209: ARIE in Fort Worth, Texas

On Monday, June 27, 2016, Sarah DiMaria, Victoria Vanzura and I arrived at the Applied Learning Academy in Fort Worth, Texas and found our participants were already present, seated and ready to go.  This was our first sign that this group was ready to learn about Project Based Learning (PBL).  We opened up the session by introducing ourselves and telling a few stories about why PBL was a big part of our teaching style and why each found PBL effective.  I talked about how I realized in grad school that I needed to work with younger students when a middle school student attending a Physics Circus session told me she was not going to consider Science as a career because she was too creative for Science.  This experience convinced me that I needed to teach students before they got to college and I needed to teach Science in engaging ways that uncovered “how” Science knowledge is made. Victoria talked about being voted the Student Who Slept Most During Class in high school and how PBL has enabled her to design and facilitate learning experiences that might have kept even her awake in high school.  She also recently had the experience of teaching her former high school teachers about PBL at an ARIE PBL training in New Braunfels.  Sarah talked about how PBL has made her students more willing to communicate about mathematics and more game to try out complex mathematics problems.

During our first session, Project Launch, I really appreciated how actively involved the participants were in each of our activities and discussions.  We had many volunteers share what they learned from the Compass activity and share interesting observations related to Kevin Gant’s TED Talk on PBL schools.  While they created their Knows and Need-to-Knows, several groups painstakingly dissected the Project Challenge to develop very complete lists of Knows and Need-to-Knows.



During the Project Ideation session, many participants embraced the processes we used to backwards design project ideas.  Some participants were a bit intrigued about the strategy of choosing and analyzing standards prior to brainstorming project ideas; they agreed to trust the process and sample our way of creating project ideas that are fully grounded in the standards from the outset.  By early afternoon, each team had dissected their standards, brainstormed products, and crafted a driving question for their favorite product.

Prior to kicking off a peer feedback session, Victoria showed them a video about the power of peer feedback called the Austin’s butterfly video.  The video showed how helpful and detailed feedback combined with multiple drafts can dramatically improve product quality.  After discussing this video, Victoria introduced the Critical Friends sentence stems and set up a gallery walk in which participants provided written Critical Friends feedback to 3 other project ideation forms in the room.  After this feedback was disseminated, we gave the groups time to use their feedback and the Project Challenge rubric to improve their product ideas and driving questions.

The last workshop we offered on Day 1 was Entry Events.  After sharing the characteristics and tech tools for 4 different types of entry events, we gave the participants some time to brainstorm their entry events.  Then I shared with participants our Critical Friends template that they needed to complete to present on Day 3.  I walked them through the template and explained the key features of their presentation and shared when in the next two days we would provide more support related to each of the features.  Thanks to the strong focus of our participants, we were able to facilitate a densely packed Day 1 of training while still releasing the participants at 3:30 pm instead of 4 pm.

Prior to leaving the training session site, Sarah, Victoria and I reviewed all their Know and Need-to-Know charts in order to prepare for tomorrow’s workshops.  Also during Day 1 we found time to bundle and prep all our materials for the upcoming hands-on activities on Day 2 and 3.  All in all, Day 1 was a great success.  I think we built an early rapport between our audience, ourselves, and PBL by sharing our PBL stories.  We were able to build on this positive momentum to guide our cohort through the Day 1 sessions.  Really not bad for our first training session without our most veteran lead trainers, Stephanie Ehler and Steven Zipkes.

On Tuesday, June 28, Day 2 of Foundations Training kicked off with a workshop on Rubrics.  In one of our rubrics activities, our participants posed as junior architects building model homes out of marshmallows and toothpicks.  After some limited build time, the teams provided each other with feedback and then we had a debrief discussion about the importance of rubrics.  Several participants were forthcoming about the pros and cons of using rubrics.  One pro is that expectations are clear for teachers and students.  One con is that the many constraints in the rubric can slow down team’s work progress.



For the remainder of the morning, we workshopped how to create standards-aligned and 21st century skills rubrics and gave time for participants to apply what they had learned by creating rubrics for their own projects.  In the afternoon, we facilitated workshops on Scaffolding and Assessments.  The participants worked diligently.  By the end of the day, several teams had scaffolding pyramids and tentative calendars that included learning activities and formative/summative assessments for their project’s targeted TEKS and 21st century skills.

