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I founded our school's startup club to encourage more interests in computer science. This photo is of our trip to a hacking competition at Facebook (which the students placed first).


These are my students completing simulated congressional hearings for local expert evaluators. Teamwork and public evaluation are core elements to my use of PBL.
(students on public photo release)

My teaching has been deeply influenced by the work done at High Tech High in San Diego, where I did my PBL training. To me, projects are the glue that makes learning stick for the long-term. I align myself to the research that shows that our brain discerns if the content is being applied. It quickly forgets what is not. Whether it be simulated hearings, mock trials, creating films, or designing products, I love this about the job!


Having taught in a 1:1 BYOD, 1:1 Macbook, 1:1 Chromebook, and currently 1:1 iPad, we use a wide range of digital tools to make student work more authentic, usable, and shareable. The image above is an excerpt from our graphic novel project project. We read Omnivore's Dilemma in sixth grade and the students create a comic version of Michael Pollan's book.

Commonly used class tools include: Prezi, Glogster, iMovie, BoinxTV, GoAnimate (below), BossJock Podcasting, MIT App Inventor, and Explain Everything Screencasts.

In 2008, I created a field-based civics course. The course's two benchmark projects were its Supreme Court moot court and Washington DC policy advocacy work. The students would prepare to moot a case at local law schools in the fall and then in the spring go to the US Supreme Court to watch the very case they mooted (USA Today, NY Times). The students also would pick live legislation to advocate for at the Capitol. In 2014, I with another teacher created a modified version of the moot court program for middle school students (Sacred Heart Magazine, click to listen to an audio file of the 8th-grade students' oral arguments).
In 2015, I co-created a 7th-grade Japan peace studies program. Students traveled to Japan to present their policy research at UNICEF's Japan HQ (Sacred Heart Magazine, click to watch to a video file of 7th-grade Japan field study).


Holocaust Auschwitz survivor Lenci Farkas and Livia Grunfeld speaking with my students after viewing the students QR exhibit on Jewish partisans (Photo by Michelle Le).

I take great joy in working with my students to bring guest speakers to class, lunch, or after school. Skype has been incredible, but some speakers have warranted us taking field trips to see them in person. In 2010, my class fundraised to go to LA to see a special Holocaust survivor.The students are given total ownership of the experience: from the greeting of the guest speakers, to the questioning, to the thanking in the end.


My students have invited many parents, neighbors, and others to be guest speaker, here is a list of some notables: Gabriella Karin (Holocaust Survivor & Artist), Jack Rakove (Pulitzer Awarded Historian), David Kennedy (Pulitizer Awarded Historian, pictured below), John Yoo (UC Berkeley Law Professor), Mike Honda (US Congressman), and Marshal Curry (Oscar Nominated Documentarian)


My students created a World War II museum to teach their neighboring elementary school over Memorial Day.

While not commonly associated with project-based learning, when logical, I have my students use their content to serve the community whenever possible. Past service projects have included raising money for a school in Pakistan, a tsunami in India (SJ Merc), and earthquake in Japan. Each involved educating their peers during their campaigns.


Games have a controversial reputation in learning, but the core elements of a game are powerful instructional strategies.

Games have 4 main elements:
1) Autonomy to control their setting.
2) Challenge tied to the student's level of readiness.
3) Progress that is quickly communicated and allow students to fail without fear.
4) Narrative that even if fantastical, gives students a sense of purpose.

Each period is a civilization and within each class are five tribes as shown on the map above.
I use badges for skill levels to allow students to focus on mastery rather than grades on certain tasks. Students set their goals on which badges they wish to pursue. We are currently piloting a game based quest builder called Classcraft.

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