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If this was the year you decided to give project-based learning (PBL) a try, you might need to catch your breath. Guiding students through a project experience can be demanding, especially when you’re also building your own toolkit of PBL strategies.

After the student experience is a wrap, invest time to reflect on your own learning as a PBL designer and facilitator. What were the bright spots of the project? Have you asked students for feedback? What will they remember most about their learning experience? What seemed hardest for them? Were they engaged all the way through? If not, can you pinpoint when and why their interest waned? Were you able to scaffold the experience so that all learners could be successful? What would you change if you were to do this project again?

So go ahead and take a well-deserved breather. But don’t put away those project artifacts and journals just yet.

Questions like these can set the stage for productive project remodeling. You might want to tackle a remodel on your own this summer or, better yet, team up with colleagues. With deliberate adjustments in your project plan, you can iterate on your design and guide students toward even better outcomes next time around.

Newcomers to PBL aren’t the only ones who invest in project remodeling. Veteran PBL teachers often challenge themselves and their students to take bigger risks, think more critically, and learn more deeply in their next projects. Here are two resources to inspire you as you tackle project remodeling this summer.

Artful Teaching

Raleigh Werberger is no newcomer to PBL. Currently dean of students at Darrow School in New York, he designed successful interdisciplinary projects as a high school teacher in Hawaii. (Read his blog post, “Using Entrepreneurship to Transform Student Work,” about a previous project.)

That doesn’t mean he has all the answers about how to create experiences that put students in the driver’s seat of their own learning. His PBL reflections caused him to ask tough questions: What’s the right line between teacher direction and student freedom? Is it OK for students to swerve toward new questions – unanticipated by the teacher – that grab their curiosity? How open is too open?

In true PBL style, Werberger designed a project to help him discover the answers with his students. He and his ninth-grade students at Darrow School spent an entire school year on an interdisciplinary project about fast food. They didn’t just study fast food as a way to understand global economics, agricultural practices, marketing, or health. They recreated their own version of the McDonald’s Happy Meal by hand-raising livestock, growing crops, making paper for packaging, and serving lunch to a community gathering while curating the whole learning experience with an artist’s sensibility.

Werberger has documented the project in a provocative book, From Project-Based Learning to Artistic Thinking: Lessons Learned from Creating an Un-Happy Meal.

To be honest, few teachers – or schools – are going to be in a position to tackle such an ambitious, immersive, open-ended project. But the questions Werberger explores, and the documentation he shares – from his own journal and his students’ blogs – are worth careful consideration by anyone interested in maximizing the opportunities of PBL and its close cousin, design thinking.

Teachers wondering how to facilitate student-driven learning will find a good role model. For example, Werberger writes, “I cast myself as a learner first, and we all worked together on the problem of how not just to make this food, but how to give it meaning, and then how to tell you about it.”

A key design decision was to have students approach the project as artists. Werberger didn’t want to treat art as an add-on to the project, but rather to have students “consider art as a form of thinking. Artists ask, ‘How does this affect me? How can I explain what I see to others?’ The work that is created is an attempt to explore these questions, not to answer them.”

Although the Un-Happy Meal Project takes open-ended learning to an extreme, students are not just set adrift. From project launch to their final exhibition, we can see the teacher artfully guiding and scaffolding the learning experience. Werberger describes in detail how he built a classroom culture of peer critique. He shares the prompts he used to get students to assess their own growth. Even when students are working on disparate tasks, they move to familiar rhythms because of established classroom routines. As he explains:

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Avira Prime For Windows Review: Comprehensive, User

Pros

Strong security with a reasonable subscription price.

Well designed and user-friendly.

Offers a host of features in the areas of security, privacy, and performance. 

Cons

No subscription option for fewer than five devices.

Our Verdict

Avira Prime for Windows is an inclusive and effective security product offering protection against malware, outdated software and drivers, suspicious network traffic, weak passwords, browser-based tracking, and identity theft, among other risks.

Best Prices Today: Avira Prime

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Price

Avira Operations GmbH

$59.99

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To provide thorough protection, today’s security products must do more than just scan for viruses and malware. They need to check for harmful internet traffic, intrusive browser tracking, privacy issues, outdated software, and weak passwords, among other items. One product providing all that and more is Avira Prime for Windows.

