User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Maker Education Activities

with 2 comments

This coming summer I am getting the opportunity to teach a maker education camp for three weeks, half-days at a local elementary school.  The descriptions for the three one-week workshops are:

  • Circuit Crafts: Build glowing, sensing, and interactive circuit projects; make electronic stickers, circuit sketchbooks, circuit cards, and sewn circuits.
  • Sweet Robotics: Make simple robotics using Popsicle sticks and LED lights; play with and build some robots with Makey Makey, littleBits, Hummingbird, and Modular Robotics.
  • Toy Hacking: Take apart simple electronic toys to see how they work & then put them back together again creating a new toy; make an operation game.

I created a website in order to aggregate possible activities, resources, and tutorials; and as a means to promote the workshops to parents, so they can see examples projects that the kids will be working on. Below is a link to my website.

2015-03-01_1648http://makereducation.weebly.com/

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 2, 2015 at 12:04 am

All Kids Have Worth

with 4 comments

All kids have worth. Some, though, want to prove to us that they have none. Our job as caring educators is to prove them wrong.

climbing pick

This post was sparked by a blog post by Brian Aspinall, 5 Reasons Why I Stopped Sending Kids Out of Class and a follow up Twitter conversation I had with Brian Aspinall and Terry Heick.

2015-02-27_11052015-02-27_11082015-02-27_11092015-02-27_11232015-02-27_11202015-02-27_1124

This got me thinking about my own past experiences with very high risk youth. I used to facilitate wilderness adventure therapy programs for adjudicated youth. This is a story of one youth in the program.

The Story of Timmy MadDog

In preparation for our two week wilderness course, I met each of the kids in their social workers’ offices. I knew the kids would be a challenge. They were given the choice between going on the two week wilderness course or going to juvenile detention. Prior to meeting Timmy, his social worker told me he was a handful, that both adults and his peers feared him. I took in a deep breath in preparation for meeting him. In walks in a 13 year-old boy with shabby clothes, shaggy blond hair, and about 4’10 in height. The first thing he said was, “My name in MadDog.” I laughed out loud given the incongruence between his description and his appearance; but my heart was immediately drawn to this kid.

As expected, MadDog caused a lot of problems “mouthing off” to both staff and his peers. None of problems, though, were outrageous or dangerous. We used huddle-ups or the tenets positive peer culture to deal with problems:

PPC is a peer-helping model designed to improve social competence and cultivate strengths in troubled and troubling youth. “Care and concern” for others (or “social interest”) is the defining element of PPC. Rather than demanding obedience to authority or peers, PPC demands responsibility, empowering youth to discover their greatness. Caring is made fashionable and any hurting behavior totally unacceptable. PPC assumes that as group members learn to trust, respect, and take responsibility for the actions of others, norms can be established. These norms not only extinguish antisocial conduct, but more importantly reinforce pro-social attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Positive values and behavioral change are achieved through the peer-helping process. Helping others increases self-worth. As one becomes more committed to caring for others, s/he abandons hurtful behaviors. http://www.cebc4cw.org/program/positive-peer-culture/

The bottom line was, “You can have problems but you need to deal with them.” The huddle-ups were group meetings called by both staff and/or the kids if a problem arose. Everyone would immediately stop what they were doing and get in a huddle to discuss the problem. The huddle-up went on as long as needed to address the problem and insure that everyone was comfortable with solutions.  Needless to say, Timmy MadDog had a large share of huddle-ups called on him.

We were in the second week, Timmy MadDog had reached the end of everyone’s nerves. We had a long and intense huddle-up. The kids, good problem-solvers by this point, had a list of changes they wanted Timmy MadDog to make. Their ultimatum was make these changes or leave the course. I respected the kids’ decisions – especially at this point of the course. I had really grown to care about Timmy MadDog and didn’t want their decision to be to kick him out of the course. Timmy MadDog sighed and said, “I really want to change but I have been acting this way for 13 years. How can you expect me to change overnight?” The group voted for him to say.

During the final days of the course, we saw subtle but significant changes. The baseball cap that he had worn so low it almost covered his eyes during all of his waking hours was no longer being worn at all. The other kids would often chant “Don’t treat your puppy like a dog, dog, dog (from the old tv commercial). You think you are a MadDog but you are just a puppy dog,” to which he would laugh and smile. Less huddle-ups were called on him.

