ThingLink for PBL in Science
ThingLink is an online software used to make images interactive. This year, I've used it during a project/problem-based learning (PBL) activity, in which students did a series of tasks to collect data on a soil site of their choice (please see my "Model Overview" to learn about how I use Levels in my classroom). They collected this data and saved it for the final activity, the Soil Report, which asked the students to compile all the information they learned about their soil site and to post it on a ThingLink. This ThingLink was then used to make a target on the larger map of Paracini Ponds (the field site we visited), which was also its own ThingLink. The insight I was looking to gain from the completion of this activity was whether students could take scientific data from a field exercise, analyze it, and make a decision about how the land should be used.
The storyline of our academic game gives meaning to the students' presence in the game. It enhances the importance of the curriculum and gives students a goal to work toward. The theme our storyline is based around is a deserted island. In the game, students are elite plane crash survivors (PCSs) who must learn to live on the island after not being rescued. Throughout the levels, students are asked to build fire, build shelter, find food, filter water, and survive unexpected storms. By mastering each level, students complete the tasks and move onto the next scenario in the game.
Battling the Boss is a formative assessment strategy I use at the end of almost every level in our academic game. It's a process that allows students to prove that they understand the material covered in each level. Battling the Boss usually consists of me asking the student who has indicated that s/he is ready to "battle" one or two questions that require the student to demonstrate the skills I'm looking for them to develop in the level. If students prove that they understand the material, I let them move onto the next level. The students then put their names on the next level's poster, which is a public demonstration of each student's progress in the course. If students are not successful, they have the opportunity to do additional preparation and Battle the Boss when they have mastered the content.
My classroom space is broken into five distinct areas based on students’ needs. The areas are named in accordance with the storyline in our academic game: (1) presentation area (also known as the shelter), (2) lounge area (the beach), (3) counter area (the lookout), (4) teacher area (crash site), and the (5) table area (the jungle). Each area was set up with a distinct vision in mind. The shelter was set-up with two futons and a coffee table all located around the SmartBoard at the front of the classroom. I envisioned this area as a place where student groups could share their learning and present content using their iPads and our Apple TV. The beach area was created to help those students who do better lounging on a couch or in a non-traditional chair while working. I wanted my room to represent the traditional as well as the “non-traditional” student. The lookout area was specifically set-up for students who enjoy to look outside and see nature as they work. It also works well for those who use scenery as a reset in an environment that is often controlled chaos. The crash site was created as a result of the storyline where all students became Plane Crash Survivors (PCSs). The name makes it okay to have a messy desk! It’s also used as a space to separate distracting students from the attention of others in the classroom. Finally, the table area was made for the more traditional student who likes to work at a table or desk or likes to have a hard surface to work on. Throughout class, students can be seen moving throughout the room in accordance with their needs as a learner at that particular moment. I feel the incorporation of the different areas of the classroom helps to build a culture of learning acceptance and risk. It opens up the classroom to being more than just a sit and get environment. It helps to personalize and shape students’ learning. See also Jessi's Overview Model.