WHY COLLABORATE WITH THE PBL PROJECTS?
We began in 1995 as the NSF-funded PHOTON Projects, developing curriculum for photonics technician education and providing professional development to educators from middle school through university. In the early 2000s, the companies that hired our technicians complained that, even though they knew all the facts from their textbooks, they were often unable to solve technical problems on their own and they had poor communication skills and difficulty working in teams.
The first PBL Project, PHOTON PBL, was designed to improve students’ readiness for the workplace by explicitly teaching problem solving in the context of real-world problems faced by the photonics industry. Since that time we have worked with organizations involved in agriculture, cosmetics, urban stormwater and green energy in addition to our main focus on advanced manufacturing. All this has been possible only with the participation of companies and other organizations committed to educating a better workforce. Since unveiling our first Challenge (case study) in 2006, PBL has been praised by students, educators and employers alike.
CREATING A CHALLENGE
We have honed the process of developing a Challenge to require minimum time and effort on the part of our organization partners. We begin with discussions by phone or video conference to find a genuine problem suitable for a Challenge, as described here. Once a problem is agreed upon, the PBL team visits the partner organization to record the problem-solving team’s reenactment of
- The organization learning of the problem, for example at a team morning meeting or through a customer request
- A discussion to review progress on solving the problem and brainstorm potential solutions
- Details of the organization’s final solution
We take lots of photos of the organization’s team at work and make an informal video recording of our visit that we turn into scripts for our videos. The site visit usually takes about 2 hours.
Once the script is developed, we record our own voices to create 2-3 minute voice-over-photo videos. This format allows us to make any needed changes without returning to the organization for additional recording. We ask the organization to review the videos for accuracy. It’s helpful if the organization can provide additional photos, data and information to incorporate into an overview of the Organization and resources for teachers.