User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Educator as Model Learner

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The educator’s role has or should change in this age of information abundance or Education 2.0-3.0.  The educator’s role has always been to model and demonstrate effective learning, but  somewhere along the line, the major role of the educator became that of content and knowledge disseminater.   Now in this information age content is freely and abundantly available, it is more important than ever to assist learners in the process of how to learn.

The world is changing at a rapidly accelerating pace. What you learn today can quickly become outdated. HOW to learn, though, is a skill that lasts a lifetime. When you think about it–it makes sense for us to be taught how to learn before we are taught any specific subject matter. But rarely, if ever, does that happen (

A major role of the educator is or should be to model or demonstrate the hows or processes of learning!


Research has shown that modeling is an effective instructional strategy in that it allows students to observe the teacher’s thought processes. Using this type of instruction, teachers engage students in imitation of particular behaviors that encourage learning (

In some educational arenas, educators are being titled as lead learners to emphasize and model the educator as a learner.

lead learner

Significant changes are taking place in our society and cultures, largely driven by the participative and collaborative technologies of the Web. New technologies are re-framing expectations for teaching and learning as well as the importance of helping students “learn how to learn” and become self-directed. Web 2.0 and social media are also providing new opportunities for teachers to not only help shape new learning practices, but to become re-energized learners themselves–and to model that learning in significant ways to students. Steve Hargedon

“Teaching” the process of learning has the following characteristics:

  • Modeling of learning processes needs to be intentional, strategic, and overt.
  • The educator should be familiar with and able to demonstrate metacognitive processes. “The most effective learners are metacognitive; that is, they are mindful of how they learn, set personal learning goals, regularly self-assess and adjust their performance, and use strategies to support their learning” (
  • For authenticity purposes, the teacher – lead learner should model learning something s/he previously did not know.
  • Technology has changed the way people access and learn information and procedural knowledge, educators should demonstrate how to learn using technology.

This would require several shifts:

  • Teacher education would need to devote more time, opportunities, and strategies for pre-service teachers to learn about metacognition, how people learn, and how to model-demonstrate-teach the process of learning.
  • The educator, him-herself, would need to develop an attitude of the importance of assisting students how to learn.
  • The systems of education would also need to focus on the process of learning as a top priority or skill for students to develop.

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 13, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Creating Conspiracies of Kindness

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conspiracies of kindness

A simple truth – kids will tend to do those things for which they are rewarded – both extrinsically and intrinsically . . . and another truth – schools reward individual achievement.  Most schools award individual achievements. Kids mostly work on individual school assignments and get individual graded for those assignments.  In essence, school is a culture that promotes the rise and success of the individual.  Sure, group work and collaboration does occur but when it comes down to assessment and grading, it is most often on the individual level.

Another truth – giving to others, for most of us, is wired into our DNA.  What I mean by this is that many of us receive extreme states of joy and satisfaction by giving or even viewing acts of kindness.  I’ve tried to figure out the whys of this but have fail to identify the why.  In thinking about personal need fulfillment and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I cannot figure out which human needs are being fulfilled.  All I can say is that it just feels really, really good. Watch the following videos for some evidence of this:

The following video is what sparked this post.  The reactions and joys of the givers are just as priceless as the receiver:

Sadly, some kids (some adults) just never have experienced the act of giving and kindness nor the rewards it brings.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, school environments and often society-at-large do not promote nor reward, in a significant way, acts of kindness.  So for some kids, experiencing being part of a conspiracy of kindness may act as visceral, innately rewarding experience and become the impetus of future acts.  One of the most powerful statements of the Michigan Middle School Football Team’s Life Changing Play came from one of the middle school kids:

I kind of went from being somebody who mostly cared about myself and my friends to caring about everyone and trying to make everyone’s day and everyone’s life.

I propose that educators and administrators introduce the idea of creating conspiracies of kindness initiated and carried out by the students themselves.  These wouldn’t be for a school assignment or grade.  They would just be promoted as a way to give back to their communities, that doing good for others . . . just feels good.  The ultimate goal would be that the students become involved in and develop a culture that promotes conspiracies of kindness just for the innate and intrinsic rewards; and this would carry over into a lifetime of increased giving, of kindness.

