Place-based learning
Nov 20th, 2014 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Placed-based learning is a relatively new term in the inquiry-based learning literature. I am currently working with a student examining place-based education. Here is a brief excerpt from something that I recently wrote:

Place based education (PBE) and its conceptual model was first described in the literature by Smith in 2002. He suggested that that PBE manifests in five major ways: (a) cultural studies, (b) nature studies, (c) real-world problem solving, (d) internships and entrepreneurial opportunities, and (e) induction into community processes. Tying all of these processes together is the common thread of the concept of place (i.e., location) exercising a critical influence in the design, execution, and outcomes of curriculum and instruction. PBE finds its roots in the work of Dewey (1938), whose broader impact laid the foundation for inquiry learning.

Simply defined by Miriam-Webster (2014), inquiry is “the act of asking questions in order to gather or collect information” (para. 6). Inquiry also refers to activities of students in which they acquire knowledge and understanding of concepts, as well as problem-solving skills. High quality inquiry teaching and learning requires learning to do and learning about at the same time: knowledge, skills, and process are all linked (Shore, Birlean, Walker, Ritchie, LaBanca, & Aulls, 2009).


Habits of mind associated with inquiry learning include: asking questions, designing and conducting investigations, using relevant tools, techniques, and technology to gather information, determining relationships between evidence and explanations, analyzing alternative explanations, and communicating claims and findings (Bell, Smetana, & Binns, 2005). Educational benefits of the use of inquiry learning include improved higher order thinking skills (Mao & Chang, 1998; Smith, 1996), gains in student learning (Jackson & Ash, 2012; Kanter & Konstantopoulos, 2010; Shore, Aulls, & Delcourt, 2007; Shymansky, Hedges, & Woodworth, 1990) and increased engagement (Spronken-Smith, Walker, Batchelor, O’Steen, & Angelo, 2012; Summerlee & Murray, 2010). Because inquiry learning leads to development of imaginative, evidence-based explanations, students’ creative and problem solving skills are simultaneously developed (LaBanca & Delcourt, 2008; LaBanca & Ritchie, 2011).

In the classroom setting, inquiry instruction classically manifested in science instruction in the form of experiments and investigations (Llewellyn, 2013). However, as educators recognized the benefits to inquiry instruction across the disciplines, a broader use of projects emerged. Project-based learning is a comprehensive approach to instruction designed to engage students in the investigation of problems (Blumenfled, Soloway, Marx, Krajcik, Guzdial, & Palincsar, 1991). The necessary components of effective project-based learning are (a) a question that organizes or drives the activity; and (b) activities that result in authentic products and artifacts. Schneider, Krajcik, Marx, and Soloway (2002) and Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, and Chinn (2007) demonstrated that inquiry-rooted project-based work increases achievement.
PBE similarly utilizes an inquiry and project-based approach, however the context of projects are consistently rooted in the theme and location of the place. “Place-based education stands apart from project-based learning in that the community is often the project context of first choice. This feature enables students to pursue, with a passion, a project linked to their locality” (Lewicki, 2007, para. 3).


Bell, R. L., Smetana, L., and Binns, I. (2005). Simplifying inquiry instruction. The Science Teacher, 72(7), 30-33.
Blumenfeld, P. C., Soloway, E., Marx, R. W., Krajcik, J. S., Guzdial, M., & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning. Educational Psychologist, 26(3-4), 369-398.
Bruner, J. S. (1961). The act of discovery. Harvard Educational Review, 31, 21-32.
Dewey, J. (1938). Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.
Hmelo-Silver, C. E., Duncan, R. G., & Chinn, C. A. (2007). Scaffolding and achievement in problem-based and inquiry learning: A response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 99-107.
Jackson, J. K., & Ash, G. (2012). Science Achievement for All: Improving Science Performance and Closing Achievement Gaps. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 23(7), 723-744.
Kanter, D. E., & Konstantopoulos, S. (2010). The Impact of a Project-Based Science Curriculum on Minority Student Achievement, Attitudes, and Careers: The Effects of Teacher Content and Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Inquiry-Based Practices. Science Education, 94(5), 855-887.
LaBanca, F., & Ritchie, K. C. (2011). The art of scientific ideas: Teaching and learning strategies that promote effective problem finding. The Science Teacher, 78, 8, 48-51.
Lewicki, J. (2007). Place-based learning measures pp: Tips on local learning. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/place-based-learning-measures
Llewellyn, D. (2013). Inquire within. SAGE Publications.
Mao, S., & Chang, C. (1998). Impacts of an inquiry teaching method on Earth science students’ learning outcomes and attitudes at the secondary level. Proceedings of the National Science Council ROC (D), 8, 93-101.
Miriam-Webster, Inc. (2014). Inquiry. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inquiry
Schneider, R. M., Krajcik, J., Marx, R. W., & Soloway, E. (2002). Performance of students in project‐based science classrooms on a national measure of science achievement. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(5), 410-422.
Shore, B. M., Aulls, M. W., & Delcourt, M. A. B. (2007). Inquiry in education volume II: Overcoming barriers to successful implementation. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Shore, B. M., Birlean, C., Walker, C. L., Ritchie, K. C., LaBanca, F., & Aulls, M. W. (2009).
Shymansky, J.A., Hedges, L.V., & Woodworth, G. (1990). A reassessment of effects of inquiry-based science curriculum of the ’60s on student performance. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 27, 127-144.
Smith, D. (1996). A meta-analysis of student outcomes attributable to teaching science as inquiry as compared to traditional methodology. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Temple University, Philadelphia.
Smith, G. A. (2002). Place-Based Education: Learning To Be Where We Are. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(8), 584-594.
Spronken-Smith, R., Walker, R. Batchelor, J., O’Steen, B., & Angelo, T. (2012). Evaluating student perceptions of learning processes and intended learning outcomes under inquiry approaches. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 37(1), 57-72.
Summerlee, A., & Murray, J. (2010). The impact of enquiry-based learning on academic performance and student engagement. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 40(2), 78-94.

