Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2017

Workbench

Find and assign STEAM tasks with dynamic project-based learning hub

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Math
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
1-12
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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 feedback capability is limited.

Bottom Line: Dynamic resource for finding, creating, and rating lessons that support STEAM and PBL.

Workbench is an innovative one-stop shop for teachers to find and share projects that support STEAM curricula. Forge real-world connections by constructing cranes that withstand hurricane-force winds, bring the maker movement to life by creating earthquake-proof Lego buildings, and encourage students to share their genius by uploading pictures and videos of their creations to the community platform. Flip your classroom by assigning videos and content, and then have students perform the experiments in class.

Struggling with differentiation? Assign projects by area of interest or level of complexity, adding in scaffolding and 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).

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Workbench is a project-based learning platform where students can complete STEAM tasks in class or individually, using everything from basic art supplies and recyclable materials to innovative technologies such as Sphero, Makey Makey, Raspberry Pi, and more. The site houses lessons that can be adapted to a variety of grade levels and curricular goals and is free to use. 

Teachers can create projects from scratch or choose from one of many lessons that come complete with standards (CCSS or NGSS), videos, questions, and images. Lesson creation is fairly simple: Teachers simply choose the Create option under Projects, and Workbench walks them through the steps of titling, adding standards, adding content, and listing steps. From there, teachers can assign lessons to a whole class or individual students. Students can see their progress 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.

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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 technology, plenty of lessons can be modified to fit almost any classroom situation. 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 one-to-one computing 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 challenge questions inside the lesson in real time would make for a more effective learning experience.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Open-ended lesson creation allows for creative and thoughtfully planned activities that can put students in the driver's seat. Teachers will have to carefully create or select activities to promote student engagement.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Gives students opportunities to think critically, work on real-world problems, and create products that support personalized learning and design skills.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4

Detailed, guided assignment creation syncs via Google Classroom or Clever. Paid professional development is available in a variety of modalities.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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