User Generated Education

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Posts Tagged ‘networked learning

Educators Are Doin’ It For Themselves: Creating Their Own Professional Development

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Educators are creating their own professional development opportunities on their own time without compensation, acknowledgement, nor credit.


With so many great resources on the web, teachers are realizing that they can learn just as much (if not more!) from their personal learning network (PLN) as they can from traditional professional development (PD). Educators are connecting with like-minded individuals across the globe, reading about best practices and new trends in education, and sharing their experiences with friends and colleagues. Through social media, popular blogs and webinars, teachers are taking ownership of their learning and finding PD opportunities that weren’t possible a decade ago (Do-It-Yourself Virtual Professional Development: Taking Ownership of Your Learning).

Here is a list of how they are doing it:

For more information on self-directed professional development, see my post, Teacher Agency: Self-Directed Professional Development:

PD image

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 17, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Teacher Agency: Self-Directed Professional Development

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“I can’t wait for and am so excited for the three day ‘sit and git’ professional development in-service at our school” said no teacher possibly ever.

“Let’s face it: Professional development, as we have known it for years now, has yielded little or no positive effects on student learning.” Thus complain the many weary professionals who flinch at the mere mention of the word “workshop.” In the collective imagination, the term “professional development day” conjures only images of coffee breaks, consultants in elegant outfits, and schools barren of kids.

I recently discussed teacher agency in Teacher Agency: Educators Moving from a Fixed to a Growth Mindset.

Teacher agency is typically viewed as a quality within educators, a matter of personal capacity to act (Priestly et al., 2012) usually in response to stimuli within their pedagogical environment. It describes an educator who has both the ability and opportunity to act upon a set of circumstances that presents itself within that individual’s leadership, curricular or instructional roles. The educator described would then draw from acquired knowledge and experience to intercede appropriately and effectively.  Teacher Agency in America and Finland By Roger Wilson, GVSU Faculty

Teacher agency can be applied to teacher professional development.  What follows is a model of professional development driven by teacher agency.

The Teacher’s Choice Framework

Gabriel Diaz-Maggioli in her ASCD book, Teacher-Centered Professional Development, proposes a teacher’s choice framework which are characterized by:

  • Teachers are talented and devoted individuals who have gained enormous experience by interacting with students, and possess a wealth of knowledge that must be explored and shared.
  • Teachers differ from one another in terms of their theoretical and professional knowledge and the stages they are at in their careers. This diversity offers a wealth of resources and experience.
  • Teachers’ professional development should be embedded in their daily schedule; they should not be expected to devote their own free time to programs that are divorced from the context in which they work.
  • In order for teachers to develop ownership of professional development, they need to be active participants in its construction, tailoring programs to their needs and motivations.
  • Professional development should not be regarded as an administrative duty, but rather as a career-long endeavor aimed at disclosing the factors that contribute to the success of all students and teachers. Mandatory professional development offered only when it is convenient to administrators has little to offer to teachers.


Teacher Empowered Model of Professional Development

  1. Develop a vision and a mission of an ideal classroom and optimal student achievement.
  2. Identify gaps between what is and the ideal.
  3. Establish and/or identify self-driven professional development activities to close the gap.
  4. Develop plans of action for implementation.
  5. Engage in an accountability system.

Develop a vision and a mission of an ideal classroom and optimal student achievement.

As part of their teacher education, students are often asked to develop their teaching philosophy.  This is a good initial exercise but several problems exist with it.  First, this happens during pre-service teaching and often prior to any extensive time spent teaching in an actual classroom.  Second, it does reflect the continuous and evolving nature of education.  Finally, it does not reflect ideas and teaching practices shaped and learned while one is a teacher.

We’re all learning and growing all the time – we can’t not learn. The difference that creates success is deciding and directing your learning direction. If you don’t know what you want your work to look like in 1 or 2 years from now, you’ll be likely to have your career direction determined by other people or circumstances, rather than your personal values and desires, so get clear on the picture of work you’re aiming for. How To Drive Your Professional Development With A Self-Directed Learning Program

Part of an educator’s continuous growth and development process practices should be, on a regular basis, identifying an area of current interest, studying the current best practices of that interest, and creating a vision of a classroom and student achievement based on those best practices.  For example an educator, a group of educators, and an entire school could decide to study one of the following areas of 21st century education to explore best practices in that classroom-instructional practice:

Based on this focused study, the educator develops a vision of an ideal classroom and instructional practices.

