User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Posts Tagged ‘emerging technologies

The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture Presentation Materials

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Here are some of the materials and resources I am using for my Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture presentations:

Available via a Google Presentation:

The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture ebook on Amazon for Kindle and iPad.

This ebook is an aggregate of all my blog posts available as a download for $1.99 at Amazon.  It is an estimated 88 pages and is available at  Chapters are:

  • What is the Flipped Classroom
  • Problems and Issues with the Flipped Classroom
  • The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture
  • How The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture Supports Universal Design for Learning
  • The Flipped Classroom in Higher Education
  • Mobile Learning and the Flipped Classroom; An Example Lesson
  • The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Tinkering and Maker Education


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 28, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Connectedness, or lack of, in Education (School)

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This is a post about connectedness and its importance for human growth and learning.  Prior to this discussion, though, it is important to note that many educational institutions are silos of isolation (thanks to Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach for this term).  Learners are often isolated from one another – told to pay attention to the teacher, not interact with one another during class time.  Their connectedness often comes through recess, lunch, and secret texting to one another.  Teachers and classes are often isolated from one another – remaining closed and isolated within the four walls of the classroom.  Schools are often isolated from other educational and community organizations – “safe” within the confines of literal and figuratively self-built walls – done so under the auspices that learners must be kept inside and strangers kept from entering.  These walls include firewalls that prevent the entering or exiting of social media and Internet content.


To continue to exist, a system must be able to import energy across its boundary or have a capacity to create new sources of energy. A system that is able to import and export energy is called an open system. One that cannot import energy is called a closed system. A closed system that cannot generate a sufficient amount of energy internally to replace what is lost to entropy will die.

The improvement of quality involves the design of an educational system that not only optimizes the relationship among the elements but also between the educational system and its environment. In general, this means designing a system that is more open, organic, pluralistic, and complex. Frank Betts

Openness and connectedness has morphed into something qualitatively different due to the Internet, Web 2.0, and social media.  In an interesting re-mix of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs in this age of social media, Pamela Rutledge proposed that connectedness is at the core of all other needs.


Needs are not hierarchical.  Life is messier than that.  Needs are, like most other things in nature, an interactive, dynamic system, but they are anchored in our ability to make social connections.

Social networks allow us to see, as never before, the interrelated nature of society and the palpable development of social capital from the emerging and intricate patterns of interpersonal relationships and collaboration.  The strength of our networks and our bonds improve our agency and effectiveness in the environment.  Our need for survival through connection plays out through every successful social technology.

The Connected Learning Research Network introduced the Connected Learning initiative.  It advocates for broadened access to learning that is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity.


This week (January 2013), the Connected Learning Research Network released a report entitled, Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design:

Connected learning taps the opportunities provided by digital media to more easily link home, school, community and peer contexts of learning; support peer and intergenerational connections based on shared interests; and create more connections with non-dominant youth, drawing from capacities of diverse communities.

Connected learning environments have the following characteristics:

  • Equitable: Connected learning environments ideally embody values of equity, social belonging, and participation.
  • Production-centered: Digital tools provide opportunities for producing and creating a wide variety of media, knowledge, and cultural content in experimental and active ways.
  • Shared purpose: Social media and web-based communities provide unprecedented opportunities for cross-generational and cross-cultural learning and connection to unfold and thrive around common goals and interests.
  • Openly networked: Online platforms and digital tools can make learning resources abundant, accessible, and visible across all learner settings. (See my related post: Information Abundance and Its Implications for Education.)


The benefits of connected learning cannot be overstated.  Not only are learning objectives and content-area standards more likely to be achieved as students become more excited and engage in learning; but their social-emotional needs have a greater potential to be met.  Schools are doing learners a disservice (verging on being unethical in my perspective) by putting up all of those walls that prevent connection.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 15, 2013 at 6:46 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

Information Abundance and Its Implications for Education

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As I read through the social media networks, the concept of information overload is continually being discussed.

Information overload is a term popularized by Alvin Toffler in his bestselling 1970 book Future Shock. It refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much information. Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.  

As the world moves into a new era of globalization, an increasing number of people are connecting to the Internet to conduct their own researchand are given the ability to produce as well as consume the data accessed on an increasing number of websites. Users are now classified as active users  because more people in society are participating in the Digital and Information Age.  This flow has created a new life where we are now in danger of becoming dependent on this method of access to information.  Therefore we see an information overload from the access to so much information, almost instantaneously, without knowing the validity of the content and the risk of misinformation.

I have re-framed information overload from being discussed as a cautionary consequence of the technology age to us living in a time of information abundance.  I think we are living in one of the most exciting times in the history of humankind. We are living in a world of information abundance, surplus, and access.  The result is synergy whereby the human mind plus our current technologies far exceed the sum of these individual parts.  By this I mean we have technologies to access any type of information and to create products that match the pictures and voices in our minds; and we can use technology to get the assistance and feedback from folks around the globe.

I am not alone in my enthusiasm for this age of information at our fingertips. In a study conducted from Northwestern University, Overwhelmed by instant access to news and information? Most Americans like it,  researchers concluded “There’s definitely some frustration with the quality of some of the information available, but these frustrations were accompanied by enthusiasm and excitement on a more general level about overall media choices.”

Weinberger, author of Too Big to Know, believes we have entered a new golden age, one in which technology has finally caught up with humans’ endless curiosity, and one that has the potential to revolutionize a wide swath of occupations and research fields.”

Implications for Education

As educators, we have this gift of information abundance. It should be leveraged and strategically used for our own and our students’ learning. When educators do not acknowledge, incorporate, and integrate the many types and uses of our real world technologies, they are failing their students.

  • Educators are no longer the gatekeepers to information.  Prior to Web 1.0 and Web 2.o, students were often dependent on educators to be the experts to tell them about and share resources about the content-related topic.  Now the Internet has videos, resources, and research from experts and practitioners who often know more about the content than does the educator.  Now more than even, the educator needs to:
  • The Internet needs to be open and available to students.  Many students already have access to information where and when they want it but often not in the school setting.  Many are learning more after school hours than during school hours.  By limiting students to textbooks and information as selected by districts, principals, textbook and testing companies, a type of censorship occurs.  Students have the opportunity, through the Internet, to hear, see, and read about varying perspectives on so many topics.  Depriving them of the opportunity to do so limits their education.
  • Information and media literacy needs to integrated across the curriculum and grade levels. 

Our rapid transformation into a technology driven, information society has dramatically altered the k-16 teaching and learning landscape.  And, as a result, the sustainability of our current economic foundation, strengthening our national security, even maintaining the very essence of our democratic way of life depends more and more on producing learners who not only know how to think, but know how to problem solve within a diversified information and communication technology universe.


  • Global-oriented and multicultural education also needs to be integrated across the curriculum and grade levels.

From science and culture to sports and politics, ideas and capital are crossing borders and spanning the world. The globalization of business, the advances in technology, and the acceleration of migration increasingly require the ability to work on a global scale. As a result of this new connectivity, our high school graduates will need to be far more knowledgeable about world regions and global issues, and able to communicate across cultures and languages. Our students must emerge from schools college-ready and globally competent, prepared to compete, connect, and cooperate with their generation around the world (The Global Classroom).

