User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Posts Tagged ‘passion-based learning

Vision for the Future: The Other 21st Century Skills

with 3 comments

Due to the interest of my post The Other 21st Skills, I decided to individually discuss each of the skills or dispositions I proposed that are in addition to the seven survival skills as identified by Tony Wagner.  This post focuses on vision for the future.

2013-05-22_1407Having a vision for the future is an natural extension of Hope and Optimism, another 21st century skill I proposed.  A vision for the future enhances hope and optimism. To clarify, having a vision for the future is identifying and taking steps toward fulfilling one’s dream.  It goes beyond and is qualitatively different than identifying what one wants to be when one grows up or thinking about college.  It is about dreams.

The following excerpt was from my post, Dream-Driven Education. . . Seth Godin in Stop Stealing Dreams states:

Have we created a trillion-dollar, multimillion-student, sixteen-year schooling cycle to take our best and our brightest and snuff out their dreams—sometimes when they’re so nascent that they haven’t even been articulated? Is the product of our massive schooling industry an endless legion of assistants? The century of dream-snuffing has to end. The real shortage we face is dreams, and the wherewithal and the will to make them come true. We’re facing a significant emergency, one that’s not just economic but cultural as well. The time to act is right now, and the person to do it is you.

We can teach them not to care; that’s pretty easy. But given the massive technological and economic changes we’re living through, do we have the opportunity to teach productive and effective caring? Can we teach kids to care enough about their dreams that they’ll care enough to develop the judgment, skill, and attitude to make them come true? (http://www.squidoo.com/stop-stealing-dreams)

I propose that educators take a proactive stance to move from a system that may steal kids’ dreams to one that promotes the actualization of learner dreams. I have a dream today and everyday that education can become a conduit through which learners are provided with the time, knowledge, strategies, and tools to make their own dreams come true.   We are living in an era that education can be passion-based and dream-driven.  In this context, the role of the educator becomes that of dream-facilitator.

The dreams we need are self-reliant dreams. We need dreams based not on what is but on what might be. We need students who can learn how to learn, who can discover how to push themselves and are generous enough and honest enough to engage with the outside world to make those dreams happen. (http://www.squidoo.com/stop-stealing-dreams)

2014-01-19_1529Some of the characteristics of a vision for the future include:

  • Vision for one’s own dream.
  • Identifying and taking steps to achieve one’s dream.
  • Finding and connecting with a like minded community.
  • Reflecting on progress towards achieving one’s dream.

Identifying Visions

One of the first tasks of the educator as a dream-facilitator is to discover and help his/her learners discover their dreams, passions, and interests. The message given to the learners can be something in line with the following:

Visions must be about your deepest dreams of what you want when you listen to you heart.  You can’t dream about toys or things we buy that only make you happy for a few minutes.  You must use your heart to imagine yourself creating a happy life –  what you want to do, who you want to be, and how you can help others. (adapted from http://glad.is/article/create-a-vision-board/)

Some guiding questions to help learners identify and articulate their dreams include:

  • Given no restrictions, what would you like to do in your spare time?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and be or do anything you want, what would it be?
  • In one year from now, 10 years from now, what would you like to be doing that would make you happy?
  • What would your life be like if it were perfect?

Learners can be provided with a choice with how they answer theses questions: verbal or written responses, video or audio recording, or a drawing. Erin Little, a 5th-6th grade teacher, had here students blog about these questions.  Here are some example blogs:

An extension of this activity might be asking learners to create a vision board (see Vision Boards for Kids and Visions & Values for Kids).  Technology could be used for this process by giving students the opportunity to create a Glog or an Animoto of images that symbolizes their dreams.

20% Time or Genius Hour

Classroom time can be set aside for students to spend time with and work towards their dreams and visions.  Genius hour and/or 20% time is being implemented in many classrooms for this purposte:

For more information about Genius Hour and 20% time, see:

Student-Driven Personal Learning Networks

Support systems or personal learning networks could then be established based on grouping learners with similar dreams.  The group would act as cheerleaders, support-providers, progress-checkers, and resource providers for one another.   One of the group’s learning activities could focus on expanding their personal learning networks to include folks with similar dreams who they locate via social networks like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other social networks.

Reflection

Dreams will only come try if actions are taken to achieve them.  As such, the educator should facilitate a method for learners to reflect on progress towards their dreams.

  • What did you do today, this week to achieve your dreams?
  • What obstacles are you having or foresee having in progress towards your dream?  How can you overcome your obstacles?
  • What resources did you locate that can help you fulfill your dreams?

Blogging or micro-blogging (e.g. Twitter) could be used for this reflective process.

As a parting shot about young people and their dreams, here is a short film by high school student, Sam Fathallah. The asked his classmates to write their dreams out on a transparent whiteboard.