Identify gaps between what is and the ideal.

The educator then compares current practices to that of the ideal to identify gaps.  From these gaps, professional development goals are established.  This process provides a foundation of “need”, focus, and relevancy for the educator’s professional development.  Professional development then becomes “just-in-time learning” rather than “just-in-case it is needed”.

The following visual metaphor is a model of this process.


Identify Current Reality: On the left cliff, list of keywords that define your current reality. You’re basically outlining where you are right now in your classroom teaching process.   Sketches and symbols can also be used to describe your current reality.

Identify Desired Reality:  On the right cliff write down a list of keywords that define your desired classroom environment and practices based on your vision of the ideal.  You’re essentially defining the type of classroom that you would like to create by the date you specified.  Represent these keywords (your desired reality) using a series of sketches, symbols or both. Completing these sketches will help you to create more meaningful associations.

Identify Obstacles: Within the gap between the two cliffs, write down all the obstacles that are standing between your current reality and your desired reality. Write down keywords. Alternatively, you can represent these words in a visual way, as described above.

Identify Key Resources;  On the tree branches outline five key resources and training opportunities that you have at your disposal that you could use to help you overcome the obstacles that are standing between you and your desired reality. (Identifying resources will be further expanded upon in the next section.)

Bridge the Gap:  Now that you are clear about where you are, where you want to be, the obstacles standing in your way, and the resources you have at your disposal, it’s now time to build a bridge that will take you over the cliff towards your desired reality. This bridge is going to be built using a series of steps that you will take over a certain period of time that will get you to where you want to go.

Establish and/or identify self-driven and directed professional development activities to close the gap.

Design a self-directed learning plan for yourself by deciding what sources you’ll learn from, what programs or classes you might wish to sign up for, who you’d like to be mentored by, and what other sources of social support and accountability you’ll build into your learning program, in order to achieve your learning goals. How To Drive Your Professional Development With A Self-Directed Learning Program

During this phase, educators engage in self-directed professional learning opportunities to learn how to close the gap from the current state to the ideal one.  The opportunities for educators to engage in self-directed professional development is basically limitless in this era of teaching and learning.  As the British Columbia Teacher Federation notes, there are Many Ways to Grow Professionally

  1. Attend a conference/workshop locally.
  2. Attend a conference/workshop regionally/provincially/nationally/internationally.
  3. Attend a workshop/conference or summer institute/course.
  4. Becoming a facilitator, and give a workshop locally, regionally, or provincially.
  5. Begin/continue university studies.
  6. Form/join a teacher research group.
  7. Participate in group planning.
  8. Job-shadow in a related work situation.
  9. Join a professional organization/network.
  10. Observe another teacher, and talk together about the lesson/program.
  11. Read professional literature.
  12. Reflect, discuss, and research for the purpose of planning individual or group ongoing professional development.
  13. Develop the discipline of reflective journal keeping.
  14. Share with colleagues what you found at a conference/workshop.
  15. Subscribe to/read professional journals.
  16. Watch professional videos.

Four specific types are discussed in more detail: Teacher In-Services, EdCamps, Connected Education, and Professional Learning Communities.

Teacher In-Services or Professional Development Choice Days

As stated in the beginning passages a one size fits all type of professional development still offered by many school districts in the form of in-services is a thing of the past and creates high levels of dread among teachers.  In-services do have the value in that educators are given the time and space to participate in professional development and are able to engage in face-to-face discourse with colleagues.

To adapt in-service workshops from a one size fits all to one that is personalized for the participating educators requires that the in-service designers take into account the needs of educators, find workshop leaders with both expertise in those areas and in teaching adults using andragogical principles, and offer a number of workshop choices within each time slot including a choice to “unconference.”

