What PBL Looks Like during School Closures

One school shows us what’s possible online

An Open Letter written by Jean Kaneko, Chief Catalyzer, Catalyst Innovation Institute

One of our Headrush powered schools was recently inspired to share this letter with us. Beyond reminding us why we do what we do, we think it serves as a powerful example of how having the right tools and a blended learning strategy can facilitate a smooth transition to online learning, a timely lesson as many are scrambling to make distance learning a reality. We know schools don’t have to sacrifice project-based, learner-centered instruction during school closures, and the community at Catalyst Innovation Institute exemplifies this.

Hey Mike and the Headrush team,

Families in rural areas, disaster zones and the homeless need housing that can be rapidly deployed and self sufficient. This is the needs statement of a 9th grader in the Catalyst Innovation Institute’s I-Lab at the new Personalized Project Based Learning Pathway (PPBL) of Santa Monica High School. This is one of 42 individual projects from the 42 pioneer students. We have been using the Headrush App to support teachers and students since the opening of the school in September 2019. So, when our district closed in person learning and moved to distance learning, we were grateful that the students were already familiar with Headrush. They were able to continue their Individual Interest Projects at home, communicate with their advisors and mentors and take this opportunity to deepen their learning.

At PPBL, students are encouraged and given time and resources to create their own learning plans incorporating their interests. The goal is for the students to find their passions, explore careers and engage with the real world outside of school walls. As the founder of Catalyst and its parent organization, The Exploratory, I have had the opportunity over the last 10 years to study how innovative schools offer project based learning to their students. The one question that has remained unanswered is, “So does an educator do this work when you have 100 + students, each with their own project?” Often PBL projects have students doing the same type of work using the same tools and materials. At PPBL, we hope that 100 students will have 100 projects that range from books to sewing to virtual reality to wood working etc. In addition to this challenge, PPBL students have advisors and mentors who support them as well.

This is where Headrush has been indispensable. All the teachers and advisors can access all the students’ projects. When they find a resource or have an expertise that can help any student, they can add comments or tasks. When a student is working on a component of their project that an academic teacher can provide support for, they can have a discussion about that task.

The teachers who previously had been reluctant to utilize Headrush, now had the time to play with it and we can’t wait to see the amazing ideas that they will have to support their students.

Here is an email from the student working on rapid deployment housing to her mentor:

“Hello XXX,

Hope you are doing well and staying healthy. This is XXX. I was wondering if you could review these designs. I made some changes to them after we talked last Wednesday. I drew the designs again and I made another prototype. I still need to finish some parts on the cardboard prototype but I wanted to get some feedback before I added more things on it. I added a rain collecting system using the roof and left some space for flat solar panels. I have been investigating types of material for shelters and tents and I think a good material to incorporate would be canvas but I am not sure how heavy it is and how much it costs. I also think that it would be good to add waterproof material on the outside and reflective material. I would really appreciate it if you could look over these designs and give me some feedback.

Sincerely, XXX

She sent along these pictures of her design

All from her house. How cool is that!?!

Thank you Headrush for being there not only for our students, but for also encouraging our teachers to venture into the world in Personalized PBL.

When life gives you lemons, the Headrush App helps you make lemonade.

Jean Kaneko

Chief Catalyzer

Catalyst Innovation Institute

HEADRUSH facilitates learner-centered education from START to FINISH allowing students to become self-empowered learners, teachers to focus on mentoring great work and schools to be future-ready. Our Learning Liberators series highlights individuals and organizations that are brave enough to break the mold of traditional education and are making a difference in the world of learner-centered education. Join our community as we enhance dialog to support deeper learning. For more, follow @headrushapp on Twitter or visit us at https://headrushlearning.com.

We facilitate project-based learning from START to FINISH. Join our community as we enhance dialogue to support deeper learning.

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