It’s in the Bag
Build your own self-contained toolkits for your problem- and
project-based learning experiences, complete with appropriate technology that works for every learning style.
Digital Backpacks for Project-Based Learning
W hen it comes to technology, many schools know what hey want. They want targeted and scalable solutions that enhance learning and meet the NETS•S.
And the teachers in those schools
want simple, strategic instructional
frameworks for developing their students’ basic and digital age skills while
meeting diverse learning needs. But as
many technology integration specialists know, satisfying all those wants in
every lesson is no easy task.
Undaunted, the University of
Cincinnati FUSION Center set out
to build a solution that fulfills all of
those reqirements. We partnered with
the National Underground Railroad
Freedom Center and Apple to develop
a toolkit that is simple, scalable, effective, and even portable. We call it the
A digital backpack is just what it
sounds like: an actual knapsack that
contains an array of digital and hardware tools, resources, and instructional materials handpicked to engage
learners in project- or problem-based
learning (PBL) experiences. We have
designed digital backpacks for specific
projects and challenges as well as for
projects in particular curriculum areas.
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Designed to Support All Learners
Our design is grounded in the Universal
Design for Learning (UDL) framework.
Based on neuroscience, UDL purpose-
fully combines the use of technology
with instructional pedagogy to support
students with a range of academic
abilities, disabilities, and cultural and
language backgrounds. Our digital
backpack design strives to align its
core components with UDL prin-
ciples. Each backpack provides:
Modular technology. This set of tools
includes hardware, software, and devices chosen to meet specific instructional goals and desired outcomes.
The modular technologies that we
tested included digital camcorders,
iPod touches with preloaded apps,
digital sound recorders, digital science
probes, measuring tape, and Pasco’s
Sparkvue (data-gathering and analyzing software). Other ideas include microphones and digital still cameras.
Teachers choose their technologies
based on their capacity to support the
individual PBL experience, and, as
suggested by the term modular, they
can add or remove a given technology
from a digital backpack depending on
the specific learning objectives.
It is essential for the modular technologies to be able to readily interface
with the foundational technology.