Thursday, 31 October 2013

Inspirational video for teachers – The Power of Thank You!

This video was presented at the last UKTeachTweet by @ActionJackson. UKedchat’s comment about it is ‘It highlights the power that appreciation has on our performance and the need to appreciate your effort as an educator because you are AMAZING!”


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Twitter story #1 – the Five Minute Lesson Plan from @TeacherToolkit

Submitted by Fiona Beal
Twitter is definitely a teacher’s best friend! The ideas…and CREATIVE ideas at that… that come from one’s Twitter PLN are phenomenal. For example in a recent tweet I saw that Mark Anderson (@ICTevangelist) recommended #FF (which means ‘follow’) @ict_magic and @teachertoolkit. Now I know  the wonderful @ict_magic (Martin Burett) virtually and follow him,  but didn’t know @Teachertoolkit so I looked at his profile. It turned out to be Ross Morrison McGill, an assistant Head Teacher from the UK, who has developed the popular 5 minute lesson plan to help teachers with the Ofsted teaching assessments in the UK.

I really liked the sound of a five-minute lesson plan because... this sounds like the answer to a busy teacher's life - a great lesson plan in only five minutes!

What is the five minute lesson plan?
This 5 minute lesson plan has turned out to be hugely successful. Tes Resources advertise it like this “Now that Ofsted requires evidence of a ‘planned lesson’, you can reduce your lesson planning time and stay focussed on key learning phases within a lesson with this simple 5 Minute Lesson Plan resource.”


Here is a video explaining the five minute lesson plan from @TeacherToolkit (he presented it at a TeachMeet in the UK)

Hello everyone...

A closer look at the 5 minute lesson plan 


Take a look at @TeacherToolkit's website on the five minute lesson plan:

This is how he explains the various parts of the five minute lesson plan:
The big picture : How does the lesson  fit into your scheme of work / topic? What knowledge are pupils coming to the lesson with already? What links have you made / can you make? Describe the lesson in 30 seconds!
Objectives : Your objectives for the current lesson. The arrow is just a visual reminder that your lesson is building on what’s gone before. I’d always try to incorporate at least 2 different leveled objectives – perhaps allowing students to choose their own.
Engagement : What’s the hook? How will you gain student attention at the start and throughout the lesson that is exciting and meaningful (without you working to hard!) that you’ll be using to lure pupils into learning? it’s not needed every lesson….but a good story often is enough!
Stickability’ : What will stick in pupils’ minds as they leave your lesson? What key point(s) do you want them to remember and bring back to the next lesson?
AfL (Assessment for Learning Strategies): How will you assess where your learners are at during the lesson, so as to know how to take them where you want to go? What AfL strategies are you going to use? What key questions will help you to lure pupils into learning? Plan for various (AfL) Assessment for Learning strategies to allow students to see progress. Use a Targeted-Question grid to help frame higher-order questions. Where possible, use the Pose Pause Pounce Bounce AfL strategy to stimulate discussion.
Key words : Literacy has never had such a high-profile as it has at the moment. Encourage students to read lesson objectives out. Pick out keywords and extrapolate their meanings. Use techniques to break down the phonics of each word and encourage visual recognition to reinforce. Plan what key-word you want students to learn. This promotes high levels of literacy which is an Ofsted focus. YOU COULD ALSO ADD NUMERACY TO THIS SECTION. Every lesson should involve some mathematical reference of link.
Differentiation / Groupings : Plan – at a glance – what activities you will provide for gifted and talented students; students with SEN/D and EAL. What sort of groupings are needed, what are they doing and when? Do you have this mapped to a seating plan with current levels of progress?
Learning episodes : What is going to happen in the lesson from start to finish? Identify as many opportunities for pupil-led learning as possible. The four boxes do NOT denote a four-part lesson. Just fill them up with what needs to happen.

Adaptations of this five minute lesson plan
Sparky Teaching has recreated this for elementary teachers and Ross gives the link on his website.

How popular is the 5 minute lesson plan?
!37+ countries are using this lesson plan already.How do we know? Ross has created a Google map with pins. He asks folk to pin the whereabouts of their school if they are using this lesson plan and he gives a hyperlink to the Google map on his website.. So if you decide to use it let Ross know! 

The link to this map can be found here
Resources to take note of
1) Tes Resources has a link to this lesson plan 
Lesson plans for school teachers
2) The lesson plan as it stands on Tes (you'll need to join - free - first)
3) How to move your lessons from good to outstanding

My conclusion
I just love this idea. It all happened in a day’s tweeting. A teacher cannot afford to be without Twitter these days.

