Project Based Learning | TeachThought Podcast | Drew Perkins

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Drew has a podcast I know you are going to love, I just found it so I am going to encourage you to leave him a review.

Terry was the founder of teachthought 4-5 years ago is the blog site and has all of our 

  • blog content
  • podcast 

started about 2 years ago, we have had guest posts.

The goal of really just helping teachers around the world, grow and improve their podcast in ways that they can better prepare students for the modern world. 

I am the director of professional content

Some of our content is there as well as our podcast which is on iTunes.

  • professional development
  • workshops
  • consulting services

around the world. The podcast is  one of the joys that I get to indulge in as the director of teachthought Professional Development (PD)

conversations with educators

first of all so I can improve my thinking and my craft, which is a bit selfish because I enjoy the conversations that I have. Try to have guests who are interesting and to push other people’s thinking as guests

  • frame the conversations
  • improve their craft
  • explore some of those topics
  • future of education

Future of education

So what is your idea for the future of education where would you like to see it go?

Well lots more questions and questioning

I am a big fan of query, this is a skill people are going to need. The idea that we need to be content area experts, I think is unrealistic and also a bit misguided. You don’t see many people being content area experts in a career for example. 

What I think we want more so are students who are thinking like content area

contextual background

knowledge to ask those questions

When we go forward and is becoming more and more clear

Artificial Intelligence and technology is going to be replacing jobs we have had. In the case of the future of truck drivers, I think it’s pretty clear that in 10 or fifteen years it’s very likely those folks are going to be out of a job. There are going to be self-driving vehicles, not that truck drivers are the only ones. 

What are the things that aIl might not be able to do as well as humans

Warren Berger has a book

A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas

That to me is what I hope education is moving more towards

Project Based Learning (PBL)

One of the popular pieces of PBL 

I’m a big fan of it.

There are a number of reasons.

The things that we really believed in

  • inquiry
  • rich inquiry
  • authenticity
  • 5 levers

great starting points

What we want to do in project based learning at least the way that we frame it

Give people a framework habit of mind where they are thinking about things in a mindset at least in PBL uncovering what we need to know and what we need to know more about.

In many ways it’s a project based world. Many adults go through life working on projects. If you just boil it down to non academic things

  • I’m gonna buy a house
  • I’m gonna buy a car
  • I’m gonna get married
  • I want to go to college
  • I want to get a loan

Any of those typical things people encounter in life, we want to do is establish a habit of mind. We want them to think this is what I’m trying to do, clarity of mind on what I am trying to create or produce.

Clarity of Mind

Clarity of mind in a project based learning we like to think in authenticity.

  • audience

  • purpose

The driving question that a student might like to learn. In a project based setting we like  to think about:

If I am going to buy a car thinking:

What do I need to know?

  • loan
  • budget
  • best loan
  • what terms do I want to have
  • What is a good vehicle for me
  • what’s important to me

There is a list of things you should think about and consider and know more about.

Instead of going to a car dealership and say, I wanna buy a car, and there are plenty of sales people will be more then happy to fill in those blanks for you.

What we don’t what and lots of adults do this where they are engaging in projects haphazardly for example in the housing crash in 2008, where people took loans out that they had no business taking out, were underwater almost immediately and then foreclosed upon, that is going to have an impact on their lives that is not going to go away for a long time.

What if those people were able to think about this from an inquiry perspective?

  • what are the terms
  • how do I make these payment
  • if I can’t make these payments?
  • what are those long term ramifications?
  • what are the values of the homes around it?

Those are the things you should be thinking about. 

what if folks would’ve been and how would that have helped them not make a terrible decision. 

  • one of the things PBL can do and is important is helping you figure out what you should need to know
  • understand and know more about

How to answer those driving questions is part of PBL is the hallmark of what you need to know.

What is more authentic then talking about buying a house or a car. I love the way you talk about getting them to think about the questions, instead of teachers saying this is what you need to do. Talking about them coming up with the questions.

Gradual release of responsibility getting them to take more responsibility of  their own learning, but this is a great way to engage them and think about why they need to think this way.

One of the things I notice today is they are constantly looking for engineers, there are always so many sites that are looking for engineers and i think engineers tend to be curious so I think it would help develop those kind of skills. 

There’s no doubt that science and engineering, a branch of science shouldn’t have a corner on the market of inquiry, I know people think about in those ways.

in an ideal

not standards but ideal

the ideal of

we’re constantly in pursuit instead of 

  • push teaching
  • pull teaching

I’m the teacher here’s the stuff that I need you to learn because it’s in my 

  • curriculum
  • binder
  • standards

teach it to you

test you

see if you understood it


those things are in the content standards are showing up

nature of philosophical

those things are important

how do we ask a question?

in a project


and they show up as questions from students

hey I need to know more about this.

reaching down and uncovering

start at the top

  • create
  • develop
  • plan
  • design

through facilitation help them uncover the things at the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the things they need to remember and understand. They say to you as the teacher:

I need to know more about this topic

driving questions and meet that challenge

get away from the battle of compliance, where you say, I’m the teacher you need to do this and they are saying “hey will you help me with this?”

truth be told this is difficult

It should be

  • very rigorous
  • challenging
  • complex

but it is a powerful dynamic shift because they are taking ownership and they’re seeking out those answers.

