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Posts Tagged ‘experiential learning

LED Throwies Meet the Magnetic Board

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I have been offered an opportunity to teach maker education again at a local summer enrichment program during summer, 2016. Last summer was my first time around so I experimented with lots of different maker education activities to see what worked and didn’t work with the 5 to 10 year old kids. I now have this foundation and can build upon this foundation. I love creating new learning activities and will be thinking of new ways to use the materials so my returning students will have new activities. I plan to blog about those activities as I formulate them so (1) I don’t forget about them, (2) others will have access to them, and (3) folks will realize that maker education can be implemented with accessible, fairly cheap materials; that a makerspace is not required to do maker education.

LED Throwies Meet the Magnetic Board


  • LEDs (see
  • Coin Batteries (I get mine in bulk from ebay)
  • Magnets (I also get these in bulk from ebay)
  • Electric tape
  • Individual Magnetic white boards
  • Dry erase markers


  • Each learner is given the task to make 4-6 LED throwies (with the intent that they aren’t going to be thrown.


  • Directions from Make Magazine:
    • Pinch the LED’s leads to the sides of the battery, with the longer lead (the anode) touching the battery’s positive (+) terminal, and the shorter lead (cathods) touching negative (–). It should light up.
    • Cut a 7″ length of strapping tape or electrical tape, and wrap the leads tightly to the battery so the LED does not flicker. Wrap once around both sides of the battery.
    • The battery’s positive contact surface extends around the edges of the battery, so don’t let the short lead (cathode) touch it or you’ll short the circuit.
  • More about LED throwies can be found at


  • Each learner is then given a magnetic dry erase board and the task to create a design using both their LED throwies and dry erase makers (like the opening photograph).
  • Since it is a dry erase board, learners can be encouraged to create multiple iterations of their LED-based art pieces. Photos can be taken so the learners feel comfortable with erasing and creating new art works.
  • Learners can work with partners and switch around their LED throwies creating new and unique designs.
  • Group Version:
    • Small groups form a design on a larger classroom whiteboard. They all put their LED throwies on the larger magnetic, dry erase board. They all then use the dry erase markers to create a group mural.


This is a whole group example prior to me realizing they could have decorated their LED group creation with the dry erase makers.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 17, 2015 at 12:06 am

Cross Curricular Maker Education Activity That Addresses Common Core Standards

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My primary job is that of educating pre and in-service teachers with a bit of teaching elementary students along the way. I often say that there is not enough time during the school day and the school year to teach isolated and singular content area topics. I stress designing and teaching cross-curricular thematic units. Not only will the learners then get to experience multi-layered instruction, they will also experience more authentic learning experiences. Real life learning doesn’t segment itself into isolated content areas.

What follows is a specific lesson for upper elementary and middle school students. It combines geometry concepts with a language arts activity while addressing several common core standards.

  • Grade Level: Grades 6 through 8
  • Title: Geometry Meets Maker Education
  • Brief Description: Learners create a robot using geometric shapes and LEDs. They then compose a comic strip using Storyboard That which describes the geometric properties of their robot.
  • Common Core State Standards Addressed
    • Math: Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, surface area, and volume.
      • CCSS.Math.Content.6.G.A.4 Represent three-dimensional figures using nets made up of rectangles and triangles, and use the nets to find the surface area of these figures. Apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.
      • CCSS.Math.Content.7.G.B.6 Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, volume and surface area of two- and three-dimensional objects composed of triangles, quadrilaterals, polygons, cubes, and right prisms.
    • English Language Arts
      • ELA: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.
      • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.2.d Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
  • ISTE’s NETS-S standards addressed
    • Creativity and innovation: Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
      • Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes
      • Create original works as a means of personal or group expression
      • Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues
    • Communication and collaboration: Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
      • Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.
  • The Learning Activities
    • Learners are offered a variety of styrofoam shapes, LED lights/coin batteries, miscellaneous art supplies and glue guns.
    • Learners are given the task of building a robot composed of geometric shapes.
    • 10704133_10152777880134939_5875649242895121512_nLearners are asked to determine the surface area of their robots using the tape measures to get dimensions of individual pieces. They can use the LearnZillion tutorial to assist them –
    • Learners share their results, both their constructed robots and their surface area results, with peers. Peers give feedback.
    • Learners are then told that they are to explain the properties and story of their robots through a digital story using Storyboard That. Their stories need to be at least four panels and contain both images and test in each of the panels. These are shared with peers.