Designed for all supported versions of Windows, Avira Prime packs a lot into one program. Under the banner of security, the software includes the usual virus protection but throws in a software updater and a firewall. In the area of privacy, Avira Prime provides a file shredder, an identity-theft monitor, a password manager, and an online tracking blocker. And to help boost your PC’s performance, the program offers a driver updater, a battery saver, a duplicate file finder, a disk space optimizer, and a few other tricks.

Future reading: See our roundup of the best antivirus for Windows PCs to learn about competing products.

Avira Prime installation

Installing Avira Prime is quick and simple, with just a small status window showing you the progress. After the installation is done, the program prompts you to run a smart scan to look for a variety of potential problems, including viruses, privacy concerns, performance obstacles, and outdated apps. Upon checking your system, the scan alerts you to any issues. From here, you can view more details on the issues and select the ones you want automatically fixed.

Avira Prime features

The main dashboard is well designed, organizing its tools into three different categories—Security, Privacy, and Performance. Beyond running the smart scan, you can easily drill down to each category and tool.

Security options

Under Security, the virus protection offers a few different types of scans. A full scan checks your entire PC, either immediately or at a scheduled frequency—daily, weekly, or monthly. A quick scan checks only certain folders and vulnerable areas immediately or at a scheduled day and time. You can also create a custom scan in which you choose the folders and the frequency. With a full or custom scan, you’re able to specify whether malicious files should be quarantined, deleted, or ignored.

Naturally, Avira Prime offers real-time scanning with three options enabled by default. The virus protection prevents malware from trying to infect and modify files on your computer. The web-based protection tries to defend you from online threats. And the ransomware protection aims to prevent hackers from locking your device or encrypting your files.

Also under security is a software updater, which scans your PC for outdated applications and can automatically update them. Additionally, a firewall attempts to block malicious or suspicious apps and other activity coming through your network. You have full control over the firewall, so you can modify existing rules to allow or block specific processes, add new rules, or turn off the firewall completely.

The security area offers tools for virus protection, a software updater, and a firewall.

Avira

Privacy options

In the area of privacy, the Avira Safe Shopping extension works with all the major browsers to keep you away from malicious sites and prevent tracking by ad networks. A built-in VPN lets you choose different locations around the world through which you can securely route web traffic. You’re able to keep the VPN on all the time or just for certain Wi-Fi networks. Next on the list is a file shredder that will permanently delete files, thus making it harder for anyone to recover them.

The built-in password manager requires that you set up an account and a master password with Avira and install the required extension in Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, and/or Firefox. From there, Avira will suggest and save a strong password when you create a new account and automatically enter the credentials when you need to sign in. The password manager is also available as a mobile app for iOS/iPadOS and Android.

Another privacy tool is an identity assistant. If enabled, this one will monitor your email address for Dark Web activity and alert you if any of your personal data has been compromised. As the icing on the cake, a privacy settings tool gathers all the Windows privacy options in a single place so you can easily manage each one. You can even choose a predefined level of privacy, and the program will apply it for you.

In the privacy area are a web tracking blocker, VPN, password manger, file shredder, and identity assistant.

Avira

Performance options

A duplicate-file finder scours your PC for duplicate files and removes any you don’t need. A game booster aims to optimize your PC if you’re playing a full-screen game that needs more CPU, memory, and video resources. Further, the startup optimizer looks for apps and other items that can be removed from your startup routine, while a hyper-boost option analyzes and tries to shorten your startup time.

Under performance are a space optimizer, battery saver, driver updater, and more.

Avira

To cap off all the features, Avira Prime provides a detailed Settings menu where you control key options for the three different categories. There’s also an online dashboard that shows you all the devices on which Avira Prime is installed along with access to the built-in tools, links to helpful tips and documents, and a page for customer support.

What is Avira Prime’s performance impact?

To gauge the impact of Avira Prime on PC performance, I ran before and after benchmarking tests using the PC Mark, 3D Mark, and Procyon benchmark programs. The results showed just a minor impact on performance with Avira Prime installed, indicating that the software doesn’t hog your system resources.

Trying to access the different test files from the EICAR testing site prompted the software to flag the files themselves as unsafe, preventing me from downloading them directly. I was able to download the two EICAR zip files, but when I tried to extract them, Avira blocked and quarantined them as potential threats.

AV-Test reviews throughout 2023 awarded Avira Internet Security top marks for protection, performance, and usability. Older reviews from 2023 and earlier gave Avira Antivirus Pro high grades in the same areas. Reports from AV Comparatives in 2023 awarded Avira Prime stellar grades for protection and performance.

