User Generated Education

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Posts Tagged ‘online education

My Educational Learning Plan for the Coronavirus-Induced Hiatus

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I, like many of you, have gone into a somewhat involuntary social distancing and isolation (mostly) due to my school and health club closures and recommendation to stay away from crowds. It’s just my cats and I (gives new meaning to home alone). Having a plan to engage my mind and body is of utmost importance. I am sharing my plan of activities, which are almost all free, as it may give other educators some ideas. If you have additional ideas, please share them in the comments.

Working Remotely with My Gifted Elementary Students

I work with gifted students one day a week. Our state and thus my district made an extremely quick decision to close the schools – heard last Thursday night and was told to send home with students Chromebooks along with lessons on Friday, a half day. Obviously most of the teachers didn’t have time to develop lesson plans and learning activities. I met with my learners quickly on Friday, as so much was going on, and asked them to check in with a shared Google doc and our Google Classroom. What follows are the general tasks they are being asked to do during our regularly scheduled gifted day.

  • Writing Children’s Book Narrative – Prior to the school closing, my learners spent quite a bit of time learning how to write a children’s book using a Dr. Seuss type of writing style (yes, I know he is controversial but I like his writing style). The goal is to have them write their stories, illustrate them with cut out shapes made with a Cricut or a laser cutter, and then create Makey Makey Talking Books out of them. They just reached the point of writing their own narratives when the school closed. I asked each of them to share their stories with me via a Google doc. They were instructed to add to their stories during our hiatus, that I would provide feedback and suggestions directly on their shared Google docs. Then when we return, we can jump into creating the illustrations.
  • Newsela – For those who don’t know, Newsela is best-in-class library of high-interest, cross-curricular current news and nonfiction texts.. They have offered all teachers access to Newsela ELA, Newsela Social Studies, Newsela Science and the SEL Collection for FREE for the rest of the school year. At home, my learners are being asked to do the same thing they do in class – pick an article of personal interest, read it, and take the quiz where they need to get at least 3 out of 4 correct. If they don’t, they need to choose another article to read and follow the same procedure.
  • Prodigy Math Game – For those who don’t know, Prodigy is no-cost math game where kids can earn prizes, go on quests and play with friends — all while learning math. With Prodigy math homework is disguised as a video-game. My learners love it. I typically don’t give them class time to play it as I prefer hands-on, learner-to-learner interactive math activities. Since they will be at home, I asked them to play it for an hour during our typical gifted days to keep up with and improve their math skills.
  • – My 4th graders have working through the Course F . They were asked to continue working on this through our hiatus while my 5th and 6th graders were asked to join and work on the CS in Algebra.
  • Maker Camp and the Maker Stations Home Pack (see download below) : Since we do a lot of making in my gifted classes, I am requesting that my learners pick a project or two to try at home. It has been posted as an assignment via Google Classroom and they have been asked to post pictures of it. I will later (at school or at home depending how long the school closing lasts) ask them to blog about their processes.

Here is their schedule that I posted in Google Classroom for them.

The online applications – Newsela, Prodigy, and – have teacher dashboards so I can track progress and give them feedback. For their writing, I can give feedback directly on their Google docs, and for their maker projects, they are to post pictures to Google classroom.

Professional Development – Virtual Style

I plan on doing some PD in my pajamas – in other words, virtual style.

Attending Some Virtual Conferences

  • 2020 Share My Lesson Virtual Conference – is a free virtual conference from March 24-26, with over over 30 webinars focusing on instructional strategies across the curriculum, social-emotional learning, activism, STEM, and trauma-informed practices. This is a fantastic conference. I attend every year. The sessions and presenters from professional organizations are top notch!
  • CUE Spring Conference – Computer-Using Educators (CUE) is a California-based non-profit that offers a premiere educational technology conference each spring. This year, because of coronavirus, they are going virtual offering sessions from March 19 through April 5. There is a $75 fee for the virtual conference.

Taking Some Online Classes

  • The Power of Mathematics Visualization – There is a nominal fee for this course but it looks good and might help me develop some interesting strategies for teaching mathematics to my gifted students.
  • Code Academy Pro – They are offering Pro free to students and teachers. It’ll give me an opportunity to learn some advanced code.

Doing Some Maker Projects

Because I use lots of maker education projects in my gifted education classes and our school has a new STEAM lab, this forced hiatus is giving me the opportunity to try out some new projects including:

My Physical Health

I work out in group fitness classes several days a week. It verges on addiction. When I don’t get to do so, I get stressed out. Plus, it provides me with needed social interactions. So when my health club decided to limit their services, I became distraught. Luckily, though, I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, so I plan to go on lots of hikes and am fixing up my bicycle to ride – hoping that the weather permits it. I am going to do online fitness classes. Oh, and, of course, cleaning my house from top to bottom will add an other fitness element. I absolutely know my physical workouts and health will positively affect my mental health.

Stay healthy, happy, and wise!

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 15, 2020 at 7:46 pm

Effective Online Andragogy: Increasing Interactivity in Webinars and Virtual Conferences

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I absolutely love attending synchronous educational webinars and virtual conferences.  It is such a treat to be able to listen to experts from the comfort of my home and chat with colleagues during the presentations.  I am baffled, though, why, with all of the interactive elements within the webinar platform and via the Internet, many of them become talking heads with slides.  The irony is that much of the content of the webinars, in one way or another, suggests improving pedagogy, moving from the sage on the stage to increasing learner participation and engagement in the learning process.  Only the best of speakers can engage the audience and keep their attention for over 20 minutes of non-interrupted talking. See Why Long Lectures Are Ineffective: If students can only focus for 15-minute intervals, shouldn’t we devote precious class time to something more engaging? and my Mentormob of resources: Lectures in the Classroom for more on about this.

