User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

The Benefits of the Copy Stage of Making

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In Learning in the Making: How to Plan, Execute, and Assess Powerful Makerspace Lessons, I propose a model for the stages of making.

I believe that the heart of making is creating new and unique things. I also realize that in order for this type of making to occur, there needs to be some scaffolding so that maker learners can develop a foundation of knowledge and skills. This post focuses on the Copy Stage of this model.

  • Copy – make something almost exactly as someone else has done.

In this age of information abundance, there really is an unlimited number of DIY resources, tutorials, Youtube videos, online instructors and instructions on making all kind of things. These resources provide a good beginning for acquiring some solid foundational skills and knowledge for learning how a make something one has never made before.

For a recent classroom activity, I wanted students to learn about and use Adafruit’s Circuit Playground. Some students made a Circuit Playground Dreidel (they learned about dreidels from an Orthodox Jewish student who was in my class and they loved it!) using the directions found at https://learn.adafruit.com/CPX-Mystery-Dreidel, and others made the Circuit Playground Scratch game with the directions found at https://learn.adafruit.com/adabot-operation-game/overview. I provided them with these directions and the expectation that the learners follow them pretty much on their own with me acting as an explainer and coach when they ran into difficulties. Here is a video of my learners enjoying their newly made dreidels.

The benefits of beginning maker activities with the Copy Stage includes:

  • Basic Skill Development and Acquisition
  • Foundational Skills for More Advanced and Creative Projects
  • Following Step-By-Step Directions
  • Positive Problem-Solving When Obstacles Occur
  • Asking for Help From Peers
  • A Sense of Accomplishment About Finishing a Project
  • Enjoying the Use of Finished Products They Made

There has been a fair of criticism leveraged against “paint-by-numbers” types of STEM and maker kits. This criticism revolves around the stifling of the creativity of learners. I contend that learners need foundational skills so that they can be freed up to be creative. Think about learning how to cook or play an instrument. The basic and foundational skills need to be there in order for the makers to go in directions that are new and creative for them. For example, I spent several decades as a ceramic artist, making wheel thrown and altered pottery. I needed to know how to throw a decent bowl before I could go in that direction (and yes, my pottery in this image began as wheel thrown cylinders).

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 18, 2020 at 10:40 pm

Going On A STEM-Maker Journey WITH My Students

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Last semester, I worked with a few high school students to create a project for the New Mexico Governor’s STEM Challenge. Being a learner-centric, process-oriented educator (hence, the name of my blog – User Generated Education), I embraced the following practices during this project.

  • Learners selected and developed their problem statement and guiding question.
  • Learners naturally tapped into one another’s strengths, managing their strengths without any intervention from me. Some were good at problem conception, others at envisioning solutions, others at research, and still others at creating the graphics.
  • My role was that of resource provider and feedback provider. I shared and explained the challenge requirements, reviewed the qualities of valid websites, gave feedback on their research and written work, and provided them with materials and tools such as Arduinos.
  • Community resources were used reinforcing that communities contain experts – that teachers don’t have to be experts at everything. We visited the local makerspace so the learners could learn and use their 3d printers and laser cutter.
  • Given the nature of this project-based, problem-based format, grading was based strictly on class participation using the criteria of, “Worked on the project during class time.”

Although, I often approach my classroom instruction using the practices as specified above, this one took me even farther from a place of knowing. They selected CO2 emissions and a chemistry-based solution of which I knew very little, so I was not a content expert. We learned about this together. I had a little experience with Arduinos but not lots so I was not a technology expert. We learned a lot more about how these worked together. We went on this journey together and I loved being a co-learner with my students.

Here is a highlight video of their project:

Much to my chagrin, they did not win an award (19 awards were given to the 43 entries). Their rewards, though, cannot be overstated:

  1. They learned some concrete and practical skills from going to the local makerspace, and getting instruction on their 3D printers and laser cutter. They also helped them work out some difficulties they had troubleshooting problems with the Arduino part of the project.
  2. They experienced the rewards and frustrations of working on a months long project including persistence, having a growth mindset, dealing with failure, and following through with a project through its completion.
  3. One of the students has pretty much checked out of school. She was mostly fully engaged throughout the duration of this project.

