User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Posts Tagged ‘networked learning

Educator as a Social Networked Learner: Presentation Materials

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What Type of Connected Educator Are You? Quiz


Video Teaser

Presentation Slidedeck

Website of Resources

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 12, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Some Thoughts About Transforming Education Through Technology

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I had the privilege of being on a Reform Symposium Conference 2013 panel to discuss transforming education.  Here are my thoughts related to the questions I was asked to addressed.

As a means of introduction, what are a few successful technology projects you have implemented?

I described three:

  1. First is a teacher in-service course and workshop I developed, Educator as a Networked Learner.  This course assists educators in becoming connected educators in order to more effectively drive their own professional development and incorporate social networking into their own classrooms as an integrated part of their instructional practices.  See and for more information
  2. A second project I want to highlight is a wiki project for 3rd through 5th grade gifted students.  Creative Web Tools For and By Kids was a project designed for students, ages 9 to 14, to use emerging technologies for engaging, thinking, learning, collaborating, creating, and innovating .  This Wiki was the workstation for exploring, interacting with, learning from, and creating with emerging technologies.  Students identified a topic of interest.  A WIki page was created for that topic.  This page was used to identify specific learning goals, to locate and post links to sites that support those interests, and to begin creating web-based projects to creatively demonstrate their learning experiences.
  3. The final project I want to highlight was one where I integrated mobile technologies via a bring your own device format into an undergraduate course on Interpersonal Communications.  Here is a link to my website that describes these activities, see and student reactions to the course can be found at

Give three characteristics of what constitutes good technology integration.

First and foremost, good technology integration is ubiquitous, transparent, not identified or labeled as learning about or using technology, and seamlessly integrated into learning.  Teachers, learners, and observers don’t typically notice learning tools such desks, pencils, and paper used for learning.  This should be the case for using technology in the classroom, too.  In other words, effective technology integration just becomes a subset or embedded component of good pedagogy.

Second, we are living in an age of rich media and interactive web tools – much of these free online.  These technologies provide the opportunity to address different learning preferences and the principles of Universal Design for Learning.  Educators can present the content in a variety of ways and students can express their learning in a variety a ways.  So effective technology integration takes full advantage of these resources to fully embrace and offer students a variety of ways to learn and express their learning.  It is the key

Third, technology should be used to assist learners in coming out of social, intellectual, and interest and value based isolation.  Almost every student I’ve ever met has some unique idiosyncratic talent, skill, belief, set of values, and interest.  By idiosyncratic I mean that that none of those in his or her surrounding face-to-face environment has or possesses that “thing”.  Social networking can help students connect with their tribes.  Teachers should assist all students in becoming connected students; to help them find their tribes.

What is a pitfall teachers should avoid when teaching with technology?

The bottom line is that teaching with technology means changing one’s mindset as what and how teaching occurs.  I’ve discussed the similarities of teaching to the evolution of the web beginning with Web 1.0 or Education 1.0 where the mode of information dissemination as one way from expert to consumer; teacher to student to Web 2.0 to Education 2.0 where there is more interactivity and two-way communication and now Web 3.0 or Education 3.0 where networks and interest-driven communities share knowledge, resources, and events; where these communities evolve and develop based on the members’ needs and interests; where the consumption of knowledge and resource transform into community production of ideas, opinions, strategies for continued learning and evolution, and production of community resources.  See Schools are doing Education 1.0; talking about doing Education 2.0; when they should be planning Education 3.0 for a deeper discussion on this topic.

The pitfalls of technology integration is based on ignoring this evolution by teaching using a 20th century pedagogy and  teaching Education 1.0.  In other words, they are re-creating a 20th classroom using technology.  An example of this is with the big push for ipads, 1:1 initiatives where they download a bunch of apps that are virtually (yes pun intended) worksheets on steroids, just another way for students to receiving, responding to, and regurgitating information rather than being the connectors, creators and contributors that technology affords.

Share with us a past struggle you had when teaching with technology? What did you learn from the experience?

