by Suzie Boss
Sam Seidel, passionate educator and author of Hip Hop Genius, inspired the PBL World audience this morning to embrace projects that engage students in real-world problem solving. “Keeping it real,” a foundation of hip hop culture, is also a strategy for designing learning experiences that connect students with real work and what Seidel calls “re(a)levant” issues.
“When students get to choose the issues,” he added, “they develop agency.” As evidence, he shared examples of issues that students have tackled recently through PBL: advocating for seat belt laws, improving air quality, understanding the effects of infant trauma, and addressing high school dropout epidemic.
Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from authentic learning experiences. Teachers are more engaged, as well, when they have opportunities to design projects that matter to them, to their students, and to the larger community.
This was Seidel’s third year keynoting at PBL World, but he kept his message real—and fresh—by sharing some highlights of his latest work with students and teachers. Working with the Student Experience Lab at the Business Innovation Factory, Seidel is helping students and teachers reinvent education. “It’s about helping those who know the most about education change education,” he said.
He shared examples from a project called Teachers Design for Education (#TD4Ed), in which teachers use the design thinking process to identify problems and generate do-able solutions. One team of teachers reinvented professional development to be more collaborative—and more respectful of teachers—while also producing better outcomes for students. In a video that Seidel shared, a teacher participant said, “An energized teacher is much better than a frustrated one.” That set off a flurry of Tweets (#pblworld).
Seidel challenged his audience to use PBL for their own professional growth, and even for community change. He offered a series of provocative Driving Questions: “How can I use the PBL approach to improve my own professional growth and development? How can I use the PBL approach to improve my classroom, school, community, or public education?” He offered a challenge to school leaders, too: “How can I give my teachers opportunities to engage in PBL?”
In a Google Hangout after the keynote, Seidel expanded on the opportunity to combine design thinking strategies with PBL to achieve compelling results. Remixing ideas, after all, has a long tradition in hip hop.
PBL World continues all week in Napa, Calif. Some 600 educators from around the world are taking part in the event, sponsored by the Buck Institute for Education.
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Join the PBL World conversation on Twitter by following the hashtag #pblworld. PBL World is connecting with #pblchat on Tuesday from 5-6 p.m. PDT to talk about global collaboration in PBL.