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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

micro:bits for good

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At the beginning of November, 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to Singapore to attend and present at Edutech Asia 2019. During that time, I had the opportunity to hear about their initiative to use micro:bits to help students learn technology in authentic ways. An article from 2017, Micro:bit launch: What you need to know about the coding gadget Singapore plans to introduce, explained it as:

School-going children in Singapore will soon be using a pocket-sized, codeable computer, called the micro:bit, to pick up coding skills. The move is aimed at instilling passion for technology among young Singaporeans. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will work with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to roll out micro:bit as part of its new Digital Maker Programme over the next two years.

In the exhibit hall at the conference, IMDA showcased the micro:bit-for-good projects that groups of Singapore students created. The following video provides a sampling of students explaining their projects.

micro:bit Global Challenge

The Micro:bit Education is sponsoring a challenge to use micro:bits to address two of the UN’s Global Goals: Life Below Water and Life on Land. They provide lots of resources on their website:

Previous micro:bit Global Challenge

In 2015, world leaders came together to decide on a series of “global goals” to build a better world. We challenged students aged 8-12 across the globe to consider how these goals could change the lives of themselves and others, and to design solutions to these goals using the micro:bit (https://microbit.org/global-challenge/)

Although this contest/initiative has officially ended, it could still be used by groups of students as a reference to create micro:bit-for-good projects. Some resources from this challenge follow:

The following is a guide developed by Canada Learn Code to help students prototype their micro:bit global challenge idea.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 24, 2019 at 10:30 pm

A Maker Education PD Workshop

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I had the privilege of presenting a day long maker education workshop at Edutech Asia on November 7, 2019. I was excited about having teachers and other professionals from Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, and New Zealand attend. What follows are some details and highlights.

As they arrived in the morning, I asked them to access the workshop slides and create a name card lit up with an LED.

They then used these name cards to introduce themselves.

Next, they were provided with copper tape, coin batteries, LEDs, and Chibitronics’ circuit stickers along with instructions about how to make series and parallel circuits; and asked to create pictures from their circuits. Here is a video of some of the participants sharing their processes:

Then, they were asked to further reflect on their learning by playing my Maker Reflection Game.

They were then introduced to their next making segment in which they could pick to do one or more of the following projects:

  • Bristlebots
  • Gami-bots
  • More advanced paper circuits
  • micro:bit books
  • Makey-Makey Characters

I repeatedly encouraged them to take pictures throughout their making processes in order to document their learning.

To reflect on this making segment, they were introduced to several types of online educational technology creation tools to use for their reflective piece. I believe that reflection and assessment should be as fun, exciting, valuable, and informative as the making process itself. Here are some examples from the workshop:



Finally, they were instructed to create a poster using visuals and LEDs in their small groups about their day and how they can apply their learnings when they return to their work environments.

. . . and here are the slides provided to the participants:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 18, 2019 at 2:36 am

Language Arts Lesson Using a micro:book

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In Learning in the Making I discuss the importance of and strategies for integrating technology into the curriculum.

Maker education needs to be intentional. It follows, then, that if we want to bring maker education into more formal and traditional classrooms—as well as more informal environments such as afterschool and community programs—it needs to be integrated into the curriculum using lesson plans. This chapter begins with a discussion of the characteristics of an effective maker education curriculum and then suggests a lesson plan framework for maker education– enhanced lesson plans.  A powerful maker education curriculum includes the following elements: 

  • Instructional challenges are hands-on, experiential, and naturally engaging for learners. 
  • Learning tasks are authentic and relevant, and they promote life skills outside of the formal classroom. 
  • Challenges are designed to be novel and create excitement and joy for learners. 
  • Learner choice and voice are valued. 
  • Lessons address cross-curricular standards and are interdisciplinary (like life).
  • Learning activities get learners interested in and excited about a broad array of topics, especially in the areas of science, engineering, math, language arts, and fine arts. 
  • Communication, collaboration, and problem solving are built into the learning process. 
  • Reading and writing are integrated into learning activities in the form of fun, interesting books and stories and through writing original stories, narratives, and journalistic reports. 
  • Educational technology is incorporated in authentic ways; the emphasis is not to learn technology just for the sake of learning it. 

Educators need to approach their curriculum and lessons with a maker mindset. With this mindset, they can figure out creative ways to integrate maker activities into existing lessons and instructional activities. Educators in these situations start with the standards and objectives of their lessons, as they typically do with “regular” lessons, and then design or identify maker activities that meet the standards and the lesson. It simply becomes a matter of “How can I add a making element to my lessons to reinforce concepts being learned?” 

The micro:book Lesson

After showing the micro:book activity (see https://make.techwillsaveus.com/microbit/activities/animated-microbook) to a bi-lingual co-teacher, Natalia, she took off with it to develop a lesson to teach her Spanish-speaking students types of sentences. See the video below for her explanation of this lesson and a student example.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 9, 2019 at 2:44 pm

A Brain Science Hyperdoc Activity

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Judy Willis, a neuroscientist turned teacher, in How to Teach Students About the Brain writes:

If we want to empower students, we must show them how they can control their own cognitive and emotional health and their own learning. Teaching students how the brain operates is a huge step. Teaching students the mechanism behind how the brain operates and teaching them approaches they can use to work that mechanism more effectively helps students believe they can create a more intelligent, creative, and powerful brain. It also shows them that striving for emotional awareness and physical health is part of keeping an optimally functioning brain. Thus, instruction in brain function will lead to healthier learners as well as wiser ones.

