User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Posts Tagged ‘learning space

A Model of Good Teaching?

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One of my guilty pleasures is watching MasterChef Junior, a cooking competition for 8 to 12 year olds, and as an educator, I have been analyzing it as a model for good teaching.  My observations include:

  • The challenges are hands-on and naturally engaging for these kids. They are based on the kids’ passion for and interest in cooking.
  • The kids don’t need to be graded about their performances. Consequences are natural. Food gets burned. The kids sometimes get burned. The food dishes taste good or they don’t.
  • There is a gamelike atmosphere. There are elements of play, leveling up (each subsequent challenge is more difficult), a sense of mastery or achievement upon accomplishing each challenge. The experience is immersive with the kids living the part of a chef. The kids get to try new roles such as team leaders, lead chefs, team representative, and being popular (this is one of the first situations that some of these kids get to shine).
  • The kids push themselves to the limit within seemingly impossible challenges – mostly because of their love for cooking, a strong intrinsic motivator. The kids often create very difficult food dishes that they have never created before. They often rise to the challenges surprising both themselves and the judges with what they created.

Just seeing the kids … when their hands go up, and the look on their faces of what they have done is unbelievable. You can tell right on their face at that moment if they’re happy or if they’ve completely blown it. Obviously there are failures, and they’re crying. For the ones that have done well, when they put their hands up and they are proud of what they just put on the plate, that look — there’s no words to even go there with it. It’s unbelievable, because you know that they put everything into it. (Inside “MasterChef Junior,” the best cooking show on television)

  • The challenges are designed to be novel and create excitement and joy for the kids – there are things like mystery food boxes; the judges introduces challenges are astronauts; the kids cooking for other kids at an amusement. The kids visible shake with excitement and anticipation while the challenges are being introduced.
  • The judges are clear, specific, and truthful with their feedback: both positive and negative. The judges give brutally honest feedback. They are very specific in describing what worked and what didn’t work about about the kids’ food creations. Sometimes the kids cry but there is visible respect that the kids have for the judges and that judges have for the kids.

Even when Gorden (the top chef and host) is disciplining them, or yelling at them about something, there’s this level of respect that the child has for him, and he has for the child, that total care. They know, they get it. He’s this grandiose father figure that has the career of their dreams, and he just does it so naturally. He doesn’t sugarcoat things for them like they are a toddler. I mean, he really goes at them when they need it, but there’s always this wonderful constructive element. So that was awesome to see. (Inside “MasterChef Junior,” the best cooking show on television)

  • There is an atmosphere of mutual respect . . . kids for the judges, judges for the kids, and kids for one another.
  • The adult judges will come in and help the kids if they see any individual being pushed too far over their limits and capabilities. This intervention is based on teaching the kids proper technique not doing it for them.
  • There is a healthy competition where the kids have to compete against one another. The objective is to win but the kids seem more concerned about their own performance rather than the performance of their peers.
  • The kids, through working together on many of their challenges, develop into a close knit team and visibly support each other. Even though they are competing against each other, they seem to understand they are with like minded peers. In effect, they develop their own PLNs based on similar interests. For some, it is the first time they have been with peers with a passion for cooking.  Many cry when one of their peers in eliminated from the competition and say that they made friends for life.

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What I believe the kids learn during their MasterChef Junior experiences:

  • Additional cross-curricular skills including math skills, oral communication, following directions;
  • Working with a team;
  • Tolerance for frustration;
  • That their passions and interests are valuable and meaningful.

Many of the kids in interviews following their elimination from the competition state that it was the best experience of their lives.  I have a hunch that many of these kids would say their MasterChef experiences taught them as much or more than all of the school years combined. I’ve written about creating the conditions for the best day ever.

