Challenge & Project-Based Learning: A Digital Workflow for Student Engagement

Title: Challenge & Project-Based Learning: A Digital Workflow for Student Engagement

Date & Time: Friday, 27 November 2020 from 1.00 – 4.00 p.m.

Guest Speaker: Mr. Rab Paterson

The Strategy and Academic Development Section under the OAA organized its 7th workshop for the academic year of 2020-2021 entitled ‘Challenge & Project Based Learning: A Digital Workflow for Student Engagement’. This workshop focused on how to establish effective collaboration among students and facilitate the student-driven activities by adopting project-based pedagogy and digital practices.

Project-based learning or PBL is an instructional approach where students gain knowledge and skills to resolve problems/tasks reflecting practical knowledge. Students are able to develop deeper engagement with the target content and focus on long term knowledge retention. Besides, PBL teaches students important skills in ways to be able to function like adults in society. These skills include communication, presentation, organization, time management, research, inquiry, self-assessment, reflection skills, group participation, leadership skills, and critical thinking. With PBL, students learn to collaboratively work with others toward common goals and reflect upon their ideas and performances for a better outcome. What makes PBL different from other approaches is that it simulates real world experience which can help students see their career goals and understand that their later success could be based not only on the grade in class, but also the experiences they developed during the lessons. Furthermore, it is worth noting that PBL encourage students to be an autonomous learner. That is because, through PBL, students constantly integrate cross-disciplines and build up new knowledge to tackle/solve the problems. They become actively involved in learning, demonstrate intrinsic motivation and the ability to take control of their learning which, all together, are the first step of lifelong learner.

In this session, the participants are invited to explore the use of PBL in real classroom. Three projects were brought up to show the implementation of PBL and the roles of digital tools that have an impact on project realization. The first project reflected current trends and challenges facing Japan especially in terms of the dynamics of economic agglomeration, density trends, aging population, and population decline that greatly differ between urban and rural areas. The students were grouped together to come up with strategies to ensure the viability of a town called Nakatsugawa threatened with depopulation and economic downturn. The second project attempted to promote recognition of Malawian tea and coffee among Japanese consumers and help raise support, funds and awareness for a Malawian local NGOs and community. The last project handled the environmental concern in Ghana where many cities are overwhelmed with plastic and electronic waste.

Several online tools came into play during both project development and presentation phases. For example, students were advised to learn about Open Educational Resources (OER) and Creative Common license to be able to legally use online information/pictures in their project. Online tools such as Canva, Snook, were used to help design the flyer or brochure, and check the color contrast of such medias when viewed by someone having color deficiency. Other tools like Lextutor, Analyzmywriting and Storytoolz are used to check for AWL and gauge the readability level of students’ writing work, while Orai and Likeso which work as an AI speech-analysis coach, became a great training app for practicing presentation and public speaking. Additionally, the students were connected with local organizations to augment the possibility of having project implemented. Therefore, it was found that despite having demonstrated a deep understanding of content, they became more motivated and devoted to make the project come true.

With the growth of technology in the 21st century, PBL takes teaching and learning to the new level. The combination of new technology, science and art, soft and hard skills, and the attempts to go beyond the realm of classroom, all together give a different meaning to PBL. Its emphasis is notable not only on cooperative learning and knowledge retention, but also on essential skills needed to work in a modern professional world. The whole learning process enable learners to play diverse roles within group, widen individual interdisciplinary perspectives and find possible diversity of solutions to tackle any challenges. Hence, their learning experience get enhanced and polished allowing them to discover their own understanding of the world through experience and reflections.