Project based learning

Project based learning is an approach that gives students the opportunity to learn using hands on techniques.  Instead of being “talked at” by a teacher while sitting in a classroom, students are able to complete projects that are intriguing, engaging and relevant while also meeting all of the curriculum standards.

According to Edtopia, there are five key components to successful project based learning.  These components are:

Real world connections

Students are presented with, or come up with on their own, a real world problem.  The students come up with solutions to these problems.  Some examples may include problems with animals, water sources, community resources, etc.  Project based learning allows the student to connect the curriculum with what is relevant to their lives.

Core to learning

The curriculum presenting with project based learning meets all of the core standards.  The projects that the students complete are not “fillers,” they are the entire curriculum themselves.

Structured collaboration

Students work together as a team and play different roles within the team.  This aspect is the most interesting to me because I can see how this in itself can prepare students for the real world and working with their future employer and future coworkers.  This aspect alone prepares them with the social skills to respect others opinions and to fulfill their responsibilities within the group.

Student driven

Students have a lot of the control over their learning.  Teachers are encouraged to only give hints and to not give students the answers.  This helps tremendously with problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Multifaceted assessment

Instead of teachers testing the students, they use different forms of assessment including self-assessment.  I think self-assessments are extremely important because it allows the students to be accountable for their own progress and, in the end, what they take away from each project they complete.

There are so many advantages to using this approach.  While some students are able to learn in a classroom listening to lecture, many students are hands on learners.  I also see an advantage when it comes to the inclusion of special education students- they can easily be included and allowed to collaborate with other students.  It also allows the students to show off their work and achievements.  I know how proud my own children are when they bring home a project from school.  This can really help to boost their self-confidence. A few disadvantages that I can see is that more resources will be required.  This can include extra staff or materials needed to complete projects.  You may also get a few students who cannot work together in a group or several students who just do not get along.

A few key elements to how a project based classroom would look include:

A collaboration friendly set up.  This include having large tables, an area large enough to work in large groups, access to white boards, etc.

The teacher is not in the front of the classroom, but is assisting from the “sidelines.”

It could look something like this.

CC by marragem

Looking at the Trees Around us is an example of a project based learning curriculum that was used in K-1 grades in Alberta, Canada.  I found it at The Project Approach which has loads of useful information, even curriculums available for download.


Off Balance and Off Color

How many of us have taken a picture and played around with it in some sort of photo editing software?  Did you ever adjust the color “temperature” and notice that the entire picture turned different shades ranging from orange to blue?  That’s because light has a range of temperatures and the white balance setting on a camera can help to compensate for that.

Sunlight at noon is considered to be the normal color and temperature.  The following is a good example of different temperatures when it comes to lighting.:

candle flame                                                                                  WARMEST

household lighting



clear sky

cloudy sky/shade

heavily overcast sky                                                                     COOLEST

When we see white with our own eyes, our brain and eyes compensate and adjust for the lighting.  Cameras do not automatically adjust, and based on the lighting, white in one picture can vary greatly from white in another.  Different temperatures of light can change the way it looks in a picture and this is where adjusting the white balance comes into play.

If the lighting is “cool” (blue or green) we need to use a setting that tells the camera to “warm” it up.  This is also the case if the lighting is “warm” (orange or yellow), the camera needs to “cool” it down.  There are several settings on the camera that can be used to capture the perfect white in a picture.

Auto mode– is exactly that, it automatically chooses the proper white balance

Tungsten– this is usually used for indoors when there is incandescent (bulb) lighting (cools it down)

Fluorescent– is used when there is fluorescent lighting (warms it up)

Daylight/sunny– this setting isn’t available on all cameras as it’s considered to be the normal white balance setting

Cloudy– used if it’s cloudy or overcast (warms it up)

Flash– this is used to compensate for the flash on a camera as the flash light tends to be cooler (warms it up)

Shade– used in the shade (warms it up)

There is also a way to manually set the white balance and that’s by using a special white card that basically tells the camera what white looks like.  The camera then uses that as a reference.  The following pictures were taking within a few minutes of each other, under the same lighting (incandescent).  As you can see the different settings definitely change the temperature of each picture.

Auto mode
Daylight mode
Cloudy mode
Tungsten mode
Fluorescent mode
Flash mode

I even played around with some of the pictures I had already taken, adjusting their temperature in Picasa (a photo editing program).  I used the same picture and made it cooler then warmer.


I like the idea of adjusting the color and temperature of my pictures.  I  know that I’ve taken pictures before and wondered why they looked yellow or orange and now I know how to prevent that in the future.  I used several sources while researching this week’s topic- they can be found here, here, and here.

What is a PLN?

A personal learning network (PLN) is something used to connect people of all different professions, fields and expertise.  It’s used to make connections and built relationships with other people to LEARN.  People connect to share ideas and resources, collaborate and learn from each other.

