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Simple and Rube Goldberg Machines: A Maker Education, STEAM Lesson

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Recently I facilitated a simple-machines-leading-into-Rube-Goldberg-machines lesson with my gifted elementary students.

As I’ve discussed in past blog posts, I use several criteria to guide my lesson design:

  • Instructional challenges are hands-on and naturally engaging for learners.
  • There is a game-like atmosphere. There are elements of play, leveling up, and a sense of mastery or achievement during the instructional activities.
  • The challenges are designed to be novel and create excitement and joy for learners.
  • There is a healthy competition where the kids have to compete against one another.
  • Learners don’t need to be graded about their performances as built-in consequences are natural.
  • There is a natural building of social emotional skills – tolerance for frustration, expression of needs, working as a team.
  • Lessons are interdisciplinary (like life) where multiple, cross-curricular content areas are integrated into the instructional activities.
  • Lessons are designed to get learners interested in and excited about a broad  array of topics especially in the areas of science, engineering, math, language arts, and the arts.

The lesson activities and sequence went as follows . . .

Simple Machines

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  • To conclude the simple machines component, learners were taught about Haikus and asked to write Haikus about simple machines to be posted on their Kidblogs.

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Rube Goldberg Machines

  • Learners were shown several Rube Goldberg machines posted on Youtube.

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  • Learners were given a worksheet that contained several examples of Rube Goldberg Machines and asked to sketch their own cartoon versions.

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 29, 2016 at 5:07 am

The Maker Educator Workshop

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I have done-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
  • 1st 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
  • 2nd 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 


Frontloading the Maker Activity

Frontloading Maker Activities


Making Paper Circuits and LED Projects

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

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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

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Doing a Second Make: Toy Hacking and/or Soldering and/or Sew Electrics

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 Reflecting and Documenting a Second Time

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Exploring the Characteristics of the Maker Educator

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Creating a LED Enhanced Educator a a Maker Educator Poster

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

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Resources

Workshop Slide Deck

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 4, 2016 at 8:11 pm

Examining Your Beliefs About Digital Youth

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This weekend I attended a conference presentation entitled, Cultural Imposition: When Digital Immigrant Therapists See Digital Native Clients (yep, I know there is some push back against the terms of digital natives and digital immigrants). It’s focus was understanding digital youth as a unique culture. It got me thinking, though, about the assumptions that adults who work with and teach youth make about their digital use and behaviors.

Guiding Questions for Examining Teaching Practices Within a Context of Digital and Social Media Use:

  • How does the social-cultural phenomena of digital access and use affect your work as an educator?
  • What are your assumptions about the use of digital technology and social media?
  • What issues about social media have emerged in your work with students?
  • What are your thoughts about digital communication?

Educators way too often make unquestioned assumptions about digital youth and their use of social media:

  • Texting is generally bad – it stifles both written and spoken language.
  • Genuine communication and attachment cannot occur through social media.
  • Wikipedia and Youtube are generally not sources of valid information.
  • Sharing personal information publically is undesirable.
  • Online multiplayer games keep young people from doing productive things with their lives; they are escapes from the reality-the real world.

These beliefs or assumptions are absolutes and often signify biases of those who not of the digital youth cultures. To these assumptions, one must ask, “Who says?” or “According to whom?” They can and should be examined within a framework and context of a digital youth culture. This would help educators and others who work with them having a greater understanding of their media use patterns and the meaning of these patterns from the perspective of the youth themselves.

What is culture?

The ACA Code of Ethics defines culture as “membership in a socially constructed way of living, which incorporates collective values, beliefs, norms, boundaries and lifestyles.” Although specific definitions of culture vary depending on the source, cultural components consistently include language, cuisine, music, dress, government, gestures, grooming and technology.

I believe and discussed that educators should be ethnographers of their learners. The effective educator learns about the cultures of their learners and uses their knowledge to design instruction, suggest resources, propose learning strategies based on those cultures.

In doing this type of examination, the following might be considered:

  • Educators may discover that they view actions of digital youth and their tech use as devious-undesirable without understanding the motivations.
  • By not allowing tools/strategies that digital youth use on a daily basis, educators may inadvertently be alienating them.
  • When we make school policies about technology in the learning environment, why aren’t the thoughts and ideas of the digital youth in those classrooms considered?