On Wednesday, June 29, we started the morning training by facilitating a workshop on Project Management.  We had a great discussion about different project management scenarios and various teachers’ comfort levels with each.  We gave participants time to set project management goals for their students in the domains of time, student work, people, and space/resources.  Then we let the participants rotate through stations with mini-workshops on those domains.  Many teachers asked a lot of questions during the mini-workshops and a few admitted to having some realizations that were making them feel more and more comfortable with implementing PBL in their classrooms.

For the second half of the morning, we provided opportunities for teams to use work time to finish their presentations / project drafts and to attend impromptu workshops based on their need-to-knows.  Victoria led a workshop on how to support English Language Learners in PBL projects.  Sarah led a workshop on how to use Twitter to network with other educators.  I led a workshop on how to access resources that discuss how to create a positive student culture based on constructive critique.



In the afternoon, we broke up into 3 Critical Friends sessions and modeled how to run the Critical Friends protocol to provide detailed feedback on early drafts of projects and products.  I was impressed by the creativity and the rigor embedded in the projects I reviewed.  Many participants had a positive experience with Critical Friends and could think of several contexts to apply the protocol.

We closed out the day by discussing the importance of PBL celebrations and by staging our own closing ceremony for the participants.  Sarah handed out certificates while Victoria and I headed up an Arch of Honor that grew as participants walked under it and then extended its length.  The participants played along with our celebration and cheered heartily for each other and received their certificates with a lot of enthusiasm.  This method of celebration was an experimental version that departed from our usual Cupid shuffle dance mob.  Considering the physical constraints of our training room, I think the Pomp & Circumstance celebration was a nice fit for the space and our participants.  I think Sarah, Victoria, and I might have enjoyed the celebration enough to carry and elevate everyone’s enthusiasm.  It was such a sweet way to end a training filled with many hard working and creating educators.



Special thanks to Adriana Jacobi for hosting me throughout this trip, for introducing me to the really cheap, delicious authentic tacos, for the great restaurant suggestions (such as delicious cheap sushi for lunch on Day 2 and Curly’s Frozen Custard), and for all the great conversations.  Also special thanks to Czech stop for having gas and ALL the tasty treats.


208: ARIE in Clearwater, Florida

On Sunday, June 19, ARIE trainers, Steve Zipkes, Stephanie Ehler, Stuart Ray, Sarah DiMaria, Stephanie Hart and I arrived in Clearwater, Florida after a 10-day trip to China.  Throughout our very long commute from Hong Kong to Florida, I received many birthday greetings from friends in person, online, and via text.  These greetings capped off the many birthday cheers from the evening before during our final dinner in China.  What a way to kick off year 40!

When we arrived our hotel in Clearwater, we were joined by ARIE trainers, Adam Fishman, Jennifer Thompson, Victoria Venzura, Tyeron Hammontree, and Michael Chambers.  We arrived just in time to briefly plan for the start of the training the following day and to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers historic game 7 win over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

On Monday, June 20, Stephanie Ehler, Stuart Ray and I took the day off to recover from jet lag, to run errands and to finalize the design of the Think Forward PBL Academy Advanced Track sessions.  Stephanie and I started off the morning by doing some much needed laundry.  Both of us had nearly used up all of our clean clothes during our 10-day China trip.   Then we picked up Stuart and went shopping for workshop supplies and spent time working together on our Advanced sessions.  Later in the evening, we got to debrief with the ARIE team on Day 1 of the Foundations PBL training on our hotel’s scenic restaurant patio.  Then, Stephanie, Stuart, and Sarah closed out the evening by spending several hours working together on Advanced track sessions.



During our Day 1 Foundations level Debrief, I learned that our trainers were having many positive interactions with the Clearwater participants.  Stephanie Hart was the lead trainer for Day 1.  She managed to coherently and energetically lead the Day 1 Project Launch and Project Ideation workshops – no small feat considering her  lack of sleep due to jet lag.  Our facilipants, Adam, Tyeron, Sarah, Victoria, Michael, and Jennifer, circulated throughout the training room to offer support to our participants during the Day 1 sessions.  They were impressed by the focus and work ethic of the participants and the depth and breadth of their project ideation brainstorming discussions and products.



