If there’s anything I’ve learned from undertaking projects, its time management is your friend and the project will almost always end up different than you expected. This is true from my experience composing music and programming software – by the end, you rarely recognize the final product in relation to the notes you started with. This is true of project based learning, too. Our initial outset for an iBook was intimidating – and its clear from our work-flow – the place we ended was different than expected.
I feel this is necessary – and its something I understand as a musician and educator. The idea you have at the beginning is rarely the idea you end up with. Being flexible is incredibly important. As an educator, you need to be able to step back and reconsider your lesson plans and workflow, often in the middle of a class. It takes a deep understanding of your subject matter and your students. You kinda have to be ready for everything.
We had the benefit of being teams. We weren’t an educator lost to make the changes on our own, but rather had the Super Cadre and some awesome instructors to help us achieve the best project possible.
I feel there’s been varying opinions on what we really learned about Alaska and its rich history – but I have to say I feel I learned a lot. I doubt I’d pass a test, but I feel I really internalized much of what I researched deep in my being.
Honestly, another approach and I wouldn’t have been as interested – I was researching into the night until the last minute digging deeper into the story of the West Coast. Only sleep could conquer my insatiable desire to learn more. I read so many things I knew were impractical for our iBook intro or my lesson just because I was interested. I read things about other regions because I wanted to know more.
An assigned series of primary sources and readings would have been less interesting to me – I was initially afraid of the self guided research, but I found so much that intrigued me I ended up with far more than I could use in a practical way. Even if my research was limited by being an outsider, I feel my desire to provide an honest narrative of Alaska and its history helped me feel confident in my contribution.
Conflict and Beer
The conflicted nature of a project is it needs to be well defined at its outset, but also willing to eschew any of its standards along the way to succeed. I think this is what made our iBook stressful but successful (that would be a good motto for a personal trainer!). Just imagine how you would feel about our final product if we hadn’t had the last day where we edited with essential questions and balance in mind…
It feels scary if we didn’t have that amazing day – and there has to be time for students to reflect on their progress, too. If they just finish a big thing and have no chance for reflection, it makes the final product less impressive.
That means its time to step back, relax, and take advantage of finishing a project like an adult.