Project-based learning resources created by Experiential Learning Depot are largely self-directed, because that is the nature of experiential learning. Students design and direct their own PBL experiences. Your PBL projects do not have to be student-directed. You are welcome to design a PBL experience for your students.
The assumption is that if you're reading this, you are distance teaching. Whether you design a project for your students or they design it themselves, you will need to communicate and provide feedback to your students regularly. All of the following tips apply to self-directed PBL experiences, and most of them can be applied to teacher planned PBL experiences as well.
My digital resources are created in Google Slides. Assigning Google Slides to Google Classroom is super easy. Check out last weeks post on how to assign a digital copy to each student on Google Classroom.
The following PBL communication tips between students and instructors, then, exclusively applies to Google Classroom. Good luck!
Teacher and Student Communication and Project Feedback Using Google Slides Resources
Let's say your student is designing their project on my Google Slides mental health PBL resource that you have assigned them using Google Classroom, and that student is struggling to create goals. That student can type a question to you using the "comment" button in the upper right hand corner of their Slides. The comment/question will be sent directly to your email.
You can respond right from your email, or you can pull this student's resource up from Google Drive. Click on your "Classroom" folder. Open the resource that belongs to this particular student and reply to comments and questions directly to their resource. I like this avenue of communication because the comment is added precisely it applies in the resource, such as on the slide where the student is writing goals.
2. Teacher Approval Alerts/Sign-Offs
Another element in the project development process where you are needed is project approvals, and in some cases, the approval of student-generated rubrics. At any point that a student is ready for your approval, such as when they have completed their project design/proposal, they can send you an alert using the comment box noted in
"1. Questions/Feedback" above.
That alert will arrive in your mailbox. At that point, you will go into this student's resource through Google Drive as described above, to peruse their project plan and sign-off on their proposal. If you are not ready to sign-off, and the proposal needs more work or a few tweaks here and there, respond to their "comment", or alert, with suggestions.
3. Peer Approval Meetings
An approval meeting is basically a get together where a student presents their project design to a small group, other students in this case, and that small group offers suggestions for design improvements.
So how to coordinate approval meetings from a distance? In a classroom environment, I would have students present their project plans to the class or a small group. In the case of distance learning, you have a couple of options:
4. Project Circles
In my classroom, I would periodically have all of my students come to our large round table where we have class discussions, organize collaborations, and have project circles. A project circle is where students come together and present to each other on their project progress and they can offer each other feedback and suggestions for improvement.
In the case of remote or distance learning students could follow the same steps as they would for approval meetings mentioned above (conference calls and Classroom forums). They could also use other members of their household, such as siblings, to be a part of a project circle.
5. Self/Peer & Teacher Evaluations
My digital PBL resources include a rubric. Students can assess their own work directly into the resource. Teachers can go into the student's resource through the Classroom folder on Google Drive, make a copy of the rubric slide, and complete the rubric as well. Community experts can do this also if you are looking for additional feedback for your students.
6. Peer Evaluation Meetings
When student's are done with their projects, they could go through an evaluation meeting, similar to a project approval meeting. This offers students a chance to get pointers from their peers and go back and make final revisions. This improves project quality. Host peer evaluation meetings the same ways as you would approval meetings and project circles.
Throughout the year I have students add their project outcomes to a project-based learning e-Portfolio, also a Google Slides resource that can be shared using Google Classroom and filled by students online. You will communicate and add feedback to this resource the same way you would the others that I have mentioned so far. Grab this free Google Slides PBL e-Portfolio by subscribing to my mailing list.
If Covid has taught me anything it is that no parent or teacher needs any additional stressors, such as coming across kinks and hurdles to getting learning materials to students. When someone purchases a digital resource of mine, I want the process of getting the resource to students to be seamless. Troubleshooting is an additional task that no one needs right now, or ever for that matter.
I have had a couple of questions from buyers about how to get the digital resources that they're buying from me onto Google Classroom. I have since started adding instructions to all of my digital resources, but I wanted to add it here as well to give the visual folks out there some guidance.
One of my own project-based learning resources is used as the example in the tutorial below. However, these step-by-step instructions apply across the board. You can use the following steps to assign all pdf's that include a link to a digital resource.
My project-based learning resources (most of them) include a printable option with a link to a fillable Google Slides that can be assigned using Google Classroom. The following steps walk you through the process, from downloading the resource to sending a copy to each student on Google Classroom.
1. Purchase and download the resource!
The resource in this example is a community action project about mental health. It is a combination of project-based learning, problem-based learning, and service-learning. Check this one out, and others like it at Experiential Learning Depot on TPT.