I teach a unit on the brain each year. This year I am teaching a 9th grade freshman seminar and decided to do a brain science unit with them. For this unit , I created a brain science hyperdoc for them. A hyperdoc is:

A HyperDoc is a digital document—such as a Google Doc—where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one central hub. Within a single document, students are provided with hyperlinks to all of the resources they need to complete that learning cycle (https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/hyperdocs/).

The Brain Science Hyperdoc

Here is a completed brain science hyperdoc so you can see what was required and how one student completed it.

Making Models of the Brain

One of the hands-on activities was to work in a small group to create a model of the brain lobes + cerebellum out of playdoh, and then add post-it note “flags” for each part that indicates its name, function, and how to promote its health.

Creating Neuron Models

As a treat and to reinforce the parts of the neuron, students used candy to make a neuron, label its parts on a paper below, and then show as a group how one neuron would communicate with the next neuron and then to the next and so on.

Creative Writing Activity

One of the final projects of their brain science activities was to pick two activities from the list of creative writing activities about the brain found at https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/writing.html. One of my students went all out to create a newspaper called The Brainiac News which follows. Using her own initiative, she started a Google Site to post a series of tongue-in-cheek stories. So impressive!

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 13, 2019 at 8:24 pm

Creating a New Makerspace at Our School

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I am beyond elated – our PreK-6 elementary school received monies, through our district’s Computer Science Resolution 2025, to create a STEAM (science, technology, arts, math) makerspace. I never thought our Title 1 school would get the opportunity to create such a space. I never thought I would get the opportunity to help create a fully equipped makerspace. A few of use spent the past few weeks rearranging our library so that one side contains our books and the other our STEAM materials.

We received the following items. Some were put out in the STEAM makerspace and some items the teachers will check out for use in their classrooms:

  • Dremel Laser Cutter (in makerspace)
  • Makedo Kits (in makerspace)
  • Strawbees (in makerspace)
  • Dash and Dot (in makerspace and can be checked out)
  • OSMO Coding (in makerspace)
  • Makerspace Kit (in makerspace)
  • BeeBot Robots (in makerspace)
  • Squishy Circuits (in makerspace)
  • Makey-Makeys (can be checked out)
  • littleBits Base Invent Kit (in makerspace)
  • micro:bits (3rd-6th grade teachers received their own sets)
  • Circuit Playground (can be checked out)
  • SAM Lab (can be checked out)
  • Green Screen (in makerspace)

Integrating Maker Education Activities Into the Curriculum

As we (the steering committee) envisioned adding a STEAM – Makerspace at our school, we realized that its success will be dependent on the teachers integrating these activities into their curriculum rather than an extra “recreational” activity.

Maker education needs to be intentional. It follows, then, for maker education to be brought into more formal and traditional classrooms as well as more informal ones such as with afterschool and community programs, it needs to be integrated into the curriculum using lesson plans to assist with this integration (Learning in the Making).


To assist our teachers with integrating maker education activities into the curriculum, I created the following Pearltrees aggregate of possible classroom lessons and activities for each of the materials – products we purchased for our school:

https://www.pearltrees.com/jackiegerstein/curriculum-integration/id27094864

In this post, I am also including the following lesson plan template from my book, Learning in the Making that can help with integrating maker education activities into the curriculum :

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 5, 2019 at 10:25 pm

Cross-Curricular Lesson: Communicating with Parents

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As someone who has been in teacher education for several decades, I often think about – teach about how to make curriculum engaging, fun, effective, authentic, and relevant for learners. I believe interdisciplinary or cross-curricular lessons have the potential to do so. I also add, when I am working with pre- and inservice teachers, that there is not enough time in a day to teach-learn everything that is desirable. Cross-curricular activities can help “create” more time as several content area standards can be addressed in one lesson.

Multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary learning is a “whole” or “comprehensive” method that covers an idea, topic, or text by integrating multiple knowledge domains. It is a very powerful method of teaching that crosses the boundaries of a discipline or curriculum in order to enhance the scope and depth of learning. Each discipline sheds light on the topic like the facets of a gem.

I created the following graphic to show the benefits of interdisciplinary standards.

An Example: Communicating with Parents

This past week I asked my freshman seminar class to do a few activities related to communicating with their parents. The goal of this lesson was, obviously, to have to students develop some more effective communication strategies.

Social Emotional Learning and 21st Century Standards

This lesson, at its core, falls into the areas socio-emotional learning and 21st Century Competencies. Ohio established their own set of K-12 Social and Emotional Learning Standards and the following are related to the goals of this lesson.

  • Actively engage in positive interactions to make connections with peers, adults and community to support and achieve common goals,
  • Establish and actively participate in a healthy network of personal, school and community relationships.

The Framework for 21st Century also identified communication as an important skill with the following standards.

  • Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts,
  • Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes and intentions.

English Language Arts Standards

Because the learners were asked to do research and write a letter to their parents, English Language Arts standards were also addressed:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.7
Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.2
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Communicating with Parents Poster

Learners were asked to review some online articles about communicating with parents and then make a poster that reflected strategies they believe to be important.

Letter to My Parents

Next, the learners were asked to write a letter to their parents that discussed:

  1. What types of communications are going well,
  2. What types of communications are not going well,
  3. Suggested goals for improving communications.

They were told they were not required to share the letter with their parents. Some examples follow:



Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 2, 2019 at 12:40 am

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