  • Students developing their own Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) should be viewed as a major instructional strategy.

A student personal learning network is, therefore, a rich and ever-growing series of connections with people, resources, and communities around the world…connections that allow us to grow in knowledge, skill, ability and perspective. What if we spent more time thinking about the networks that students are building as they go through their schooling years? What if we made the building of such a network a central part of the curriculum, inviting students to keep a log or journal of their growing network, and how this network is empowering them to learn, how it is expanding their knowledge and perspective? How are they building a meaningful network? Students can interview people around the world, tutor and be tutored, take part in formal and informal learning communities, take part in Twitter chats and Hangouts, learn from and engage in the blogosphere, experience the power of working on a meaningful project in a distributed/virtual team, participate in a massive open online course (or design and teach one), share resources through social bookmarking and other technologies, host and take part in webinars, and build new online and blended learning communities around topics of personal value, need, and interest. Over time, the students may not only build a personal learning network, but also venture into starting their own personal teaching networks, being agents of change and positive influence in the digital world and beyond (Helping Students Develop Personal Learning Networks).

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Emerging Technologies and Their Application to Middle School Classrooms

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Guest Post by Jennifer Fargo

The following is a paper written by one of my graduate students at American InterContinental University.  Jennifer Fargo is a middle school teacher.  Due to her passion for educational technology, I am encouraging her to start blogging and join social networks like Twitter.  Because this is such a good paper I am (1) posting it as a guest post on my blog, and (2) hoping this will motivate Jennifer to begin her own blog.

Emerging technologies have the potential to transform learning in the middle school classroom across the curriculum.  When properly applied in a student-centered classroom, mobile apps, tablet computing, game-based learning, personal learning environments, and natural user interfaces can improve instruction and learning, especially for students who need better motivation in school.


Some older, more traditional educational researchers like professor emeritus of Stanford University Larry Cuban do not see evidence that technology in the classroom improves instruction.  He would rather invest in teacher training than in devices in the classroom (Hu, 2011).  What these educators do not realize is that the very nature of student interaction with their world has changed drastically and permanently.  The information shift is as drastic as the move from handwritten texts to books from the printing press (Rankin, 2010).  Information and knowledge are no longer held by the few in select repositories waiting to be disseminated to the masses by a master teacher.  Information, both accurate and inaccurate, is free and available for use instantly over the Internet.

Just as the students’ relationship to information has changed, the relationship of the teacher to the student must change.  With the advent of the printing press, education changed.  Mass access to information in printed books changed the roll of the teacher from facilitating individualized hand-written texts and informational storage for a few wealthy students to standardized classification of data and facts for masses of students who could read (Rankin, 2010).  In this digital age, the role of the teacher is no longer to disseminate facts and data to students because students cannot get that information easily anywhere else.  Because students can easily retrieve information, the role of the teacher becomes as a guide to the learner to take readily available information to evaluate and use it, to see the interconnectedness of information and provide context.  Students construct their own understanding of the world and they do so using technology. The average middle school student has direct access to this information on a daily basis and interacts with others around the world using interactive video games, social media, and mobile technology.  Technologies that students use daily at home can become the tools that educators use to guide students in constructing knowledge in the 21st century and beyond.

Emerging Technologies: The Next Five Years

The New Media Consortium, or NMC, is a professional organization of educators dedicated to the study and application of technology in the classroom.  The NMC’s mission is to promote a “…collective understanding of emerging technologies and their applications for teaching, learning, and creative inquiry” (Johnson, Adams, & Cummins, 2012, preface). The NMC’s annual Horizon Project describes in detail six emerging technologies and their probable impact over the next five years in several learning environments.  The K-12 edition describes the possible applications of these technologies in elementary and secondary classrooms.  Several seem particularly applicable to a learner-centered, middle school classroom.

Mobile Apps

As mobile devices have become more accessible to middle school students, so has their potential to be resources in the classroom.  Mobile devices are small, portable computing devices that usually contain WI-FI, Bluetooth technology, and GPS capabilities.  They can be cell phones, smartphones, portable game consoles, tablets, or small computers.  These computing devices can use apps for various functions.  The mobile device most often talked about for possible classroom use is the cell phone or smartphone.  As of 2010, 75% of 12-17 year olds own a cell phone according to a Pew Research Center study (cited in Koebler, 2011).  With so many students daily engaged in the use of mobile devices, the creation of apps for sale and use on these devices aimed at this demographic has skyrocketed (Johnson et al., 2012).  These apps can be used in the classroom with appropriate supervision and have many benefits.  Mobile devices like cell phones are always capable of connecting to the Internet using 3G or 4G wireless networks.  Mobile apps can be used both inside and outside of the classroom making them easy conduits for communication between students and teachers as well as facilitating collaborative learning with peers.  This connectivity and portability also has the potential to create global connections through instruction making the world the classroom (Mangukiya, 2012).  All of these benefits are facilitated by technology already familiar to students in daily life.

Because most students already own a cell phone or other mobile device, some educators are suggesting a program for instruction where students bring their own devices for use at school, called BYOD programs.  Some of the obstacles to a BYOD program include not all students having the same device, some students not being able to afford the necessary devices, and devices as possible distractions when not in use for instruction (Nielsen, 2011).  Some of these obstacles are overcome by the tenacity of teachers who see how engaged students become when using them and the innovation of the new booming mobile app industry.  With these changes some schools are adopting a BYOD program as a cost effective way to integrate this prevalent technology into the classroom.

Tablet Computing

Tablets, like cell phones, are mobile computing devices.  However, tablets have larger screens with sharper displays for using more powerful and educationally specific apps.  In fact, tablets can run apps similar to software for computers making them a cheaper and more portable option for school based one-to-one programs.  Tablet touch screens make them easy to use, and the portability of the mobile device makes them easy to share in a school environment.  Tablets can also connect to the Internet to expand instruction.

In addition, tablets can be used as digital reading devices.  Tablets provide a much more interactive experience than a traditional textbook (Watters, 2012).  With options like a built-in dictionary, digital annotation, or read-aloud capabilities, reading with a tablet is more active than reading a traditional textbook.  Although not all books and textbooks are available digitally, publishers are expanding their digital libraries.

Game-Based Learning

Video games are pervasive in the United States, especially among adolescents.  According to Robert Torres (2011) of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 97% of Americans between the ages of 8 and 18 play video games.  For middle school students, video games are a way of life.  Torres (2011) posited that video games are so important to students because they offer a sense of relevance and context, are active, provide social interaction, and offer emotional engagement.  With student-centered instruction, teachers seek to incorporate these elements into instruction as well to fully engage the student and allow each to construct knowledge by ensuring relevant, active, and collaborative learning.  Game-based learning can facilitate such instruction in a format that highly motivates students to learn.