SchoolNet Webinar on Thursday 31October at 3:30pm ‘Five more unexpected (and GREAT!) ways to use PowerPoint in your classroom


We are pleased to announce that we will be holding a webinar this week on Thursday afternoon 31st October at 3.30pm. Here are the details:

Name: Five more unexpected (and GREAT!) ways to use PowerPoint in lessons
Summary: In this webinar we will look at the very versatile application – PowerPoint – for at least five more great ways on how to use it effectively in your lessons – especially the animation part of PowerPoint. The Internet is a great resource of wonderful ideas. Some of the ideas in this webinar have been shared freely elsewhere and I have just adapted them for my own use in class. How do you use PowerPoint in your lessons?
Presenter: Fiona Beal
Starting Time: Thursday 31 October 2013: 3:30 PM
Duration:15 – 20 mins
Access: Anyone who has the URL for the meeting can enter the room as a guest.
Sign in using your name.
Time Zone: (GMT+02:00)  Pretoria

Please feel free to join us.

Note: If you have never attended an Adobe Connect meeting before or if you haven’t attended an Adobe Connect meeting for a while you might need to install a free add-in. Test your connection:

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

TeachMeet at Elkanah House in Cape Town this Saturday 2nd November.

There’s going to be a TeachMeet at Elkanah House this coming Saturday from 10-12 and you are invited! Come as a Keen Bean   (presenter) or an Enthusiastic Lurker (participant). These TeachMeets ar always wonderful and I learn so much.

Linda Foulkes who is organising the TeachMeet says on Facebook ‘We have a wonderful line up of Keen Beans for the upcoming TeachMeet@Elkanah on the 2 November - don't forget to sign up - just fill out this form to join us!


Blogpost reportback about the previous Elkanah House TeachMeets
A report back on the TeachMeet at Elkanah House on 8th June (from Linda Foulkes)

Monday, 28 October 2013

Ten takeaways from the African Storybook Project Colloquium in Stellenbosch recently


Submitted by Fiona Beal
The African Storybook Project is well under way to scale up the availability of free reading material for African children in Grades 1-3 through the digital medium. (I have written about this project in previous posts on the SchoolNet blog.) It is planned that the African Storybook website that will house this collection of stories will be released in early 2014. This post serves to highlight the African Storybook Colloquium which was held at Stellenbosch University on 17-19th October 2013. This Colloquium introduced the African Storybook project, its stories and pilot sites (Uganda. Kenya and South Africa) and its international partners to our South African and other African universities with the intention of providing a basis for the development of a collaborative research framework for the project. The Colloquium was organised by Bonny Norton from the University of British Colombia and Tessa Welch the project leader of Saide’s African Storybook Project.

I was privileged to attend this colloquium in Stellenbosch and these are my ten take-aways from this event.  There were 40 participants at the Colloquium from 6 African countries, 10 Universities and 5 research and development projects.

image1. The opening keynote was an absolute highlight for me. It was given by Brent Kaulback, the Assistant Superintendent of the South Slave Divisional Education Council in the Northwest Territories of Canada: Brent called his session ‘Creating Futures’. He gave such insight into the communities found in the North West Terrirotoes and showed how they are capturing history through the creation of e-books. These e-books impact dramatically on children’s reading.

2. The three country co-ordinators for the African Storybook project from Uganda. Kenya and South Africa gave very interesting input on what they are doing in their respective country pilots with regard to story acquisition.  

3. I loved the various discussions on ‘What is digital storytelling?’, versioning and chunking a story, what is suitable content for children, and using stories for literacy development.

4. It was fascinating to hear what the different SA universities, African Universities and global partnerships are doing in researching literacy. Each representative from the various universities gave a 5-10 minute talk on their roles at their respective institutions.

image5. I really enjoyed Elinor Sizulu’s public lecture on ‘Why I write for children’. Elinor Sisulu is the founder of the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation – and she is also the author of the award-winning children’s book ‘The day Gogo went to vote’. It was fascinating listening to Elinor reminsicing events from her childhood that led to her passion for children’s literature.

6. One of the presentations was given to us via Skype by Suzanne Romaine from Oxford University. Suzanne emailed her presentation to Tessa who clicked on the slides as Suzanne elaborated on them. Suzanne is well known for her paper entitled ‘Keeping the promise of the Millennium Development Goals: Why language matters’.