A continuing struggle I have with technology is connected to teaching and doing professional development with teachers and related to teachers’ changing their mindset about what and how teaching should occur.  Being a educational technology faculty has taught me perseverance, patience, problem-solving.  When I do technology integration with teachers, I often see frustration as they try to learn new technologies.  They want technology to work for them quickly and without any glitches – both inside and outside of the classroom environment.

This is related to a need for a change of mindset that was discussed in response to the previous question.  This means changing one’s educator mindset from being an expert to being a learner; from knowing all the answers to learning to ask questions; from thinking of education a static archive of content to one that is evolving at a rapid rate of knowledge development.  Integrating technology, as I mentioned, means changing the mindset that everything needs to go smoothing, as planned and structured in the classroom setting.  Technology may or may not work as planned, keeping an open mind, learning how to problem solve, eliciting the assistance of students when things go wrong and looking at technology glitches and problems as just part of the learning in this age of technology.

How does a teacher begin the journey? Any favorite resources?  

The strongest recommendation to being the journey of technology integration is to find a mentor or mentors, face-to-face and/or online. who have a lot of experiences and successes using technology.   Nothing can top being able to get advice, resources, and suggestions from those educators who have successfully gone through this journey.  Those new to technology integration don’t know what they don’t know.

So my favorite technology resource for this journey is without question is Twitter.  On Twitter, educators can find and follow educators and others who have similar content and grade level interests.  For more on Twitter for Professional Development, see

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 11, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Student Reflections from a Social Networked Learning Course

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Last year, I developed a course for the Educational Technology Masters Program at Boise State University entitled the Social Networked Learner.  Most of the students in this graduate course are classroom teachers.  This course explored 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. I described it in detail in Educators as Social Networked Learners.

This post describes some of their reactions and reflections of the course.  As their final project, the students were asked to reflect on their course learning considering questions such as:

  • Which types of social networks did you find most useful in your learning process? What were some of the strongest relationships you built and how were they built?
  • What was the most valuable aspect of the course? What made it valuable?
  • How have your own teaching practices or thoughts about teaching been impacted by what you have learned or accomplished in this course?
  • How have your grown professionally?

(Sidebar:  I have always built class and course reflections into my courses.  During my face-to-face classes, students are asked to reflect on each class session.  For both my face-to-face and online course, students are requested to write a final reflection on what they learned and how they plan to use the course materials.  Not only does it provide a method for deeper integration of course concepts by the students, it provides me, as the instructor, with valuable, deep feedback.  It is also in line with my belief that all educators can be action researchers).

The themes that emerged were:

  • The students generally appreciated and found valuable using Facebook for Groups as our class page.
  • Some students valued using Twitter for professional development.
  • Tweet Chats and Backchanneling during webinars proved distracting, difficult for some students.
  • Several students are making plans to incorporate social networking into their own classrooms.

The students generally appreciated and found valuable using Facebook our class page.

Facebook provided a way for me to build relationships and share with my peers in a quick and easy way. I liked being able to engage in Facebook for personal reasons and quickly check my professional connections at the same time. This enabled me to multitask which I appreciated. The more I replied or commented on posts, the greater impact in learning and building relationships occurred Hannah

I found Facebook to be the most useful as far as posting assignments and being able to make comments on my PLN’s projects, assignments, etc.  Also, being able to tag assignments with classmate’s names was a nice feature with Facebook,   Casey

The most useful social network in my learning process was Facebook because it was so easy to use.  I like the opportunity to give and receive feedback through comments.  Most of all it provided one place to link to other student work and discuss our projects on a personal platform. Ilene

Facebook was one of the main platforms that we worked with in this class and it was also the site that I found most useful. We were able to collaborate through Facebook chat easily and it is an efficient tool for posting projects and getting feedback. Annie

I actually really enjoy the class Facebook page. I felt like posting my assignment to this page and receive feedback was an excellent way for me to learn from my peers. I also really liked that I could see every classmate’s posts and read and understand their interpretation on an assignment on an easy to read platform. Jenni

Some students valued the use Twitter for professional development.