An example of this is the Techtoberfest in Idaho.  It is a two-day conference for the teachers of that district and teachers from surrounding districts are invited to attend.  The conference designers explore the needs of the teachers of that district, locate experts to bring in to run workshops, and provide the teachers with about a dozen workshop options per time slot.  See for the Techtoberfest 2012 agenda.


An edcamp is a user-generated conference – commonly referred to as an “unconference“. Edcamps are designed to provide participant-driven professional development for K-12 educators. Edcamps are free participant-driven conferences.  Sessions are not planned until the day of the event, when participants can volunteer to facilitate a conversation on a topic of their choice.  Edcamps operate “without keynote speakers or vendor booths, encourage participants to find or lead a conversation that meet their needs and interests.

It makes sense. If you have teachers together face-to-face, why not let them talk about what works? Why not let them ask questions of one another? Why not use the best medium available, the human voice, to learn from one another? It has me thinking that our weekly professional development ought to work in an edcamp model. By this, I mean offer multiple choices, keep the groups small and then lead a discussion. It could be a book study or a week-by-week discussion on a topic. It could be a new set of topics each week, depending upon the desires of the teacher. An edcamp model would empower teachers to share their expertise democratically.   Ultimately, the value of edcamp is in the sharing of ideas and in the validation of one’s professional identity. Too often, that’s not happening at the weekly professional development that teachers attend. Yet, in a more democratic model, teachers begin to see that what they believe and what they know actually matters. Why Professional Development Should Be More Like Edcamp

Connected Education

The Internet and social networks provide an infinite number of ways to engage in self-directed professional development including, but not limited, to attending online webinars and virtual conferences, participating in Twitter and Tweet Chats, and reading, writing, and responding to blogs.


I teach a course entitled, Social Networked Learning, in which in-service educators learn how to use social networks for their own professional development.  See Educator as a Social Networked Learner for more about this.

Professional Learning Communities

In professional learning communities model, teachers in either grade-level or content-area teams meet several times a week to collaborate on teaching strategies and solve problems. In the most sophisticated examples, teachers set common instructional goals, teach lessons in their individual classrooms, administer informal assessments to determine levels of student mastery, and then regroup as a team to analyze the data together. Then, they pinpoint areas of success, identify areas for improvement, and set goals for future teaching (Honawar, 2008).

For more on Professional Learning Communities, see

Develop plans of action for implementation, then implement.

If a primary goal of professional development is to affect what teachers believe, understand, and do on a daily basis, then offering “presentations” or “training” without intensive and sustained small-group dialogue, in-classroom coaching, and just-in-time problem solving is educational malpractice.  Put another way, “head learning” abstracted from practice without abundant opportunities for supportive on-the-job feedback and trouble shooting wastes the organization’s resources and squanders teachers’ good will. Why professional development without substantial follow-up is malpractice.

This is the “do it” phase.  Based on the educator’s self-directed professional development, he or she decides what changes, modifications, and adaptations will be implemented into one’s teaching environment.  Some guiding questions to assist with this process are:

This phase will only be effective if the educator is given the time, support, and resources to implement ideas gained through their professional development experiences.

Engage in an accountability system.

The world of work asks the educator to show evidence of learning; to quantify it; provide evidence of professional development in some way.  An accountability system needs to be set up that “requires”, acknowledges, and rewards educators for engaging in their own self-directed professional development.

You could qualify it by hours spent (yuck), content curated (a little better), total resources shared (a tad bit better still), PD presented in person (not bad), alignment between content found and school and district needs (decent), impact on learning performance (nice), or some basic formula of several of these and more.  Then turn that process over to them—crowdsource the recording-keeping with the only expectation being that it’s visible to everyone and simple to update. Personalizing Teacher Training Through Social Media-Based Improvement

Some ways to make the professional learning visible include teaching portfolios and digital badges.

Teaching Portfolios

Teaching portfolios, often known as dossiers, are compilation of teaching materials and related documents that teachers employ during teaching and learning processes. Portfolios serve as tools for reflection, a way to thoughtfully document teaching practices and progress toward goals. Portfolio entries can inform professional growth plans. As actual artifacts of teaching, portfolios help teachers to systematically ponder over their practice, reflect on the problems they face, and learn from their experience. They provide direct evidence of what teachers have accomplished.  Self-Directed Professional Development: Success Mantra or a Myth?

