Who failed Albert Einstein?

By Bobbi Callis

Who would dare fail Albert Einstein? Einstein did poorly in his Munich primary school. He found them dull and regimented. Even as a teenager his professors did not hold a high opinion of him and refused to recommend him for university. In 1931, Albert Einstein referred to the following quote in his address to the State University of New York at Albany: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”

Project Based Learning

This quote still holds truth today, especially about Project Based Learning. The students involved in the March of the Monarch, (Curtis, 2002) More Fun than a Barrel of Worms?!, and Geometry Students Angle into Architecture projects will never forget the experiences they gleaned from these activities. A few of the Design Elements common throughout each example included choice, real world problem solving, information from outside resources, and presenting not just a final product, but sharing information and struggles with peers and adults along the way.


Choice is an essential part of Project Based learning.  In the case of Newsome Park Elementary, students chose topics as a class.  In all three cases, choice was evident.  Students had ownership about what they were learning, what they created, or how they presented their findings. Ownership yields enthusiastic learners. Thus, these students wanted to be at school. Principle Peter Bender cites reduced discipline problems and absenteeism.

Real World

Project Based Learning requires students work on real world problems and real world problems means team work and the struggles of both technological and the interpersonal skills that come with it.  Technology allows us to share information and collaborate in ways only dreamt about in the past.  Team work is among the growing list of soft skills covenanted by employers. In fact,  According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2018 Job Outlook Survey teamwork rated second in skills wanted in employees. (NACE, 2017)

Creating a Rich Learning Enviroment

It is then up to the teacher to seamlessly bring in standards from all content areas to create a rich learning environment. This often leads to gathering information from more than just books and online searches. It requires finding relevant field trips and experts to be a part of the process. In Eeva Reeder’s geometry classroom architects were not only part the final product analysis, but came throughout the project to answer questions and give feedback. As was also in the case Frances Koontz as they were able track the butterflies journey in real time.

Personal Experience

As a student attending school in the 1980’s, I cannot recall many examples of Project Based Learning. Geometry for me was memorizing theorems which I could think of no relevance in my day to day life. My evolution as a teacher was where I first saw the benefits of Project Based teaching.  In fact, I taught Dunbar-Erwin/An Achievable Dream magnet school in Newport News, Virginia from 1994-1999, not far from Newsome Park Elementary.  Newport News Public Schools was innovative, progressive thinking, diverse, and well-funded.  Yet even here, I clearly remember an administrator observing my classroom and while being very positive about the learning that was occurring, ended by saying it was a very “busy” classroom and she was not sure she could have taught that way.

Are we still Failing?

So, who failed Einstein? Was it his teachers, the schools, or the way the society at the time viewed a proper education? How much “more” might Einstein been able to accomplish had he been taught and nurtured in a project based classroom? How many children like Einstein are we still failing by continuing to teach in dull, traditional classrooms?

Diane Curtis, Edutopia. (2001). More Fun Than a Barrel of…Worms?! 2019. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/more-fun-barrel-worms

Diane Curtis, Edutopia. (2002). March of the Monarchs: Students Follow the Butterflies’ Migration 2019. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/march-monarchs

Sara Armstrong, Edutopia. (2002). Geometry Students Angle into Architecture Through Project Learning 2019. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/geometry-real-world-students-architects

Funk & Wagnalls, (2005) Einstein, Albert. [Encyclopedia Article]. Available from http://www.discoveryeducation.com

NACE, S. (2017, Dec 11). EMPLOYERS RATE CAREER COMPETENCIES, NEW HIRE PROFICIENCY. Retrieved from National Association of Colleges and Employers: http://www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/competencies/employers-rate-career-competencies-new-hire-proficiency/

(2019, January 21). Pictures Retrieved from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/en/photos/?image_type=illustration&order=upcoming

The ABC’s of Technology:

From the Abacus and Ballpoint Pen to the Computer

by Bobbi Callis February 14, 2019

Collins online dictionary defines Technology as methods, systems, and devices which are the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes. (Definition of technology, 2019)  Educators have been using technology throughout history. In the 1800’s, James Pillans, a high school and college teacher in Edinburgh, Scotland, invented the chalkboard. In the 1900’s mass-produced paper and pencils were the newest advancements in technology.

Today computers, high speed internet and artificial intelligence are incorporated STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Mathematics) programs at schools.  These programs go hand in hand with PBL (Project Bases Learning). 

The SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, & Redefinition) model enables you to evaluate your use of technology to inform your decisions on ways to not just add technology to instruction, but provide a rubric for more meaningful applications of technology.

Inforgraphic created by Bobbi Callis

Most people would correctly argue that the amalgamation of STEAM is a much-needed push in education today.  STEAM compliments Project Based Learning by posing authentic problems. This process naturally necessitates a form of cross curricular “contamination”. These real-life problems magnificently muddy the waters between subjects.  

Yet many times, teachers go to great lengths to “incorporate” technology into the classroom without much thought to the value if any, it adds to the lesson.

Scenario 1

Students use a paper and pencil to complete assignment.  They trade papers and check and edit each other’s questions.

Scenario 2

The teacher wheels in a computer cart and gives instructions. Students collect laptops, wait as they slowly power up, sign in multiple places and times, and finally begin the assignment in a word document. However, in the meantime a few laptops shut off due to dead batteries, two show log in errors, and one student can’t remember her password.  As you hunt for extension cords, call the help desk about the errors, and manually reset the forgotten password class time is over.

Scenario 3

Students use laptops to compose their questions and then upload them to a Google Document or other 2.0 sharing format. Students are excited to see their responses “magically” appear on the screen projected in the front of the room. Students choose a question to check and edit.

Scenario 4

Students compose their questions on the computers. In groups of 2 students choose the best question from each person to check and edit for accuracy.  The finished questions are then uploaded into a Kahoot game.  The game is then used as a review lesson for the test on The War of 1812.

Scenario 5

Students help their partner choose, check, and edit, their questions.  These questions are then used to create an interactive gaming experience in Boom Learning which could be shared globally.

Was the task successfully completed?

Scenario 1 – Yes

Scenario 2 – Even if everything had worked correctly in this lesson, simply substituting a keyboard for pencil and paper was not worth the additional time spent dispersing and logging into computers. Composing on the keyboard is an important skill, but  was not the purpose of this lesson.

Scenario 3 – This lesson barely meets the standard for augmentation.  Students could have just as easily passed papers around to edit.

Scenario 4 – The infographic above shows adding these questions to a Kahoot game, that would be played by the entire class would meet the definition of modification.  If used in broader context of reviewing for the upcoming test was also part the objective, then this option would be a solid use of technology.

Scenario 5 – This lesson meets the definition of redefinition and would be an example of Project Based Learning. This project would be a meaningful, real life activity that meets many purposefully integrated standards.  Therefore, one must conclude that it was in fact a valuable experience that justifies the many hours of instructional time it would take and I would be inclined to agree, if this was the original intention.

In conclusion, to quickly assess understanding having students use some “old school” technology is completely appropriate. Simply using paper and pencil was a faster, more efficient way to complete the task.

In fact, just because technology can be substituted doesn’t not always mean it should. Moreover, even when using the SAMR model we should acknowledge that technology integration does not necessarily need to be at the redefinition level to be effective.

Definition of technology. (2019, February 14). Retrieved from Collins Dictionary: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/technology

BOSS, S. K. (2018). REINVENTING PROJECT-BASED LEARNING: Your field guide to real-world projects in the digital age. Place of publication not identified: ISTE.

G Suite for Education | Google for Education. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2019, from https://edu.google.com/products/gsuite-for-education/