I had a strong dislike of Twitter before I took this class, and learning how to utilize Twitter for educational purposes really helped me to see the benefit behind Twitter and all in has to offer. I especially liked the Twitter chats, which I had no idea even existed. I will absolutely be using Twitter chats in the future. I have already gained some valuable resources from others through the Twitter chats and hope to continue this. Jenni

Twitter was the tool that I had not used very much prior to taking this course. It has always been very much a side dish in my social media meal. However, that tool has now become a main course for me. I find myself learning more from that tool than the others. I have grown professionally by becoming a consumer and contributor to Twitter. I think that I am building my professional brand by tweeting things that other users find valuable. Dennis

Well, I’d say that my thoughts were reinvigorated. I always knew Twitter was an amazing PD tool, but now I am re-reminded of that. I also knew that collaborative teaching is the best teaching, and now I am reminded of how to best collaborate across the globe. Cate

Using social media tools for professional development was a new and positive experience for me. I think it is amazing and motivating to find passionate educators engaged in discussion on a weekly basis in Twitter chats and live webinars. The accessibility of these tools and discussions makes them very useful and practical for professional development. I plan to continue my involvement in the chats and hopefully locate more live webinars that are applicable to my teaching setting and interests. In addition, I hope to share these tools with my fellow peers and introduce them the opportunities that are available for growth and knowledge sharing. Hanna

Tweet Chats and Backchanneling during webinars proved distracting, difficult for some students.

I was disappointed with the live twitter chats. Even though I took a typing class in high school, I still felt like I couldn’t keep up.  It was hard to juggle answering questions, tweeting back to individuals and groups, and engaging in side conversations. Casey

The Tweetchats I found had no benefit for me.  They were poorly managed and usually were of groups of people who already had established a relationship so they talked off subject and independent of the topic. Ilene

Several are making plans to incorporate social networking into their school environments.

I really want to use Twitter and Wikis in my classroom. This is a large impact on my teaching practices because I felt like there was absolutely no place for Twitter in the classroom before I took this class. However, I foresee myself using the Twitter chats and having students posts links to their work. Jenni

Before this class, I had a lot of concerns about using social networks in the elementary classroom. I was worried about all of the possible negative reactions and consequences. In fact, I was so nervous about using them that I did not even open my mind to it. I chose to take this class so that I could get some of these questions I had answered. From my experience in this class, I realized that there are many other options that I could use with my students that I could have complete control of. Annie

I plan on implementing the use of twitter chats in the school for teachers and students. There is so much real-time information available and I feel it is an excellent resource. Dana

I’m hoping to encourage my administration to allow teachers to complete PD via social media as long as we can each document that we did something valuable.  I found the twitter live chats to be a valuable place to find resources. Scott

I fear I am going to be unpopular pushing the use of social media in my district, but, after taking this class, I see that it must start with those few of us that see the benefit and push for change. Ilene

I think Hannah provided the most significant comment I read:

I am continually being affirmed of the importance of the teacher to play the role of facilitator in education. Students need to be given more freedom to explore their interests and passions – – I see social media tools providing one way for students to do this.

As a closing piece, here are some of the graphs from the Likert Scale that introduced the survey.  It provides some good overall information, but I find the qualitative, as shared above, to be much more beneficial in exploring the key learning of students in the course.


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Education 3.0: Altering Round Peg in Round Hole Education

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What follows is my Ignite talk for ISTE 2013.  It was rejected by the selection committee.  As I already conceptualized the talk and think it is such an important topic, I am disseminating my text and slides via my blog and Slideshare.  First, Education 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 are described.  Later, I discuss the consequences of Education 1.0 vs Education 3.0 on learners (and educators!) especially those that do not fit the mold of Education 1.0.


Education 1.0 can be likened to Web 1.0 where there is a one-way dissemination of knowledge from teacher to student.  It is a type of essentialist, behaviorist education based on the three Rs – receiving by listening to the teacher; responding by taking notes, studying text, and doing worksheets; and regurgitating by taking standardized tests which in reality is all students taking the same test. Learners are seen as receptacles of that knowledge and as receptacles, they have no unique characteristics.  All are viewed as the same.  It is a standardized/one-size-fits-all education.


Derek W. Keats and J. Philipp Schmidt provide an excellent comparison of how Education 1.0 is similar to Web 1.0.

