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Digital Age PBL for All Learners, Online or In Person

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Explore and create : Creation lab

Suzie Boss  
Stefanie Hausman  

If you thought project-based learning could only be successful in face-to-face environments, think again. Drawing on years of PBL experience, we’ll help you engage, empower, and transform teaching and learning for all students using digital tools —whether in face-to-face, online or hybrid learning environments.

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Topic: Project-, problem- & challenge-based learning
Grade level: PK-12
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
For Students:
Empowered Learner
  • Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Understand how technology can be used to deepen, empower, and make PBL possible with distance, face-to-face, or hybrid learning.

Objectives. Participants will:
- Understand why using the ISTE Standards plus PBLWorks Essential Design Elements of Gold Standard PBL as a foundation will lead to meaningful learning for all students

- Use a variety of technologies to convert elements of a low-tech project to a tech-enabled project suitable for distance or hybrid learning

- Identify strategies for increasing students’ digital citizenship through real-world projects

- Collaborate with peers to adapt a project


I. Entry Event (5 mins): An energizer to get the group comfortable and connected, for example: Use a Nearpod Collaborative/Drawing Board to share words, drawing, or a photo that shows what engaged learning looks like.

II. Poll (2 mins): Experience with Project Based Learning
- Armchair traveler: Curious from afar, reading up on PBL
- Tenderfoot: Doing first project, lots of questions
- Explorer: Some PBL experience, deeper questions
- Scout: Able to teach and guide others to effective PBL

III. Share the Driving Question (3 mins): How can we integrate technology tools for a robust project based learning experience in any learning environment?

IV. Building a strong foundation for digital-age PBL (5 mins)
What is Gold Standard PBL?
What are the learning goals at each stage of the project path?
Watch a short video to see how digital tools can help to spark inquiry

V. Explore and Adapt Project Jigsaw Activity (20 mins)
In small groups (either face-to-face or virtual) - each group chooses different project summary and curated resources to support their decisions about fine-tuning projects. They are also given information (ISTE Standard for Students, Essential Design Element of Gold Standard PBL, and type of learning environment) and are to select one technology tool to rework the activity to refine the driving question and address the ISTE standard, essential element, and learning environment. They will use Padlet to document their decisions and justification, and have an opportunity to do this activity another time with a different group.

Cards (Each card includes a driving question and an element from each of the following categories):
- ISTE Standard for Students: Empowered Learner, Digital Citizen, Knowledge Constructor, Innovative Designer, Computational Thinker, Creative Communicator, Global Collaborator
- Essential Element: Sustained Inquiry, Authenticity, Student Voice & Choice, Reflection, Critique & Revision, Public Product, Challenging Problem or Question
- Learning environment: remote, face-to-face, hybrid

Choose technology and explain how it would be used and why
Tool examples (but participants can suggest others): Padlet, Flipgrid, Google Jamboard, PollEverywhere, Google Forms, Mentimeter, Google Expeditions, TED Talks, Newsela, Trello, WriteAbout, Google Docs, Periscope, Kahoot!, Quizlet, Kaizena

VII. Group Sharing (10 mins): Share out and respond to other groups' project decisions using Padlet

VIII. Closing (5 mins): Q&A, reflect on take-aways

Supporting research

Project Based Teaching: How to Create Rigorous and Engaging Learning Experiences by Suzie Boss with John Larmer (ASCD, 2018)

Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, 3rd Ed., by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss (ISTE, 2018)

Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning by John Larmer, John Mergendoller, and Suzie Boss (ASCD, 2015)

“Pushing the Boundaries of the Traditional Classroom through Project Based Learning,” by Suzie Boss in The Blue DOT, Special Issue: Reimagining Learning Spaces for Uncertain Times.(UNESCO, Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development, 2020),

Stefanie and Suzie co-developed courses for ISTE and PBLWorks (2020):
ISTE U: “Leading Project-Based Learning with Technology”,

PBLWorks Courses: “Becoming a Project Based Teacher”, “Adapting Your First Project”,

More [+]


Suzie Boss, PBLWorks National Faculty emeritus

Suzie Boss is a writer and educational consultant from Portland, Oregon, who focuses on the power of teaching and learning to improve lives and transform communities. She’s the author of 10 popular books for educators, most recently Project-Based Teaching: How to Create Rigorous and Engaging Learning Experiences and Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, 3rd Ed. She collaborated with award-winning teacher Stephen Ritz to tell his inspiring story about classroom innovation in The Power of a Plant. A regular contributor to Edutopia, member of the PBLWorks National Faculty and frequent conference presenter, she consults with schools and nonprofit organizations worldwide that are interested in shifting to a more student-centered, innovative approach to teaching and learning. Her work has taken her to nearly every continent, reflecting the increasing global interest in real-world learning enabled by digital tools.

Stefanie Hausman, Education Technology Consultant

Stefanie is dedicated to helping educators transform classrooms into 21st century learning environments where all students and teachers can engage in relevant, meaningful, and deep learning experiences augmented by emerging technologies. Stefanie has worn many hats in the field of education and educational technology over the last 25 years ⎼ as an adult education teacher, a middle school classroom teacher, and as a teacher trainer. She is the author of ISTE-published book, Get Active: Reimagining Learning Spaces for Student Success.

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