The final night of the two week wilderness trip was marked by a graduation. The kids, after cleaning up and getting dressed up, went to a dinner in honor of their achievements. Their family members, social workers, and probation officers were invited to attend. To receive their graduation certificate, each had to stand up in front of the entire group and talk about what the course meant to them. It was Timmy’s turn. He stood up in front of the group and said, “I learned that I am not such a fuck up.” This wasn’t the most proper way to say it in front of all of these people but the message was huge. Timmy learned he had worth.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 27, 2015 at 9:11 pm

Educator as Lead Learner: Learning LittleBits

with 2 comments

I have discussed educators as model learners before:

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 disseminator. Now that 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. (Educator as Model Learner)

I advocate for the educator, as leader learner, to demonstrate the process of learning:

To effectively do so, though, the educator needs to understand and be able to articulate and demonstrate the process of learning, him or herself. It is a mistaken assumption that educators know how to do so. The learning process can be made overt through recording and clearly articulating the steps, procedures, and/or strategies for doing so. (Educators as Lead Learners)

To learn and model this process, I recommend that educators pick something new to learn and practice doing the following: educator as lead learner I am teaching at a maker education camp this summer and want to integrate LittleBits into my curriculum. As such, I am learning how they work. In order to model my process as lead learner, I noted how I am learning how to use Littlebits. I will ask the older kids to do a similar process and will have them explore my documentation to get an idea how to do this.

Note My Steps to the Learning Process

Why I Became Interested As a avid user of Twitter, I have a column for tweets hashtagged as #makered. LittleBits come up often. I have been watching how they evolved over the past year or so; and how they support and are being used by educators. Purchasing and Examining LittleBits LittleBits has several kits. I looked them over online and decided to purchase two kits: The Basic and the Arduino Coding Kit.  I examined both sets to insure I was getting different LittleBits with the two kits. Since I am a consumer shopper, I found both these sets via eBay – new for about half of the original cost – score!

How I Am Learning

As many of us do in this century of learning, I go online to find tutorials. I am using the following resources to help me get acquainted

I try a few of the simple projects to learn about the functions of the different Littlebits. I then read over the projects offered in the manual. I mentally picture building them. Because I knew I could easily build the beginning ones, I skip to the last project in the manual – the Three-Wheeler and also view it online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niEsF4jeXU0. I have a belief that maker education is not about copying what has been already created. As such, I think about how I wanted to adapt the projects.

I conceptualize an adaptation of the three-wheeler as a cat toy/feeder. I come up with a mental picture of the cat toy-feeder. I would be using the light light sensor and bar graph to activate the toy when the sun comes up in the morning. Once activated due to the sun, the engine would move and the LED in the feathered tail would light up.  The moving device with the trailing feathers and LED would encourage my cat to chase it, hence getting a little exercise prior to catching the reward of her cat food situated on the truck bed. Her body would cover the light sensor causing it to stop and giving her a chance to eat (photos can be found at the end of this post).

I have a bunch of Legos and tinker toys that I use when teaching and bring these out to help me build. Combining the Legos with Littlebits makes sense but connecting them takes some work with the use of tape. I guess LittleBits figured this out because I went online and found the brick adapter: http://littlebits.cc/accessories/brick-adapter. Because I have so many parts which includes LittleBits, Legos, Tinker Toys  – some on the top and some on the bottom, I have to manipulate and play with different configurations to get everything to fit together and work correctly.

Thinking About My Thinking

Some of the thoughts I had during the building of this project:

  • I love that I can jump on the internet and immediate get tutorials and example projects that others have done.
  • I like the car project and believe the kids will like this, too, but I want to create my own version rather than following the directions as written.
  • I have all of these building supplies from teaching – Legos, Tinker Toys, Pico Cricket. I can go find those to use with the LittleBits in order to complete my own design.
  • How silly it is that I am an older woman “playing” with Legos. I need to let go of this thought.
  • I figured some things out but dropping the little pieces a lot frustrated me. I decided to put it away and start again tomorrow morning.
  • I feel a sense of accomplishment figuring out how to “fix” things so they work better.
  • I think that being a ceramics potter and teaching EdTech has made me a better problem solver.
  • I used the LittleBits motor to make it move, how can I use some of the other LittleBits to embellish it – add more features?
  • I like combining the Littlebits with Legos but they are a little unruly. I have to “MacGyver” them together. This is making the project a lot more difficult.
  • I know that letting ideas float around in my mind for a while often yields results, so after thinking about how I might adapt it, I came up with a cat feeder and toy.
  • I know that I can successfully visualize art projects without needing to sketch them out. I know this is not true for everyone.
  • It is taking a lot more time than expected – hopefully my hard work will pay off.
  • Not having the right tools (e.g., not have the brick connectors) can be very frustrating.
  • I don’t like how all of the electrical tape is showing so I’ll cover the top of the Lego plate. It will also serve to create a surface that will more easily clean off the cat food.
  • Yea – it works. I am laughing and clapping at the whimsical nature of this project.

