This weeks subject about Problem based learning is in a way a lesson in semantics. I have heard the saying that every opportunity starts as a problem more than a few times in my life and it has played out many times so I tend to believe it.
So for this weeks post I will reflect on an activity that I have used from time to time in the classroom, usually at the beginning of the year, that gives students an opportunity (no pun intended) to use what I call Opportunity Based Learning.
This project is a tried and true idea that many teachers have used before, I call it the “Dream Vacation”. Student are responsible for planning a global vacation to any spot they choose, within a budget, using online resources to choose flights, accommodations and presenting a google presentation highlighting their trip. Its a great introduction assignment in Ancient Civilizations 6th grade. It allows me to access students in a non pressurized setting, both for technology research skills, a little personal observation and also by getting students up in front of their classmates, which works on confidence, ELL skills and a sort of “breaking the ice”.
Of course its a real world scenario for the students, one that as an international teacher I am very familiar with. Questions such as with online travel company, where to stay, what to do and most importantly “how much does it cost?” While this assignment may not be a problem per se, it is a challenge, its fun and also realistic. All the components of a worthy assignment are present and it gives the students at my boarding school, a little bit of control over their choices.
Technology has made this a truly authentic experience for the students. They can step right in to a real world activity and ponder their choices and decisions. I tried this years before without the internet and it really fell flat for the students. Now they enjoy it greatly and learn a little bit about the world outside their own country. I must say that this activity really got the year off to a good start.