PBL / Linked Learning News @ SDUSD

Fall 2018-19

Introducing Reuben Hoffman

A note from Liz: Please welcome our new PBL Resource Teacher, Reuben Hoffman. He is in his 22nd year as an educator and his first year with San Diego Unified. He has a lot of experience in quality teaching and learning, and we are so lucky to have join our team. Seriously, he’s fantastic. Reuben spent three years as a Digital Learning Coach for the Grossmont Union High School District and taught Social Sciences and Technology courses at West Hills High School for 18 years. He was selected Teacher of the Year for the Grossmont Union High School District in 2010. He is recognized as a WeVideo Ambassador, a Google for Education Certified Trainer, and a Google Certified Innovator. He has a wealth of experience in the classroom and in supporting teachers in quality curriculum design and implementation. His teaching philosophy is very aligned with PBL and the work we, SDUSD teachers, have been doing together over the last couple of years around PBL!

I’m still supporting PBL and Reuben as the new Program Manager for School Innovation, so Reuben and I will be working together to ensure the work we’ve launched in the last couple of years continues. Invite Reuben to out to your site to collaborate with your team and to your classrooms to see your students in action. You can reach Reuben at rhoffman@sandi.net.

What's Happened

CCTE Showcase

On May 23rd, teams from all across San Diego Unified attended the CCTE Showcase to exhibit the inspiring work produced throughout the year as part of an interdisciplinary team or in one of their CTE classes. Projects included a project by Hoover’s SABE Academy, How Can We Do Less With More? In which students built Eco-Carts and Aquaponic systems to explore food systems. Students from Clairemont’s ICT Academy showcased their project, Academy Arcade, in which students programmed controls for classic arcade games. The games will be a way to bring the campus community together. While teams presented, attendees were able to sample foods prepared by CCTE’s culinary programs. We hope you can join us next year. The 2019 CCTE Showcase has been scheduled for May 22nd from 4-6:30 pm.

PBL Institute Recap

From June 18-June 29th, 120 teachers came together from SDUSD middle and high schools to work in interdisciplinary teams to design rigorous real-world projects to implement with students during the 2018-2019 school year. During the two weeks, teachers engaged in a job shadow, workshops, brainstormed, created meaningful essential questions, and fleshed out the details of new (or improved) projects. For example, Marston Middle School teachers Beth Bowers and Wendy Ellerman designed a project for 8th grade students that integrates History/Social Science and English and challenges students to consider the question: “What are we forgetting?” Through the project, students will explore what history has been memorialized in San Diego (i.e. parks, street signs, etc.), and what is missing from the narrative. Students will exhibit their work to Marston staff and students as well as community members during a revamped 8th grade exhibition. In addition, the team hopes to take some of the proposals to City Council for consideration. How cool is that? On the last day of the Institute, teachers presented their work in a gallery walk attended by administrative teams and community partners. We are so excited for the work ahead this year and so proud of all participating teachers.

Project Slice at the 2018 PBL Institute

On the first day of the the 2018 PBL Institute teachers participated in SDUSD’s first ever Project Slice, a hands-on experience that provides teachers with the opportunity to experience the elements of quality Project Based Learning from the perspective of a student. This year, we collaborated with Catherine Hanna Shrock from kNOw More, a student-centered human trafficking awareness and prevention curriculum, put forth by Point Loma Nazarene’s Center for Justice and Reconciliation. Catherine and your PBL Institute facilitators worked to create a project around the essential question, “What is the power of story?” Institute participants launched the day putting their eyes on text and images, including a heat map of human trafficking in the U.S. Then participants worked in teams of four to tackle the project: an interview with someone who works in human trafficking prevention or survivor support services in our local community and to share their story through the power of verbatim theatre and a digital backdrop created with original photographs. The stories and performances of all teams were incredibly powerful and the learning about human trafficking in our local community profound. Many teams are excited to incorporate verbatim theatre into their projects this year, and one team from Kearny DMD will be working with kNOw more this year to carry out their 9th grade project, Bystanders to Upstanders.