  • Reflection

Having learners engage in hands-on activities, both with the art items and with the technologies, permits educators to directly observe the performances of their students. Because these activities are somewhat self-directed, educators can actually view the learning activities as formative assessments and intervene when individual learners are having problems. This increases the chances that mastery by all learners are achieved.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 11, 2015 at 4:56 pm

The Mindset of the Maker Educator: Presentation Materials

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During Connected Educators’ Month I did a virtual presentation on The Mindset of the Maker Education. The description for this presentation was:

Dr. Jackie Gerstein discusses why we are in a perfect storm for maker education and the maker mindset–new skills and roles (many of which you probably already have on your internal desk)–with a self-assessment to help you determine how maker-ready you are, and what you need to do if you want to get there…

What follows are the slide deck and some of the graphics-Thinglinks I created around this topic.

The Perfect Storm for Maker Education

Educator as a Maker Educator

educator as a maker educator

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 13, 2015 at 10:55 pm

Reflecting on the Making Process

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My background is in experiential education. One of the strategies used in experiential education is debriefing or reflecting on the experience. In other words, learning from direct experience is not left to chance. The educator becomes proactive in debriefing or processing the experiences to increase the chances that learning occurs. This is in line with John Dewey’s ideas:

We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.’

A recent research study published via Harvard Business Review concluded that:

  • Learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection-that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience.
  • Reflecting on what has been learned makes experience more productive.
  • Reflection builds one’s confidence in the ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy), which in turn translates into higher rates of learning. (

In line with reflecting on experiences, I developed a list of questions and a board game (I love using board games in my classrooms of all ages from elementary to graduate level!) to help with reflecting on the maker process following the completion of maker projects. The purpose of these tools is to increase the possible learning and insights that learners extract from their maker projects.

a making reflection

A Maker Reflection: The Game

maker game best

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 5, 2015 at 10:02 pm

Creating the Classroom Conditions for the Best Day Ever

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Lately, I have become a little obsessed with idea of the best day ever. It is undeniable obvious when you see someone have or experience for yourself a peak experience: succeeding with a difficult, seemingly impossible task; getting a unexpected, amazing gift; finishing or winning a competitive event (depending on your goal); being given accolades for a personal accomplishment.  I personally perceive it as a coming together or congruence of the mind, heart, body, and spirit where all of them are present in the moment and fulfilled. It translates into experiencing a flow state.

So this has led to me thinking how educators can create the conditions for learners to have and exclaim, “This is the best day ever!” Whoever said or made up the rules that school should be serious, boring, or painful? The institutions and places where learning takes place should be joyful and exciting places.

Strategies to help facilitate learners having the best day ever:

  • Build on learner interests and passions
  • Involve learners in the what and how of instruction
  • Use whole body and hands-on learning
  • Allow learners to work with others if they choose
  • Embed seemingly unreachable challenges
  • Encourage and acknowledge a broad range of emotions
  • Celebrate both effort and success
  • Respect the process – creating the best day ever takes time
  • Respect the process – let go of the need to create the best day ever

We cannot predict nor force learners to have the best day ever but we can set up the conditions to increase its possibility.


