Project Based Learning (PBL) is a hot topic in education currently. PBL is where learning is structured around a project. The learners must learn what they need to complete the project. They can find this information by themselves, or they may have formal classes and so on, which help them to complete their projects.
So why is PBL so good?
- It is extremely motivating. Learners want to learn in order to complete their project and might even do extra work if it means their project will succeed.
- PBL can be a lot more hands-on and make the learners feel in control of their learning which is much more engaging than listening to someone talk at you at the front of a room and answering some questions.
- The learning has built up gradually with a definite result; the learners have something to show at the end of it.
- PBL can encourage collaboration. It works well with learners split into project groups or teams. Collaboration is great for learning and it is an important 21st century skill.
- It is a great way of ticking other 21st century skill ‘boxes’. PBL can be a good way of encouraging soft skills such as problem solving, research skills and creativity.
- Good base for cross-curriculum learning. A single, broad topic can be used as a project theme and many subjects can be brought into it, which gives them some meaning. For example, a topic on ancient Greeks could involve history, maths, geography, politics, philosophy, religious education and so on.
- Projects can be tailored to suit different abilities and if working in groups, people can fill different niches, which could enhance self-esteem.
- Gives subjects a focus and more of a meaning, ties things together and offers an easy answer to “Why do we need to know this?”
- It is easy to implement with few resources (but does require a little imagination).
- Having said that (number 9), there are lots of helpful resources and project plans online. Have a look at our ‘Learning’ Pinterest board for some great ideas.
How does PBL work in practice?
Well, one example is Climate Crew. games-ED undertook a project with over 40 young people from 2 schools and a Girl Guides group from St.Helens, Merseyside, UK. The young people were aged between 14 and 18. The project ran three types of media skills workshops that had a dual purpose: to provide media skills for the young people and to feed into a design of a game.
- Workshop 1 - Creative Skills:
- Theory of logo design > design roughs on paper > designs crated in a vector drawing package.
- The guides developed a flier based on the logo.
- Workshop 2 - Computer Games Design:
- The Schools created initial designs: premise > story > game-play and Easter eggs (hidden features in the game).
- The Guides drew up the screen designs on huge sheets of paper.
- Workshop 3 - Computer Games Build (done using Adobe Flash):
- Game inner working and artificial intelligence
- Interface, animation and navigation coding
- Avatar design and coding
- Real world interaction
- Workshop 4 – Testing
Even though the project ran over a number of weeks and multiple sessions, there still wasn’t enough time to teach the young people the varied skills they would need to design and develop a game. The approach we took was to let the young experience the spectrum of roles in a games company, rather than trying to make them expert in any one area. The game was completed by the facilitators and can be found here.
The young people learned a lot of skills through designing, leading and implementing the project and through the interactive workshops including creative marketing and facilitation, project management, community leadership, computer game design and development.
Before and after the workshops the young people were asked to judge their skills in key areas, some of the data is shown below. The data shows that the young people gained skills in design and computer game development as well as communication skills. The workshops were ranked very highly by the young people, particularly the final workshop on game development where they saw all of their previous work slot together as they built the game.
- 47% improvement in understanding the use of logos for communicating ideas.
- 57% improvement in understanding climate change.
- 62% improvement of skills in logo design.
- 51% improvement of skills in graphic design (taking an idea to completed product).
- 31% improvement of skills in using a computer art/design package.
- 23% improvement in communication skills for the verbal presentation of ideas.
When asked, “What key learning messages will you take away”, some of the children responded:
- “No idea is a bad one.
- “Bigger understanding of designing games.
- “That we should take our time to think of ideas instead of rushing.
- “That when designing a game it has to be simple but catchy.
- “How to lower my carbon footprint.”
This is a very specific project around games, but you can see easily how similar principles could be used for a project to teach any number of things. The children loved the experience and learnt a lot and the teachers were full of positive comments too. For more information and data (including teacher feedback) see ‘Developing Games with Young People: Climate Crew’.
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