On Tuesday, June 21, I joined the ARIE team consisting of Adam, Jennifer, Stephanie H., Victoria, Michael, and Tyeron to lead the morning sessions in Day 2 of the Foundations track training.  In the meantime, Stephanie E. and Sarah kicked off Day 1 of the Advanced track training.  In the morning, I facilitated the Rubrics workshop of the Foundations track training.  The participants started to impress me early on while they sketched their end products during the warmup of the Rubrics session.  I enjoyed seeing the wide variety of products in the room and enjoyed seeing how willing participants were to share their end product ideas with me.  The participants were also very enthusiastic and game architects during our Marshmallow House activity.  During the debrief of this activity, several participants volunteered some perceptive comments that debriefed the activity and tied it to the importance and purpose of rubrics.  One participant described how the specificity of rubric criteria can help both teachers and students.  One participant wondered if time should be allotted for free brainstorming prior to introducing students to the constraints in the rubric.

During the middle to the end of the workshop, we walked the participants through drafting a 3-column Content and 21st century skills rubric for their project.  A few of the instructional coaches in the room helped me explain to participants how the 3 rubric levels connected to Marzano’s thinking levels so that participants could better understand how to integrate PBL with district initiatives.  The participants were very productive during the rubric work times.  Several groups even continued working through our mid morning break.  Many teams came up with  solid rubric drafts by the end of the morning.  All in all, I felt like the Rubric session went very well.



During Tuesday afternoon, I joined Stephanie E. and Sarah to support participants going through the Advanced track of the PBL training.  This smaller group of participants was also very enthusiastic and focused. I affinity grouped their Goals and found that their goals clustered around better implementations of scaffolding, rubrics, assessments, project calendars, student choice, authenticity, and professional development.  In the afternoon, the participants worked together to compile strategies for scaffolding and assessing Agency.  This was the closing activity for a session on Agency lead by Stephanie.  Following this workshop, Sarah lead a session on Inquiry through the lens of looking at student work.  I worked with a group of teachers to analyze Calculus student work using the Looking at Student Work protocol.  While working through this protocol, we had some very interesting conversations about how to scaffold mathematics, how to integrate mathematics with other contents, and how to interpret student work.




On the evening of Tuesday, June 21, Steve Zipkes treated our team to dinner at the Columbia.  Founded in 1905, the Columbia is the oldest restaurant in Florida.  The restaurant served up delicious Spanish and Cuban food and featured fresh seafood and excellent table-side food and drink service.  I ordered a delicious baked stuffed grouper dish; the fish was stuffed with crabmeat and a very nice tart tropical fruit butter that cut nicely through the buttery richness of the fish and the crab.  For desert, I got to eat caramelized torched crema and surprise birthday flan.  The waiters sung Happy Birthday to me in Spanish.  It was another sweet way to celebrate my initiation into the 40 Club.



On Wednesday, June 22, Stuart Ray and I led the Advanced PBL trainings on Scaffolding and Assessment.  Prior to that, I again enjoyed breakfast on the hotel patio with the beautiful bay views.  Stuart was the lead trainer for the morning Scaffolding session and I was a facilipant.  I enjoyed playing the Scaffolding Bingo game with the participants.  We created a bingo card with 9 scaffolding activities.  Then we found teachers who had 2, 3-4, 5, and 6 strategies in common with us and asked them what was the subject they teach, their favorite food, and their favorite television show.  This activity helped me to get to know some of the teachers I had interacted with the day before.  Stuart led workshops on scaffolding best practices and on workshops.  He and I also supported participants during work time when they broke down their target standards and brainstormed scaffolding activities for theses standards.  We even brought in an extra facilipant, Adam Fishman, to help out one of the participants who taught an Electrician certification course because Adam has many ideas and taught Electricity courses at Manor New Tech.  Adam and Dan had long conversations throughout the work time.  They exchanged enough ideas that they had to move to a side area to continue those conversations during workshop time.