It is important for adults who work with digital youth to see that culture through the eyes of the youth and whenever possible and feasible to bring aspects of the digital youth culture into the learning environment. If the adults in young people’s lives gain a greater understanding of the use and meaning of digital media, they can offer (offering as in suggesting not insisting) youth ways to navigate the digital world for learning, for positive identity development, and for developing a positive online presence. Digital youth can benefit from the adults who can help them develop tools and strategies for facilitating positive coping and navigation in the digital environment. But this can only occur if those adults have a deep and realistic view of the behaviors of digital youth.

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 30, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Importance of Authenticity Inside and Outside the Classroom

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I teach graduate educational technology courses at Boise State University to mostly in-service teachers.  One of them is Integrating Technology Into the Classroom.  It as a course with a project-based learning framework.  Learners are given a series of course projects and asked to develop learning activities for their particular content areas and grade levels.  Examples include developing a video library and associated lesson for their content area; developing a lesson for their content area that uses social media, etc.

This morning I received the following communication from a co-instructor:

Jackie, I thought you would want to know this.  I teach 514.  I ask each student to reflect on a “best learning experience” and this semester I have a student in 514 who wrote the following:

My experience of EDTECH 541 stands out for me as the best experience I have had in learning. I say this for many reasons, and they start with how the structure of the course allowed such creative freedom along with the exploration and experimentation of new tools. With every assignment, I just remember thinking how fun it was, and how great it was that a school class could engage me so much.

Each assignment just seemed to get better. It also seemed like everything just flowed, and the work I was doing had some real impact. I was using the skills I practiced and learned the night before working on the project, the next day in my workplace. I even helped coworkers based on some of the things I learned in the class.

A major moment in this course was some validation of my work that I was not used to. A few of my assignments were used as examples, and some were even tweeted out, and retweeted! The fact that a professional in this field (the professor) and others thought my project had real value and took the time to share it thrilled me. That has been one of the best moments in my education, because for the first time I felt my work extended beyond the gradebook. I also felt like my work gave me some validation and confidence that I just might be able to put some things on a resume that might land me a sought after position someday.

I also remembering throughout the course how great it would be to do that kind of work for a living. It validated my choice and the months I spent trying to find a master’s degree I wanted to pursue. And it was a vast amount of time. I looked for nearly 4 months trying to find something, and just by chance I discovered this program. The EDTECH 541 experience I had was worth it.

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Of course, educators love getting feedback like this.  It is affirming, but more importantly are the rewards the learner received.  Note that the tone of this communication was not about me as the educator but her as a learner and student.  This is what excites me the most.  Messages gleamed from this feedback:

  • Learners need to be given authentic tasks which asks them to put their “selves” into the learning projects.
  • As noted in this communication, school should be fun and engaging.
  • Skills being acquired by learners should be relevant and usable in their lives outside of the classroom (regardless of age).
  • The educator should help learners establish authentic audiences where the learners can share their work to authentic audiences outside of the classroom, to audiences of their peers.  (Note: peers aren’t necessarily others of the same age.  They are those who share the same interests and passions, who have similar perspectives of the world.)
  • Social-emotional gains are important.  Learners gaining confidence in themselves and their abilities should be an intentional goal in all learning environments.
  • The bottom line, which I have stressed in the past, is that the educator should set up the conditions for learners to say, “I am a good and confident learner,” rather than “You are a good teacher.”

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 30, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Making and Innovation: Balancing Skills-Development, Scaffolding, and Free Play

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This post discusses some of the challenges and proposed solutions for implementing maker education activities into a learning setting.  Several trends drive this post:

  • The Play Deficit – diminishing amount of free play in which kids engage
  • Lack of creativity and innovation in children’s lives and toys
  • The Maker Movement -Maker Education

The Play Deficit

I think many adults, me included, have fond memories of free play during our childhoods . . . playing kickball and tag at recess, flipping baseball cards, creating carnivals in the backyard . . . all done without any guidance or interference from adults.  These memories are more vivid for me than any time I spent in school.  Fast forward to today  . . . school recess is shortened or does not exist at all, kids come home from school and sit in front of TVs or computers playing structured games, teens lives are structured with school, sports, social events with no free time.

