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Questions Learners Should Be Addressing Every Day at School

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I believe it is every educator’s responsibility to help insure that learners are addressing the following questions during each school day:

  • What questions am I asking today?
  • What answers am I seeking today?
  • What am I exploring today?
  • What am I making today?
  • What am I finding exciting today?
  • How am I playing and having fun today?
  • How am I using failure to inform my learning today?
  • What am I doing today to cooperate with others?
  • How am I documenting my learning today?
  • How am I sharing with others what I am learning today?
  • What am I doing today that has the potential to benefit the world?

questions

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 15, 2016 at 1:20 am

Documenting Learning

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As I’ve discussed in numerous posts, I am an experiential educator. I believe in and promote learning-by-doing and hands-on learning. I approach experiential learning from a cycle of learning which includes reflecting on and analysis of things done through learning-by-doing.

CycleofLearninghttps://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/a-natural-and-experiential-cycle-of-learning/

Reflection, as part of the experiential learning cycle, is often as or even more important than the making itself.

Untitled

A recent research study published via Harvard Business Review concluded 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.
  • Reflecting on what has been learned makes experience more productive.
  • Reflection builds one’s confidence in the ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy), which in turn translates into higher rates of learning. (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7498.html)

I am excited about the current trend towards maker education but I believe it needs to embrace a full cycle of learning including engaging in reflection. Reflection within the maker movement and maker education can occur through a process of documenting learning.

Document4Learning

Documenting learning can take on many forms:

  • writing a blog
  • doing a photo essay which includes
  • creating a video
  • making a podcast
  • doing a class wiki
  • doing a backchannel through Twitter with a hashtag or a platform like TodaysMeet
  • making Sketchnotes and/or mindmaps
  • using apps such as Seesaw or Educreations

The key is to offer the learners choices. This builds in and honors more personalized means of reflective learning.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano created the following infographic that describes some strategies for documenting for learning.

documenting-for-as-learning-tolisano2

http://langwitches.org/blog/2015/11/22/a-conversation-about-documenting-for-and-as-learning/

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 8, 2016 at 9:37 pm

Maker Education and Social-Emotional Development

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Planning educational activities that incorporate social-emotional learning has broad benefits. Research shows that SEL can have a positive impact on school climate and promote a host of academic, social, and emotional benefits for students. Durlak, Weissberg et al.’s recent meta-analysis of 213 rigorous studies of SEL in schools indicates that students receiving quality SEL instruction demonstrated:

  • better academic performance: achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction;
  • improved attitudes and behaviors: greater motivation to learn, deeper commitment to school, increased time devoted to schoolwork, and better classroom behavior;
  • fewer negative behaviors: decreased disruptive class behavior, noncompliance, aggression, delinquent acts, and disciplinary referrals; and
  • reduced emotional distress: fewer reports of student depression, anxiety, stress, and social withdrawal. (http://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning/outcomes/)

Daniel Goleman and CASEL has identified five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies:

  • Self-awareness: The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations and possessing a well-grounded sense of confidence and optimism.
  • Self-management: The ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving personal and academic goals.
  • Social awareness: The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.
  • Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed.
  • Responsible decision making: The ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, social norms, the realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and the well-being of self and others. (http://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning/core-competencies)

Maker Education and Social Emotional Learning

Maker education, when planned around skills acquisition, can enhance social-emotional development.

Self-Awareness: Making in all its forms requires a full range of skills including cognitive, physical, and affective skills. Given this need for multiple and diverse skill set, effective and successful making comes from an accurate assessment of one’s strengths and limitations as well as having optimism and confidence that challenges can be overcome within the making process. Example questions related to self-awareness and making include:

  • What strategies am I using to increase my awareness of my emotions and how they influence my performance during the making-related tasks?
  • What are my strengths given this particular making task?
  • What are my limitations and how can I use my strengths to overcome them?

Self-Management: Making, especially making something new, often includes developing goals on the fly, revising those goals, and managing frustrations as the maker works through and learns new skills, processes, and knowledge related to that make. Example questions related to self-management and making include:

  • What processes am I using to develop, assess, and revise my goals while making?
  • What strategies am I using to manage any frustrations or failures that are occurring during making my project?

Social awareness:   A key area of social awareness is that of empathy – good listening and understanding the perspective of others. For many, design thinking goes hand-in-hand with the maker movement and maker education. Not all making is about attempting to design solutions to community and world problems, but building in that aspect has the potential to create more meaningful maker projects.

