Expert Educator Columns, Featured
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Bozena Kraj: Step by Step with History and ICT in Project Based Learning

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by Bozena Kraj
Expert Educator Columnist, Poland

When I look back upon my life, I get aware how much my students and I appreciate project based learning and how immense its didactic role in our school daily life is. Whatever the topic of the project is – all the interdisciplinary subject areas of PBL open us to the world – its present, past and the future, with all the branches of world knowledge we are interested in. It seems that PBL has always made a big difference in well planned didactic processes, and resulted in tangible  achievements both didactic and pedagogical ones. Why? The answer is easy. It is efficient: knowledge – and student –centered; what’s more, as learners are ICT users – teachers and PBL cannot be behind the curve, therefore ICT tools are widely used to reinforce and attract the strength of educational tasks. The point is that the role of educators in this process appears really significant. According to Bill Gates “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important”. Therefore, PBL appears as a complex process, demanding a lot of didactic, pedagogical and technological contribution to improve the quality of effects.

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As my experience shows, the “step by step” attitude seems to be a natural process of gaining interdisciplinary knowledge and developing skills, and I mean both teachers and students doing PBL. In 2010, moved by the words of an American writer A. Whitney Brown: “The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down”, using new technological writing tools, we wanted to join national activities organised in Poland to celebrate the mediaeval Grunwald victory (1410). My class developed different ICT activities to remind the event and promote them online. We built an educational blog and uploaded project materials: posts, advertisements, scripts, photos, paintings, presentations and the results of “Grunwald Diary” and “Grunwald history” competitions.

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We agreed with Laurence Clark Powell who wrote: “We are the children of a technological age. We have found streamlined ways of doing much of our routine work. Printing is no longer the only way of reproducing books. Reading them, however, has not changed.” Yes, we did not decide to give up the idea of drama playing, song singing, picture drawing, reading books and articles in a school library. Our students did not stop thinking while creating documents, comparing, analysing, discussing the data, which enabled them to feel like young historical researchers; they wrote dramas like young script writers and created poetry; they were actors and actresses in beautiful, theatrical costumes, hard working authors of diaries in English and German, and active participants of their numerous teams.

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What is more, technology opened their eyes and attracted their attention to the project topic in a very attractive and effective way. After some time, we concluded that it was worth looking at history through the use of new technologies, in spite of the fact that we had known so little about them, then. We learnt how to make history be attractive and drew conclusions about the past events. It seems that the project would have ended its life after a year, yet, uploaded to our WordPress blog, it has been living part of its life there, and the materials are used by numerous teachers when the topic of great mediaeval battle is to be discussed. The fact that the project was recognized with the title of “First Quality School Project” and regarded as good practice by the local Board of Education, promoted on their website, encouraged us to search for better and better PBL and ICT solutions and convinced us not to be afraid of the unknown.

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