7. It was interesting to hear about the work of the different research and development projects regarding Literacy development.

8. Bonny Norton highlighted a new tool, Scribjab (, which is a multilingual tool to create and share digital stories in 2 different languages. I really want to explore this tool. 

9. Bonny Norton from the University of British Colombia and Tessa Welch the Project Leader from Saide led the Colloquium with such ease and efficiency, pulling together all the threads into a usable framework. The last session concentrated on developing a research framework from the various issues that had been highlighted during the Colloquium.

image image

10. Last but not least – the beautiful surroundings in the beautiful town of Stellenbosch made our stay very memorable.  We were accommodated in the various guest houses in the town - what a privilege to dwell amidst such beauty.

image image

How Brescia House School is using Office 365 - and how your school can sign up

Submitted by Megan Rademeyer
The AlwaysOn-Learning Solution, built using Office 365, has been implemented at Brescia House School to provide a portal for sharing resources, completing administrative tasks and encouraging communication and collaboration within classes. SchoolNet SA visited the school to speak to teachers, learners and the ICT coordinator to find out how this solution was helping them to integrate technology into teaching and to streamline administration. To read the case study visit this link

imageThe A2 Office 365 for Education plan is FREE and enables schools to sign up for free hosted email using the school’s name as the domain, 25GB of storage per user, office web apps, video conferencing and more.
To find out more about Office 365 for Education visit this link:

Vodacom Centres soon to introduce TeachMeets


Submitted by Megan Rademeyer
To date almost 3 000 people have received training at a Vodacom ICT Resource Centre including those who have attended Intel Getting Started, Microsoft ICT Skills for Teachers or Sizanani ICT Skills for Community members courses offered by trainers trained by SchoolNet SA.

Vodacom Centre Managers trained in setting up a blog and starting a TeachMeet
In October 2013 the managers of the Vodacom ICT Resource Centres learnt new skills to share with teachers in their communities who use the centres. They participated in a webinar series on how to set up and manage a blog as well as a session on how to run a TeachMeet. If you live near a Vodacom ICT Resource Centre look out for your Centre’s TeachMeet and consider being a “keen-bean” who shares an idea for using ICT in the classroom or attending as an “enthusiastic lurker” who attends a TeachMeet to learn from others. We are sure that the Vodacom ICT Resource Centre Managers will use the TeachMeets as an opportunity to pass on some of the tools and tricks they learnt about at the SchoolNet ICT in the Classroom conference and that local teachers will share some of their engaging learning activities that make use of technology.

TeachMeet webinar presentation and recording
Recently Megan Rademeyer of SchoolNet presented a webinar on TeachMeets to the Vodacom Centre Managers.

Here is the presentation:

Here is a copy of the recording if you would like to listen to it.

To find out more about what is happening at the Vodacom ICT Resource Centres, visit:

Friday, 25 October 2013

Intel supports Vodacom ICT Centres

Submitted by Omashani Naidoo of SchoolNet
Intel continues to support Vodacom Foundation and Department of Basic Education in the ICT centres in the proof of concept districts. Two Intel Getting Started training of trainer workshops were held in the Free State and North West provinces.

Free State - Thaba Nchu

The training took place on 7 – 8 September 2013. SchoolNet’s trainer, Mr Daniel Maedi found the laptops were connected and ready for training. Of the expected 22 educators only 12 educators attended but these were mostly CAT educators at their respective schools hence their computer skills were advanced. The trainer went through all the modules and managed to demonstrate how to use the tip-sheets and help-guide. These participants used the help-guide as directed and they had no problems in navigating the CD. The handbook was also saved in personalized folders.
Trainees looked at the 21st century approach. They did an exercise where they compared the old way of teaching and the modern way of teaching. The activities were also discussed and some were able to finish them at home. The module of computer basics was not important for this group but it was discussed because they are going to be trainers. The collaboration in the 21st century skills was discussed in detail and the module was followed step by step and participants got very involved in an exercise.

The module on Discovering and Exploring MS Word took longer than expected and the emphasis was put on following steps to make educators independent and able to look for answers themselves. The trainer explained that all modules follow the same style. Following the module outline educators were asked to complete this section on their own. The trainer created a folder for the Motheo Training and sent the link to participants. The aim was to check if they are able to access email and use it confidentially. Trainees were successful with this task.

