ever been exposed to. Going through a few of these now I feel so connected to what some teachers are teaching and I can honestly say I have never felt that way before. In the past I simply did not have time to find out what others were doing and frankly did not care. Now, I walk away from a project tuning session and am excited about what others are doing. I will be following up on their projects. I will be checking in on the final projects. It is an element that is needed among staff members. We should care what others are doing.

I also think that the project tuning really gives people time to really think deeply about their project. With people constantly asking questions and discussing the project you walk away with many things to think about. It is a safe environment where everyone is really interested in helping the teacher out. There becomes an instant connection among the people involved.

Project tuning will bring staff together. As teachers start to project tune and mix and match with various teachers the staff will come together. Right now we get stuck only talking with members of our house or department. This process brings in all types of teachers to give the teacher a wide range of perspectives. This allows teachers to work and converse with other teachers who they simply don't have time to see and meet with in our typical day. The unification will only make our school and teaching better.

As a facilitator I learned a few things myself. It is imperative that as a facilitator that one is not afraid to step in and get the teachers back on track. This can be hard as we are all educators. It does not make the facilitator more powerful when the meeting is over, but you will need someone to be able to interject and refocus the group. This is harder than it seems. I have big hopes to being a great facilitator. It is becoming a passion of mine. I have some improvements to make, but after one session I started to learn some techniques to help refocus. I could have done better, but this will come with time. As teachers, we can sometimes be the worst audience and the worse at following directions. In this process we all have so much that we want to share. As a facilitator it is important that things are shared at the right step and that teachers adhere to the process. In many ways we are just like the students we teach(and sometimes we are the ones that are just like the students that drive us crazy!!!)

I have not been able to stop thinking about the experience. I think it went smooth. I have written down in my reflection book some things I need to do better as a facilitator. I have two more project tuning sessions next week so I look forward to working on my goals I have set for myself.

I cannot wait to see how this project develops that I sat in on. We have some amazing teachers and this project tuning session will allow us to realize how powerful our staff really is.

1 comment:

smaxwell said...

When BMS considered PBL, I was fortunate to visit the Muscatine middle school last May and see what project based learning is all about. The communication skills and ideas these students had blew my mind. All of them related to the real life skills that many businesses say our current students do not have - verbal & written communication, problem solving, and innovation. Going to San Diego reaffirmed for me the idea of PBL and the process of implementing it.

Unfortunately, some people feel that doing PBL does not allow direct instruction or meet standards. I feel this is a misconception. There is direct instruction for students to apply the learning to a project. Teachers balance direct instruction with application.

On another note, I also feel project tuning is an incredible experience. It provides the opportunity to submit a project idea and receive valuable advice in a non-threatening environment. Some people might not appreciate the time frames for each element of project tuning. However, they are essential to make the process work.

I have to admit I am a project tuning "junkie" and can't wait for the next one. :)