PBL, and particularly PBLT (with Technology), is a frequent topic on this blog, and I appreciate the value of video.   Kudos to BIE for recognizing the importance of video communications as a tool to promote the value of PBL, and engaging Commoncraft to produce this introduction.

Unfortunately, I think this intro falls too short.   It might be helpful to certain population segments who really have no idea what PBL is, but it doesn’t speak to most educators, who understand as much as this shows already, nor does it to the critical parent segment: the concerned or skeptical.    The weakest spot is the discussion of the flu-transmission presentation, where some students “get away” with a poster of kids sneezing into their elbows as their “product.”  Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it, and for those of us who are advocates, it is almost an embarrassment to us that it can be depicted as only that.   Overall, too, the video doesn’t demonstrate deep, rich, penetrating thinking and learning, leaving advocates vulnerable from those who rightfully fear PBL can lack rigor.

There is a moment earlier, when instead of memorizing the capital of Senegal (Dakar), students are asked to do a report on how Senegal can export more.   Why couldn’t this have been explored instead, richly and deeply.  Students could be shown researching online Senegal’s economy, its resources, and its labor force.   Students could be shown analyzing and deciding which websites have valuable information and which do not.

Students could then be shown brainstorming various options for export production, and then calculating the economic outcomes for each.  It would be important in this section to show students evaluating the current major exports, for considering which is most suited for expansion, and then showing students really taking time to consider options for exploration which are not already on the table, thinking creatively.

Different groups could each make presentations and debate the alternatives, with a jury of some kind judging which course, being most well articulated and most compelling logically, should be pursued for further development.    A sidebar could be held around an analysis of the short and long term effects of certain export production options; students could examine what educational investments are required for each option, and also what the environmental effects would be.    Students could Skype interviews with actual Senegalese economists, investors, and manufacturers.

Then students could be shown making their reports, complete with graphs, charts, and video documentaries.  Finally, students could be shown posting the video of their presentation and video to youtube, creating search words for their video for better SEO, and then emailing a link to every Senegalese expert and media outlet they can identify.

Perhaps this would take an additional minute or two of animated video, but it would go so much further in articulating the value of good, quality PBL, and so much further in anticipating and responding to the PBL critics in our midst.

I think BIE does great, excellent work to advance the PBL movement; I think this video, however, is not representative of that normal level of quality.