The module on multimedia and spreadsheets were facilitated and progressed very successfully. The trainer further requested them to do two or three more elective tasks on the multimedia module and to prepare one task for showcase. Before the showcase educators got engaged in a pair and share activity and become more critical friends. The pair and share session as well as showcase enabled the master trainer to see the confidence level of the educators and how good they are at expressing themselves. These new trainers will now be able to facilitate this course for other teachers in their clusters.

NorthWest – Ganyesa

Sixteen participants attended this Intel Getting Started training of trainers’ course. Facilitator Saul Pila noted that all 23 computers are functional but that the internet was not working. While participants were cooperative some of them were not active and did not like to interact with other educators. On a second day participants came early but the positive spirit was spoiled by the lack of internet. Participants showcased their work briefly. The teachers were responding to the following questions, “What have you done with Word Processor?; How can you use that in the classroom?; What new skills have you learned?; and what were your challenges and how did you overcome them?”. Most of them came out with flying colours.

On Day 3 the teachers used the Help guide to assist themselves. Trainees were working independently and requested that we go on for another day to complete all the activities. The internet worked on the third day but most of the activities that needed internet were not done.
Both these workshops were hugely successful and is focused on building capacity at the various Vodacom centres as well creating a hub of teacher professional development in local communities where teachers have easy access to gain ICT experience and develop and master skills in the integration of ICT into teaching and learning activities in the classroom.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Lesson Ideas #1: A lesson idea on using to summarise online videos

Submitted by Fiona Beal
In this scenario I would like to teach a Grade 8 or 9 class how to easily summarise a video using the fantastic free, online application

  1. Ensure that each student has a Google ID so that they can link to their Google Drive which comes with a Google ID. (All free!)
  2. Create a presentation on to show your students.
  3. Locate the online video URL you wish to use. In my case I want the students to create their own blogs in our next lesson, so I have chosen a YouTube video that will introduce them to blogging.
  1. There are so many amazing educational videos in YouTube. How does one easily make notes from a video? Have a discussion on this and elicit ideas from the students.
  2. Introduce the students to Google Drive. Make sure they know how to log in to their Google Drive account. (Keep a private record of usernames and passwords)
  3. The students look at this presentation on to consider if they would include this as a way to view and summarise online videos

4.  Use to summarise an online video about blogging or whatever you want them see. This is the YouTube video called ‘How to blog’. 

What is a blog?

5.  The students open and then open the blogging video in Videonotes. They summarise the video.

Reviewing the students’ work

The documents are neatly shared in the folder I have created for their work.


The beauty of using Google Drive is that the students can share their work with me via email. I can review it and when it comes to I can see if they captured what I asked them to look for and then share my feedback via a Google Drive email.

Webinar recording

The SchoolNet webinar recording on using can be accessed in this post.

SchoolNet webinar recording from Thursday 24th October 3:30pm 'Take note of’


On Thursday afternoon (24th October) at 3.30pm we held a SchoolNet webinar entitled ‘Take note of’ presented by Fiona Beal. Thank you to all who attended the webinar.

Summary of the webinar
Meeting Name: Take note of
Summary: is a fantastic free tool to use with students (or personally) when summarising an online video. VideoNotes allows you to load any YouTube video on the left side of your screen and on the right side of the screen VideoNotes gives you a notepad to type on. This application works in conjunction with Google Drive so that when the video has been summarised the notes are saved automatically in your online Google Drive. (If you have a gmail address or a Google ID you have Google Drive as well). So join the paperless journey and discover the benefits of using with your students.

Fiona’s presentation is given below via Slideshare and you can download it should you wish to.

Webinar recordingIf you wish to listen to the presentation the recording link can be found at

Lesson ideaSee the next post for a lesson idea for using

Get Qurious – try out Edge Campus’s Qurio

This is a quick update from Gareth of Edge Campus about the tool Qurio that they are working on which will be freely available to teachers. They've been hard at work on this tool and it aims to make the lives of all in education significantly simpler when it comes to the area of assessment and testing. 

Gareth reports
“Apart from making it freely available for all teachers, Qurio has also been making
steady headway into the lecture environment where it is being trialled on a number of
campuses as a virtual clicker/audience response system.”

To watch a short video of a demo of Qurio and be notified of their launch in October, please go to their Keep It Simple website.

@edge_campus are releasing a new version of their tool Qurio on October 23rd. For more info, check out: Their product blog has a number of interesting posts about this product.