I never realized until reading about PLN’s, that I have kind of had my own for many years now.  The internet has exploded over the last 10 years with so many resources, so many social media outlets and so many ways to find information and connect with others.  Since becoming a mom I have found myself researching almost anything you can think of when it comes to pregnancy, kids, and parenting.  I have been a part of a few forums where you can post on message boards, ask for information or share your own knowledge and experiences.  There are also new groups on Facebook based on certain subjects.  A few that I use, for example, have to do with raising kids, car seat safety, and even issues that arise with blended families.  Usually if someone doesn’t have any firsthand knowledge they know someone that does (maybe their dad is a lawyer, a dentist, a dr, or their sister went through the same situation).  Connecting with others also allows you to connect with their own PLN.  Although the idea of a PLN is not new to me, the definition and using it as professional development is.

One of the biggest perks of a PLN is that you use it on your own terms.  You decide everything!

     -What tools to use (media, technology, etc)

     -Want you want to learn (professional development, hobbies, etc)

     -Who you want to connect with (experts, other parents, etc)

     -How you want to learn (reading, videos, pictures)

     -And when you want to learn (its available 24/7, which is especially useful for me       because I spend a lot of time up at night with the baby)

You also get to choose if you want to share or just lurk and take in the information you find without sharing your own.  When starting this class, I was surprised by the fact that we needed to use twitter, something I have never used before, and I wondered why.  After reading about a PLN I now understand.  Twitter is one of the main sources for a PLN, along with YouTube and the Educators PLN.

There are so many things that I can connect with having a PLN, one of them being our individual learning projects.  What a great way to find resources, connect with others who have the same interest, and share your ideas!

There are some things to do to help your PLN grow.  These include:

-being open to new ideas and knowledge

-finding relevant blogs and Twitter feeds

-using your RSS feed

-adding new connections when needed and getting rid of those who are less useful or post too much “noise”


I feel as if I do most of these things well, but I definitely need to expand my network and add to it.  I try to respond and share relevant information with those that I follow on Twitter and blogs, but if I take a little bit more time I feel as if I could contribute even more.


Aperture is the opening in the lens of a camera that allows different amounts of light to be let in.  The larger the aperture, the more light will be let in and the smaller the aperture, the less light will be let in.  This concept was a little harder for me to understand than last week’s adventure with shutter speed.  I did play around with the aperture settings on my camera but it seems as though it doesn’t have as big of an aperture range as a fancier, more expensive camera.  I did my research, took some pictures and hopefully came up with something useful.


I’ve seen gorgeous photos that focus on one object and the background is blurry and have always wondered how to recreate something like that.  This week I learned that it’s all about aperture.  To achieve this look in a picture the aperture needs to be set wide, meaning more light will be coming in and less of the picture will be in focus.


This kind of refers back to last week’s blog about shutter speed: the slower shutter speed allows in more light which results in a blurry photo.  So more light equals less focused.  Aperture also has many other factors that play along with it including shutter speed, which needs to also be set correctly depending on the range of aperture you’re using.

Really interesting.

I took my camera out and photographed some sunflowers that I have growing in my backyard.  I used different aperture settings and also used the auto mode to see if I could see a difference.  Without zooming in on the flowers I was able to set the aperture where I wanted, although I soon realized that my camera only has an aperture range of 3.4-8.0.  More expensive professional camera lenses offer aperture ranges of 1.8-22.0 so I felt a little defeated in this aspect.  I guess I may be able to use that as an excuse to upgrade?  I was able to see a small difference in the two different aperture settings that I used, so that is encouraging.

Aperture setting of 8.0
Aperture setting of 3.4
Auto mode

I did not see any difference in the pictures above.  The pictures below I can tell a difference in how the background is in focus.  If you notice the aperture of 8.0 provided much  more focus on the background than that of aperture 5.0 and auto mode (most noticeable when looking at the chain link fence).

Zoomed in, aperture setting of 8.0
Zoomed in, aperture setting of 5.0
Auto mode

Overall I feel like I learned a great deal about using different aperture ranges on my camera, and definitely feel like I’m ready to learn a lot more about it!  Passion based learning at its best!

Again, I got my information here and here.

Passion based learning

The two passion based articles that I chose to read this week are “Passion Based Learning” written by Ainissa Ramirez and “3 Questions to Drive Passion Based Learning” by George Couros.  Before reading these articles I didn’t realize the full extent of passion based learning.  I was able to relate to a lot of it and reflect back onto my own education and how my passions have influenced what I’ve learned.

Ainissa uses the metaphor of fishing to explain passion based learning.  She says that we need to draw students in (entice them) with a “worm” and “hook” them to keep them engaged.  She says there’s two ways to do this:

1. Find out what interests the students.  What are they truly passionate about?
2. Be an instructor who displays a great passion for the subject they are teaching.

Be infectious with your passion!  Passion can be contagious depending on the presentation.  But, Ainissa explains, it’s possible to be too caught up in your level of passion to properly engage the students.  Having a “beginner’s mind,” she explains, allows you to get on the level of your students and to remember how you felt about the subject the first time you were introduced to it.  She explains it as instead of diving into the deep end to dip their feet into the shallow end of the pool and gradually working your way into the deep end.  Being too passionate can almost be a bad thing.  I also really loved what she said about vulnerability.  She states that showing your inner “geek” will allow the students to be themselves and to really become engrossed and engaged in what they are passionate about.