Making is a fantastic way to engage many students, but it’s only the first step toward an even greater revolution. The future of education cannot be about giving students the skills to fill jobs; it must be about giving them the skills to create jobs. This requires more than technical skills, it requires empathy, context and innovation. The heart of innovation is not technology, but people. Great innovators are able to deeply understand human needs and create useful solutions. Innovation simply requires empathy and experimentation. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/singularity/2014/07/29/beyond-the-maker-movement-how-the-changemakers-are-the-future-of-education/#328fd30c3b84)

Some example projects of making with useful solutions include:

Sample assessment questions for social awareness and making include:

  • What strategies am I using to find out the perspectives and ideas of potential users of my project?
  • How am I insuring that I am addressing the needs of diverse population of potential users of my project?

Relationship skills: The power of being a maker is amplified when one works collaboratively on projects, gets help from others, and shares findings with others. Example self-assessment questions for relationship skills and making include:

  • How am I using others to help me with my project?
  • How are my peers and I collaborating ?
  • Am I asking for help if and when I get stuck making my project?
  • How am I sharing my ideas with others?

Responsible decision making: Responsible decision making includes considering how one’s decisions surrounding making: (1) affects the safety of oneself and one’s peers, (2) is respectful of the rights of others, and (3) is done with the understanding of the possible of larger consequences for self and others.

  • What am I doing to keep my peers and me physically safe during the making of my project?
  • How am I making decisions that draw upon my own and my peers’ creativity, innovation, and insights?
  • What are the consequences of my actions on my peers and me during making my project?
  • What past projects are informing my decisions for this project?
  • How am I considering the humanitarian and ethical ramifications or consequences of my project?

The following infographic lists all of these questions. Questions should be selected and presented based of the types of maker projects, the goals of the maker projects, and the age of the makers.

makng and SEL

 

Framing and Frontloading Maker Activities

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As I’ve mentioned in some other posts, I come from a background in Experiential Education (yes, it is a specific professional discipline). I’ve also discussed reflecting on the learning activities to increase the chances of extracting learning as well as transferable skills and knowledge from the activities. This is an integral part of experiential education – see my previous posts, Where is reflection in the learning process? and The Maker as a Reflective Practitioner.

Another concept common to Experiential Education, that also increases the chances that transferable skills and knowledge result, is framing or frontloading the activities as part of introducing them.

Frontloading is making clear the purpose of an activity prior to actually doing it.  The idea is that if participants clearly understand the purpose or lesson upfront, that lesson will repeatedly show itself during the action component. (http://chiji.com/processing.htm)

The practitioner tells or guides participants before the experience on how what they want them to focus on in the activity. It is about guided attention before the activity. (http://www.aee.org/tapg-best-p-matching-facilitation-strategy)

What are the benefits of frontloading?

  • It helps participants use the upcoming activity to build on prior knowledge and experience
  • It helps participants set purpose and intention for the activity
  • It distributes expertise to the participants before the activity begins, as opposed to the facilitator or instructor being the only expert (http://experience.jumpfoundation.org/what-is-frontloading/)

Some of the general themes and ideas for frontloading making activities include:

  • Using and Reviewing Essential Questions – explicitly discussed prior to the maker activities. For example –
    • What are the attributes of having a maker mindset?
    • What skills do you need to be an inventor? an engineer?
    • What are the steps to the design process?
    • How do inventors, engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and/or artists solve problems? How do they overcome challenges?
  • Using Scenarios – for example –
    • You have been hired to create a new invention to bring kindness into the world. This invention will be shared with all of the kids in the United States.
    • The kids at the local shelter would love to have one of the latest and greatest of toys. Make them one of these.
  • Specifying Standards – the Next Generation Science Standards include some good examples. The educator can introduce the standards and explain what they mean in terms of the upcoming maker activities. For example:
    • Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
    • Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
  • Asking Questions Related To Personal Skills – for example –
    • The following maker activity will draw upon your imagination, creativity, and innovative mindset. What do you consider your strengths in this area that can be used during your maker activity?
  • Asking Questions to Help with Scaffolding and Sequencing the Activities – the facilitator can review previous activities and then ask participants prior to the next learning activity –
    • In this next activity you will be ask to do _______________, what skills did you learn in the (previous activity) that will help you do ____________ in this upcoming activity?
  • Asking Questions Related To Using Peer Support-Working Collaboratively – for example – 
    • How might you use your co-learners support if and when you get stuck or reach an impasse while working on the next activity?

Frontloading Maker Activities

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 16, 2016 at 12:53 am

Extreme Learners

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The idea of extreme learners fits so nicely with my ideas of user-generated education. So what follows is an aggregate of ideas, videos, and graphics related to being an extreme learner.

