10 Things That Happen When Students Engage in Project-Based Learning

We often hear about the need for students to learn how to program in order to be ready for STEM fields and the Information Economy. It’s what we’ve been hearing for over a decade. However, there’s a fascinating piece from the Washington Post that explores how the so-called “soft-skills” might be even more vital than ever.

For years, Google focused on hiring the best computer science students who excelled in their core content area, positing that innovation required the best computer science minds in the world. But when they tested this hypothesis, they were shocked by the results.

According to the article:

In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998. Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.

The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

Don’t get me wrong. Students need to master content standards. But Google’s survey proves that many teachers have been saying for years: that the so-called “soft skills” aren’t soft at all. Fortunately, when students engage in PBL, they develop these skills and disciplines needed to thrive in the Creative Economy.

But it goes beyond economics. When students engage in PBL, they experience the sheer joy of learning. They are able to hit a state of creative flow and learn that there’s something deeply profound about creativity. They become self-directed, independent thinkers.

The following are some of the trends that I notice when students engage in project-based learning. This is not a scientific study so much as observations I’ve noticed from my own experiences. However, I am currently working on a larger literature review on the benefits of PBL. I’ll be sharing it out within the next month. Many of the ideas in the following video are backed up by research (like the soft skills, the “stickiness” of information, and the moderate increases in student achievement).   

#1: Students learn how to engage in meaningful collaboration.

When students engage in PBL, they often get the chance to work on collaborative projects, where they work interdependently to solve problems. Initially, this was really challenging for me as a teacher because I hated group projects as a student. I hated doing all the work and then watching everyone else get the credit. But then I realized something. Collaboration isn’t just a skill.

It’s a discipline. It’s something that takes years of practice. So, I started to embed structures that would help guarantee that every student participated in collaborative projects. It didn’t work every time but slowly, I watched students learn how to engage in meaningful collaboration.   

When students genuinely collaborate in PBL, they learn how to speak up and listen. They learn how to ask incisive questions, how to contribute to the team, and how to give and receive critical feedback. Which leads to the next point . . .

#2: Students learn to see nuance and multiple perspectives.

When I did that History Day Project in the eighth grade, I encountered perspectives on the integration of baseball that I would have never experienced in reading a textbook. The same thing happened with my eighth grade students. When they were immersed in a PBL environment, they got to wade into the nuance of multiple perspectives.

Teachers can tap into this idea by specifically asking students to consider new perspectives. During the initial inquiry phase, it can help to let students ask multiple questions on their own and then share their questions together. When they engage in research, it can help to ask students to find sources from various perspectives and deliberately wade into the nuance of the ideas. As they ideate together, you can utilize a structured brainstorming approach that encourages them to examine ideas from multiple angles.

#3: They become divergent thinkers.

The best project-based learning units encourage students to tackle problems from a unique perspective. This is at the heart of divergent thinking. It’s the ability to explore problems from different angles, use materials in different ways, and ultimately grow into innovatorsHere’s where creative constraint comes in. Teachers often have to work with limited resources or tight schedules. They have to hack the standards to tie them into a PBL unit. But in the process, they are helping students to think outside the box by “thinking inside the box.” Here’s what I mean:  

When students learn to “think inside the box,” they are practicing the type of divergent thinking that they will need in the future. This is the type of thinking that can’t be replaced with artificial intelligence or automated with a machine.

#4: They learn project management.

When I talk to people in business, in the arts, and in the STEM fields, I often hear people mention that they wished they had learned how to do project management when they were younger.  If we want students to think like artists, entrepreneurs, and engineers, they need the chance to engage in project management. When students have full ownership of the project process, they learn how to engage in project management. Here, they are able to set goals, monitor progress, make adjust, and reflect on their learning.

Project management is about more than just setting a schedule. It’s the idea of following through on your plans and continuing with tasks even when nobody is looking over your shoulder. It’s what happens when you learn how to set meaningful, realistic goals and break those down into tasks.

#5: They develop a maker mindset.