It is interesting to me that the feedback I get from participants in my webinars that they appreciated the interactivity, that it was one of the most interactive sessions they have ever attended.  Why I find this fascinating is that I believe this should be the norm not the exception.

Andragogy informs teachers and presenters about how to teach adults (both face-to-face and online) with some of the following key strategies for enhancing learning opportunities:

  • establish a learning environment that is supportive and based on mutual respect and shared responsibilities
  • encourage the sharing of experiences
  • use real problems or tasks, case studies and scenarios are particularly effective
  • provide time for collaborative group work, particularly when problem solving
  • use resources that can be easily identified, and share strategies for using them.

Presenters will often begin their sessions with an interactive element such a poll and then use no interactive elements until the end of the hour long session when they ask for questions.  Why aren’t interactive elements introduced at regular intervals throughout the presentation to support the principles of Andragogy?

Some strategies I use during and throughout my online webinars include:

  • Using polls and self-assessments.
  • Sharing resources via live links for participants to visit while I talk about them.
  • Building in periodic breaks to “live chat share” – to share ideas, resources, questions about the segment of content just covered, and verbally pointing out ideas shared along with using the participants’ names to do so.
  • Asking participants to share their own resources and best practices in the chat.
  • Doing an interactive Web 2.0 tool or game – e.g., having participants share using Padlet so they can easily access this information later.
  • Asking participants to watch a short video or read a short article and report their thoughts in the chat.
  • Having participants create one slide of a shared Google Presentation on one of the subtopics being discussed resulting in a group presentation.
  • Asking participants to a photo of a concept through Flickr (see Using Flickr to Collect Images Captured on Cell Phones noting that this process can be used from any device that permits emailing).
  • Using the webinar whiteboard to have participants draw a significant learning.
  • Ending with an action step – asking participants one thing they will commit to do based on something learned in the webinar.

Here are some addition tips by Sharon Bowman:

As an extension to this this discussion, here a a slidedeck that I created about strategies for development online communities:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 13, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Freedom of Speech: If Not at School, Where?

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I was teaching a Psychology of Adjustment course to undergraduates.  Most of them were 18 and 19 years old.  It was a college in Georgia with a class demographic of about 2/3 who were White and 1/3 Black.  We got to the section on cultural diversity awareness.  Because it was the South, we began our discussion about racial differences.  At one point during the discussion, an attractive, blond, former high school quarterback said, “America is a free country.  I have the right not to live next to any Blacks if I choose.”  I contained my gasp, horror, and anger.  I believe in freedom of speech in my classes even those that are vastly different from my own.  So I bit my tongue and attempted to take a neutral stance.  Even though his opinion nauseated me, it was his opinion.  He made no threatening nor overtly derrogatory comments.

Fast forward one class session, I did the “White Privilege” activity with the students.  It contains a series of statements such as, “I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed” and “I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.”  As I read each statement, I started with “You may sit down if this applies to you.”  Not surprisingly by the end of the activity, two Black young women remained standing.  I simply asked, “How does it feel to be still standing?”  One of the beautiful (both physically and from within) women began her articulate, passionate response with contained tears in her eyes, saying things such as,  “You cannot know what it is like to walk into a store with your friends and be closely followed by a White clerk the whole time.  You cannot know what it is like to be walking down the street in broad daylight, step off of a curb, and witness the White driver overtly slam down the lock of his car door.”

I told this story to a colleague.  She said maybe the young man heard the voice and the story of a Black person, who he got to personally know through the class, for the first time in his life.  Maybe he might has changed his prejudicial views just a bit.  So did my neutral, accepting responses to both these students permit them to express their honest perspectives possibly resulting in some attitudinal change?  I cannot be sure, but hope so.

Given the way the US politicians communicate regarding the country’s issues, they could have benefited from learning how to communicate, listen, debate, and compromise over diverse issues and ideas.  So I ask and try to address in this post, “If students aren’t learning how to do freedom of speech in school, where will they learn it?

Topics covered in this post include:

  • A Rationale for Learner Voice in School
  • The Role of the Teacher
  • Suggestions for Establishing and Encouraging Student Voice
  • Learning Voice in Online Environments
  • Socratic Seminars for Learning Civil Debate and Discourse

A Rationale for Learner Voice in School

Schools in the United States (as well as in many other countries) propose that a major purpose of education in learning and engaging in principles related to democracy.

In 1916 Dewey wrote extensively about the necessity of engaging student experience and perspectives in the curriculum of schools, summarizing his support by saying,:

The essence of the demand for freedom is the need of conditions which will enable an individual to make his own special contribution to a group interest, and to partake of its activities in such ways that social guidance shall be a matter of his own mental attitude, and not a mere authoritative dictation of his acts.

To do so, school personnel need to be intentional in promoting and living the ideals of democracy.

Schools should endeavor to be relevant and inclusive of students’ daily lives. Educators and students alike benefit when schools open dialogue on contemporary issues of race and justice. To do this, schools should be deliberative in broaching difficult issues with students, in age-appropriate ways. They should focus on opening up discussions to multiple points of view.

The benefits to the learner as well to the entire school culture cannot be understated:

In its simplest form, voice is characterized by the ability to speak one’s opinions and ideas. However, simple should not be mistaken for trivial. In fact, the act of empowering a young person to express her opinions and ideas is powerful. When students are consistently encouraged to ask questions, wonder aloud, and offer opinions, they develop an ability to see the world as endlessly full of options and a place where they can confidently approach problems and seek out solutions.

But as McDonnell, Timpane, and Benjamin state in Rediscovering the Democratic Purposes of Education 

Public schools were envisioned by the Founders as democratically run institutions for instilling civic values, but today’s education system seems more concerned with producing good employees than good citizens. Meanwhile, our country’s diversity has eroded consensus about citizenship, and the professionalization of educators has diminished public involvement in schools.

The rest of this post proposes some concrete actions, ideas, and activities for making the learning environment a place for freedom of speech.