In the afternoon,  I ate lunch at Panera with half the ARIE team and then took a quick power nap.  By that point the jet lag was starting  to make me feel like a machine alternating between ON working phases and OFF sleeping recharging phases.  After my nap, I led the Assessments session for the Advanced track participants.  Just as in the morning, the participants asked many deep and nuanced clarifying questions when I presented my workshops on Assessment Design and Assessment Implementation.  During the two designated work times for unpacking and analyzing standards, planning responses to assessment data, and brainstorming assessment formats, I had some cool conversations with participants.   While helping out Nidal.,  I learned that sometimes standards are written in ways that do NOT explicitly list the verbs in the standards.   Sometimes, they are written in the way that clearly infer verbs that are not directly mentioned in the standard. During one of the activities, I had participants vote with their feet by moving to one of 4 corners representing an assessment format in order to get information related to assessment scenarios.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that participants landed at 3 of the 4 corners for each of the scenarios that I presented even though I designed this activity to have what I thought was one clear winner per scenario.  Hearing the participants’ justifications for their responses helped me learn new ways to use the assessment strategies in the activity.  By the end of the session, many of us (the participants) and I) were a bit tired.  Several of them thanked me for leading a session that “stretched their minds”.

In the evening, I again slumped into an OFF state and napped deeply for 3 hours.  Then I met with Stuart Ray and Stephanie Ehler to plan the Advanced Authenticity session.  I quickly slipped into an ON state and shared many ideas for the session.  I ordered a sandwich through room service that was a pretty delicious French dip sandwich; I snacked on this treat during our brainstorming session.  We created a draft of the handout and the slides before our meeting ended.  Stephanie was sleepy enough that I asked her if I could finish the slides because my mind was shooting off many ideas on how to complete them.  I quickly packed and then dedicated one dense hour to finishing the Authenticity slides.  Just as I was fixing to fall asleep, the hotel fire alarms went off and I had to trudge outside along with all the other hotel residents.  I met Steve, Stuart, and Stephanie outside in the parking lot.  Fortunately they allowed us back into the hotel pretty quickly because soon after I arrived back at my room I quickly fell into an OFF state.



On Thursday, June 24, Steve Zipkes, Stephanie Ehler, Stuart Ray, and I spent our final day in Clearwater training teachers.  We enjoyed our last breakfast with beautiful bay views.  Stephanie, Stuart, and I led two advanced sessions: one on Project Management and one on Authenticity.   As we struggled to facilitate sessions while fighting still persistent jet lag, our motto was: Find a Way.  During the project management workshops, I really enjoyed swapping strategies with participants on how to better manage projects.  During the authenticity workshop, we continued to brainstorm and share strategies on how to ramp up management processes to accommodate more authentic projects.  Stuart closed the training with an impromptu workshop requested by participants on the New Echo.  As the training closed, several participants expressed a lot of gratitude for the training and wished us luck on our endeavors to found a new school.



For my moment of zen, I found out after the training that Adriana Jacobi is willing to host me while I’m in Fort Worth next week for another ARIE PBL Foundations training.  Whoohoo!  I’m looking forward to catching up with her.  🙂

207: ARIE in China

From June 9 to June 19, 2016, six trainers from Advanced Reasoning in Education (ARIE) embarked on our first Project Based Learning (PBL) training tour of China.  Stephanie Ehler, Sarah DiMaria, Stuart Ray, Steven Zipkes, Stephanie Ehler and I facilitated three 3-day trainings in Hohhot, Beijing, and Shenzhen.  During our workshops, we all enjoyed working with many passionate, creative and hard working teachers, translators, professors, and administrators in China.  We hope that this PBL tour will be the first of many opportunities to collaborate with educators striving to implement PBL in China.

On  Thursday, June 9, our team flew from Austin to Chicago to Beijing, China.  We arrived in Beijing on Friday, June 10.  Our host professor from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Dr. Guoli Liang, and a team of teachers and translators en route to a PBL Conference in Hohhot welcomed us at the Beijing airport.  We all gathered for one big group picture before splitting our full ARIE team into two smaller PBL training teams.  Stephanie Ehler, Stuart Ray and Sarah DiMaria left Beijing to facilitate a 3-day training in Hohhot.  Steven Zipkes, Stephanie Hart, and I remained in Beijing to lead a 3-day training at the Zhongguancun No. 3 Primary School.  On our first evening in Beijing, Professor Liang took Steven, Stephanie, and I to a traditional noodle shop that prepared fresh noodles from scratch.  The noodle dishes were delicious!  What a great first meal in China!