It’s mind blowing how much I grew as a chef, how much I grew as a person. 12 year old Zac

Educators, in this era of learning, should focus on those conditions that create an environment that each and every one of their students love coming to school and love learning.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 26, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Maker Education Meets the Writers’ Workshop

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There is a current breath-of-fresh air movement (in my opinion) in some education circles that is known as Maker Education or the DIY Movement.  I wrote recent post on this topic, STEAM and Maker Education: Inclusive, Engaging, Self-Differentiating.

The hands-on, interdisciplinary, student-interest driven nature of Maker Education has always been a focus in my classroom environments.  Because of the current interest in Maker Education, I wanted to revisit and share a semester long Maker-Enhanced Writers’ Workshop project I did with a group of gifted elementary students a few years ago.

script rehearsal

Students began by developing their characters and plot – I am used selected sections from the free downloadable Young Novelist Workbook http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/workbooks to guide them in this process.

Character Development

Each learner developed a character using the Young Novelists Workbook to guide the character development.  Their characters were further developed through drawing them,

IMG_1468 2. . . making masks of them,

IMG_1150. . . and creating 3d characters out of junk materials, hot glued together. DSC00664

An option for Character Development using a web tool is Scholastic’s Creature Creator – http://www.scholastic.com/underlandchronicles/creaturecreator.htm

Plot Development

Students were asked to group themselves by similarity of their characters.  They had to clearly be able to articulate the commonality among their characters. [Interestingly, many of them really attempted to group themselves by similar characters rather than working with their friends, which I expected.] Groups contained two to four writers.

The groups spent several weeks of the Writers’ Workshop developing their story plot using the activities from Young Novelist Workbook http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/workbooks. I, as the teacher, acted as the sounding board and feedback giver.  Representatives from the different working groups would come to me to pitch their stories and would return to their groups to report on the feedback I provided.

3D Setting

In conjunction with their plot development, students created a 3D storyboard setting with “natural” objects. They then “wired” them with PicoCricket to have programmable movement, lights, and sounds.

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PicoCricket is no longer available, but learners can do similar electronic upgrades to their setting using Makey Makey, Arduino, or Hummingbird Kits.

An online version of the story’s setting can be created using http://www.citycreator.com/ or Minecraft.

eBooks

Students made eBooks using their story line and plot from in the Young Novelist Workbook, scanned sketches and images of the characters, and the pictures of the 3D setting.

tikatok image(Note: We used Tikatok. They changed their user agreement and we lost all of the books.)

Options for student eBooks include: Storyjumper, Mixbook, and Big Universe (plus others).

Theme Song

A theme song was written and recorded for their stories.  It was introduced as having them develop a song for their stories like a TV theme song. They used Songsmith http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/projects/songsmith/. UJAM http://www.ujam.com/ is another option for students to record their own story theme songs.

Here is an example from three 5th graders’ book the Three Islanders:

Readers’ Theater

Reader’s theater scripts were written in a scripting format using a Word program.  Students practiced reading their scripts and then created a podcast using a web tool such as http://vocaroo.com/ or https://soundcloud.com/.  See ReadWriteThink’s Readers Theatre about the logistics of creating one.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 28, 2013 at 12:50 am

An Education Filled with Wonder

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I started my journey as an educator as an outdoor educator.  One of the first books I was asked to read was Rachel Carson’s A Sense of Wonder.  Some quotes from this book that should (hopefully) resonate deeply with educators include:

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full or wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.

A current focus of Michael Wesch, the renown professor from Kansas State University, is The End of Wonder in the Age of Whatever:

What is needed more than ever is to inspire our students to wonder, to nurture their appetite for curiosity, exploration, and contemplation, to help them attain an insatiable appetite to ask and pursue big, authentic, and relevant questions, so that they can harness and leverage the bounty of possibility all around us and rediscover the “end” or purpose of wonder, and stave off the historical end of wonder.