Moonshot Thinking
Jun 25th, 2014 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Check out this fantastic video about the concept of Moonshot Thinking


Google Teacher Academy #GTAATL
Jun 16th, 2014 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I am excited to be attending the Google Teacher Academy in Atlanta next week. HERE is info about the great the educators with whom I will be working.

Google FINAL

Setting the stage for BYOD
Jun 11th, 2014 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

In order to move to a 1:1 environment, I think Bring Your Own Device “BYOD” is critical because it allows you to leverage funds more effectively to get devices in the hands of ALL students.   Those that can provide, do; those who are unable, can use a device provided by the school.  To build capacity in my new school, we’ve presented this concept at parent “meet-and-greets,” student meetings, and school orientation.  To more widely distribute the information, I recently created a video with my colleagues.  We also created the following 1-pager.  We are well on our way to being the first school in our urban district that is 1:1.



GTA Innovative Ideas
Jun 5th, 2014 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I am attending the Google Teacher Academy in Atlanta later this month.  GTA has asked that if we have an innovative idea, we apply to present.  Here is my submission

  • Google Spreadsheets for real-time collaborative data collection.

When conducting experiments in a science environment there is often a great deal of experimental error associated with student data collection. This can lead to inappropriate conclusions or misunderstanding of science concepts or phenomena. One of the easy ways to remediate this is by collecting class data:  outlier data is averaged and balanced and students use more meaningful mathematical processes for analysis.  In the way-way past, this was done on the board.  We’d make a data table and students would fill in, then copy.  Once computers were more readily available, we would use a spreadsheet at a single station: students would come to the station, one group at a time and input their data.  We would then have one sheet that could be posted to the class website.  This process was still cumbersome.  With the advent of the Google Spreadsheet, it’s a totally different ball game.  Students can work simultaneously to input data and real-time progress monitoring can take place.  There are some key strategies to make it work effectively that I will discuss.

Google Teacher Academy
May 13th, 2014 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Google offers a teacher academy program across the country and the world.  I’ve applied for this round in Atlanta.  Part of the application required me to create a short (1 minute) video.  Here’s my submission:

Emerging Technology
May 3rd, 2014 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I (not-so-recently-ago) attended the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education Conference (Fall, 2013).  One session was about emerging technology.  As I was cleaning my laptop’s desktop, I came across these notes and decided to post them here:

Emerging Technology in Photonics

  • Solar electric – poor efficiency, needs energy storage (not developed for scale), no payback w/o subsidies
  • Organic LEDs – produced in a flexible film (like wallpaper), signs display
  • Fiber lasers – fiberoptics where the core is an active medium (broad light, gas discharge) over 35% efficient (100x lasers), generates >100KW, can probably knock missiles out of sky, low power requirements, lightweight, no cooling
  • Laser-assisted additive manufacturing – highly irregular shapes that can be created (related 3D printing)
  • Capsule Endoscopy – 1/2” capsule- swallow it – contains batteries LED, camera

Emerging ICT (information communication technologies) Technologies

  • Technology trigger, peak of inflated expectations, trough of disillusionment, slope of enlightenment, plateau of productivity
  • 2005 “triple play- phone, internet, cable), 2011 apps, 2015 – experience roaming – social circle, apps ecosystem, user data roaming (mobile me), service roaming, user interaction design, industrial design, brand

Emerging Tech in Biosciences

  • DNA sequencing – nanopore sequencing
  • Complex biomarkers and antibodies
  • Stem cell technologies (keep growing in “undecided” state)

Microchips 2020

  • Wearables – enabled by microchip technology
  • Semiconductor content in cars is $350/car and rising 70+chips and rising
  • Silicon wafer 450mm
  • Flexible displays
  • Smart cells – electronic cell that includes instruments