Resources and Stories to Help Motivate Students to Create Conspiracies of Kindness:

Photo Credit:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 2, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Teaching Ethics in the Age of Technology

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Ethical decision-making should be included as a 21st century skill (overused term but don’t know of an alternative).  Some would profess that ethical decision-making has always been a needed skill.  But we are living in the most complex era of human history.  Information access and abundance, and emerging technologies are advancing, and being developed and disseminated at rates that the human mind often cannot comprehend.  Now more than ever ethics should be integrated into young people’s educations.

Society is a dynamic system. It must, by nature, evolve in order to survive. As we develop the new definitions of appropriate behavior in the online environment it is imperative that many members of society be engaged in this ongoing dialogue. An informed community and active discussion of ethical issues will enable society to determine civil and just manners to deal with the nuances of technological advancement (Rezmierski, 1992). By opening this dialogue within the K-12 environment, teachers will be able to prepare students to understand the proper use of technology and explore the issues that will continue to unfold (Using Moral Development Theory to Teach K-12 Cyber Ethics).

Every day, news of cyber-crime, theft of intellectual property, or the next cyber-bully suicide is part of today’s reality. School districts all across America must ensure that cyber ethics is part of curriculum. Today’s student is tomorrow’s business leader. Each student should have the ability to receive proper education. In order for students to receive that education, each teacher needs to go through adequate training in order to provide a solid foundation to each student. Current statistics should be a national wakeup call to act and provide teachers the proper tools necessary. The future of this nation’s infrastructure will depend on it (Should it be mandatory for schools to teach cyber ethics?)

Each year, the John J. Reilly Center puts out List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology.  These can be used as a source for ethical dilemma discussions in middle school and high schools classes:


  • The Right to Privacy versus the Right to Know:  The dizzying advances and the ubiquitous nature of communications and computers, and the astounding increases in the amount of data produced and collected in the world, have fundamentally changed the meaning of what constitutes an expectation of privacy.  Computer data mining systems and advanced statistical techniques, operating on prodigious amounts of structured data, pictures, and numerous electronic signals, are allowing unprecedented knowledge of individual preferences and behavior.  In addition, individuals freely share surprising amounts of private information – which becomes searchable and discoverable – on social media systems and commercial sites. Unfortunately, the policies, regulations, laws and ethical codes of behavior in regard to privacy and data have lagged far behind technology development, reflecting instead twentieth-century precedent and case law. (Data Collection and Privacy)
  • Internet Access as a Human Right: Mobile wireless connectivity is having a profound effect on society in both developed and developing countries. The penetration of smart phones and tablets has led to consistent doubling of mobile data usage on an annual basis, which is putting tremendous pressure on telecommunication networks and the government bodies that regulate the radio frequency (RF) spectrum. These technologies are completely transforming how we communicate, conduct business, learn, form relationships, navigate, and entertain ourselves.  This confluence of wireless technology developments and societal needs present numerous challenges and opportunities for making the most effective use of the radio spectrum. How can we make the most effective use of the precious radio spectrum, and to close the digital access divide for underserved (rural, low-income, developing areas) populations? (List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology 2013)
  • Data Chip Implants in Humans: From locating lost children to keeping your financial data and medical records handy, we’re about to see a surge in datachip implants. Able to transmit and store data, chips will soon enable us to verify our identities, see if our children have traversed the boundaries (or “hopped the geofences”) we set for them, give paramedics and doctors immediate access to our medical records, allow us to go wallet-free as we pay for our groceries via a handswipe, or even store our educational and employment data for a job interview.  Can these implants become a mandatory form of ID? How do we protect our privacy from hackers? Can this data be sold to law enforcement or other companies? Does the good outweigh the bad? (List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology 2014)
  • Neuro-enhancements:  Brain stimulation devices are most commonly used in treatment for various neurological and behavioral conditions, but the same technology can be used to enhance the human brain beyond its natural abilities. But should it? And at what point do we cross the line? Do we have a responsibility to be the best humans we can be? (List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology 2014)
  • Human-Machine Interfaces: Thus far, the main purpose for developing brain-computer interfaces has been to allow amputees and those who suffer from paralysis to mentally control a mobile robot or robotic prosthesis. They have already made possible some remarkable feats, such as partial restoration of hearing in the deaf, direct brain control of a prosthesis, implanting false memories in a rat, and downloading a rat’s memory of how to press a lever to get food and then uploading the memory after the original memory has been chemically destroyed.. And if we can implant wiring, then, in principle, we can turn the body or any part of it into a computer. But while most of us have no problem with prosthetic limbs, even those directly actuated by the brain, nor with pace makers, or cochlear implants, we may feel uncomfortable becoming part machine. At what point does the interface between body and machine dissolve? When we can make our bodies part machine, is it necessary to redefine personhood? Will we all be assimilated? (List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology 2014)
  • Predictive Policing: The National Institute of Justice defines predictive policing as “taking data from disparate sources, analyzing them and then using the results to anticipate, prevent and respond more effectively to future crime.” Some of these disparate sources include crime maps, traffic camera data, other surveillance footage, and social media network analysis. But at what point does the possibility of a crime require intervention? Should someone be punished for a crime they are likely to commit, based on these sources? Are we required to inform potential victims?  (List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology 2014)

