User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Posts Tagged ‘global

Sugata Mitra: A Model of User-Generated Education (Big Ideas Fest)

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Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education — the best teachers and schools don’t exist where they’re needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching (

“If the world belongs to our children then why don’t we just give it to them” was the title of Sugata Mitra’s talk at the Big Ideas Fest during the opening of the conference.

According to Dr. Mitra,  Of the 1 billion children on Earth.

  • 50 million have ample resources
  • 200 million have adequate resources
  • 750 million have inadequate resources.

To this Dr. Mitra added, “There are places in every country where, good schools cannot be built and good teachers cannot or do not want to go.”  His solution was to install computers with internet access to those places where schools cannot be built and/or teachers do not want to go.  It started with a Hole in the Wall in New Dehli. “Where in the slum do you put a computer? Make a DIY ATM! Computer in a wall.”

What he discovered was that, “Groups of children can learn to use computer and the internet irrespective of who or where they are.” Dr. Mitra noted that these kids had no teacher to provide the pedagogy.  Can the learners-kids to invent their own pedagogy? Yes, they had done it. “Groups of children can navigate the internet to achieve educational objectives on their own. The bars that children set for themselves can be higher than those we have set for them.”

Dr. Mitra continued to explore what would happen to student learning given the following formula:

  1. Computers
  2. Internet Access
  3. Information and Search Skills
  4. Reading Comprehension
  5. Children Working in Groups
  6. The Right Question

Along with this formula came his teaching style, “I have no idea. And now I am going to go.”  He stressed that,

You can drive children with questions. You don’t have to give them the answers. They can find the answers. If the kids/students didn’t get the “right” answer, then teacher didn’t ask the right question.  The teacher needs to change question.

The research questions he proposed in his next study, the Kalikuppam Experiment, included:

  1. Could Tamil- speaking children in a remote Indian village learn basic molecular biology in English on their own?
  2. Could a friendly mediator with no knowledge of the subject improve the performance of these village children?
  3. How would the learning and test scores of these children in a remote village compare with those of children who were fluent in English and taught by subject teachers in a local state government school and those attending an affluent,  private urban school?

The results to this rearch, Limits to self-organising systems of learning—the
Kalikuppam experiment
, were published by the British Journal of Educational Technology.

What are the limits that children can learn in self-organizing systems?  Dr. Mitra would like to find out . . .

More about Sugata Mitra and his work can be found at

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 6, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Social Media Revolution Should Be (and is) Creating a New Type of School

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I love how the messages of our times are digital.  Folks from the future who look back to study this time will view these digital messages as primary source documents that tell the stories of us.

The following are some of my favorite videos of this past year.  They tell the story of what needs to and should drive education – in this era of social media and educational networking.

These two videos tell the story of what is occurring in the real world -businesses know this,  journalists knows this, the kids on their own time know this  . . .

New Brunswick Department of Education “gets it”:

This video was produced by the New Brunswick Department of Education to stimulate discussion among educators and other stakeholders in public education in the province of New Brunswick. The 21st Century presents unique challenges for education worldwide. In order to keep pace with global change we must focus on 21st Century Skills and public education must adapt to keep students engaged. Rigor and relevance are key,

This principal does not. But note that InnovativeEdu’s editorial re-mix is part of this video:

Yet, it is being implemented within educational projects such as the Flat Classroom Project and Rock Our World:

Hopefully, WHEN (yes – I am hopeful) schools adopt social media as standard operating practice, the results will help lead to enlightenment in the 21st century.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 29, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Future of Online Education: Online Learning or Education of the Future?

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I read several posts this week about recommendations for the future of online learning. These are summarized below.  First, though, I know we are currently differentiating between online-virtual and face-to-face, place-based education.  We also have added blended education into this discussion about how and where education takes place.  This is probably a moot point as the education of the future will be where, how, and when the learner chooses.  Lines will be blurred with some education face-to-face, some virtual – depending on the learner’s interests, skills to be learned, and knowledge desired.  These recommendations should be discussed as best practices for all types of education.

