Projects for real (6 of 15): teams and team roles

dogs-team

Here is a very interesting writeup of an old IATEFL webinar by Adi Rajan: “Using project management principles in the classroom” with Nathan Arthur. It’s a great summary that almost doesn’t make me wish I had watched this webinar myself – but if you happen to have a link, please share. In short, Nathan Arthur spoke about his own experience teaching EAP students: he focused on the process of project management, helped the learners with the scope and introduced constraints, elected project managers and monitored the learners throughout. It’s interesting that he didn’t introduce EPM (English for Project Management) till the end of the project (I wonder if the students are going to to find the terms just as necessary!).

All in all, I agree with Adi that there should be more to project management in the classroom than Nathan had a chance to talk about; nevertheless, it’s an interesting post to check out, if not for project management per se, then for teambuilding principles in the classroom. I wonder if he ever developed his ideas further…

 

Projects for real (5 of 15): now in your homes

dining-table

Why write about projects when everyone’s switching to teaching online? Well, real world project management skills may be even more important now, when students are left to their own devices (literally).

And – here is a post by Dr James Wellborn about developing project management skills in teens. It keeps just the right amount of focus on the phases and processes of projects and speaks about project goals, time frame, resourcing and other useful elements of project management. The post is not related to English language teaching, but can be a very useful reference point for any teacher (or parent, as the postย  suggests) of teenagers. Even better, there is an example project: a family dinner that the kid (or learner) has to plan using the constraints given by the sponsor (teacher or parent). Really interesting!

Projects for real (4 of 15): PM basics on video

video-game-project

Don’t you think it’s time to return to the Projects for Real series? We’ve talked about principles of ‘adult’ project management that can be taken into the teen classroom; about a very important distinction between real project-based learning and a fun project-looking task; about the language needed to talk about projects in English and how it can be put into a lesson. The next great find I’d like to share with you is this series of short videos introducing the basics of project management. Mike Clayton from Online PM Courses has done a great job covering the most important concepts, and the videos are really high-quality: fun, visual and educational. The vids still need a bit of extra ‘selling’ to the students if you decide to bring them into the classroom, but they are the best I have found. (And my teens’ eyes almost did not glaze over, which is saying something.)

As a bonus, Mike has a short 3-part series about project management lessons from Game of Thrones – not bad at all ๐Ÿ™‚

Projects for real (3 of 15): the language of project management

deadline-PM

To continue the topic of project management in the ELT classroom, there is a good lesson on Onestopenglish by Barney Barratt which focuses learners on the language of projects (juicy little words like deployment or kick-off date) and how they map on the timeline. A very useful and engaging activity, especially if you notice that your teens’ eyes are glazing over with all those WBS and PMOs! The discussion questions in the materials can be good for Business English classes, though a bit too general and too work-related for my context. Still, the resource is an excellent combination of ‘fun’ and language work – definitely recommended.

Projects for real (2 of 15): real-life outcomes

pot-project

Remember last time I wrote about focusing on the actual process of project work? This fantastic post from pblworks.com draws the attention back to the project outcome, but makes a very important distinction between ‘fun’ classroom activities (‘dessert’) and real-life projects (‘main course’). For example, making geometric shapes out of coloured paper at the end of a math lesson is a fun activity, but not a project. Creating a fan fiction website with texts and comments is a real project. (I borrowed the examples from a test they have on the page – do check the rest of it out!).

I’m looking back on the projects I’ve done with my older and younger teens this year, and I have a chilling thought: very few of them can actually be called real. The closest we ever got to real life was an Instagram post for the International Happiness Day… How about yours, are they dessert or a main course?

New series: projects for real (1 of 15)

office-project

Project methodology in English language teaching is old news, you say? Well, yes and no: on the one hand, projects are a staple in the ELT classroom. On the other hand, we often focus on the outputs (poster, web page, time capsule…) and don’t teach the learners how to work on a project. Where is the timeline and the Gantt chart? The RAG update? The health check? The manager in me squirms at the lack of accountability and the risks involved, and the teacher knows all too well how often these learner projects fail or don’t reach the learning objectives. And just think about the lost possibilities: the students could have acquired very useful workplace skills if they had been given the right professional tools!

Luckily, there is some work being done in this area by more academic people than me, and here’s the first installment in the series: a great article by Kim Liegel which outlines the most important principles of managing a project in the classroom and offers excellent worksheets and checklists. There’s more to come.

The ABC book of progress

letters-ABC

Making an ABC book together – what a great idea for a final project of the term or year! You can find a lot of examples and suggestions in this article at Education World. What I particularly like about ABC books is a great sense of completion they can give. After all, there are only so many letters in the alphabet. As for topics, I suppose vocabulary is the obvious choice for ELT contexts: for example, weather or free time activities could work well? And of course all of this can be digitised (or done digitally) and proudly demonstrated to parents ๐Ÿ™‚

Student agency for final projects

question-choice

Here is a really nice post by Catlin Tucker about giving students an opportunity to choose their own final project. She provides a picture of the choice board, as well as several Google doc templates that can be copied and adapted for different types of classes and classrooms. I’m all for student agency and I think Catlin has very good arguments there: “when they are challenged to make key decisions about what they do and how they do it, they must actively engage in the learning process”. I would only add that it’s important to scaffold their choice a little so that they consider the ‘why’ as well – why is a physical model or a TED-style talk, for example, the best way for them to show progress in this particular situation?

And now I’m thinking: when I suggested making an audio show instead of a live presentation and my students said ‘nooo‘, why did I simply accept it and not ask them why they still prefer the live thing? Well, there’s always a next time…

Protocols for projects

planning-projects

Since I’ve found the greatest loves of my working life – teaching, English (and teaching English) and management – I’ve been observing how they merge together in the most unexpected combinations. Academic management is one obvious merge, but there are lots of other situations when these areas overlap or seep into each other. Take, for example, project-based learning: what a treat! Here is an interesting link to communication ‘protocols’ that can be used in PBL, or rather, activities to introduce them to students: e.g. the ‘Chalk talk’, or ‘Feedback nightmares’ – really interesting, good for developing workplace skills and can really help those projects fly. Anyone up for an experiment?