Iterations

The maker movement is driven by the DIY movement, creating and recreating new “things.” At its core, then, making is about experimentation, about trial and error, about trying things out to see what works and what doesn’t. As such, failure is seen as iteration. Part of being a lead learner, of understanding and documenting the learning process is recording the iterations of the project. I engaged in a lot of experimentation but had basically two iterations. I believe I would have had more but due to some experience with robotics, I had a good idea of what would work – not work.

1st Iteration

  • Had wheel extended too far back – couldn’t mount the motor.
  • Front wheels bumping into base – needed to add spacers.
  • The single back wheel didn’t work with a Lego wheel; too long of a motor stem made the wheel off centered and with the weight of the motor it fell to one side.

DSC02128DSC02130

2nd Iteration

The second iteration was actually the final one but it took a lot of manipulating the back wheel and motor to get them to stay put.

DSC02135DSC02142DSC02137

Self-Evaluation

I worked on this project over two days. I feel successful in a number of ways:

  • Because I have done some simple robotics (Pico Crickets),  ith my students before, I found that this background, helped me understand the functions of many of the Littlebits. It felt good to be able to quickly understand how Littlebits functioned.
  • I am proud of the final project in terms of function but not so much in form.  I don’t like all the tape I used and the wheel is a bit precariously connected. Maybe I’ll buy to brick connectors at some point.
  • I was very excited about the final project. It worked as I conceptualized and my cat enjoyed it, too!

DSC02145DSC02151

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 23, 2015 at 1:18 am

Educators as Lead Learners

with 2 comments

I have discussed educators as model learners before:

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 disseminator. Now that 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. (Educator as Model Learner)

The goal of this post is to encourage educators not only to adopt the mindset of the educator as a lead learner but also to model, demonstrate, and teach his/her learners the process of learning how to learn new “things”.

In our schools, “the emphasis is on what students need to learn, whereas little emphasis—if any—is placed on training students how they should go about learning the content and what skills will promote efficient studying to support robust learning,” writes John Dunlosky, professor of psychology at Kent State University in Ohio. However, he continues, “teaching students how to learn is as important as teaching them content, because acquiring both the right learning strategies and background knowledge is important—if not essential—for promoting lifelong learning.” (Smart Strategies That Help Students Learn How to Learn)

To effectively do so, though, the educator needs to understand and be able to articulate and demonstrate the process of learning, him or herself. It is a mistaken assumption that educators know how to do so. The learning process can be made overt through recording and clearly articulating the steps, procedures, and/or strategies for doing so. To learn and model this process, I recommend that educators pick something new to learn and practice doing the following:

  1. Explicitly state and record the metacognitive process while learning.
  2. Demonstrate and articulate the actual steps of learning.
  3. Record the stages of artifact development.
  4. Understand and embrace the iterative process of learning.
  5. Use and demonstrate the self-evaluative reflection process.

educator as lead learner

Deep Understanding of Metacognitive Processes 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” (http://sites.cdnis.edu.hk/school/ls/2011/05/12/teachers-as-lead-learners/). Developing one’s on metacognitive skills begins with developing an awareness of one’s own thought processes while learning new. Once this awareness is developed, the steps of learning can be more clearly articulated.  Articulate and Showcase the Actual Steps of Learning If learning is understood as a process – one that goes from not knowing to one of knowing, then educators should know, understand, and clearly articulate the steps to that process. Granted, learning different things requires some different strategies, but there are some steps that cut across disciplines. For example, some of these steps include how one does the following:

  • How do I gather information about what it is that I want to learn?
  • What are the steps am I taking to learn?
  • How do I know if I am adequately acquiring the knowledge, skills, etc., related to that learning?
  • What do I do when I get stuck?
  • What do I do when I need help?

So related to the metacognitive process, if the educator records the steps to their learning process, this can help make it more overt and obvious. Understand and Embrace the Iterative Process of Learning The following video discusses that “effective” learning is often iterative which involves prototyping, testing, failing, tweaking, and then repeating this cycle.

