Tools to Support PBL

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    PBL is a versatile approach that can be applied in most disciplines, from the practically-focused to the more theoretical. The approach works well as an activity for individuals, but is especially effective when used with groups because it encourages the students to develop their interpersonal, team-working, creativity and influencing skills.

    The technologies used to support PBL will primarily depend on the problem that is being investigated and it is likely that these will be quite similar to the ones that would be used outside of a university setting. However, there are some general tools that would be useful for most PBL activities, particularly those where students are working in groups. These tools can all be used by individuals for personal recording, but their collaboration features, such as comments and live editing, mean that they excel when used as part of a group.

    Technologies for recording activity and reflections are very useful during problem-solving activities as they allow students to share ideas, expand upon them collaboratively and review each others’ work to make suggests and avoid duplication of effort. Tools such as Blogs, Social Bookmarking, and ePortfolios provide ways for students to share information about the work that they have been undertaking and the resources that they have used.

    The production of reports or presentations on their approach and solution is a common element of many PBL activities and tools such as Google Docs, Wikis and online PowerPoint alternatives offer ways for students to create reports and presentations collaboratively. Using these tools, groups of students are able to work on documents together without individuals needing to wait for others to complete their parts and email the document around first.

    Other tools that might be useful are those that help with organising the work, particularly for groups, and capturing ideas and brainstorming. Trello is a free, online tool that can is well suited to planning projects, whereas mindmapping software work very well for recording ideas.

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