Project-based learning is focused on research, planning problem-solving, authenticity, and inquiry. Collaboration, resourcefulness, and networking matter too–dozens of characteristics “fit” into project-based learning. Among other characteristics, its popularity comes from its general flexibility as a curriculum framework. Within the context of a well-designed project, you can do, teach, assess, and connect almost anything. The following might be useful if we had to settle on a handful of itemized characteristics for modern, connected, possibly place-based, and often digital project-based learning.
Connectedness, connectivity or interdependence – however you want to phrase it, the idea is, what does this project connect to? A community, hope, app, existing project already in place, social challenge, some kind of conflict or something downright unsolvable? Students can then identify a proper to scale to work within through connectedness.
Meaning is always first personal, academic comes later. It requires authentic audiences, purposes, and collaboration occurs in real, intimate communities that share history, space, and meaning with learners.
Diversity can be purpose, scale, audience, digital media, potential resources, existing models, related projects etc. and requires an analysis of these kinds of diversities on the part of the project manager–that is, the student. This can also be a matter of differentiation like less diversity and inherent complexity for students struggling with certain strands of project-based learning as a kind of set of training wheels until they get their balance. Add it right back in when they do.