User Generated Education

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Best Education Infographics – 2013

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 29, 2013 at 12:38 am

Taking the Learners and Technology Outdoors

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I began my career as an educator as an outdoor educator.  Now I teach educational technology.  Given both the ever increasing sedentary and indoor lives of kids and the advancement of technology, the time is ripe to combine the two.

Current and recurring themes that guide my ideas about what constitutes a “good” education include:

  • Learning should extend beyond the classroom walls.
  • Outdoor education is good for students and adults.
  • Mobile technology is engaging and interesting; and can create authentic and relevant learning experiences.
  • Mobile learning should be just that – mobile.

Moving Learning Beyond the Classroom Walls

“[In traditional education]…the school environment of desks, blackboards, a small school yard was supposed to suffice…There was no demand that the teacher should become intimately acquainted with the conditions of the local community, physical, historical, economic, occupational etc. in order to utilize them as educational resources.” 

– John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

The Council for Learning Outside of the Classroom provides the following rationale for taking learning beyond the classroom walls:

Learning outside the classroom is about raising young people’s achievement through an organized, powerful approach to learning in which direct experience is of prime importance.

This is not only about what we learn, but most importantly, how and where we learn. It is about improving young people’s understanding, skills, values, personal and social development and can act as a vehicle to develop young people’s capacity and motivation to learn.

Real-world learning brings the benefits of formal and informal education together and reinforces what good educationalist have always known: that the most meaningful learning occurs through acquiring knowledge and skills through real-life, practical or hands-on activities.

There is a wealth of evidence which clearly demonstrates the benefits for young people’s learning and personal development outside the classroom. In summary, learning outside the classroom:

  • tackles social mobility, giving children new and exciting experiences that inspire them to reach their true potential. These real world experiences raise aspirations, equipping young people with the skills they need to become active and responsible citizens and shape a fit and motivated workforce.
  • addresses educational inequality, re-motivating children who do not thrive in the traditional classroom environment, such as those from disadvantaged backgrounds or with Special Educational Needs. Young people who experience learning outside the classroom as a regular part of their school life benefit from increased self esteem, and become more engaged in their education both inside and outside the classroom walls.
  • supports improved standards back INSIDE the classroom, raising attainment, reducing truancy and improving discipline. Learning outside the classroom is known to contribute significantly to raising standards & improving pupils’ personal, social & emotional development.

Find out more about research studies which reinforce and illustrate the wide-ranging benefits for young people on our research pages.

The Benefits of Outdoor Education

A report from the National Wildlife Federation, Back to School: Back Outside, shows how outdoor education and time is connected with wide-ranging academic benefits including:

  • Improved classroom behavior
  • Increased student motivation and enthusiasm to learn
  • Better performance in math, science, reading and social studies
  • Reduced Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Higher scores on standardized tests (including college entrance exams)
  • Help under-resourced, low-income students perform measurably better in school


Mobile Learning in the Outdoors = Authentic, Engaging Learning

Mobile Learning in the Outdoors Benefits, Apps and Examples

From Expanding the Classroom with Mobile Learning:

Mobile devices can form an engaging platform for teaching and learning, with the potential to expand the realm of the classroom. Functionality and context are key considerations when selecting from the myriad of mobile-enabled web sites and applications.

Like a Swiss army knife, mobile devices and their apps can provide utility and flexibility in a compact, portable package. Among the options available are:

  • GPS and other location-based functionality
  • Video, audio, and still image capture
  • Mobile networking and collaboration
  • The ability to bridge to other tools and data
  • Scanning and data logging in the field
  • Visual and audio recognition
  • Screen readers, slow keys, text to speak, and other accessibility features

The portability and convenience provided by mobile devices enables instantaneous, contextual observations in the field or whenever spontaneous learning opportunities arise. Collecting information outside the classroom can help students hone observation and collaboration skills, reinforce topic relevancy, or provide opportunities to emulate an expert system through use of the apps.