The health of a society should be measured by the health of its play. The play of a healthy society should be rich and varied: imaginative, dramatic, physical, cooperative, solitary.  Play should be afforded the same importance as math and reading, valued as truly integral to curriculum, as the foundation of learning.  Yet, a current Play Deficit exists. It is the very real decline in child-driven, unstructured play in U.S. society, and it has critical implications for the physical and developmental health of children and adolescents as well as the health of communities. Signs of the Play Deficit can be found almost everywhere.  http://altarum.org/health-policy-blog

The health of a society should be measured by the health of its play. The play of a healthy society should be rich and varied: imaginative, dramatic, physical, cooperative, solitary. Children—in urban, suburban, and rural areas—should have ample and easy access to safe and stimulating outdoor play spaces: creeks, woods, adventure playgrounds, pocket parks. Caregivers and parents should feel comfortable allowing children the time, independence, and freedom to play in their neighborhoods. Kids should be safe playing outside. Play should be afforded the same importance as math and reading, valued as truly integral to curriculum, as the foundation of learning – See more at: http://altarum.org/health-policy-blog/public-health%E2%80%99s-untold-crisis-the-play-deficit#sthash.8tFXNgnW.dpuf

The benefits of play, although hard to measure, cannot be overstated.

A playful society is filled with problem-solving, resiliency, communication, and exploration of acceptable boundaries and risk. Play promotes all these faculties, and more.  While hard at play, we unwittingly built the cognitive, social-emotional, and physical skills which continued to support us as we made the transition to adulthood. http://altarum.org/health-policy-blog

The health of a society should be measured by the health of its play. The play of a healthy society should be rich and varied: imaginative, dramatic, physical, cooperative, solitary. Children—in urban, suburban, and rural areas—should have ample and easy access to safe and stimulating outdoor play spaces: creeks, woods, adventure playgrounds, pocket parks. Caregivers and parents should feel comfortable allowing children the time, independence, and freedom to play in their neighborhoods. Kids should be safe playing outside. Play should be afforded the same importance as math and reading, valued as truly integral to curriculum, as the foundation of learning – See more at: http://altarum.org/health-policy-blog/public-health%E2%80%99s-untold-crisis-the-play-deficit#sthash.8tFXNgnW.dpuf
The health of a society should be measured by the health of its play. The play of a healthy society should be rich and varied: imaginative, dramatic, physical, cooperative, solitary. Children—in urban, suburban, and rural areas—should have ample and easy access to safe and stimulating outdoor play spaces: creeks, woods, adventure playgrounds, pocket parks. Caregivers and parents should feel comfortable allowing children the time, independence, and freedom to play in their neighborhoods. Kids should be safe playing outside. Play should be afforded the same importance as math and reading, valued as truly integral to curriculum, as the foundation of learning – See more at: http://altarum.org/health-policy-blog/public-health%E2%80%99s-untold-crisis-the-play-deficit#sthash.8tFXNgnW.dpuf

At play, children learn the most important of life’s lessons. To learn these lessons well, children need lots of play — lots and lots of it, without interference from adults. what children in our culture want to learn when they are free turns out to be skills that are valued in our culture and that lead to good jobs and satisfying lives. When they play, these students learn to read, calculate, and use computers with the same playful passion with which hunter-gatherer kids learn to hunt and gather. They don’t necessarily think of themselves as learning. They think of themselves as just playing, or ‘doing things’, but in the process they are learning. http://aeon.co/magazine/being-human/children-today-are-suffering-a-severe-deficit-of-play/

Lack of creativity and innovation in children’s toys.

The symptoms of the play deficit can be seen in the types of commercial toys being bought and sold.  Legos provide the perfect example of the changing nature of toys.

Lego, loosely translated, means “to put together” in Latin. But “to put together” doesn’t fully encompass the value – and purpose – of those buckets of colorful bricks. Legos are about putting together, then taking apart, then reassembling in new ways. Legos unleashed my creativity when I was growing up. They drew out the part of me that had to know what things looked like from the inside out, how they worked, how they might work better.  Since that time, Legos have changed. Instead of all-purpose boxes of bricks, with no rules or instruction manuals, the company now sells Star Wars Legos and Harry Potter Legos, complete with step-by-step instructions and stated objectives. Follow these steps to build a Jedi Starfighter or Hogwarts Castle; when you’re done, your creation should look just like the picture on the box.  These Legos require a level of precision, and a measure of patience. But no longer are they about imagination; instead, the point is replication. In an essay in his wonderful collection, Manhood for Amateurs, Michael Chabon described the transformation like this:  “Where Lego-building had once been open-ended and exploratory, it now [has] far more in common with puzzle-solving, a process of moving incrementally toward an ideal, pre-established, and above all, a provided solution.” Still, we lose something when the nondescript buckets of freeform Lego bricks are moved to the back of the toy store, while the highly specialized Disney sets fly off the shelves. We lose that chance to inspire a future engineer, the one who will grow up to revolutionize solar power, or make the iPhone as obsolete as Steve Jobs made the Discman.  This isn’t just about Lego bricks and Star Wars kits; it isn’t just about playthings. It’s about the way we prioritize and encourage creativity in society. Which is to say that we don’t do it nearly enough. http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/01/27/parents-buy-kids-legos-but-throw-away-the-instructions/

Many of kids’ toys are promoted and sold with directions, solutions to problems, and expectations for end products.  Creativity and innovation are enhanced when directions and expected end products are intentionally omitted from the toy packaging.

