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Starting Your Project-Based Learning Journey Even in a Virtual Classroom

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Explore and create : Creation lab

Maria Sellers  
Holly Swartz  

Project-based learning helps students acquire career-ready skills and knowledge by engaging in active investigations of real-world challenges and problems that are then shared. Learn the steps that are needed to start a PBL unit in your classroom, even if that is virtual.

Audience: Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Google Account and Google Drive access
Topic: Project-, problem- & challenge-based learning
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Career and technical education, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Use collaborative tools to expand students' authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally.
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

As teachers look for ways to engage our students in meaningful lessons and prepare them for success in the world, we must alter the way we educate students. Project Based Learning is one way to achieve those goals and participants in this session will be given the steps and tools to start that journey.

Participants will leave with hands-on knowledge of the steps needed to implement a
Project Based Learning unit in their classroom even if it is virtual.

Participants will leave this session with a digital packet of templates and information needed to start implementation and examples of successful PBL units.


(5 minutes) Introduce Presenters
Roles and Backgrounds

(15 minutes) What is Problem Based Learning
Definition (use of word cloud)
What is can look like in -
Face to Face classroom
Virtual classroom

(15 minutes) How do you begin?
Introduction of steps
Examples from our previously taught units (examples from both Face to Face and Virtual classrooms)

(20 minutes ) Sandbox Time
Participants will be given a digital packet of templates and information to use to begin their brainstorming.
Start your Problem Based Learning Unit with presenters/facilitators there to assist (this could include peer-to-peer interaction)

(5 minutes) Wrap Up

Supporting research

Don Wettrick -
   Book - Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking
20% Time to the Next Level

Trevor Muir -
Book - The Epic Classroom: How to Boost Engagement, Make
Learning Memorable, and Transform Lives

Nicholas Provenzano -
Book - Beyond the Poster Board: Project-Based Learning
in the English Language Arts Classroom

Project Based Learning with an Equity Lens

More [+]


Maria Sellers, South Vermillion Middle School

Maria Sellers is a teacher at South Vermillion Middle School in Clinton, IN where she teaches computer science, 21st Century Skills, and STEM. She also serves as an adjunct professor for Saint Mary of the Woods College teaching education technology courses. Maria also enjoys sharing her love of computer science with others as a facilitator for Nextech Indiana and She is also a member of the Indiana CS Champs and Ford Next Generation Learning PBL Indiana Cohort 2.

Holly Swartz, South Bend Community School Corporation

Holly Swartz has taught 22 years in the South Bend Community School Corporation in South Bend, Indiana. In 2018 she made the decision to step out of the classroom to take on the role of Digital Integration Specialist. Holly currently serves as a Computer Science Fundamentals Facilitator for in partnership with Nextech in Indiana and Ford Next Generation Learning PBL Indiana Cohort 2 both help her bring her love of CS and PBL to fellow educators through training sessions. She also helps run her local EdTech conferences, EdTech in the Bend and EdCamp in the Bend.

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