Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Flip your students' role in Project Based Lessons

On 5 July 2016 I was invited to facilitate a live webinar for the 'Introducing Project-Based Learning in your Classroom' Mooc held by School Education Gateway at their Teacher Academy.

I would first like to thank European Schoolnet for the chance; especially Nair Carrera for the invite, as well as Benjamin Hertz for his support and kind words. It was a great experience for me to be able to share and exchange viewpoints on PBL and Flipped Classroom active methodologies.

As promised at the live webinar, here you are the support slideshow used at the session, on one hand, and on the other, the summary/transcription of the talk, together with all the links.

I do hope you find them useful and interesting for your own lessons. If so, please feel free to reuse them and remember to always cite and attribute, but be so kind as to never forget to connect, connect and connect!

Slide 1 - Abstract

An experience carried out with teams of University Pre-Service Primary CLIL teachers, aimed at accomplishing this goal: Find e-students and e-teachers in any part of the world interested in connected learning and teaching and join them together, set up an e-connection based on a common topic, such as Science, Reading, Writing, Storytelling, School Life, Podcasting and so forth, and bring them together, so that they know each others’ needs and interests as to foster their beginning networked e-projects.

Slide 2 - Turn the school upside down and let your students be your champions!

Whenever I begin a school year, I always make sure that students understand the project is their project, not mine and that is why I leave the project schedule up to them, which might mean a bit of chaos from the teacher’s end, as planning becomes a difficult task, but I do assure you it is worth trusting your students’ talents. You will be surprised!
The students are bound to make the project theirs, to feel the project as theirs and that is added value for any project in the end.

So my lessons start out with the beginning-of-the-year question:

‘Are you up to the challenge? Your challenge is yours, it does not belong to the teacher, it is your challenge.’

I do think that our role as teachers is to let them be our champions and that the way to do it is showing confidence in their intelligence and talent, motivate them and foster their creativity and encourage them towards success. In the end, when they succeed, it is our success as teachers too, and so our students are our champions.

This means chaos, and turning the school upside down sometimes, but that does not matter if we are fostering autonomous learning and connecting them with lifelong learning by means of projects.

Slide 3 - Steps for flipping students’ role in Project based lessons

Be ready for improvising!

That’s the real challenge for the teacher, I think, as you never know what might happen or how the project is going to turn out and one has to be prepared to let the students be the main characters and to fail as well. Although you, as a teacher, may have every single activity framed in your mind, when you face your students with the challenge, your students are bound to turn your thoughts into different outcomes, and that is good, that is fostering autonomous learning, that is fostering creativity, promoting competencies.

The first project might not turn out well, and maybe not even the second or the third ones, but it is worth the effort. If one does not make mistakes, one will not learn, so it is important to guide them through failure too, and to fail ourselves as well.

This is the step-by-step procedure that I carry out in my own Project Based Learning Lessons.

Step 1: facing students with the challenge and let them choose.
Step 2: sending them on learning missions to guide them through overcoming the challenge.
Step 3: guiding resources (ICT tools); integrating ICT in the learning missions and turning ICT. into an invisible part of it all.
Step 4: Digitally connected outcomes. Dissemination (e-connections).
Step 5: Assessment.

Slide 4 - Challenge Scenario

Step 1 Challenge Scenario and Triggering question

It might be a real scenario or not, but it should have a triggering question, which is the actual question that poses the challenge.
You may use various options and let them choose. It all depends on how well prepared you are to face chaos.

I have used several challenge scenarios over the years, in different formats, and different triggering questions so as to kick the challenge off.

Some of those scenarios are available at this blog, where you can read them, download them and reuse them if you feel they are useful; feel free:

If you are feeling a bit dubious about providing students with options and you’d rather stick to one challenge scenario and its corresponding triggering question, that is fair enough too.

Here you are one that you can adapt to your own needs as well:

Slide 5 - Learning missions

Step 2 Learning missions

In order to overcome the challenge, why not sending them on learning missions, as Shelly Sanchez Terrell calls them, that help them accomplish the challenge little by little?

That is step 2 in my guide: first you face them with the challenge, you provide them with the idea, and now you have to guide your students so as they become successful. That guidance consists of designing learning experiences and sending them on those missions so that little by little, by accomplishing the missions, they overcome the challenge.

Of course, depending on the idea behind each project, you will have to design different and varied learning missions, which should be carefully planned, within the chaos that you yourself have organised in the previous step, in order to guarantee that everything has sense.

Depending on the project, you might send your students on these learning missions:

  • Teaming up and distributing roles: the speaker, the community manager, the investigator, the designer, the content curator, and so forth
  • Becoming avatars and/or cartoons and introducing their project to the world.
  • Prototyping their project, for instance, by means of a mindmap or an infographic; and presenting it through an elevator pitch so as to find partners and connect with other peers, inside and outside the classroom.
  • Searching and curating resources for their project: images, videos, audios and so forth. Using open collaborative curation boards.
  • Producing digital outcomes: designing tutorials, first aid kits, comics, video clips, podcasts, libraries, augmented tours and contents, storytelling.
  • Designing a digital showcase to share the project, that is a blog, a site, and so forth.
  • Presenting the project and e-connecting it with the outer world: connect with other alike collaborative projects and connect, exchange, enrich, disseminate, open your school doors to other schools, plant the seed of collaboration.
  • Designing rubrics for peer evaluation and self evaluation.
  • Giving credit for their achievements: why not awarding them with a badge, or having them award their peers with a badge?