Learners can also examine and analyze recent court cases related to online behavior:

  • In the 2010 Roger Corey Bonsant case, Bonsant, then a 17-year-old high school student, was arrested and charged with criminal defamation after he was accused of creating a fake Facebook page using a teacher’s name and image. While the case is still being decided, this is an example of criminal ramifications that students may face for participating in dubious online acts.
  • Several cases exist in which students who created false Facebook or MySpace pages featuring the names and likenesses of teachers and administrators. On these pages, students published items painting the educators as drug and sex addicts. In some cases school punishments were reversed by courts, due to the fact that the student activity took place off school grounds and presumably was not sufficiently “disruptive” of the school environment to override the students’ right to free speech. The victims depicted in these false Facebook pages could very well have filed charges, however.
  • In 2011, a 12-year-old Seattle girl was arrested and charged with cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing. Authorities alleged that she stole a former friend’s Facebook password, logged into the account and posted explicit content. She was found guilty and sentenced to probation. (The girls’ school does not seem to have been involved in this case.)
  • Six Nevada middle-schoolers were arrested in January, 2011 for using Facebook to invite other students to take part in “Attack a Teacher Day.” They were all arrested and charged with communicating threats, as several specific teachers were called out in posts to the Web site.
  • In the Phoebe Prince case, Prince was bullied (both in person and online) by a group of teens at her Massachusetts high school after it was discovered she had a brief relationship with a boy. The boy’s girlfriend and a group of her friends systematically tormented Prince in retaliation. The bullying was considered a factor in Prince’s January 2010 suicide. All the teens involved were arrested on manslaughter charges. They eventually pled guilty to lesser crimes and were sentenced to probation and community service.  See more at:

Some of the results or benefits of intentionally teaching ethics at school:

  • Helps develop critical thinking skills
  • Focuses on higher levels of Blooms’ taxonomy of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation
  • Assists learners in becoming critical consumers of technology
  • Facilitates the exploration of real world, authentic problems
  • Develops knowledge, skills, and judgement that can be used in both personal life and later in the workforce

Additional Resources:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 20, 2014 at 1:05 am

Why Do I Need to Know This?

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Yep, I was one of those kids, “Teacher, why do I need to know this?”  Teachers thought I was being a smarta–.  This is farthest from the truth  . . . I really wanted to know.

So I was excited when Daniel Pink in his keynote at the ASCD 2014 stated to the audience of educators that the WHYs are as or even more important than the HOWs but that the education setting often does not focus on the WHYs.  He suggested the following:


As Danel Pink noted in his keynote, it is a human need to know why.

We are meaning-seeking creatures. We seek to understand the reason for almost everything that happens in the course of each day.  Why is what drives not only everything we do, but also our emotional reactions to everything that happens to us. We’re simply far more likely to accept a change if we understand the reason for it. Interestingly, our acceptance seems to hinge less on how much we like the reason and more on how much sense the reason makes to us (Why We Need To Know Why).