GPS-based apps for mapping, geo-blogging, and geo-tagging are especially powerful in this regard, because they enable direct linking of observations to specific times and locations. The ability to capture, reference, and share data, multimedia, and ideas within a spatial or temporal context helps students identify broader trends and relationships, foster discussion, and develop conceptual thinking.

5 Ways to Take Technology Outdoors:

  • Mobile Devices

Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are powerful tools for outdoor study. Access to the Internet, a camera and geospatial data (e.g. GPS) make it easy to gather, organize and submit data from observations. Applications (apps) can be downloaded to engage students in citizen science activities, like identifying wildlife.

  • GPS Units

GPS (Global Positioning Systems) is a technology that communicates with satellites to pinpoint specific locations on Earth. GPS units are great tools for getting students outside and engaged in environmental field research and service-learning projects.

At Wisconsin’s Augusta Area School District, teacher Paul Tweed engaged his students in several projects that used GPS and GIS (Geographic Information Systems), one of which helped the Wisconsin Department of Nature Resources (DNR) track orphaned black bear cubs released into the wild.

  • Digital Cameras

Students can use digital cameras to document their local environment, track their progress on science projects, collect evidence and present their findings in the classroom.

Students at Monroe City Schools in Louisiana use tech tools like digital cameras to enhance environmental education programs at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  Learn more at:

  • Digital Weather Stations

Digital weather stations are small monitoring devices put in place to collect real-time weather data. They can be installed near home, school or in nearby parks, enabling students to add weather conditions to their study of the local environment.

Students participating in outdoor education programs with NatureBridge check digital weather stations at Olympic, Yosemite and Golden Gate National Parks for weather data to add to their field research.  Learn more at:

Here is a list of apps and websites that can assist learners in becoming citizen scientists:


Links to these websites:

Outdoor activities with mobile devices: A slidedeck by Shelly Terrell


10+ Activities to Do Around the School Ground by Shelly Terrell

Mobile Learning in Outdoors Viewed with the SAMR Model

The SAMR model ( is being used to discuss technology integration.  The SAMR model, developed by Dr Ruben Puentedura, aims to support teachers as they design, develop and integrate learning technologies to support high levels of learning achievement and student engagement.


The guiding questions for the SAMR Ladder include:


It becomes apparent that these outdoor-based mobile learning activities can be categorized in the transformational levels of modification and redefinition as learners engage in tasks that are uniquely possible given the mobile technologies.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 18, 2013 at 2:44 am

Zoom: Communicating Perspective (QR Code Activity)

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Zoom: Communicating Perspective is a new mobile learning activity added to those found at Mobile and Technology-Enhanced Experiential Activities. This website describes mobile learning and technology-based activities that facilitate a sense of community in a variety of educational and training settings. They rely mostly on texting, emailing, and photo-taking activities.  Free, group sharing internet sites are also used which require access to the Internet via a smartphone or computer.  Sites such as Flickr Photo Sharing, Google Docs, and Web 2.0 tools supplement some of the activities.

Zoom: Communicating Perspective (QR Code Activity)


  • To build communication and problem solving skills.
  • To understand and develop perspective taking.
  • To build visual literacy skills.


  • One mobile device with QR Code reader per one or two learners
  • A copy of “Zoom” by Istvan Banyai (could be done without but it honors and compensates the author)


  • This game is based on the intriguing, wordless, picture book “Zoom” by Istvan Banyai which consists of sequential “pictures within pictures”.  The Zoom narrative moves from a rooster to a ship to a city street to a desert island and outer space.  Zoom has been published in 18 countries.
  • Hand out one QR Code/Image (see below or the original post via the link above for a downloadable PDF) per person/per pair (make sure a continuous sequence is used).
  • After QR codes are distributed and images are accessed, tell participants may only look at their own pictures and must keep their pictures hidden from others.
  • Encourage participants to study their picture, since it contains important information to help solve this challenge. The advantage of using mobile devices is that learners can zoom in on details of the image.  It is the facilitator’s choice whether or not to tell learners this.
  • The challenge is for the group to sequence the pictures in the correct order without looking at one another’s pictures.  They are to use only verbal communications to describe the images they have.
  • When the group believes they have all the pictures in order, they can indicate so and the pictures on the mobile devices can be viewed by everyone.  Share the book or the following video so they can see the level of correctness in their order.
  • A follow-up discussion can include characteristics of effective communication, how perspective affects how we see and communicate, using visuals to communicate.