Milton Chen has stated, “Extreme learners aren’t so different from everybody else.” I believe that the tenets and characteristics of extreme learners can apply to every learner given the support, time, and skills to do so. This actually fits with the ideas and characteristics of heutagogy and self-determined learning.

What follows are some resources and ideas related to being and encouraging extreme learners.

Extreme learners are renegades who take charge of their own education. They apply novel feedback mechanisms and optimize their learning experiences. They have learned how to learn. And you can, too. Extreme learners defy traditional definitions of teacher and student. They design their own curricula from online courses, get their hands dirty at community laboratories and hackerspaces, and seek out mentors. They help others learn, participating in an active learning exchange. They are teachers as much as they are learners. (Extreme Learners)

It’s the hunger for learning rather than raw intellect that distinguishes Extreme Learners from the gifted. Intensely motivated and harboring a breadth of interests, they also consider ignorance a temporary and reparable condition. What’s the lesson here for schools? In short, standardization, repetition, and rigidity are deadly for the curious. “Nothing bores me more than seeing a list of redundant facts I have to memorize,” Mollie Cueva-Dabkoski said. Biology class dragged for Thomas Hunt, but the school turned him down when he tried to replace a few classes with work in a lab outside school. “High school is a big day care system,” Roth said. The main takeaway for teachers is, give students more flexibility and choice over what they’re working on,” Milton Chen said. “Give kids the tools to identify their interests and gather information. And help them find like-minded people to work with.”  (What Makes an ‘Extreme Learner’?)

Milton Chen proposes the following 7 Habits of Extreme Learners

IMG_2160

Finally, there is a new initiative entitled XQ: The Super School that appears to be promoting an educational learning environment that supports Extreme Learners:

To rethink school, every participant deserves access to the latest science about learning, the latest understanding about what the true need is, the latest expertise about what kinds of students our educational system must now foster. (http://xqsuperschool.org/about).

2016-03-10_1021.png

CdKFFvNUUAA5LrM

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 10, 2016 at 5:31 pm

The Maker Educator Workshop

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I am doing full day workshops on The Maker Educator both at ISTE 2016 and EduTECH in Australia. What follows is both the description-goals and an overview of the workshop’s learning activities.

Workshop Description, Goals, and Outline

Description

Being a maker educator requires developing a new mindset; a new set of skills and roles. Discover, through this workshop, first, a process for reflecting on making through creating circuits and hacked toys, and second, through a self-assessment, the mindset characteristics of an educator who is embracing making education. This workshop is designed for educators who are and want to integrate maker education into their instructional settings.

Goals

By the end of this workshop, participants will learn and be able to apply:

  • new maker activities that can be brought to their own educational environments
  • a process for reflecting on making for the purposes of increasing learning following each make
  • the characteristics and qualities of an educator as a maker educator: (lead learner, safe environment manager, relationship builder and enabler, process facilitator, resource suggester and provider, normalizer of ambiguous problem finding and solving,  technology tutor, feedback facilitator, tour guide of learning possibilities)
  • an assessment tool for evaluating the maker mindset of educators,
  • a process for identifying goals to increase one’s potential to be a maker educator.

Outline

  • Short Introduction to Maker Education – Video
  • Frontloading and Framing the Maker Activity
  • Make Paper Circuits and LED projects
  • Reflect on the Making Process
  • Develop Personal Goals for Next Make
  • Introduction to 2nd Make: Maker Education and Social Emotional Learning
  • Make Toy Hack or Soldering Project
  • 2nd Reflection on the Making Process
  • Personal Assessment of Mindset of a Maker Educator
  • Review Characteristics of the Mindset of a Maker Educator
  • Group Drawing with LEDs – The Maker Educator
  • Develop Goals for Making in One’s Own Instructional Setting

Workshop Activities

Introducing Maker Education https://experientiallearning.makes.org/popcorn/1fjc


Frontloading the Maker Activity

Frontloading Maker Activities


Making Paper Circuits and LED Projects

IMG_1146IMG_2272


 

Reflecting on the Making Process Through Playing “A Maker Reflection Board Game” & Developing Personal Goals for Next Make

maker game best


Documenting Learning and Developing Personal Goals – Participants will document, reflect on their learning, and develop goals for their next make either through a shared Google Presentation or a Shared Wikispace.


Introducing the Second Make: Maker Education and Social Emotional Learning

makng and SEL


Doing a Second Make: Toy Hacking and/or Soldering

DSC00664

DSC01486


 

Reflecting and Documenting a Second Time

a making reflection


 

Exploring the Characteristics of the Maker Educator

educator as a maker educator


 

Creating a LED Enhanced Educator a a Maker Educator Poster

IMG_1473


 

Developing Goals and Strategies for Bringing It Back to One’s Work Setting

DSC01429

Resources

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 4, 2016 at 8:11 pm

Doing Things at School That Can’t Be Done At Home

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Many kids and teens are spending a lot of their time doing solitary screen-related activities. This most often occurs at home with their own devices.