Two articles, one from the Chronicle and one from Mashable, discussed the following:

  1. Education needs to reflect the ability of the web to keep an ongoing and current pulse on global events and information.
  2. Education needs to embrace the collaborative, social aspects that attracts users to social networking.

Real Time, Current, and Authentic Knowledge

What’s required are innovative approaches to course design that set aside old models of instruction where theory often trumps actuality. Online course providers must embrace the web’s potential to match students with the kinds of timely knowledge and skills that address current issues head-on, and enable them to thrive in the global marketplace.

It’s not enough for a course to be accessible online, it must also be designed in a way that keys into the digital pulse of current events, trending topics and insider knowledge endemic to the web.. The web, as a real-time medium, is begging us to build innovative courses that can be used for the rapid delivery of education designed in a way that integrates current news, information, insights and research about topics like the oil spill and thousands of other current issues.

Networked Learning

To attract and retain the typical college-age demographic, as well as the larger population of adult learners in search of relevant and engaging educational content, the next generation of online education must be characterized by courses that build in the social, real-time information capturing components that have made the web such a dynamic medium for sharing information and knowledge.

We’ll see more collaborative endeavors in online-learning offerings. It will be more social than what it has been. New technologies are moving that way. The rise of social networking, Web 2.0, and the participatory web.  At the center is the social interaction between individuals. Right now most courses that are based on content-management systems are not focused on interaction between participants. They’re focused on, let’s put together this weekly module, and then that’s where the experience happens. The student goes there to read about the weekly module. The future is where the center is the student, and the people comprising this online learning community. The student and the community are collaborating on the content. It’s no longer possible for universities to be offering distance-education courses that are isolationsist or individualistic when people’s experiences outside of the university are social and connected.

Claims have been made that the MTV generation forced educators to have to be more like entertainers to keep students’ attention.  I believe that such boredom existed throughout the institutionalization of education – that students of the MTV generation just realized the potential of media to engage, entertained AND educate them.

An American lecturer believes he has found the secret of engaging the “MTV generation” who have an attention span of “minutes”.  Stressing that his undergraduate experience was in the United States, he said: “The worst thing in the world for me was these one-way lectures. I sat through so many lectures that were just so boring.”  But while he put up with it, he said today’s young students were less tolerant.  “The old guy who stands there and just lectures to the class – these days are gone. Their attention span is in the minutes now,” he said.  Mr Dever said that studies as far back as the 1970s had shown attention spans of only 15 to 20 minutes at a time. But today’s bricks-and-mortar institutions now faced a threat from online courses that engaged students and avoided the problems of one-way lectures.

The same is true, in my perspective, for the claims being made of online learning.  Human beings have a natural propensity to stay informed, to work socially and collaboratively, and to help with global stewardship.  The technologies are now providing the opportunity to do so.  Users of the Internet are now the learners. These consumers of education will just insist, as did the MTV generation, that their educations of all kinds, face-to-face and online, contain the elements of real time and authentic information and connection.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 11, 2010 at 1:12 am

Overt and Covert Lessons from Avatar: Skills, Knowledge, and Attitudes Relevant for Today’s Learners

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I joined the masses this holiday season in viewing the movie, Avatar 3D, and I, as did so many others, loved this movie (although I could have done without the ½ hour end-of-movie clichéd good-prevails-over-evil battle scene).  As I tend to view life through the lens of an educator, I gleamed messages and metaphors for today’s learners. What follows are the overt in-your-face and subtle not-in-your-face messages intended by director James Cameron as well as those I received through my own subjective lens.

Everything is Connected

Several years ago I became interested in brain science.  What fascinated me most about this science was how learning, on a biological level, can be defined as the connections between neurons.   These cellular connections matched my ideas that learning occurs through human interactions – through social connections.  In essence, learning is all about the connections.

In Avatar, Cameron takes this idea of neural connections to another level when describing the vast bio-botanical neural network that all Pandoran organisms are connected to. Obviously, Cameron’s plotline is that survival of each individual, each species, the world is dependent on each individual’s actions.