Of course you will need to guide their steps along the learning missions. Help them:

  • Read and analyse the challenge scenario (mindmap).
  • Adequately define the challenge.
  • Identify prior knowledge about the challenge.
  • Identify unknown issues.
  • Design a work plan to tackle the challenge.
  • Gather and organise information.
  • Analyse the gathered information.
  • Develop activities, present and share the process and outcomes.
  • Evaluate and reflect.

Slide 6 - Step 3 Guiding resources

In order for the students to be able to accomplish the learning missions, apart from guiding their steps, as I have previously mentioned, guiding resources are a must. It is essential to provide them with the adequate resources for each learning mission. So, for instance, if you are sending them on the learning mission of creating a video clip, apart from guiding their steps through the creation of a storyboard before recording that clip, you will have to provide them with the actual digital tool and resource to be able to write the storyboard first, then record the video and finally edit, produce and publish it, ok?

Here you are several ICT tools to use as guiding resources for coming up with digital outcomes:

  • Team Work Contract: A Google doc.
  • Mindmapping tools: coggle.
  • Digital Literacy. Citing and Attributing: Creative Commons Licence Generator.
  • Search, Filter, Gather & Organise tips and resources: content curation tools, i.e. Symbaloo,, Pinterest.
  • Showcasing tools: blogging (Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr), websites (Google Sites, Wix, Weebly).
  • Designing a logo: tools for headers, banners (Canva).
  • Designing a trailer: tools for working with video (Storyboard That, Sony Vegas, Camtasia, YouTube).
  • Podcasting missions: tools for audio streaming (SoundCloud, Ivoox).
  • Collaborative presentations missions: slideshows, storytelling (Google Slides, Genially, Pixton).
  • Multimedia missions: e-activities (Quizlet, Flashcards, eXeLearning, Voxopop, Aurasma).
  • Connecting and sharing: collaborative worldwide projects, online conferences, webathons, connected teachers.
  • Evaluating: online rubrics (QuickRubric, Rubistar).
  • Awarding badges: badge issuing online platforms (Credly, P2PU).

I can recommend a Playpen with lots of resources, tools and so forth, so as to pick and choose:
- Collaborative lists at Listly.
- Collaborative boards at Pinterest.

Slide 7 - Step 4. Digitally connected outcomes

Connect, connect and connect!

While you send your students on learning missions or ask them to craft activities, please connect them with peers, because, if we are not part of an educational movement and support it or if we do not encourage our learners to connect with peers, we are not giving them the full picture. And that is why whenever I am carrying out goal oriented practices, I always try to connect them with collaborative projects, as I believe e-connections are essential.

It is essential to be an up-to-date connected teacher who can bring learners close to the global world we are living in nowadays.

Professional networks of inspiring educators, ready to work in collaboration, share their ideas and findings, willing to innovate together, are the best movement to support, as well as the most nurturing environment for one's own learners to find the right path in search of becoming globally connected citizens.

Being part of a virtual community of persons worldwide is an asset for one's teaching life, and not only from a professional viewpoint, but also from a personal one, as when one feels part of connected movements, one establishes personal links too; above all, one establishes strong personal links, yes, above all; emotional rewarding relationships that help you stay focused and keep going when education goes rough, and sometimes it does go rough, doesn't it?

That's why I am proud to be part of a wide range of collaborative movements worldwide, to support and be supported by their members, to stay connected, to learn and be inspired by their awesome ideas, tips, pieces of advice and, especially, by their warmth, proximity, energy and generosity even though they are actually based at the other end of the world.

Check them at Proud to be part!

Slide 8 - Step 5. Assessment

Last but not least, as it should part of it all from scratch, is assessment. If the learning goals are clear, the assessment criteria are clear.

Swap assessment tools and assessment methods, such as

  • Peer to peer
  • Connected
  • Self assessment
  • Badges: give credit for your students’ achievements.

Here you are some links for help with assessment:

  • Why not use badges to acknowledge competencies, projects, or simply for motivation? And why not giving credit for your students’ achievements, or even better, let teams evaluate other teams, using badges too? Both Credly and P2PU offer you the means to do so. 

Consider checking my badges for illustration of my viewpoints on this matter. 

Slide 9 - Tips and more

Just click and surf for an overall glimpse of how I understand teaching and learning.

And Thanks Ever So Much For Passing By!

And if you missed it, here you are the recording:


  1. Thank you so much for sharing these great ideas and resources!

    1. My pleasure! Humbly honoured that you find them interesting.

  2. Thank you very much!
    I could not join the webinar, but here I find a lot of interesting materials.

    Dimka Shivacheva, Bulgaria

  3. Thank you so much. I could not join the webinar but your article here is so clear, effective and inspiring!!!@ thank you

  4. Thanks a lot! GREAT PRESENTATION!

  5. Cheers! Lots of interesting ideas and tools to look into! Have a nice holiday! :)


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