Education 1.0 is, like the first generation of the Web, a largely one-way process. Students go to school to get education from teachers, who supply them with information in the form of a stand up routine that may include the use of class notes, handouts, textbooks, videos, and in recent times the World Wide Web. Students are largely consumers of information resources that are delivered to them, and although they may engage in activities based around those resources, those activities are for the most part undertaken in isolation or in isolated local groups. Rarely do the results of those activities contribute back to the information resources that students consume in carrying them out. (


Similar to Web 2.0, Education 2.0 includes more interaction between the teacher and student; student to student; and student to content/expert.  Education 2.0, like Web 2.0, permits interactivity between the content and users, and between users themselves.  Education 2.0 has progressive roots where the human element is important to learning.  The teacher-to-student and student-to-student relationships are considered as part of the learning process.  It focuses on the three Cs – communicating, contributing, and collaborating.


Some school administrators and educators seem to have taken steps and moved into a more connected, creative Education 2.0 through using project-based and inquiry learning, cooperative learning, global learning projects, Skype in the classroom, and shared wikis, blogs and other social networking in the classroom.  But in 2013, this should be the norm not the exception.


Education 3.0 is based on the belief that content is freely and readily available as is characteristic of Web 3.0. It is self-directed, interest-based learning where problem-solving, innovation and creativity drive education. Education 3.0 is also about the three Cs but a different set – connectors, creators, constructivists.  These are qualitatively different than the three Cs of Education 2.0.  Now they are nouns which translates into the art of being a self-directed learner rather than doing learning as facilitated by the educator.


Education 3.0 is characterized by educational opportunities where the learners themselves play a key role as creators of knowledge artifacts that are shared, and where social networking and social benefits play a strong role. The distinction between artifacts, people and process becomes blurred, as do distinctions of space and time. Institutional arrangements, including policies and strategies, change to meet the challenges of opportunities presented. There is an emphasis on learning and teaching processes with the breakdown of boundaries (between teachers and students, institutions, and disciplines (


Education 3.0 is a constructivist, heutagogical approach to teaching and learning.  The teachers, learners, networks, connections, media, resources, tools create a a unique entity that has the potential to meet individual learners’, educators’, and even societal needs.  Education 3.0 recognizes that each educator’s and student’s journey is unique, personalized, and self-determined.


So given that the that the time is ripe for Education 3.0, that we are in a perfect storm of free and available online resources, tools for creating and sharing information, and networking opportunities, what is stopping administrators and educators from implementing an Education 3.0 . . . at least some of the time?  Some of the reasons educators profess include: “I don’t have enough time.”, “I don’t have enough resources.”, “I need more training.”, “I need to teach using the textbook.” ,”I need to teach to the test.”, “I might lose control of the class.”, “I have always successful taught this way.”


These are the symptoms of Education 1.0. Many educators feel forced into this paradigm of teaching with dire consequences to both their and their students attitudes toward education.  But these are external obstacles whereby most of blame for resisting change is placed outside of educator responsibility. The result is a fixed mindset of learned helplessness, “I cannot change because the system won’t let me change.”  Sometimes educators are creating some obstacles for themselves that in reality don’t exist. “Talking them into” or insisting on specific changes often creates more and stronger walls of resistance.


A mental shift occurs when a fixed mindset which often leads to learned helplessness is changed to a growth and positive mindset, believing that there are options; that one can grow, change, and be significant.  It becomes focusing on what can work rather than what is not working.  This is not to devalue the obstacles that teachers face. It becomes about noting where change is possible and making some small changes in teaching.  Small changes often result in larger, more systemic change.


The bottom line, though, is not is what is in the best interests of the teacher, the administration, the politicians.  It is what is in the best interests of the learner.  The student should be central to education – not the content, not the tests, not the standards, not what we think students should know and do.  Teachers did not become teachers to teach to the test, to develop practice tests or worksheets, to work with pre-scripted curriculum to meet standards.  Teachers became teachers to teach students, first and foremost.  The learner needs to be central to all teaching endeavors.


So what are the consequences of a standards-driven Education 1.0 on the learner?  Education 1.0 for many students results boredom, a wasting away of their time and sometimes their minds.  But there are bigger consequences than boredom. There are especially dire consequences for learners with oddly shaped minds.  This is not meant to be derogatory.  It just means that they see, think, hear, visualize, imagine the world a little differently than others.