Learning As Iterative

The educator as a lead learner normalizes, embraces, models, and reinforces the iterative process of learning.

 Record the Stages of Artifact Development This strategy can be especially useful if the goal is to create or make something. It can include writing something, learning a new skill, and making something (as in Maker Education).  Too often education techniques focus on exemplary models. This gives the message that perfection is expected – not respecting that there are several stages, often several prototypes or iterations on the road towards perfection. Recording those iterations as artifacts through images, pictures, descriptive narratives will support and reinforce learning as a process. Use and Demonstrate the Self-Evaluative Reflection Process

The authors [of this research] argue that learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection—that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience. The results reveal reflection to be a powerful mechanism behind learning, confirming the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey: “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.” (Learning By Thinking: How Reflection Improves Performance)

Another strategy, intimately connected with the others presented in this post, is engaging in periodic self-evaluative reflection. It involves the revisiting the following question throughout the learning process, “What criteria am I using to assess the “goodness” and accuracy of my learning? In the absence of meeting that criteria, what do I do to adapt my strategies to meet this standard?”


Knowledge of one’s learning process can (and should) be used as part of an educator’s professional development. If done as such, it teaches and reinforces:

  • The importance of learning new things; the importance of being a lifelong learner.
  • The process of learning so this process can be more easily described and reinforced with students;
  • The importance of a growth mindset; that growth is possible during any time of one’s career.

It is important to realize the implications for our students of our own critical reflection. Students put great store by our actions and they learn a great deal from observing how we model intellectual inquiry and democratic process. Given that this is so, a critically reflective teacher activates her classroom by providing a model of passionate skepticism. As Osterman (1990) comments, “critically reflective teachers – teachers who make their own thinking public, and therefore subject to discussion – are more likely to have classes that are challenging, interesting, and stimulating for students” (p. 139). Stephen Brookfield

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 15, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Questions to Ask Oneself While Designing Learning Activities

with one comment

I absolutely love planning lessons from scratch.  I just got a job teaching technology units for a summer camp for elementary age students. I can design and teach whatever I want – planning for a different theme each week. Some of the themes I am planning are: Expanding and Showing Your Personal Interests Through Blogging, Photos, and Videos; Coding and Creating Online Games; Tinkering and Making – Simple Robotics; Hacking Your Notebook; and Creating Online Comics, Newspapers, and Magazines.  I have begun the process of planning these classes through reflecting on what the lessons will look like.  Here are some questions I ask myself as I go through this process:

  • Will the learning activities provide learners with opportunities to tap into their own personal interests and passions?
  • Will the learning activities offer the learners the chance to put them “selves” into their work?
  • Will the learning activities provide learners with opportunities to express themselves using their own authentic voices?
  • Will the learners find the learning activities engaging? interesting? relevant? useful?
  • What “cool” technologies can be used to help meet both the instructional and the learners’ goals?
  • Will the learning activities provide learners with opportunities to have fun and to play?
  • Will learners be able to do at least some of the work independently?
  • Will the learning activities give all of the learners opportunities to shine?
  • Will the learners get the chance to share their work with other learners, with a more global audience?

lesson reflection

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 31, 2015 at 11:31 pm

Things We Want Our Learners to Say

with 3 comments

One of the best indicators that I am doing teaching right is the spontaneous comments made by my learners. This qualitative information, for me as an educator, is a much better measure of success in the classroom than any type of quantitative information.  What follows are some comments I love hearing from my learners:

  • I really like coming to class.
  • Can I stay in the classroom (for recess, for lunch, after school) so I can continue working on my project?
  • Is it time to go leave already?
  • I am a good learner.
  • I love learning new things.
  • I feel like I have a real voice in this classroom; that what I say matters.
  • I know I wasn’t successful with the assignment but I am going to use that information to improve.
  • Our class feels like a family.
  • You (the teacher) haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a kid.

students say

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 20, 2015 at 3:19 am

The Other 21st Century Skills: Educator Self-Assessment

with 11 comments

I’ve posted about The Other 21st Skills and Attributes.  This post provides links and resources about these skills as well as an educator self-assessment.  This assessment contains questions to assist the educator in evaluating if and how s/he is facilitating these skills and attributes in the learning environment. skills

21st century skills

Related Resources:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 16, 2015 at 8:08 pm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 22,437 other followers

%d bloggers like this: