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February 6, 2017
Keynote Speakers for PBL World 2017

by John Larmer
Editor in Chief


On the main stage at PBL World are the professional development workshops: PBL 101s, 201s, Coaching Academies, and Leadership Academies. But on a side stage is a major attraction: the keynote speakers. Over the six-year history of PBL World, they have always been excellent, and many have been incredibly thought-provoking, moving and inspiring; attendees report remembering the experience long afterward. The speakers have been students, teachers, thought leaders, and founders or heads of progressive education organizations. We’ve had some great ones over the years: Yong Zhao, Sam Seidel, Stephen Ritz, Emily Pilloton, Ashanti Branch, Jaime Casap, Ramsey Musallam, the Das sisters

This year’s keynotes, just announced, are sure to carry on in this tradition. You can read more about them in their bios, but here’s a quick note about how each connects to PBL and PBL World.

Yvonne Armenta: Student Speaker
This year’s student speaker delivers the opening keynote at 8:30am on Tuesday, June 22.  Yvonne will tell the story of how Project Based Learning prepared her for success. She is the first in her family to graduate high school and attend college—she’s graduating this year from the University of California, Berkeley. She experienced PBL in high school at an Envision School currently known as City Arts and Technology, in San Francisco.

The Envision Schools use PBL and a well-designed portfolio defense system to ready their graduates for life in the 21st century. In this system, students in their 10th and 12th grade year are required to pass a rigorous defense of the knowledge and skills they have gained, by presenting evidence from their work in school. Students draw many examples from their work on projects, such as when they had to think critically, solve a problem, be innovative and creative, collaborate well with others, and show leadership.

When asked what from her Envision experience helped her the most in college, Yvonne said, “One word: revision.” All the multiple drafts of project work, especially writing, gave her a strong sense of what it meant to do good enough quality work. And she knew how to solicit and use feedback. She also points to her confidence in making presentations, compared to most of her peers in college, as an extremely helpful benefit of having experienced PBL.

Carlos Moreno: PBL Champion
Every year since 2015, on its last day, PBL World has given the “PBL Champion” award to someone who makes an extraordinary contribution to furthering the use of Project Based Learning. The first recipient of the award was Dave Ross, now CEO of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, who started PBL World when he was with BIE. The 2016 PBL Champion was Stephen Ritz, teacher and founder of the Green Bronx Machine.

This year we will be honoring Carlos Moreno as the 2017 PBL Champion, and he’ll speak at 11:00am on Thursday, June 22. Carlos is the co-executive director of Big Picture Learning. He also leads the Deeper Learning Equity Fellowship, a William & Flora Hewlett Foundation supported national project focused on developing leaders and leadership for Deeper Learning and equity.

Big Picture Learning has its own take on PBL, which shows that PBL done well is a big tent. In its schools, such as the Met School in Providence, Rhode Island, students work with an advisor to identify their interests and co-create a personalized learning program—the key feature of which is an internship in the community. Authentic projects are completed with guidance from real-world experts.

To quote from his bio, “Carlos is an author and speaker, but is happiest as a roll-up-your-sleeves, “let’s get it done” expert practitioner in designing highly engaging schools and environments for youth, particularly those who have not been served well by traditional schools.”

As you can gather, Carlos is a well-deserved PBL Champion, and I’m sure you’ll find him an engaging and valuable speaker.


Register here for PBL World 2017.


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