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

September 24, 2015 at 1:22 am

Making MAKEing More Inclusive

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Update/Addendum: Last evening I traveled to Albuquerque with a friend to see the makerspace there and attend their monthly meeting. It is a very well-appointed makerspace and there was good attendance for the meeting. I discussed with my friend on the drive back home my concern with the homogeneous demographic make-up of those in attendance. They were mostly white men and women who seemed to have a comfortable income. I stated that given that this makerspace is fairly well established with a five year history, the folks running the space should now be more proactive in increasing the diversity of their membership and becoming more inclusive. My friend took issue with my comment, saying that this is not their purpose. She basically said that the makerspace is what it is, that becoming more inclusive is not their purpose, and that they doing fine with those who they are currently serving. I talked about initiatives like Black Girls Code which does outreach for the goal of providing skills to a population who might not gain these skills without this type of outreach. She saw no reason for this makerspace to change their status quo. We ended up agreeing to disagree but I did get motivated to revisit and update this post . . .

The maker movement and maker education, in my perspective, are such great initiatives – really in line with what student-centric education should be in this era of formal and informal learning.

Maker education (often referred to as “Maker Ed”) is a new school of educational thought [at least in terms of having an “official” educational label – JG] that focuses on delivering constructivist, project-based learning curriculum and instructional units to students. Maker education spaces can be as large as full high school workshops with high-tech tools, or as small and low-tech as one corner of an elementary classroom. A makerspace isn’t just about the tools and equipment, but the sort of learning experience the space provides to students who are making projects. (9 Maker Projects for Beginner Maker Ed Teachers)

Social media has helped me see more of the big picture and become aware of some of the problems associated with the maker movement. The two I discuss in this post are:

  1. Maker movement initiatives are often driven by more affluent white males.
  2. The maker movement is too often being associated with the tech stuff – 3D Printers, Arduinos, littleBits, Makey-Makeys – stuff that less affluent schools and community programs can afford.

Maker movement initiatives are often driven by affluent white males.

When the language, culture, and tools of the current makerspaces, maker faires, MAKE publications are examined, they tend to be less inclusive of females, older adults, and people of color.

Spaces and ‘Maker’ activities are promoted as being inclusive, open spaces. However, this type of rhetoric tends to ignore social inequalities that impede access and participation, where privilege, oppression, and domination over some groups of people are not acknowledged (Dunbar-Hester, 2014). If technical tinkering, STEM, and digital fabrication are the economic forces that will empower Makers, and women and people of color are not participating in these activities in a visible way, that power will remain unequally distributed.  It is possible that the maker movement will have a transformative effect and create opportunity for upward mobility but we must acknowledge the fact that the idea of “making” is a privileged idea. (Power, Access, Status: The Discourse of Race, Gender, and Class in the Maker Movement)

The Maker movement has grown large enough and influential enough that it’s time to turn a critical eye to the culture of the community, what we want it to be and what it really is,” declared Dr. Buechley. The most striking statistics Buechley shared focused on the race and gender of the Makers on its covers. Of the 40 people featured, she found that 85% have been men and boys–and none were people of color. The current editorial staff has a similar ratio–87% men, and also no people of color. “Are you serious!? MAKE, you can do better. It’s your responsibility to do better,” Buechley exclaimed. (Watch Dr. Buechley’s talk at The notion that one does not need to talk about gender, race, sexual orientation, class, etc. because what matters is how well you can hack largely disregards privileges that people have in society and constitutes part of the explanation for why there are so few women, queers, and people of color in hackerspaces. But women aren’t the only ones who have felt marginalized and isolated at mainstream hackerspaces. Many men have also found the culture exclusionary or aggressive and are also also seeking safer spaces. (Is the Maker Movement About Hacking Society—Or Just Hardware?)

Here are some additional quotes, articles that discuss the need for a maker environment more inclusive of gender and people of color.

I know that the Maker Movement is working to be more inclusive and I challenge its leadership to do even more to include every kid in every community in its programming. I challenge each of us to support not just our own daughters and sons in Making but the girls and boys in all communities. (Welcoming All Girls in the Maker Movement: Let’s Make it Happen)

Maker and hackerspaces are meant to be places to build, tinker, and fix things, but that process won’t flourish without a friendly, inclusive environment. (Is the Maker Movement About Hacking Society—Or Just Hardware?)

