Blog

Engage Teens in Project-Based Learning with Digital Bytes

Discover, analyze, and explore what it means to be a digital citizen in today's tech- and media-rich landscape.

May 20, 2015
Darri Stephens Senior Director, Education Content
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES Common Sense Resources, Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy, In the Classroom, Students

"Show what you know!" is a common battle cry in classrooms. And an exciting way for kids to demonstrate their learning is through project-based learning. PBL, sometimes referred to as "problem-based learning," speaks to kids in so many ways. This active learning process gives kids the responsibility for their own learning, approaches problem-solving through collaboration and creativity, and applies their learning to the real world. But as teachers know, this type of authentic assessment can be a bit daunting as it's a shift in our pedagogical approach/instructional practices. To help ease students and teachers over this threshold, we've created Digital Bytes, a new site that teaches teens digital citizenship through student-directed, media-rich activities.

Teens gain inspiration from the experiences of their peers, then create collaborative projects that voice their ideas for making smart, safe choices online.

We created Digital Bytes (recommended for ages 13-18) to help encourage project-based learning with teens both in blended-learning classrooms and in after-school programs. Teens gain inspiration from the experiences of their peers, then create collaborative projects that voice their ideas for making smart, safe choices online. By using Digital Bytes, teens can discover, analyze, and explore what it means to be a digital citizen in today's tech- and media-rich landscape.

Teens often use technology in PBL, whether for project planning, research, collaborating, or creating final presentations. But we know that teens need support to integrate technology safely and responsibly. One way to embed these digital citizenship lessons is to use Digital Bytes as an "entry event." After determining a driving question for PBL, teachers can engage teens in Digital Bytes as an entry event to incite their curiosity, inquiry, and excitement around a given topic. A teacher can whet students' appetites by giving them a taste of possible directions to take, and then off they go!

We were so excited to see teens take a Byte around the idea of remixing music -- what's legal and ethical -- and then investigate this idea of intellectual property in the real world.

During the pilot phase of our Digital Bytes design process, we were so excited to see teens take a Byte around the idea of remixing music -- what's legal and ethical -- and then investigate this idea of intellectual property by exploring the fake handbag phenomenon in New York City's Chinatown. They took the concept of creative credit and applied it to the real world, their world.

So, what will inspire your students? How about looking at the validity of website content by analyzing viral videos in the Byte Internet Hoaxes, or consider where the art of remixing crosses the line with Disney's animations in Copy-Paste Culture? Check out the graphic organizers (pages 13-15) we created to help your teen teams plan and reflect on their learning process. And please let us know how you encourage PBL with your teens and what other topics you'd like us to cover in Digital Bytes.

Check out Digital Bytes today!