Students have become more outspoken about the type of education they want. As a teacher, I constantly hear about their desire to learn by doing, see how things develop, contribute to and witness the results of their work. In other words, students want information and tasks that are real and useful outside the classroom.
Defined by PBL Works as “an approach to teaching in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects while they investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge,” project-based learning (PBL) seems to be the solution to covering what students need.
PBL sets the scene for student agency and autonomy while teachers become coaches throughout all the stages of a project. Students use their voice and choice, developing 21st-century skills in an authentic learning environment. Digitally-savvy students can include technology into their PBL, making collaboration easier and the final product more appealing.
7 Digital tools for project-based learning that any teacher can use
Here are seven of my favorite PBL tools that I believe any teacher can use in their classrooms as well:
Glogster is an app that allows students to design interactive posters by combining images, videos, text, graphics, and audio to create a digital canvas called “glog.”
The app is suitable for PBL as it promotes collaboration and it allows students to showcase what they've learned. Students and teachers can use the Glogpedia content library for science, math, and social studies.
The website welcomes studies done on the benefits of using Glogster in the classroom with results that show enhancement of perceptions and speaking proficiency, improvements in higher-order thinking skills, and more.
Animoto facilitates the production of videos out of photos, clips, and music using templates and existing resources or imported ones. The app allows students to use their creative potential and maximize it through additional tools. Animoto helps students develop 21st-century skills as it can be integrated with PBL activities.
For instance, 30-second "Shark Tank" uses Animoto to help students create a short video to promote their projects or inventions. Also, "Monster Attack!" allows students to narrate monster-related news stories.
Voicethread is an app that can enrich students' presentations while developing “critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity skills.” Ed.VoiceThread is explicitly created for students and it provides the perfect online environment for them to practice their skills in a safe online environment.
Voicethread can successfully be used in math, art, language, or history PBL activities. Students create voicethreads related to a class, a theory, a concept, a project, working individually or in groups. Here, you can find great examples of how teachers have used Voicethread with their students in their classrooms around the US and Europe in subjects like social studies, art, language, history, physics, and more.
Seesaw is a learning platform that promotes meaningful student engagement. With the use of multimodal tools, students can capture what they know in a digital portfolio which can be shared with teachers, peers, and parents.
Seesaw helps students unlock their creative thinking in any subject. Teachers can use portfolios as a PBL assignment to empower self-reflection and promote student voice and choice.
On their website, teachers can find and use, or adapt, PBL ideas for various subjects and students of all ages.
Ted-Ed is a learning platform with resources teachers can use in their classrooms. From Ted talks to animated videos covering many topics, the platform provides the information students need to learn new things.
I also wrote about my approach using Ted-ed lessons as a starting point for a project-based learning activity. The project takes an entire semester in which each student becomes a teacher for one lesson, which they create and structure based on an animated video chosen from the platform.
Students develop their creativity and organizational skills, collaborate with peers, and coordinate their activities while practicing English in an authentic learning environment. They become more engaged and empathetic as a result of the experience. In a survey I conducted recently in my classroom, 37.3 percent of students said they need other content types. Other data that I’ve gathered from surveys conducted over the last five years shows most students enjoy becoming a teacher for one day. They also like to experience the responsibilities involved in preparing and managing a class, recognizing the benefits of such a project for language learning.
Flipgrid can be used as a video diary where students record their thoughts on a subject and try to understand what they know, think, or need going further. If these videos are made public for the class, they could foster meaningful conversations based on growth mindset comments. This way, learners analyze themselves and learn through peer feedback.
Flipgrid is used by teachers worldwide to allow students to showcase their evolution throughout an assignment. For example, a teacher used the app for a PBL project asking students to post a progress update, goals for the upcoming week, and requests for suggestions.
Padlet is a virtual wall where students can post their work and reflect on it. Teachers can intervene in the self-assessment process and guide learners through deeper reflection moments. Also, as a collaborative learning experience, peers can react and comment on each other's reflections and get a deeper insight into others' thought processes.
Padlet can be used by students in many subjects to organize their ideas for a project, document their project journey, or create visual stories.
All in all
Project-based learning is the best excuse to use digital tools in the classroom and have students experience real-life learning opportunities that enhance motivation and develop 21st-century skills.
You can find digital tools and resources that support PBL activities with benefits for everyone involved. Let your students showcase their knowledge and creativity through project-like tasks assisted by technology.