Join iEARN at the 2013 online Global Education Conference and submit a presentation


SchoolNet and iEarn work together in several projects. Consequently we are highlighting the online Global Education Conference’s call for presenters. 

The virtual iEARN conference last year was a great success with over 90 presentations by teachers and students  All iEARN participants around the world are invited to meet again this year in the fourth annual Global Education Conference, a free week-long online event bringing together educators and innovators from around the world, to be held Monday, November 18 through Friday, November 22, 2013 (Saturday, November 23rd in some time zones).
iEARN educators, youth, and other partners are invited to submit proposals that share examples and collaborative projects related to connecting classrooms and youth programs, with a strong emphasis on promoting global awareness, fostering global competency, and inspiring action towards solving real–world problems. 

iEARN-USA is again a supporting partner of the Global Education Conference, and iEARNparticipants are requested to tag their proposals with "2013iEARN" so that they can be included in the iEARN calendar of activities happening as part of the event.

Want to present?  Visit the Call for Proposals page for more information
The GEC iEARN track is for proposals from participants of, and those interested in getting involved in, iEARN.  These are generally sessions focused on using technology to build global understanding and enhance teaching and learning.  Proposals are encouraged in all languages and across all grade levels from early childhood through high school level. Both educators and youth are encouraged to present!  Pre-service and in-service teacher education programs with a technology-enabled international exchange component are encouraged to submit proposals too.
Ideas for presentations include:
  • Using cell phones and mobile devices in collaborative project work
  • Teaching students 21st century skills through global collaborative projects
  • Global project-based learning as a language acquisition strategy
  • Preparing students to go abroad
  • Videoconferencing tools for supporting real-time connections
  • Supporting youth media-making in the classroom
  • ...and any other topics related to the theme of using technology and virtual exchange to build global understanding and enhance teaching and learning
Sessions can be in any language and should be between 20-60 minutes in length. The deadline for workshop submissions is November 15, 2013, but those interested in presenting are encouraged to submit proposals as early as possible as presenters will be notified of acceptance on a rolling basis. 

Stay tuned to the Events listing on for updates about the 2013 Global Education Conference, including a listing of iEARN sessions that will be hosted as part of the event.  See you online in November!!!

Microsoft invites you to join their Microsoft PIL Trainer professional development programme


The Microsoft in Education Professional Development Team.have been hard at work and finally Microsoft in Education’s Professional Development programme is in full swing. The encourage you to register at and join the community.  The monthly newsletter from PIL Trainer highlights many issues and opportunities:

Developing students to be effective 21st century learners
If we are to safeguard our futures then we have an obligation to ensure that we are preparing our students appropriately to thrive in the global community. Students must learn the skills, knowledge, expertise and attributes which they will need to be effective in the 21st century. As trainers how do you support teachers to transform their practice within the current educational climate?

How can Microsoft Technology help you as trainers to support teachers to create 21st century learners?Join our vibrant community discussion on the Partners in Learning Network here (you’ll need to sign in first!)

Learn about the 5 Best Strategies Every 21st Century Learner Needs to Succeed
Join this month’s Virtual University on October 23rd. After the Virtual University join our ‘live’ discussion on the Partners in Learning Network. Register now

Free tools for Trainers
Check out this month’s featured resource on Learning Suite is a collection of free programs and applications that can be used for project work. The programs and applications are mapped according to 21st Century skills and match the stages of project work. It is a fantastic ‘Digital Toolkit’.

How to win a trip to the 2014 Global Forum?
Remember to utilize the “invite others” feature found in your Partners in Learning profile. Peer coaches who register over 25 educators and trainers who register over 100 before December 31, 2013 will be entered into a draw for one of two trips!

Share your ideas and experiences
Create your own ‘1 minute wonder’ about what is the single most important 21st century competency or skill that a trainer must have? View their 1 minute wonder below (A '1 Minute Wonder' is a snapshot of an idea or a way of sharing your opinion or good practice as part of Microsoft's Train the Trainer Program. Each month we will have a different theme and you can submit your own '1 minute wonders' to our playlist.)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Intel promotes entrepreneurship programme for women and girls

Mr Saul Pila from SchoolNet South Africa facilitated the first workshop for Women and Girls in South Africa sponsored by Intel Corporation. The participants comprised a group of visitors from Zimbabwe who are all experienced Intel trainers and a diverse group of members from the South African Women’s Entrepreneurship Network (SAWEN)


Thabani Khupe representing Intel Corporate Affairs who were the sponsors of the event welcomed delegates to the workshop. The course materials, Intel Learn: Easy Steps have been developed by Intel for use in communities where adults need to acquire or improve their ICT skills in order to more competently and efficiently manage their businesses.

