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When Scot Pankey, a theater teacher at A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School in Dallas, TX, released a video performance in January 2015 of Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” that featured more than 200 students, his YouTube video went viral -- and project-based learning (PBL) was placed in the education spotlight as a shining example of this collaborative, hands-on teaching method.

Project-based learning, a key component of deeper learning and frequently combined with blended learning, is “a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge.” A goal of project-based learning is to teach students “success skills” as well as “critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration and self-management. Ultimately, the results of these projects are made public, frequently in contests or, as in Pankey’s example, through social media.

We reported recently on the growing presence of social media in education as an effective means to communicate. We also recently reported on the push for STEM initiatives to help students become 21st century leaders. Project-based learning is clearly prevalent in this area as well. For example, the Haines Elementary School in Chicago, IL had eighth graders build solar-powered cars and homeless shelters this past 2014-15 school year.

Onvia has a large database of procurement activity and spending plans from more than 80,000 entities in the U.S. We decided to see if we could find evidence of project-based learning opportunities. According to Onvia’s Project Center, there are number of project-based learning bids & RFPs available in the education market. The projects cross a variety of industries, including professional services and construction for new, innovative schools:

 
Issued an RFP in April 2015 for providers of training and consultation to preschool teachers on the topic of project-based learning. It is expected that three to six classes about project-based learning will be provided to a group of Greenwich preschool teachers during the fall of 2015 or spring of 2016.
 
 
Issued an RFP in May 2015 for the Hamlin Middle School Replacement Project. The awarded vendor will design the new middle school to be STEAM focused, with a goal of project based learning supported by adaptive learning spaces. The school’s Media Center is to be “the heart of the school and the learning” and will support the project-based learning and STEAM curriculum to the fullest.
 
 
Issued a bid in May 2015 for the construction of the American Academy of Innovation, a free public charter school opening in the fall of 2016 in the Jordan School District. The academic program will focus on helping students prepare for success working in the global marketplace through project-based learning, development of CTE skills and mentoring through unique and innovative partnerships with international universities.
 

The Role of Technology in Project-Based Learning

Technology plays a large role in project-based learning. At Haines Elementary, each student had a Chromebook, allowing them to share documents and collaborate on projects even when they were not at school. What’s interesting is Chromebooks are on the rise in K-12 schools due to Common Core and in turn, Common Core adaptation is a driver for project-based learning. In a recent EdSource article, Katherine Ellison and Louis Freedberg write, “The Common Core standards include explicit expectations that students learn how to work together, acquire skills to solve real-world problems, and persist in doing so – all core components of project-based learning.”

Recent awards and active term contracts reflect the combination of technology products, services and learning management systems with curriculum and training to support and enhance project-based learning:

 
Awarded EdTechTeacher $13,285.50 in February 2015 for summer training workshops that include sessions on both integrating Chromebooks and project-based learning programs.
 
 
Awarded Instructure $197,730 in April 2015 for a learning management system and software for the Summer Extended Learning Programs that will provide students an opportunity to support their learning and increase motivation during the school year. Students will have access to enrichment topics, field trips, project-based learning, blended learning, hands-on activities and expert speakers.
 
 
Awarded edCount $5,378,107 for a multi-year contract ending in July 2017 for a “world-class K-6 curriculum” focused on the language arts with STEM and social studies connections that contains project-based learning. The curriculum is expected to use assessment and technology to deliver rigorous instruction tailored to meet a wide range of student needs.
 

5 Top Technology-Focused Vendors
Winning Contracts in the Public Sector:

Allegheny Educational Systems Instructure Scholastic Skillsoft Tech4learning

5 Top Professional/Educational Services Vendors
Winning Contracts in the Public Sector:

Buck Institute for Education
edtechteacher New Teacher Center Solution Tree Tech4learning

Project-Based Learning: Leading the Way in Upcoming School Years

The award-winning documentary, Most Likely to Succeed by filmmaker Greg Whitley reviews the history of U.S. education and takes a deep look into project-based learning - how it’s designed to prepare, inspire and provide the skills students need to thrive in an innovative economy. The film suggests this is the future of education. Onvia’s Spending Forecast Center supports this assumption. Looking into agency budgets and capital improvement plans, there are examples:

 
Includes $26,000 to be available for Schaefer Middle School teachers to obtain the needed classroom/instructional supplies who are “striving towards creating innovative, project-based learning experiences for their students.”
 
 
Includes $62,536 to add a “Project Based Learning Coach” for the middle schools. This position is necessary to support the acceleration of project-based learning. The coach will work directly with individual teachers, teacher teams, students, program coordinators, and principals to assist with the development, communication, and implementation of rigorous projects that help students learn key academic content and practice skills for a global society.
 
 
Includes increased funding for hardware and software that support the foundation of project-based learning in all middle schools including computers, iOS devices (in fixed or mobile labs and in the classroom) and cloud app tools for the purpose of integrating the essential 21st Century skills of critical thinking, problem solving, communications and collaboration in concert with Common Core State Standards.
 

Opportunity to Build a Project-Based Learning Contracting Pipeline

According to Deloitte, education in 2020 will be “unbundled, personalized and dynamic.” Project-based learning is part of this “new normal” and is growing in popularity in K-12 education. With project-based learning, the traditional classroom and an antiquated style of leader-based teaching are no more.

Project-based learning is leading the pack of innovative teaching methods in the public sector. Well-designed and well-implemented project-based learning makes the work arguably more personally meaningful to students and that inspires them to do well – all year round. If the goal of educators is to inspire K-12 students, create powerful learning experiences, compel them to be more confident, have nearly 100% continue on to higher education and provide them with essential real-world skills so they can be leaders in STEM, the arts and other professions, then project-based learning is one of the best options available.

Onvia’s suite of business tools can help vendors of project-based learning products and services find opportunities, identify the top buyers and top competitors, access upcoming expiring contracts and reveal future agency spending plans. With this intelligence, vendors can sell the products and services school districts need to best design, train, implement and maintain this important teaching method to prepare K-12 students for successful careers.