One thing I was curious about, where do you see a lot of these schools doing PBL? I have seen one school that’s doing PBL, I guess I am mostly elementary and maybe they do it more in high school?

I’d say they do it sparingly in spots around the world k-12, we work with pre-school and we’ve done some work with post-secondary

I’d say it’s not done as much as it should be and that’s a dynamic shift for lots of schools teachers, parents and students.

where they do


dynamic shift that occurs quite often, not just for project based learning but with lots of things in education is that they don’t stick with it long enough for he shift to take hold. Maybe the leadership changes or something happens to make the next shiny thing 

working in the professional development space as soon as we walk into

  • library
  • media center
  • cafeteria

We know there are at least some teachers thinking ok, here’s the next shiny thing how long is this going to take hold and how long is this going to last. 

project based learning doesn’t miss out on that unfortunate  even 

We think about it on  a 3-5 year kind of arc


happens very differently in most schools. Maybe a little bit here and there are other things in the ecosystem that make it more difficult and it just sort of fades.

One thing I was reading about on your site was what would make a teacher a good fit for  PBL, I think I would be natural. 

The blog post was by written by Mike Kaechele

worth exploring thinking about what kind of attributes 

I did a podcast with Trace Pickering and asked him some of the same kinds of questions

Iowa Big

cedar rapids


  • retention
  • satisfaction
  • hiring

what we want to think about

traits some teachers have and then we might want to develop. 

Talk about things like no being too terribly concerned with our project being Pinterest worthy

work the students are going to do

end looks what that shows or reflects on me as a teacher in the real world, I want to make that distinction, the projects and work for most people and what the work that students do, it often when it doesn’t look good on the teacher

it feels

like they haven’t done

we work at on the real world is oftn not as successful

level of authentic in projects is not often connected to the success of project

scientist working on the cure for cancer obviously authentic but they have failed for many years does that make it inauthentic because they have failed? no of course not. 

The process

The traits that is really important that we are ok with the messiness, not just the products

having really great questioning skills

productive struggle

science of teaching

art of teaching

lots of teachers don’t engage in the science of teaching as much as they should. Let’s say they have the 3-5 week kind of thing going on

have I don’e the work of planning 

  • architecture
  • design
  • science part

So I have all of my ducks in a row that I know where I am going. I have it set out well enough that I can demonstrate the art of teaching, when it doesn’t go the way I thought it would go.

Art of Teaching

navigate that project  and the art of teaching and knowing when to pull back

Failures are the stepping stones to success, maybe it’s the sales person in me that’s always like 40 nos for every one yes. Every time you fail you are closer to success. I know exactly what you say as teachers want everything to be Pinterest worthy and I was just talking the other day about how when they come in to do their observation and they are like it’s 10:13 are you doing grammar? Because you have from 10:10-10:15 to do grammar. 

I like the way you talk about having successes, I think it’s important if students have 20 successes under their belts, or maybe 100 attempts or 2 successes out of 10 attempts that they are confident enough that they are going to get there. 

Is there anything else you want to say about your amazing podcast or teachthought that we haven’t mentioned today.

As you said it’s kind of strange the murky mystery of iTunes and all of those places and it can certainly help, I say this in the intro to more recent podcast episodes, it certainly helps for folks to share us and rate all those things. I hope its helpful and they find something that is of value.

I like to get feedback, 

when I get it is wonderful

somebody posted on twitter

recently intellectual exchange

really appreciated it

I welcome

wonders and questions and criticism

why don’t you ask this? Or have this person on. It’s certainly for me a joy for me and hopefully connects them to teachers around the world.

Do have any thoughts about podcasting in the classroom and how that can be an authentic thing to do?

Well certainly can be a great product

  • product
  • purpose
  • audience

When you are creating a podcast and thinking about who is this for?

Creating a connection to an authentic audience

Maybe your students could be featured on our podcast


students created a podcast like blog pieces

just because a students is creating a blog does that mean someone is reading it? Similar to does a tree fall in a forest?

thinking of a podcast

  • thinking can be a great tool
  • evidence happening in schools
  • have this conversation


What do I need to say in this amount of time?

How do I sharpen my words?

Not just create it but consider the technical aspects, it’s not hard but it’s not something you can do by just talking into your phone but also 

  • getting it published
  • getting it out there
  • marketed and promoted to thinking outside of what do I need to do to meet these needs?

I’d like to see kids creating podcasts, listening to podcasts, and meeting friends through podcasts. I feel like it has helped me I just love connecting with others through podcast.

There’s certainly a big element the thing that this is a non-educational commentary piece, what I have definitely gotten away from, sort of watching cable news, where people are arguing or sharing bits and pieces of a topic, what I prefer are the long from conversations especially ones not affected by advertisers.

I tend to listen to ones that are not necessarily in the education space I like listening to ones that get you thinking. And the process of thinking they have about topics they might have about the education piece.

people should be paying more attention

  • Joe Rogen
  • Sam Harris
  • Dave Ruben


long form conversations


model and show

talk about things you might disagree with to win the 3-5 minute cable news setting. I think that is an important piece.

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