Tag Archives: remote teaching

Remote Inquiry in PBL

This is the third of a series of posts about what Project Based Learning infused with Social and Emotional Learning looks like when teaching remotely. Is it the ideal situation? Probably not, but it is the reality that many of us are dealing with. I will share my ideas and what others are doing to hopefully inspire you to action.

Remote Inquiry in Project Based Learning might seem like a no-brainer-online research! But let’s think of inquiry in broader terms and consider some other ways to guide students of all ages to engage in inquiry throughout the project cycle. Curiosity is integral to any engaging project, and we can find many ways to build it even when we are not face-to-face.


Texts of all kinds can be research. From non-fiction to fiction; from poetry to graphic novels; from websites to magazines, our students should be exposed to a rich environment of texts. Many school libraries are finding ways for kids to pick up books during remote learning and there are many online books available for free. Make sure that your students are being exposed to a wide variety of authors and texts from diverse viewpoints.

Expanded Research

Too often students are only taught how to do the traditional research of a Google search or how to use peer reviewed journals at the secondary level. There are so many other things that students can research. They can consider primary source images in history and science using routines such as “I notice” and “I wonder.” They can analyze political cartoons, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries or other videos, take virtual field trips, or watch live webcams of natural events. Expanding research to include audio and video elements helps differentiate for English Learners and kids with special needs. It is engaging for ALL students!


All sources ultimately go back to a person who either wrote it down, took a picture or video, or created some kind of artifact. So take your students directly to the source and have them conduct interviews. Students from Kindergarten to college can come up with their own questions based on the Driving Question (DQ) and talk to experts in the field. This person may have a degree at a prestigious university, or they may be a grand parent who remembers a time period in history. Experts are everywhere!

One bonus of remote learning is that there is actually more access to people as pretty much everyone has experience with videoconferencing now and can quickly and easily “join” your class without having the past challenges of distance, travel, or taking off from work.


We’re not talking about taking them, but having students create surveys around their project topic and then send them to the appropriate audience. This data collection is an important part of empathetic design thinking process. To help students to develop the SEL competency of Social Awareness, we need them to consider the DQ from multiple perspectives. Solutions to PBL should require that students address the whole community, especially those least privileged.

Surveys bring a great tie into math as students can decide what kind of graph or chart best represents the data. The results require critical interpretation to be applied to any solution that kids are considering. Creating infographs is a great way for students to communicate their results with the public affected by the problem.


Hands-on learning in PBL is a crucial way for kids to make their own meaning. Send home some instructions for experiments that they can try at home. Of course, make sure that the experiments are safe and inexpensive, but students can do many things at home with some parental guidance. If that is not an option, videotape yourself conducting the experiment at your home for student to observe. Better yet do it live so students can ask questions in real time. Another option are simulations such as PhET science page where students can play around virtually.


Like experiments, this is a great option to get students away from screens. Assign them tasks such as going out side and looking for living vs. non living things. They could be watching animals/insects in their neighborhood. Students could count traffic, notice Covid adaptations in their community, or document whether or not people are social distancing. Teaching students to have a keen eye for what is going on around them and then learning to interpret it is research too!

What other ways are you having students inquire remotely?

Questions? Interested in a PBL workshop or consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele on Twitter.

7 Remote Entry Events in PBL

This is the first of a series of posts about what Project Based Learning infused with Social and Emotional Learning looks like when teaching remotely. Is it the ideal situation? Probably not, but it is the reality that many of us are dealing with. I will share my ideas and what others are doing to hopefully inspire you to action.

Entry Events

Every project should begin with an entry event to prime the learner’s pump. We want to activate the prior learning inside of our students to launch the project. We also want to get kids excited about the topic that we are about to study. Entry events are a “hook” to the content that is coming and preemptively answer the age-old student complaint, “Why do we have to learn this?”

A good entry event captures both heads and hearts. An interesting problem creates cognitive dissonance while an empathetic situation generates an emotional perspective to the issue at hand. Different students will react more strongly to each, so including both engages more students into the project. Finally, the entry event should connect the content to the community and the final product.

One of my favorite entry event videos is posted below. Watch, laugh, and enjoy the plot twist. But then ask yourself, “What is the final product and community connection?”

Hopefully these teachers did more than just this simulation, but also tied this into a larger purpose. Sometimes rather than being a single experience, entry events are multiple activities that build upon each other to a culminating call to action.

Historically, by which I mean before Covid, entry events included things like simulations, inspiring videos, field work, guest speakers, a controversial article, open-ended science experiments, or a puzzling problem. Many of the best entry events require interactions between student and the community. So how can you launch an engaging project online? Here’s some ideas to consider:

Videos with Back Channel Discussion

Obviously, videos still work in remote learning, but just dropping a video into your LMS feed for students to watch whenever they feel like it, isn’t going to cut it. Make it an event. Schedule a time to watch the video together in live time. Have students active in a chat reacting to it as they watch. Show multiple short videos around a theme. Use videos from various platforms like TicTok, news clips, interviews, or science clips, not just movies or YouTube. Share videos of diverse people reacting to your topic to give them multiple perspectives.

It is important to set the stage. If you just show a video without any background, students may not react much. Instead hype it up by telling students we about to launch a huge project to set up the video before viewing it. Your enthusiasm toward the project launch goes a long way in selling the value of what you are about to embark on.

Video Conference Guests

Many teachers are using video conferencing to invite in guest speakers. One benefit of social distancing is that many adults are working from home and it is actually easier for them to commit to sharing with your class. They don’t need to take time off from their job or travel, but can easily join you for a few minutes.

Guest speakers don’t need to be national scientists or famous leaders. Your local healthcare worker or government official are more accessible and connect the project to your local community. Having trouble finding someone? Ask your students’ parents to contribute personally or if they have a connection in the field related to your project. Many teachers are uncomfortable with networking, but reaching out is a risk worth taking to move your project to the next level.

Virtual Field Trips

I don’t think anyone is scheduling field trips this year. The risks and safety protocols are too big of an obstacle. I prefer the term, field work, which implies that there is a purpose and task to be completed related to the project. But in lieu of physical trips there are hundreds of online options from virtual museums, webcams, or other virtual trips such as Google Expeditions.

Teacher Field Work

Another option is to do the field work yourself. My friend, Sarah Smith and her team go on a trip themselves, interview people, collect data and information for the project. They record their field work and edit it to present to students the information. Is this better than students doing it? No, but it is better than no trip at all. Personally I love this idea!

Home Field Work

Field work can be done at home. Tell students to go outside and collect bugs, leaves, water samples, or whatever else that you are studying. Have them observe patterns in their neighborhood or at the store (if they go). Assign data collection of how much time they sleep, read, exercise, and are online. This kind of field work is personal and relevant. Bonus: you can get them off from their devices and active.


We may not be gathering with loved ones over the holidays as the virus is spiking, but a phone call or video conference with family members is a great opportunity to interview them to get their perspective on a historical event, current event, or cultural viewpoints. Tying content into family history is a powerful way to make it relevant. When students share different viewpoints with each other they can learn to appreciate other perspectives.

Virtual Simulations

Run a virtual experiment or record yourself in a science lab. Use a popular game like Minecraft or Among Us as the launching point. Ask students to design their own (safe!) experiments at home with adult supervision. Have them investigate scientific phenomenon themselves.

No matter what option or combination of options, you choose, an engaging entry event is critical for student buy-in to the project. Few of us consider remote learning ideal, but we can still engage students in relevant work with a little creative thinking.

Questions? Interested in SEL and PBL workshops or consulting?  Connect with me at  michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele.