[Week 2 Reflection] How do you Facilitate Projects?


I feel at odds at times, as there is a tension between exploration, making and learners gaining a grasp of the underlying concepts.

There seem to be a number of potential problems.

I think it can be easy for learners to get into ‘bad habits’ that are then hard to break and may even switch them off as they try to make progress (finely grained programs, poor naming, long programs with no modularity).

Also, I see teachers resorting to getting pupils to copy code - when the learners want to get to an end objective but there is not time - or if the pupils skill set just won’t get to that point without lots of extra exploration and guidance. I don’t like copy code I think it leads to learned helplessness (Phil Bagge idea) and gives learners the wrong view of what computing is about. Also NO creativity happens.

I feel like there should be a middle ground, blended - as suggested by some research communities. With some targetted tasks to teach specific difficult skills - introduced by reading code activities, debugging tasks, evaluating high quality programs etc etc

But is this blended approach with some guided exploration, targetted tasks, live coding demonstrations seen as negative -as its not pure exploration?

I am not quite sure how to reconcile this.

Projects can be overwhelming if there is no scaffolding and/or learners are low in self regulation, self confidence or skills. Learners can be frustrated if their ambitions cannot be realised - that is their ideas are not ‘doable’ within the time frame available, their skill set, even the software and hardware available. This is a tricky.

What do LCL and other think? Pure exploration or blended?


I think the key is finding the right balance between presenting information and allowing room for exploration/discovery. Especially in a maker lab environment instructing sessions should be as short as possible.

“The goal is to teach in such a way as to produce the most learning from the least teaching.”
-Seymour Papert


I have a similar role in the schools I work in. The teachers have many required standards to introduce and support and coding is not a clear fit with any of them. I try to make a case that students learn a great deal more if they are introducing a concept or giving student practice with a math concept in Scratch than they can with less concrete applications and examples but I am having limited success. Do you have any suggestions?


Since I am a librarian many of the projects my students work on are literature based. We start with a story and build from there. I love to see the projects my students come up with. But I have also found that many students have trouble with open ended projects where they are not given step by step directions. They don’t like to make decisions and constantly want reassurance that what they are working on is correct. The idea that a problem can have more than one correct solution can be difficult to understand. It has taken a while for me to comfortably give up some of the control over the projects and let student imaginations and problem-solving skills take over.


Hi JakeGO
I feel the same way! There are so many elements in project based learning that are not in our control as teacher that can be really scary, As you said the beauty of the project lies on the unknown, As a teacher and facilitator of learning, I see myself learning with together with my students as our projects develop.


I also teach grades 1-5 and share your struggle with a schedule that divides the day into chunks that are often too small to incorporate important parts of learning through projects, such as reflection, in each session. I see the students for 40 minutes (if they arrive on time!) just twice in an 8-day cycle. I have cut out a great deal of content in an effort to go for depth in the learning process instead of breadth, but never seem to get ahead in my struggle with time. One of my biggest challenges at this point is finding ways to assess that are driven by process rather than product, so that it does not matter whether or not a product is completed (showing steps like iterative design with sharing, reflection, and improvement) when it is time to write report cards.


My fifth grade students program games using Scratch. I have been teaching this unit for seven or eight years, and have improved the student experience and the outcomes by using a “blended” approach. It was overwhelming for students to create a game in the time available and I was unable to spend enough time with each student to help coach them in the right direction. Then I found that debugging games I had intentionally broken around concepts that are commonly needed in game making, such as missing variables, inability to reset the game to be played again, needing to explore different ways to move sprites, etc., was extremely effective. I intersperse “pair/share” analysis of parts of the program that do work and that might be useful when they start working on their own project, like using the “random” block to make a sprite’s actions less predictable, with the debugging activities.


I think that the key to creating engaging project-based activities is to link them to the interests of learners and to be sure that there is a clear driving question to guide the activity.

Using activities such as Genius Hour or Design Challenges can also motivate learners to create using the creative spiral, while learning to overcome obstacles and set short and long term goals.


As far as now it did not come to help anyone to learn to create projects but i woud love to if someone ask for it!!!
When you start a new project at scratch it takes a while to decide how many appliances that it offers you you will end up to use. You experiment with the options again and again in order to achieve the result you want! I think that this is the biggest challenge you take!
Questions about a project-based approach to learning i think that they come during the next courses!!!


That is a wonderful example of a profile of a modern teacher. Great job!


I am in the process of beginning PD for our staff. They had the opportunity to choose from one of 5 topics to work on: AR/VR, Design Thinking/PBL, Global Collaboration, Digital Storytelling, and Gamification. Our first meeting is on Tuesday and we will start with a fun activity to get everyone excited. I am using a LMS for distribution and Teacher Tech Leaders to help facilitate. I have been inspired from this weeks lesson and from all of your responses. Thank you!


All of the work my students take on is project-based. I’m still learning how to implement this approach and each project has its unique challenges. I have adjusted my teaching practice over the years to become more of a “guide on the side,” rather than a “sage on the stage,” as they say. This may sound bad, but I feel for most of the work I do now as a teacher, I am about 60% prepared. Meaning that I no longer have to know everything about every piece of technology that I present.

For example, my students use Scratch (have been for years - such a great tool) and Makey Makeys to create custom arcade games. I know enough about both of these things to get everyone started. Where they take it from there (and how successful they are) depends on how well they research, troubleshoot and crowdsource - which I tell them at the beginning of each project. As the project progresses, I appoint “experts” in the room - students who have excelled at a given technology or approach.

While my class is certainly not one that I feel is a high pressure situation (it is a semester long elective for high schoolers), I find that giving students this kind of autonomy allows them to dive into aspects of the project they really find interesting and more often than not I find students voluntarily staying in my room during lunch and after school to learn more.