One of the most tragic things I hear students say is “I’m just not the creative type.” I don’t buy it. I don’t believe there is a “creative type” out there. We’re all creative. Every one of us. And PBL is a great chance for students to own the entire creative process, leading to a maker mindset where they can think like designers, artists, and engineers. When this happens, students are able to embrace a larger definition of creativity and value the creative contributions of those around them.   

We often hear that our current students will work in jobs that don’t exist right now. But here’s another reality: our current students will be the ones who create those jobs. They will have to rewrite the rules.  Some students will be engineers or artists or accountants. Some will work in technology, others in traditional corporate spaces and still others in social or civic spaces. But every single one of them will need to think creatively in their jobs.

As students work through PBL, they are able to experience a broad spectrum of creative thinking. They learn how to think like an artist but also think like an engineer or a hacker. At one moment, they might be building empathy by doing an interview. In another moment, they might be doing prototyping in an engineering project and or engaging in information literacy for a publishing project.

Over time, they see that creative work is interdisciplinary. And this ultimately leads to a maker mindset, where students learn to view the world differently and find new solutions to complex problems. Which leads to the next point . . .

#6: They become problem-solvers and critical thinkers.

PBL encourages students to solve complex problems by engaging in inquiry, research, and ideation. This is the kind of work that you don’t accomplish in filing out a packet or doing a worksheet. It requires students to view problems from multiple angles and sometimes even navigate multiple systems in order to solve these complex problems.

Not only are they solving the problems but they are taking it to the next level and actually creating the solutions. So, they are able to see that problem-solving actually connects to real-world contexts. I remember when we were doing our Tiny House projects and a student said, “I get it now. I understand why people need to know proportional reasoning.” He needed a complex problem, rooted in a real-world experience, for that concept to make sense.

Note that this doesn’t always work. There are moments when it gets frustrating. However, that’s also part of the problem-solving process. Students get the opportunity to fail forward. Which leads to my next point . . .

#7: They develop iterative thinking.

Project-based learning includes a phase for revision. In some cases, it’s more about feedback and revision while other projects require testing and revision. But the idea is the same. Students test, revise, and iterate. This is one of the areas where I see a big disconnect between school (where you are graded once and move on) versus life (where you are constantly improving and iterating).

I want students to learn how to figure out what’s working, make sense out of what’s failing, and then create a better iteration.  But this requires a shift toward mastery-based grading as well as the freedom to make mistakes. For all the talk of “high standards,” iterative thinking only works when students experience slack. And yet, when they have this permission to fail, they can then improve their work and develop endurance.

#8: They are more likely to develop a growth mindset.

Iterative thinking ultimately leads to a growth mindset. It’s counterintuitive but the best way for students to have higher standards is to experience the permission to fail. This doesn’t mean we embrace failure but that we treat failing as a part of the learning process. After all, fail-ure is permanent and fail-ing is temporary.

Note that failing isn’t fun. It actually sucks when stuff doesn’t work out. And that’s an important reminder. Sometimes PBL isn’t fun. Sometimes it’s really, really frustrating. I have had students cry when something didn’t work. It wasn’t because of a grade, either. They were simply so into their project that they wanted it to work. But eventually, when it did work, they were able to develop a growth mindset.

#9: They grow more empathetic.

One of the PBL approaches we will explore is design thinking, which is centered around the idea of empathy. In some models, empathy is the starting point. Other times, it occurs in the research and ideation phases. But regardless of when it happens, if students are going to launch heir work to an audience, they need to design products out of a place of empathy.

This is one of those areas that goes far beyond the corporate world. We have a crisis of empathy in the U.S. I see it every time I go to Facebook. People talk over one another and lob easy insults at the opposite side. Trapped in their echo chambers, they move into a place where they miss the pain that others are experiencing. But I think we can change this as educators when we ask students to engage in empathy-driven design thinking.

#10: They increase in metacognition.

When I first saw the metacognition cycle, I thought, “Man, this seems so similar to aspects of PBL.” This is because PBL encourages students to plan, monitor, and reflect throughout the entire process.

