Monday, September 23, 2013

Weebly and the beginnings of project based learning

Weebly is an excellent web page tool that is easy to set up, edit, and publish, and has a beautiful interface with a wide array of nicely designed templates.

Recently, I've had my middle school tech students, who are fairly experienced with blogs, set up Weebly accounts and begin some fun projects just to learn the tool.  I allowed them to select whatever interested them, then categorize that for the purpose of building pages.  They then had to add and cite images, videos, and text while building these pages.

Of course, the Weebly environment helped to make this exercise practically fool-proof - their sites and pages are beautiful, and they loved working with it.  What really got me thinking was what they chose as the subjects for their sites - and it gave me some great insight into my students! The students chose topics I had no idea they were interested in; art - specifically anime - to include pictures of their own creations, slideshows of their work that they were proud of embedded into the pages, how-to videos of them showing their process of creating a particular drawing, personal pictures of their pets, dog breeds I'd never heard of but that they seemed quite knowledgeable on, musical genres I had no idea they might be interested in, flowers, custom home-built cars, the list goes on.
How will I use this in my classroom?
The point is - this was a teachable moment - for me! Rather than leaving Weebly behind for the next arbitrary tool on my list for them to learn, let's run with this!  This week we'll begin planning Blooms projects based on their websites.  I'll use the Blooms Planner with them, and we can begin the process of them mapping out the "discovery" that will come from their initial Weebly dabblings.  Through this process, I'll be able to help them incorporate lots of new tools to curate, explore, collaborate, create, and design. This will be the path their learning will take for the rest of the semester, and the vehicle for the rest of their technology learning - and any other content area will most likely find it's way in!

What's the risk?
Put into perspective, this is yet another case where going with a PBL and inquiry approach is risk-free! What's the worst that can happen? My students will reach the objectives originally set out in the tech course.  But now, instead of that being the best-case scenario, it's merely a baseline!

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