Classroom Applications: Concern and stewardship of community – classroom, school, local, global – can and should be a prevalent and overt purpose of education.  There are a lot of how-to’s I could include here . . . cooperative learning structures, green (teaching paperless) classrooms, networked learning . . .

One effect of information technology is a stronger sense of the social aspects of learning and the ready connections now available to groups of people, groups in many cases that have formed because of their access to the Web and the Internet.

. . . . but the bottom line is to infuse, model, and practice the values of initiative, responsibility, interdependence, and global stewardship within the learning environment.

All Energy is Borrowed and Some Day You Have to Give It Back

This was my favorite quote from the movie.  How, in my mind, this relates to learning in our connected world is that we need to get away from ownership of knowledge and intellectual property, the prevalent paradigm of the 20th century. Scholarship, in its purest sense, means that once knowledge is developed and articulated, it is freely shared with others.

Scholarship is creative intellectual work that is validated by peers and communicated broadly.

Today’s youth have taken naturally to this idea – sharing and remixing ideas and media, basically ignoring the archaic laws associated with copyright (for more on this topic see Lessig’s “Against Perpetual Copyright”

Classroom Applications: The culture of the educational system needs to be changed from competition to collaboration, from hoarding and owning knowledge to openly sharing it and inviting its use, reuse, revision, and re-mixing.  Educators should establish and encourage learners to publish in public areas such as Media Hosting Sites, Wikis, Nings, and Google Apps.

Good Science is Good Observation

This is a direct quote from the movie.  In terms of practice, the scientists in the film reflected about what they learned via video logs.  Brain science has suggested the power of reflection to enhance and understand new learnings.

The optimal learning environment provides sufficient time for both action and reflection.

Classroom Applications: Reflection of learning is one of those instructional activities that many educators agree about its importance.  But due to “not enough time” syndrome common in many educational settings, it is often overlooked.  When it is done, it often occurs in a written format as a homework or end-of-day activity such as with journals or exit cards.  Given emerging technologies and media, reflection of learning can be integrated within content-related activities through a video log similar to the one used in Avatar using Flipcams or Camcorders, through Blogging, or through a Flickr-type photo imagery project.

The World is Understood Using All the Senses

Although technology has infiltrated almost all areas of our lives – work, recreation, consumerism, telecommunications (and ironically with schools being the least technology-“enhanced”), understanding of the world often occurs through the whole-person using all of the senses.  For the past few years, I taught gifted kids with opportunity to develop my own curriculum. I used a lot of hands-on and technology integration. I found that the kids almost always selected the hands-on experiences over the technology (even the technology games) when given a choice.  They intuitively and instinctively understood the value of the use of all the senses.

Classroom Applications:  Technology-enhanced experiential learning addresses both human’s need to fully engage in the world using all the senses and use technology to further understand it.  Examples of such learning include GPS/GIS games/learning, using digital media to make scientific explorations, and learning with Wii, Augmented or other haptic technologies.

Learn Fast or Die

Although this direct quote from the movie is a bit extreme for a discussion about educational applications, it’s relevancy comes in the need for rapid learning, flexibility, and learning in today’s climate.

To believe that somehow teaching and learning can occur now in a bubble as if the information technology revolution has not occurred is to live in a delusional world. It is not that we all have to be pioneers or early adopters, but we educators have to be at least curious and willing to better understand how the entire knowledge culture in our world has been altered and about how all assumptions about knowledge have been disrupted.  Education in the connected world has experienced an analogy to punctuated equilibrium [ . . . ] which offered an alternative to the common assumption that evolution is a gradual and slow process. Instead, a chance mutation suddenly changes the balance and a new species explodes onto the landscape.

Classroom Applications: First, foremost, and now more than ever, the teacher needs to be a learner.  A hand on the pulse of emerging technologies, educational networking initiatives, and 21st century learning competencies is needed by every educator on a constant and continuous basis.  To not do so is a disservice to the learners (and I personally believe it borders on educator misconduct but that is another Blog).  It means that the teacher-as-a-learner brings this attitude into his or her classroom environment modeling, “Hey, the world is changing  and evolving at a rapid pace.  Let’s learn about it together.”

Brain Science will Permit Greater Understanding of Human Learning

The science-fiction of Avatar displayed an intimate look of the brain.  Although this was science fiction imagery, these types of glimpses into the brain are rapidly developing. “New teaching techniques could be developed based upon what brain imaging research tells us about how the brain reacts to learning various types of things” (

Classroom Application: The brain-compatible classroom movement popular in the 1990s has seemed to lost momentum.  I believe that this movement needs to be revitalized using what we are currently learning about the brain.  Brain Rules (, for example, provides such a model.

Students can also be taught about how their own brains work in order to develop the skills for self-directed learning, a theme of this Blog.   In a recent issue of Educational Leadership, Judy Willis describes “How to Teach Students About the Brain”

The World (eventually the universe?) is Flat: Global Connections Require Respect and Understanding of Other Cultures

James Cameron, in discussing the themes of his movie, states that he had a desire to “make you think a little bit about the way you interact with nature and your fellow man” (

Classroom Applications: Respect and sensitivity towards other cultures comes through an awareness and understanding of those cultures.  The educational networking opportunities afforded by technology are far-reaching, easy, and affordable (free!).   I believe that global-collaboration projects should be required by every student at every grade level.

Digital Storytelling is the Storytelling Tradition of Our Times

Storytelling is as old as human history and has an evolutionary progression that matches the medium and media available during that historical time period.  This progression possibly started with drawings on cave walls.  Then prior to a culture’s adoption of written language, oral storytelling was used to tell a story.  Later, with the invention of photography and film, stories were told using this medium.  Now, as Cameron has demonstrated with the huge financial success of Avatar, folks are now being drawn into 3D storytelling.

Classroom Applications: The classroom application for this area is obvious.  Learners can demonstrate what they know through the use of digital storytelling.  The use of digital cameras, graphics software and online tools (see “How To Animation Series on ISTE Connects” for example), and 3D virtual worlds for Machinima ( see not only have learners using tools and media they enjoy but also provide them with some skills that they may, more than likely, be using in the workplace when they get older.

The World Is Depicted in 3D

In Avatar, not only was the film, itself in 3d, the maps used by the film’s characters were 3D renderings of the environment.   The number and rate of 3d tool development during the past few years has been outstanding – more than even the best futurist or science fiction writer could have imagined a decade ago.

Classroom Applications: 3D tools such as Google Earth, Virtual Worlds, and Augmented Reality technologies not only have the potential for strong education value but are teaching learners about the tools they are and will be using in their future work and recreational experiences.

Vision and Perseverance is Often Necessary to Achieve Your Dreams

Although this was not a theme in the movie, James Cameron’s vision for and development of Avatar occurred over a decade .

Avatar had been in development since 1994 by Cameron, who wrote an 80-page scriptment for the film. Filming was supposed to take place after the completion of Titanic, and the film would have been released in 1999, but according to Cameron, “technology needed to catch up” with his vision of the film

Classroom Uses: At a very young age, most people develop a strong specific interest or passion.

A spark is something that gives your life meaning and purpose. It’s an interest, a passion, or a gift. What do you bring to the world that is good, beautiful, and useful?” (

Savvy internet users are pursuing their own passions through user groups, Facebook, social media, and online social networks.  Educators, in this era of learning, should provide the tools and means for learners to pursue their passions.  I believe the future of education lies in user-generated learning experiences where learners pursue their passions while demonstrating core competencies. Opportunities need to be provided for learners need to develop the skills for autonomous, independent, and self-initiated learning. The technologies are ripe to permit this type of genuine differentiation.

Interestingly, what began as a simple reflection of the connections I made between Avatar 3D and 21st century teaching/learning developed into a deeper exploration of those themes or threads that I believe are integral in living, working, and playing in today’s world.  Each one of these individual themes could be a major article in itself.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 4, 2010 at 7:23 pm

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