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Leveraging the Devices, Tools, and Learning Strategies of Our Students

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I developed a mission statement as an educator several decades ago.  It is simply, “To provide students with the knowledge, skills, and passion to become lifelong learners.”  I have never swayed from that mission, but as I say in my Twitter profile, “I don’t do education for a living, I live education as my doing . . .  and technology has amplified my passion for doing so.” Technology makes possible 24/7, interested-driven learning.  I teach online so I get the opportunity to learn everyday all day long due to the Internet and social networks.  Students of all ages and settings should also be given the skills, tools, and time to engage in this type of self-directed, passion-based learning.

Higher education and high school teachers have stubbornly kept lectures as the primary mode of instruction.  Most students in these venues report boredom as a result.  I discuss this more in Who Would Choose a Lecture as Their Primary Mode of Learning.  An opposing state of being passionate is being bored, a contradiction to my mission statement . . .  and I believe that most educators would report that do not wish to elicit a state of boredom in their students.  This is why I am confused that in these amazing times of the abundance of information, mobile devices, and free technologies, educators are not leveraging them in the classroom.

Where, when, how, and even what we are learning is changing. Teachers need to consider how to engage learners with content by connecting to their current interests as well as their technological habits and dependencies.

Reports continue to be disseminated about how young people are using technology.  These devices, tools, and strategies can be integrated into existing lessons to enhance the learning activities and create more engagement, excitement, and possibly some passion among the students.

What follows are the results of some recent research and surveys about how young people are using technology along with suggestions how educators can

Pew Research’s Photos and Videos as Social Currency Online

A nationally representative phone survey of 1,005 adults (ages 18+) was taken August 2-5, 2012. The sample contained 799 internet users, who were asked questions about their online activities.  Based on the results of the survey, recommendations are made how these online activities can be leveraged in the classroom.

Have Students Show Their Learning Visually with Photos and/or Videos


Taking photos and videos are commonplace for many young people.  Students can demonstrate their learning through some form of visual media.  Using visual media in the classroom is congruent with brain research about the power of vision in learning (as per neuroscientist, John Medina) and supports research that visuals enhance learning.


Have Students Curate


As instructors, we are all information curators.  How do you collect and share currently relevant content with your students?  How do your students research and share information that they find with the rest of class? What tools do you use to manage or facilitate presentation of resources? Is it public? Can students access it at other times? In groups?  Modern web tools make it easy for both students and instructors to contribute online discoveries to class conversations.  Using free online content curation software, we can easily integrate new content in a variety of ways.

. . . and as Bill Ferriter notes:

While there are a ton of essential skills that today’s students need in order to succeed in tomorrow’s world, learning to efficiently manage — and to evaluate the reliability of — the information that they stumble across online HAS to land somewhere near the top of the “Muy Importante” list.


Have Students Connect to Other Students, Teachers, and Experts Via Their Social Networks


By utilizing a technological channel that is popular with users, professors are increasing participation among students and seeing the results. Due to the real-time format of these outlets, students can contact peers, faculty and other authorities anywhere in the world, and usually elicit a prompt response. Despite its reputation, social media platforms allow professors to approach curricula in ways that are more creative and engaging to students. The College Bound Network has said of social learning, “Despite what you may have thought, technology doesn’t hinder learning—it fuels it.”


Have Students Use Their Own Devices During Class Time

Two reports/infographics support this strategy:

View this document on Scribd


There are limitless ways to use student devices during class time.   I recommend to educators to take what they are already doing well in the classroom and brainstorm how these learning activities can be enhanced using their mobile devices.

We have come to a time when we need to accept the fact that the concept of 21st century skills is no longer a progressive phase to latch onto but a reality that we need to instill into our school systems. When students bring their own devices it literally transforms the conversations that take place in the classroom.