In a system of Education 1.0, they are often seen as irregularly shaped pegs.  The system doesn’t like oddly shaped pegs as oddly shaped pegs don’t adapt well to standardized.  They don’t fit into any type of round or even square holes.  Way too often, they system attempts to whittle away at them trying to get them to fit.  The system whittles and whittles away at them until nothing may be left.


I am a lifelong survivor, seeking continual recovery from Education 1.0.  I was different, that oddly shaped peg.  Because I called out answers, questioned the content I was learning, spoke to classmates when something interested me, didn’t want to take multiple choice tests; I was yelled at, punished, kicked out of class, physically hit, embarrassed in front of peers.  The damage done to me has left an indelible, lifelong legacy that I am odd, weird, not good enough.


Education should, at least, have the same standards as the medical field, “First, do no harm.”  This is the minimal standard that should be practiced.  Optimally, it should be about providing an individualized, personalized, engaging, passion-driven education that is characterized by an Education 3.0.  This is ethically the right thing to do.


I put every kind of metaphor I could think of on this slide.  Educators should assist students in catching dreams; finding their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, being on cloud nine, reaching the top of the peak.  What kind of educator do you want to be?  A whittler or a dream-facilitator?  You have a choice.  You really do.


Do you want a student of yours in the future to stand on a stage like this and talk about the damage done to him or her due to your behavior or do you want him or her to talk about your being the teacher who made a difference?  What type of legacy do you want to leave in the world?


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 9, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Experiential Mobile Learning Activities: Presentation Materials

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The Presentation Slidedeck

Website of Mobile Learning Activities


Mobile Learning Reflections

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Social Media a Cause: Learning Activity

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Assisting learners in becoming social activists as part of the educational curriculum is based on three premises:

  1. Kids are bored and disengaged during school time.
  2. Young people are engaged in social activism outside of school time.
  3. If one of the goals of education is to help students become responsible citizens, then learners should be given the opportunity, skills, tools, and strategies to be active change agents.

Kids are bored and disengaged during school time. Young people are bored at school.  Several polls and surveys provide evidence of this.  Gallup in a recently published poll found that Student Engagement Drops With Each School Year.

The Gallup Student Poll surveyed nearly 500,000 students in grades five through 12 from more than 1,700 public schools in 37 states in 2012. We found that nearly eight in 10 elementary students who participated in the poll are engaged with school. By middle school that falls to about six in 10 students. And by high school, only four in 10 students qualify as engaged


On older, more extensive survey, High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE), found similar results.  42,754 high school students participated in the survey. These students where selected from 103 different schools in 27 different states and reflected a cross section of the US population.

However defined, boredom is a temporary form of dis-engaging from school; it is important for schools to understand both the extent of students’ boredom and the reasons why students are bored. HSSSE asked two direct questions about boredom: “Have you ever been bored in class in high school?” and “If you have been bored in class, why?” Two out of three respondents (66%) in 2009 are bored at least every day in class in high school; nearly half of the students (49%) are bored every day and approximately one out of every six students (17%) are bored in every class. Those students who claimed they were ever bored (98%), the material being taught was an issue: more than four out of five noted a reason for their boredom as “Material wasn’t interesting” (81%) and about two out of five students claimed that the lack of relevance of the material (42%) caused their boredom.

What is important to note, especially in the context of this discussion, is that students find the content material covered at school to be uninteresting and that it lacked relevance.  Students desire relevant and meaningful learning.  They want and deserve to learn about things that matter to them, things that they find relevant, things that they feel they can use in their outside of school lives. Young people are engaged in social activism outside of school time. But young people are engaged and find meaningful learning outside of school time through their social networks.

For all we hear about “kids these days” and their irresponsible use of social media−posting questionable pictures of themselves or letting Twitter corrode their ability to hold a thought for more than a nanosecond−it turns out that most are using it to express a genuine passion for changing the world around them. And they’re succeeding. And these trends extend well beyond the U.S. In other countries shows similar interests in contributing to larger causes. China’s young adults for instance, lead the world in online political discussions and offline they donate the most money to charities. India’s younger generation ranks the first in the world when it comes to staying informed, and they’re the most optimistic about the impact their activism has on the world around them.  It seems that our youngest generation of adults are the ones leading the charge when it comes to effectively making a difference.