The Role of the Educator

First and foremost, the educator has to believe that student voice and discourse, regardless of the age of the students, has a place in the learning environment.  Voice does not translate into students shouting out answers to content-related questions posed by the educator.   As Catherine Cronin noted:

But what do we mean by student voice? The term tends to signify a set of values and behaviors which includes Sound (the act of speaking), Participation (student presence and involvement), and Power or Agency (see Cook-Sather, 2006). Making space for student voices confronts the power dynamics within schools, classrooms, and the relationships between teachers and students. Without addressing the notion of power in these relationships, student voice initiatives may be simply window dressing. When we truly value and create spaces for student voices, students feel respected and engaged, teachers listen, and students and teachers learn from one another.

The role of the educator also means establishing a safe space for student voice (specific suggestions are discussed in the next section).  Of special note, though, is the attitude and perspective of the educator.  It is my belief that the educator needs to convey an attitude of acceptance even of those perspectives different than her-or herself.  It is taking a neutral stance but permitting learners to voice whatever thoughts and opinions they value.  As such, I do not believe the educator should express personal values and beliefs related to religion, politics, and similar value-laden topics.  The educator in promoting freedom of speech and democratic values understands the power differential between him-herself and the learners, that expressing such opinions may shut down students whose values are different than him-herself.

Suggestions for Establishing and Encouraging Learner Voice

The bottom line for establishing and encouraging student voice is creating a safe environment of acceptance and that all voices are important and will be heard.   Soundout: Student Voice in School recommends the following:

  • Encourage mutual accountability between students and adults.
  • Engage student voice in as many topics as possible, and don’t ignore it regarding others.
  • Create ongoing opportunities to listen to student voice and engage students as partners.
  • Encourage building-level and classroom-level student voice activities.
  • Encourage different students to participate across education activities.
  • Create “safe spaces” where students can share student voice.
  • Engage adults and students as full partners in taking action on student voice.

Additional Suggestions are offered in Chalkface:

  • Be aware of power imbalance between teachers and students. Offer choice to share voices in ways that suit their culture and preferences.
  • Students are aware if their voices won’t make a difference – how will it be used as evidence for change? How much are we using it to reinforce trends, compliance, and productivity?
  • To do student voice using different structure takes time and care to bring about change, and to challenge existing discourses and structures.

Learner Voice in Online Environments

A discussion during the recent Reclaim Open Learning Conference began around the following comment/question related to posting ideas and opinions online:

How can we post our “information without signature” . . . how do we create safe classrooms sharing where students opinions aren’t recorded?

For me, the larger discussion is not necessarily about “recording” voices in the online forum as any comments made online is virtually recorded.  Strategies for creating a place for learner voice include, first, creating a safe online space to do so, and second, creating platforms where elements of privacy and anonymity can be afforded.

Catlin Tucker, in Creating and Maintaining a Safe Space Online, stated:

To be effective, an online learning platform must be a safe space where students feel their voices will be respected, supported and heard. Establishing clear guidelines for online interactions is a critical step in creating an online forum that will be successful long term.

The strategies she proposed for creating and maintaining a safe space include:

  • Read questions and conversational postings carefully to avoid unnecessary confusion.
  • Compliment your peers when they post strong responses or contribute original ideas.
  • Ask questions. If anything is unclear or you want further information or insight on a topic, just ask. If you have a question, there are probably other members of the group who are confused and need further clarification as well. Remember: There is no such thing as a dumb question!
  • Be considerate. Remember that your peers cannot see your body language or hear your tone of voice, so you need to keep your language direct and respectful.
  • Avoid slang, jargon, and sarcasm. Some slang or jargon terms may be familiar to you, but not to others. Sarcasm is negative and can lead to rifts in what is meant to be a comfortable, safe online forum.
  • Listen to all ideas presented. Remember there is no right or wrong in a discussion. A variety of perspectives adds depth.
  • Stay open minded. If you expect others to respect and consider your comments and ideas, you must do the same for their comments and ideas.
  • Respond instead of reacting. Do not write a response if you are angry or upset. Instead, wait until you have had time to calm down and collect your thoughts.
  • Really read your peers responses. Avoid skimming. Respect the time your peers have spent articulating their thoughts by reading carefully and thoughtfully.
  • Reread your messages before sending them to ensure that your ideas are clearly communicated and supported.
  • Critique the content, not the person.
  • Do not present your personal opinions as fact. Back up your ideas with information to strengthen your statements.
  • Make I statements when respectfully disagreeing. Sharing an opposing opinion or idea is an important part of discussion, but it needs to be presented in constructive manner that encourages further discussion.
  • Do not use all caps when writing. It is interpreted as yelling.
  • Avoid emotional punctuation, like exclamation points, unless you are complimenting an idea shared.

The conversation of posting information without signature also had me rethinking about open content.  I practice and promote using open platforms.  As such, I keep my blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account open and public.  But I am an adult, understand consequences, and as such, am quite intentional about what I post online.  I promote having students use public sites to create a positive digital footprint.  But now I see value in using closed and private platforms to discuss more controversial issues.  Closed Google Docs, Padlets, Todaysmeet, Primary Pads, or Blogging Platforms can be established for learners to discuss more controversial issues.  They can (should) be given the option to use a pseudonym.  Added to the list that Catlin provided would be a promise of confidentiality – that what is said in the online forum stays in that forum.  Also, the educator can commit to and insure that the forum is deleted after a given amount of time.  It then becomes a form of Snapchat for education.

Socratic Seminars for Learning Civil Debate and Discourse

The Socratic Seminar is a more formalized instructional strategy that can assist learners in developing skills for intellectual and civil debate, giving them a voice in a structured environment, using rationale debate techniques to do so.

