Category Archives: PBL

Creating Engaging Learning Objects

Creating an effective Student Council team dynamic

Learning objects: have you heard of them, or is this a new term to you?  A learning object is one object or item in an online Learning Management System (LMS) that allows the student to obtain information or practice newly obtained information. While learning objects are simple enough to define, they are not as easy to develop.

When preparing to create online content for your students, begin with the AKS (standard) being taught and the learning target for the lesson.  Learning targets help us to create a learning object that has one focus.  One distinct purpose exists for the learning object.  Students may be acquiring new information using a presentation, they may interact with embedded flash cards to preview vocabulary for an upcoming lesson, or they may complete an assessment to show mastery and understanding.  Whatever the case may be, the learning object has one, singular focus.

Breaking the lesson down into focused sections helps the teacher organize pieces of the lesson while helping the students understand what they are doing in each learning object.

  • Engage: This is the activating strategy.  This could be a video that introduces the upcoming unit or lesson, a discussion board that students can use to express their background knowledge, or embedded virtual manipulatives paired with a guiding question.  
  • Learn: What interactive activity can students use to learn new information?  This is a great place for a video, created or curated by the teacher, to teach a new concept.  In math, a teacher may want to record a new strategy students can use to solve a linear equation.  In social studies, a teacher could embed a video sharing information about the history of an ancient civilization.  In science, students may use a 3D science tool to explore parts of the animal cell.  In band, students may listen to a recording of the new piece of music they will begin soon.
  • Practice: This type of learning object gives students the opportunity to practice their newly obtained understanding and refine it when given immediate feedback.  Students may be presented with a math problem they are asked to solve and then are able to reveal its answer to see how they did.  If they were incorrect in their answer, students would have access to an explanation of how the problem should have been solved so they can identify where they went wrong.  In science, students may complete a matching activity between the parts of the cell and their functions.  Practice objects should not be punitive, but rather give students a way to try applying their new knowledge, check their work, compare their notes to the teacher’s notes and then start the cycle over again.  
  • Show: This learning object invites  students to show their mastery and understanding of the standard they’ve learned as they have completed learning activities inclass and online.  Teachers can  offer students the option of representing their learning using a web tool of their choice to promote deeper engagement  or by offering a few options that appeal to a variety of learning styles.  The intention of this type of learning object is for the students to show what they have learned so the teacher can evaluate the learning and provide additional feedback.  Teachers can use rubrics to assess an object submitted to a dropbox or posted to a discussion board.  Classroom Assessments or quizzes can measure student understanding.
  • Extend:  As students submit assignments to show what they know, teachers will be able to identify common misconceptions among students and/or develop remedial lessons for students who need additional support.  During this time, teachers can offer students an opportunity to extend or deepen their understanding through an Extend activity.  An Extend activity could include a current event article  related to the AKS (standard) being taught that students interact with, or it could include suggestions for going deeper into the content.  An Extend activity could be a preview into the next unit or a preview of how the information learned will “reappear” at future grade levels or in the real-world.  Extend activities provide a great opportunity for differentiation.

When creating learning objects, there are a few things to keep in mind.  Learning objects should be:

  1. Directly connected to a specific AKS (Standard).  All learning objects should help the student master the content.
  2. Singular in focus.  Learning objects should be focused on one learning objective at a time.
  3. Singular in purpose.  Each learning object should have a clear purpose evident to the student.  
  4. Student facing.  Ideally, the student should be able to utilize the learning object without the teacher present to give verbal directions.  Where directions are needed, they should be written to the student.  When applicable, directions should be read aloud.
  5. Level appropriate.  Differentiation based on skill and ability level should be used when developing learning objects.  Learning objects should also be grade level and standard appropriate.

Let’s start building!  Here’s a planning guide to help you:


DigitalEngagementPlanningGUide (1)Four steps to keep in mind:

  1. Prepare: Identify your learning targets and create an outline.  Perhaps start with how you’d teach this lesson in the brick-and-mortar classroom, then brainstorm ways students can obtain or interact with this information online.  “If your course doesn’t engage your learners, or overloads them with information, those all-important learning goals are not going to be achieved. Structure your content by dividing it into modules and learning paths so that there’s an achievable path for your learner to follow”  (McEnteggart, 2017).
  2. Create: This could also be subtitled: Build.  This is where you curate interactive materials and create engaging activities while considering a variety of learning styles.  Also consider how students will show understanding.  Will they interact on a discussion board or submit to a dropbox?  Will they practice using interactive tools like Quizlet, NearPod or Quizizz?  Structure your assignment into modules and sub-modules to keep it organized and easy to follow, use learning paths to help drive students.
  3. Deliver: Switch into Student view and see it from their perspective.  Did you create release conditions in your Learning Management System to drive their learning?  Do they work?  Is the content being delivered easy to follow and engaging?  If it’s text heavy, are their options for read aloud?
  4. Measure: Ask your students about the activities.  What did they like or not like about the activities?  WARNING: Middle Schoolers will say they don’t like anything so be specific.  Ask students how long they think they spent on the tasks and then use User Progress to calculate the average time spent on each activity and the module as a whole.  Measure student learning.  Based on their responses to discussion boards and/or test items, how did they do?  What would you as teacher do differently next time?


