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Why Project-Based Learning Hasn’t Gone Mainstream and What We Can Do About It

As a co-founder of CrowdSchool, a PBL platform, I’ve spent nearly two years talking with teachers, schools, and districts about how to make it easier to teach with PBL. Despite the mounting evidence and excitement for project-based learning, only roughly 1% of US schools are committed to teaching with it. So why is PBL having such a problem with scale? And what can we do to address wider adoption?

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An Inspirational Approach to Education

William Doyle, a Fulbright Scholar, New York Times bestselling author and award-winning TV producer, wrote a powerful essay about the “School of the Future.” “I have seen the School of Tomorrow. It is a place where children and teachers are safe and happy. It is a school where children are encouraged to be children, to play, to daydream, to laugh, to struggle and fail, to assess themselves and each other, to question and learn.

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The Power of Unsolvable Problems

The engineering school at Northwestern University is using the power of problems without clear solutions to prepare freshmen for the ups and downs of college and careers. Aware that some of its academically successful students arrive on campus without ever having failed at anything, the university requires all new engineering majors to take an unusual course featuring challenges they often can’t meet: Working in teams, they must design and build devices to help individuals with disabilities perform simple daily tasks.

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Fujimoto: US Schools Must not Succumb to ‘Sin of Mediocrity'

When New Tech High School began, Fujimoto says, most students generally had earned grades of a C or below. But with the incorporation of internships and project-based learning, New Tech’s students started shining academically. “The engagement and student agency were over the top – staff literally had to kick kids out of the school building at 7:30 at night because they would not leave,” Fujimoto told Education Dive.

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What a School District Designed for Computational Thinking Looks Like

Computational thinking is intimately related to computer coding, which every kid in South Fayette starts learning in first grade. But they are not one and the same. At its core, computational thinking means breaking complex challenges into smaller questions that can be solved with a computer’s number crunching, data compiling and sorting capabilities. Proponents say it’s a problem-solving approach that works in any field, noting that computer modeling, big data and simulations are used in everything from textual analysis to medical research and environmental protection.

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