2. Find the Link and Click!
After you have purchased one of my resources, you will download the pdf. The first page of the pdf in my resources contains a link and instructions to getting copies of the digital resource to your students. Click the link.
3. "Make a Copy" Prompt
Clicking on the link will pull up prompt that allows you to make a copy. Click the blue "Make a Copy" button.
4. Automatic Copy to Your Google Drive
Clicking the "Make a Copy" button will automatically deliver a copy of the resource to your Google Drive. The digital resource, in my case, a fillable Google Slides, will appear in a new tab.
5. Head to Google Classroom
Head to the class that will receive the resource on Google Classroom and click on the "Classwork" tab. Then click "Create".
6. Create the Assignment
Once you have clicked "Create", a list of options will pop up. You will click on "Assignment".
7. Assign a Copy of the Resource to Each Student
Write in a title and add a description of the product for your students. Click on the paper clip "add" button on the bottom left. Click on "Google Drive". I then click on "recents", where I find the resource that was added when I forced a copy earlier. Click on that resource from your drive to add it to the assignment. MAKE SURE to click on "Make a copy for each student". If you do not click this, a view-only resource will be sent to students.
Click "Assign" in the upper right hand corner when you're ready.
8. Student View
This is what your students will see from their end once you have assigned the resource. They will be able to click on that assignment, open their copy of the Google Slides resource, and type right into the text boxes to design their own PBL projects.
Next week I'll be adding tips on how teachers and students can communicate with each other about project-based learning experiences from Google Classroom. Distance project-based learning can be a challenge because in a classroom the teacher would be facilitating and offering feedback on progress and outcomes.
How do teachers oversee project-based learning experiences when they're not face-to-face with students? How do they approve projects? How do they provide feedback? Complete a rubric? Include self and peer assessments? All of these questions and more will be answered in next week's post. Stay-tuned.
Follow Experiential Learning Depot on Pinterest & Instagram, for more on experiential education, and check out my TpT store for experiential learning resources.
What is an authentic presentation?
Some of my favorite projects over the course of my teaching career have been those that have truly embraced the idea of sharing work with a relevant and meaningful audience; those that have included an authentic presentation.
Let's say a teacher assigns students to research invasive species. Students create a poster board with information on that species and present final products to their classmates. That is a project, not PBL. They are different things.
A project-based educator, on the other hand, might have students research a specific community invasive species. Students might collaborate with a local conservationist to design and develop a tool or method to effectively remove the species from the habitat while preserving and conserving the natural ecosystem. The teacher and students organize an invasive species removal event, inviting community members to help remove the invasive species using the tools that the students have created.
This is PBL, and the invasive species removal event is the authentic presentation.
Authentic presentations in the Covid era?
We are currently in a situation that makes authentic presentations a bit more challenging. Communities are social distancing and many schools are still distance teaching. How do students share new skills and knowledge with an authentic audience when they can't physically come together to do so?
You have to go digital. I know this isn't ideal for all, but given the circumstances, it is better to do authentic presentations digitally than not at all. On the upside, sharing capabilities online are out of this world. Google apps, FlipSnack, Canva, animation programs, video and photo editing programs, websites, and more all provide a variety of sharing options. Check out last week's post on digital PBL final products.
10 Digital Authentic Presentation Ideas for Project-Based Learning
Digital authentic presentations brain dump:
Check out these authentic presentation options that will hopefully inspire you and lead you in the right direction when planning PBL experiences. There are MANY others. Think about WHO could benefit from the information or final products that your students have to offer.
If you're looking for PBL resources that include project planning templates with authentic presentation suggestions, check out my teacher facilitated, student-directed PBL resources on TPT (grades 6-12).
I also encourage you to grab my free editable Google Slides e-Portfolio where students can showcase outcomes, including authentic presentations, in one handy digital portfolio. Free when you subscribe to ELD's email list.
1. Add Final Products to a Professional/Established Website:
Don't reinvent the wheel! You could create your own website and have students add their final products to it, but a marketing campaign would have to go along with it to make an impact, especially on a relevant audience. Take advantage of someone else's network, and if possible, coordinate a mutual collaboration with this person. Check out my post on establishing a community network.
Example: Students collaborate with the Nature Conservancy, for example. Students develop tutorials on how to make and use their invasive species removal tools, compile them into a FlipSnack magazine, and ask the Nature Conservancy to publish the FlipSnack link to their website.
2. Write a Guest Blog Post:
Connect with a popular blogger that is relevant to the topic at hand. Coordinate a guest post for students to showcase their work. Again, don't reinvent the wheel!
Example: You, or your self-directed students, connect with Nikela (a conservation blogger) to arrange for a guest post. Students write mitigation plans for their invasive species of choice. Nikela becomes a coach and editor AND publishes student work to their blog.