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Team Exhibitions

Providing students with the opportunity to share their learning with others increases motivation and engagement! It’s a powerful experience that increases student ownership over their work and requires students practice and present their learning in a high(er)-stakes forum. This is an important part of high quality Project Based Learning. This year, many teams and whole schools provided this opportunity for students to share their learning through an exhibition. For example, Clairemont High’s four academies all hosted their own individual team exhibitions, but this year Clairmont also put on their first school wide exhibition on Wednesday May 30th. Many other schools went the extra mile to exhibit student work as well, such as Montgomery Middle, which also held an all school exhibition of student learning on May 16th. Thank you to all teams and sites that go the extra mile to make these experiences of powerful learning happen for your students.

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New Genius Labs

During the spring and summer of 2018, five schools were equipped with Genius Labs: Roosevelt, Taft, Montgomery, Bethune, and Millennial. These five are in addition to the eight schools completed last summer, bringing our total number of Genius Labs in the district to sixteen. In addition to being a great way for teachers to put students at the center of learning by building, creating, and inventing, Genius Lab experiences will be a great way for students to build essential skills that they can build on in their high school and postsecondary education. We’re so excited to see the work that comes out of these spaces! Many teachers went to training over the summer to learn about the tools they will be using in their Genius Labs, but teachers are also receiving support and training as they get started this year. If you are interested in training, please reach out.

Leaders of Innovation

On May 23rd, 2018, 18 innovative teacher leaders came together to reflect upon and share their learning as part of the 2017-2018 SDUSD Leaders of Innovation program. Over the course of the year, these teacher leaders implemented small and medium-sized “hacks” to transform student engagement and learning either in their classes, at their school site, or district-wide. For example, Marci Sponsler, a science and CCTE teacher at Roosevelt Middle School launched a new cross-curricular experience around Earth Day to increase community and parent involvement. A CTE teacher from Lewis Middle school developed a multi-school collaboration model for engineering projects, finding ways to connect students in learning across various school sites as a way to increase communication and collaboration skills. On the May 23rd, these teachers showcased their work to visiting administrators, mentors, and community members excited to learn about the brave and important work these teachers took on! If you’re interested in being a Leader of Innovation this year, consider filling out an application.
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Morse Running on Rays Project

In the spring of 2018, Morse High School students in physics, biology, and engineering collaborated to design solar powered cell phone chargers in their Running on Rays project. This project was inspired by a summer internships for students in 2017 made possible by a partnership Morse High and OpTerra and the support from San Diego Workforce Partnership. To launch the interdisciplinary project, students engaged in a Design Thinking activity to redesign the high school lunch experience. Students went through each process of the design cycle, including the development of a rapid prototype. Engaging in this design process helped connect all students to the design cycle and how they would apply it to design a charger suited for a student at Morse High. When these interdisciplinary teams of students finished their designs, they exhibited their work to members of industry and the school community. There were lots of creative ideas to revolutionize the cell phone charging experience! A big thank you to Morse teachers and students, OpTerra, and the Workforce Partnership for engaging in this innovative work!
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Generation Citizen

On May 24th, 2018 students from Lincoln, Clairemont, and Hoover High Schools came together at the Logan Heights Branch Library to exhibit their learning resulting from engagement in an action civics supplemental curriculum designed and supported by Generation Citizen. Students learned how to make a direct impact on issues of importance to them and shared their learning with community judges during the first ever SDUSD Civics Day! A big thank you to Generation Citizen for working with SDUSD and to teachers and students for taking on this important work. We look forward seeing this work grow during this school year and to attending future Civics Day exhibitions!
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What's Coming Up - Mark Your Calendars!


  • CCTE Showcase - May 22, 2019
    The 2019 CCTE Showcase is the culminating event to exhibit an outside of the classroom product attempting to address an outside the classroom problem in collaboration with at least one adult from the business or local community. In addition to being a showcase for student projects, the CCTE Showcase is a contest. Contest champions in multiple categories are determined by the CCTE Showcase Panel of Judges.