For several semesters, I taught an undergraduate course on interpersonal relations.  It was at a vocational-driven local college with most of the students being between the ages of 17 to 22 (some high school students) and a handful of students in their thirties and forties.  I took learning activities I had developed and taught in the past and enhanced them with technology.  Reflections about these activities can be read at:

For more resources, see my curated of articles and resources related to Mobile Devices with Bring Your Own Devices

Pockets of institutions, administrators, and educators are successfully integrating the tools and strategies discussed above into their setting.  More blog posts, case studies, journal articles, and news pieces about these initiatives can give permission and suggestions to those who are willing but scared or a bit reluctant.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 24, 2012 at 12:44 am

A Technology/Mobile-Enhanced I AM Poem

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I blogged about this activity before.  I am using it for an online course for the first time this summer and am so excited about the results, I wanted to report on it again.  The I Am Poem is a popular exercise for language arts.  I thought it would also be a good ice breaker for students to get to know one another.  It goes beyond the, “Hi, my name is ________, and I live/work at __________” type of introduction, and reinforces the importance of beginning an online course through developing a sense of community.  Some general strategies to do so include:

  • Connecting people’s names and faces is a first big step to forming bonds.
  • Students need non-threatening, interesting ways to begin creating online community.
  • Social interactions between and among learners enrich the learning community and should be supported in the instructional design of the course. (

I have used the I Am Poem in a face-to-face undergraduate course (see  For this summer semester teaching online courses on Integrating Technology Into the Curriculum for the Boise State Educational Technology graduate program, I asked students to do the I Am poem as one of their first course tasks.

Students were provided with the following directions:

Flickr Version

  • Once your poem is written, locate or take a photo via one of your computer devices that symbolizes who you are, the essence of your poem.
  • Send your photo to Flickr along with your first name in the subject line and your I Am Poem in the email body to (email to my Flickr account – randomly generated by Flcikr).
  • Since all the group’s images will be sent to this single Flickr account, you can view each other’s poems via the Flickr account
  • You do NOT have to have a Flickr account to submit your I Am Poems nor to view other students’ pictures/poems, but if you want to comment on a photo/poem (not required), you will need to have an account.
  • A full description of this activity can be found at  Here you can find more directions how to set up the activity for your own class.

Here is a screenshot of the Flickr page of student submissions.  I love the diversity and creativity they demonstrated both through the images selected and poems written.

Google Presentation Version

Directions to Students:

  • Once your poem is written, locate or take a photo via one of your computer devices that symbolizes who you are, the essence of your poem.  It does not have to be a picture of you.  It can be a symbol.
  • Create a slide that includes your poem/image. You can include your name or not – it is your choice.   Add it to the class Google presentation at . . .  This is the editing version.  Please make sure you choose a blank slide.  Google automatically saves any added content.  The presentation version can be found on the Moodle homepage.  Look for your slide once you add it.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 7, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Mobile Learning and The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture

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I have jumped onto the Flipped Classroom craze to take the opportunity to propose and discuss an experiential model of education (ala John Dewey and Kurt Hahn), one that has experience at its core and provides learning options for all types of learners.  In this model, the videos, as they are discussed in the flipped classroom. support the learning rather than drive it.

My series on the Flipped Classroom – The Full Picture includes the following posts:

This post continues the series by providing an overview of The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture using mobile devices.  Each phase of the model has suggestions and ideas for mobile-driven learning activities which can be implemented on most devices.  This supports Bring Your Own Devices programs and increases the chances students will use similar learning activities on their own devices outside of the classroom environment.

A major focus of mobile learning these days seems to be centered on the apps, but my focus is on designing and providing mobile learning activities that are cross platform.  Smartphone ownership is up in the United States, but it is still not universal and especially not within lower income communities.  Discussion of the app gap and this type of digital divide has occurred within several recent articles:

It also is the basis of my teaching philosophy – to provide access to learning regardless of learning differences, income, digital access, and geographical location.  Most students own mobile devices that have photo and video taking capabilities, and have Internet for content access.  The mobile activities described for the model below take advantage of these functions.

