One of the things Miriam and I love most about working in EdTech is meeting inspiring teachers.
When were just getting our beta version of Project Pals off the ground last Fall, we received an inquiry from Jill Koenemann, a high school special needs teacher at Monroe ISD.
She was looking for a technology solution that could help her manage a project that she was preparing for one of her classes. Jill was new to project based learning, but was determined that the engagement of PBL would benefit student learning outcomes.
We gave her a virtual demo (she was one of our first recipients), and fortunately, Jill liked what she saw and decided to give Project Pals a shot.
It was clear from the beginning that Jill is a very open-minded and adventurous person. Jill was trying PBL for the first time. Although she is comfortable with technology, she is not a techie. Yet she jumped into this journey with no second thoughts. It was extremely refreshing to see her excitement and openness to try new things, and for her to invite us along for the ride.
Jill’s attitude exemplifies what great teachers do everyday: risk trying something new; something uncomfortable; something that may make them feel vulnerable in their class or show that they don’t have all the answers. But that never seemed to be a concern for Jill. Rather, her focus was on creating a deep learning experience, which included learning alongside her students and with us.
Our role expanded from just technology partner, to curricula partner, helping Jill adapt her learning objectives to our platform. The first project, which was about WWI, turned out well, but had a learning curve. The second project about survivor's guilt (video summary below) was a breakthrough. Now we’re hitting a rhythm in our third project, which is about Civil Rights.
Jill's students have been engaged with the projects and the technology. As the students gain experience in critical thinking and computational thinking (skills emphasized in Project Pals), their output in regards to analysis and writing has improved significantly.
Jill’s innovations have not gone unnoticed. Her reflections have been published in Getting Smart and The Edvocate. Her colleagues have taken notice and are learning more about Jill’s impactful methods.
We are grateful to have met Jill and are thrilled to continue to support Jill’s efforts in the next school year and beyond.