Project/Problem Based Learning (PBL) and Wireless

Project/Problem Based Learning (PBL) and Wireless

By Tom Carpenter On 06/21/2020

PBL is a learning model that has been around since the late 1800s. In this brief post, I will explain how you might choose to use it when studying for CWNP certifications or learning any other wireless technologies you desire to learn.T

Project/Problem Based Learning (PBL) is definitely not the new kid on the block. As best as we can determine, John Dewey was the first to propose its core concepts in 1897 in a paper titled My Pedagogic Creed in The School Journal, January 1897. While not referencing PBL directly, he put forth the idea that the best education is based on action and not simply conceptual learning. Over time, this concept evolved into PBL, which began in common practice in medical education in the 80s and 90s and has been adopted into many other learning disciplines. According to The Wiley Handbook of Problem-Based Learning, "the consensus tends to be that the method was born at McMaster University in 1969, and that the ideas underpinning this program were in some way linked to the writings of the American philosopher John Dewey."

PBL is defined asĀ a pedagogical system used in tertiary education both undergraduate and graduate, particularly in medicine but also in fields as diverse as law, engineering, psychology, and liberal arts. The basic principles of this method are the use of realistic problems as the starting point of self-directed, small-group-based learning guided by a tutor who acts as a process guide rather than a point of knowledge transfer. (The Wiley Handbook of Problem-Based Learning, First Edition, 2019)

To simplify, PBL is a learning model that begins with a problem, passes through learning and discussion, and ends with a solution. For example, the problem might be the need for a wireless link that spans 300 meters and the desire to implement it with inexpensive devices. After some thought, research and learning, you may determine to implement the link using two Raspberry Pi 4 devices with each Ethernet port connected to a switch and each device communicating with the other to form a bridge across the built-in 802.11ac chipset. During testing of your solution, you may determine that improved antennas must be used and so you modify it in the process. By working through this real-world scenario, you learn about several things:

  • The capabilities of single board computers
  • The limitations on range with on board antennas
  • Linux operating system concepts
  • Bridging concepts
  • Power provisioning

And this is just a starter list. If you really want to master wireless, you can use these same devices to solve a myriad of problems like how to build a Bluetooth mesh, or how to implement a LoRaWAN link, or how to use ZigBee. Of course, you may need different modules to accomplish it, but the point is that through implementation of projects that solve real-world problems you are learning how the technologies work.

Short word for this? Lab! That's what we certification junkies usually call it. I cannot recommed strongly enough that you gain experience in the lab with actual wireless gear to truly master the technologies. There is so much that can only be learned by doing!

The difference between PBL and "labbing?" Simply. Most people just go into their lab and do things - anything - whatever comes to mind. This will not get you the same results as organized PBL. Define a problem, research solutions, and solve it. You will be amazed how much and how quickly you learn.

Tagged with: PBL, project based learning, problem based learning, labs
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