I believe that it is a student right to know the answer to “Why Do I Need to Know This?” about about topic being presented to them in the school setting.  Chris Lehmann of the Science Leadership Academy does a great job addressing this in Why Do We Need to Know This?

It is the question that many teachers hate to hear from students in their classrooms. Whether it is the format of the Shakespearean Sonnet, the Pythagorean theorem, or why the Periodic Table of Elements is organized the way that it is, kids spend a lot of time in schools wondering why they are learning what seems like a disconnected series of facts and skills that don’t seem to have much importance to the lives they are leading. And from time to time, the bravest of students will screw up the courage to ask that question.

Sadly, too often, the answers (when a teacher is even willing to engage with the question) students range from “It is going to be on the test,” to “It will help you some day,” to “It’ll help you get into college.” When really, more often than not, it’s because the subject matter in question is “part of the curriculum.” If a student is lucky, the teacher is teaching that particular thing because the teacher has a real passion for the subject, but even that really doesn’t answer the question in any meaningful way.

If we remember that the time students spend in school is supposed to be about helping them to become better citizens, then the question of “Why do we need to know this?” becomes essential to what and why we teach. The questions and answers that follow the asking of the question should and will have profound implications on both our content and our pedagogy. And if we create our learning spaces as places where the question, “Why do I need to know this?” is actually the right of every student to ask, but is the first, most exciting question of every day, we can create vibrant, powerfully relevant classes that engage and empower everyone in it.

Self-Directed or User-Generated Learning

To take it a step farther, “Why Do I Need to Know This?” is naturally embedded into the learning experience when students engage in interested-driven self-directed learning.  This is line with moving from Education 1.0 to Education 3.0 as I discuss in Education 3.0: Altering Round Peg in Round Hole Education.  In the case of Education 3.0, the roles become reverse as the learner then needs to articulate the WHYs of his/her studies to the educator and his/her peers.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 16, 2014 at 5:14 pm

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Addressing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with Technology

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A major criticism I have of most educational institutions is that their primary focus is on students’ intellectual and cognitive development.  Too often individual learner’s needs do not enter into the equation of their educations.  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a useful model for educators to use to help insure that they are addressing more of the whole child.

Applying Abraham Maslow’s theory of a pyramid-shaped hierarchy — physiological needs, personal safety, social affiliation, self-esteem and self-actualization — to education is an ideal way to assess lesson plans, courses and educational programs. By asking themselves whether these needs are being met in their school or classroom, educators can assess how well they are applying Maslow’s hierarchy to their teaching practice (How to Apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to Education).

Some general strategies for addressing these needs in the classroom can be found at Addressing Our Needs: Maslow Comes to Life for Educators and Students.

Technology is way too often given a bad rap by administrators and educators as a distraction or a hazard for students.  When technology is integrated intentionally with foresight and with intention of addressing specific growth-oriented goals, it increases the potential to help students learn, develop, and grow in unique ways.  It can be used to help address the needs as described by Maslow.

What follows is an Infographic that proposes some of the technology integration strategies that can be used to addressed the different levels of Maslow’s needs.


Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep, etc.

Technology cannot address nor meet biological and physiological needs.

Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability

Technology is opening new opportunities for everyone, promoting creativity and effective learning. Children and young people are using the Internet more and more, and from an earlier age. The Internet is more assessable than every before.  To use technology effectively requires an awareness of both the benefits and the risks. This in turn, has created a world which can be both fun and exciting as well as providing potential dangers and harm. It is important that [educators] and young people are aware of these risks and of the steps you can take to minimize them (Keeping Safe Online).

Safety in the age of the Internet revolves around Online Safety, Digital Citizenship, Privacy, and Cyberbullying Prevention.  Strategies and lessons related to these topics should not be overlooked.  They should be continually taught and reinforced for students of all ages.

There is a plethora of resources online to have students learn this knowledge and skills.  Here are a few to start:

Social Needs – Belongingness and Love, – work group, family, affection, relationships

One of the biggest benefits of the Internet to this generation of learners is their ability to connect with like-minded individuals . . .  their tribes throughout the globe.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says social media can be beneficial to younger users. For some teens and tweens, social media is the primary way they interact socially, rather than at the mall or a friend’s house. … A large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cellphones.  Engagement in social media and online communities can enhance communication, facilitate social interaction (Social Networks: Thinking Of The Children).

