The Quest for Project-based Learning and Preservice Teachers
Copyright 1998 Miguel Guhlin

When a large group of preservice teachers from a private university walked in that summer morning, I have to admit, I was scared. As they trooped in, there was a look of seriousness and zeal on their young faces. Against this resolve, I knew that I couldn't rely on the camaraderie of veteran teachers sharing their experiences. So, as we began the introductions, one part of me handled the exchange of life experiences and names, while another part gnawed at the question, "What kind of project can I help them develop that will allow them to construct a webquest as an example of project-based learning?"
Research (Cifuentes, 1996) with preservice teachers has found that:
Courses in educational technology should stress expansion of preservice teachers' methods beyond lecture and including:
(1) diversification of modeled teaching methods;
(2) student-centered, projects-based learning;
(3) meetings with master school teachers who described and demonstrated effective teaching methods; and
(4) preservice teacher design of student-centered interdisciplinary units.
Other studies (Omoregie & Coleman, 1997) have found that providing professional development for preservice teachers in project-based learning, development of multimedia projects (i.e. incorporating video, sound, etc) can lead to increases of 75 percent academic improvement of preservice teachers and students in core academic.
As the use of technology increases in our schools, as well as increased access to the Internet, preservice and classroom teachers should avoid training that limits them to the four walls of their classroom. The process for developing projects in which students in cooperative groups are actively engaged in developing a solution to a real life, relevant problem is still the same, except that now technology (i.e. hypermedia software-from PowerPoint, M'Power and Hyperstudio to web page design tools for students-and Internet access) is being worked in.
WORKING WITH EXPERIENCED, CLASSROOM TEACHERS
The most significant stumbling block I have found for experienced teachers has been that of reflection. When I ask classroom teachers to reflect on how the types of projects they have done with their students that incorporate cooperative learning, real life problem, decision-making, they freeze like rabbits caught in the light of my flashlight during evening walks. Then, I switch the flashlight off. I say to them, "Forget about using technology in these projects. Write down what projects you have done, and they don't have to involve technology." Then, the flow of past projects begins and they feverishly write these down and we share. Then, I lead them into an exploration of web quests as an example of project-based learning.
Other obstacles that tend to make teachers stumble-and I believe they need to work through these obstacles in the safety of my classroom-include the wide variety of software tools they must learn how to use to accomplish the tasks of developing a webquest.
Tools that I use during training include:
Inspiration � Semantic mapping tool to facilitate the development of a webquest introduction, task and the components of Bernie Dodge's active learning matrix (i.e. inputs, transformations, and outputs). An example of the web is shown in Figure 1.
external image Image2.gif
Netscape Composer � This web page design tool, available for free, allows teachers to create a web page. Other programs are available such as AOL Press.

PRESERVICE TEACHERS
While the process is similar to that taken with classroom teachers, there are some significant differences. Preservice teachers lack two things that might interfere with their accomplishing the task of developing an interdisciplinary webquest in cooperative groups. These two things are:
1) Fear � Preservice teachers are not inhibited by such fears as use of technology programs like PowerPoint, and some have even developed their own web pages and are required to use email for their classes. While there were some students who had had little experience with technology, they were quickly reassured and trusted the facilitator when he said, "Designing a web page is as easy as using a word processor," a tool that all students had used before. They also were happy to help each other without fear of violating each other's professional space.
2) Cynicism � Preservice teachers lacked the cynicism many teachers have towards technology. Thy are willing to jump into using the technology to further curriculum goals because they have had prior positive experiences. Perhaps, these help them look back on the frustrations of learning new tools from a different perspective than classroom teachers who have seen various technology fads come and go.
Another quality that preservice teachers appear to possess, above and beyond alternative certification teachers and regular classroom teachers, is a sense of wonder at what they can accomplish and enthusiasm. As I reflect on successful teachers in the field who use technology, or any other tool to impact student problem-solving and decision-making at higher levels, it's obvious to see that these two qualities are in abundance.
The procedure and materials are available for reading online. I share them with you below. Your feedback and suggestions are welcome.
The workshop lasted eight hours, and was divided into two 4 hour sessions a week apart. The preservice teachers worked with the following:
Learning Objectives
Develop a familiarity with project-based learning, learning, and curriculum-technology integration.
Develop a familiarity with various information management and their use in project development and implementation.
Student Grouping
Participants settled into small groups of 2-3 members.
Procedure
1. Preservice teachers were introduced to the concept of Project-based learning and then shown webquests as an example of Project-based learning.
2. Preservice teachers used Inspiration to map out their topics, develop an introduction and task as part of the Webquest development process, including the roles that their students would play in solving the challenging task of the webquest. Special emphasis was made that the focus be on a challenging scenario or situation that students would have to collaborate in character to solve, then to present.
3. Dr. Bernie Dodge's active learning flow matrix was used to break down the WebQuest process, involving INPUTS, TRANSFORMATIONS, and OUTPUTS. You can find it at: http://www.mguhlin.net/tiftech/agendas/activelearningflow.htm
4. At the end of the first session, participants received a copy of their semantic webs developed using Inspiration. Example available online at: (http://www.mguhlin.net/techserv/projects/stmarys/Immigration%20to%20the%20U.GIF ). They also had the assignment of locating Internet-based resources for use in the webquest.
5. At the beginning of the second session (4 hours), participants developed a webquest web page using Netscape Composer. They were instructed to focus on content rather than "glitz" (i.e. graphics/sound). They were allowed two hours for this portion of the project.
6. The final two hours were given over to an introduction of Powerpoint 98. Participants developed a presentation based on their WebQuest that serves as "teachers' notes" for their webquest.
7. The last 30 minutes of class was given to group presentations.
Teacher/Student Materials
Should you need a copy of the handouts shared, they are listed below. Note that you can download the PowerPoint presentations in Office 97/98 format in case you need to make modifications. Please feel free to use them so long as credit is given to the appropriate source.
Session 1
*

Session 2

Software
  • Inspiration 5.0 Semantic Mapping Tool
  • Netscape Communicator's Web Page Composer
  • MS Powerpoint 98
Hardware
  • 17 PowerMacintosh G3 Computers
  • HP LaserJet Printer
  • Networked to the Internet
After working with the preservice teachers, I revised the process of introducing regular classroom teachers to webquest. The revised process is now used during TIFTECH Training, Curriculum & Instruction Strand. You can find the revised step-by-step at:
http://www.mguhlin.net/tiftech/agendas/cday2.html .
As you review the published projects available at: http://www.mguhlin.net/techserv/projects/ you'll note that the quality of the product of preservice teachers in developing webquests as examples of project-based learning. Yet, as one looks at the projects developed and marvels at their quality, you will also note that the teachers' notes-which some might term lesson plan for implementation in the classroom-is not as detailed as one that might be developed by more experienced, classroom teachers.
From my experiences with enthusiastic and positive experienced, classroom teachers, I know that the two essential qualities needed to integrate technology or other tools-enthusiasm and a sense of wonder-may survive the first, sometimes fatal, year of teaching preservice and alternative certification teachers have to survive and learn from.





References
Cifuentes, L. (1996) From Sages to Guides: A Professional Development Study. ERIC_NO: ED397036. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (New York, NY, April 8-12, 1996)
Omoregie, M. & Coleman, B. (1997). Technology infusion: The impact of technology infusion in creating quality instructional materials. ERIC_NO: ED415213. 12p.; Paper presented at the Annual National Conference on Creating the Quality School (6th, Oklahoma City, OK, March 20-22, 1997).