The aulABP, an environment where space and technology are at the service of the methodology

The aulABP's objective is to provide a pleasant environment where learning is simple and lasting. The pedagogical model that underlies this practice is reflected in the slogans of its logo: get involved, enjoy, collaborate… learn. What is the best place to work through Project Based Learning? We know the proposal developed at the INS Josep Vallverdú.

The aulABP, an environment where space and technology are at the service of the methodology

One of the first obstacles to be resolved when starting a methodological change in the teaching methodology and opting for project-based work is the one related to mobility difficulties posed by the learning scenario of a traditional classroom.

To overcome these architectural barriers, a group of teachers from the INS Josep Vallverdú, led by Technology teacher Francesc Solans, proposed to their students to work together on the design of the classroom environment, so that the space would be a learning tool capable of promoting and encouraging collaborative work.


Different aulABP workspaces

In the design, it was always kept in mind that the use of technology would have to be a basic element in the learning process. In the same way, it was thought that the project should be scalable and applicable in other classrooms of the school, as well as in other educational centres. The very choice of the name “aulABP” made clear the vision and mission that would be projected in the design of this space: a classroom designed especially for working with the Project Based Learning methodology.

The basic challenge of the aulABP project was to facilitate the acquisition and mastery of a series of learning and innovation competences, by putting them into practice, and not merely from a theoretical approach: to acquire and improve these “soft” competences through proactivity, by doing it. It has been shown that students learn best when they are encouraged to apply their knowledge, to share it, to get involved in the search for and selection of information, as well as helping them to adopt a critical attitude to guide their decision-making.

It was this conception of learning that was used to design the environment and which made it possible, once designed, for it to become the stage where students can dive freely into their learning process, always under the supervision of the teachers.

¿Cómo se trabaja en el aulABP?

In this space, students have all the resources at their disposal to decide, depending on the project or challenge in which they are participating: groupings, work place, digital tools, whiteboards, etc.

Activities can range from simple challenges – such as solving a group exercise at the table/whiteboard – to finding a need to fill with the design of a product that does not exist on the market – for example, the development of a new app. All this freedom is supervised, and sometimes guided, by the classroom teacher.

In order to promote student autonomy, the use of evaluation rubrics or work scripts is very common, which allow to monitor the tasks and the project as a whole. The end result is usually a product that is collaboratively produced and publicly displayed. It is common for the project to leave the classroom and have to be sold physically at a market or exhibited in a competition, defending its merits and competing with other projects from other schools. In relation to this, an important difference with respect to other methodologies is that students who work regularly in aulABP have other objectives in addition to their marks, and passing is not the only reason to focus their work and interest; this is how learning takes on a full meaning.

The aulABP, a benchmark inside and outside the school

The aulABP is currently used as a learning space for students aged 13-17 who are involved in research projects. It is a training resource available to all teachers at the centre who wish to work with PBL methodology and serves as a source of inspiration for more global projects carried out at the school, knowing that ordinary classrooms do not have the mobility and ICT resources that this classroom has.

At present, the aulABP has become an important benchmark for the population of Les Borges Blanques, province of Lleida, receiving full support from official bodies: City Council and County Council. The collaboration has reached such an extent that a project is being prepared together with the twinned town of Les Borges Blanques (Toluges – France). Based on the methodology and structure of the aulABP as a driving force for genuine social interaction, it will seek to promote students and teachers exchanges between the twin cities. Undoubtedly, the impact of the aulABP is multiplied considerably, since it not only affects the students who learn there and their families, but also all the citizens of the twinned cities. Education in capital letters!

What is the impact of the project?

We can describe the achievements and impact of the aulABP project at different levels.

At the social level, the aulABP has had a major impact. The official institutions have been involved in providing aid and recognition. The most visible form of this recognition is the fact that the aulABP is being used as an element to strengthen the twinning between Les Borges Blanques and Toluges (France).

The work carried out in the aulABP and its projects are achieving great prestige in the educational field. This is evidenced by the awards won in the framework of the mSchools project:

  • Winners of the mSchools App Adwards competition in the 2014 and 2015 editions.
  • First prize in the mSchools Adwards 2015, for the audiovisual presentation developed by students about what a classroom in the aulABP is like
  • Best classroom experience with mobile devices at Mobile Word Congress 2016

The aulABP activity has also had a positive impact on the school’s prestige at an institutional level, with frequent visits from management teams from other schools to see how the aulABP has been implemented, what methodology is used and its potential application in their schools.

Within the organisation itself, this project is the flagship of the pedagogical and methodological change that the school opted for nine years ago. This is the model for families to visualise the school project that INS Josep Vallverdú is committed to.

Focusing on the student body, the number of students choosing specific subjects in the area of technology has doubled in the three years of the project’s operation. At the end, the students commented that what they liked the most was how they learnt. They are aware that while what they have learned is important, the way in which they have done it is more important. They have been the ones who have made the effort and have been involved in the learning process, and the internalised competences will be useful in all areas of their future training.

At the level of assessable skills directly related to the area of Technology, the results are above the average for the autonomous community, and it is difficult to interpret the specific contribution of the aulABP to these results. In any case, regardless of the official tests, how this methodology works requires students to put into practice their mathematical, technological, ICT and language skills, and in a highly differentiated way, it promotes working on less developed skills in the curriculum, such as leadership, collaboration and critical spirit. These other competences are assessed, or rather visualised, when projects are carried out at school level, where students who have worked in the aulABP are automatically ready to play these key roles. This aspect has been clearly evidenced in the European ERASMUS+ #SICTEC project, in which the school is currently involved. After a face-to-face work meeting with students from five countries, it was found through anonymous responses to a form prepared by international teachers, that the aulABP group was the best rated, by far, in competences such as: use of ICT, group management, teamwork and involvement in the project.

The future of the aulABP is undoubtedly the driving force behind the methodological change of its school. After three years of work and experimentation, successes and mistakes, the teaching team involved in the project has identified, systematised and contrasted many best practices that can be easily transferred.

A teacher training plan is currently being developed to increase the number of teachers at school level who are encouraged to use the aulABP. Linked to this, an increase in the number of aulABP available in the school is also envisaged, and the best practices generated in this space are to be incorporated into the school’s global projects.

There is no doubt that the aulABP is radically changing the way the teaching community understands education, and this change is reinforced by the opinion of students and families. The best reward for the dedication of these teachers is to see happy students in the classroom, who learn, and who, when the course ends, confess that something new has germinated in them after enjoying the aulABP.

If you want to know more about this innovative experience, you can contact the teacher Francesc Solans by e-mail or twitter @solansf @aulabpborges

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