Sharing project management expertise acquired in years of experience providing quickturn electronic prototypes, NPI Services Founder and President Judy Greenspon served as as a volunteer “critical friend” for educators participating in the Project-Based Learning (PBL) Institute in Science, held July 28th-31st at the Brandman University campus in Irvine. Provided by ScienceOC, partnering with the Buck Institute for Education, teachers attending the conference learn methods for making PBL units, and meet with community partners and #STEM (Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics) professionals. They create a PBL unit to use in their own classrooms this fall. On the fourth and final day of the conference, their Project Showcase review process gives teachers the opportunity to get input from professionals in the community who represent their students’ future employers or professors.
During the Project Showcase, teams finalize their PBL Curricula, reflecting on what skills students gain from the project to help them later in college or at work, how their thinking ability is enhanced, and how teamwork and communication abilities are broadened. They consider what resources could enhance the project, and identify potential problem issues that should be addressed. Judy’s input in the Product Showcase review process emphasized understanding critical project milestones, and scheduling projects using Gantt type timeline charts. Milestones serve as a tool for measuring progress, and help make the project more manageable by breaking it into chunks. The schedule and timeline help participants see how their work fits in the big picture and makes it clear how important it is to commit to finishing on time.
You might wonder how the experience of an industry professional really applies to the experience of teachers. Well, twenty-five years of product development and real-life project management for customers with time-critical needs really resonates with teachers! Teachers are faced with the challenge of meeting an extensive set of education standards for the grade levels and/or subjects they teach, with time limited by classroom hours and the attention spans of their students. In a sense, the product they bring to market is their students at the end of the school year, and every year they have the most amazing variation in the material to start with! NPI Services is proud to share in their work developing innovative Project-Based Learning units, and hopes this will be a great school year for everyone!