Is Avira Prime worth it?

Avira Prime offers not only effective malware defenses but a host of other tools designed to protect you from both online and offline threats. In spite of all its features, the program is well designed and easy to use. For those reasons, Avira Prime is well worth the subscription price.

Editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, our reviews are subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the services.

Project Cars 3 Has Been Announced For This Summer

Project Cars is a series that will be no stranger to our racing sim fans reading – and now they have something to be excited about this Summer, with the announcement that Project Cars 3 will be released this Summer.

Loved for its realistic physics and graphics, Project Cars has quickly established itself in a genre that was already pretty chocked full of popular racing games, and the third title from the modern racing sim promises to deliver a little more, and something a little different to fans of the series this time around.

The biggest announcement to come from Project Cars 3 is that in this sequel players will be able to upgrade their cars right from the beginning of the game – a feature that has been sorely missing from the prequels of this game. Sure, we have been able to marginally tinker with a car’s overall performance in Project Cars, but now the developers are promising radical performance customization with upgrade paths that include the likes of engine types, exhausts, suspension, chassis upgrades and so on, so that your car becomes much more personalized to your play style, rather than having to adapt to a set driving style.

This also means that players can expect to take their car from the beginning of the game’s career mode right through to its end if they so choose, by making upgrades and improvements to their vehicle via the in-game progression system – which has been very important to the games developers since the beginning of the game, with a player’s sense of accomplishment and progression integral to their vision of how players will enjoy the game (no Battlefront 2 jokes please).

Speaking of career mode, players can expect to find a brand new career mode in the game as well, where they will have to progress through ten different classes of cars (where they will be earning the different upgrade options as well as XP), which will be raced through all sorts of different events.

Don’t feel like playing a certain type of race or event? Don’t worry, the developers have put a new system into Project Cars 3 that will allow players to skip the levels they don’t enjoy by spending in-game currency – something the developers were very quick to point out is solely in-game currency, and not fed by microtransactions.

It’s not just career mode that players are going to be able to earn XP in either – playing competitive multiplayer will also yield rewards, and even placing in a race will payout, but obviously the higher you place, the more you earn. And, before you ask, yes – you can use your upgraded vehicles in multiplayer, so now you can be sure the car that is perfect for your driving style is ready to use even in competitive arenas.

If you are more interested in the multiplayer aspects of the game rather than the career mode, you will be interested to learn there are now three different ways to enjoy it in Project Cars 3 (how suitable). Quickplay is just that, it will put you in a race based on skill-based matchmaking, whereas the Scheduled Event game mode is a much more formal affair featuring races and events from the developer rather than the quick fix action that quick play offers. And yes, there will be the Custom Lobby as well, which will offer the same kind of player-inspired fun that Project Cars fans love, with customizable tracks, weather, cars, and more so that you can enjoy whatever kind of race you want with your friends online.

The games usability has also been refined as well, with brand new camera shake, motion blur and post-processing effects in place to enhance the experience of Project Cars 3 – all alongside an upgrade of the games AI and a reshuffle of the games controller mapping to make the game just that little bit more enjoyable in single-player mode.

Whether or not these changes are going to totally change the way fans enjoy the way they play Project Cars remains to be seen – but we do know that if the series famous realistic gameplay ties in with all of these different upgrade options that Slightly Mad Studios (the developer of the game) are offering, then we could have a very special racing sim in our hands, scheduled to release in the not too distant future – this Summer.

Disrupt Or Be Disrupted – Why Now Is The Time For B2B Ecommerce

In a world where digital adoption is skyrocketing, even the most traditionally manual tasks can be done online.

Image source: Getty Images

From banking and paying bills, to ordering meals and travelling, just about anything can be booked and paid for from just about any device with an internet connection. However, when it comes to B2B sales, the pace of digital adoption has been lagging. But that’s about to change.

B2B eCommerce has already started transforming the way businesses make sales. Following a massive spike in consumer online shopping behaviour, business owners now want to be able to order stock with the same ease they make online purchases in their personal lives. Traditional business sales methods are fast becoming obsolete – which means that for those B2B businesses who aren’t already selling online, they need to act now or risk being left behind.

Changing purchasing trends

Although the retail landscape has been changing for some time, the pandemic accelerated the growth of online sales at an unprecedented rate – Australia Post’s 2023 eCommerce industry report cited a staggering 57% YOY growth of online purchases. But it’s not simply that consumers are shopping online – their overall purchasing behaviours have changed. More than ever before, consumers are choosing to buy from brands directly, while online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay further add to the competition. The landscape has changed so swiftly, that some long standing businesses didn’t realise they were losing customers until they were already gone. And a similar change is imminent in the B2B space.