The Socratic seminar is a formal discussion, based on a text, in which the leader asks open-ended questions.  Within the context of the discussion, students listen closely to the comments of others, thinking critically for themselves, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of others.  They learn to work cooperatively and to question intelligently and civilly.

To learn more about the specifics of running a Socratic Seminar, see Scholastic’s Higher Order Comprehension: The Power of Socratic Seminar and Hubpages’ Socratic Seminar Guidelines: A Practical Guide

Socratic Seminars in Online Learning Environments

This post is also concerned with how to have a voice, develop civil discourse skills in online environments.  Several technologies, including mobile learning apps, can be used to facilitate Socratic Seminars.  These include Edmodo, Socrative, and  For specific uses and examples, see:

So I’ve offered lists of suggestions and suggestions, but the bottom line is twofold. First, a purpose of education, regardless of whether it is online or face-to-face, is to assist learners in developing civics education through respectful and genuine discourse, and second, it is the educator’s responsibility to develop and maintain a community and environment where it is safe for learner voice.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

September 29, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Developing a Social-Networked Mini Unit

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I teach a Boise State University EdTech graduate course in Social Networking Learning.  I wrote about this course in Educators as Social Networked Learners.

I decided to write a separate post about their final assignment, creating a Social-Networked Mini-Curricular Unit.  The assignment description, some of the group units produced, the peer assessment, and some student reflections about the project follow:

Assignment Description

For your final project (the final module is peer reviews of this assignment), you’ll be formulating, outlining, proposing your very own social networked mini-curricular unit. Creating your own mini-curricular unit for your final project will provide you with the opportunity to synthesize and apply the social networking skills and strategies you learned throughout the course.

  • Course Description, Objectives, and Expectations
    • Course description
    • Learning outcomes
    • Performance and participation expectations
    • Social Media Use Guidelines
    • You will need to have a central hub to share information – WordPress, Google Sites, Wiki, Edmodo. (This will also be the site where you address all of the requirements of this project.
  • Student and course content creation and sharing platforms (along with specific directions on set-up, purpose, and potential use for your course):
    • Sharing work and discussions: Edmodo, Facebook
    • Student work: blogs; wikis
    • Photo and video sharing: Youtube, Flickr
    • Synchronous meetings discussions: Google+, Webinar Platforms
    • Social Bookmarking: Diigo, Delicious
    • Information Sharing and Dissemination: Twitter
    • Curation: Learnist, Pinterest, Storify, Scoopit
    • Student Collaboration: Google Docs, Etherpad, Edmodo
    • Student interaction: Develop a process for students to interact with and collaborate with one another.
    • How you will have students form small study groups or cohorts for project creation, collaboration, and feedback
    • How you will rotate facilitation of weekly discussions
    • How the group will report their progress – e.g., weekly summary (see Storify)
    • Apart from the course social networking platforms, participants should be encouraged to generate content spaces of their own, allowing them to both increase their Personal Learning Environment, as well as share their experiences with both the other MOOC participants as well as their own Personal Learning Network ( This, obviously, needs to be discussed and presented to the students that is age-grade appropriate.
  • Assessment Plan: this is your plan for assessing student performance and work. (You do not have to develop assessments for specific learning activities nor course requirements – this is just your plan)
    • Statement about the assessment process (self and peer assessment, reflection)
    • Peer review should be a part of the process
    • Consider using badges for assessment (e.g.
  • How You Plan to Monitor Course Interactions, Make Announcements, and Summarize and Disseminate Student Contributions
    • Course Tags and Hashtags
    • You, the educator, need ways to collect all the information and RSS feeds that your students are producing. Netvibes works well for this or gRSShopper (developed by Stephen Downes, a MOOC guru) if you have a server and some basic sysadmin skills (or know somebody who does).
    • Your process of disseminating announcements and aggregated student contributions on a regular basis.
  • Sample Learning Activities
    • List at least three learning activities for your course – make sure they address your learning outcomes and include many, if not all, of your course’s established social networks.

Example Group Projects


Despite a passion for creative writing, many people refuse to identify themselves as writers. There are a number of misconceptions about writing including the idea that a true writer is one who is published by a publishing house. This course seeks to change that narrow view of writers. The writer is a person who finds joy or purpose in writing and endeavors to write often.

The hallmark of any writer is that they write and write often.  Students will write often and collaborate with other writers in class to develop a 15 -20 page story that will be published online at the end of the course. This course will use social media and other technologies to help writers create a useful archive of resources and create a network of similar-minded writers. Students will leave the course with a story they publish to an online website and skills to continue writing.

Of special note, Andrea, Alyssa, Darla, and Christina’s unit included the following:

  • Course Social Networking Technologies –
  • Example Assignments (posted on their class Edmodo page):
    1. One of the biggest challenges that all writers face, is how to begin. What will you write about? You will be using your researching skills to brainstorm different literary genres. You may use any search engine you see fit. Then, once you’ve identified different genres of literature, start thinking about what makes a story fit into that particular genre. For instance, what elements make a story a horror story?   To begin this activity, you will need to have your Diigo account set up and have joined the ELACADE. You will add 10 different bookmarks to Diigo, from your genre research. Once you have added your 10 resources for genre and characteristics of these genres onto Diigo, you will tweet them to our class hashtag #ELACADE.  Once you have completed posting your resources to Diigo and tweeting them to our group, you will need to read through the research that your classmates have posted. Remember, that you are trying to identify the genre that you would like to use for your short story and get some ideas for plot. Tweet at least 10 other students in the class about their research. (*Include elements you found interesting or new ideas for your own story that you thought about after reading their research.)  By the time you have finished this assignment, you should have a clear understanding of the genre of story you will be writing and what elements your short story should contain in order to fit into that genre.  Students that complete this portion will receive the Brainstorming Badge.
    2. After completing the Twitter brainstorming activities, you will create a visualization board using Pinterest to help brainstorm setting and characterization. Visualization often aids writers in articulating written details about characters and setting.  You should have set up a Pinterest account prior to beginning this activity. Review your brainstorming ideas and responses from your Twitter activity. Then, use Flickr or other internet resources to locate pictures to represent your setting and characterization ideas. “Pin” at least 25-30 images, websites, videos, or other media that helps you to visualize your storyline, characters and setting. Post a link to your Pin board in the Edmodo forum. Then, review and reply to the Visualization Pin boards of the members of your group.  Students who complete this assignment will earn the Lessons Badge.