Game-based learning can be approached in many ways.  It can be as simple as a single player app for a mobile device or as complicated as a global multi-player virtual world accessed through the Internet.  Many games require collaboration with peers and facilitate problem- solving skills with real-world applications.

Personal Learning Environments

Personal learning environments, or PLE’s, are a digital method of individualizing instruction.  Each PLE is unique to each student.  For educators who believe that a learner-centered approach is the best way to reach every student, PLE’s provide a platform for success.  For some educators, this kind of transformational technology signals a change in teaching.  “By marrying the principles of personalized learning with the tools of technology, some educators believe that they have a chance to create the kind of customized learning environment that can finally break schools out of the industrial-age model of education to bring about true 21st century school reform” (Demski, 2012).  PLE’s can be in the form of wiki pages, personal blogs, e-portfolios of work, or websites that teachers or students can create themselves.  PLE’s facilitate learner-centered instruction, which can be closely monitored by the instructor but is controlled by the student through a digital space.  PLE’s can also promote collaboration when they are shared with others.  For example, a wiki page or other shared document can facilitate group work.  The wiki or document would be dedicated to that assignment and accessed by all members.  PLE’s require a device to connect students to their constructed environment, which can be a computer, tablet, or mobile device.

Natural User Interfaces

Many educators believe that a more immersive teaching style leads to more fully engaged students and therefore better learning.  Natural user interfaces provide a teaching tool that engages all the senses and promotes active learning in the classroom, meeting the instructional needs of all types of learners (Center for Digital Education, 2012).  Natural user interfaces change the way that students interact with technology devices.  The traditional keyboard and mouse are replaced by sensors that detect voice commands, gestures, and touches by the user to manipulate the given technology device.  “Natural user interfaces allow users to engage in virtual activities with movements similar to what they would use in the real world, manipulating content intuitively” (Johnson et al., 2012, p. 32).  Although already used with special needs students who have difficulty manipulating traditional interfaces, natural user interfaces have not translated generally to the regular classroom.  Examples of natural user interfaces are the touch screen and surfaces, used on smartphones, tablets, and interactive whiteboards; gesture-based sensors, used with devices like the Xbox Kinect and Wii; and voice activated technology, used with the iPhone’s Siri virtual assistant and Nuance’s Dragon speech recognition software.

Applications Across the Curriculum

All of the technologies discussed have applications in a middle school classroom.  However, it is not the technological tool that is important, but the instructional approach.  According to Dr. Brenner, a school superintendent from Long Island, New York, “It’s not about a cool application…We are talking about changing the way we do business in the classroom” (cited in Hu, 2012).  Technologies in the classroom are tools to engage students and are no substitute for quality teachers or instructional approaches.  However, a change in instructional techniques must change as our students change.  If properly used by excellent teachers, these technologies offer new ways to motivate and fully engage middle school students for life-long learning applied across the curriculum.

Some of these emerging technologies are appropriate for any content area.  For example, any teacher can use a wiki to create a PLE for their class or for specific assignments.  Students can then post work to the wiki while collaborating with the instructor and peers.  Additionally, an instructor can use iTunes U to gather materials all in one digital location and distribute them to students.  Students can access audio, video, or other materials for a class with a mobile app (Mangukiya, 2012).  Another example of a mobile app that any teacher can use is called Poll Everywhere.  This app allows teachers to poll up to 40 students using the texting-enabled cell phones for instant formative assessment (Koebler, 2011).

Another goal for many schools across the curriculum is to become paperless.  Using tablets, students can use cloud computing to store and turn in work to create a paperless learning environment.  Cloud computing also allows students to continue working at home with an Internet connection without lost papers or forgotten work.  Digital textbooks also help schools become paperless and can be augmented by digital portfolios (Hu, 2011).  In addition, students can take more interactive, annotated notes in class using mobile apps while interactive whiteboards facilitate classwork to be posted online as pdf’s.  Although some applications of these technologies can be for almost any teacher, some benefits of these technologies are content specific.

Language Arts

These emerging technologies can be directly applied to language arts.  Most universally applicable is e-books.  E-book readers, like the Kindle or the iBooks mobile app for iPod, iPhone, and iPad, allow literary texts to become interactive.  Interactive features improve reading skills like digital dictionaries for unknown vocabulary words, connections to supplementary online content to increase comprehension, digital annotation to increase depth of reading, and read-aloud capabilities for auditory learners.  E-books also motivate reluctant readers (Watters, 2012).  This is especially difficult with struggling readers in middle school.  Students can even create and e-publish their own e-book for iBooks using Apple’s Pages word processing software.  Although not every title is available digitally, digital publishing is becoming more common as mobile reading apps become more prevalent.

Literature also comes alive with mobile apps.  For example, an app for iPad and computers is Shakespeare in Bits.  This app provides an animated and interactive text of some of Shakespeare’s plays.  Students can click on archaic vocabulary for definitions and watch animated performances of each scene for context.  In addition to reading, writing skills can also be improved by the proper integration of emerging technologies.  Practical, authentic writing experiences where work is shared with peers promotes improvement with middle school writers.  PLE’s like journal writing in blogs or creating e-portfolios of written work can facilitate such writing experiences (Johnson et al., 2012).

Another highly motivating reading and writing experience is facilitated by game-based learning platforms emphasizing literacy, including a writing component and critical problem solving in collaboration with peers, called Quest Atlantis and Atlantis Remixed, or ARX.  According to the website’s homepage, ARX uses 3D, multi-user, virtual environments to immerse students in educational tasks.  ARX combines elements of video games with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation.  Students take on the persona of an investigator, exploring different virtual environments.  When enough information is gathered, each student writes an assignment based on his or her research within the game.  The games are also customizable for different subjects and instructional objectives, promoting writing across the curriculum. This encourages students to write for different purposes and for different audiences, one of the common core standards for middle school language arts students.  Their work is shared with peers around the world, motivating each student to write their best work.  Even reluctant writers are motivated to craft their writing with thoughtfulness and clarity and reluctant readers build reading skills because they enjoy the video game elements.


Middle school science students can benefit from science based personal learning environments.  One such PLE is called Scitable.  Scitable is a free science library and personal learning tool focusing on genetics and cell biology.  Students can join in scientific discussions, talk to experts in the field, and ask questions about science careers (Johnson et al., 2012).  Teachers and students create their own virtual learning environment for scientific inquiry on the website.

In addition, schools in Virginia have begun replacing science textbooks with iPad interactive textbooks (Hu, 2011).  The interactive textbooks can provide students with the means of manipulating data into charts, graphs, or other visuals; connecting to the Internet for more information about specific subjects based on student interest; connect students to practicing scientists, experts in their fields of study; and conduct virtual dissections or experiments.  Along the same lines, interactive mobile apps for tablets or smartphones allow science students to learn by manipulating information or doing virtual labs.  These kinds of apps permit students to learn the periodic table by viewing and rotating images in 3D or dissect frogs virtually (Johnson et al., 2012).  Middle school students are independent enough in their thinking to accept more control over their scientific experimentation, with appropriate supervision, that tablet technology provides.