Even though their excitement about attending and presenting their project was obvious during the hour long ride home as they spent that time brainstorming ideas for projects for next year’s Governor’s STEM Challenge.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 13, 2020 at 1:24 am

2020: A Clear Vision for Our Learners

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20/20 vision is a term for visual acuity in which the numerator refers to distance and the denominator refers to size. Visual acuity (VA) commonly refers to the clarity of vision. Vision is all about clarity. 20/20 vision is perfect, high-definition clarity. The question is: How clear is your vision? Specifically, how clear is your vision [for your learners’] futures? (How to Have 20/20 Vision in 2020)

The year 2020 can act as metaphor for us, as educators, to have an overreaching vision for what we do. I really love the idea of approaching 2020 with a clear, well-articulated vision of our learners’ futures.

Grant Wiggins in Why Do You Teach had this to say about the importance of educators developing their vision-mission statements.

I am interested in [teachers being able to answer]:  Having taught, what should they have learned? What do you aim to accomplish as a teacher? What is your goal for the year, for all the years? What kind of a difference in their thinking and acting are you committed to?

Many teachers do not have good answers; most have no such personal Mission Statement; most have not even written a long-term syllabus in which they lay out the key goals for learners (and parents) and how those goals will best be achieved. But then – I say this with no malice –  you really have no goals. You are just marching through content and activities, hoping some of it will stick or somehow cause some learning.

 If you have no long-term accomplishments that you work daily to cause – regardless of or even in spite of the BS you encounter – then you are acting unprofessionally. What a professional educator does, in my view, is to stay utterly focused on a few long-term learning-related goals, no matter what happens in the way of administrative mandates, snow days, early dismissals for sports, or fire drills.

I have a vision – mission statement that I developed years ago but still holds true today:

To help learners developing the knowledge, skills, and passion to be self-directed, lifelong learners.

From my vision-mission statement I developed some guiding principles.

My vision-mission was not just a mental exercise I completed. It, along with my guiding principles, was developed to inform everything I do in my classrooms. I frequently revisit them as a form of self-assessment. Which principles are currently guiding my instructional strategies? Which ones are not being integrated into my classroom activities? What changes do I need to make to do so?

Here are some resources for developing your own vision-mission statement:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 1, 2020 at 4:19 pm

My 2019 Highlights

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The post describes my 2019 Highlights. I did this for four main reasons:

  1. We, especially as teachers, should spend more time reflecting on what we are doing well – our accomplishments. Often, we don’t get the recognition we deserve. Too often educators feel too timid or undeserving to publicly acknowledge their accomplishments believing that others will perceive them as braggarts. (Self-disclosure: I actually spend way too much time being critical of myself so this is actually really healthy for me to do.)
  2. I believe and include in the bio I share for conference presentations and PD consults that one of the major responsibilities of the modern day educator is to share resources, learning activities, thoughts, and insights with other educators. I do so through this blog and my Twitter account.
  3. I have a “nice box” which, for me, is actually a basket. It is where I put cards and gifts I have received from my students over the years. I tell my pre-service teachers to start one so that when they are feeling ineffective, challenged, or disillusioned, they can go to it for a boost. This post will act as a type of “nice box.”
  4. Finally, I am a strong proponent of being a reflective practitioner. For more about this, see Stephen Brookfield’s book, Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. Blogging, such as this post, is part of my reflective practice.

Here is my list.

I had a book on maker education published by ASCD.

I really love the maker movement. I have always had my students make things. As such, I was often seen as an outlier by the other teachers and principals at my schools. Now that it has become more mainstream, there is a much greater acceptance by my colleagues (and it helps that I now have an amazing and supportive principal). Words cannot describe how exciting I find this movement and hope it stands the test of time in our schools.