So, if we want this for students, they need to work on projects. Real projects. The kind of projects that they get to own. And ultimately that requires a teacher who is wiling to take the leap and make PBL a reality.

Source: 10 Things That Happen When Students Engage in Project-Based Learning – John Spencer

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Web3 Developers Can Thrive In The Bear Market With The Right Support Services

The blockchain and crypto sector is undoubtedly going through difficult times, with the market falling $2 trillion since its November 21 peak. An overwhelming negative sentiment is shrinking the industry’s resources while weekly outflows amount to $102 million.

The Crypto Fear & Greed Index shows that investors remain “fearful” of the current bear market conditions. But history teaches us that this lack of hype and market exuberance actually provides fertile conditions for developing innovative technological solutions.

When the DotCom Bubble burst in the early 2000s, companies like Amazon, e-Bay, Google, Facebook, and Cisco all survived the crash. Indeed, they emerged from the crash stronger because their developers continued building instead of allowing volatile markets and negative sentiment distract them. Similarly, crypto projects like Tron, ChainLink, Polkadot, and EOS, were able to survive the 2017 ICO craze and the crypto winter that followed.

Bear markets have historically filtered out opportunists and stupid capital to make way for real innovators delivering scaleable market solutions and longer-term investor growth.

Nevertheless, bear markets also entail a shortage of capital as investor disappear or sit on the sidelines and liquidity disappears from the market. Only a handful of serious project developers, entrepreneurs, and long-term investors stay back to support each other.

These stakeholders require a space where they can connect, collaborate, and build cutting-edge technologies to sustain themselves and the industry overall. Incubators, launchpads, and accelerators become crucial resources for entrepreneurs, companies, and developers during a bear market.

Incubators can be essential to a company’s long-term survival and success. The National Business Incubator Association reports that 87 percent of incubated startups continue to survive after five years—twice the success rate of startups that develop completely on their own. Moreover, 84 percent of incubated companies share the incubator’s community, creating a wide but well-knit network of entrepreneurs, advisors, developers, and investors, however, community support is just one aspect of incubators.

Among the diverse services offered by crypto launchpads, fundraising is one of the most important. Since developers and entrepreneurs usually do not have large amounts of capital available, startups need financial assistance to build their protocols. Venture capitalists and angel investors associated with an incubator provide the much-needed liquidity for early-stage Web3 companies. This funding helps startups focus on development, scaling operations, marketing, and hiring.

In addition to funding, incubators provide the expertise and experience of professionals to mentor startup employees during early stage development. Domain experts act as consultants to project leaders during incubation to build better products that are ready for mass markets. TDeFi, an incubator for DeFi protocols, offers a “Lifetime Advisory Program” for incubated companies. This ensures that protocols continue to get the support and assistance of mentors, even after their official launch.TDeFi’s CEO Gaurav Dubey explains, “Mentoring comes in varied forms. Apart from ideation, launchpads assist in designing utility-based, growth-oriented tokenomics, which is necessary for attracting investors. A well-networked incubator always finds strategic investors for startups even in a bear market.”

Incubators like TDeFi also provide post-launch assistance to comply with a country’s crypto legislation and follow regulatory best practices. To date, TDeFi has incubated over 40 startups across the DeFi, NFT, gaming, metaverse, infrastructure, and healthcare sectors.

Despite the bear market, blockchain gaming and game-based NFTs have thrived recently, outperforming other crypto-based sectors. The DappRadar-BGA Blockchain Games Report recorded 1.1 million unique active wallets (UAWs) in Q2 2022, making up 52 percent of all UAWs. Investor sentiment also remained strong in the blockchain gaming domain, with investments amounting to $2.5 billion in Q2 2022, a clip rate that appears to continue in the year.

Against this backdrop, NFT gaming launchpads and accelerators like QGlobe are helping new gaming projects build their products in a bear market. QGlobe offers support for metaverse and crypto gaming startups by organizing IGOs and providing product development, tokenomics, and marketing strategies.