Digital Badges

Eric Sheninger, the principal of New Milford High School, is experimenting with Integration of Digital Badges to Acknowledge Professional Learning

I am proud to announce Worlds of Learning @ New Milford High School, a digital badge professional learning platform. The idea behind this platform is to provide professional learning with a pinch of gamification.  Digital badges can be used to guide, motivate, document and validate formal and informal learning.  Worlds of Learning @ New Milford High School provides a framework to allow our teachers to earn digital badges through learning about a range of technology tools and applications.  I hope that New Milford High School teachers will be able to benefit greatly from this sustained initiative because of the professional learning flexibility an online platform provides as well as it being a means to document and showcase the skills they have gained and  putting their learnings into practice in the classroom.


In summary, regardless of the type of professional development selected by the educational institutions and the teachers, themselves, it needs to have the following characteristics for effective implementation and sustainability in the classroom:

  • Educators need to feel they have and actually do have a voice, empowerment, and support to self-direct their professional development.
  • Educators should be given the time, resources, and ideas to establish their own professional learning goals which, in turn, would drive their professional development direction.
  • Isolated, one shot professional development experiences such as in-services workshops, going to conferences, etc,, most often do not lead to any changes in the classroom practices.  These experiences need to be part of a larger teacher initiated process of preparatory goal setting and follow-up support and implementation.
  • An accountability system needs to be established where educators have the responsibility for follow-through and getting appropriate credit and acknowledgement for doing so.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 11, 2013 at 12:59 am

Personal Learning Environment Assignment and Reflections

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I teach a graduate course for the Boise State University’s Educational Technology program called Social Networked Learning.  I discussed it in Educators as Social Networked Learners and Educator as a Social Networked Learner: Presentation Materials.

One of the assignments later in the course is creating a diagram of one’s personal learning environment.  Some previous activities students completed prior to this assignment include: joining Twitter, using Facebook for our class communities, following and contributing to Twitter hashtags and Tweet chats of their choice, attending live webinars of their choice, and joining additional online communities related to their professional interests.

These are the directions provided to the students:

Now that you’ve added more online communities to your PLE, create a diagram to represent them.

  1. Create a PLE diagram of your online communities.  See examples PLE Diagrams at
  2. Represent at least 10 different online communities in your graphic and explicitly show connections between the communities. You can be as creative as you’d like with this depiction.  You can hand draw and take an image, or use any type technology.  Post a link and screenshot of your PLE so you classmates could view it on Facebook.
  3. Complete a Reflection:  Via a blog post answer the following questions:  What did you learn about yourself when looking at your PLE? Visit your classmates’ PLE posts.  How does your PLE compare to other peers in class? Write a self-reflection and a comparative analysis that discusses similarities and differences between yours and your classmates’ diagrams.  This analysis should be in terms of content not the type of creation.

For some students, the image spoke volumes, for others it was their reflections on the process and insights that occurred through reflecting on the process of creating the PLE diagram. Below is a sample of the students’ work.


My personal learning environments have been an eye-opening experience. I have been so empowered by everything I’ve gleaned. My experience with this type of learning has been life changing. My teaching method and the way I instruct my students has taken on a new form of strategy. Learning through my personal learning environments, as well as my contributions, has been awesome. I never thought that I would ever tap into all these resources but what it has done for me, personally, has been very rewarding. I was very apprehensive and wary before, but now I feel very comfortable within these social networks.  Who says that a person 54 years of age cannot learn something in the social network realm? I have.


Creating the PLE diagram was an interesting and informative process. At first my networking participation felt totally chaotic. I decided to group my connections within my core interest areas. This helped me gain a better sense of how my PLE is working to support my goals and further my interests. Since I have been in education a long time, I want have a clear picture of my learning and contributing goals. I see my PLE as a way to extend both. The 3D diagram I created with blocks provided a structure and metaphor for the continued construction of my PLE as I continue to explore and build connections.