Writing this book took about two years but it fits with my mission of sharing resources, learning activities, and ideas with other educators. Given the amount of work it took, I am proud of this accomplishment. The description of the book is:

Transferring this innovative, collaborative, and creative mindset to the classroom is the goal of maker education. A makerspace isn’t about the latest tools and equipment. Rather, it’s about the learning experiences and opportunities provided to students. Maker education spaces can be as large as a school workshop with high-tech tools (e.g., 3D printers and laser cutters) or as small and low-tech as the corner of a classroom with bins of craft supplies. Ultimately, it’s about the mindset—not the “stuff.”

In Learning in the Making, Jackie Gerstein helps you plan, execute, facilitate, and reflect on maker experiences so both you and your students understand how the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of maker education transfer to real-world settings. She also shows how to seamlessly integrate these activities into your curriculum with intention and a clearly defined purpose (http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/119025.aspx).


I keynoted and presented a workshop at Edutech Asia in Singapore.

Sketchnote Made During My Keynote

I did a keynote in front of 1000+ people. Due to this anticipated audience size, I was worried about it for months. Because I focus on active participation, I asked them to make a one page book and then answer some reflection questions. It didn’t go over as well as I would have liked (yes, being self-critical) but I did something I feared. I also (re)learned I am a facilitator of experiences rather than a public speaker.

Slides from my keynote:



The final day I did a full day workshop. I was excited about having teachers and other professionals from Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, and New Zealand attend. This was way more successful – the participants being very engaged and excited. Here are the slides:




I did some very cool activities with my gifted students.

I love designing and implementing cross-curricular project-based learning with my gifted students, grades 3rd through 6th. Below are blog post links to some of my favorites from the 2018-19 school year.

Social Entrepreneurship

This is one of my favorites . . . ever. I am now in the process of doing it for a 3rd time with a current group of students. For more about this project, visit https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2018/05/13/elementary-social-entrepreneurship-a-perfect-steam-lesson/. Here is a video of a few of my students delivering raised monies to a local charity.

Design a Shoe

https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2018/05/13/elementary-social-entrepreneurship-a-perfect-steam-lesson/

Game Jam: Designing a Video Game

https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2019/05/24/game-jam-creating-a-video-game/

I passed my ISTE Certification

ISTE Certification is a competency-based, vendor-neutral teacher certification based on the ISTE Standards for Educators. It recognizes educators who use edtech for learning in meaningful and transformative ways (https://www.iste.org/learn/iste-certification)

Doing the portfolio for the ISTE certification was a bear of a task. I worked on it for weeks for several hours a day during this past summer. I did enjoy the process of aggregating and discussing some of the edtech projects I have done.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 29, 2019 at 7:19 pm

My List of Best Education Videos – 2019

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Here is my annual list of best education videos.

Youth Voice

As you’ll notice the first several are youth voices.

“The power of youth is the common wealth of the entire world… No segment in society can match the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of young people.” Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate


Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg chastised world leaders Monday, Sep. 23, for failing younger generations by not taking sufficient steps to stop climate change. “You have stolen my childhood and my dreams with your empty words,” Thunberg said at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. “You’re failing us, but young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you,” she added.



“Change will happen when we put the flourishing neighbor above our own hero status. Even though we don’t always get to be the hero, we always have the chance to be a world changer. “How should we respond to the current wave of activism? Megan calls us to treat this political moment as a time for both celebration and self-examination. See how she recommends we share power and resources and prioritize others above ourselves.



Jahkini Bisselink is the Dutch Youth Ambassador of the United Nations representing all young people in The Netherlands. Jakhini is auspiciously bridging the gap between young people and politics, fighting to let their voices be heard in national and international decision-making.



Education Thought Leaders

“Are we helping children find solutions to their own challenges? This will become their strengths.” Leading thinker, best selling author and friend of Big Change, Simon Sinek shares his thoughts on the future of education – the change that’s needed and the change that is possible.