Apollo Green, CEO and founder of QGlobe, says, “Amidst a turbulent market, the gaming sector is performing well and successfully weathering the storm. At this critical juncture, we need efficient gaming launchpads to build promising projects to help us out of this crypto winter.”

The Crypto Industry Needs Everyday Resources

Regardless of the size of startup, companies must manage employee payrolls and account for financial transactions, and annual audits. Payments and bookkeeping can be time-consuming and often become an enormous administrative challenge for these companies to tackle, leading to increased chances of fraud and data entry errors.

Automating the crypto finance infrastructure is necessary to help companies manage their accounts efficiently. Blockchain-based automated platforms can help save time, reduce human error via on-chain reconciliation, and ensure robust bookkeeping practices. Automation may also help crypto companies devote their time and resources toward innovation and building their platform.

Industry now offers solutions for Web3 businesses to manage their crypto invoices, employee salaries, and balance sheets.

Protocols like Request Finance provide a non-custodial, decentralized platform for invoice generation and payment management featuring real-time, on-chain settlement. Request Finance supports batch payments to multiple addresses, invoice requests, and integration with multi-sig wallets like Gnosis. Companies like The Sandbox, Maker DAO, and RealT use Request Finance for managing financial operations, invoicing solutions, and as a payment gateway.

Emphasizing the need for payment request protocols, Christophe L., co-founder and CEO of Request Finance, said, “Making crypto mainstream by focusing on real world use cases, is crucial for emerging from this bear market. Invoicing and payroll dApps can enable more businesses to adopt crypto, especially stablecoins in a compliant manner.”

For everyday crypto usage, investors, blockchain entrepreneurs, traders, and general users need one another imporant resource — tax calculators. As countries worldwide begin increasingly adopting crypto regulations, it likewise becomes necessary to understand tax liabilities and file for tax.

Calculating crypto tax is not an easy task. Users are liable for capital gains and income tax, depending on the nature of the transaction. Moreover, some countries require recording crypto transactions in local currency value before filing for taxes. This becomes a time and resource-intensive process.

Some users turn to resources like CryptoTaxCalculator to accurately calculate their taxes by importing transaction data from crypto exchanges and non-exchange platforms. CryptoTaxCalculator lets users directly upload data from DeFi platforms, staking protocols, NFT marketplaces, mining, ICO/IDO/IGOs, and airdrops via CSV or API for calculating taxes.

In-Person Discussion is the Most Important Resource

When it comes down to it, one resource emerges as the most crucial of all – talent. No matter how many software resources we have at our fingertips, nothing beats face-to-face conversations and exchanging ideas. Indeed, talent is the largest and richest resource we have for developing new products and innovative technologies.

Following a long pandemic-induced hiatus in conferences, meetings, and hackathons, these events are finally back for offline sessions. Through these events, crypto companies, blockchain entrepreneurs, and Web3 developers can all come together to discover technological solutions for solving real-world problems.

DCENTRAL will host one of Web3’s largest conferences this November 28-30 in Miami right before Art Basel, a massive global art event. The conference will bring together innovators across 30+ Layer-1 and Layer-2 DeFi, NFT, Metaverse, DAO, and Gaming protocols.

Justin Wu, co-founder and CEO of DCENTRAL Conference, elaborated on the need for such conferences, stating, “The bear market is giving us the time and space to build robust Web3 protocols. This is high time we collaborate and learn from each other to make Web3 sustainable in the long run.”

By using incubators, launchpads, accelerators, and business support services, and reconnecting to talent pools with in-person interactions, entrepreneurs and developers can create a veritable armada for taking on the bear market with a greater capacity to innovate. With the right resources and networks, successful earlier stage plays will weather the storm and emerge from the bear market with resilience: greater talent, stronger businesses, and more innovative products and services.

I cover fintech, crypto and digital assets, and sustainable finance and investments, and promote policies for a transparent, secure, and quality digital financial future for everyone.

Source: Web3 Developers Can Thrive In The Bear Market With The Right Support Services

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