We are also living in an age where practically any and all content can be found via the Internet. The educator is no longer the gatekeeper to information. Internet resources can present and teach content better than a lecturing educator. Videos, demonstrations, and interactive websites and simulations are often more interesting, exciting, and engaging than teachers’ lectures . . . and the kids know it!

So what, then, becomes the purpose of school? School should be about doing things that aren’t or can’t be done at the students’ own homes. These things should be about interaction . . . interaction with other humans . . . interaction with the material and physical world.

schoolinteractions.jpg

Interacting with Adult Educators

The first type of human interactions includes those with adult educators and mentors. The key here is that they are interactions not an adult teacher talking at nor lecturing the learner. It involves building relationships with learners, engaging in coaching and mentoring functions, and modeling learning how to learn.

Educator as a Coach and Mentor

Coaching in the classroom environment is defined as working with students to develop their self-awareness and capacity for self-discovery, while motivating them to begin a process of continuous learning and development. Three key elements of the role of the teacher as coach are: relationship building, increasing students’ self-discovery and self-knowledge through co-inquiry, and combining theory with practice via a pragmatic orientation. (The Teacher As Coach Approach)

Educator as a Lead or Model Learning

I have written before about the educator as a model and lead learner:

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 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)

Interacting with Peers

The second type of human interaction is that with peers. Human beings are social and naturally learn from one another, so the idea of preventing discourse between peers counters how people learn in the real world. Peer interactions don’t necessarily have to be learners of the same age. It could be people of similar abilities and/or interests. Face-to-face interactions within the school setting has a number of benefits.

Throughout childhood and adolescence, peer interaction is essential for language, cognitive, and social development. There are aspects of learning that happen best during peer interactions, rather than interactions with adults. Children acquire language and vocabulary during interactions with others. They learn how to argue, negotiate, and persuade. Fostering Social Interaction

Classes where students have opportunities to communicate with each other help students effectively construct their knowledge. By emphasizing the collaborative and cooperative nature of classwork, students share responsibility for learning with each other, discuss divergent understandings, and shape the direction of the class. (Student-Student Classroom Interaction)

Interacting with Materials and the Physical World

Interacting with materials in the physical world is another interactive element that should be integrated as standard practice in face-to-face education. The quality of interacting with materials should be considered. It needs to go beyond using manipulatives in predetermined ways. Material interaction should be open ended, allowing for learner experimentation and self-discovery. I recently learned about The Theory of Loose Parts:

In 1972, architect Simon Nicholson developed the Theory of Loose Parts; the idea that loose parts, materials which can be moved around, designed and redesigned, and tinkered with; create infinitely more opportunities for creative engagement than static materials and environments. Basically, the more materials there are the more people can interact. (The Theory of Loose Parts)

The loose parts theory suggests that when [learners] are given a wide range of materials that have no defined purpose, they will be more inventive in their play and have infinite play opportunities manipulating them in ever-changing ways that their imaginations devise. The more flexible the environment, the greater the level of creativity and inventiveness is expressed. (Loose Parts)

Here is Nicholson’s 1972 paper about The Theory of Loose Parts – 1204-5117-1-PB

Using loose parts for unique and personalized interactions support playful learning:

Playful learning is using play activities to immerse ourselves and learn, either on our own or with others in a space we feel safe.  Play helps us go back to who we really are as human beings, full of life, curiosity and wonder. Creatures who are not afraid to be different, even silly at times and ready to try different things. In playful learning it’s ok to make mistakes when experimenting with new ideas, when challenging ourselves and others and doing things we normally wouldn’t do – which can lead us to surprising discoveries.

The resources we use might be low tech, such as everyday objects, games and materials, or high tech, such as specific software tools, social or mobile media and mobile apps. Often we don’t need anything and play happens based on pure imagination and we become play resources ourselves. (The Rise of Playful Learning)

I believe that the reason for the popularity of maker education is due to both educators’ and learners’ need for playful learning with loose parts.

The Role of Technology in the Interactive Environment

Because of the ubiquitous nature of technology, I do believe it should be integrated into school-based learning activities but not in the often passive and isolated ways that it is typically used by many folks. Technology can and should be used to reinforce and supplement the interactive activities – looking things up to support their interactive learning ventures, requesting advice and expertise via social networks, documenting their learning, and communicating directly with experts and peers via Skype and Google Hangouts.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 29, 2016 at 12:39 am

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