On Saturday morning, June 11, Steven, Stephanie and I visited the Zhongguancun No. 3 Primary School.  We were taken on a wonderful school tour of this unique campus and we met with our translators Professor Xiang  and Professor Zhu to prepare for Day 1 of our PBL training the following day.  The Zhongguancun No. 3 Primary School was one of the most amazing and beautiful schools I have ever visited.  The school had so many features that promoted positive culture and innovative teaching / learning styles.  The fitness facilities included an indoor pool, an indoor and an outdoor track, a stadium with rock climbing wall and 2 full size basketball courts, and several dance / yoga studios.  The school itself was divided into six sub-schools that were branded by the six colors of the rainbows.  The school within a school design created learning community spaces that had the intimacy and closeness of smaller schools.  Within each school, the classrooms were arranged in pods that were designed to promote collaboration among classes.  These pods included large common work areas and 3 to 4 classrooms separated by dividers that could be opened to integrate classes that housed different grade levels.  In addition to these classrooms, there were many specialty classrooms that promoted different types of learning: tea rooms, etiquette rooms, science labs, art studios, wood / metal workshops, libraries, computer labs, etc.  The staff work rooms were very inviting and had modular furniture that supported collaborations of educator groups of varied sizes.  The beautiful Hall of Achievement auditorium that housed our PBL training had tables, seating, lighting, and large project screens that made the room look like the site of a TED Talks conference.  Gardens flourished in many classrooms and throughout the school grounds. Overall the school was really beautifully and deliberately designed; it felt like every detail, large and small, served to create a positive innovative learning space for students and educators.  (For more school tour pics, go here.)



On the afternoon and evening of Saturday, June 11, two college students volunteered to take Stephanie and I to the Forbidden City.  We arrived in time to tour the grounds for a couple hours.  The Forbidden City was so vast that we only got to walk through a small section of the grounds.  It was so amazing to walk through a place that was filled with so much beauty and that was steeped in so much culture.  I felt very humbled while appreciating structures that were several hundred years older than the USA.  After the Forbidden City closed, our tour guides took us to gardens and pavilions located on a large hill at the very center of Beijing.  From the top of this hill we were able to see amazing views of the Forbidden City and many parts of Beijing.  From these great heights, we were able to notice and appreciate the symmetry of the buildings in the Forbidden City.  On our way back to the hotel, we got to experience public transportation in Beijing by taking two buses.  The busses were very cheap (2 RMB ~ 30 US cents) and fun to ride.  On one of the busses, a family asked Stephanie if their shy son could practice his English with her and she spent some time chatting with him.  She talked with him with the same patience and enthusiasm that many of our Chinese hosts extended to us while we attempted to speak a few Chinese phrases.  Throughout our stay here, I really enjoyed the Chinese people’s reactions to my attempts to speak Chinese.  Many people gave me a lot of positive encouragement and helpful tips that helped me learn more Chinese words and phrases.  (For more Forbidden City pictures, go here.)



On Sunday, June 12, Steven, Stephanie, and I kicked off the PBL Training in Beijing with approximately 100 participants.  I started off the training with our project launch.  From the start our participants worked very diligently while taking notes and compiling their Knows and Need-to-Knows.  Stephanie led the Project Ideation session.  We had to work very hard with the participants to help them understand how to choose national standards and how to use these to start brainstorming project products and driving questions.  Over the course of the conference we began to understand the differences in the ways the USA and China communicate their curriculum expectations through standards and ancillary materials.  In the USA, we have very detailed standards that give the specific topics and skills that students need to learn at each grade level and content.  In China, the national standards are very abstract and broad and are supplemented by more detailed curriculum goals that are contained in nationally prescribed textbooks.  Once we were able to understand the differences in our systems, we were to communicate with the Chinese teachers in ways that helped them to select specific curriculum goals grounded in national standards and use these as springboards for project ideas.



We celebrated a successful Day 1 of training by eating at a Hot Pot restaurant.  We enjoyed the excellent food, service, and company at our dinner.  The food was spicy enough to numb our mouths in a way that surprisingly tasty and pleasant.  A performer did a dance during our dinner that involved fan flourishes and some cool, quick mask changes.  We shared this beautiful fun meal with teachers from Finland, Professor Liang, some translators, and Laura, a professor from Stanford University.