Chiappe Laverde, A., Segovia Cifuentes, Y., & Rincón Rodríguez, H. (2007). Toward an instructional design model based on learning objects. Educational Technology Research & Development, 55(6), 671-681.

Keramida, M., (M.Ed.). (2015, July 08). The Importance Of Learning Objects In Instructional Design For eLearning. Retrieved from:

McEnteggart, P. (2017, January 06). 4 Steps To Prepare Engaging eLearning Content. Retrieved from:


PBL and eClass in Electives: Pop Up Greek Mythology Museum

This article comes from Brooke Webb, a Language Arts teacher at Lanier High School.


Project Based Learning (PBL) empowers students to take control of their own learning through self-directed research, creation, revision, and innovation. As a language arts teacher, I find that PBL lends itself very well to the high school language arts classroom as we have the choice to cover our standards via a plethora of avenues. This year, I am teaching a language arts elective class that focuses on ancient cultures’ mythology texts. Having never taught an elective class before, I decided that I would try something new in my teaching path and use only PBL projects to assess my classes’ mastery of the standards.

My classes read the novel Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of Greek Mythology by Bernard Evslin, and I wanted to plan an event to remember! My class has students in 9th-12th grade and from each of our four academies (CDAT/STEM, Multimedia and Fine Arts, Global Business and Leadership, and Life and Health Sciences) .  Thus, I wanted to design a project that would allow the students to work collaboratively on a common theme yet also focused on their own academies.

I thought that doing an actual walk through museum with exhibits would be awesome and align with what I hoped to accomplish. A colleague suggested creating a Pop Up Museum, and after doing research and deciding on the standards on which to focus, I formulated an overview for students. We then used to view different exhibits at museums around the world.

Students were a part of two teams: a novel group and an academy group. In their novel group, students were to come up with an exhibit for their novel section (gods, demigods, nature myths, and fables) that showcased each individual’s end product and was cohesive with all other groups. Each student had an assigned role in the group. The group had two days to brainstorm and three days to create and innovate.


Formative deliverables included a brainstorming page for the first day and a floor plan of the layout of their exhibit; these were submitted to an eClass discussion forum created for each specific novel group.

Then students were regrouped by academies, and each was charged with researching some aspect of a real museum. Their task as an academy was to relate their academy focus into our museum. For example, how do real museums use multimedia? Or, how can business and leadership be applied to a museum? One Global Business & Leadership group marketed and promoted our event through social media campaigns on Twitter and Instagram while another created voting boxes to poll museum patrons on which exhibit students liked the best. The data collected (votes in the form of tickets) was then analyzed and the exhibit with the most votes got a prize.

The Multimedia, Communication & Fine Arts groups decided to write a script for a commercial to air during our school’s morning announcements—we never got to film it due to time constraints, but they did a great job! A  CDAT/STEM group decided logistically the best set up/lay out for our museum, flow of traffic, and positioning of tour guides to make the event flow well and the museum reach maximum functionality. Our Life & Health Science group used the health pathway to research types of foods that ancient Greeks would have eaten and the calories for the items, and they created an ancient Greek foods menu.

Our Pop Up Museum came to life over the course of two days. During their class times, my students presented their individual webb-students-4displays. During Academy Time and all lunches, volunteers from my classes were tour guides and walked classmates and faculty through the museum and answered any questions while explaining certain aspects of the exhibits.

The end products produced by my students were high quality because I allowed them to create through a medium with which they were comfortable and excited about. Some students were living exhibits dressing up as their characters, some created poems that could be accessed via QR codes, some painted collages, while others used Legos to re-enact important plot points in the myth. A couple of students even crafted their own replicas of the Minotaur’s horn and Medusa’s head.

Lastly, we reflected. I gave each group time to reflect in a peer evaluation sheet that only I see so the student can give honest feedback on group members. I also tried something new: giving the class ownership of creating their own tailor-made rubric that I would use to assess their individual end products. After pulling several project rubrics off of BIE. Org, I gave the groups copies of the rubrics and we voted as a class on which features were important to keep and which to discard. I created the class’ rubric in eClass and used that to assess the end products.

This adventure to test out PBL with an elective class was successful. I have a few areas that I want to redesign for next year, but what a fun and engaging learning event for my students and for me!


The Middle School View: Project Based Learning with a Tech TWIST

This article was written by Michele Langhans, an 8th grade science teacher at Lanier Middle School.

Students busy on a PBL project at Lanier Middle School.

How do we meet all of our curriculum standards, provide authentic experiences, and use technology in our schools today? For me, I use project-based learning (PBL) with a twist. And when I say twist, I mean TWIST: Teamwork With Innovative Skills and Technology. This is our PBL program at Lanier Middle School. By using PBL, I can meet the needs of all students. I am not going to write about the “how-tos” of PBL–Buck Institute and Edutopia have already beaten me to that topic, and they have done it very well. Instead, I’ll focus on how I use technology to do PBL in authentic ways. (Also see the PBL Communication Center in eCLASS C&I.)

