Terry Smith – Pepperdine University, U.S.A
Project-based learning in a technology rich environment can be effective in K-12 classrooms allowing students to negotiate understanding and construct knowledge in social situations. Benefits include connecting students in communities in and outside of their cultures, and meeting learning goals in non-institutional fashion, while educators share practices and resources using technology tools. When projects endure over time, characteristics of communities of practice begin to emerge in which shared content grows and is amended by participants, generating historical artifacts. Once instantiated, the project philosophy provides an ongoing basis for immersive learning, using wikis, blogs, and other social networking applications. A project-based classroom philosophy sets an engaging, attractive environment for students by meeting their needs to be socially involved, as opposed to being passive receivers. An example long term Internet learning event called the Monster Project is examined in this paper. Widespread use of project-based learning has been curtailed by a strong focus on traditional instruction to meet testing goals. Research shows that active participation in project-based education results in students being more intrinsically motivated, more likely to show conceptual understanding, and more well adjusted than students in traditional education modes. These characteristics are those of a community of practice, where members are informally connected by their accomplishments and by what they learn together. The range of academic content that can be integrated into project-based learning as the main approach in a classroom is bounded only by a teacher’s energy and creativity.