MEASURABLE POSITIVE IMPACT (MPI) — A more useful metric for student projects

By Marc Prensky, Founder, The Two Billion Kids Project

MANY SCHOOLS ARE NOW HAVING THEIR STUDENTS DO “PROJECTS.” Such projects are of several sorts, ranging from “service projects” where kids work for the community doing something (or just raising money), to “Project Based Learning (PBL) where student teams answer a “driving question” typically provided by the teacher, to “capstone projects” at the end of a module, semester or year. Because they are done in “school” these projects almost always need to be “measured,” “evaluated,” and/or “compared” in some way. One oft-used means is to have the team write a report or make a presentation to the class (or to outsiders — often parents) and for the teacher to give the project — and each team member in some cases — a “grade.” Another way of evaluating projects is to check off the “standards” that are met. There are others as well.

I propose something else. I see the reason we ask kids to do projects is not so they can “learn” or even “to give service” in some ways, such as raising money for a cause. I see the goal of any project as being to have a positive impact on the world. The goal needs to be an accomplishment positively affecting some others, and not just improvement in the participants (although that is a useful by-product.) Typically this can be observed, and measured — either qualitatively or quantitatively. The point of doing the projects is to show kids that they can have a measurable positive impact on their world, and to prepare them to do so, over and over, for the rest of their lives.

The metric I propose (and that some are already using) is Measurable Positive Impact — MPI. Its definition is extremely simple: Team members should be able to point to something — anything — and say: “See that? Before our project it was bad. Now, because of the project I and my team did, it is good (or better.) That’s it. It might be possible to say that the MPI was big, medium or small, although I am not really sure why you would need to do that.

A project’s Measurable Positive Impact doesn’t have to be quantified. It may, in fact, be obvious. If a project turns a previously fetid swamp into a lovely park, that is MPI. If it gets parents, teachers or students to quarrel less, that is MPI. If it brings a useful invention to market, that is MPI.

The goal is that something has to change for the better outside of just the team members (their changing positively may be an achievement, but it is not, in my view an accomplishment. An accomplishment has to help others in some way (see Achievement vs. Accomplishment). If a project does not have an MPI that is not necessarily bad, but it does mean the project is incomplete. For a project to be successfully completed, from this perspective, the MPI must be clear.

If you’d like to see examples of student projects with MPI, please go to BTWdatabase.org. There you will find over 100 projects, along with their MPI. We are always looking for more.

I freely offer MPI to the world as a new metric to adopt and use for projects. I’d love to hear about any usage of the term (and your reactions) at marcprensky@gmail.com. Thanks.

Marc Prensky is an award-winning, internationally-acclaimed keynote speaker in over 40 countries, and author of 8 books. Coiner of the term “Digital Native,” he has taught at all levels, from elementary to college. Marc is the founder of The Global Future Education Foundation and THE TWO BILLION KIDS PROJECT — devoted to empowering every young person to better their world. His goal is “Empowering the Humans of the Future.”

Marc’s many talks, writings, interviews and videos can be found at marcprensky.com and marcrenskyarchive.com. Contact Marc at marcprensky@gmail.com.

Marc Prensky is an award-winning, internationally-acclaimed speaker & author, coiner of “Digital Native.” His goal is to change your perspective.

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