Catlin Tucker’s keynote at Fall CUE 2019. Grade better, make your life less stressful and be more effective. 



In her SXSW EDU keynote, Jennifer Gonzalez explores the Aerodynamics of Exceptional Schools. In any school, just as in air travel, different forces impact our progress: some of these forces push us forward and lift us up, while others pull us back and drag us down. The success of our schools depends largely on how well we manage these forces. By applying wisdom from change management theory, instructional coaching, the tech industry, and even the fitness world, we can learn how to fight weight and drag, increase lift and thrust, and make our schools truly exceptional.



Pedro Noguera shares his insights on educational equity, Project Based Learning, and more at PBL World 2019. Pedro Noguera is a Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. His research focuses on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions, as well as by demographic trends in local, regional and global contexts.



Here’s an overview of the benefits of PBL. To read more, check out: http://www.spencerauthor.com/10-things-happen-students-engage-project-based-learning/



The Future of Social Media?

Social media has become our new home. Can we build it better? Taking design cues from urban planners and social scientists, technologist Eli Pariser shows how the problems we’re encountering on digital platforms aren’t all that new — and shares how, by following the model of thriving towns and cities, we can create trustworthy online communities.



Feel Good Videos



Released at the end of 2018 and received a 2019 Oscar nomination for best animated short. Luna is a vibrant young Chinese American girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut. From the day she witnesses a rocket launching into space on TV, Luna is driven to reach for the stars. In the big city, Luna lives with her loving father Chu, who supports her with a humble shoe repair business he runs out of his garage. As Luna grows up, she enters college, facing adversity of all kinds in pursuit of her dreams.



Anna Hopson, 5, was born with a rare neurodegenerative disorder. But that hasn’t dampened her spirit. As Steve Hartman explains, her good mood has even rubbed off on her school bus driver.



First Lady Michelle Obama brings gifts and surprises to Randle Highlands Elementary School in Washington, D.C. (Videos like this make me cry – not so much due to the students’ and teachers’ joy, although that does touch my heart, but because they are so happy about receiving resources that all schools should have – an up-to-date computer lab and a basketball court.)



. . . and because this feels so good. Michael Clark Jr. had crowd of supporters at his adoption hearing this week, which included his kindergarten classmates from Wealthy Elementary in East Grand Rapids.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 25, 2019 at 11:35 pm

A STE(A)M Professional Development Course

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I had the privilege of teaching a STE(A)M graduate course for Antioch University [New England]. I thought other teachers might benefit from access to a few of my project assignments and resources as well as example projects that teachers in the course produced.

Course Description

What does it mean to teach and engage our students in our modern world? How might we use principles of STE(A)M to engage all students? How can we design and implement STEM education and design thinking strategies building on our professional priorities (ie., the Critical Skills Classroom, nature based education, arts integration, etc) as well as developmentally appropriate pedagogy? How cam we use technology to support student learning? What’s the difference between STEM, STEAM, and STREAM? These questions will be explored in this online course designed to deepen understanding and inspire teachers to a new level of practice. Students will work both on their own and collaboratively to explore learn about these various topics for practical classroom implementation. Focus will also be given to modern tools to support STE(A)M and learning both face-to-face and virtual environments. Participants will design powerful learning experiences for these classrooms as well as formative and summative assessments. Online course.




STE(A)M Elevator Pitch

Using the resources https://www.pearltrees.com/jackiegerstein/stem-steam-stream-resources/id25727284 as reference, post an “elevator pitch” recording that defines these concepts on Flipgrid – https://flipgrid.com/5ab9c3cb

https://flipgrid.com/5ab9c3cb?embed=true




Collaboratively Curated Resources

Assignment Description

For the first part of this assignment. individually you are going to do a search for STEM/STEAM related resources from social media such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram using hashtags (#STEM, #MakerEd, #STEAM, #edtech) to help identify them.

