The first time I heard of project-based learning, or rather, pédagogie de projet, was at a teachers’ training workshop at the University of Montréal in 2009. What an eye-opening workshop that was! A teacher by the name of Nicole Lavergne introduced us to this approach of learning that seemed, at that time, to have taken the world of teaching and research by storm.
Project-based learning (or PBL) is based on John Dewey’s learning by doing approach to learning (click on the link to read about it). It is a type of instruction, where students work together (often in groups) with the sole aim of carrying out a particular project. The project will often be situated in a real-world context, and will require students to practically apply whatever is learnt in theory. Used mostly for teaching physical sciences, this approach is also very interesting from a language teacher’s point of view. One can for instance teach all the possible grammatical notions with its nuances in a language class, but push the student in a real-world context where he/she is to use the language, and you’ll see just how far the grammar holds out!
If, on the other hand, students have to collectively participate in, and carry out a project that has a specific aim, they will use the language taught and be able to learn in a constructive manner. Moreover, this will encourage students to learn from each other, at their own rhythm. This will also teach them to organise their work, set their own objectives, take decisions, face problems collectively and learn to solve them.
With various Web 2.0 tools at our disposal today, here are a few ideas for creating your own virtual projects. Suggestions for websites that can used have been put in brackets.
- Plan a vacation within a given budget (Trip Advisor, Booking, Cheap Tickets)
- Organise a surprise party for a close common friend (Doodle, Google Drive, Chat)
- Make a webpage-poster of your own music band, choosing your band-name, slogan, banners, posters, audition, first public appearance, etc. (Glogster, Animoto)
- Create your own animated story (VoiceThread, Animoto, Zooburst etc.)