User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Providing Opportunities for Learners to Tell Their Stories

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One of the greatest gifts a teacher can give learners is the opportunity to tell their stories, and to establish venues to have those stories witnessed by others.

A Film by High School Student, Sam Fathallah

There is a movement among pockets of educators to make education a passion-based process of learning.

Instead of having all these preconceived ideas of what learners should doing, saying and producing, [educators] have to be open to what they find in each student. [Educators] have to discover – and help each student discover – their talents and interests and create a learning environment where they can use those gifts and passions. Passion-based learning in the 21st century: An interview with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

John Seely Brown noted how technology can ignite learners’ passions.

We must think about how technology, content, and knowledge of learning and teaching can be creatively combined to enhance education and ignite students’ passion, imagination, and desire to constantly learn about — and make sense of — the world around them.

Diane Rhoten stresses that learning should be interest-driven, that learners should create narratives that they find personally motivating, personally relevant, personally interesting using digital media tools to tell their stories.

Providing learners with the tools, skills, time, and venues to tell their stories creates a powerful strategy for tapping into learner passions.  It also utilizes the tools and learning strategies they are using during their out-of-school time.  This is stressed in a new ebook by ithemes media,  Kids Creating Stuff Online: Inspiring the Innovators of the Future.

Let’s face it: everything is online, even our kids. The Internet is no longer something people figure out when they get old enough. Many kids are growing up with laptops and tablets. They have cell phones that can do more than most computers of the past.  Kids need to take the opportunity to embrace the online world and create a positive digital footprint. Instead of freaking out— “Won’t someone think of the children?!”—we should see this as an opportunity. Kids and teens are interested in the Internet and the online world, so let’s make the most of it.

This isn’t a how-to post.  It provides a rationale for educators to facilitate having their learners (all ages) create a video of something for which they have passion and create a venue for students sharing those videos with a global audience – Youtube, Blogs, wikis.   The videos would become a type of Ted Talk.  Karl Fisch facilitated this process with a group of high school students.

  • Culminating Project:  You will create your own TED talk based off our essential question “What Matters?”
  • Theme:  You will use “What Matters (to You)?” as your ‘essential question’ to explore for your own talk.  Essentially, you will select a topic based on something that truly “matters” to them and craft video about that topic (6 minutes or less).
  • Give a Talk: Each student will give their own TEDx Talk.  These will be done on video, uploaded to YouTube, and then embedded on the class Google site to be seen by others.  You will prepare with a ‘global’ audience in mind from day one. Remember “Spread an idea worth spreading.”

Small Talks is a new website (under development) that provides educators with resources to assist students in researching, writing and recording their own lectures on subjects they’re passionate about. When they are ready they can be uploaded for others to see.

Here is an example learner talk:

In a related post about interest and passion-driven learning, The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Tinkering and Maker Education, I discuss a learning cycle of tinkering and maker education where a final activity is learners sharing their passions and discoveries:

  • Live or videotaped instructional videos, where students teach others the skills acquired.
  • A pitch for a new invention or process: the learner presents ideas for a new invention with the audience providing recommendations and positive feedback.

In this standards driven world, educators might argue that they do not have the time to do such a project with students.  I could easily identify the content-area standards addressed with this assignment – language arts, oral communication, visual arts, technology skills.  The more important outcomes, in my perspective, of such a project are increased confidence, development of self-regulation skills, enhanced sense of personal identity, and increased feelings of significance – that they have been been seen and heard.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 20, 2013 at 1:58 am

2 Responses

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  1. Enjoyed both the video (nice shots) and the talk. Thanks, Diane Rhoten, for putting in a nutshell what we feel about learning in the 21st century. I can sign under every word you’ve said. Thanks for spreading this idea. Hopefully It will rescue so many kids from the boredom and abuse by incompetent teachers.


    January 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm

  2. I so want to be able to let my kids I teach do this. They will have to show me how. I am now the learner.

    Danna Yeager

    June 24, 2013 at 8:03 pm

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