On Monday, June 13, Day 2 of the PBL training, Stephanie and I facilitated workshops on Rubrics, Scaffolding and Assessments.  We were joined with a new translator, Liting who had attended an ARIE PBL training in Manor Texas in 2014.  She was also Kevin Gant’s translator during a PBL training he led in Chongqing and Beijing in 2014.  It was so great to have a translator with several PBL experiences join our team.  She was able to help us add more depth to our presentations that built on the knowledge we shared the day before.  She was also very good at project management.  She was great at keeping work sessions on time and letting us know when participants needed more or less time to complete tasks.  On Day 2, we presented workshops and facilitated work sessions that enabled the participants to draft a project rubric and a scaffolding and assessment plan for their projects.  Many teams drafted their rubrics and scaffolding / assessment plans in their conference booklets AND on chart paper.  Twice during the day, we gave the participants opportunities to give each other peer feedback on the project elements.  On the first peer feedback session, they presented their rubric drafts and received feedback that related to a checklist of good rubric characteristics.  On the second feedback session, they presented their driving questions, products, scaffolding and assessment plans and got feedback on the alignment and authenticity of their projects.  During each of the feedback sessions, the participants were very engaged while they presented and gave feedback.  They started to give each other many good ideas that helped them refine their early drafts of their projects.

We closed Day 2 by revisiting the PBL training rubric and giving the participants time to work on their Day 3 presentations based on the rubric expectations.  We gave the teams opportunities to choose their presentation format (Powerpoint or Chart Paper) and to sign up for Critical Friends sessions.  We were surprised that the teams nearly evenly split up into 6 teams who preferred to present by chart paper and 6 using Powerpoint.  The teachers worked diligently on their rubrics and also helped up prepare for Day 3 by updating their Know and Need-to-Know charts.  They circled their resolved Need-to-Knows and added an arrow pointing to the Know column.  They also added new Need-to-Knows based on the PBL Training rubric.  We collected these charts and our translators translated the unresolved Need-to-Knows in order to help us frame our workshops for Day 3.  (For more Day 2 training pictures, go here.)




During the evenings of Day 2 and 3 of the PBL trainings, Stephane and I lingered near the school while waiting for Steven who was presenting the PBL Leadership Track of the training to administrators in the evening.  During his 2 hour sessions, Stephanie and I spent most of our time resting in a nearly coffeeshop called Naan’s Coffeeshop.  It was a really beautiful space that was decorated with mismatched chairs, chandeliers, indoor living trees, and many bookcases.  The most beautiful bookcases extended from the floor of the lower level of the shop and extended to the ceiling of the second floor of the shop.  We enjoyed their specialty toasts.  They were similar to large slices of Texas toast seasoned with cinnamon, caramel, and fresh whipped cream.  We also enjoyed their coffee  in several forms (expresso, lattes, etc).  Each morning we stopped at Naan’s for several coffees to go (or “takeaway” as they call it in China).  In the evening while we were waiting for Steve to finish his leadership training, Stephanie and I took our time and used the space and its drinks and treats to relax and mentally recharge after our long days of PBL training.   The bears posing with us in the pictures below were used  to label tables so waiters could give customers their correct orders.  On our first day at Naan’s we did not understand what the bears were for so we kept trying to return our bear.  We thought they were trying to sell us souvenirs we didn’t want.  We felt pretty sheepish when we finally realized why the waiters were so insistent that we hold on to our bear.



After these recharge sessions, it was easier for us to resume our preparations for the upcoming days of training which usually occupied us till it was nearly time for bed.  During our preparation sessions, we practiced explaining our visuals in ways that captured the essential ideas in the slides in ways that were as clear and concise as possible in order to help out our translators.  We also made minor adjustments to the sessions to include participant deliverables that gave participants opportunities to make their thinking visible and to practice applying the content in the session.  For example on Day 2, we included a Scaffolding Assessment graphic organizer that had participants plan scaffolding activities and their associated formative and summative assessments on chart paper.  Creating this visual helped our participants brainstorm and display instructional ideas that started bringing their projects to life.  I was able to connect their ideas to project calendars while presenting the Project Management workshops on Day 3.