Educators can become more intentional and strategic in assisting their students in becoming connected learners.  Providing learners with the time, resources, permission, and tips for developing their own personal learning networks greatly increases their opportunity to gain a sense of belonging.   They can get their social needs met within a global community.

Personal Learning Networks have been around for some time.  The idea of a PLN is simply a network of people and resources through which you learn and grow.   What if we made the building of such a network a central part of the curriculum, inviting students to keep a log or journal of their growing network, and how this network is empowering them to learn, how it is expanding their knowledge and perspective? How are they building a meaningful network? This would genuinely turn schools into places of fishing lessons. Students can interview people around the world, tutor and be tutored, take part in formal and informal learning communities, take part in Twitter chats and Hangouts, learn from and engage in the blogosphere, experience the power of working on a meaningful project in a distributed/virtual team, participate in a massive open online course (or design and teach one), share resources through social bookmarking and other technologies, host and take part in webinars, and build new online and blended learning communities around topics of personal value, need, and interest (Helping Students Develop Personal Learning Networks).

Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility

People need to sense that they are valued and by others and feel that they are making a contribution to the world. Participation in professional activities, academic accomplishments, athletic or team participation, and personal hobbies can all play a role in fulfilling the esteem needs (Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy).

The act of creation has great potential for enhancing one’s esteem. Technology has provided the tools and means for learners to be creators of their own products rather than primarily becoming consumers which is characteristic of 20th century informal and formal learning.   They can and do write via blogging and microblogging, make videos, take and post photos and other forms of digital art, perform and record music, create video games, and learn and share their skills online.

Not only do learners have the tool available to create.  They now can publish their work through online social networking platforms which increases the potential to reach an authentic audience; an audience that has similar interests and can provide valuable feedback.

The online world offers kids remarkable opportunities to become literate and creative because young people can now publish ideas not just to their friends, but to the world. And it turns out that when they write for strangers, their sense of “authentic audience” makes them work harder, push themselves further, and create powerful new communicative forms (Teenagers and social networking – it might actually be good for them).

Using the internet as a platform for publication gives students the chance to reach an audience the previous generations could not. Still in many schools and classrooms today, students are asked to perform demonstrations of knowledge, skills and understanding before an audience of 1 – the teacher. In many cases the performer is left feeling very unsatisfied, why? We ask students to spend copious amounts of hours perfecting the required aptitude and their reward is the tick of approval from only a single person.  Many forward thinking teachers have started using web publishing tools to give their students the opportunity to reach a wider audience, or a very specific one (An Authentic Audience?).

Using these freely available forums and tools makes it more likely that the self-esteem needs of achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility are met.

Cognitive needs – knowledge, meaning

We are living in the age of information abundance. I discussed the idea of information abundance more in depth in Information Abundance and Its Implications for Education.  Pertinent to this discussion about assisting learners in meeting their cognitive needs are the following two points.

  • Educators are no longer the gatekeepers to information.  Prior to Web 1.0 and Web 2.o, students were often dependent on educators to be the experts to tell them about and share resources about the content-related topic.  Now the Internet has videos, resources, and research from experts and practitioners who often know more about the content than does the educator.  Now more than even, the educator needs to:
  • The Internet needs to be open and available to students.  Many students already have access to information where and when they want it but often not in the school setting.  Many are learning more after school hours than during school hours.  By limiting students to textbooks and information as selected by districts, principals, textbook and testing companies, a type of censorship occurs.  Students have the opportunity, through the Internet, to hear, see, and read about varying perspectives on so many topics.  Depriving them of the opportunity to do so limits their education.

To put it simply, educators can provide the learners with the desirable learning topics and objectives, and then give them the freedom to find and share their own resources about those topics.  (Note: Better yet, educators can allow students to identify their own learning topics and then give the guidance, freedom, and permissions to find the information to engage in an in-depth, independent study.)

The Cognitive Needs can also be met by assisting learners in becoming digital curators.

With the right guidance, digitally curating knowledge can help students make sense of the world, uncover hidden passions and reach a deeper level of learning. But it’s up to educators to teach them to do it thoughtfully.