Unfortunately for kids today, the designed world doesn’t leave much room for them to explore. Most toys come with pre-defined identities and stories, which rob children of the joy of imagining these things. This leaves few opportunities to figure out how to use a toy, experiment, fail, and invent the story of where it came from, and why it does what it does. Imagining, understanding, and becoming who we are is a process informed by play, and both toy companies and designers are taking all the exploration out of it. http://www.fastcodesign.com/3048508/the-case-for-letting-kids-design-their-own-play

The Result: Uncreative Children

No free time play time to experience, interact with, and experiment with the real world; toys that lack room for divergent and creative play; and a school system that focuses more on results, accountability, and  standardized products has led to a society of less creative children and research provides some evidence of this.

In a 2010 study of about 300,000 creativity tests going back to the 1970s, Kyung Hee Kim, a creativity researcher at the College of William and Mary, found creativity has decreased among American children in recent years. Since 1990, children have become less able to produce unique and unusual ideas. They are also less humorous, less imaginative and less able to elaborate on ideas, Kim said.   Experts say creativity is innate, so it can’t really be lost. But it needs to be nurtured. “It’s not that creativity can necessarily disappear,” said Ron Beghetto, an education psychologist at the University of Oregon. “But it can be suppressed in particular contexts. “The current focus on testing in schools, and the idea that there is only one right answer to a question, may be hampering development of creativity among kids, Beghetto said. “There’s not much room for unexpected, novel, divergent thought,” he said. http://www.livescience.com/15535-children-creative.html

At least two conclusions can be drawn from this literature:

  • Making, creating, innovating, experimenting are needed now more than ever in this rapidly evolving world and our children are severely lacking in these skills
  • If these skills are to be integrated into formal and informal learning settings, some direct instruction and scaffolding will need to occur.

The maker movement and education has the potential to do both.

The Maker Movement – Maker Education

Thanks to new rapid-prototyping technologies like computer numerical control milling and 3-D printing, we’ve seen a convergence between hacker and hipster, between high-tech coding and the low-tech artisanal craft behind everything from Etsy to Burning Man.   Maker culture, for all its love of stuff, is similarly a culture of resourcefulness in an era of economic scarcity: relentless in its iterative prototyping, its radically adaptive reuse of ready-made objects, its tendency to unmake one thing to make another — all in a new ecology of economy http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/opinion/sunday/learning-from-legos.html?_r=1

The Maker movement has sparked a Maker Education trend in some informal and formal education settings.  The intent and mission of the maker movement is:

Fortunately for educators, making overlaps with the natural inclination of children to learn by doing. The maker movement values human passion, capability, and the ability to make things happen and solve problems anywhere, anytime.  The maker movement treats children as if they were competent. Too many schools do not. Making builds on each child’s passion by connecting their whole being with constructive materials in a flow that results in fantastic artifacts that almost always exceed our expectations. We want our kids so engaged in projects that they lose track of time or wake up in the middle of the night counting the minutes until they get to return to school. Never before have there been more exciting materials and technology for children to use as intellectual laboratories or vehicles for self-expression. The learning-by-doing approach also has precedents in education: project-based learning, Jean Piaget’s constructivism, and Seymour Papert’s constructionism. These theories explain the remarkable accomplishments of young makers and remind educators that every classroom needs to be a place where, as Piaget taught, “knowledge is a consequence of experience.” http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/learning-leading/issues/l-l-may-2014/feature-the-maker-movement-a-learning-revolution

So, in essence, the maker movement-maker education can counteract the negative effects that school and our society have had on children’s and young people’s playfulness and creativity.  

