7 Ways PBL World Models Project-Based Learning

We’ve been writing about what makes for a great conference or professional learning experience. As Getting Smart staffers hit the road this spring and summer, we’ll be bringing you big ideas in conferences and in education from our fellow travelers.
One event we are excited about is PBL World, a conference focused on innovations in Project Based Learning (PBL) hosted by Buck Institute for Education (BIE) in Napa Valley, California this June. We recently published a podcast that featured the folks at BIE along with students and a teacher from the Highline School District near Seattle.

When you attend a conference that focuses on gold standard Project Based Learning, you really hope the conference not only talks about high quality PBL but also models PBL done well. With that in mind, we bring you 7 ways PBL World gets it right.

1. It’s differentiated

Conferences that allow for personalized learning based on roles and experiences are the best. PBL World offers the introductory PBL 101 workshop and more advanced PBL 201 options as well as a Leadership Academy and Coaching Academy.

2. It’s interactive 

There are opportunities for connecting with other organizations and companies. This year, the team at BIE has partnered with EdSurge to conduct a workshop with edleaders and edtech companies about the tech tools needed to do high quality PBL.

3. There are opportunities for informal connections

There is plenty of time to relax in California sunshine during the long June evenings– there’s time for a nice patio conversation or a long walk to reflect on the day’s learnings. There’s also time to ruminate with others in small group conversations throughout the day’s sessions. Although the learning was rigorous, the pace last year felt “just right.”

4. It’s worldly

Conferences should have diverse speakers, facilitators and participants. At this year’s PBL World, there will be project-based learning educators and leaders from around the US and around the world. Last year, I was in a session with a minister of education from Japan. We were able to chat about how PBL is being applied in Japan, and I also got to practice my (limited) Japanese (my sister lives in Japan and is fluent, so I made a nice personal connection). Hearing how PBL is applied in diverse settings offers opportunity for rich ideas, cross collaboration and learning from others.

5. It’s in a great location

We’ve written about how conferences do it right when it comes to how they use the location. This conference is in the sunny, world-famous wine region of Napa Valley. Last year when I attended PBL World, I ran into a friend of my husband’s from Oregon and she and I got to spend time chatting and soaking up the gorgeous scenery.

6. The students are front and center

At this year’s PBL World, there will be student exhibitions on the first day. When educators are grounded and steeped in practical applications and discussions around student work, it reminds us all of what is possible with PBL. There are also two amazing student speakers, Briana and Leona Das, sisters and co-founders of Tribe Awesome, where they highlight ‘inner awesomeness’. They both worked with BizWorld.org and have won awards for their entrepreneurship.

7. The core values are modeled throughout the conference

This year’s conference will have an explicit focus on equity as a driver for engagement in high quality PBL. Equity as a touchstone is the most important conversation we can be having in education. It’s everyone’s responsibility to bring it up, talk about it and relate conversations back to the purpose of high quality project-based learning. When you head to PBL World, expect to bring that lens and your own experiences into the conversation and learn from, and listen to, others.
Tom loves to say that if there is no joy, there’s no learning. When we visit schools, one of the first things we notice is if people are joyful. The same thing is true at conferences: If adults (and students) are having fun and laughing they are also open, relaxed and ready to learn.
PBL World is held this June 13-16 in the Napa Valley, California. To learn more, see PBLWorld.org and follow the conversation leading up to the conference at #PBLWorld. Register today before it sells out, which it always does.
We’ve been writing about great education conferences and what big ideas are happening in professional learning. Do you have a can’t-miss edu conference? Building off the success of our 23 Can’t Miss Edu Conferences, we will be updating that this spring. Email [email protected] with the title “Edu Conferences” to contribute any ideas for upcoming posts.
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Bonnie Lathram

Bonnie Lathram is a student advocate and former teacher.

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