3. Social Media Campaign:
Note the word "campaign". This wording is deliberate. Social media is a powerful and rapid mode of sharing information, but for the presentation to truly be authentic, the audience needs to be authentic as well. Time needs to be spent targeting and reaching a specific audience that can use the information or final product to their benefit.
Example: Students create a portfolio of pins, from infographics to awareness campaigns. They then create a Pinterest account about conservation, for example, not a personal account, and add boards related to conservation, such as invasive species. Students add their homemade pins to their Pinterest page and market their account to a relevant audience.
4. Youtube Guest:
Youtube is a really popular way to share information. But again, without a relevant following, Youtube is an ineffective authentic presentation option. Instead, have students connect with people that host established Youtube channels, relevant to the topic, to either co-host an "episode" or guest post videos.
Examples: Students create a mini-documentary about a specific invasive species that's negatively impacting their community. Students then connect with Youtube's Nature on PBS to get the documentary added to that channel.
5. Submit to Online Publications or Contests:
This is one of my favorite ways to have students present their final products because it encourages quality work. Students submit to teen art contests, student science publications, writing contests, STEM competitions, and more. There are many options that pop up with a simple Google search. Teen Ink is a favorite, among others.
Example: Students conduct scientific open-inquiry investigations about a specific invasive species, write a lab report, and submit their work for publication to a student-specific scientific journal.
6. Local Media:
Have students submit articles, editorials, ads, video promotions, and more to local media. The type of media will depend on the final product, but might include a local newspaper, radio station, or public television station.
Example: Students create a video advertisement that encourages viewers to do "this" or "that" to mitigate the spread of an invasive species.
7. Live Virtual Presentations:
Have students host a live radio show, present their work to a community elementary students, share their final products on a relevant organization's Facebook live, and more.
Example: Students connect with Conservation Minnesota and schedule to stream project presentations on Conservation Minnesota's Instagram live.
8. Audio Publishing:
Podcasts! I'm a sucker for podcasts. Students could take advantage of the popularity of podcasts in so many ways from guest speaking on established podcasts to creating their own episode or series.
9. Public Display:
Alright, this is not necessarily digital, but students CAN still present their work in an authentic way without being physically present. One of those ways is to display work in a relevant location.
Example: Students create posters that instruct boaters how to check their boats for zebra mussels before entering and exiting new waterways. The students then print physical copies and display the posters at boat launches across the region.
10. Participating in Virtual Events
I know, I know. Not ideal and it's getting old. But virtual events are here and are likely here to stay, so let's embrace it. There are SO many ways for students to share their work virtually these days, and Covid has increased those opportunities tenfold. Look into virtual science fairs, auctions, fundraisers, art shows, conferences, and have students participate in these online events.
When I was teaching I would get a handful of students every year that had a deep passion for cooking. One particular student was interested in cooking, science, and travel. Together we designed a project-based learning experience that combined those three interests.
This student coordinated a fundraiser to raise money for a school trip that blended her loves of science and cooking. She learned about chemistry concepts by experimenting in the kitchen. She then created a cookbook using FlipSnack with original recipes that demonstrated chemical reactions, and sold the cookbook to friends, families, and neighbors in the community. This project inspired me to do kitchen inquiry with my own children last year, which I posted about in this blog. Check that out for fun kitchen science activities!
This student could have learned about chemical reactions, thrown some definitions and formulas onto a poster board, presented it to her class, and called it a day. Instead she applied the content to real-life and created a product that could be shared digitally.
With the onset of Covid related school closures, the means to create innovative final products is more important than ever. A while ago I published a post here with over 100 innovative end product ideas for project-based learners. Below is a list of ways to create and share each of those final product options digitally.
If you are new to project-based learning, or you are experienced but are looking for time-saving strategies, check out my project-based learning planner. Use the templates to develop unlimited PBL experiences. You can also check out my guided PBL resources, which all focus on a theme and include end product ideas, all of which have a digital option.
Project-Based Learning Digital End Product Ideas
Online Images (Ex: Canva, Photoshop):
I use Google Maps for a lot of things including student-designed tours, storytelling, and more. Check out this post with end product ideas using Google Maps. If you're looking to save time or are looking for PBL guidance, check out this high school PBL resource that uses Google Maps as an end product tool.
Interactive Presentations (Ex: Google Slides, Wick Editor):
Movie Makers (Ex: iMovie, Movie Maker, WeVideo, etc.):
Other digital movie making tools to check out: Screencast-O-Matic, PlayPosit, Green Screen by Do Ink, Animaker Class, Edpuzzle, Binumi, Adobe Spark, Touch Cast Studio
Online Books (Ex: FlipSnack, Book Creator):
All of these could be completed using a simple word processor such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, but tools such as FlipSnack offer options to insert images and video clips.
