New Literacies and Project-Based Inquiry: Collaborating Locally and Globally

Dr. Hiller A. Spires, Professor

North Carolina State University

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
T. S. Eliot

How Do You Collaborate & Problem Solve? - 30 minutes

You will participate in the Marshmallow Design Challenge as a way to think about how you collaborate and problem solve.
After the challenge, we will view

Overview of Project-Based Inquiry - 30 minutes

Bridging our Future:

7th grade science student project:

Assignment for Collaborative PBI - 30 minutes

Step 1:
In today's session, we will address the overall question: How has the US government recently intervened in or influenced international crises?
To answer this overall question, I have provided a subquestion for each table to address:
  • Table 1: How has the US government intervened in the Syrian crisis?
  • Table 2: How has the US government intervened in the Ukraine/Russian crisis?
  • Table 3: How has the US government intervened in the genocide crisis in Darfur?

Each table will engage in the PBI process: 1) Gather & Analyze Information, 2) Creatively Synthesize Information, 3) Critically Evaluate & Revise, 4) Publish & Share. Represent and communicate your constructed answer in a creative way using a video camera. Your project product should be between 1-2 minutes in length.

Step 2:
In your group, each member actively works to create the final product. Additionally, each of you will select a role to play during the PBI activity:
  • Facilitator/Time Keeper - Guide the group to complete the process and collaboratively answer their question within the designated time frame.
  • Provocateur - Help provoke the group to think deeper about what they are learning. Prompt the group to critically evaluate their product.
  • Scriptwriter - Take the lead in creating the group's constructed response using a storyboarding process.
  • Reporter - Share information visually and verbally with the larger group. (After you create a video, upload it to Youtube or Vimeo. Tweet out your project url to #newlit)

Step 3:
You have 30 minutes to complete Steps 1 - 2 and tweet out a project url to #newlit.
Use the following pages as your design space:

CA Table 1
CA Table 2
CA Table 3

Showcase & Debriefing - 20 minutes

Share your projects with the whole group.
Debrief by addressing the following questions:
  • What did you learn?
  • What were you surprised about?
  • Did you collaborate effectively?
  • What was the quality of your work? What skills do you need to practice?
  • What would a creative synthesis of the multiple responses look like? (A creative synthesis is a representation of new knowledge that is constructed and demonstrates careful attention to how disparate elements fit into a cohesive whole).
  • How might you use the PBI process to teach content in your classes? How might you have your students use this process to collaborate globally?
  • How might you design a PBI experience considering depth, complexity, and duration of learning?

Conclusion - 10 minutes

Going Forward: Tips for PBI implementation:
  • Provide multiple opportunities for students to discuss, analyze, and reflect on learning experiences; they are more likely to transfer new knowledge & skills.
  • Provide differentiated support based on student needs. Remember it's ok for students to grapple and struggle--that's how they develop new ways of thinking.
  • Introduce complex concepts through planned mini-lessons or just-in-time instruction.
  • Don't dumb down the task. Challenge students to push beyond what they think they can do.
  • Formative Assessment - Provide feedback on early drafts and encourage multiple revisions towards a final product.
  • Assessment - Use a variety of methods including, self-evaluation, peer-evaluation, teacher evaluation, and outside experts.
Plus/Delta on Today's Meet: Go to
and add your feedback for today's session.

Additional Resources

Cinema Veriteen Student Work

Here is a rubric specifically designed for 8th grade media product that you might find useful as you develop you own rubrics.

Example of 8th grade media product from an ELA classroom. Click to play.

Example of a 7th grade collaborative student project: How does pollution affect humans and agriculture?


Great resources and videos about PBI can be found at Buck Institute for Education

Spires, H., Hervey, L., Morris, G., & Stelpflug, C. (2012). Energizing project-based inquiry: Middle grade students read, write, and create videos. //Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(6)//, 483-493.

Leu, D. J., Jr., Coiro, J., Castek, J., Hartman, D. K., Henry, L. A., & Reinking, D. (2008). In C. C. Block, S. Parris, and P. Afflerbach, (Eds.), Comprehension instruction: Research-based best practices (pp. 321-346). New York: Guilford Press.
Leu et al. - Teaching Internet Comprehension to Adolescents Checklist -

Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK)

Great clearing house for TPACK research and resources at
Spires, H.A., Hervey, L., & Watson, T. (in press). In C.A. Young & S. Kajder (Eds.).Research in English language arts and technology. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Press.

Andrea Gambino talks about New Literacies & Global Learning program at NC State University.

New Literacies Tools.