provided instruction on spreadsheet
formulas so students could project costs
for various set-ups. A student tutored
peers in using Google SketchUp to create
a simulation of the movable stand for the
video cameras. When the warehouse
supervisor decided the identification tag
idea was viable for further development,
the students acquired the radio transmitter, the tags, and a server to develop a
Districts or states can develop programs
like the one described here by locating
partners and connecting them with
schools, but this formalized structure is
not necessary to establishing meaningful
partnerships. Individual teachers and
schools can establish different levels of
Meet the Challenge
collaboration by reaching out to local
businesses and organizations. Partners
may provide problems for teachers and
students to resolve, or they may simply
provide expertise on problem topics.
One teacher in the program noted that
teachers alone can only simulate real problems. Excel Foundry [one of the business
partners] gave them the real deal. That
kind of experience can only take place if
the schools are willing to work with a business partner and the businesses are willing
to work with the schools.
Engaging the community in meaningful partnerships benefits students,
teachers, and community partners.
Students learn valuable skills that
transfer to many different career settings.
The experience is transformational for
students, who see their schoolwork as
having meaning. It can be even more
transformational for teachers, who not
only realize the potential in their students
but also reevaluate the roles of both
teachers and learners as they make a
paradigm shift toward student-centered
learning. Business partners are able to
use the work of the students to inspire
their own thinking. All involved get a
fresh perspective on their work, and this
fresh perspective can feed their future
efforts in learning, teaching, and
Debra Gerdes is ASCD’s PBL Network
Facilitator and the Professional Development Leader for Problem-Based Learning
at Illinois Mathematics and Science
Academy (IMSA), 1500 W. Sullivan Rd.,
Aurora, IL 60506; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellen Jo Ljung is Facilitator of IMSA’s
PBL Initiatives in Geneva, Illinois;
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