PBL: Then and Now

IMG_0416Back in the late 1990s, I had the opportunity to serve as an associate director at a brand new multimedia college in Emeryville, California. I was hired before the building was finished and was given the task of creating a program that would be delivered in three parts to college students: Living in a Media World 1, 2 and 3. Parts one and two focused on the (relatively) new concept of the World Wide Web. I had to hire a staff, set up a Mac lab, and write a curriculum and lesson plans that would be delivered over the course of the first two months to a cohort.

I was a recent graduate of a Master’s program, and in that program we completed many projects as a cohort. My own experience became a model for the program I designed and delivered for two years to a minimum of six cohorts with a team of four staff.

The first courses were embedded with website design projects. With college students, projects are an efficient way to show skills and mastery of concepts in a multimedia environment. Assessments and essays are not as appropriate for that population. Fast-forward to 2015 and the new hot topic is called Project-Based Learning.

When I have conversations with teachers who have taught more than 10 years, their teaching back in the 1970s-1980’s was very much like my teaching at the college level in the late 1990’s – looking back, both would be considered Project Based Learning. So here’s the bad news: PBL is not new, but the good news is that many of us have done it and it works.

Want to learn more? This Project Based Learning page from Edutopia is a great resource – with an overview, research, and more.

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