Here is clip from a keynote about this topic:

The story in his video reminded me of a day I was substituting for a 2nd grade class.  It had begun to snow as we arrived to school that morning.  By mid-morning, a few inches covered the ground.  It was time for recess but, as expected, a voice came over the intercom to state that recess would be inside within each teacher’s classroom.  I heard the kids moan as they came to school dressed for snow with boots and winter jackets.  I threw caution into the wind.  I asked the kids to bundle up so we could go outside.  The kids became . . . well, kids.  They ran through the fresh snow looking back at the footprints they created.  When one found something of interest, they called the others over to see.  They caught snow flakes with their tongues and made snow angles in the snow.  There were no conflicts nor arguing as was common to this group of kids.  They just ran, played, and laughed together as a unified group reminding me of a flock of geese.  I watched them with a tear in my eye, one that reflected the beauty I was witnessing.  We all experienced a sense of wonder and play that day.

Wonder can’t be planned nor scripted.  Wonder rarely occurs as educators plow through pre-established, scripted curriculum, worksheets, and test preparation.  I want to create the conditions for my students of all ages to have their eyes opened with and to wonder; their mouths open to say “wow”, and their hearts open to say this feels so very good.

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Learning Spaces as Student-Centric, Personal Narratives

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One of the common teacher rituals when beginning the school year is the set up of the classrooms.  Teachers, driven by best intentions, set up their classrooms in ways they believe will promote learning.  But, inadvertently, the message given to students is that this is my (the teacher’s) classroom not yours.  The classroom becomes the teacher’s narrative, not the students’ individual narratives.  Even when the teacher puts up student samples, it is often the teacher who selects the samples and the spaces where the samples are displayed.

In Learning Spaces (School?) as Narrative Architecture, I discuss the importance of creating learning spaces where learners can develop and share their own unique voices, develop their own personal narratives of learning.

One of the tenets of Narrative Architecture is meaning making is not exclusively in the morphological properties of space themselves, nor in the cultural processes of its formation and interpretation, but in the dynamic network of spatial, social, intellectual and professional practices that embody and produce different kinds of social knowledge. (http://sitemaker.umich.edu/spsarra/book__architecture_and_narrative_)

The essential question becomes, How can the educator create the learning spaces to elicit the positive power of narrative architecture? This would be a space where learners feel as though they can tell their stories as the producers of their own learning.

Learners working in collaborative learning spaces will interpret and form the learning space to have personal, and ultimately collective, meaning. They do so in all learning spaces.  Does the learning space create stories of boredom . . .  fear . .  . isolation?  Or does it create stories of engaged and passionate learning experiences?  Because I fully believe that since time spent in any learning space becomes a narrative architecture for the learners, educators should approach that space with intention, knowing that learners will draw from and create meaning in and about that space.

Henry Jenkins used the concept of Narrative Architecture in his ideas regarding interactive gaming. “The game space becomes a memory palace whose contents must be deciphered as the player tries to reconstruct the plot and in the case of emergent narratives, game spaces are designed to be rich with narrative potential, enabling the story-constructing activity of players.” This statement can be translated to – have meaning for learning spaces: “The learning space becomes a memory palace whose contents must be deciphered as the learner tries to reconstruct what he or she is attempting to learn. Learning spaces should be designed to be rich with narrative potential, enabling the story-constructing and sense-making activity of learners.”

The how-to of creating this Narrative Architecture becomes having the educators and learners co-create this space together – all being equal participants in the process.  The space then becomes part of the learning process – increasing the opportunity and potential for deep and indelible understanding of the learning process and content.

Related Resources

  • In Beginning the School Year: It’s About Connections Not Content, I discuss Roomination when I began the school year teaching 6th graders by just piling the furniture and wall decorations in the middle of the room.  In small groups, students developed blueprints for the classroom.  Teams presented their designs to the rest of the class and their favorite design was voted upon.  Students arranged the room according to the winning design.