As digital interactions between buyers and suppliers increase, it’s expected that this will break traditional B2B sales models. In fact, research from Gartner shows that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions will occur in digital channels; a change driven by the fact that 33% of all buyers desire a seller-free sales experience. Quite simply, the traditional methods of catalogues and sales reps have become antiquated in a world where people can buy what they want, when they want, from any device. A digital B2B sales channel is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s an absolute necessity for companies wanting to stay in business.

Casting a wider net

While the limited resources associated with more traditional sales methods means efforts should be focused on targeting the biggest customers, when a business moves to online sales, this is no longer the case. By adding a digital sales platform, businesses are able to sell to thousands of smaller businesses they wouldn’t have had the resources to target earlier. Pharmaceutical brands who’ve traditionally only sold to major pharmacy chains can open up to independent chemists; car parts manufacturers can stock independent garages all over the country – going digital means having the ability to sell to an endless number of new customers, and the opportunity to significantly increase revenue.

Additionally, with two thirds of consumers now purchasing directly from brands, another avenue for B2B businesses to explore is selling direct to consumer (DTC). Once a B2B eCommerce platform has been built, it’s quite simple to create a consumer-facing version which feeds into the same back end, providing further opportunities for growth. Of course, adding a DTC channel is not without its challenges – there’s additional pressure on warehouse logistics to consider; dealing directly with customers requires a dedicated customer service team; and there’s a very fine line to walk in order to manage channel conflicts. However, in addition to adding B2B eCommerce strategy, DTC is another lucrative option consider.

The time is now

Every business is unique, which means an out-of-the-box solution isn’t going to cut it for B2B eCommerce. And it’s important to understand that finding the right solution takes time – it can take years between creating a prototype and testing to perfect and get it right. This is why it’s important to start sooner, rather than later.

Right now, we are on the cusp of radical transformation in the B2B space. B2B buyer behaviours are already starting to shift, closely following in the footsteps of consumer buyer behaviour. In order for Australian B2B companies to survive and thrive in an increasingly digital world, digital must become part of the organisation’s core focus. Because in five to ten years’ from now, only the businesses who went digital today, will be the ones still left standing.

James Horne is CEO of Balance Internet and a digital commerce innovator and thought leader with a passion for driving business success from digital commerce ecosystems. Find out more at Balance Internet

Keeping Time: Music Is A Core Subject

Music, in its purest form, encompasses the very ideals that we want to impart to our children. Let us consider a few. Because music makes abstract thought concrete, it forces us to develop several important cognitive functions.

The first is memory. Musicians must memorize not only the melody of a piece but also the individual notes that make it up. Within that, music teaches us the language of expression. You and I and Martin Luther King Jr. could read the exact same speech and it wouldn’t sound the same. The words are the same, of course, but why is it that Dr. King’s voice and tone carried something beyond the words? It’s the expressiveness of the performance. Similarly, three people playing a trumpet don’t sound the same. They can play the same note or melody, but only some trumpet players have a feeling that touches our heart.

Music also teaches us how to get along with others. Consider the music I love: jazz. Each member of the group can improvise, but none of it works — for a soloist or an ensemble — if the musicians do not play in balance. If the drummer, who plays the loudest instrument, decides he wants to be much louder than the bassist, who has the softest instrument, you’re going to have discord. This group dynamic teaches the importance of choice, and many choices require some form of sacrifice. You must listen. You must have a conversation. The group must work together to achieve its goals.

Jazz, in many ways, embodies our core democratic principles. The motto of the United States is “E Pluribus Unum” — Out of Many, One. Likewise, in music we celebrate the skills of the individual, as well as the strength of the group. Playing music also allows us to interact with some of our greatest artistic minds. When you perform the music of Charlie Parker or Leonard Bernstein, you understand their world. With each song, we get a glimpse of the intellectual life contained within the artistic statement.

Today, I still get special joy from instructing children. I try to show them the many lessons of good musical craftsmanship, particularly because I feel that so little good music is available to them. The music our children hear on the radio may feel good, like a candy bar feels good, but it has no nutrition. We exploit their budding sexuality. We exploit their lack of sophistication. We equate decadence with hipness. We give them cleavage and the same beat on every song, almost as if we were going back to the plantation. We treat our children as a marketing segment, and it’s embarrassing. But it is not our children who are at fault. We are.