Scaffolding and Building Skills as a Foundation to Making

Maybe in the past, educators could throw out a bunch of materials and tools; and ask the kids to create, but as discussed in the previous sections, many of today’s kids don’t know how to just make.  Also some of the more common technologies built into some of the new maker tools (i.e., Arduino, Makey-Makey, Little Bits, 3D printers) require some basic user skills.  The scaffolding of learning needs to occur. Learning and developing basic maker skills can occur through direct instruction by the educator, watching videos, using manuals, and learning from peers. It is important, though, that the learning experience doesn’t stop there.  Learners need the time, tools, encouragement, and support to go beyond the “what already is” to build and develop new and unique designs. In conclusion, for maker education and similar initiatives that drive and are driven by innovation and creativity to work, several things need to occur given today’s learning and teaching climate

  1. Educators and other involved in curriculum development would need to let go of the focus on deliverables, measurables, and expected products.  The process of doing and creating needs to be the focus.
  2. Creativity, innovation, experimentation, tolerance and acceptance of mistakes need to be viewed as being as or even more important as learning content area knowledge,
  3. The educator should take on the role of lead learner – demonstrating, modeling, and scaffolding the use of the maker education tools and techniques.
  4. Educators would need to let go of control and embrace the ambiguity that comes with the messy learning of maker education.
  5. A sense of play and fun should be expected as part of these learning activities.
  6. In essence, the educator’s role in this learning environment would be a tour guide of learning possibilities. S/he would show learners the possibilities and then get out of the way.

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 Related Posts:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 21, 2014 at 12:24 am

2012 in Blogging Annual Report

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WordPress generated an annual report for this blog – https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2012/annual-report/

Highlights were that I had 160,000 views during the year;  the most viewed post during a single day – Addressing Sandy Hook (and other tragedies) in the Classroom https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/addressing-sandy-hooks-and-other-tradegies-in-the-classroom/ at 1,889 views, and viewers from 183 countries.

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 1, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Passion, Projects & Play: Restoring Creativity in the Classroom

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crossed posted from: Passion, Projects & Play: Restoring Creativity in the Classroom.

Passion, Projects & Play: Restoring Creativity in the Classroom

By Howard Rheingold October 4, 2012 – 10:40am
Passion, Projects & Play: Restoring Creativity in the Classroom  Blog Image

At my elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona, problem students like me were often sent to the art teacher’s room. Unfortunately for me, my objection to sitting in a little desk, arranged in rows with other little desks, then moving in single-file to another room full of desks in rows whenever a loud bell rang, made me a problem student. Fortunately for me, the art teacher was my mother, beloved by many as Mrs. Rheingold. After the pin-drop quiet, pin-neat order of our homerooms, the happy chaos of Mrs. Rheingold’s art studio was like travelling to an altogether different dimension. Mrs. Rheingold’s philosophy of teaching art was that all human beings are creative innovators who have a need to express themselves creatively and take joy in it, but many — most — people are shut down at an early age. Someone looks at the page you are happily scribbling and tells you that your horse doesn’t look like a horse, and you decide to leave art to specialists. Mrs. Rheingold didn’t teach technique. She gave permission to play. Thank you, mom. By now, art classes in US public schools are notions from a distant past. I was heartened when Sir Ken Robinson received world-wide attention for his TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” With so much attention to core curriculum, the creativity-blunting effects of schooling have not been at the forefront of discussions about how to fix educational institutions. I was heartened again to see that my mother’s philosophy of teaching creativity through permission rather than technique is being advanced by some of today’s educators. Jackie Gerstein, for example.

I first became aware of Jackie when she posted regularly and incisively in the text chats that accompany the weekly Connected Learning Webcasts. When I Googled her, I found her post about Sir Ken Robinson’s uncomfortable question, which led me to Gerstein’s argument for the increasingly rare unstructured places and times for learning. I wasn’t surprised to learn that she was not only an early advocate for “the flipped classroom” but spent a year thinking in public on her blog about what you do with the physically co-present classroom when traditional lectures have been moved to YouTube. And I love that she applied the flipped classroom frame to tinkering and making — introducing me to the delicious term “maker education.” Cyberized as my life and work has become, I still find joy in making physical objects. Along with art class, one of the few classes in elementary school that I looked forward to was shop class, another notion from the past.

I welcomed the opportunity to talk with Jackie for the brief video below. One thing that video conveys that is hard to get across in text: the passion of the speaker for her calling. Among other things, I asked her about “passion-based learning,” an idea she picked up from Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and extended to include “project-based” and “play-based” learning. Passion, projects, and play. Sounds like fun. In the hands of Mrs. Rheingold or Jackie Gerstein, it’s also about connecting with the deep joy humans experience in learning until we’re schooled out of it.

 

Banner image credit: Todd Berman
http://www.flickr.com/photos/theartdontstop/3988434987/in/photostream/

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 5, 2012 at 2:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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