Of special note, Jon and Fabio’s course included the following:




Peer Reviews of the Social Networked Curricular Units

Assignment Overview:  You are being asked to provide feedback for one of the other group’s units via an audio-visual screencast. There are a number of Web-based tools that can be used to do this.  Screencasts increase the social networking level of the teaching-learning process and helps to insure that the feedback is rich and that thorough critiques are provided.  Here are some example screencasts from the course:

Final Course Reflections

The final task for the course was a reflection on the course, what worked, what didn’t work, what was learned, what will be used in the future.  A few students discussed this assignment as being a significant component of the course.

From Christina:

I believe that my favorite (while frustrating) assignment was the final project. While I always hope for the most detailed outlines and instructions for assignments, the freedom to create a social media and networking course on our own was challenging and exciting. I have always enjoyed how the final projects in our EdTech courses serve as a means to solidify our learning. The project was able to help me see how the previous assignments from the semester could be integrated and applied in a meaningful application of social networking. Our project on Healthy Living integrates a variety of social networking components that I am always afraid to try with my students. But now that I have had the practice of applying these tools in a practice setting, I am more likely to attempt to use them with my “real-life” students.

From Fabio:

Now for the best part of this course and what I enjoyed the most – the MOOC.  I didn’t know that these existed.   I love this idea.  I’m a lifelong learner.  I learn to learn and I don’t care what it is as long as it interests me and stimulates my brain.  MOOCs are awesome and I can’t wait to delve more into this fascinating area and possible even conduct a few. We can create communities of student centered self guided learning in which a teacher may not even necessarily be needed in the traditional sense. In this model the entire group would teach and learn from each other. I’d really love to take part in the one that I designed and others that I saw my peers start and design. I may not make an entire course into a MOOC, but I definitely will add aspects of MOOCs into my courses.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 29, 2012 at 12:16 am

The Power of Synchronous Online Learning

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I have been an online faculty for close to a decade.  For the past few years, my online teaching has been 100% online.  I believe in the power of the teacher-student relationship for facilitating learning.  This, admittedly, has become more difficult to achieve in my online teaching.  The majority of the instructional tools are asynchronous – discussion boards, blog posts, assignment dropboxes.  I have developed relationships through dialogue with students but not deeply enough for my liking.

Beginning Fall, 2011, I became one of several Cohort Facilitators for the Western Governors University Demonstration Teaching.  As part of my responsibilities, I meet with students one evening a week for 12 weeks while they are doing their demonstration teaching.  We meet in Adobe Connect.  I enable participant webcams so those who want can turn on their webcams.  We have anywhere from 2 to 12 (all) students on webcam during our sessions.  Each student gets the opportunity to respond to weekly prompts and to discuss successes/issues with their demonstration teaching.

Tonight was our last session.  As was true for the previous two semesters, I am very sad to see it end.  We have become a community of co-teachers and co-learners.  Students in the cohort have also expressed sadness in its conclusion.  This does not occur in online courses that utilizes only asynchronous tools.

I feel that we’ve know each other forever.  It is so great to know we are not alone in this.  I never imagined how much fun it would be.

It’s been like an unexpected treat.  I learned so much every single week.  To hear others experiences has helped tremendously.

I love coming to cohort every week – I wanted to be here every week.  It’s been so helpful.  The group has been so supportive for me.

Being part of this cohort has taught me how many right answers there are.

It was nice to know that we can ask questions and get clarifications each week, even when I just wanted to take a nap instead of going to class :).

It made me feel more connected than anything else in my online education experience.  It made me feel more normal.

It has been nice to see everyone on webcam – it was great just to see everyone.

Reflections via a Wallwisher

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 15, 2012 at 2:51 am

The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture “Publications”

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I have been writing about and presenting on Flipped Classroom Model: The Full Picture for about a year now.  The model that I propose is one where video lectures and tutorials fall within a larger framework of learning activities. I am titling it the Flipped Classroom Model to get folks’ attention given the Flipped Classroom popularity right now.  It really is a experiential cycle of learning, where the video lectures support not drive the learning process.

A major roadblock or barrier to implementing the flipped classroom is that many educators do not know what to do in the classroom with the time once spent doing lectures. For educators, who are used to and use the didactic model, a framework is needed to assist them with the implementation of the Flipped Classroom.

Along with my series of blog posts on The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture, where I provide a framework (see, I published artifacts on other online platforms.

The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture ebook on Amazon for Kindle and iBook

This ebook is an aggregate of all my blog posts available as a download for $1.99 at Amazon.  It is an estimated 88 pages and is available at  Chapters are:

  • What is the Flipped Classroom
  • Problems and Issues with the Flipped Classroom
  • The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture
  • How The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture Supports Universal Design for Learning
  • The Flipped Classroom in Higher Education
  • Mobile Learning and the Flipped Classroom; An Example Lesson
  • The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Tinkering and Maker Education

Classroom 2.0 Book Chapter

This is a chapter, my first blog post on The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture, submitted to the Classroom 2.0 Book project:

View this document on Scribd

The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture Slide Deck

This is the slidedeck I use and continue to modify for my conference and course presentations including my ISTE12 presentation and my Powerful Learning eCourse:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

July 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Higher Education

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The Flipped Classroom, as most know, has become quite the buzz in education.  Its use in higher education has been given a lot of press recently.  The purpose of this post is to:

  1. Provide background for this model of learning with a focus on its use in higher education.
  2. Identify some problems with its use and implementation that if not addressed, could become just a fading fad.
  3. Propose a model for implementation based on an experiential cycle of learning model.