The idea of inclusion is not only important for community organizations or schools serving underserved populations. Every makerspace should be aware of their capacity to serve all people: children and adults, all genders, all backgrounds, and those who are interested in the arts, engineering, or both. Even in the best-resourced maker environments, there should be constant vigilance about the assumptions that are made about the people who might want to use them. (Making for All: How to Build an Inclusive Makerspace)

The maker movement is too often being associated with the tech stuff – stuff that less affluent schools and community programs cannot afford.

Changing Perceptions About the Stuff

3d Printers, Ardinos, litteBits, Makey-Makeys, GoSpheros, Lillipads, . . . oh my! These technologies are seductive especially seeing all the press they get on social media, blogs, and Kickstarter.  Given all of the media coverage, an educator new to Maker Education may get the perception that it is all about this kind of high tech stuff. For less affluent schools or after-school programs, it may seem that maker education is out of their reach given budgetary restraints. A maker education program can be fully implemented with minimal cost supplies. Cardboard boxes, recycled materials such as water bottles, detergent bottles, and other plastic throwaways, tape, glue guns, scissors/knives, and markers in conjunction with learners’ imaginations, creativity, and innovative ideas can be the stuff that makerspaces are made of. Presentation2

In addition, there are lots of making resources that are inexpensive. Here is an image of the circuit kit I prepared for my week long maker camp for over a dozen kids. It cost less than $100 with careful shopping via ebay and the local dollar store. It contains LEDs, batteries, alligator clips, copper tape, magnets, paper clips, and electrical tape. It served these dozen+ kids for five half days of making.


Changing Perceptions about What Activities Are Considered Making

In addition, to using cheaper materials, we need to expand our perceptions about what constitutes maker activities.

In an analysis of every MAKE magazine cover since the first issue in 2005–36 in all–Buechley found that the photos portrayed a “very narrow definition” of Maker activities. The themes have skewed heavily towards electronics, which have been featured on 53% of covers, followed by vehicles (31%), robots (22%), rockets (8%), and music (5%).  What’s missing, she said, are examples from the world of ceramics, costume-engineering, and weaving. She pleaded with the audience to reach out to a more diverse group of makers and include all types of kids. “You gotta do more than robots,” she said.  (MAKE’ing More Diverse Makers)

Changing Perceptions: Making Is About a Mindset and a Process Not About the Stuff

Finally, in the same vein as it’s about the pedagogy, not about the technology; making is about a mindset and the act of doing, it’s not about the high tech stuff. As I discussed in The Intersection of Growth Mindsets and Maker Education:

A maker mindset involves having a can-do attitude and a growth mindset – a belief that your capabilities can be developed, improved and expanded.  It’s not just a matter of what you know, it’s a matter of taking risks and perhaps failing and learning from those failures.  It’s a matter of being open to exploring new possibilities and developing your full potential. (The Intersection of Growth Mindsets and Maker Education)

If making, the maker movement, maker education is viewed as a mindset, as a process, as a way to be creative and innovative; then the types and kinds of materials don’t matter. What matters, first and foremost, is the act of making.


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 20, 2015 at 11:55 pm

Maker Education Activities

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This coming summer I am getting the opportunity to teach a maker education camp for three weeks, half-days at a local elementary school.  The descriptions for the three one-week workshops are:

  • Circuit Crafts: Build glowing, sensing, and interactive circuit projects; make electronic stickers, circuit sketchbooks, circuit cards, and sewn circuits.
  • Sweet Robotics: Make simple robotics using Popsicle sticks and LED lights; play with and build some robots with Makey Makey, littleBits, Hummingbird, and Modular Robotics.
  • Toy Hacking: Take apart simple electronic toys to see how they work & then put them back together again creating a new toy; make an operation game.

I created a website in order to aggregate possible activities, resources, and tutorials; and as a means to promote the workshops to parents, so they can see examples projects that the kids will be working on. Below is a link to my website.


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 2, 2015 at 12:04 am


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