Cc by Josh

In George Couros’ article he states that there are three questions that will drive passion based learning.  The three questions are;

What will I learn?

What will I solve?

What will I create?

What will I learn?  George says that you can learn anything that is of interest you in 20 hours.  He refers to a “20 hour project.”  This is incredibly interesting to me and I think it’s something that I may have to try.  20 hours seems like a lot but giving an hour here and there would take no time to master a new skill.  Especially if it’s something you’re passionate about!

Photo CC by Photo4jenifer

What will I solve?  George says that instead of creating problem solvers we should encourage students to be problem finders.

What will I create?  Students should create something of interest to them.  This can include certain products, music, health initiatives, novels, etc.  This is a great motivation for passion based learning.

Essentially both articles focused on the same thing: find ways to encourage passion based learning.  After reading these I reflected on my own life and things that I have learned (crocheting, baking, cake decorating, child restraint safety, etc) and all of these topics are something of great interest to me.  These articles will not only help me with my future students but with my own children as well.  I learned that I need to encourage them learning about topics of great interest to them and how I can nurture that education as well.


Information overload! And a little about shutter speed.

After researching the different types of camera settings this week one thing has become very clear to me- auto mode is fabulous!  I love taking pictures of my kids and family, I think mostly because I don’t have very many of myself and my family when I was a child.  I wish I had more, which is why I want to make sure that my own kids have PLENTY of pictures to look back on, to show their kids, to laugh at when they look through them.  I purchased this camera a few years ago.

The biggest features that appealed to me were the image stabilization (my  big kids participate in sports, and my baby never holds still), the zoom capabilities, and the high continuous shooting speed (again, really helpful when taking pictures of moving kids).  I’ve only used it once when not on auto mode and that was accidentally.  I could not figure out what was going on with my camera and what all the special icons on the screen meant.  Now I know, it was not on auto mode and I was completely out of my element while trying to figure it out.  Never before has a small piece of technology made me feel so stupid.  So, first thing I did this week was pull out my camera and go searching for the manual, which only took me an hour to find.  Upon finding the manual, I realized that I was missing the disc that was provided with it which was the pdf version of the large manual.  I didn’t have any luck finding it so I turned to one of my best research tools- Google!  I wasn’t able to find the pdf version to download so I found a few helpful websites that explain some of the settings and even instructions on how to use it.  And boy was I overwhelmed, once again!

My first adventure with this camera is to learn about shutter speed, and how to adjust it.  On the top of my camera is a dial with different setting modes.  If I turn the dial to “TV” I am able to adjust the shutter speed.  In easy terms, shutter speed is literally the amount of time it takes for the shutter of the camera to close.  So I did a little experiment- I took several pictures at different shutter speeds- all with the same model, an always moving 10 month old.  The results were interesting.  The faster the shutter speed the darker the picture and the slower the shutter speed the blurrier the picture was.  A slow shutter speed allows more light, but also allows the subject to move more during the shot which results in a blurred picture.  The faster shutter speed allows less light which is why the pictures are darker.  A slower shutter speed is helpful in low light situations or where you purposefully want the subject to be blurry.  This explains so much and will definitely be helpful in my journey in taking more pictures!  I can’t wait to learn more!  I got my information here and here.

Very slow shutter speed.
Very fast shutter speed.
Auto mode.


Today, while searching for a  TED talk video to watch, I opened up a playlist titled “Talks to watch with kids.”  I thought something on this subject would be beneficial as a future teacher (and present parent)-something to watch together to get both of us engaged, something to spark up conversations and interests.  I chose the video “A performance of ‘Mathemagic’” by Arthur Benjamin and I was pleasantly surprised!  In this video Arthur acts like a magician but instead of preforming magic tricks he does some insanely cool tricks with numbers.  He welcomes a few helpers to the stage, all of them with their own calculator.  He is able to quickly multiply numbers and give the correct answers, all while doing it in his head!  He had great charisma with the adults in the audience but he also had a personality that would greatly appeal to kids.  I thought this video would be beneficial watching it with kids because I believe seeing this guy in action would definitely spark some interest in most kids-those who like math, those who don’t, those who struggle with math and those who tend to get it naturally.  It shows them that math can be fun!  Another thing that I really enjoyed about this video (and may have had a small laugh at) was how it doesn’t show math by our common core standards that have recently been put into place.  The new way that we’re teaching math can be so confusing and complex that many students (and teachers!) have a difficult time with it.  Some teachers (at least a few that I’ve worked with), will teach the common core way but will allow a student to come to the correct answer in a different manner of their choice, if that’s what suites them best.  This video is evidence that not everyone learns the same way.  This video shows that some people do math and think differently and that’s ok!  I especially liked his phonetic code that he used while solving the last problem.  It was his own way of remembering and solving the problem, again, without a pencil and paper.  I would definitely like to learn more about him and his methods for solving math problems and would like to take the opportunity to share it with my own kids and future students.  We’re all different and we all have different learning styles, some may excel where others find difficult and vice versa.  We can all learn from each other!