Engaging Experience

The lesson or unit begins with an authentic, engaging, often multi-sensory and often hands-on experience.  Its purpose is to hook and motivate the student to want to learn more about the topic.

Photo and/or Video Examples of Real Life Situations. One method to do so is to ask students to locate evidence of the learning topic in their immediate environments and record that evidence via a media sharing sites such as Flickr or Youtube.  Both of these sites generate (random) email addresses that can be given out to students so they can upload their photos or videos to the educator account.  Students do not need email accounts. The media is then aggregated onto the educator account.  For example, at the beginning of a unit on personal identity, I asked students to take photos of their core values and upload them to my Flickr account – see Picture Our Values.  This description also includes directions how to set up a Flickr account for a class project.

Texting Observations, Questions, Two-Way Communications. Students can use their texting functions to interview one other, discuss real world observations made, and report on real life experiences based on suggestions provided by the educator.

Example experiential mobile activities I have done with students to engage them in the topic include:

There are so many ways to get students excited about the content topics especially when asked to use their mobile devices to do so.  My advice to educators is to take the best experiential activities they have done and/or experienced and include a mobile element as I did with the activities above.

Concept Exploration

During this phase, learners explore the theoretical concepts related to the topic being taught.  This is the phase where videos, such as those being discussed in relation to the more popular articles and posts about the flipped classroom, are used in the lesson.  To make the content more accessible, as per Universal Design of Learning, a multimedia learning environment needs to provide multiple, flexible methods of presentation.  It is important to include content material presented in a variety of formats including ebooks, audiobooks, and content-rich websites can serve this purpose.

The key to this phase, to the use of these materials, and why it is called the flipped classroom is that content resources are recommended to the learners, and then they review them during the own time frames, sometimes as homework.

Meaning Making

Learners should, often need, to be given the opportunity to reflect on what they experienced and concepts explored during the previous phases.  For learning to be meaningful, they need to construct their own meanings and understandings of the concepts covered.

Some options for learners to reflect and synthesize their key learnings include:

Demonstration and Application

This is the integration phase where students demonstrate what they learned and how they will apply it to other areas of their lives.  This can be viewed as a celebration of learning where students create a project that represents their key learnings, significant experiences, and commitments-contracts for post-lesson implementation.

I discussed ideas for using Web 2.0 for this phase in Technology-Enhanced Celebration of Learning.  Many of these strategies can work on the students’ mobile devices.

The following is TJ’s example from an undergraduate course on interpersonal relations.  He used his skills at the Minecraft game and the webcam on his laptop to demonstrate what he learned.  What is especially relevant about this demonstration is that TJ has a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 4, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Mobile Learning Presentation for the 4T Virtual Conference

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I presented Experiential Mobile Learning at the 4T (Teachers Teaching Teachers About Technology) Virtual Conference.  I am all about sharing, so here is a version, an agenda, of what I presented.

Introduction: Epic Learning Activities

With a background in experiential education and as an advocate of John Dewey, I believe that learning experiences should be, borrowing from the game world, epic.

The following video is viewed with participants asked to describe the characteristics of the learning activities shown in the video.  Participant reactions are posted in the webinar backchannel.

Questions to assess the “epicness” of learning activities:

  • Was there an experiential component?
  • Was it engaging?
  • Was it an authentic, relevant learning experience?
  • Did it facilitate critical, reflective thinking?
  • Did the learning activity change behavior or thinking?

Participants join and access to discuss their own Epic Learning activities.

Overview of Session

The session is divided into three components:

  1. Research of the importance of building community and social interactive into the learning process.
  2. Mobile device use patterns by young people.
  3. Sample experiential mobile learning activities – active participation.

The Research and Its Implications for Mobile Learning

Information about the importance of building community in the classroom is shared from the following resources.

Research about mobile use patterns is shared from the following resources.

Participants share implications of the research on own teaching strategies via

Sample Mobile Learning Activities

I Am Poems

Participants are encouraged to respond on each other’s photos/poems . . .

QR Video Sorting Activities

Additional References are provided:

Presentation Slides

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm

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