“Students are curators, but they don’t know it’s what they’re doing,” said educational technologist Naomi Harm. “They’re sharing things out, but they don’t realize what an educational impact they’re truly making. We as educators need to set the stage for students to be more self-directed in how they curate this knowledge to extend their learning experiences” (Students are knowledge curators — let’s help them use it).

The bottom line is that, in this age of open and abundant information, learners can become empowered to access, reflect upon, and share knowledge that they personally find of value.

Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form

Technology has offered new and unique ways to engage in and meet aesthetic needs.

Interest-driven art-making is fueled to a large degree by the surge in new technologies, which have radically transformed the ability to collaborate, share and publish work, affecting the modes, genres, and ways of art-making today.  Many young people are creating original work and sharing it with others. Findings from the Pew Internet & American Life Project suggest that nearly two-thirds of online teens create content at some point – from blogs to Web pages to original stories, photos, videos or other artwork they post electronically.

What other creative activities are young people engaging in in their “spare” time? A wide variety of traditional endeavors, to be sure – dancing (often assisted by video games or websites) or poetry (given new life by poetry slams), for example. But they are also busy at work in many wholly new art forms or hybrids of older forms. Among these are designing video games; using animations or cartoons or video game components to produce “machinima” films; and generating “fanfic,” stories and creations that feed off popular books, movies, cartoons and other features. All this points to a broader cultural trend that values creative production and the communities that form around it. This trend is driven in part by the proliferation of technologies that put production of arts – music composition, dance, design, and visual arts, among them – within reach of anyone interested (New Opportunities for Interest-Driven Arts Learning in a Digital Age).

I am an advocate of integrating the skills, knowledge, and interests related to the informal learning of children and youth into mainstream, formal educational settings.  Educators can leverage these skills and interests to help students learn about school-oriented content areas resulting in both fulfillment in this needs level and learning the required content-area knowledge.

Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences

This stage relates to the ability to apply what students have learned and to be able to “give back” and become involved with the betterment of the larger community (How to Apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to Education).   The Internet and online forums have the potential to help learners become involved in social causes and activism.

Online hobnobbing can enable youngsters to discover opportunities for community service and volunteering and can help youth shape their sense of identity.  These tools also can be useful adjuncts to — and in some cases are replacing — traditional learning methods in the classroom.

I discuss more in depth how social media can assist with social activism in Social Media a Cause:

For all we hear about “kids these days” and their irresponsible use of social media−posting questionable pictures of themselves or letting Twitter corrode their ability to hold a thought for more than a nanosecond−it turns out that most are using it to express a genuine passion for changing the world around them. And they’re succeeding. And these trends extend well beyond the U.S. In other countries shows similar interests in contributing to larger causes. China’s young adults for instance, lead the world in online political discussions and offline they donate the most money to charities. India’s younger generation ranks the first in the world when it comes to staying informed, and they’re the most optimistic about the impact their activism has on the world around them.  It seems that our youngest generation of adults are the ones leading the charge when it comes to effectively making a difference.

By becoming more intentional in their instructional strategies, educators can use the social networking skills and the desire of young people to create an atmosphere of meaningful, engaged, and authentic learning through social activism.  This, in turn, helps set the stage for learners to gain feelings of self-actualization.

Postscript Note:  I believe that technology has given us the power, tools, and means to teach in qualitatively different ways than we did in the 20th century.  My goal is to assist educators in having a framework for doing so.  Here are some related posts that revolve around this idea:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 12, 2014 at 9:41 pm

SAMR as a Framework for Moving Towards Education 3.0

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Evolution, in its broadest sense, serves as a force to help humans move towards a better way of living given the current times or Zeitgeist.  It follows, then, that the education field should evolve as new opportunities and forces emerge and present themselves. But in general, this is not the case.  From the Time Magazine article, How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century

There’s a dark little joke exchanged by educators with a dissident streak: Rip Van Winkle awakens in the 21st century after a hundred-year snooze and is, of course, utterly bewildered by what he sees. Men and women dash about, talking to small metal devices pinned to their ears. Young people sit at home on sofas, moving miniature athletes around on electronic screens. Older folk defy death and disability with metronomes in their chests and with hips made of metal and plastic. Airports, hospitals, shopping malls–every place Rip goes just baffles him. But when he finally walks into a schoolroom, the old man knows exactly where he is. “This is a school,” he declares. “We used to have these back in 1906. Only now the blackboards are white.”

