Category Archives: Projects4ME

Maine’s Virtual Project-based Program for students who learn differently, or need more flexibility in their learning.

Is Project-Based Learning Supported by Research?

I'm surprised at how often I still get asked if Project-Based Learning (PBL) is supported by research (I guess this very old approach is still new to many folks…). The good news is that there is strong evidence that when project-based learning is done right, there are positive outcomes for the learners, as these quotes from research summaries point out:

“A growing body of academic research supports the use of project-based learning in schools as a way to engage students, cut absenteeism, boost cooperative learning skills, and improve test scores. Those benefits are enhanced when technology is used in a meaningful way in the projects.” (The whole research summary)

“Studies have proven that when implemented well, project-based learning (PBL) can increase retention of content and improve students' attitudes towards learning, among other benefits.” (The whole research summary)

“Overall, the research on Project-based Learning (PBL) reports positive outcomes related to student learning in the areas of content knowledge, collaborative skills, engagement and motivation, and critical thinking and problem-solving skills.” (The whole research summary)

And here is additional research on PBL.


Learn More about Projects4ME and Auburn’s iPad Program

The other night, I had the pleasure of joining Cheryl Oaks, Alice Barr, and Bob Sprankle on their Seedlings podcast.

We had a chance to talk about Auburn’s literacy and math initiative at includes 1to1 iPads in kindergarten and Projects4ME, Maine’s statewide virtual project-based program for at-risk youth.

Check out the links and podcast here.

We Have Our Second Graduate!

Corey earned his diploma!

Recently, my wife and I got to attend a special graduation.

Corey is my second student from the virtual project-based program to earn his high school diploma!

The virtual project-based program allows students to earn credit by designing and doing projects that they correlate to state learning targets. They earn the credit for their projects as soon as they complete them (demonstrating mastery of those learning targets), which makes the program great for kids who are behind in credits or have been out of school. It is a program, so students remain associated with their sending school.

Corey is a pretty normal kid, loves to play baseball and hanging out with his friends, but health issues had made it difficult for him to keep up academically. The virtual program provided the flexibility for Corey to complete his graduation requirements so he could march with is classmates. Corey worked hard, earning 7 credits in 8 months!

Corey will be attending college in the Fall, where he will be playing baseball.

Way to go Corey!

Schools Trying to Solve Challenges Creatively – My testimony on LD 938

Tough times for schools (not even counting the current anti-labor climate). Budget cuts. Struggling to increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates. Under-motivated students.

Some schools are trying to work on some of those challenges creatively. What if we could make some interesting educational opportunities for our students by recruiting some out of state students or foreign students to participate in our online learning programs while bringing a revenue stream into the district?

That’s the idea behind Maine LD 938 An Act To Permit Public School Online Learning Programs To Accept Nonresident Tuition Students.

Today, I testified to the Education Committee at the State House. Below Re my comments.

Hello. My name is Dr. Mike Muir. I am the director of Maine’s virtual project-based program for at-risk and dropout youth, and soon will be Auburn School District’s Multiple Pathways Leader, responsible for working with staff to find ways to better engage students and customize learning opportunities. I am also Director of UMF’s Maine Center for Meaningful Engaged Learning.

We live in interesting times.

If we start by looking at the student context, what probably jumps out at us first is the degree to which technology is integrated into students lives, and how technology impacts how they do their everyday work, learning, and socializing. Educators are struggling to catch up with young people so that we can teach in ways that match the world they live in outside of school. Many students “power down” to come to school, and even though we have technology in the schools and are using it in our classes, our struggle is trying to figure out how students use their technology so that we can avoid that potential problem of becoming irrelevant in the eyes of these young people.

Technology also opens up the world to students. We can give them virtual field trips, and they explore the country and the world on their own. They make friends the whole world over. Even a student who has never been south of Portland can get a feel for the world beyond their home in a way our contemporaries who never traveled south of Portland never could.

And in these interesting times, educators have a better understanding of how students learn. We understand that students learn at different times, at different rates, and in different ways. Education has had a system that forces everyone to learn the same thing, at the same time, and at the same pace for so long, that it is a challenge for us to uncover how to become flexible, and better meet the needs of students (including, of course, through online learning opportunities).

In terms of interesting times in the school context, there is enormous pressure to increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates. We have a system that has always worked well for a portion of our student population (even a large portion), but for only a portion. That may have been fine when there were plenty of jobs for people without a high school diploma, or even a college degree, but not today. Educators realize that we need to develop ways of reaching other students.

All this within the context of enormous budget cuts. We have had repeated years of huge budget cuts, followed mid year by one or more curtailments. Schools are struggling to do more with less.

In the context of the economy and job market we also live in interesting times. Jobs are changing and employers are looking for students to be educated for different skills. At least one small part of Proctor and Gamble calls Auburn home. One of their employees recently told school officials that they are hiring differently than they ever have before, and that they have much better luck hiring outside the US than they do in the US. That’s because US schools train students to know facts or have skills, for example, to be an electrician. But Proctor and Gamble doesn’t want to hire electricians. They want to hire someone who can learn to be an electrician to accomplish that one project, and then can learn to be something else for the next project.

In the past, it may have seemed that schools have had what they needed. But that wasn’t at a time when schools needed to be successful with more students, when students are different, the job market is different, and there is less and less money to make big changes and accomplish more goals.

For the first time educators are forced into trying to be entrepreneurial in several ways:
• Inventing ways of reaching more learners:
• Inventing ways to teach the skills employers want;
• Inventing ways of teaching so that they more students can succeed;
• Inventing ways to overcome budget cuts.

This Act To Permit Public School Online Learning Programs To Accept Nonresident Tuition Students is one way the State can support schools being entrepreneurial:
• It provides students the benefit of enriched learning experiences, interacting with students from across the country and around the world.
• It provides schools the opportunity to try to recoup funding lost in numerous cutbacks and budget cuts.
• It removes an unfair competitive advantage that private schools have had, having been able to recruit and charge nonresident students for years.

This bill has several vital components:
• It allows schools to charge tuition to out-of-state students, similar to how the law currently allows schools to charge tuition to out-of-district students.
• It allows entrepreneurial schools to use the funds in an entrepreneurial fashion by not counting it again state funding for residential students.
• It allows the direct contact to students to be a learning coach working under a certified teacher, instead of requiring only a certified teacher, since most of the work is learning progress management, not curricular design.

So I implore you to please consider recommending and passing An Act To Permit Public School Online Learning Programs To Accept Nonresident Tuition Students. Thank you.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad