User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Archive for November 2011

Every Educator Has a Story . . . Just Tell It.

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This is one of my favorite cartoons ever.

The “punch” line is that every person on the planet has a story to tell.  I also know that every teacher has a story to tell.

Educators are doing amazing things with their learners in spite (i.e., to show spite toward) of the standards-based and accountability-driven movements. I’ve learned about so many exciting learning activities from educators who are publicizing their great projects via Twitter, Facebook, and Blogs.  I’ve read about global collaborations, interesting ways technology is being integrated into the classroom, kids making a difference in their communities, and great project-based learning.

This is my own call to action for educators to tell their stories of those rich and amazing things they are doing in their classrooms.

  • Write a blog.
  • Tweet about it.
  • Make photo essays and upload to a photo sharing site like Flickr.
  • Take some video footage and share it on YouTube, TeacherTube, or Vimeo.
  • Ask learner to blog about it.
  • Share on Facebook.
  • Give virtual presentations at conferences such as Global Education and K12 Online.
  • Ask local reporters to come to your classroom
  • Others? (Please add to list.)

For example, I am incorporating students’ mobile devices into an undergraduate course on Interpersonal Relationships.  I take photos during each class and that day write a blog entry about mobile learning.  These entries take about an hour.

I now have a record/reflection about the class.  I get to share it with others via Facebook and Twitter.

If all educators publicized the accomplishments they had in their classrooms using technology, hands-on activities, global collaborations, project-based learning; then an informal qualitative research project would result.  When educators are asked to provide evidence of efficacy to administrators, parents, other educators, funding sources, they could share these success stories.  This aggregate would become the collective narrative – story of education of our times in the beginnings of the 21st century.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 23, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Flipped Classroom Full Picture: An Example Lesson

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The flipped classroom, as it is currently being described and publicized, is simply recording the didactic content information via videos, having students view these as homework, and then using class time to further discuss these ideas.

Harvard Professor Chris Dede stated in his Global Education 2011 keynote in response to a question directed about the flipped classroom . . .

I think that the flipped classroom is an interesting idea if you want to do learning that is largely based on presentation. You use presentation outside of the classroom. Then you do your understanding of the presentation and further steps from the presentation inside the classroom. I think it is a step forward. It is still, in my mind, the old person.  It’s still starting with presentational learning and then trying to sprinkle some learning-by-doing on top of it.  I am interested more in moving beyond the flipped classroom to learning by doing at the center than a kind of the intermediate step that still centers on largely on tacit assimilation.

As I describe in The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture, I believe, as Chris Dede does, that the problem with the flipped classroom is that the major focus is on the didactic presentation of information, that it is still at the center of the learning experience.  The flipped classroom, given that is currently getting so much press, provides an opportunity to change the paradigm of learning, whereby learning–by-doing, the experiences along with the understanding and application of those experiences become core to the learning process.

The following lesson describes a type of flipped classroom.  This lesson did not center around the content media, in this case the Slideshare, but on the students’ personal experiences, interactions with other students, and acquisition of tangible life skills.

Interpersonal Communications: Listening Skills

Experiential Engagement: The Activity

The cycle often begins with an experiential exercise.  This is an authentic, often hands-on learning activity that fully engages the student.   It is a concrete experience that calls for attention by most, if not all, the senses.   They become hooked through personal connection to the experience and desire to create meaning for and about that experience (ala constructivist learning).

For this lesson, the learners started off with the Lighthouse activity, where in partner teams, the sited person led his or her blindfolded partner through a series of obstacles.  The goal of this part of the lesson was to provide an experience that overtly demonstrated the importance of listening – especially when the sense of sight is taken away.


Conceptual Connections: The What

Learners are exposed to and learn concepts touched upon during Experiential Engagement.  They explore what the experts have to say about the topic.  Information is presented via video lecture, content-rich websites and simulations like PHET and/or online text/readings.  In the case of the flipped classroom as it is being currently discussed, this is the time in the learning cycle when the learners view content-rich videos.  The videos support the experiential learning rather than being at the center of the learning experience.

In this lesson, the learners were asked to view and review the following slideshare via their own computer terminals.

The benefit of this form of personalized viewing is that the learners have control of the media so they can view it at their own pace – spending more time on the concepts they need to further review or of which have special, personal interest.  Use of their own computers also permit them to search for more information about a given topic.