Middle school students in mathematics classes begin to study more complex mathematical constructions like percentages, ratios, and equations.  Integrating technology into mathematics instruction can facilitate not only an understanding of the procedures of the math they are learning but also how to apply and synthesize it in the world around them.  Mobile devices can help students visualize content.  Students can graph equations using their smartphones.  They can not only play math games using tablet technology but also view or create for themselves animations of complex math problems.  In fact, California recently launched an iPad only algebra course in conjunction with Houghton Mifflin Harcort (Hu, 2011).

Gesture-based learning can also prompt students to apply mathematical concepts in new ways.  According to the Center for Digital Education (2012), Johnny Kissco, a math teacher from Texas uses the Xbox Kinect in his classroom.  “When I used Kinect in my algebra class, students began asking questions that went far beyond the curriculum requirements. This was a huge success, as it got students thinking about applying the content in a real-world context” (p. 1).  Although most people use mathematics in daily life, middle school students are constantly asking about the practical application of the math they are learning.  Students who use these devices to learn mathematics no longer wonder how they will use the assigned content; they see the practical applications through the instruction itself.

Arts and Physical Education

Many mobile apps for tablets encourage students to create their artistic visions digitally.  Other mobile apps allow art students to view masterworks of art from museums around the world, such as the free apps from the Van Gogh museum and the Louvre.  Students can interact with visuals and content about the artist.  Music students can create their own digital music using apps like GarageBand for iPad.  Such interactive apps can engage many reluctant music makers (Mangukiya, 2012).  These creations can then be published and shared.  Gesture-based learning can provide new learning experiences in physical education.  Learning the rules or motions involved in a sport can be accomplished digitally where progress can be tracked through formative assessments collected by the device.


Middle school students are motivated and encouraged to use higher level thinking skills when instruction includes these emerging technologies.  In the hands of an excellent teacher in a student-centered classroom, these technologies can transform instruction providing authentic, real-world learning experiences to the benefit of students of all learning styles and intelligences.  This is the future of education.


Center for Digital Education. (2012). Learning through motion. Retrieved through Microsoft website:

Demski, J. (2012, January 4). This time it’s personal. Transforming Education Through Technology Journal. Retrieved from

Hu, W. (2011, January 4). Math that moves: Schools embrace the iPad. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Johnson, L., Adams, S., and Cummins, M. (2012). NMC Horizon Report: 2012 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

Mangukiya, P. (2012, February 3). How mobile apps are changing classrooms and education. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Nielsen, L. (2011, November 9). 7 myths about BYOD debunked. Transforming Education Through Technology Journal. Retrieved from

Rankin, B. (2010, August 24). Dr. Bill Rankin: Next-wave mobility and the three ages of information [Video file]. Retrieved from

Torres, R. (2011, November 9). TEDxGotham 2011–Robert Torres [Video file]. Retrieved from!

Watters, A. (2012, February 1). The truth about tablets: Educators are getting iPads and e-readers into students’ hands–but it is not easy. School Library Journal. Retrieved from  ipads-and-ereaders-into-students-hands-but-its-not-easy/

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Women, Power, and Educational Technology

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This the first post I have ever written about females in technology.  A few recent incidents got me thinking about this issue.  First, I attended/presented at an educational technology conference that had the mission of giving women voices as keynote presenters, yet the major presenters (who were given more time and press) were males.  Second, I am spending the day watching TedxWomen and there are male presenters.

These incidents reminded of a powerful experience that happened to me as a college teacher in a face-to-face undergraduate course on Psychology of Adjustment . . .

There were about 150 students in the lecture hall where I taught Psychology of Adjustment.  The topic of this week was communication and power differences between genders.  My goal for all of my classes was to involve the students in the course topics through experiential, interactive activities.  On this particular day, I planned a panel discussion.  I asked for five females volunteers and five male volunteers from the student audience.  The males were asked to take a seat in the five chairs set up in a row, the women stood in a line facing them.  My rationale for this physical set-up was to give the women power “over”.  Typically men are larger and taller than women, so just their physical presence gives power over.

Next, I asked to the women to tell the men those things that they believe infers with communication between the two genders.  The males were instructed to just listen and that the only verbal communications that they could give were questions for clarification.  My purpose for this part of the exercise was to give women a forum/venue to have a voice, to get the opportunity to have the males really listen to them.

The exercise was powerful.  The women expressed their concerns, mostly about not being heard. The males sat listening, really listening, in a non-defensive poster, to what the women had to say, asking a few questions for clarification.  Both sides of the panel did great.

I indicated that it was the end of the exercise . The women emphatically stated that it was now time to give the males the opportunity to tell them what interferes with communication with females.  I again stated, “No, this is the end of this exercise.”  Two of the women, older in their 40s and 50s, got visibly upset and agitated stating that the males need to have their turn, their say.  I asked the males if they were okay ending the exercise as is and they said that they were.  The two women were not okay with this and remained very agitated.  I saw in their actions a strong need to give back the power to the males.

I thought, “Wow, these women are seeking to give the male back their voices and power; and don’t even realize it.”  I did not anticipate nor expect this strong of a reaction from the women. (Note:  It was noted in the comments that maybe this was just the two women’s need for fair play.  It is difficult to convey observations via words.  First, as I stated I did not anticipate nor expect this reaction.  I was actually shocked at its intensity.  Second, these two women were fairly “traditional” in that they were mothers and wives, returning to school.  Third, their visibly being shaken up even after the guys stated they were fine demonstrated that it went much deeper than fair play.)

I realized these beliefs were so ingrained and unconscious that even if I had brought it to the women’s attention, they could not/would not be able to own them.  I made the connection between this experience and internalized oppression.

What this experience reinforced is that we live in world where power differentials exist on many levels.   I am a strong supporter of affirmative action.  I believe that when power differentials exist, proactive and what appears to some to be extreme, “unfair” actions need to be taken.

As I examine who are the keynote speakers at technology conferences, who are making online games, the educational technology individuals who are being followed and retweeted on Twitter, the balance of power appears to be in favor of males. Others have noticed and discussed this . . .


  • It’s Time to Find the Women in Tech “Where are all the women?” is common refrain in tech circles. Plenty of executives and investors, male and female, are seeking to advance more women in technology. But how? We need to take a three-pronged approach, bolstering education, opportunity, and visibility for women in technology.
  • Shifting the Base of Competition A bias against women has existed for centuries, and unfortunately, that bias continues to exist in industries such as IT. This bias, according to Hagel, is amplified by a concept he identifies as the masculine archetype.
  • Women In Technology: 4 Reasons Why Females Will Rule The Future Women have been flagrantly underrepresented in technology fields since the Internet first changed the way we interact with the world nearly two decades ago. Only 8 percent of venture-backed start-ups have female leaders, and few women sit on the boards of Web 2.0’s most prominent companies.