Members from both groups of participants had interesting backgrounds. The SAWEN group hailed from all parts of South Africa and ranged from people with entrepreneurial concepts that were yet to be realised, across a wide spectrum, to people who were successful business

image image

The training ended on a high note with delegates promising to stay in touch and provide updates on training in Zimbabwe.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

SchoolNet webinar on Thursday 24th 3:30pm 'Take note of

We are pleased to announce that we will be holding a SchoolNet webinar this week on Thursday afternoon (24th October) at 3.30pm. Here are the details:

Meeting Name: Take note of
Summary: is a fantastic free tool to use with students (or personally) when summarising an online video. VideoNotes allows you to load any YouTube video on the left side of your screen and on the right side of the screen VideoNotes gives you a notepad to type on. This application works in conjunction with Google Drive so that when the video has been summarised the notes are saved automatically in your online Google Drive. (If you have a gmail address or a Google ID you have Google Drive as well). So join the paperless journey and discover the benefits of using with your students.
Presenter: Fiona Beal (
When: Thursday 24 October 2013
Time: 3:30pm - 3:45 PM

To join the meeting:

: If you have never attended an Adobe Connect meeting before test your connection (you may be prompted to add a free add-in):

Monday, 21 October 2013

A close look at introducing project-based learning into your classroom in 7 steps. Try it!

Submitted by Fiona Beal
In this post we'll go through the steps to implementing project-based learning in your classroom and then we’ll hear from an expert in designing projects – Michele Botha from Somerset House and see how she does it.

The old-school model of passively learning facts and reciting or memorising them out of context is no longer sufficient to prepare our students to survive in today's world with its complex problems. In order to be a problem solver students need both the fundamental skills (reading, writing, and maths) AND 21st century skills (teamwork, problem solving, research gathering, time management, information synthesizing, utilizing high tech tools etc). With this combination of skills, students become directors and managers of their learning process, guided and mentored by a skilled teacher – a great preparation for the work world. This process is known as project-based learning (PBL).

Let’s just add to the 21st century skills mentioned above the following:
  • personal and social responsibility
  • planning, critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity
  • strong communication skills, both for interpersonal and presentation needs
  • cross-cultural understanding
  • visualizing and decision making
  • knowing how and when to use technology and choosing the most appropriate tool for the task
This video, made by Common Craft for the purpose of introducing teachers to project based learning, is a good place to start.

What is project-based learning?
So what is project-based learning? In it’s simplest form project-based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges. With this type of active and engaged learning, students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they're studying. Project-based learning has been developed in response to the results of studies done on how children learn most effectively. The most important thing is that studies show that PBL can increase retention of content and improve students' attitudes towards learning, among other benefits.

This video from Edutopia gives us an introduction to a project that is being done as a project-based learning approach. Would you say this is the same as the general current approach to doing projects at school?

The video showed students designing, planning, and carrying out an extended project that produces a publicly-exhibited output such as a product, publication, or presentation.

What is the difference between 'doing projects' and 'project-based learning'?
This is a useful downloadable chart created by Amy Meyer of Fried Technology showing the difference between the way projects are often done currently and project-based learning.

What does PBL essentially involve - in a nutshell?
Project-based learning essentially involves the following factors. Let’s list them and then tackle project-based learning step by step.
  • students learn knowledge in order to tackle realistic problems as they would be solved in the real world
  • increased student control over his or her learning
  • teachers serve as coaches and facilitators of inquiry and reflection
  • students (usually, but not always) work in pairs or groups
  • the end result is presented to a wider audience than the classroom
Outcomes of project-based learning
Ownership – students work harder when they take ownership of a project and have some say in the choices for the project. For instance, these days, it's common for students to know more about technology than their teachers. They may have some computer shortcuts or ideas for the final product that you didn't even know were possible.
Creativity – in a carefully constructed project creativity can soar
Collaboration – together we can achieve more
Critical thinking - improves radically. Allow the students to solve problems
Fun - brings fun to learning

Project-based learning step by step 
So let’s imagine that you want to get started in project-based learning in your classroom. What are the steps?