On Tuesday, June 14, Stephanie and I led the final workshops of our three-day training.  In the morning, Stephanie led a workshop on Entry Events and then gave participants time to brainstorm entry event ideas.  For the remainder of the morning, Steve, Stephanie and I co-faciilitated sessions on Project Management.  We led mini-workshops that offered tips on how teachers and students can better manage projects by managing time, student work, and people.  We tried our best to connect our presentations to the unresolved Need-to-Knows from the previous days.  We closed the morning by having one team present their project and facilitating a model Critical Friends session in order to show participants what they had to look forward to after lunch.

During the afternoon, the remaining teams presented and received Critical Friends feedback.  The teams who presented on Power Point added a Critical Friends slide and translators uses this slide to type out their Critical Friends feedback.  The teams who presented using chart paper had their Critical Friends feedback written on large white boards.  After the sessions, the teams took pictures of their Critical Friends feedback (I Likes, I Wonders, and Next Steps) before the boards were reset for the next Critical Friends session.  The feedback that the participants gave each other was very detailed and practical.  Many of the tips could be used to improve their projects.  The project themselves were very creative, engaging, and complete.  Many teams were able to present fairly complete rubric drafts, entry event ideas and scaffolding and assessment plans.  We were very impressed by the amount and quality of the work the participants produced during our 3 day PBL training.  At the end of our training, we took many groups pictures including the group picture featuring our translator team shown below.  We exchanged some heartfelt and sad goodbyes with our translator team because we had grown close over the course of working closely together over the 3 days.  (For more Day 3 Training pictures, go here.)



On Wednesday, June 15, Stephanie Hart and I were not scheduled for any trainings or meetings.  Instead we followed Professor Liang’s suggestions and ventured by ourselves to the Summer Palace.  We showed our taxi driver an iMap screenshot of the Summer Palace location and we were off!  We were surprised by the size and beauty of the Summer Palace.  The grounds included many palace complexes that surrounded a small lake.  During our explorations of the place, we visited all the grounds that surrounded the lake.  It took us six hours to finish walking through and viewing the sites that surrounded the lake.  We explored beautiful temples, museums, gardens, palaces, and performance spaces.  We climbed many old and beautiful bridges and stairs to reach our sites.  We finished our tour by eating at a restaurant in an open market alongside the lake.  The water views were very peaceful and refreshing.  The whole day we strolled around in a reverie taking pictures of one beautiful site after another; it was like walking through paradise.  I felt like I had stepped into the most beautiful free exploring video game ever.  After exploring the palace, we showed another taxi cab driver a screenshot of map site that was supposed to take us to a flea market area of Beijing.  Two hours later, we landed in what looked like a garment district.  We walked around for awhile and couldn’t find the flea market area so we gave up and used our hotel business card to direct another cab driver to take us back to our home base.  By the end of the day, Stephanie and I had trekked 8.6 miles.  (For more Summer Palace pictures, go here.)




On Thursday, June 16, Steven had has first morning without presentations or conference meetings.  Professor Liang arranged for a driver to take Steven, Stephanie and I to the Great Wall of China.  On the tour bus to the wall, a kind woman gave us freshly picked apricots and plums.  We ate some on the bus and packed some for snacks during our trek on the wall.  We took a chair lift to the top of the wall and then proceeded to climb up and down the many steps connecting the towers of the wall for three hours.  The climbing was fun and very challenging.  The towers gave us time to take breathers, enjoy refreshing breezes, and take astoundingly beautiful pictures.  Again, I was very humbled by China’s very rich and old culture.  I felt so small and insignificant compared to the vastness of the Wall’s history and physical size.   While on the Wall, we learned the following valuable lesson: do NOT ever buy souvenirs near the wall grounds.  These were overpriced.  The souvenirs that were in the tourist area that was a tour bus ride away from the wall had more reasonable prices and the vendors were more willing to drastically cut and negotiate prices there due to the high competition among the many shopkeepers in this tourist area.   Before heading back to Beijing, Steve, Stephanie and I enjoyed a very delicious lunch with tasty dumplings, pork ribs, and Peking duck.  (For more Great Wall pictures, go here.)