As a group, using a collaborative curation tool and collaborative process, create a curated list of resources that you discovered in the first part of this assignment and may prove useful to the beginning practitioner. Here is a resource to learn more about content curation: http://www.spencerauthor.com/content-curation/.

Here is a list of tools that can be used to collaborative curate your group’s resources. Your group will decide which one to use:

Student Examples




STE(A)M Lesson Plan

Assignment Description

Design a Lesson Plan or Unit that incorporates elements of STEAM. Review the following resources:

Make sure to include the following elements plus any others you would like to include:

Student Examples







STE(A)M Assessment

Assignment Description

Create a list possible strategies to assess students STEM/STEAM projects. It should be tailored to the (expected) age level of your learners, the focus of your learning activities (STEM, STEAM, or STREAM). Discuss several forms of formative and summative assessments that you can draw upon when you teach STEAM-based lessons.

Review the following:

In developing your strategies and ideas include at least one strategy from each of the following:

  • Documenting Learning Strategies (formative)
  • Reflecting on Learning (formative)
  • Strategies that Leverage Technology, e.g., blogs, podcasts, videos, online tools (formative and summative) 
  • Assessing the Cross-Curricular Standards and Goals Associated with STEAM Education (formative and summative)
  • Going Beyond the Rubric (formative and summative)

You can share it in written form or create your version of assessment ideas using one of the following EdTech tools (they have free versions):

Student Examples




Assessing STREAM

Final Course Reflection

Description

The goal of this reflective piece is the documentation of your understanding of the standards for this course, based in both your learning in class and in your experiences.  The format of this piece is up to you but it must demonstrate that you understand the following:

  • How do you define STE(A)M education within your context? (Please include specific examples of experiential learning: project, problem, place, and design challenge learning and any other relevant methodologies.)
  • What are the key ideas that should guide you in making good choices about the selection, acquisition, organization, evaluation, and reconsideration of resources and activities related to STE(A)M?
  • What are your next steps to support yourself and others in implementation of STE(A)M curriculum?
  • What skills and knowledge do you need to further develop in order to develop your expertise in STE(A)M instruction?

Student Example

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 23, 2019 at 9:22 pm

Assessing STE(A)M Learning

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In Learning in the Making, I discuss assessment as follows:

Educators should be clear about how and why they include assessment in their instruction. They need to be strategic and intentional in its use. Assessment should be about informing learners about their performance so increased learning and future improvements can result. “Assessment is the process of gathering and discussing information from multiple and diverse sources in order to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experiences; the process culminates when assessment results are used to improve subsequent learning” (Huba & Freed, 2000, p. 8). 

During Fall, 2019, I taught a graduate level STE(A)M [Science, Technology, Engineering, (Arts), Math] course for Antioch University. Their last major assignment was to create methods for assessing STE(AM) learning. My goal was for the students, who are classroom teachers, to develop assessment strategies based on above. The description of the assignment follows:

Create a list possible strategies to assess students STEM/STEAM projects. It should be tailored to the (expected) age level of your learners, the focus of your learning activities (STEM, STEAM, or STREAM). Discuss several forms of formative and summative assessments that you can draw upon when you teach STEAM-based lessons. Review the following:

In developing your strategies and ideas include at least one strategy from each of the following:

  • Documenting Learning Strategies (formative)
  • Reflecting on Learning (formative)
  • Strategies that Leverage Technology, e.g., blogs, podcasts, videos, online tools (formative and summative) 
  • Assessing the Cross-Curricular Standards and Goals Associated with STEAM Education (formative and summative)
  • Going Beyond the Rubric (formative and summative)

You can share it in written form or create your version of assessment ideas using one of the following EdTech tools (they have free versions):

Student Examples

Two example student projects follow. One chose to use Book Creator while the other selected Piktochart. What was impressive to me was the professionalism of their work – both in their content and presentation, and that they created work that has the potential to be beneficial and useful for a wide audience of educators.

STE(A)M Assessments via Book Creator

Assessing STREAM

STE(A)M Assessments via Piktochart

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 8, 2019 at 6:00 pm

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