Step 1. The Big Question (Begin with the end in mind)

This comes from Edutopia's free downloadable PBL PowerPoint

This question focuses your project. It should be compelling and open ended and should appeal to your students.

1) So what is this ‘big’ question?
  • It should be a question that people ask in the ‘real world’
  • It should be a question that has no easy answer, and stretches students’ intellectual muscles
  • It should be a question that ignites students’ imaginations.
Finding a question that fits these three criteria is not easy: it takes time. The ideal answer to the question will result in a product or performance that has personal and/or social value.

2) To get started take a look at your CAPS curriculum and perhaps consider combining two subjects (Microsoft’s research says that a project should combine at least two subjects). Think of a big question to ask. This is an open-ended question that is often referred to as an Essential question. SO:
  • Start with the Essential Question.
  • Take a real-world topic and begin an in-depth investigation.
  • Make sure it is relevant to your students.
This open-ended question should be something that engages your students, engages you and will lead to meaningful learning at the end.

3) Examples of big questions: (These are taken from the great resource 'Work that Matters: The Teacher's Guide to Project-based Learning' provided by the Innovation Unit. 
  • How have the simple inventions of the past helped to create the complex life of today?
  • How can an idea be transformed into a product that could make us millions?
  • Why do humans need to protect the earth, and how can we as 12-year-olds play a role in this?
  • How have ancient civilizations influenced each other?
  • How do drugs impact our bodies, our families, our community, and our world?
  • Is war ever justified?
  • How have maritime discoveries, advancements, and events shaped our world?
  • How can an election candidate effectively persuade voters to elect her/him?
  • How can a home be designed to have minimal impact on the environment?
4) Once you have your question, think of a fun way to express this question to make it really seem real and exciting to solve. We’ll provide a relevant example from Michele Botha at the end of this post.

Step 2: Plan
If this is all new to you start small. Take a favourite project and turn it into project-based learning. The interesting part of planning is that you mainly do it WITH the students so that they take ownership of the project ALTHOUGH you will have thought it all out before you start. Involve students in the questioning, planning, and project-building process.
  • Teacher and students brainstorm activities that support the inquiry.
  • Plan your structured group work taking into account the student suggestions
  • Use groups of three to four students, with diverse skill levels and interdependent roles
  • Implement team rewards
  • Encourage individual accountability, based on student growth
  • Plan an exciting entry event. This could be something like be a guest speaker (make sure the person is an engaging storyteller), field trip, lively discussion, puzzling problem, interesting video, or thought-provoking activity or piece of reading.
  • Conclude the project with a bang. This should be an event that has a real audience other than classmates, and a real-world connection.
1) Before planning the project with your students make sure you have thought around it carefully.
Decide what you want your students to learn, and plan ‘backwards’ from there. I’s a good idea to make a list of the things you expect your students to have learned: this should include subject content, skills, as well as attributes to be developed (e.g. confidence, resilience,resourcefulness).

2) To begin, write down everything that you expect your students to learn from doing this project. 
This could include all kinds of things: knowledge of subject-specific content (CAPS), ‘generic’ skills like working in teams and critiquing drafts, specialist skills, (which could range from statistical analysis to carving wood), and personal attributes such as self-confidence. It’s helpful to write everything down in your own words, but this is a good time to see what ‘required’ content (such as CAPS) your project can cover. Once you have your list of ‘learning goals’, decide how you will be able to tell whether or not a student has learned each item on the list. Once this is done, you have the project’s learning outcomes and a plan for assessing them. This will make your project more robust, and give you something to show anyone who comes around asking to see some evidence that you’re doing ‘serious’ work. Also, don’t forget about the final exhibition – it’s never too soon to start thinking about how and where the work will be exhibited.

3) By the way – test drive the project yourself first before you start the project with your class.
If you are asking your students to conduct research and build, design, paint, draw, or write something, you will have much more success if you do it yourself first before you ask them to. There are several reasons for this such as - If the project is unworkable, you’ll find out in advance (this does happen).

4) Particularly when you’re starting out, it’s much easier to plan your project using a template 
Following a template will also ensure that you don’t forget about anything important. Here is an example of a template from Edutopia that you can download.

The first thing to do is fill in the plan with everything you’ve already done - the project idea that you’ve already sharpened up with a colleague, the things that you want every student to have learned by the end of it, and the ways that you intend to assess them. Your project plan won’t be complete until you’ve gone through every step in this section – and even then, it will be substantially revised after you hold a tuning session.