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  • 4 Lessons The Classroom Can Learn From The Design Studio: Perhaps the lexicon of education is broken. While the traditional construct of “classroom” may limit how we interact within our spaces, the labels of “teachers” and “students” (not to mention the conflation of authentic learning) may paralyze our progress as well. What would happen if classrooms operated more like studios?
  • School Without Walls Fosters A Free-Wheeling Theory Of Learning  When planning the school, Bosch reached out to both teachers and students. “From the children we learned that there were different types of design that didn’t appeal to them,” she says. To wit: Because they work primarily on laptops not blackboards, they like seating arrangements that let them steal a peek at each other’s screens. “We therefore created special furniture that gave them more flexible ways of working side by side and together with their laptops,” Bosch says, “For example: spread out on rugspots, sitting side by side on a sitting island or in the organic conversation furniture.”
  • What if eighth-graders reinvented the classroom? The students researched what their peers wanted in terms of school furniture, sketched out their ideas, created 3D computer models and physical mock-ups, and learned about appropriate materials and manufacturing techniques. Their prototypes then were made public at ICFF.

Note: At 4 minutes she discusses how they asked the high school kids to design their cafeteria.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 30, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Learning Spaces (School?) as Narrative Architecture

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As a former outdoor educator, I experienced how the physical leaning space contributes to the learning process in the best environment available – the natural one.   See DesignShare, http://www.designshare.com/, for more information about importance of learning spaces.

I also believe that a purpose of education and the educator is to provide learners with a framework and skills for directing their own learning (hence the name of this Blog – User-Generated Education).  Part of the process becomes giving the opportunity for learners to develop and share their own unique voice – about how and what they want to learn and actually do learn.

Narrative Architecture and the Learning Space

Today, I heard the term Narrative Architecture for the first time.

From Latin, narrativus means telling a story. In mid 16th century architecture from Latin, architectura means the art or practice of designing and constructing building. Started from both of definitions, narrative architecture means an art of designing and constructing building to tell a story.

If novel, fiction, comic, and folktale tell the story by texts and picture. If painting and photograph tell the story by a great picture. If movie tells the story by moving picture and sounds. Architecture tells the stories without texts, but by geometrical form, space, and materials. Narrative could be translated into architectural form by envelope materials, route, event, rooms, and also smell, sound and light effects.

The essential question becomes, How can the educator create the learning spaces – real life and/or virtual – to elicit the positive power of narrative architecture? This would be a space where learners feel as though they can tell their stories as the producers of their own learning.

Narrative Architecture and Making Meaning

Meaning is not exclusively in the morphological properties of space themselves, nor in the cultural processes of its formation and interpretation, but in the dynamic network of spatial, social, intellectual and professional practices that embody and produce different kinds of social knowledge.

Learners (real life or online) working in collaborative learning spaces will interpret and form the learning space to have personal, and ultimately collective, meaning. They do so in all learning spaces.  Does the learning space create stories of boredom . . .  fear . .  . isolation?  Or does it create stories of engaged and passionate learning experiences?  Because I fully believe that since time spent in any learning space becomes a narrative architecture for the learners, educators should approach that space with intention, knowing that learners will draw from and create meaning in and about that space.

Interestingly, Henry Jenkins used the concept of Narrative Architecture in his ideas regarding interactive gaming.

The game space becomes a memory palace whose contents must be deciphered as the player tries to reconstruct the plot. Game spaces are designed to be rich with narrative potential, enabling the story-constructing activity of players.

This statement can be translated to – have meaning for learning spaces:

The learning space becomes a memory palace whose contents must be deciphered as the learner tries to reconstruct what he or she is attempting to learn. Learning spaces should be designed to be rich with narrative potential, enabling the story-constructing and sense-making activity of learners.

The how-to of creating this Narrative Architecture – whether in real life or online – becomes having the educators and learners co-create this space together – all being equal participants in the process.  The space then becomes part of the learning process – increasing the opportunity and potential for deep and indelible understanding of the learning process and content.

Photo: My 5th-6th students (a few years ago)  creating a blueprint of how the classroom should look.  The classroom was NOT set up for them prior to the beginning of the school year.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 16, 2010 at 12:18 am

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