Background About the Flipped Classroom

This first section provides information from various articles that describe the flipped classroom, and how it is being discussed and used in educational settings.

In its simplest terms, the flipped classroom is about viewing and/or listening to lectures during one’s own time which frees up face-to-face class time for experiential exercises, group discussion, and question and answer sessions.

It’s called “the flipped classroom.” While there is no one model, the core idea is to flip the common instructional approach.  With teacher-created videos and interactive lessons, instruction that used to occur in class is now accessed at home, in advance of class. Class becomes the place to work through problems, advance concepts, and engage in collaborative learning. Most importantly, all aspects of instruction can be rethought to best maximize the scarcest learning resource—time. Flipped classroom teachers almost universally agree that it’s not the instructional videos on their own, but how they are integrated into an overall approach, that makes the difference (The Flipped Classroom by Bill Tucker).

Several trends have converged that are influencing how classes should be taught within higher education settings.

The first is technological innovation, which has made it easier to distribute lectures by the world’s leading instructors. Some faculty members wonder whether it still makes sense to deliver a lecture when students can see the same material covered more authoritatively and engagingly—and at their own pace and on their own schedule.

At the same time, policy makers, scholars, advocacy groups, and others who seek to improve higher education want to see more evidence that students are truly learning in college.  Cognitive scientists determined that people’s short-term memory is very limited – it can only process so much at once. A lot of the information presented in a typical lecture comes at students too fast and is quickly forgotten. (How ‘Flipping’ the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture).

Physics education researchers determined that the traditional lecture-based physics course where students sit and passively absorb information is not an effective way for students to learn. A lot of students can repeat the laws of physics and even solve complex problems, but many are doing it through rote memorization. Most students who complete a standard physics class never understand what the laws of physics mean, or how to apply them to real-world situations. (

Sal Khan, of the Khan Academy, states:

There was nothing practical that anyone could do about this broken “learning” model until recently. But we can now deliver on-demand content to any student for nearly zero incremental cost. The video content can be paused and repeated as needed.  Students can focus on exactly what they need to know. They don’t have to be embarrassed to fill in remedial gaps. They don’t need to take notes. Crucially, the lectures can be given by superb communicators, with a deep, intuitive understanding of the material.

Ten years from today, students will be learning at their own pace.  The classroom will be a place for active interaction, not passive listening and daydreaming. The role of the teacher will be that of a mentor or coach as opposed to a lecturer, test writer, and grader. The institutions that will remain relevant will be those that leverage this paradigm, not fight it.

There are a number of higher education initiatives that are seeking to go beyond the lecture and flip the classroom.

Charles Prober, MD, senior associate dean for medical education at the School of Medicine, teamed with Chip Heath, PhD, a professor of organizational behavior, to design and use the Flipped Classroom with a core biochemistry course.

This year, our core biochemistry course at Stanford Medical School was redesigned following this model; rather than a standard lecture-based format, the instructors provided short online presentations. Class time was used for interactive discussions of clinical vignettes highlighting the biochemical bases of various diseases. The proportion of student course reviews that were positive increased substantially from the previous year. And the percentage of students who attended class shot up from about 30% to 80% — even though class attendance was optional (Lecture Halls without Lectures — A Proposal for Medical Education by Charles G. Prober).

Eric Mazur, a Harvard Physics teacher, has gained popularity due to changing his teaching methods.   The following are excerpts from the Harvard Magazine article, Twilight of the Lecture.

To Mazur’s consternation, the simple test of conceptual understanding showed that his students had not grasped the basic ideas of his physics course.  “In a traditional physics course, two months after taking the final exam, people are back to where they were before taking the course,” Mazur notes. “It’s shocking.”

Sitting passively and taking notes is just not a way of learning. Yet lectures are 99 percent of how we teach!

Active learners take new information and apply it, rather than merely taking note of it. Firsthand use of new material develops personal ownership. When subject matter connects directly with students’ experiences, projects, and goals, they care more about the material they seek to master.

Taking active learning seriously means revamping the entire teaching/learning enterprise—even turning it inside out or upside down. For example, active learning overthrows the “transfer of information” model of instruction, which casts the student as a dry sponge who passively absorbs facts and ideas from a teacher. This model has ruled higher education for 600 years, since the days of the medieval Schoolmen who, in their lectio mode, stood before a room reading a book aloud to the assembly—no questions permitted. The modern version is the lecture.

“I think the answer to this challenge is to rethink the nature of the college course, to consider it as a different kind of animal these days,” he continues. “A course can be a communication across time about a discrete topic, with a different temporal existence than the old doing-the-homework-for-the-lecture routine. Students now tap into a course through different media; they may download materials via its website, and even access a faculty member’s research and bio. It’s a different kind of communication between faculty and students. Websites and laptops have been around for years now, but we haven’t fully thought through how to integrate them with teaching so as to conceive of courses differently.”

Personal Experiences

I began my teaching career in the field of experiential education – the focus, obviously, is on learning by doing.  My first job in higher education was as an instructor of Outdoor Education at Unity College in Maine.  I knew from past experiences as an experiential, outdoor educator for at-risk youth, and from my desire to create classrooms that I wished I had as a student, that lectures would not be part of my classroom strategies.  Theoretical content learning would occur as homework during the students’ time. Face-to-face classroom time would be spent putting the theory into practice.  In the twenty-plus years I have been in higher education, students were given course content to review and study at home.  Since I never valued the textbook as the best means for delivering that content (they are edited books based on one or two authors’ perspectives), I started by providing them with compendiums of theme/content-related articles, later lists of web links to articles, and currently adding video lectures to those lists.  Students are not required to read nor view all of the suggested web resources. The list offers a menu of learning possibilities.  Class time, as I’ve said, is then used to put the theory into practice.  These experiences include group problem-solving and team building games, simulations, case study reviews, and group discussions.