This post, in essence, is a call to action for both genders to invite in and provide opportunities for females to become fully engaged, have equal opportunities. and have voices in the field of technology/educational technology. There are some powerful initiatives to get girls and women involved in this field:

  • Girls Who Code Together with leading educators, engineers, and entrepreneurs, Girls Who Code has developed a new model for computer science education, pairing intensive instruction in robotics, web design, and mobile development with high-touch mentorship led by the industry’s top female developers and entrepreneurs.
  • The FemTech Project came out of a conversation between four women who feel passionately about women in technology careers. They wanted to create a space for women to share their stories about how they got involved in tech careers. The project is also a place for girls to share their passions for technology and connect with other girls with similar passions.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 1, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Mobile Learning Lesson Plans

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I teach an Integrating Technology Into the Classroom course for the Boise State Universities EdTech graduate program.  As part of the course, students are given a choice menu of options for integrating technology into their respective content areas.  One of these choices is to develop a Mobile Learning Lesson Plan.  This is the template they are asked to follow:

  • Background
    • Content Area:
    • Title:
    • Grade Level or Target Group:
  • Pre Planning
    • Big Idea(s):
    • Essential Questions:
    • Objectives:
  • Lesson Opening
    • Lesson Opening (The Hook): Include a least one content-area app to gain students’ interest.
  • Lesson Body
    • Explanation: Include at least one content-area app that provides an explanation of the concepts
    • Check for Understanding: Include at least one content-area app “tests” student knowledge of the concepts.
    • Extended Practice: Include at least one content-area app that assists students in getting more practice in applying content-related concepts.
  • Closing
    • Lesson Closing: Include at least one content-area app that assists students creating a project – producing a project that integrates and demonstrates the lesson’s concepts.

What follows are some examples from students who selected this option.

Language Arts

Poetry In Motion

Big Idea(s):

  • Poetry is “Found” Everywhere
  • The  Power of Expression (word choice / word combinations)

Essential Questions:

  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge states, “Poetry: the best words in the best order.” Why is word choice especially important to poetry?
  • Marshall Mcluhan states, “The medium is the message.”  Does the “medium” influence how the message is perceived?

Full Lesson:

Mobile Learning for Writing

Big Idea:

  • Different pre-planning and organization methods are used based on the reasons for writing and the intended audience.

Essential Questions:

  • How does the style and genre we choose to write in effect the message?
  • How do different organization structures support different writing genres?

Full Lesson:

Writing a Paragraph

Big Idea:

  • Begin by brainstorming, move on to main idea and supporting details, conclusion, and eventually write a complete how-to paragraph.

Essential Question:

  • Why do writers need to make sure their writing is effective?

Full Lesson:

Sight Word Writing for Kindergarten

Big Idea:

  • Learning and practicing sight words helps students not only read at grade level, but also helps students express their ideas to produce pieces of legible, coherent writing.

Essential Questions:

  • What does the word start with?
  • What do you hear at the beginning?
  • What sounds do you hear?
  • What do you need in between your words when writing a sentence?

Full Lesson:

English Language Learning

English through Social Media on a Mobile Phone

Big Idea:

  • Language learners can improve their English language skills and increase their global awareness by interacting with English-based, social media platforms.

Essential Questions:

  • How can language learners express their ideas and opinions in response to authentic social media discourse?
  • To what extent can language learners accurately express their ideas and opinions in response to authentic social media discourse?
  • Can this type of lesson help language learners such as those students in the Academic Bridge Program achieve course learning objectives?

Full Lesson:


Money Management Mobile Learning Activity

Big Idea:

  • Mobile apps allow students anytime/anywhere access to money managementinformation and tools.

Essential Questions:

  • What are the core concepts that make up money management?
  • What can one do to better manage their money?


  • Students learn concepts of money management.
  • Students increase their ability in money management.
  • Students are more confident when it comes to managing their money.

Full Lesson:

Solving Multiple Step Equations: Mobile Device Lesson

Big Idea:

  • Students will be able to undo the math operations and keep the equation balanced to solve for the variable.

Essential Questions:  

  • What is the process to solve for the missing variable?
  • Is there a pattern in solving for the variable?
  • How does PEMDAS work when solving for the missing variable?

Full Lesson:

Art and Design

Digital Restaurant Flyer

Big Idea:

Using mobile technology, learners will develop conceptual, organizational, marketing, and artistic skills while producing a tangible digital composition in a real-world, design scenario.

Essential Questions:

  • How can mobile technology be used to create an artistic design?
  • How can mobile technology be used to develop an individual’s conceptual, developmental, and artistic skills?
  • How can multiple mobile technologies be combined to make one, cohesive artistic design?
  • How does the style and content of a design affect the overall perception and effectiveness of a marketing piece?
  • What role does organization play in executing a design from the development of a design to the final delivery?

Full Lesson:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Educators as Social Networked Learners

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This fall, I am getting the opportunity to design and teach a graduate course for Boise State University’s Education Technology Program entitled, Social Networked Learning.  The majority of students in the program are K-12 in-service teachers who are seeking ways to enhance their teaching with integrated and emerging technologies.  I am so excited about what students are producing for this course and in terms of meeting this goal that I wanted to share information about the course, a sampling of course activities, and example student work.

Course Description

This course explores collaborative and emergent pedagogies, tools, and theory related to the use of social networks in learning environments. Participants gain hands-on experience with a variety social networking tools, create their own personal learning networks, and have an opportunity to develop a MOOC-inspired course for their learners.

The ideas, content, and exercises presented in this course are driven by two basic tenets:

  1. We are living, learning, and educating in an information-rich (Shirky), connected (Siemens), creative (Florida), participatory (Jenkins) culture.
  2. This culture is seeing growth, development, and evolution of information and technology as never seen before in the history of  humankind.  As such, educators need to become learners along with being teachers.  Educators, in this age of teaching and learning, have a responsibility to connect with, learn from and with, and share resources and information with their students and other educators both locally and globally.

Drawing from these tenets and borrowing from Howard Rheingold’s syllabus on Social Media Literacies, I believe the course can be further described by the following:

Today’s personal, social, political, economic worlds are all affected by digital media and networked publics. Viral videos, free search engines, indelible and searchable digital footprints, laptops in lecture halls and smartphones at the dinner table, massive online university courses — it’s hard to find an aspect of daily life around the world that is not being transformed by the tweets, blogs, wikis, apps, movements, memes, likes and plusses, tags, text messages, and comments two billion Internet users and six billion mobile phone subscribers emit. New individual and collaborative skills are emerging. This course introduces students to both the literature about and direct experience about how to leverage social media for teaching and learning, skills and tools necessary for critical consumption of information, best practices of individual digital participation and collective participatory culture, the use of collaborative media, and the application of network know-how for professional development and networking teaching and learning.  (

Learning Goals 

  1. Use a Personal Learning Network, and explain its value in educational settings.
  2. Understand the value of web-based social networks within educational settings.
  3. Identify learning theories and researched-based practices that support current approaches to effective use of social network technologies for learning.
  4. Analyze strengths and weaknesses of various social networks and information management technologies for a variety of learning goals.
  5. Contribute to professional-based social learning networks using a variety of media and communication mechanisms.
  6. Identify factors with successful social networks, and create a social learning network-driven course for learners addressing these factors.