Meaning Making: The So What

Learners reflect on their understanding of what was discovered during the previous phases.  It is a phase of deep reflection on what was experienced during the first phase and what was learned via the experts during the second phase. Learners can articulate and construct their understanding of the content or topic being covered through written blogs or verbal-based audio or video recordings.

For this lesson, the learners made a personal connection with the content as they were asked to identify the 10 listening skills they believed they needed to further develop.  This also became a technology-enhanced lesson. Learners made a mind map of their identified 10 skills that included: (1) the skill, (2) normal and current behaviors associated with the skill, and (3) goals and steps for improvement.


Demonstration and Application: The Now What

During this phase, learners get to demonstrate what they learned and apply the material in a way that makes sense to them. This goes beyond reflection and personal understanding in that learners have to create something that is individualized and extends beyond the lesson with applicability to the learners’ everyday lives.  This is in line with the highest level of learning within Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy of Learning – Creating – whereby the learner creates a new product or point of view. In essence, they become the storytellers of their learning (See Narratives in the 21st Century: Narratives in Search of Contexts).  A list of technology-enhanced ideas/options for the celebration of learning can be found at:

Part One

The learners practiced their active listening skills during class time.  Feedback was provided to the listener via their mobile devices using Celly.  See the full description at Students’ Own Mobile Devices and Celly Provide Peer Feedback.



Part Two

The learners located a professional in their area of study to interview.  Their interview questions focused on the communication skills expected of those in that profession.  Their homework was driven by real-life experiences going out to speak with a professional in their communities.  The professional was asked to complete an evaluation of the student’s performance during the interview. Homework was designed to further promote the applicability, transferability, and relevancy of this lesson.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 20, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Students’ Own Mobile Devices and Celly Provide Peer Feedback

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This is part of my continuing series of blogs where I am reporting how I am integrating students’ own mobile devices into the classroom activities.

Using Celly

Celly was used for the learning activity that is described later in this blog.

Celly creates mini social networks called cells that connect you with people and topics. A cell can contain anybody with a cellphone. We let you define filters based on hashtags, location, time, and user identity. Celly lets you instantly group people and topics into cells.  Cells function as chatrooms where people communicate instantly via text-based messaging. Cells can also include messages from the web or other social networks to capture your interests.

Learn It in 5 provides the following tutorial about how to set up and use Celly.

Ways to use Celly at school can be found here.

Peer Feedback in an Interview Activity

Students in my undergraduate course on Interpersonal Relationships were asked to practice their active listening skills.  They conducted interviews with each pair of interviewers-interviewees being observed by their classmates.  Feedback to the interviewer was provided via Celly.

First they were provided with the following information to join the class cell.

The format for texting in their feedback was @interpersonal (cell) “The Feedback” #(person’s first name).

During the interviews, students texted their observations of the interviewer behaviors to Celly.


After each interview, the feedback was projected on the whiteboard.  This way students could view personal feedback, get ideas of appropriate interview behaviors, and analyze the quality of effective feedback.


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm

A Texting Communications Exercise

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This is part of a continued series of blogs in which I reporting about and describing how I am adapting more tradition team building, communications, and problem-solving to include learners’ own mobile devices.

Part 1

This activity is an adaptation of the Back-to-Back Communications Exercise.  Students found a partner.  One volunteered to give the directions, the other to be the drawer.  They exchanged phone numbers and the drawers went to another room.  The direction givers were provided with the following drawing and told to text in words (one student asked if he could send a picture) the description of the drawing.  The goal was for the drawer to reproduce the drawing to scale.

Part 2

Students then met face-to-face to complete the exercise again using a second picture.


After the two exercises, a discussion was facilitated that centered around two questions:

  1. Which of the two exercises produced the best results – where the original and reproduced images best replicated each other?
  2. Which of the two exercises did you prefer?

For the first question, the results were split with about half saying the texting produced the best results and the other half stating it was the face-to-face directions.  Those who selected texting described the ability to read through the directions several times to insure correctness.  Those who believed face-to-face produced better results described the use of body gestures to assist with the results.

For the second question, all but one student preferred the face-to-face . . . and all but one student is of the texting generation (18-20 years old).

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 11, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Student Voice in Educational Reform

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Young people are developing their voice to clearly articulate the need of the educational systems to change to better meet their needs –  educationally, personally, and professionally (yes, young people have professional needs).  They have something to say.  They should be heard.