Specific examples of young people changing the world through social media include:

Although the following Infographics shows data from the 20-28 age group, this is not that far removed from the adolescent age group.


If one of the goals of education is to help students become responsible citizens, then learners should be given the opportunity, skills, tools, and strategies to be active change agents.

Eric Dawson, whose organization has been training educators to teach peacemaking skills for two decades, suggests three things adults can do:

  1. Ask young people questions of engagement. What do you think about that? What would you do? How do you think we could make this better?
  2. Take young people’s ideas seriously.
  3. Give young people concrete opportunities to act on their ideas.

“The idea is to invite them to try on this role,” he adds. “It’s having courage and compassion, taking risks, showing perseverance, crossing lines of difference, mobilizing and working with others.” (

The following learning activity, found in Technology Social Emotional Learning Activities, describes some ways social activism could be brought in to the classroom. Goal

  • To search social networks to explore and identify social causes of personal interest.
  • To decide if and how one wants to contribute to these causes.


  • Social media is being used to promote social causes.  See the Infographic below about the social activism habits of today’s young people.
  • Encourage learners to review some of the causes found on Facebook and other social media (e.g. Harry Potter Alliance); and report to one another causes of interest.  A list of causes that have a presence on Facebook can be found at:
  • A new website, Kicker, helps young people understand what’s going on in the world – so they can then go change the world.  The site aggregates key media pieces; news articles, videos, Tweets, etc., about current news items and then ends their thread of media with a Kicker, ways young people can become active in related causes.  For example, here is a Kicker from the news thread, Youth in Revolt: How to Take Education Into Your Own Hands:


  • harnesses the awesome energy teens have and unleashes it on causes teens care about. Almost every week, a new campaign is launched. The call to action is always something that has a real impact and doesn’t require money, an adult, or a car.
  • Through exploring and researching sites such as those recommended above, learners can decide if and how they want to contribute to identified causes.
  • Note: The purpose of this activity is to have learners to search social networks to explore and identify social causes of which they have interest.  Since it involves social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter, learners will need to be over 13 years old.  An alternative for younger students is to explore the causes as a class using an Interactive Whiteboard or LCD project and decide on cause to follow/contribute to as a group.


  • An extension for older learners (senior high school or older) is to help them establish their own cause and become their own 21st century activists.  Have them view and discuss the following video for ideas:


The junior high students at a middle school were asked to do something to change our community, or change the world. Most groups just created videos about the cause and left it at that.

But one group went beyond these basic requirements and used social media to raise money for their cause, Pencils for Africa.  They . .  .

  • Created a website, HSAAPAAT, to promote their cause


  • Made a video

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 21, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Providing Opportunities for Learners to Tell Their Stories

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One of the greatest gifts a teacher can give learners is the opportunity to tell their stories, and to establish venues to have those stories witnessed by others.

A Film by High School Student, Sam Fathallah

There is a movement among pockets of educators to make education a passion-based process of learning.

Instead of having all these preconceived ideas of what learners should doing, saying and producing, [educators] have to be open to what they find in each student. [Educators] have to discover – and help each student discover – their talents and interests and create a learning environment where they can use those gifts and passions. Passion-based learning in the 21st century: An interview with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

John Seely Brown noted how technology can ignite learners’ passions.

We must think about how technology, content, and knowledge of learning and teaching can be creatively combined to enhance education and ignite students’ passion, imagination, and desire to constantly learn about — and make sense of — the world around them.

Diane Rhoten stresses that learning should be interest-driven, that learners should create narratives that they find personally motivating, personally relevant, personally interesting using digital media tools to tell their stories.

Providing learners with the tools, skills, time, and venues to tell their stories creates a powerful strategy for tapping into learner passions.  It also utilizes the tools and learning strategies they are using during their out-of-school time.  This is stressed in a new ebook by ithemes media,  Kids Creating Stuff Online: Inspiring the Innovators of the Future.