The evolution of education can be explained from moving from Education 1.0 to Education 3.0.  I have discussed Education 3.0 in several blog posts:

Briefly, Education 1.0, 2.0. and 3.0 is explained as:

Education 1.0 can be likened to Web 1.0 where there is a one-way dissemination of knowledge from teacher to student.  It is a type of essentialist, behaviorist education based on the three Rs – receiving by listening to the teacher; responding by taking notes, studying text, and doing worksheets; and regurgitating by taking standardized tests which in reality is all students taking the same test. Learners are seen as receptacles of that knowledge and as receptacles, they have no unique characteristics.  All are viewed as the same.  It is a standardized/one-size-fits-all education.

Similar to Web 2.0, Education 2.0 includes more interaction between the teacher and student; student to student; and student to content/expert.  Education 2.0, like Web 2.0, permits interactivity between the content and users, and between users themselves.  Education 2.0 has progressive roots where the human element is important to learning.  The teacher-to-student and student-to-student relationships are considered as part of the learning process.  It focuses on the three Cs – communicating, contributing, and collaborating.

Education 3.0 is based on the belief that content is freely and readily available as is characteristic of Web 3.0. It is self-directed, interest-based learning where problem-solving, innovation and creativity drive education. Education 3.0 is also about the three Cs but a different set – connectors, creators, constructivists.  These are qualitatively different than the three Cs of Education 2.0.  Now they are nouns which translates into the art of being a self-directed learner rather than doing learning as facilitated by the educator. Education 3.0: Altering Round Peg in Round Hole Education

Emerging technologies is, can be, should be a driving force of this evolution towards Education 3.0.  Information access, communication methods, the ability for creative express is qualitatively different than any other time in history due to technological advances.

The SAMR model was developed by as a framework to integrate technology into the curriculum.  I believe it can also serve as a model to establish and assess if and how technology is being used to reinforce an old, often archaic Education 1.0 or being used to promote and facilitate what many are calling 21st century skills, i.e., creativity, innovation, problem-solving, critical thinking; those skills characteristic of Education 3.0.  Many look at SAMR as the stages of technology integration.  I propose that it should be a model for educators to focus on Modification and Redefinition areas of technology integration.  Why should educators spend their time recreating Education 1.0 using technology at the substitution and augmentation levels when there are tools, techniques, and opportunities to modify and redefine technology integration for a richer, more engaging Education 2.0 or 3.0?

The following chart provides an overview of the ideas discussed in this post.


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 23, 2014 at 2:37 am

The Other 21st Century Skills: Why Teach Them

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Many have attempted to identify the skills important for a learner today in this era of the 21st century (I know it is an overused phrase).  I have an affinity towards the skills identified by Tony Wagner:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
  • Agility and adaptability
  • Initiative and entrepreneurship
  • Effective oral and written communication
  • Accessing and analyzing information
  • Curiosity and imagination

This presentation sparked my thinking about what other skills and attributes would serve the learners (of all ages) in this era of learning.  Some other ones that I believe important based on what I hear at conferences, read via blogs and other social networks include:

  • Grit
  • Resilience
  • Hope and Optimism
  • Vision
  • Self-Regulation
  • Empathy and Global Stewardship


Why Teach 21st Century Skills

According to a recent (2013) Gallup Poll, Americans Say U.S. Schools Should Teach “Soft” Skills


Americans’ views on what schools should be teaching parallel the opinions of employers, educators, and young people themselves, who are calling for students to be better equipped to analyze information, communicate effectively, and to collaborate with diverse people in a global work environment to solve complex problems.