Audio End Products (Podcasting hosts, FlipGrid, Clyp):
Other digital audio tools to check out: Anchor, Beautiful Audio Editor, StoryCorps App, Toontastic 3D storytelling app, Explain Everything, Audacity, SpeakPipe.
Blogs/Websites (Ex: Weebly, Blogger, WordPress):
I would love to know what you are doing with your students in the virtual world! Although I have a lot of experience with in-person project-based learning, I am learning about how to make PBL meaningful and impactful digitally right along with you. Tell us about the digital tools for demonstrating learning that you love the most! I would love to make this a continuous and growing catalog of digital end product possibilities.
Follow Experiential Learning Depot on Pinterest & Instagram, for more on experiential education, and check out my TpT store for experiential learning resources.
There are some aspects of project-based learning that can be daunting or intimidating. Connecting and collaborating with community members was one of those things for me at the beginning of my PBL journey. But putting that fear aside is a must for several reasons:
Those of you that have dabbled in project-based learning know that bringing an expert to your students is common practice, as is bringing your students to the expert (Ex: A research lab). Community experts come into a place of learning for many reasions such as to speak, work with students directly on their projects, offer feedback and assistance, and occasionally play a role in final evaluations.
That has changed a bit with Covid. Distance learning presents an obvious challenge to connecting experts with students face-to-face, as does classroom learning. Even those students that will be back in a classroom will be experiencing a different learning environment than before, with understandable precautions put in place.
So how do you continue to incorporate community expertise into project-based learning mid-pandemic? Technology! Thankfully we are living in a digital era where communication is not a problem. My students engaged with community experts digitally even before Covid because there are so many cool ways to do that these days.
Before moving on, click "Get in Touch" right here on this website to sign up for my email list. You will receive my free project-based learning assessment e-portfolio where students can showcase their project outcomes, including community experts/collaborations. Grab my PBL Tool Kit to help with designing projects that include community experts.
Connecting with Community Experts Virtually for Project-Based Learning Experiences
How to Utilize Community Experts for PBL During Covid:
Students should use experts to gather information about their project topics. I am a biology teacher, but I am not an expert on colony collapse disorder, for example, a topic that came up during out pollinator study. The U of M had a CCD research program at the time. I was able to bring my students to their lab to discuss their research on disappearing bees. But how could students have gathered information from this expert team without being face-to-face?
I have been able to get my hands on so many unqiue resources by connecting with the right people. My favorite of all time was a human brain. A neurology student conducting research and writing her disseration on addiction came in to speak to my students and brought with her a real human brain. She then donated sheep brains for us to dissect. Connect with these community members however you see fit! She could have shown us the human brain on a video call and sent us the sheep brains to dissect together.
Collaborate with experts! Organize experiences that are mutually beneficial to your students and your community expert. There are so many amazing online programs that offer sharing and collaborating capabilities. For example, lets say students are coordinating a fundraiser. Students collaborate with local chefs to create a cookbook filled with recipes using only local ingredients. They then sell the cookbook.
FlipSnack is an online magazine/book creator that can be shared. Canva is another example, as are Google Apps. This entire cookbook could be created by a variety of collaborators without anyone ever seeing each other face-to-face. Of course that is not ideal, but that is the situation we're in, and it's a good option considering.
Start Building Your Network:
Keep an eye out for awesome community experts, especially if you will be the one coordinating these collaborations. My students self-direct their PBL experiences, so my students often find their own experts, but it's nice for you to have a log of potential connections to offer your students. Start with these steps:
1) Brain Dump: Grab a piece a paper, pull up a Google Doc or planning program, and dump all of your ideas for connections and collaborations into it.
2) Reach Out: Connect with a few people a day. Connect with someone of interest on LinkedIn, email a few people here and there, put a post on a Facebook group or Instastory.
3) Log Connections/Develop a Network: Jot down those that you make connections with or work with. Once you have worked with them, stay connected and keep them posted so that there is potential for future collaborations.
What are some of your favorite ways to bring community collaborators into your curriculum? How about digitally? I am gradually learning about amazing educational technologies, but have a lot more to learn. Fill me in!
For more details, tips, tricks, and resources on community experts, head back to to some earlier blog posts. Try this post on using the community as a resource and keep checking back for more posts in my PBL digital series.
Follow Experiential Learning Depot on Pinterest and Instagram for more on experiential education, and check out my TpT store for experiential learning resources.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.