Every project we do starts with a design brief - a PDF I post on our Edmodo classroom - which details the criteria and constraints of the project. For example, the video game system brief includes the following requirements:

  • Must be an original game authored in Scratch (or Alice)
  • Must include custom made hardware/controllers enabled via Makey Makey
  • Must include at least one 3D printed component (functional or aesthetic)
  • Must include a wooden “shroud,” like an old-school arcade game. This should be covered in artwork that reflects the theme of your game

As student partners develop their games. I give mini-clinics on 3D design in Sketchup and Tinkercad, Makey Makey, Scratch, our 3D printers, woodworking and painting (and any other relevant tools/skills).

After 3-4 weeks of development, using their peers’ feedback to perfect their games, we invite younger students in our district into the classroom to beta test the games. It’s a big, fun event that shines a light on all of the hard work my students have done, while inspiring younger learners to become makers as well. I’ve included a link below to the a video that highlights this project:

Since this video was shot, we’ve run this event many times. We found that the 3-4 year olds were too young of an audience and now invite students in 3rd and 4th grades. This was part of my learning as well.


I am currently facilitating a project with my 8th grade Geography class. I have given the time for the first three periods to discuss what they want the outcome of their projects to be and for planning purposes. I showed them some examples of possible outcomes (a video, a wall gallery, a presentation and a website) and they were able to choose which one they wanted to work towards as well as the topic (something linked to one of the Sustainable Development Goals). I gave them a calendar which broke down the time frame into our classes as well as items for homework and they completed the planning sheet outlining what they are going to do in each period. Next week they will actually start the projects and they will submit on 8th December. I’m excited to see what they come up with!


One of the challenges that I face with younger children (3-6 years old) is to give them enough inspiration to be excited but not too much so that they don’t just copy. When we do hands-on workshops with them, we usually show 2-3 prototypes of the outcome so they have an idea of what is the direction/objective of the activity, but one solution we found is to then remove the prototypes, and just give them the core materials - most of the time it would include DC motors and LED lights. So the children would start with simply tinkering with the materials, while they still have the image of the outcome in mind. Some will ask for the prototype to look at it carefully, some will follow their own path (sometimes very different). And I feel that it is ok to do so, because there is value in both approach: observing a product and try to re-create it, as well as free creation. And the child would choose the approach. Then our role is to facilitate so we can always push the child to experiment more. For example, we can ask the “copier”: “How can you do this part differently?” and the “free-rider”: “How can you include in your creation this function from the prototype?”.

Thank you all for the sharing of your experiences, it is passionate to read :slight_smile:


I work with teachers (in public, private and charter schools), to help support them in implementing projects in their classrooms. It takes a lot of support and a great deal of time to move teachers to feel comfortable and confident in facilitating projects, but luckily there are lots of great people doing work to help pave the way.

We rely heavily on the work of the Buck Institute for Education, as well as Edutopia. The Buck Institute has a definition of “gold standard PBL” that is especially helpful:

I also really love the film Most Likely to Succeed, which highlights High Tech High, a PBL school in California. Watching the film with teachers and administrators and working through the discussion questions is extremely helpful in reflecting on our practice as educators.

However, as I read “Lifelong Kindergarten” and think about how I work with students in more informal education spaces —like Maker Spaces and Girl Scouts — I wonder if there is enough focus on play when PBL enters the formal education rhealm. As someone who grew up in a city with failing schools and taught in places where teachers had zero expectations for students, I understand the importance of standards and testing, and I don’t think educators should dismiss them. Clearly, there must be a better balance. But how can we ensure that students are learning well-rounded skills and practices through their 12 years in school, while still allowing time for them to play and explore and find their passion?


Yes —it’s similar in the U.S. Teachers are held accountable for their students’ test scores. The reason is parity —I grew up in a city where kids graduated from high school without knowing how to read because they were poor and their teachers simply didn’t teach. Standardized tests and accountability were designed to combat this. (Though most educators believe the pendulum has swung too far.)


I agree —sometimes students need more background skills to get started. In an attempt to be more student-centered, I’ve started waiting until students tell me what they need before I scaffold.

For example, with students building an ROV to complete a specific function, I’ll wait until one group says they need to figure out how to keep the ROV from sinking and from floating. Then, I’ll break out the buoyancy lesson — because they had to go through the effort to figure out what they needed, they’re more engaged in the lesson, and they already have a context for the new info.

It’s scary and requires a lot of maneuvering, but I think it’s worth it when you can make it work. I don’t know enough about Arduino (yet) to know whether something like this could work in that context. Any ideas?


I’m kind of new to teaching through projects. I work with Middle School students and do service learning. I’ve had organized activities up until a week ago and now I’m asking them to work on group projects. I am finding the group dynamic very different and very interesting. You can tell that when children work on something they are passionate about they really do it with heart. My “P” is passion, as you can imagine. I believe that when children are given the choice and freedom to work on something they care about, they go over and beyond and would dig deep. It would then be a memorable experience for them. Not merely a “covered topic”.


Il mio approccio è stato di due tipi. in una classe mi sono approcciato proponendo alla classe di creare una storiella, molto breve, tra due alunni che si incontrano a scuola durante la merenda e cominciano a fantasticare; invece con altri ragazzi sono partito con la costruzione di un quadrato cercando di ragionare sul tipo di costrutti usati e del perchè. In entrambi i casi è stato bello vedere tutti i ragazzi entusiasti nell’esprimere le proprie idee e proporre soluzioni a volte decisamente innovative.


I am also starting an Arduino program in two weeks. Do the kids have truble with the wires and breadboards being too small ? Is there a system to wiring a breadboard where it does NOT look like spaghetti? We will be integrating it with Scratch 1.4 (snap4arduino).