The fact is, what scares teachers most about project based learning (PBL) and differentiation is the idea of having twenty-five kids at twenty-five different points on a learning continuum. While I don’t think that’s a realistic picture of 21st century teaching and learning, I do understand that the perception exists. So whether the perception is a barrier or whether it’s realistic to think that teachers might have students spread out all over the place, the question is the same: What tools can help teachers track measurable student outcomes as a result of the student experiences? So far, the most user-friendly and simplest to use tool I’ve found for this kind of challenge is Goalbook.
Goalbook for PBL and ILP
Goalbook has been marketed toward special education, but the individualized goals inherent to PBL present a challenge similar to the development of an individual learning plan (ILP) for any student. Goalbook access costs $2,500 per school and has been in development since 2011. The program is being piloted at twelve districts, charters, and independent schools.
This tool is versatile enough to encompass individual learning plans (ILPs), the cornerstone of a successful PBL program. Teachers can group students into tiers based on progress and set individual goals within those tiers. Students can even develop their own goals and self-track while parents and teachers collaborate and oversee. With built-in charting, everyone on the learning team can instantaneously get a visual grasp on an individual student’s progress and identify problem areas, and everything can be downloaded as PDF files and easily printed and shared.
But the best, most groundbreaking thing about Goalbook is that it is built as a mobile and social platform. A lot of other systems simply put the old pencil-and-paper process online, but Goalbook was designed around the way 21st Century Teaching and Learning work today. All the action takes place online via a stream, just like Facebook. Status and progress updates take place in real-time; comments appear visible to all members of the learning team as well as parents and students for instant feedback and effortless collaboration. And the whole system is integrated with email as well.
Goalbook has multiple levels of security to ensure that a student’s information is only seen by authorized team members. All web traffic is encrypted, and users are placed into a private network based on the suffix of their email address. Only those users who share a common email address can see each other on the network, and they can only invite users who also share the same email suffix. At the student level, access to student information is managed on a per-student basis. The users who are members of a student’s learning team are always made highly visible on a student’s profile, and the only way to join a student’s learning team is to be added by an existing team member or administrator.
Co-founders Daniel Yoo and Justin Su
Founded by Daniel Yoo, a former coder and special educator, and Justin Su, former Director of Technology at Rocketship Education, the program began through Kauffman Education Ventures and was part of Imagine K12’s inaugural class. It was also the first company funded through New School Venture’s EdTech Seed Fund.
The unique backgrounds of Yoo and Su helped make the project a success. Daniel Yoo worked as a software developer for three years before receiving his general education and SPED credentials from CSU East Bay. He worked as a Special Ed teacher and district coordinator in East Palo Alto, CA before starting this project. Justin Su has designed and launched four different blended learning programs in the U.S. and is a recognized thought leader in personalized learning. He previously served as Director of Technology at Rocketship Education, where he co-led efforts to provide individualized instruction for every student.
Personally, I would love to see Goalbook become the new standard for developing Project Based Learning and Individual Learning Plans because I think it breaks down some of the barriers that prevent some teachers from embracing PBL and ILPs. It provides seamless collaboration between parent, student, and teacher; it allows everything to be documented organically without mountains of paperwork or bureaucratic forms; and it allows the student to manage her work with measurable, attainable goals. In short, it makes the student’s experience the central measurement of success. And that’s what Individual Learning Plans are all about.
You can find out more at goalbookapp.com or check out the latest developments at the Goalbook blog: goalbookapp.wordpress.com.