Let’s face it: everything is online, even our kids. The Internet is no longer something people figure out when they get old enough. Many kids are growing up with laptops and tablets. They have cell phones that can do more than most computers of the past.  Kids need to take the opportunity to embrace the online world and create a positive digital footprint. Instead of freaking out— “Won’t someone think of the children?!”—we should see this as an opportunity. Kids and teens are interested in the Internet and the online world, so let’s make the most of it.

This isn’t a how-to post.  It provides a rationale for educators to facilitate having their learners (all ages) create a video of something for which they have passion and create a venue for students sharing those videos with a global audience – Youtube, Blogs, wikis.   The videos would become a type of Ted Talk.  Karl Fisch facilitated this process with a group of high school students.

  • Culminating Project:  You will create your own TED talk based off our essential question “What Matters?”
  • Theme:  You will use “What Matters (to You)?” as your ‘essential question’ to explore for your own talk.  Essentially, you will select a topic based on something that truly “matters” to them and craft video about that topic (6 minutes or less).
  • Give a Talk: Each student will give their own TEDx Talk.  These will be done on video, uploaded to YouTube, and then embedded on the class Google site to be seen by others.  You will prepare with a ‘global’ audience in mind from day one. Remember “Spread an idea worth spreading.”

Small Talks is a new website (under development) that provides educators with resources to assist students in researching, writing and recording their own lectures on subjects they’re passionate about. When they are ready they can be uploaded for others to see.

Here is an example learner talk:

In a related post about interest and passion-driven learning, The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Tinkering and Maker Education, I discuss a learning cycle of tinkering and maker education where a final activity is learners sharing their passions and discoveries:

  • Live or videotaped instructional videos, where students teach others the skills acquired.
  • A pitch for a new invention or process: the learner presents ideas for a new invention with the audience providing recommendations and positive feedback.

In this standards driven world, educators might argue that they do not have the time to do such a project with students.  I could easily identify the content-area standards addressed with this assignment – language arts, oral communication, visual arts, technology skills.  The more important outcomes, in my perspective, of such a project are increased confidence, development of self-regulation skills, enhanced sense of personal identity, and increased feelings of significance – that they have been been seen and heard.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 20, 2013 at 1:58 am

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

Let Children’s Play (with Technology) Be Their Work in Education

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The importance of play as part of a child’s development has been the focus of educational specialists and research for decades.  Piaget and Montessori have emphasized that a child’s play is his or her work.

Play activities are essential to healthy development for children and adolescents. Research shows that 75% of brain development occurs after birth. The activities engaged in by children both stimulate and influence the pattern of the connections made between the nerve cells. This process influences the development of fine and gross motor skills, language, socialization, personal awareness, emotional well-being, creativity, problem solving and learning ability.  The most important role that play can have is to help children to be active, make choices and practice actions to mastery. They should have experience with a wide variety of content (art, music, language, science, math, social relations) because each is important for the development of a complex and integrated brain. Play that links sensori-motor, cognitive, and social-emotional experiences provides an ideal setting from brain development.

Children are still playing in this age of technology but the type of play and results are evolving.  Lego, with its introduction of the new Mindstorm, created an infographic that describes the changing pattern of kids and young peoples’ use of technology and how it is affecting their development.


Of special note to educators is the section on the changing world of children at play. To summarize, the key areas of the change nature of play as identified by Lego are:

  1. The future will see the creation of more diversified playful relationships due to the ease of creating an online persona and free networking sites like Tumblr and Youtube.
  2. Children will continue to demand more control over complex outputs. Children are creating computer games, movies, their own content.
  3. Visual instruction is the way of the future. Kids go to Youtube to learn.  They create videos and complex stories via gaming platforms (Mindcraft, Scratch).
  4. The boundaries between digital and physical interaction will continue to blur.  Kids are growing up with augmented reality toys and body-gesture systems.
  5. Customizing one’s toys and play will be an integral of child development.  Creative expression via the DIY movement is rapidly growing.
  6. Children with share an increasingly amount of humanity with their toys and play.  Technology enables children to create, navigate and perform their emotional lives.