Use and Implementation Problems with the Flipped Classroom

Two noteworthy problems exist when thinking about using the flipped classroom in higher education settings.

  1. If video lectures drive the instruction, it is just a repackaging of a more traditional model of didactic learning.  It is not a new paradigm nor pedagogy of learning.
  2. Educators need to be re-educated as to what to do with the class time that previously was used for their lectures.

Repackaging Old Paradigms

As Cathy Davidson noted in Why Flip The Classroom When We Can Make It Do Cartwheels?

In some ways, the flipped model is an improvement. Research shows that tailored tutoring is more effective than lectures for understanding, mastery, and retention. But the flipped classroom doesn’t come close to preparing students for the challenges of today’s world and workforce. As progressive educational activist Alfie Kohn notes, great teaching isn’t just about content but motivation and empowerment. Real learning gives you the mental habits, practice, and confidence to know that, in a crisis, you can count on yourself to learn something new.

The flipped classroom isn’t likely to change the world. Energized, connected, engaged, global, informed, dedicated, activist learning just might.  Transformative, connected knowledge isn’t a thing–it’s an action, an accomplishment, a connection that spins your world upside down, then sets you squarely on your feet, eager to whirl again. It’s a paradigm shift.

Harvard Professor Chris Dede stated in his Global Education 2011 keynote in response to a question directed about the flipped classroom . . .

I think that the flipped classroom is an interesting idea if you want to do learning that is largely based on presentation. You use presentation outside of the classroom. Then you do your understanding of the presentation and further steps from the presentation inside the classroom. I think it is a step forward. It is still, in my mind, the old person.  It’s still starting with presentational learning and then trying to sprinkle some learning-by-doing on top of it.  I am interested more in moving beyond the flipped classroom to learning by doing at the center than a kind of the intermediate step that still centers on largely on tacit assimilation.

What am I supposed to do with class time that was once used for lectures?

In The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture, I discussed that a problem with flipping the classroom is that educators, who are used to and trained in using class time for lectures, do not know how to transition from a lecture-based classroom to one that includes more student-centered activities.  The message being given to teachers is that when students review the lectures on their own time, the teachers now have time to do whatever they want during class time. A major roadblock or barrier to the implementation of this model is that many educators do not know what to do within the classroom, with that “whatever they want to do” time.  For educators, who are used to and use the didactic model, a framework is needed to assist them with the implementation of the Flipped Classroom.

This problem is especially relevant in higher education where faculty are hired based on their content expertise not their expertise in being facilitators of learning.

There are many reasons professors who lecture don’t want to give it up. Tradition may be the mightiest force. A lot of them are not excited about the idea that they might have to move out of their comfort zone.

Professors stick with traditional approaches because they don’t know much about alternatives. Few get training or coaching on how to teach. It’s kind of ironic that professors don’t have any type of training in any way, shape or form. It’s the only teaching degree that you don’t need to go through any actual training in teaching to do. (

The Experiential Flipped Classroom Model: Foundation

This section describes a model of flipped classroom learning that addresses the concerns just discussed.  It incorporates the use of videos and other online content in the flipped classroom fashion described by current proponents but also includes methods, strategies, and activities for the face-to-face and/or synchronous class time.

Basic Tenets

The tenets that drive The Experiential Flipped Classroom Model are:

  • The learners need to be personally connected to the topic.  Student engagement is the key to learning.  This is more likely to occur through engaging experiential activities.
  • Informal learning today is connected, instantaneous, and personalized.  Students should have similar experiences in their more formal learning environments.
  • Almost all content-related knowledge can be found online through videos, podcasts, and online interactives, and is more often better conveyed through these media than by classroom teachers.
  • Learning institutions are no longer the gatekeepers to information.  Anyone with connections to the internet has access to high level, credible content.
  • Lectures in any form, face-to-face, videos, transcribed, or podcasts, should support learning not drive it nor be central to it.
  • And from Doug Holton, “Lectures do still have a place and can be more effective if given in the right contexts, such as after (not before) students have explored something on their own (via a lab experience, simulation, game, field experience, analyzing cases, etc.) and developed their own questions and a ‘need to know.'” (
  • A menu of learning acquisition and demonstration options should be provided throughout the learning cycle.
  • The educator becomes a facilitator and tour guide of learning possibilities – offering these possibilities to the learners and then getting out of the way.

Foundational Learning Theories

Along with the tenets above, the Experiential Flipped Classroom Model has it roots in several theories.  Older models of experiential learning can be updated to include technology tools and build off of the tenets proposed for the flipped classroom model.

Experiential Learning Cycle

The Experiential Learning Cycle models emphasize that the nature of experience is of fundamental importance and concern in education and training.  It is the teacher’s responsibility to structure and organize a series of experiences which positively influence each individual’s potential future experiences.  In other words, “good experiences” motivate, encourage, and enable students to go on to have more valuable learning experiences. Experiential Learning Cycles can be seen as providing a semi-structured approach.  There is relative freedom to go ahead in activity and “experience”, but the educator also commits to structuring other stages, usually involving some form of planning or reflection, so that “raw experience” is package with facilitated cognitive (usually) thinking about the experience.  (

Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

David A. Kolb (with Roger Fry) created his famous experiential learning circle that involves (1) concrete experience followed by (2) observation and experience followed by (3) forming abstract concepts followed by (4) testing in new situations. (

For more information, see

The 4Mat System

4MAT® System is a teaching model which combines the fundamental principles of several long-standing theories of personal development with current research on human brain function and learning. 4MAT is a process for delivering instruction in a way that appeals to all types of learners and engages, informs, allows for practice and creative use of material learned within each lesson. A very important component of this method is the need for teachers/instructors to understand and present their material conceptually, presenting the big picture, and the meaning and relevance of material to be learned.  The instructional events of the 4MAT system can be divided into four categories: orientation, presentation, practice, and extension/evaluation.

