Originally published March 2006, Project Management Institute
By Dr. Yvonne Marie Andrés, President & Co-Founder, Global SchoolNet Foundation
Today’s anytime-anyplace work environment demands sophisticated communication skills, a flair for teamwork, respect for diversity, a talent for ad hoc decision-making and good project-management skills. Whether it is an entrepreneur launching a new product, an architect unveiling a new building, or a photo journalist introducing a new exhibit, people in business and industry around the globe are achieving remarkable accomplishments one project at a time.
According to the report Learning for the 21st Century, “today’s education system
faces irrelevance unless we bridge the gap between how students live and how
they learn.” To address this need, a growing number of innovative education
systems around the
Project-based learning is based on the “constructivist” learning theory, which finds that learning is deeper and more meaningful when students are involved in constructing their own knowledge. Students are given the opportunity to select a topic that interests them within the required content framework and then they are responsible for creating their project plan. Rather than a lecturer, typically, the teacher’s role is that of an academic advisor, mentor, facilitator, “task master” and evaluator.
Learning Projects for Every Age and Subject Area
Project-based learning opportunities are diverse, challenging and innovative -- ranging from understanding terrorism, the mathematics of music, exploring innovative waste management solutions, to creative story telling, online safety and studying global warming. There are learning projects for every age and to support every subject area. There are numerous implementation models for project-based learning. Students can work either offline or online. They can work alone on individual projects -- or they can work collaboratively as part of a project team. And, with the availability of the Internet and technology tools, their project partners can be across the table or around the globe. Students can interact with one another in meaningful educational, cultural, and scientific projects that provide deep learning experiences. According to study conducted by the Center for Research in Educational Policy (1999), PBL students improved test scores in all subject areas over a two-year period, out performing control schools by 26%. Compared with learning solely from textbooks, this approach has many benefits for students because it involves critical thinking, knowledge application, time management, organizational skills and increased student responsibility for their own learning.
Project opportunities abound, for example:
Marsha Goren teaches 6th grade at
Rene de Vries teaches in
Global SchoolNet's International Schools CyberFair annual competition-exhibition
challenges students to produce projects that showcase aspects of their local
community. One recent project told about the unique history of
· The U. S. Department of State sponsors an annual Doors to Diplomacy project challenge - to encourage middle school and high school students around the world to produce online projects that teach others about the importance of international affairs and diplomacy. Students work in small teams with teacher-coaches and compete for scholarships and cash awards.
· ThinkQuest, sponsored by the Oracle Foundation, is an international competition in which students practice their skills in research, writing, technology, and teamwork and create web-based projects that can be used as educational resources by students worldwide.
The Challenge of Project Management
Despite considerable potential, project-based learning is not without its challenges. Project management, whether it is on the job or in the classroom, requires structure, skills and process. Lacking adequate support, this innovative educational approach will not be widely adopted by students or teachers. Educators need help in choosing appropriate project-based learning content and introducing, managing and assessing educational projects that support their required curriculum standards. Students need help in planning and organizing their projects. Fortunately, there are a number of organizations that are wonderful resources for project-based learning. These organizations have joined together to form the Project Learning Partnership.
Resources to Get Started
Dr. Yvonne Marie Andres is President of the (not-for-profit) Global SchoolNet Foundation. An educator for two decades, Andres has taught pre-school through university and is dedicated to demonstrating and documenting the power of global collaborative learning. She is co-founder of Global SchoolNet, producer of the Global Schoolhouse website, Doors to Diplomacy, the International Schools CyberFair program, and has provided leadership at conferences and workshops throughout the U.S., Canada, Asia, Europe, Australia, South America and Africa. Dr. Andres was named one of the 25 most influential people, worldwide in education technology.
Global SchoolNet Foundation (GSN) is the original online resource for global project-based learning, problem-based learning, and online collaborative learning. Global SchoolNet partners with schools, communities and businesses in 194 countries to provide collaborative educational, scientific and cultural learning activities -- that prepare youth for the workforce and help them to become literate and responsible global citizens. GSN, a not-for-profit, has 90,000 members and has been linking classrooms around the world since 1984.