Music must remain a core part of the teaching curriculum. Every school should have an orchestra, and it should play the music of this country — Duke Ellington, Aaron Copland, William Grant Still. We should have jazz ensembles in our middle schools and blues bands in our high schools. As adults, we need to say, “This is the America we know and love.” Education works on many levels. It must inform and excite the mind, as well as nourish the spirit. Music is a key part of that education.

Wynton Marsalis is the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and winner of a Pulitzer Prize in music for his work Blood on the Fields.

Using Pbl To Boost Online Engagement

When teaching in challenging times like these, it’s easy to get so mired in the day-to-day minutiae of making online learning work that you can lose sight of how important fun is to learning. Not only does fun build engagement in remote environments, but it alleviates some of the trauma experienced by kids this year.

Based on my experience as a seventh-grade teacher and now as a professor of education, I believe that project-based learning (PBL)—often a key strategy in physical classrooms—can be a critical component of rigorous online learning, and to turning frowns upside down.

Authentic learning does not need to stop just because students are learning from home. In fact, the current situation gives us a great opportunity to show students why what we are teaching them matters and how authentic learning connects to real-world problems. PBL is a great way to facilitate this understanding—and it takes just a few steps to facilitate active, engaging lessons in the online setting.

How the Driving Question Helps

Driving questions are core to project-based learning, and there’s no reason why they can’t work in a virtual environment. Think of a driving question as one that gets students engaged and active. Don’t think “what,” think “how.” For example, if you’re a science teacher discussing ocean pollution, rather than asking, “What are three main elements contributing to ocean pollution?” (yawn), you could ask, “How would you solve the problem of ocean pollution?” Chances are, then you will see the brain engines start to rev with possibilities.

Send Students on a Quest

From there, you’d send students on a quest to find answers, perhaps with the prompt “Come up with a three-step solution to one aspect of ocean pollution.” The original “how” question has gotten their brains going, and the solution assignment unleashes their problem-solving skills, increasing their engagement. Once they’re on that path to discovery, they will start to have fun.

There are many ways you can help students on their quest for information. A few ideas:

Invite guest speakers whom they can interview during synchronous class time.

Share guiding questions through your learning management system (e.g., Google Classroom) to help focus their thinking and websites that they can use to help find the answer.

Create a virtual “escape room” where teams of students complete puzzles and solve riddles to help guide their research and​ ​increase focus.

The quest can be done at any age. You can guide younger students with more specific focusing questions and specific websites or videos when you include the links. For older students, point them in a general direction and let them run. Freedom to innovate is one of the hallmarks of invention, after all.

Offer Students Choices

In her theory of differentiated instruction, University of Virginia professor of education Carol Ann Tomlinson asserts that because students learn at different speeds and can vary dramatically in terms of their learning styles, teachers need to create learning environments and approaches that reflect those variations. Yet so often we teach one lesson with one assessment.

Project-based learning is an ideal solution to that challenge: It’s up to the students to showcase their best idea in the best format for them. So, if we return to solving the problem of ocean pollution, some students might invent a machine, others might create a documentary in which they highlight problems and solutions, and still others might write a paper explaining their ideas. They are all answering the driving question, in their own way.

The beauty of this aspect of PBL is that students are engaged and excited; they want to go on a quest to find the best answer, and they want to solve the problem. They are highly motivated to turn in their best work.

I have found that PBL, with a little practice, is highly engaging to teach, as well as a highly engaging format in which to learn. I always tell my education students, “If you’re not having fun, neither are your students.” In my years of using PBL, I have been astounded by the creativity of my students. The future generation is bright and imaginative. Using project-based learning to teach, including online, opens the doors of students’ minds to their own strengths and interests, allowing them to soar, even in a difficult learning environment.

Tips for Success

Administrators: In the scramble to provide educators with curriculum during this crazy season, do not take away their ability to engage students. So many of the online curricula being used cover standards but do not create students who love to learn. Give your teachers permission to be creative.

Teachers: Be organized. If supplies are needed, get that information to parents at least a week ahead of time, and share with them an overview of the week you are infusing your instruction with remote project-based learning approaches. Tell them to be patient and emphasize that project-based learning will likely engage their child in online instruction. While some may balk initially at having to get supplies, in the end they will be thankful because their child actually wants to do the required assignments.

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