To create, present and share my PLE diagram I tapped into my real world community and tools (art paper, scissors, pencil, and a “real” student model) and my on-line community and tools (iPhone apps, Facebook, and blog) too. My graphic representation of the body and the major arteries reflects how my personal learning environment (PLE) has become my lifeline. I placed the learners (and their social media networks and Web 2.0 tools) where the heart is because they are why I do what I do! They motivate me to connect (to make that vital fluid circulate from head to toe). They motivate me to become a better learner and a better teacher. My students and I often “learn and grow” together, and these tools enable us to do that.


Through a long bout of self-reflection, I went to task on creating my diagram. Going against my comfort zone of using technology to create my diagram, I used wood, paint, and a rusty saw. My background for my diagram is a piece of plywood, kona stained, and my icons were painted with their corresponding colors and designs. The creation begins with cloud bubbles, each containing 2 or more PLN icons. Within each cloud, I scripted words or phrases that represent each PLN. This is the part where I acknowledge that a good amount of these PLN blocks do crossover into other clouds. This is the beauty of PLNs, because if used correctly, one can find a way to use that PLN as a multi-faceted resource. (


In my graphic, the educator is represented by the bee. We usually participate in Professional Development as an individual, or as a group. The flowers act as the sources of information an educator collects. When a bee visits a flower, it collects nectar. Given enough time, that nectar breaks down through enzymes and chemical processes within the bee to produce honey. For me, I see the educator attending training, workshops, and finding information on their own, and like the bee, when given enough time to process the information learned, new products are made. The hive can be many things: the school, the classroom, a PLN, etc. The bee/educator takes the new product they have made (or information learned) and comes back to the hive to share. For bees, the hive is a place to store honey. For teachers, however, I think the hive represents ways that information can be shared. Of course, the final product–and ultimate goal– is the creation of honey, or content learned in action. (


The first thing that I learned about myself as I created my diagram of my PLE was that I’ve come a long way since the beginning of this class when it comes to being involved in social media and actually forming a PLE! To be honest, I’m not sure I even knew what a PLE was. Not only do I see myself evolving, I see myself growing as an educator because now more than ever I am inspired by educators from all over the world. I think what makes this new-found knowledge even better is the fact that I am not intimated anymore; I’m having fun, and I’m not “afraid” of making a mistake anymore!


When I think about my PLE I see it as something that is constantly growing and will continue grow for the rest of my life. I embraced the theme of professional growth while creating my Diagram and so I thought the idea to represent it through the shape of a tree. I would note that my PLE is not just a facet of my professional growth or tool for learning however, it is also an outlet for sharing my ideas and facilitating social interactions.


The diagram represents the Internet and my social media connections. The light at the top of the picture is the Internet. It contains the information that is created by on-line users. I don’t mean to overstate the power of the Internet, but it is source for much of what we do in our society. From it come all of the social media sites that we access. They are becoming the pillars for what we learn and what we share. That is the reason that I put them on the cables that hold up the bridge. The city in the background symbolizes the world that accesses the internet and its social media sites. You can vaguely see a person with a smart phone. That represents me. I really liked the picture. I actually discovered it when I was on a Twitter chat one evening. The picture really spoke to me and I knew that I wanted to use if for this project. The picture, to me, shows that social media is a very important aspect of the Internet. My professional learning environment is becoming increasingly dependent on social media.


As evident in the student reflections, they find value in social networking for professional development.  Those of us who are connected educators find value in being as such.  We often discuss how to get educators who aren’t connected to do so.  We encourage them to become active on Twitter.  I have learned that it more difficult than just showing them Twitter.  I don’t know what the magic “it” is that draws some of us to being connected.

I believe the more structured activities helped the educators taking the course see the value of being connected and at least some will continue to be so after the course ends.  In essence, this can be a model of professional development.  Educators within their own professional development would be required (hate that term, but sometimes that is what needs to happen) or expected (better option) to participate in a series of connected activities, i.e., Twitter hashtags and Tweet Chats, other online live chats and webinars, live webinars and online conferences.  This professional development activity would be self-directed in that educators would select their own connected activities based on their professional interests within their own self-selected time frames.  Hopefully, an extrinsic motivation or push would help educators find intrinsic value in being connected and would continue to be connected in the future on their own.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm

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

with 12 comments

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

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