Thursday evening, we traveled with Professor Liang and several teachers and administrators to Shenzhen.  Our plane was delayed so we left the airport around 11:30 pm and arrived in Shenzhen around 2:30 am Friday morning.  We arrived at our hotel close to 5 am.  It is a good thing I can fall asleep nearly anywhere.  I slept on the plane and the bus to the hotel.  I was able to combine these naps with another 1.5 hours nap in the hotel before it was time to wake up and help with the final day of PBL training in Shenzhen.  The previous two days of training had been facilitated by the other members of our ARIE team, Stephanie E., Sarah, and Stuart.

On Friday, June 17, our full ARIE team reunited at the No. 4 Yucai Primary School and co-facilitated the final day of PBL training in Shenzhen.  It was so great to see Stephanie E., Sarah, and Stuart again.  No. 4 Yucai Primary School was another beautiful school.   We presented our workshop in their spacious library.  During workshop breaks, we toured the school and several classes asked us to come inside and take pictures with the students.  The students were so happy to take pictures with us and to practice talking English with us.  They were very excited to have us visit their campus.  Just as in Beijing, I was impressed by the enthusiasm and work ethic displayed by the participants as they wrapped up their projects and participated in the Day 3 workshops and activities.  They asked MANY good questions.  I could sense that they were trying to learn as much as possible in order to be successful in their first attempts at PBL.

Due to the number of participants and technology constraints, we conducted Critical Friends in gallery style.  Each team presented twice and received written feedback using the Critical Friends sentence stems (I Likes, I Wonders, Next Steps).  A translator, Evelyn, followed me during my gallery walk and helped me to understand the presentations so I could give feedback.  They were very enthusiastic about my feedback.  Some of them kept taking pictures while I wrote out my I likes, I wonders and Next steps.  They did this even while I reassured them that I was going to give them the post-it notes that held my feedback.  To celebrate the end of a successful session, we did the Cuban shuffle with all the participants and took many large group pictures.  The participants were very coordinated.  We were able to fit a surprising number of dancing participants in a small space due to their great dance coordination and cooperation.  (For more Shenzhen pictures, go here.)




On the evening of Friday, Jun 17, we gathered the entire ARIE team, teachers and administrators from Shenzhen, and teachers from Finland for a celebratory dinner.   We ate at a very good Japanese restaurant.  We ate many courses of meats cooked hibachi style.  The froi gras with caviar was amazing!  After dinner, we watched a beautiful fountain show set to inspiring music.   We also picked up desserts and coffees at a Costas Coffee shop.  Stephanie Hart and I ate these in Steven’s room while helping him prepare for his keynote speech on the following day.



On Saturday, June 18, we had a whole day to rest and regroup.  The entire ARIE team ate lunch together at a very good craft burger restaurant.  I spent much of the day working in Stephanie Ehler’s room on an Assessment training for the Advanced track of the Think Global PBL Academy.  Stephanie played very soothing music in her room that really helped keep me in the zone.  Despite a spotty internet connection, I was able to get the session 95% complete on this day – a huge relief since I will present this session for the first time on June 21 at a PBL training in Clearwater, Florida.

In the evening, we attended the closing ceremony for the Shenzhen PBL Conference.  We listened to very kind speeches that expressed a lot of gratitude for the PBL workshops from teachers and administrators.  The principal of the school emphasized the importance of using instructional strategies that went beyond the textbooks.  After the closing ceremonies, we had another celebratory dinner.  This time we ate at a very good Chinese restaurant.  We gave many toasts to celebrate the success of the training.  Then we also started celebrating my birthday on June 19 a couple hours early.  Our Chinese hosts gave many birthday speeches and toasts.  I felt showered with good luck and many good wishes for the future.  What a magical way to celebrate my birthday! 🙂




Overall our trip to China was really amazing!  Our 10 day trip felt like it lasted for months because it was densely packed with many great experiences.  I now feel really inspired to learn how to speak more Chinese and to collaborate with many more teachers in China and throughout the globe in the future.  The trip made me feel very hopeful for the future of education in America and in China – we have so many great things in common.  I met many teachers who also love to teach and who also love to learn innovative instruction methods that better prepare students to positively impact their present and future worlds.  I truly hope that ARIE can continue to build partnerships with educators in Chine that will provide many opportunities for us to collaborate with teachers on implementing PBL in more classrooms and schools.