Nikhil Goyal, a 16-year-old junior at Syosset High School in New York, in the Huffington Post article, It’s Time for a Learning Revolution, states:

Students are left out of the debate, even thought we have the most important opinions.  Instead of schools cherishing students’ passions and interests, they destroy them. Let’s raise kids to dream big and think different. America will need to re-kindle the innovative spirit that has propelled in the past. It’s a do or die moment. Bring on the learning revolution!

I propose that we institute a 21st century model of education, rooted in 21st century learning skills and creativity, imagination, discovery, and project-based learning. We need to stop telling kids to shut up, sit down, and listen to the teacher passively.


Here is Nikhil Goyal’s (now 17 years old) recently made this TED talk on the Learning Revolution:

15 year old, Arooj Ahmad, in the Washington Post piece, A 15-year-old student’s ed reform plan: Self-directed learning, emphasized the need to move away from a test-driven and memorization-based culture to one that focuses on wholistic learning and freedom of choice.

Learning should be messy! Divergent thinking can be taught. Teachers, administrators, policy makers, and even students will have to step out of their comfort zones to remove the standardized, short-term mentality about learning.

Students shouldn’t learn material just for the sake of passing the test. They should learn for the sake of learning. Students should enjoy going to school. The practical solution to accomplish this lies in two key improvements that must take hold in today’s education system: relevant, holistic curricula and freedom of subject choice.

We must think differently about human capacity. The old habits of our institutions and their environments must be reformed. As Albert Einstein once said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

Dale J. Evans, 19 years old, in the New York Times Learning Network discussed Hacking Education:

Going along with the program seems pretty sweet. I could have written papers, skipped class and partied until dawn. After four years as a college student, I would have had many friends, a good job and letters after my name. But I left college because I realized I couldn’t rely on a university to give me an education.  To get a real education, I took matters into my own hands.

Students who hack our educations will change the world. You can tell these students apart because they have spark in their eyes, and if you ask them about their passion they won’t stop talking.

To these two, I am reposting the voices of two other insightful young people –  Erica Goldson’s Valedictorian speech and Adora TED talk originally discussed in Student Voices: School Failure, Reform, and Hope.

Erica Goldson’s Valedictorian’s Speech

I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse,You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

Adora Svitak’s TED Talk: What Adults can learn from kids

Adults, you need to listen and learn from kids and trust us and expect more from us. You must lend and ear today, because we are the leaders of tomorrow. We are going to be the next generation, the ones who will bring this world forward. Now, the world needs opportunities for new leaders and new ideas. Kids need opportunities to lead and succeed. Are you ready to make the match? The world’s problems shouldn’t be the human family’s heirloom.

As a teacher, I believe in listening deeply and seriously to what learners have to say about the ways they want to be educated.

Photo Image Credit:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Education

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An Experiential, Mobile-Device Driven Communications Exercise

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This past week in my undergraduate interpersonal communications course, I adapted the Bridge-It communications exercise to incorporate my students’ (most ages 17-20) mobile devices.  It combined some of my favorite instructional strategies:


First. students were asked to line up in the classroom on a continuum from those who believed they had the best, most effective communication (verbal and listening) skills to those who thought they lacked those skills.  They counted off by three’s to form three groups.  The top three self-reported communicators were asked to be the communicators, the others were the builders.

Next, groups were moved to separate rooms, given the same set of building blocks and their task . . .

Build a three-dimensional structure using all the pieces provided.  All three structures need to be exact in dimension and in color patterns.  The communicators can use their cell phones via text and/or voice to communicate with the other groups.

No time limits were set.  When the teams believed they successfully completed the task, they could send pictures of their structures to one another.


After the completion of the activity, reactions and reflections were posted on a Voicethread slide using an image taken during the activity and quickly uploaded to Voicethread.

Comments included:

I loved doing this project! It was fun to get to know the class and it was interesting to figure all of this out without being in the same room with one another. We all worked very well together after we figured out what we were doing.

The activity showed we all communicated very well. The best way we were going to build our structure was to communicate by one and to make sure we had everything in place. i learned that communicating with good instructions will make it successful.

This activity showed how well we can communicate with each other. I learned that we can communicate well if given proper instructions that are detailed and precise.


Next class students will be shown video clips of their participation in the activity.  Since the topic is on nonverbal communication, they will be asked to text to Wifitti what the nonverbal behaviors they witnessed during each of the clips.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 5, 2011 at 6:17 pm

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