How a teacher designed and managed collaborative projects with 400 students in less than two weeks

This is the first in our series featuring teachers designing and administering amazing collaborative learning experiences using Project Pals. We hope you are as inspired as we are by these innovative and passionate educators!

Heather Castaneda-Ponce was looking for a new way to manage classroom projects. As a social studies teacher at Mack Middle School, a Title 1 school in Clark County School District in Las Vegas, NV, Heather often engages her students in project based learning experiences. She finds that collaborative learning draws students in to participate, while helping develop their investigatory, critical thinking and communication skills.

Introduction (Video 1 of 3)

Thankfully, Heather’s administrator suggested that she look into Project Pals as a possible solution to her problem. The administrator heard about Project Pals through a colleague who attended the CUE-NV 2019 conference in Las Vegas. They mentioned that Project Pals was a project management platform specifically designed to administer collaborative learning, which piqued her interest.

Historical Event Template – Project Preview

Heather quickly reached out to us at Project Pals to setup an account. We scheduled a 90 minute webinar training session, previewed our catalog of 100+ pre-made projects and templates, and reviewed the basic functionality of the platform.

Heather was off to the races. As a Master’s of Educational Technology, Heather immediately saw the potential of Project Pals to support student learning, while helping her streamline project management across multiple classes.

Heather was teaching a unit on Movement, with a unit theme about diseases that have greatly impacted the world. She saw the Historical Event Template in our catalog and thought it could be a good fit for her first project design in Project Pals.

Diseases in History – Project Summary (Video 2 of 3)

As Heather’s students worked on their projects in Project Pals, they closely monitored Project Analytics data updated in real-time detailing exactly who contributed what to the project. Heather said that the data served as a major motivator for students to participate, with many students competing to be represented in the data. 90% of Heather’s students actively participated in the project; a high participation for her classes.

She cloned the project template, modified the name to “Diseases in History,” customized the instructions, and spent a few hours adding supporting materials (resources) for the students to reference throughout the project. In less than one day of preparation, she was ready to assign the project to students!

Heather invited a colleague to co-teach the project with both their student rosters. Between the two teachers, they created several classes and invited more than 400 students to join Project Pals.

The students promptly started the assigned project and began collaborating in real-time. Each group was assigned a disease to study. They referenced the template and instructions Heather provided to guide them in the distinct phases of the project process, from identifying the major events associated with the disease, to creating a mind map of the factors influencing and the consequences resulting from the outbreak. Due to the digital nature of collaboration in Project Pals, students were able to work in class and from home, replicating the fluid and often virtual collaboration of a modern workplace.

Project Based Learning at Scale (Video 3 of 3)

Less than two weeks later, all 400 students across several classes and dozens of teams, completed their projects. Heather and her co-teacher were able to review and evaluate all of the group’s digital projects under one platform, including referencing a visual record of the student’s collaborative process and work (what we call “evidence of rigor”). Since then, Heather has already designed and started new projects with her students.

We interviewed Heather about her experience and encourage you to watch the videos to hear from her first-hand. She is a truly inspiring educator!

Heather ultimately reflected that she would not have been able to scale a project of this magnitude so quickly without a centralized platform to design and manage all of the student projects. She also said that evaluating student effort without Project Analytics data and a clear record of the collaborative process is what really separates Project Pals from other project based learning methods and tools.

Interested in trying Project Pals at your school or district? Contact us to schedule a demo and consultation about how to succeed with collaborative learning!