See for more information about the 4MAT model.

The Experiential Flipped Classroom Model

What follows is an explanation of the Flipped Classroom Model, a model where the video lectures, screencasts, and vodcasts fall within a larger framework of learning activities.

Experiential Engagement: The Experience

The cycle often begins with an experiential exercise.  This is an authentic, often hands-on, learning activity that fully engages the student.   It is a concrete experience that calls for attention by most, if not all, the senses.  According to McCarthy, learning activities are designed that are immersive.  Learners “experience the now.”  They become hooked through and motivated by personal connection to the experience, and a desire to create meaning for and about that experience (ala constructivist learning).

These are teacher generated and facilitated.  They work best during classroom time.  These are those “what to do with the time that used to be filled with lectures” class activities.

The options for experiential engagement are limitless.   Again, the goal is to offer an engaging and authentic learning activity that introduces learners to the course topic, that creates a desire for them to want to learn more. Options include:

Facilitating experiential activities may be tricky, at first, for those who have never led them.  Experiential activities are often used for organizational development and corporate training.  As such, those new to their use can get ideas for the how-to facilitation through business related websites:

There are also some options for online courses:

Concept Exploration: The What

During this phase, learners are exposed to and learn concepts touched upon during Experiential Engagement.  They explore what the experts have to say about the topic.  Information is presented via video lecture, content-rich websites and simulations, and/or online text/readings.  In the case of the flipped classroom as it is being currently discussed, this is the time in the learning cycle when the learners view content-rich videos.  This is where and when videos are used to help students learn the abstract concepts related to the topic being covered. The role of the teacher, during this phase, is to offer the learners choices of video and related online content.

Some video archives and related online resources that may be of value in higher education include:

Teachers can also record their own lectures for student viewing.  Some tools to do so include:

(Note:  Describing the specific technologies that one can use to record one’s own lectures is not the intent of this post.  I recommend doing further research to decide which tools would be most appropriate.)

Free online courses by major universities also offer some materials that can be used to assist students in developing an understanding content-related knowledge:

Part of this phase can include an online chat for asking and addressing questions about the content presented via the videos, podcasts, websites.  Through online “chat” areas, learners can ask questions and post thoughts and opinions.   Responses can  then be provided by co-learners and educators.

  • TitanPad
  • TodaysMeet
  • Google Docs
  • Elluminate, Adobe Connect or Blackboard Collaborate Rooms with chat functions
  • Obviously, in a face-to-face setting, students can bring their questions into the real time environment where questions and answer periods become part of the in class activities.

Meaning Making: The So What

Learners reflect on their understanding of what was discovered during the previous phases.  It is a phase of deep reflection on what was experienced during the first phase and what was learned via the experts during the second phase. Learners develop skills for reflective practice through discussing, reviewing, analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing key learning through their experiential activities and exploration of expert commentaries.

I discussed the importance of reflection in a blog post, Where is reflection in the learning process?

Learners do not just receive information only at the time it is given; they absorb information in many different ways, often after the fact, through reflection. The most powerful learning often happens when students self-monitor, or reflect.

Students may not always be aware of what they are learning and experiencing. Teachers must raise students’ consciousness about underlying concepts and about their own reactions to these concepts. ETE Team

During this phase, the educator can demonstrate reflection strategies and offer choices for student reflections, but the focus should be on the learner constructing his or her understanding of the topic.  Learners can articulate and construct their understanding of the content or topic being covered through a variety of technology tools:

Within the standard school system where testing is the expectation, this would be the phase when students are tested about their understanding of the content.  If this is the case, it is recommended that the tests target higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy – evaluation, applying, synthesizing.

Demonstration and Application: The Now What

During this phase, learners get to demonstrate what they learned and apply the material in a way that makes sense to them.

When students have multiple choices in ways to demonstrate their knowledge, the evidence of their learning is more accurate. We wanted the students to actually become the experts through the learning process. This assessment isn’t just a fancy term for a presentation at the end of a unit. To actually engage in an authentic celebration is to witness a true display of student understanding. (

This goes beyond reflection and personal understanding in that learners have to create something that is individualized and extends beyond the lesson with applicability to the learners’ everyday lives. Opportunities should be provided for students to, at the very least, make concrete plans how they will use the course content in other aspects of their lives.

This is in line with the highest level of learning within Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy of Learning – Creating – whereby the learner creates a new product or point of view. In essence, they become the storytellers of their learning (See Narratives in the 21st Century: Narratives in Search of Contexts).  A list of technology-enhanced ideas/options for the celebration of learning can be found at:

Here is a slideshow of former students’ Demonstration and Application projects and presentations.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Examples included:

  • A ten commandments of teaching strategies.
  • A calendar where each month had reminders of application ideas.
  • A Minecraft video of what was learned and how it is being applied in his life.
  • A Medicine Wheel by a Zuni student about how the course concepts applied to the Native American culture.

Flipped Classroom Full Picture: An Example Lesson

An example on how this model was used in a blended undergraduate course can be found at Flipped Classroom Full Picture: An Example Lesson.


The Flipped Classroom offers a great use of technology – especially if it gets lecture out of the classrooms and into the hands and control of the learners.  As it is being discussed, it is part of a larger picture of teaching and learning.  The Flipped Classroom videos have a place in the models and cycles of learning proposed by educational psychologists and  instructional designers.  Providing educators with a full framework of how the Flipped Classroom can be used in their educational settings will increase its validity for educators and their administrators.

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

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

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

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

Real Time, Current, and Authentic Knowledge

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

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

Networked Learning

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 11, 2010 at 1:12 am

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