Diving into PBL with iBlocks!

Providing a variety of options for students to show what they have learned or using different methods like project-based learning (PBL) will foster student agency and boost engagement and student motivation in learning. As educators, methods like PBL can help us learn more about our students’ passions and interests while providing students with learning experiences that will stretch their thinking and shift them from consumers to creators and innovators. Students become problem solvers and will take risks with learning and as a result, embrace the process of learning itself, rather than an end product.

When we create learning experiences that will more meaningfully engage students with the content, it increases student engagement and amplifies student achievement. Through PBL, we can create unique, authentic, and meaningful opportunities for students to explore real-world issues and better connect with the content and understand the world around them. By cultivating a student-led learning environment that promotes choice in learning, students will build confidence and these experiences will help to amplify student learning.

When thinking about beneficial learning opportunities that provide a lot of experiences, PBL is a perfect choice. PBL promotes the development of essential SEL skills and STEM competencies, and iBlocks provides everything that teachers need to get started. With iBlocks, there are a variety of topics to choose from that connect with different content areas and real-world issues. Students can design their learning journey and be supported in the process through resources like the student workbook. In the workbook, students can brainstorm ideas, add reflections, and chart their progress in their work. With the guiding supports in place, students will become more independent learners and develop a greater motivation for learning. Being able to see and feel the relevance and applicability of their work to the real world will have a positive impact on their learning experience.

Getting started

Teachers need to simply open the materials and can get started without worries about finding the time to review all of the materials and gather additional resources. iBlocks provides you with all of the content that you need to be able to effectively implement PBL and design thinking in the classroom. Teachers have everything needed to get started with PBL and bring STEM-focused lessons into their classrooms.

Unpacking the iBlock materials

When exploring the iBlock materials, teachers will find everything they need to dive right into PBL with students. First, explore the Skills Matrix which helps to set up the structure for the learning experience. It includes the goals for the lesson and the intended outcomes for learning.

Next, I recommend checking out the Teacher’s Guide. The guide has information about the process for using iBlocks, the student workbook, and activities for each module are included in the Teacher Guide and it also has the standards and other relevant PBL-related information to guide teachers in the implementation of PBL with iBlocks.

For ideas on how to use the iBlocks and the flow of the lessons, teachers will find it easy to get started with the lesson plans that are included. In each plan, there are detailed descriptions, classroom activities, and also outcomes that are anticipated for each learning activity and lesson.

Take time to look through the Student Workbooks to explore the activities and ways that students are guided through their learning journey. Students have writing space to answer questions, brainstorm ideas, ideate solutions, work through challenges, and then reflect on what they have learned. Each of these is highly beneficial for SEL skills.

And finally, after reviewing the Teacher Guide and Student Workbook, there are assessment materials that are great for use with students to determine their understanding of the work they are doing with the iBlock content. Some of the materials are great for SEL as students reflect on learning and the challenges with the PBL experiences. They will develop skills in self-awareness and self-management skills during their project.

Choices through iBlocks

There are a lot of great iBlocks to choose from for different grade levels and content areas. Think about topics related to your content area or skillsets that students need and find an iBlock that can provide everything in one.

Here are five options to start with:

Build Literacy Skills: For example, to help students build their literacy skills, there are iBlocks where they can create a short story or design a comic book. Students might also enjoy creating a one-act play and then hosting a performance for classmates or even the school! These would be great choices to boost creativity and spark curiosity for learning. It also gives students the opportunity to collaborate and create something truly authentic and relevant to their lives.

Social Awareness: It’s also important to help students understand issues that are being faced by people around the world, so exploring iBlocks related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would also be a great option for teachers. The “Clean Water and Sanitation” iBlock, explains SDG Number 6 and the “importance of ensuring availability and sustainable management of water for everyone.” Students can explore where water comes from, identify contaminants and then design and engineer their own water filtration system. The No Poverty and Xero Hunger iBlock, focuses on SDG Number 2. This iBlock not only will help students to focus on math but also develop social-emotional learning skills as they learn how they can create something to benefit people from around the world. These would be great choices to help students not only learn about math, science, and STEM but also develop essential SEL skills.

Each iBlock matches skills to standards such as the Common Core or the NGSS standards.

Collaboration and Problem-solving: Students need to develop these skills to be prepared and with iBlocks, there are fun options that help students to build these and other skills like critical thinking and creativity, as they design and carry out their own Escape Room or even make up a traditional board game.

Emerging technologies: Students can become designers and engineers through the Wearable Technology iBlock. Providing students with an opportunity to think about the purpose and how the technology can benefit people and then design something, fosters creativity and moves students from consumers to creators and innovators!

Financial Literacy: Another very important topic for students is to be financially literate. In the financial literacy iBlock, students learn about concepts related to economics and then design and reflect upon their own personal financial plan.

There are many more iBlock options available that help teachers enrich the content being taught and leverage the right tools that will help students to develop core curricular skills as well as STEM-related and SEL skills.

Benefits of choosing iBlocks

What I like the most about using iBlocks is that for teachers who are looking to bring a new method like project-based learning (PBL) and also to give students an opportunity to build SEL skills and to be prepared for a growing need for skills in STEM-related fields, this is the solution for everything. When we find tools and resources that enable us to do a lot with less and it saves time, it will be highly beneficial for students but also for helping teachers to embrace and provide these new and transformative learning experiences for all students.

The iBlocks framework offers an “out-of-the-box” experience in that it simply requires taking the materials out of the box to get started in the classroom. By using iBlocks, teachers will be confident getting started with PBL without having to worry about so many other variables.

iBlocks makes it easy to provide enriching and engaging learning experiences for students that are flexible regardless of where learning is happening. You can download a sample iBlocks to start with today!

About the Author

Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She is the author of sevens books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World”, “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us,” “Your World Language Classroom: Strategies for In-person and Digital Instruction” and “Things I Wish [..] Knew.” All books are available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU available at https://anchor.fm/rdene915

Rachelle is available for in-person and virtual PD sessions for your school.

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