The world is qualitatively different than when the educational system was conceptualized; than when educators were students in that system.  Kids are growing up and developing in a world that is highly technologically-driven, information-rich, and connected.  The Institute for the Future discuss this in their Magic of Kidstech report:

With touchscreens, simple programming languages, and other lowered barriers for human-computer interaction, kids are poised to gain a high level of technical proficiency. When you combine this access with the resources kids have—time, a highly plastic brain, and the freedom to experiment with new behaviors, interests, and ways of being—it is not hard to imagine a level of empowerment for kids never before seen in human history.

The Institute for the Future reinforces some of the ideas the Lego shared.

  1. Authorship, storytelling, fantasy, and role-playing will expand into new media.  Growing up immersed in virtual worlds, social networks, and YouTube videos, children will develop a different set of expectations for evaluating human proximity and presence, as well as a comfortable confidence expressing their views.
  2. Play will be a more fluid material experience, blending the virtual and the physical.  Kids will have many fun options to explore depth, sound, gesture, and images.  By 2021, kids will expect their digital and physical objects to share more characteristics, including tangibility and connectivity.
  3. Toys show kids how to get emotional with technology.  Smart toys are becoming, in essence, sociable robots, and children are expanding the kinds of relationships they have with them via touch, voice, and gesture.  Sociable robots are drawing our children into caring for them, nurturing them, and creating more powerful and affective human-machine partnerships.  (
  4. Kids are global children.  Reality for children today is not confined to their room, or house, or school—it is a global community of networked peers and endless virtual horizons. Creating and sharing videos with billions is a normal activity for many kids today, giving them a vastly different perspective on distances, times, and relationship with others than previous generations held.
  5. Kids are empowered and connected in ways not seen before. This “magic” that they wield with ease, and the expectations that are being inculcated now for technology, society, and even reality, will echo through time as these generations grow into key players in the economy and society. (

How many educators are teaching in their classrooms the way kids are learning during their own playtime using their own technologies? How many state educational standards address how children are playing and learning in this amazing age of technology?  Many teachers, schools, district are not giving kids a chance to play nor use technology in ways that come naturally to them.

What follows are some simple suggestions I have to facilitate play with technology in educational settings:

  • Let learners bring in their devices (all types – mobile, gaming, robotics) for use in the classroom, to reinforce learning, and for show and tell.
  • Use some educational monies to purchase “fun” technologies – gaming systems, Lego robotics, iPad apps.
  • Give kids unstructured free time play using their and their peer’s devices.  See Tinkering and Technological Imagination in Educational Technology.
  • Ask learners to teach you and the class about a technology he or she is using at home.
  • Give learners a choice how they want to demonstrate their content area learning – a video? a online game?  a board game?
  • Explore and integrate Maker Education as part of the curriculum.
  • Encourage and provide the time and tools for students to share their learning with a global audience – e.g. Skyping with another classroom,  blogging, Tweeting, creating videos and newscast.

This pretty much sums it up . . .

New technologies are going to help many kids play the part of the magician. They will enchant us with their creations and sleight of hand. They will also amaze us with their ability to escape from the technological chains we’re tying them up with as well. We live in a world of fast and accelerating change. Kids are in some ways ideally prepared to deal with change, and may have more to say and more power to influence the world than at any other time in history. That new empowerment will be the real magic kids bring to the world. (

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 12, 2013 at 8:10 pm

New Website: Technology-Enhanced Social Emotional Activities

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Schools that create socially and emotionally sound learning and working environments, and that help students and staff develop greater social and emotional competence, in turn help ensure positive short- and long-term academic and personal outcomes for students, and higher levels of teaching and work satisfaction for staff.

The Technology-Enhanced Social Emotional Learning Activities website ( has been designed to describe technology activities that facilitate social emotional learning.  They can be used within formal and informal educational settings.  Even though the focus of the activities are on building and enhancing social emotional learning, many can be connected with content standards related to language arts, visual arts, oral communication, media literacy, and ISTE’s National Education Standards for Students.  Also, age levels are not recommended.  Most of the activities can be adapted for any age level.

List of Activities:

Creative Commons License
Technology Enhanced Social Emotional Learning Activities by Jackie Gerstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 11, 2013 at 1:45 am

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