Course Modules

  • The Theories Driving Social Networking: Communities of Practice, Connectivism, Personal Learning Networks
  • Social Media for Professional Development & Reputation Management
  • Building Your Personal Learning Network
  • Social Networking As An Instructional Strategy
  • Creating a MOOC-Inspired Online Community of Learners

Course Assignments

  • Set Up Course Social Networking Areas and Sites
  • Communities of Practice, Connectivism, Personal Learning Networks: Resource Identification
  • Communities of Practice, Connectivism, Personal Learning Networks: Creative Understandings
  • Social Media for Professional Development & Reputation Management
  • Real Time and Live Professional Development
  • Positive Digital Footprint and Reputation Management Plan
  • Curation: Criteria for Quality Curation
  • Curation: Curated Topic
  • Building Your Personal Learning Network
  • PLE Diagram
  • Social Media Policies and Your Own Online Communities
  • Synthesis and Application of Social Networking Tools and Ideas
  • Creating a MOOC-Inspired Online Community of Learners
  • Peer Review and Reflection

Module One: Communities of Practice, Connectivism, Personal Learning Networks


During this module, you will be exploring communities of practice, connectivism, and personal learning networks. Understanding these concepts, philosophies, and ways of thinking provide a foundation for social networking.  It can help you use social networks strategically and with intention.  It helps inform your actions so you can use networks for engaged, participatory learning.

Create one or a combination of the following to demonstrate your understanding of these concepts:  a slide show or Glog of images, an audio cast of sounds, a video of sights, a series of handrawn and scanned pictures, a mindmap of images, a mathematical formula, a periodic chart of concepts, or another form of nonlinguistical symbols.  Note that it is not about words but about images and symbols.   Your product should contain the major elements discussed in this module: CoPs, Connectivism, and Personal Learning Networks.  Include a reference page of at least 10 (ten) CoP, Connectivism, and PLN resources you used to inform your work. Creating a “product” to represent your understanding of the concepts addresses (1) that we have become producers as well as consumers in this age of social networking and web 2.0; and (2) according to neuroscientist, John Medina, visuals are very powerful means for learning and understanding.

Student Examples

Communities of Practice are demonstrated by multiple instruments playing a major scale. All the musicians share the same passion (the scale). At first the musicians are out of sync but as they continue to work together and learn more the music begins to come together. By the end they are all playing together (Wenger, n.d.). I felt this was a good representation of how learning can be facilitated through Communities of Practice.

Personal Learning Networks are demonstrated through the use of drum beats. It starts with just one beat and slowly more and more beats are layered on top making the music (the learning) grow. The use of all drums represents the similar interest shared by people in a PLN and the variations in the beats represent how each person brings a unique perspective to the learning environment (Kharbach, 2012).

Connectivism is demonstrated by different instruments slowly being layered on top of each other. As the music becomes stronger it’s representing how learning can grow by connecting with others around the world through web 2.0 (“Connectivism”, n.d.). It also shows how learning with others is more effective than learning alone. (Creative Expression: CoPs, PLNs, and Connectivisim)


Module Two: Social Media for Professional Development & Reputation Management


Educators really can’t afford to NOT be on Twitter.  Our educational landscape is changing very rapidly.  Our students are using this technology every day, and as educators we must continually be growing and finding new ways to learn and to reach our students.  Is Twitter perfect?  By no means.  But used correctly, Twitter can really become a catalyst in transforming your classroom, your school, and your teaching.  (

If you haven’t done so, set up a Twitter client (e.g. Tweetdeck).  Find at least five hashtags that reflect your interests and set up columns for them on your Twitter client.  Tweet out your chosen hashtags using #EdTechSNPost a screenshot on our class Facebook page of your Twitter client with the at least five hashtagged columns (not including #EdTechSN). Include a summary of what hashtags you follow; three new things, resources, ideas you learned by following them; and your thoughts about about using Twitter as a form of just-in-time professional development.

Student Examples

A few student reflections about setting up and using Twitter for Professional Development:

Module Three: Positive Digital Footprint and Reputation Management Plan


Your task for this assignment is to develop a specific plan for you as a professional to establish a positive professional online presence while at the same time developing steps to insure that your reputation remains “safe” and positive.  Include at least 10 individual strategies.  Use references to support your ideas/strategies.  Post your ideas on a site that permits comments and feedback – you can create a video and upload on Youtube, a Voicethread, a Flickr slide series, a Facebook Page, a wikipage, or a Google doc (making sure you enable comments).

Student Examples


Module Four: Curation


“Curation comes up when search stops working,” says author and NYU Professor Clay Shirky. But it’s more than a human-powered filter. “Curation comes up when people realize that it isn’t just about information seeking, it’s also about synchronizing a community.” Why Content Curation Is Here to Stay

Review the readings and resources about curation. Based on your readings, develop a checklist of at least 15 criteria that will serve as a tool for assessing the the quality and value of a curated topic related to your specialized content area and/or grade level.  This is a group assignment – to be completed with the group you formed in the last module.  Decide as a group which collaborative online tool you want to use to complete this list of criteria, e.g., Wiki, Google Doc, Primary Pad, etc. Reflect on the process of creating the checklist and working as a group in the comments section of their Facebook checklist post.

Using a tool specific for curation (e.g, Pinterest, Scoopit, Educlipper, Livebinders, Learnrist, MightyBell), curate a topic of your choice, applicable to your content areas and/or grade level.. This is an individual project. Include at least 25 resources. Use your group’s checklist to self-assess its value.  Post your results in the comments section where you posted your the link to your Curated Topic. Use your group’s checklist to assess the curated topics of your group members.  Please note what was especially noteworthy and also what needs further development/tweaking.

Student Example

Curating is hard work. To come up with this list of 25 acceptable resources involved a lot of filtering, sifting, and otherwise weeding out. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. That somebody is me – and lots of educational technology professionals like me who take pride in their work. We do the hard stuff so you don’t have to. The end result is a resource I feel is substantial, helpful, and contributes to the greater good of knowledge. Gretel P.

Module Five:  Your PLE Diagram and Reflection


Create a PLE diagram of your online communities.  Represent at least 10 different online communities in your graphic and explictly show connections between the communities. You can be as creative as you’d like with this depiction.  You can hand draw and take an image, or use any type technology.  There are a number of mindmapping tools that can help you –  Post a link and screenshot of your PLE so you classmates could view it on Facebook and Tweet your diagram out using the #EdTechSN hastag.  Complete a reflection that addresses the following questions:  What did you learn about yourself when looking at your PLE? Visit your classmates’ PLE posts.  How does your PLE compare to other peers in class? Write a self-reflection and a comparative analysis that discusses similarities and diffierences between yours and your classmates’ diagrams.