Deep Space

  • Space is not in limbo
  • Space launch system – multi-purpose crew vehicle to travel farther – first launch 2013
  • Reusable vehicles – scaled composites ShapeShip Two – SpaceX Grasshopper
  • Suborbital rocket planes – XCOR Lynx, Virgin Galactic, Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser, JetPacks
  • Space Station resupply – SpaceX Dragon, Orbatal Sciences Cygnus – commercial cargo ships
  • Getting Humans back to space – Bigelow Aerospace (provide modules that collapse and re-inflate (e.g., bio modules, hotels in space), Boeing CST-100 (up to 7 people)
  • 3D printing for space – create spare parts instead of having to carry them

Additive Manufacturing

  • joining materials to make objects from 3D model data
  • medical diagnostics
  • dentistry (small piece in office – caps produced)
  • paleontology
  • GIS survey
  • BOOTH 201

New Varieties as New Technologies (Grape Growing)

  • “No spray” fungicide resistance  (GMO or hybrid breeding)
  • NMR used in other areas – leverage existing technology
  • Applied research in climate change – “crop forcing” – prune vines and come back into June and do it again
  • Mitigating catastrophic diseases (Pierce’s Diesease)
  • Korvan 3016xl – vehicle for collecting data on soil quality (e.g., conductivity, compaction)

Nanotechnology (Nano-Link)

  • RustOleium NeverWet (superhydrophobicity) (Ross Nanotechnlogy) YouTube video 8M+ views http://youtu.be/DZrjXSsfxMQ
  • Carbon Nanotube Computer “CEDRIC”
  • Drug delivery – deliver without doing damage during transport – medicine in pores – then “cork” dissolves away, deodorant – releases when body temp increases

Ubiquity of Tech Innovation/ Entrepreneurship in Big Data

  • Health based on
  • Netflix series – take data on what you have clicks, people
  • Facebook – facial recognition, attributes
  • Project using facial recognition to ID art subjects, hospitality (in bars – facial recognition on patrons – let you decide where you want to go), facemate, retail – cameras – realtime demographics in store – lines moving fast enough, who is looking at products, how old are people in your store
  • Billboard – if you are female it shows you an ad, not – no ad – customizing ads
  • Peer-to-peer currency – Bitcoin
  • Crowdsourcing/Collaborative Consumption – waze – where the cops are on the road, lyft – friend gives you a ride, rent out your own car, parking at your house, collaborative laundry
  • Get Data? Use Data? Ethics?

McKenzie (Mitt Romney’s Consulting)

  • Disruptive technologies – Mobile devices #1, Big Data, Personalized Medicine, Batteries, Natural Gas – 4.4cents/KW hour
  • SMRs – small modular reactors (nuclear – tiny reactors – affordable to build make one, done, encapsulate in concrete
  • Fusion – medical isotopes – Taylor Wilson (14 yr old who built a reactor)



Moving on . . .
Feb 9th, 2014 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I recently accepted the position of Principal at a new magnet STEM and Global Studies middle school in Danbury CT:  The Exploration Academies at Mill Ridge.  As I was cleaning out my wears at EDUCATION CONNECTION, I came across my old conference badges.  I think they are such a nice representation of the work I did over the past 3.5 years.  They will be stored here, electronically, for posterity.

Learning from my students
Dec 7th, 2013 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I have been teaching a Quantitative and Qualitative course at WCSU this semester.  Per my usual practice, I ask students to comment on my posts on this blog.  To be quite honest, it becomes great professional development for me.  Reading their responses becomes so informative.  I might be getting more out of the exercise than they might!  Although I don’t post as often as I did years ago, I still find the opportunity to reflect here as a very important part of my professional growth. I want to thank my students for helping me!


Technology changes “note taking”
Nov 9th, 2013 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I am often still baffled at schools who have a “no tolerance” policy for the use of digital tools in the classroom.  No phones, no tablets, no nothing.  You might have been one of the 2M who saw the professor who indicated “No laptops in class.  Do I make myself clear?”

However times are changing.  In my current Stats class (practicing teachers/doctoral students), I often find the SmartBoard posing for pictures.  After modeling a procedure using software, notations and all, the students whip out their smartphones and click away.  It is a CLEVER documentation process as you get the WYSIWYG photo – students can reference the actual screen that they may encounter later on the computer and, as a fully annotated doc in context, it mayvery well make more sense than something documented on paper.

I think the important consideration is that when technology is used to ENHANCE learning, that’s a good thing, but when technology DISTRACTS you from learning, that’s the bad thing.  In a classroom with children who are still working on self-regulation, we may need to assist them.  But should we take away the potential benefits that technology offers to protect against potential problems.  I think it is better to deal with them as they come up and teach responsible citizenship.

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