What would a good PBL planner look like …on the Internet?

That’s the question that started to form in my head as I watched one 21st-Century teacher’s project take shape and grow over the past few weeks. She used at least 3 or 4 “Web 2.0” applications, gathered relevant resources from diverse sources, and tied it together with a Google doc. She used social media to engage parents and experts. It’s an impressive and organically evolving body of work, and I can’t help but think a mashup? of easily obtainable freely available open source tools could make it even easier for more educators to design and execute such rich and engaging learning experiences.

So what have I got?

I’m a former classroom teacher, “webmaster,” who currently designs and implements elearning, mostly using Adobe Captivate. I see an opportunity to draw from an authentic Internet-inhabiting Project Based Learning experience, the experience of the people who took part in it, and the perspective of having watched it unfold in the context of a Twitter-based Personal Learning Network (PLN). I can introduce some technology, and ways of using technology, I think can facilitate the processes I engaged in and witnessed. Educators can think of this perspective as outcomes based. Programmers can think of it in terms of reverse engineering. Using Twitter and this blog I hope to invite participation from these and many other corners, and I’m quite open and willing to have my ideas shot to pieces by better ones.

A Web app can…

  1. collect content from all over the Web
  2. display the content in ways that convey participants’ goals and expectations for the content
  3. keep record of who does what with the content

What do I know?

I know 21st century teaching is a wicked problem? fraught with social complexity and thus requiring many heads, and many round trips from 21st century “classroom” to drawing board. I know social media can support informal learning networks and communities of practice. I know how to set up a web site, on my own hardware or a host’s, or running from a USB for mainly development purposes. I know how to install and configure WordPress and Moodle, both of which can be used by virtual communities to interact and collaborate. I know how to use the jQuery JavaScript framework, and how to extend it with the jQuery mobile framework. I know how to build a MySQL database. I know how PHP works, although my experience is with a similar system, ColdFusion, that does essentially the same thing. I’m learning how to use Git and I have a repository on GitHub. And I know where to look and how to ask questions to fill in what I don’t know. I love to share.

This can be…

  1. a project based learning project for all involved
  2. a chance for hands on, self-guided, informal education in “Web 2.0” technologies

What’s the idea?

I fully believe with some accompanying video and the enthusiastic support of a PLN even the most timid self-identified “Luddite” can learn to set up or sign up for a WordPress blog. There already exist many “plugins”—extensions of the basic WordPress architecture—someone launching such a project might find useful. jQuery, jQueryMobile and jQuery-UI between them have the ability to pull content together from many diverse sources and display it in a usable manner. WordPress and its open architecture bring the ability to save it and make it reusable. As a platform it offers the ability both to support the planning of the experience and to chronicle the experience itself, which to some degree can then be re-experienced.

What’s next?

If you have any thoughts on anything I’ve written up to this point please use the comments section. I’d like to use this space to brainstorm and try things. I hope to attract educators, programmers, students and instructional designers, and anyone else who finds an idea here worth trading, and’s willing to leave an idea in exchange. If you do I’ll let you look under the sculptor’s tent and see more of what I have in mind. (if you’re a coder you’ll find the way in, I didn’t make it difficult) If you hurry you can help nudge it in the right direction!

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