Student Diagram Examples

Student Reflections: Completing the PLE Diagram

This experience has allowed me to look at the communities in a new light. Before, I simply used them for their entertainment value. An escape from work and learning. Little did I know that they would become the basis for my new way of learning. Each day I am amazed by what I find.  Andi

This class, or more importantly this assignment, has made me realize just how much I have not been truly using the Internet and all its tools and resources to its ability.  It is like when you bite into a candy thinking that there is yummy goodness in the middle only to find out that the middle is actually hollow and the candy just had a thick shell.  But it also has allowed me to immerse myself into resources, tools, and communities that I might never thought of using/joining and broadening my network for the better.  Christina

This idea of growing our network, of growing ourselves, aligns well with the connectivist framework I have been researching lately. Like George Siemens said, “The learning is the network” (2004). Gretel

I had a wonderful experience creating my PLN and it gave me a map to use when socializing and gaining information to help me with my teaching degree. It is now much easy to “see” where I should be going and “who” I should be networking with. I am excited to see where this will lead me and what the future holds. Debi

 I have learned that I have ideas that may be beneficial for other educators and students and often felt like I had no avenue through which to share them besides in direct communication with the students and teachers at the school/colleges where I teach. By creating this PLE diagram, I have been able to see how many avenues I do have to make more of a contribution to the educational community at large, going beyond the schools I am directly affiliated with. Jaime

Joining new professional networks to include on the diagrams stretched me outside of my comfort zone. Activities that instigate discomfort can be amongst the very best opportunities to learn. angi

PLE Diagram Blog Entries

Module 6: Social Networked Learning in Your Classroom


Social media is fast becoming as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. Many schools and districts around the country have taken steps to create social media policies and guidelines for their students and staff. In my work with several districts to draft these documents, I have seen many approaches that work well, and some that don’t. That said, there is no silver bullet for administrators; every school, district, and state has a different set of circumstances. (How to Create Social Media Guidelines for Your School)

Either (1) develop social media policies for your learning environment, or (2) establish a plan to have your learning community develop social media policies for your school or organization.  Include steps to get input and ideas from students, parents, teachers, staff, community members.

Student Reflections About Creating a Social Media Policy

While many teachers still choose to keep their head in the sand, the fact is that Social Media is in our schools.  Moreover, that’s where it should be.  There is no doubt that dealing with social media in a school setting is tricky business.  Fears about students safety, cyber-bullying, reputation management, distraction in school and the like are real issues that should be addressed by school communities.  More and more, this is being handled by the development of a Social Media Policy for the school or school district.  This is an important part of creating a culture where students learn to use social media,, something they are already doing in the personal lives, in the space they spend so much of their time.  By taking the approach of creating a policy that cultivates an understanding of the proper use of social media, schools not only protect themselves and their students, they also help students learn to better use such technology.  Jon F.

I’m disappointed, though not surprised, to see how many districts and schools ban external social media sites completely. Sure, it may protect and cushion students, but it also creates a long-term problem of not helping students learn to navigate a world they are already using daily. Schools do students a huge disservice and only compound the problem by feeding school-life-home disconnect. Students will still use social media outside of school but are given virtually no practice to use it wisely and well – and certainly not for learning.  I drafted a social media policy for our school and will present it to the Technology Committee for preliminary review and hopefully adoption. I believe it’s important to have this in place in addition to an Acceptable Use Policy, because 1) it states our belief that social media has a valuable place in our school; 2) it educates students, parents, and teachers on appropriate online behavior within social media sites; and 3) it helps ensure that everyone is accountable and safe.  Gretel P.

Examples of Established Social Media Policies


You are going to establish your own online social learning platform for your teaching environment.  You can use any platform. Edmodo is highly recommended, but NINGs, Mightbell, Facebook for Schools, Moodle, Wikis, and PB Works are options, too.  Please complete the following for this assignment:

    1. Establish accounts.
    2. Describe your learning audience.
    3. Establish procedures for learners to join the platform.
    4. Establish some general acceptable use guidelines for your social learning platform.
    5. Describe some potential uses of this social learning network or online community for your content area and grade level.

Student Examples

The final project for the course is for the established groups to develop a MOOC inspired course using the theories, strategies, and tools developed throughout the courses.  This project will be discussed in a separate blog post.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 18, 2012 at 4:14 pm

14 Tweets or small “t” truths About Educational Reform

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In the world of educational technology, we often hear Pedagogy Before the Technology.  hmmmm . . . really?  Then why are there so many 60 tool in 60 minutes presentations?  Lists of 100 Web 2.0 tools and apps found on the Internet?  This presentation is my attempt to actually put pedagogy (and the students) before the technology.  It is my 14 Tweets or my own truths about teaching and learning. I love Twitter as good tweets are like sound bites of wisdom.  These are my truths about educational reform (a little t as they are subjective as opposed to the big universal Truths, the big Ts).

Teachers often demonstrate through their own practices that they teach the way they were taught – lectures, tests, maybe some group discussion thrown in.  I am on a mission to encourage educators to teach not the way they were taught but the way they wished they were taught . . . better yet, maybe practicing the Platinum rule.  The platinum rule extends the golden rule beyond treat others the way you want to be treated.  It states that we should treat others the way that they want to be treated.  So maybe educators should work with their learners in creating classrooms the learners would want.

, , ,  and seriously, who would select lectures and reading textbooks as their primary and only sources of learning something new?

I also want to encourage educators to teach using models, techniques, and strategies based on the educational philosophies that they admire; that they profess allegiance
. . . Student-centered?
. . . Progressive?
. . . Constructivist?
. . . based on the works of Dewey? of Montessori?

Most of public schools and many classrooms are essentialist. Essentialism ensures that the accumulated wisdom of our civilization as taught in the traditional academic disciplines is passed on from teacher to student. Such disciplines might include Reading, Writing, Literature, Foreign Languages, History, Mathematics, Science, Art, and Music (

My moral compass doesn’t point to forcing students to learn, know, be tested on a pre-determined body of knowledge. Does yours?

. . . and as I tell pre-service teachers, “Never forget why you became a teacher in the first place.  Keep this mind as all of the politics, fads, and mandates, typical of public education flow all around you.”

What follows is my ideas about what education should look, feel, sound like in this era of learning.  I include questions along with these small-t truths.  They have been designed as a type of self-inventory (for me but I am inviting you along for the ride).  Approach the questions in a way that works for you.  Some may confirm what you do, others may challenge you, and still others may not apply.

Our culture is information-rich (Shirky), connected (Siemens), participatory (Jenkins), creative (Florida). Given the affordances of technology, we live in a time that is significantly and qualitatively different than when many teachers went to school.

  • Does the physical setting of your classroom reflect a participatory, creative, connected, information-rich culture?  Is your classroom flexible and creative allowing changes to reflect the different learning tasks rather than having desks and seats set up in rows facing the teacher  
  • Is your classroom an open portal  – open to people, visitors, social networks?  Are your classroom walls permeable allowing persons of interest to enter; allowing students to visit persons of interest?

The Internet has created a generation of engaged learners.  They expect that their educations (not necessarily their schooling) contain elements of real time and authentic information and connection.

  • Do you permit and encourage real-time, immediate, as-needed access to online content?
  • Do you encourage your learners to use Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Social Networks?
  • . . .  allowing students to do so on their own devices?

