Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Student AppSmash - A PBL success story

Many of you may have experienced that gut wrenching moment where, before the students have even begun to understand what the PBL experience they are in entails, they have already opened Google slides. The blank stares I get when I dare ask, "Are you sure that a slide deck is the best way to go?", tell me that they are much more product driven than I hope, and that most have been exposed to the "wrong" answer shown in the image above. Presentation equals slides! This is what has driven me to make sure that my driving questions are as vague as possible, at least with respect to the type of product the students create, which brings me to the real reason behind today's post.

A couple of weeks ago, my students began their exploration in our Interdependence of Organisms unit, which culminated in the students "Convincing the general public to care about an endangered species, and developing a realistic plan to bring it back from the brink of extinction".  As always my students launched into "presentation" mode, which was when I officially stated that I was incredibly tired of sitting through slides, so anyone "caught" even thinking about creating a slide deck without a storyboard would lose their tech. I then added that I expected to be entertained, because "no one cares about what is being presented if they are bored, so if the goal was to convince people to care, boring them to tears with slides was definitely not the way to go". What followed was a flurry of student engagement that culminated in one of my favorite student app-smashes of all time - the AyeAye Need You website

The Aye Aye Need you WIX website includes a student produced screencast-o-matic video, two Thinglinks (one of them used simply as a presentation aid), a HSTRY timeline and a Piktochart infographic.

I unfortunately did not think to record the students' presentation of their work, but their recovery plan included comments like:

- The US and Madagascar are not "besties", so they will need to put aside their differences and work together to restore the forest.

-  Why do we need charcoal? That just pollutes the air. What we need is more Aye-Aye's!

Did the student's achieve the goal of raising awareness, driving action and starting conversations to save the lowly Aye Aye? Yes.
Did they use technology to do it? Yes.
Did they "make a Google slide deck"? Most certainly not.

Now, on to the next step in this PBL evolution - guiding students to develop empathy for the user of a product before even thinking about what the product is/should look like/do.

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