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Pros: Lessons that are ready to use and easy to assign provide opportunities for teachers to differentiate and for students to think critically.
Cons: Many lessons require investment in a variety of partner technologies, and monitoring student learning can be a challenge.
Bottom Line: A dynamic resource for finding, creating, and rating lessons that support STEAM, PBL, and flipped or virtual classrooms.
Struggling with differentiation? Individually assign projects by area of interest or level of complexity, adding in supports as needed via videos, guiding questions, and progress monitoring. Build higher-order thinking skills by asking open-ended questions, tracking student progress, and viewing responses in real time. Create classes and assignments on Workbench, in Google Classroom, or by using Clever to sync with your school's learning management system (LMS).
Editor's Note: Workbench was acquired by Google, and the website is now no longer available.
Workbench is a free project-based learning platform where students complete tasks in class or individually, using everything from basic art supplies and recyclable materials to innovative technologies such as Sphero EDU, Parrot, Jamboard, and more. The site houses lessons for teachers to use as they are or to copy and modify for a variety of grade levels and curricular goals. There are also Channels where teachers can find device- or platform-specific lessons for over 30 partner sites.
Teachers may create projects from scratch or choose from one of many lessons that come complete with standards, videos, questions, and images. Lesson creation is fairly simple: Teachers simply choose the Create option under Lessons, and Workbench walks them through the steps of titling, adding standards, adding resources, and listing steps. From there, teachers can assign lessons to a whole class or to individual students. Students mark their progress in their Workbooks as they complete the steps, which may include watching videos, viewing images, answering questions, and creating and uploading content. Teachers can monitor student progress in real time, allowing for formative assessment and reteaching of concepts if needed. Student portfolios also house student work and creations, demonstrating progress over time.
There's no doubt that Workbench is a dynamic tool that supports 21st century learning skills. Standards alignment allows teachers to differentiate and personalize instruction by choosing or creating the best lessons for their students. Students' ability to upload videos and images makes for an engaging and interactive learning experience that promotes creativity and critical thinking, and even if users don't have access to all of the different types of partner technologies linked in the Channels, there are plenty of lessons available that don't require them. Furthermore, since students can do so much within the platform, there will never be a shortage of material to engage. Teachers can quickly assess students' understanding of concepts by seeing the responses in real time, and Workbench's integration with any internet-connected device allows for ease of use in 1-to-1 and bring-your-own-device environments.
While Workbench provides a powerful platform for creative ideas and lesson management, it would be more useful if teachers could give feedback both during and after assignment completion. Teachers can give feedback in their LMS upon completion, but the ability to ask students to further explain their answers or ask them challenging questions inside the lesson would make for a more effective learning experience.