Learning networks have always existed with groups of people organizing around their interests and passions focusing on books, games, sports, etc.   One of the greatest gifts we could offer our learners is how to find, join, and interact with their own personal learning communities  – both online and face-to-face.

  • Do you assist your learners in finding, joining, and interacting with their own personal learning communities –  to find their own online and face-to-face tribes?

Maybe the Google 80/20 should be applied to schooling . . . but in a reverse . . . 80% pursuing one’s own passion-based learning and the other 20% getting a liberal arts education.  The ultimate payoff for participation in self-determined, passion-based learning communities is gaining expertise in one’s area of interest. . . a natural and powerful form of intrinsic motivation. 

  • Do you have forums for learners to showcase their skills and passions?

The educator should be an ethnographer of his-her students.  Educators should know the background, interests, passions, antagonizers of every student. They should study their learners from the lens of a cultural anthropologist viewing each one as the unique human being he or she is.

  • Do you know the background, interests, passions, antagonizers of your learners?

Have me watch a video, I forget; Ask me do an online interactive, I remember; Let me to produce and create, I learn.  This is a modern take of the old Confucius saying, What I see I forget, What I hear I remember, What I do I Know, but the same cautions apply in what learning activities are asked of students.  If the learners are not producing and generating more content than the educator, then the educator is doing something wrong.

  • Do your learners produce and create every time you “meet?”
  • Do your learners produce as much or more of their learning materials as they consume?

The educator is no longer the gatekeeper to information. In the past, systems of education had a responsibility to suggest and provide access to knowledge believed to be worth knowing.  The Internet has opened up these systems so everyone who has access to the Internet has access to knowledge.   Educators should view themselves as class facilitators, offering and suggesting learning activities, but asking students to be responsible for their actual learning.

  • Do your learners work harder than you during meeting times?

The educator should be a tour guide of learning possibilities . . . showing learners the possibilities and then getting out of the way. The key becomes getting out of the way.  Often, even with the best intentions, educators often attempt to direct the students’ learning process. This may have a paradoxical effect; creating obstacles for students to gain the knowledge and skills that the educator is actually trying to teach.

  • Do your learners interact more with other students, professionals, web materials, and hands-on materials than with you?

A goal of all educators should be to provide students with transferable life skills. The ability to take tests is not one of them. Human learning is often complex, multifaceted, and idiosyncratic so to attempt to quantify it, often to a single number, diminishes and minimizes this incredible experience. Plus, learners aren’t going to remember you for the worksheets and tests given

  • Do you use authentic assessments that provide ongoing and continuous feedback to learners about their performance?

The map is not the territory; the destination is not the journey; the people are more than the community.  The map is not the territory.  Maps give us the illusion that they represent the entire territory.  The only was a map could accurately represent a territory is if it were the exact size of that territory and it included all of the geographical landmarks of that territory.

A similar illusion has evolved in education.  There is a belief that the curriculum maps, lesson plans, and teaching scripts are the territory, that all there needs to be known can be taught with these “maps”.  Just like geographic maps, curriculum and lesson plans are inaccurate and incomplete maps of what can be learned and known.  Learning can be guided by curricular maps but there is an expectation of digressions, exploration of alternatives, and at times, throwing out the map altogether (

  • Do you step away from your lessons plans and established curriculum to jump onto those teachable moments?

The map is not the territory; the destination is not the journey; the people are more than the community. The education system is one based on production – producing outcome-based learning; producing good test scores; producing good (compliant?) citizens.  Ironically, this era of anytime, anywhere learning has initiated an even stronger need to emphasize  the process of learning rather than the outcome of learning.

  • Do you focus as much or more on process of learning as the products and outcomes?

The map is not the territory; the destination is not the journey; the people are more than the community.  It’s more about the connection than about the content. Learning is promoted by heart-to-heart connections.  What this means is that building community – a sense of belonging is important but at the same time recognizing the unique qualities and strengths of each individual within that community.

  • Do learners leave at the end of day saying, “I was happy I was here. I enjoyed being with my co-learners today?”
  • Do you not only build community but also allow for independence, individuality, uniqueness of thought?

For some of the more creative kids, their creativity will help them survive their standardized school years.   For others, this standardization crushes their passions, spirits, joy.  The biggest ethical travesty of our schools is extinguishing a child’s passion, spirit, zest for learning. Making children into widgets or testing commodities is especially tragic is this time where every person has an opportunity to have a voice and have an audience for that voice.

  • Do you encourage student voice in all its forms – speech, writing, drawings, and media creation?

Everyone can achieve some form of greatness. My wish for each person is that s/he gets a standing ovation for an extraordinary act.  One of my missions as an educator is to set up the conditions for my learners to do so.

  • Do you set up the conditions for your learners to be great?
  • Do you set a climate for learners to be kind, concerned, passionate, compassionate?

What will you do to be and live the legacy you want to leave in the world?

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

September 29, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Meaning Making: Promoting Deep Understanding of Content

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Meaning making is one of the of the phases of the Flipped Classroom: The Full Classroom.

During this phase, learners work towards gaining a deep meaning of the content; an understanding that goes beyond the surface knowledge of facts and information that is way too common in these days of standardized tests and curriculum.  It is a phase of deep reflection of the content and concepts covered during the unit of study.  Learners are asked to develop and use skills for reflective practice through discussing, reviewing, analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing key learnings.

It becomes a phase of learner accountability.  Simply stated, learners are asked to demonstrate what they learned in a way that works for them using resources and references to support their ideas. Educators often ask how they can insure that students watched the flipped classroom videos and/or viewed other online content-rich resources.  During this phase of learning, students draw upon the content resources as a necessity to be able to demonstrate their understanding of the content material.  In other words, they cannot nor will not be able to able to adequately complete their reflections without the use of the reference materials.

The key to meaning making is offering student choices to demonstrate their understanding of the content.  Understanding and comprehension is idiosyncratic.  As such, each learner should be given an option to demonstrate personalized learning in a way that is a best fit for him or her.

The talented Wes Fryer created Mapping Media for the Curriculum.  It provides some great ideas for meaning making:

The options as discussed above also help to insure that the learning environment becomes one based on Universal Design for Learning.  A digital environment supports student learning when it provides multiple, flexible methods for student action, expression, and apprenticeship (  The second principle of UDL, provide multiple means for expression, is addressed:

The following guidelines related to Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression are addressed when learners make personalized meaning of the content:

  • Use social media and interactive web tools (e.g., discussion forums, chats, web design, annotation tools, storyboards, comic strips, animation presentations)
  • Compose in multiple media such as text, speech, drawing, illustration, comics, storyboards, design, film, music, visual art, sculpture, or video
  • Use web applications (e.g., wikis, animation, presentation)
  • Use story webs, outlining tools, or concept mapping tools

UDL in The Flipped Classroom: The Full Classroom is discussed further in

Here is an example I shared before.  It was is video that 18 year-old TJ made using Minecraft to demonstrate the concepts he learned during my interpersonal skills course.  He has Autism so the use of this video game, which he loves, provided him with a perfect venue to express his key learnings.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 30, 2012 at 8:58 pm

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