Project-based Learning

Using Information Technology

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Moursund, D.G. (1999). Project-based learning using information technology (Selected Chapters) Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.

The materials that follow are from a next-to-final version of the above named book.


Chapter 1: Introduction and a PBL Example

Chapter 2: Overview of IT-assisted PBL

Chapter 3: Some PBL Lesson Topic Ideas

Chapter 4: The Case for PBL

Chapter 7: Assessment in IT-assisted PBL

Appendix C: Overview of Problem Solving

References and Resources


Preface for the Book

This book is about project-based learning in an information technology environment. The book is designed for teachers who want to implement project-based learning (PBL) using information technology in their classrooms. Teachers who do this will learn information technology alongside their students.

PBL has long been a teaching tool of many teachers. Now, PBL is being enhanced by routine use of information technology. Thus, it is now a vehicle both for learning "traditional" subject matter content and also for learning how to make effective use of information technology. The overarching goal of this book is to help students learn to make effective use of their minds (higher-order think and problem-solving skills) and information technology (including computers, the Internet, and multimedia) as they plan and carry out complex projects.

Most teachers have had experience in developing and implementing PBL lessons. Information technology (IT) adds three new dimensions to PBL. These new dimensions are:

This book on IT-assisted PBL is designed to help all teachers at all grade levels improve the quality of education that their students are receiving.

Project-based Learning

Project-based learning is used in many schools and by many different teachers. It is not surprising that the use of PBL is growing, because PBL has a high level of "authenticity." It tends to be obvious to students, teachers, parents, and others that PBL has many adult-world characteristics and can bring concrete purpose and meaning to a wide range of school subjects. There is a growing body of research literature to support this position. (See Chapter 4.)

Many teachers feel that PBL is an important and effective part of their teaching repertoire. An IT-assisted PBL lesson can be viewed as an opportunity for students:

Content of This Book

Chapter 1: Introduction and a PBL Example, introduces the idea of a Problem or Task Team and relates it to PBL. The chapter presents an example of IT-assisted PBL. It includes a brief overview of assessment. Chapter 7 discusses assessment in considerably more detail.

Chapter 2: Overview of IT-assisted PBL, answers the question "What is project-based learning?" by discussing a series of criteria that a student-centered PBL lesson usually satisfies. The chapter differentiates PBL from the more traditional, didactic, teacher-centered form of instruction.

Chapter 3: Some PBL Lesson Topic Ideas, provides some example of PBL lesson ideas. Often PBL focuses on large and challenging problems that are facing the people of our communities, states, nations, and the whole world.

Chapter 4: The Case for PBL, presents the research literature and other arguments supporting use of PBL in instruction.

Chapter 5: Project Planning, covers the rudiments of what teachers and students need to know about project planning. One of the goals in PBL is for students to learn how to do the planning involved in carrying out a project.

Chapter 6: Creating a PBL Lesson Plan presents a detailed plan for developing a PBL lesson,

Chapter 7: Assessment in IT-assisted PBL, discusses student assessment in a PBL learning environment. It provides suggestions for assessing student work and it discusses portfolios.

Chapter 8: The Future of IT-assisted PBL speculates on the future of IT-assisted PBL. As the amount of computer facilities and connectivity in schools continues its rapid growth, we can expect IT-assisted PBL to become commonplace.

Appendix A: Federal Resources for Educational Excellence, points to a number of United States government sites that are good sources of PBL topics and supporting information.

Appendix B: Goals for Information Technology in Education, is included because every IT-assisted PBL lesson is designed to help meet some IT goals. It contains goals and performance indicators from ISTE's National Educational Technology Standards project

Appendix C: Overview of Problem Solving, is included because most IT-assisted PBL lessons have a focus on higher-order thinking skills, including problem solving.

Teaching and Learning Philosophy

This book is based on a philosophy of constructivist education. Constructivism assumes that a learner constructs new knowledge, building on whatever base of knowledge the learner already has. Learning is an individual and personal thing. No two learners bring the exact same previous knowledge and experience to a new learning situation. As every teacher knows, the range of differences among the students in a typical class is truly astonishing!

Some important educational ideas emphasized in this book include:

A unifying goal is to help students gain increased expertise as independent, self-sufficient, lifelong learners.

Possible Uses of This Book

This book is specifically designed for three audiences:

  1. Inservice teachers participating in a workshop on IT-assisted PBL.
  2. Preservice teachers enrolled in a short course or who are studying the materials as part of a longer course.
  3. Inservice and preservice teachers who want to study on their own, to learn more about PBL in an IT environment.

The book does not presuppose any specific knowledge about computers and other components of IT, PBL, or problem solving. However, it is assumed that the reader has some knowledge in all three of these areas. Individual readers will be able to build on their current knowledge and skills (demonstrating constructivism at work) as they gain new knowledge and skills.

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