User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Dream-Driven Education

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Seth Godin in Stop Stealing Dreams states:

Have we created a trillion-dollar, multimillion-student, sixteen-year schooling cycle to take our best and our brightest and snuff out their dreams—sometimes when they’re so nascent that they haven’t even been articulated? Is the product of our massive schooling industry an endless legion of assistants? The century of dream-snuffing has to end. The real shortage we face is dreams, and the wherewithal and the will to make them come true. We’re facing a significant emergency, one that’s not just economic but cultural as well. The time to act is right now, and the person to do it is you.

We can teach them not to care; that’s pretty easy. But given the massive technological and economic changes we’re living through, do we have the opportunity to teach productive and effective caring? Can we teach kids to care enough about their dreams that they’ll care enough to develop the judgment, skill, and attitude to make them come true? (

I propose that educators take a proactive stance to move from a system that may steal kids’ dreams to one that promotes the actualization of learner dreams. I have a dream today and everyday that education can become a conduit through which learners are provided with the time, knowledge, strategies, and tools to make their own dreams come true.   We are living in an era that education can be passion-based and dream-driven.  In this context, the role of the educator becomes that of dream-facilitator.

The dreams we need are self-reliant dreams. We need dreams based not on what is but on what might be. We need students who can learn how to learn, who can discover how to push themselves and are generous enough and honest enough to engage with the outside world to make those dreams happen. (

One of the first tasks of the educator as a dream-facilitator is to discover and help his/her learners discover their dreams, passions, and interests.  Some guiding questions to help learners identify and articulate their dreams include:

  • Given no restrictions, what would you like to do in your spare time?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and be or do anything you want, what would it be?
  • In one year from now, 10 years from now, what would you like to be doing that would make you happy?
  • What would your life be like if it were perfect?

Learners can be provided with a choice with how they answer theses questions: verbal or written responses, video or audio recording, or a drawing.  An extension of this activity might be asking learners to create a vision board (see Vision Boards for Kids and Visions & Values for Kids).  Technology could be used for this process by giving students the opportunity to create a Glog or an Animoto of images that symbolizes their dreams.

Support systems or personal learning networks could then be established based on grouping learners with similar dreams.  The group would act as cheerleaders, support-providers, progress-checkers, and resource providers for one another.   One of the group’s learning activities could focus on expanding their personal learning networks to include folks with similar dreams who they locate via social networks like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other social networks.

Dreams will only come try if actions are taken to achieve them.  As such, the educator should facilitate a method for learners to reflect on progress towards their dreams.

  • What did you do today, this week to achieve your dreams?
  • What obstacles are you having or foresee having in progress towards your dream?  How can you overcome your obstacles?
  • What resources did you locate that can help you fulfill your dreams?

Blogging or micro-blogging (e.g. Twitter) could be used for this reflective process.

My parting shot to my pre-service teachers as they enter the world of teaching is to always remember why they became teachers in the first place.  I encourage them to ask themselves each day of teaching, “What did I do today to leave a positive legacy for and with my learners?” I propose that all educators should regularly ask themselves this question.  I believe that by facilitating dream-driven education, they will have a positive response to this question.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 4, 2013 at 2:05 am

3 Responses

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  1. Jackie, I love this post and I watched Seth Godin’s Tedx talk for the first time. Wow! I’ve been a Sir Ken Robinson fan for a long time and I’d heard of Seth Godin but never really knew what he was all about. I love to try to make my classroom more like his vision but I have to follow the curriculum and I am asked to give my class practice standardized test questions…it has become all about the test here too sadly. Our entire School Improvement Plan is based on test results. It’s sad and frustrating. Trying to stay positive… I read this in the morning and had my class answer the dream questions later in the day, they answered them on their blogs and I’m going to have them do some sort of Vision Board also. I will do my own to share with them as well.


    February 5, 2013 at 1:41 am

    • Erin – It truly breaks my heart when I hear about what teachers HAVE to do in their classes. I intentionally taught PE and Gifted Ed. so I could do my own curriculum. On the other hand, I am absolutely thrilled that you asked students to blog about their dreams – gave me a good kind of chills. I hope you do a post about their blogs and vision boards. These type of classroom activities need to be shared!

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      February 5, 2013 at 2:03 am

      • Here is a link to their blogs. I haven’t been blogging much on my own blog, in fact the link doesn’t even work and I don’t know why. I think I may have to upgrade WordPress. I do blog on my classroom blog and I will write about this. I tend to keep those posts totally class related – avoiding politics I guess. I need to figure out how to merge my blogs or have all my stuff in the same place. One day. Thanks for inspiring the idea for us today.


        February 5, 2013 at 2:07 am

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