We all know that the students we teach now are not the same students of just a few years ago. Today’s students do not know of a world without the internet,  much less the internet in the palm of their hands. They are digital natives, and adults are not. However, if we do not try to keep up with the ever-changing world of technology, we as teachers will become obsolete and ineffective. Thus, I do my very best to keep up with my very active middle schoolers.

Once we started TWIST four years ago, we knew that infusing technology would be a large portion of how we would work with students. Thus, we started with Google Apps. All of our TWIST students received their own Google Apps e-mail addresses and access to all Google Apps. That started our push into using technology. We use Google Drive for pretty much everything thing that we do. We set up TWIST folders that students regularly access.


In the picture above, you will see that we set up TWIST: Edit and TWIST: View Only folders. These folders are then shared with the students. Inside of these folders are where students can find the various projects, information, and resources that they can access from anywhere in the world.


Within the edit folder above, students enter in their Google Apps e-mail and links to their personal TWIST websites. Students maintain their own sites and continually use them to reflect on their own work.


In the view only folder (above) , students can access various help folders for Autodesk and Google Sketch Up as well as TWIST Documents and Projects, which are used with every project (you can see a view only version of the folders here). The TWIST contracts and project proposals that each team must make a copy of, rename, and complete live here.  Every team must complete a contract and a proposal prior to beginning their project.

Once the contract and proposal are complete, then students may begin their projects. Inside the project folder, we place everything the students will need: the entry event, a timeline of activities and due dates, project overview, all of the standards, resources, and rubrics.

All of our Google Apps can be linked in eCLASS, our school district’s learning management system, by using either a shareable link or by embedding it into a widget, course content, or discussions.

Google is not the only technology we use for PBL. In order to truly move students into a PBL environment, I have flipped my classroom. As students need more help, I find or create video tutorials on how to use different technologies that are required. Students then have the option to watch and learn on their own or find another platform for their projects.  

To get students into their projects quickly, I use and Blendspace. 

An image from the Sophia video hosting site.

Sophia is an online platform that was set up by Capella University to provide reasonably priced college courses to the public. Other universities now are a part of the system. It is also a free platform for educators to host videos. Why did I chose Sophia instead of Youtube? Accessibility. YouTube is blocked in my district for students when they are at school, so I needed a hosting site for my videos (at the time, we did not have eCLASS yet). I made my own tutorial videos using my laptop, Screen-cast-o-matic or Camtasia,  

An example of Blendspace, embedded into our school’s learning management system.

I also discovered Blendspace. It is a visual bookmarking system that goes way beyond just websites. Blendspace allows me to  bookmark a wide variety of activities for students to use as they see fit: to extend, to remediate, or as to use as reference material. 

Student reflections written on a Padlet and embedded into Ms. Langhans eCLASS course page.

Finally, throughout the project students practice reflecting. One way that my students reflect is by using Padlet, an online corkboard, and I embedded it into an eClass discussion page. This allows students to continually monitor their own progress, stresses, and successes.

As you can see, we are very active in middle school! Students are always using technology in a variety of ways from the beginning of their projects to the very end with reflection. My use of technology comes from two places:  I feel the need to keep up with students and what technologies they are using and will be using in the future; and  I actually enjoying pushing myself as well. Modeling life-long learning to students is very important.

PBL: The Real Thing!

This article was written by GCPS 2016 Teacher of the Year, Trisha Connor.

Have you ever daydreamed of a classroom that nearly runs itself? Have you wished for student engagement at such a high level that management is not an issue? A classroom immersed in well-planned Project Based Learning (PBL) is just that. I recently immersed my fifth grade students in a PBL unit. Inspired by an article we read about alternative energy sources, our driving question was, “How can we improve the safety of wind farms for birds and bats?”

The students generated a list of Need to Know questions, grouped them by topic, and divided into research teams to seek out the answers. Each group chose how to share their new information with the class as the class took sketchnotes on the information. Once students shared the new information, they realized they had even more questions. I had them help me draft a tweet on my Twitter account in search of an expert in the field. We had an amazing Skype session with a professional from NextEra Energy Resources. The students were able to ask questions and deepen their understanding of the problem. This expert also connected us with other experts in the field, including a professor from Texas Tech University who is leading the research on the issue of the environmental impact of wind turbines.  


The students created scale drawings and models of wind turbines and sketched plans of possible solutions to the problem. They created persuasive presentations to share with industry professionals.


They were mesmerized by the information from leaders in the field and shared a feeling of importance and pride to be working on a real-world problem. We set up a display at our school’s Innovation Fair event so that the students could share their learning and solution ideas with community members.


The students could not wait to work on this problem and would express frustration any time we had to forgo this work for other reasons. They truly owned their learning–and I was learning along with them, not leading the way. It was a beautiful, REAL thing!

If you want the REAL thing going on in your classroom, I would start by checking out The Buck Institute for Education at for videos of Project Based Learning in action and resources to get your lessons started.  Edutopia also has lots of wonderful videos to allow you to see PBL in action, like this Introduction to Project Based Learning.  Our own Project Based Learning Communication Center in eCLASS C&I links to these and many more resources.