    The 2019 CCTE Showcase Entry Information will be available soon. Please view the 2018 CCTE Showcase Entry Information to gain an understanding of the event.
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  • Design Thinking in a Day - October 16
    Grades 6-12. No prior experience required.

    In this workshop you will ...
    - experience design thinking through a hands-on design challenge.
    - consider ways you can apply design thinking in your classroom.
    - develop a design challenge for your students.

  • Fine-tuning Your PBL Institute Project - October 18
    Team time to ...
    - review team norms and common planning time
    - collaborate on progress, implementation, troubleshooting, and determine next steps.
    - tune projects and share ideas

  • Leaders of Innovation - November 15, January 10, March 12
    Grades 6-12. No prior experience required.

    Leaders of Innovation ...
    - design and implement practices, programs, or initiatives aimed to create something new and better that leads to higher student engagement and academic outcomes.
    - are paired with a mentor.
    - will provide regular updates on your work / findings and to share your learning when we meet.
    - participate in monthly readings and discussions and “further the conversation” exercises.

    * If you are interested in participating in the Leaders of Innovation Program, please complete the interest/application form - by October 15. This year’s 18 Leaders of Innovation will be announced on October 19th.

  • Project-Based Learning 101 - December 4-5
    Grades 6-12. No prior experience required.

    In two days, you will ...
    - learn the project-based learning process.
    - develop a project-based experience for your students.

    Please share this workshop with colleagues interested in getting started with PBL :)

  • Project-Based Learning Institute - Save the Dates!
    Week 1 - June 17-21, 2019
    Week 2 - June 24-28, 2019

  • SDUSD Innovative Teaching Network
    A community of educators that shares, learns, and grows with and from each other.

    Upcoming Events
    • October 16 - Guest speaker Jeff Heil and hands-on learning experience exploring tools to amplify student voice.
    • November 28, January 17, February 26, and April 17


  • PBL Leadership Academy at HTH - Oct 24-26 & April 24-26
    High Tech High just announced the Project-Based Learning Leadership Academy for 2018-19. FREE opportunity for interdisciplinary teams (Substitutes will need to be funded by the school site.). This year, the PBL Academy is focused on developing projects rich in math and literacy. The deadline to apply is September 18th, and this year the number of participants is limited to 80, so we need to act fast.

    - The Ideal Team is four educators, each with a focus on one or more of the following: career-technical education, math education, literacy education, and a wildcard, such as a school administrator, a professional development coach, etc.

    - Interested In The Program?
    * Talk to your principal
    * Complete the PBL Leadership Academy Interest Form
    * Email me - Reuben Hoffman (rhoffman@sandi.net) so I can support your team.

  • SDCUE (Hilltop HS) - Nov 3
    35th Annual SDCUE Tech Fair. Session topics include NGSS, Design Thinking, Project-Based Learning, Coding, HyperDocs, Digital Portfolios and more.

  • Educating for Careers Conference (Sacramento) - March 3-5
    The Educating for Careers Conference is an annual three-day professional development event surrounding career technical education (CTE).

  • Linked Learning Conference (Palm Springs) - March 19-21
    This is a great opportunity to learn from educators, postsecondary institutions, and economic development and employer leaders who came together to make the vision of Linked Learning a reality.

Resources - Please Share!

Share Your Learning - Help Students Make Learning Public!

When students share their learning with others, amazing things happen! According to the Share Your Learning website, “when students share their learning with an authentic audience, we provide them with an opportunity to share their story, reflect on their growth, and engage in real dialogue with others about their learning and their futures.” Go to www.shareyourlearning.org and join 300,000 other educators that have committed to having students share their work publicly. The site also offers free resources to support you in setting up student exhibitions, student presentations of learning, and student-led conferences.

SDUSD Instructional Innovation Team

For more information regarding PBL / Linked Learning at SDUSD, please contact Reuben Hoffman at rhoffman@sandi.net.