While student success may depend on mastery of content in core subject areas such as math and reading, it also depends on more than knowledge of core content. Critical thinking, creativity, communication, and other soft skills, as well as student physical and social wellbeing, are also necessary for future success in higher education and in the workplace. Americans Say U.S. Schools Should Teach “Soft” Skills

Most of The Other 21st Century Skills could be classified as social-emotional skills (SEL) and research shows that SEL can have a positive impact on school climate and promote a host of academic, social, and emotional benefits for students. Durlak, Weissberg et al.’s recent meta-analysis of 213 rigorous studies of SEL in schools indicates that students receiving quality SEL instruction demonstrated:

  • better academic performance: achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction;
  • improved attitudes and behaviors: greater motivation to learn, deeper commitment to school, increased time devoted to schoolwork, and better classroom behavior;
  • fewer negative behaviors: decreased disruptive class behavior, noncompliance, aggression, delinquent acts, and disciplinary referrals; and
  • reduced emotional distress: fewer reports of student depression, anxiety, stress, and social withdrawal.  (

What Is Typically Taught

There has been, at times, push back for “teaching” what many classify as soft skills (e.g., communication, creativity, social skills).  Two points can be made regarding this perspective:

  1. Curriculum designers, administrators, and educators have determined, subjectively, through directives like No Child Left Behind and Common Core State Standards what students should know.
  2. Educators do teach these soft skills but often in covert ways.

Curriculum designers, administrators, and educators have determined, subjectively through directives like No Child Left Behind and Common Core State Standards what students should know.

Curriculum developers, administrators, and educators have stated that they do not want to make judgements about what is important to teach in terms of the soft skills, that because they are soft skills, contain too much ambiguity, and as such are subjective.  They believe that deciding what to teach in terms of more hard disciplines such as language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies are more objective.  The truth, though, is that developing, deciding upon, and choosing standards, curriculum, instructional methods, and assessments is a subjective process.  A more dramatic example of this is Texas science deciding to focus on creationism over evolution.

Everything taught at schools is subjective.  It becomes deciding what knowledge and skills will best serve students in their out-of-school lives now and in the future.

Educators do teach these soft skills most often in covert ways.

There is push back for teaching soft skills and character education in schools because they are seen as extras, time away from teaching the important “stuff”,  too vague,  and too personal, culturally based to be taught.  But, and this is huge but, soft skills are being taught in schools in covert ways.  Raise your hand to talk, walk in line, don’t push, say please and thank you are skills that are often being covertly taught as “good” social-emotional skills.  Students are often rewarded for “appropriate” behaviors and punished for “inappropriate” behaviors.  Through adding the skills such as those presented in the 21st Century Skills, the teaching of more behavioral, attitudinal, and social skills becomes overt and intentional.

Some Characteristics of The Other 21st Century Skills

  • The Other 21st Century Skills are an aggregate of skills.  As such . . .
    • They are presented in a reductionist manner, as separate skills, to increase understanding of them as constructs.  In real life, they are interconnected with a synergistic results – the sum being stronger than the whole.  For example, curiosity and imagination increases one’s effectiveness in problem-solving and critical thinking.  Grit is increased when one becomes more resilient.
    • Thus the focusing on a single one such as grit, resilience, or creativity will not insure any change or growth of the learner.  It is a combination of a number of the skills that will increase an individual’s success in life; in success in his or her chosen interest-driven pursuits and workforce focus.
  • The Other 21st Century Skills have benefits for all learners, all ages, all socioeconomic levels and ethnic groups:
    • The underlying premise is that these skills can assist everyone in increasing the quality of their lives.
    • Everyone and anyone can develop and learn these skills.
    • As they are viewed as skills, everyone and anyone can increase his or her proficiency.
  • The Other 21st Century Skills can be taught, developed, encouraged, and enhanced through:
    • Direct Instruction – helping learners develop a cognitive knowledge base and meaning of the skills
    • Simulations and Role Modeling – Showing and demonstrating what these skills looks like in actual situations
    • Storytelling Through Biographies, News – using both fiction and non-fiction stories that illustrate these different skills.
    • Real Life Experiences – asking students to provide evidence of using these skills in their everyday lives.

We are living in probably the most complex and chaotic era of human existence.  As such, schools could better serve their students by helping them become creative, innovative, resilient, empathetic human beings as opposed to ones who can ramble out a memorized rote list of states with their capitals or the names of the elements of the periodic chart.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 9, 2014 at 10:42 pm


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