5) Once you have designed the project you can then include your student’s thinking

Adapt what you have planned. It is important that you first know how to go about things yourself so that you can set parameters.

Step 3: Schedule
Setting a schedule is one of the most important ‘structures’ a teacher imposes on a project, because it makes a potentially daunting project feel manageable to students, and helps you make sure that they will have time to accomplish everything that you expect from them. If possible, post your timeline online so that students, parents, and other members of staff can check it whenever they need to. This involves:
  • The teacher and students together design a timeline for the project components.
  • Set benchmarks
  • Keep it simple and age-appropriate.
Step 4: Monitor
  • Facilitate the process
  • Mentor the process
  • Utilize rubrics
1) It’s a good idea to hold weekly check-ins with all your students (or all the groups, if the students are doing the project in groups). At each check-in, work with students to set tasks for completion by the next check-in, and make sure you both have a copy of the tasks you’ve agreed (again, it’s best if this can be stored online). Check-ins also give you the opportunity to find out how the project is going so that you can make adjustments to your plans.

2) In addition to the check-ins, you will need to set interim deadlines. This will include deadlines for drafts, and final deadlines for specific components of a product (such as the videos in the Blood Bank project – see page 92).

3) You may also want to schedule quizzes to make sure students are gaining the knowledge that they need to be acquiring.

4) Make sure you have some checklists for the students to look at for guidance

(The information on check-ins is taken from 
the great resource Work that Matters: The Teacher's Guide to Project-based Learning' provided by the Innovation Unit.)

Step 5: Assess
Assessment is not something that happens once, at the end of a project – you assess your students’ work throughout the process. On your timeline, plan in a series of ‘check-ins’ to take place throughout
  • Make the assessment is authentic. (Know that authentic assessment will require more time and effort from the teacher.)
  • Vary the type of assessment used.
1) On your timeline, plan in a series of ‘check-ins’ to take place throughout the project, to make sure students are on track. These may be short papers, quizzes, journal entries, meetings with the teacher, and critiques.

2) Types of assessment tasks:
  • true-false or multiple choice
  • Constructed-response items: a student has to state the answer to a problem. These tests often can allow more than one answer letting all students have a chance to demonstrate their new knowledge.
  • Essays: students are asked to analyze and synthesize their new knowledge and then write about it.
  • Performance tasks: students are asked to perform a task that will demonstrate the application of the new knowledge.
  • Exhibitions and demonstrations: these projects can be done individually or within a group and demonstrate the application of the new knowledge.
  • Portfolios: students keep a collection of work that best demonstrates the understanding and application of the new knowledge.
  • Classroom presentations and oral discussion: students can orally demonstrate the application of the new knowledge.
Step 6: The final presentation
When students know that the work they are creating in a project will be displayed publicly, this changes the nature of the project from the moment they start working – because they know they will need to literally ‘stand by’ their work, under scrutiny and questioning from family, friends, and total strangers. This inspires a level of ambition and commitment much greater than is fuelled by the incentive of ‘getting good marks’. In addition, students’ families, as well as other people from the local community, get to see what is going on in the school, providing an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the school and community.

Step 7: Evaluate
  • Take time to reflect individually and as a group.
  • Share feelings and experiences.
  • Discuss what worked well.
  • Discuss what needs change.
  • Share ideas that will lead to new inquiries, thus new projects.
An example of project-based learning from Michele Botha of Somerset West
Michele is the Head of Curriculum and also the Technology Integration Specialist at Somerset House Primary. She creates wonderful projects using the project-based learning approach and I have learned so much from her. I asked her to give her views on project-based learning and she created this screen cast for me:

1) If you would like the link to Michele’s prezi here it is:

2) The PBL Essential Elements checklist (from the Buck Institute of education)   that Michele refers to can be downloaded. 


Edutopia, the Buck Institute of Education, the Innovation Unit and Intel have some amazing project-based learning resources:

3) Getting Startedwith Project-Based Learning (Hint: Don't Go Crazy) 

4) Hands-on lessons you can adapt for your PBL workshops

5) Project-basedlearning template

6) 10Takeaway Tips for Project-Based Learning

7) WhyTeach with Project-Based Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-RoundedClassroom Experience

8) Project-BasedLearning

We hope that you will try out project-based learning if you are not familiar with it. Start small! Enjoy!