. . . and for those who just want some additional inspiration, Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams . . .

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 19, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Is It Project-Based Learning, Maker Education or Just Projects?

with one comment

2013-10-21_2027

Zak Malamed of StuVoice.Org mentioned in a student voice panel that when given projects by teachers to complete, it was often just another “thing” to get done, just like a paper or worksheet.  I have seen lessons shared by teachers that they called Project-Based Learning, Inquiry Learning, or Maker Education, but upon close examination they appear to be another form of direct instruction with a hands-on activity thrown into the mix. These activities had no connections and very limited relevancy to the real lives of students.  Students using scissors, markers, drawings, or a Web 2.0 tool does not make a PBL or Maker Education curricular unit.

Just because it’s hands-on doesn’t mean it’s minds-on. Many projects, problems, situations, and field trips do not yield lasting and transferable learning because too little attention is given to the meta-cognitive and idea-building work that turns a single experience into insight and later application. Grant Wiggin’s Experiential Learning

As noted in the TLC High School Google site in Projects” vs. Project Based Learning’s What’s the difference or are they the same?

Projects done in school are usually the result of learning students have done. The typical approach is to learn about a topic through readings, worksheets, direct teacher instruction, then to create a project that demonstrates the learning that has occurred through the unit.

Project Based Learning is an approach that guides the learning, through driving questions and student inquiry, to uncover or discover the information needed to answer a question, solve a problem/mystery, or invent/create something new.  In Project Based Learning, the project is not simply the visible result or culmination of the learning, but rather the cause of the learning.

This got me thinking about the necessary conditions for implementing PBL or Maker Education as a viable and effective instructional strategy.  The guiding questions I developed are:

  • Does the educator have a deep understanding the philosophical principles and theoretical underpinnings of the instructional strategy?
  • Is there an authentic and relevant context directly related to the students’ lives?
  • Does the educator incorporate student voice and interests in its conception and development?
  • In its implementation, do the students have permission and freedom to go in a direction that interests them?
  • In its implementation, does the teacher fade into the background with students coming into the foreground of thinking, doing, and discussing?
  • Are there the venues, space, time, strategies for reflection so students can construct their own meanings and understandings?

Does the educator have a deep understanding the philosophical principles and theoretical underpinnings of the instructional strategy?

In order to use any instructional technique effectively, the teacher needs to understand the fundamental principles and assumptions upon which the specific technique is based (http://www.adprima.com/strategi.htm). Educators should go through a process of learning, understanding, and articulating the theory and guiding principles of a new teaching strategy-framework when considering the use of the strategy in their own classrooms.

Grant Wiggins recommends asking students the following questions about their learning within an experiential framework, but educators could benefit from also addressing these questions in determining and developing PBL and Maker Education curriculum:

Free and accessible content on the Internet provides educators with a variety and full range of opportunities to learn about the instructional strategies being considered for implementation in the classroom.

Resources for Project-Based Learning:

Resources For Maker Education:

Is there an authentic and relevant context directly related to the students’ lives?

The topics, content, and processes being introduced to students need to be relevant to the students themselves.  It needs to have a context within their lives.  School curriculum often presents content in these bits and pieces of facts and knowledge that are un- and disconnected to anything related to the students’ prior knowledge and life experiences.  Because of this disconnectedness, this content often floats away.  A relevant, current, and timely context provides students with the stickiness needed to make the content relevant, deep, and long lasting.

Contemporary views on learning see it as an active and recursive process. This perspective is driven by greater recognition of the pivotal role of the ‘learning context’ in knowledge construction and understanding. This is the constructivist perspective on learning. It is grounded in the belief that learning and cognition are most potent when situated within a meaningful context, and within the culture and the community within which learners live. (http://pcf4.dec.uwi.edu/learning.php)

“In education we provide problems separate from the relevance or the context in which they need to be used.” Ntiedo Etuk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC_T9ePzANg#t=345)

Without meaningful context and sensible processes, learning can become, well, merely academic. The learning system of the 21st century must be designed to deliver the right content via the right processes in the right context. The definition of “right” is whatever gives learners access to their own skills, creativity, and success. What works today could be obsolete in six months, so we must focus on creating opportunities for self-generated, relevant learning that allows people to discover avenues for self-empowerment in the future (http://www.fastcompany.com/73376/how-learning-relevant-me).

Project-Based Learning and Maker Education, when effectively implemented, have the potential to establish relevancy.  Hands-on, experiential activities, the uses of all senses, a sense of play and fun, and immediate and authentic feedback are natural elements of these instructional strategies. They are multisensory, multidisciplinary, and multidimensional increasing the chances to be seen as relevant by the students.

Because the educator has the background knowledge and skills related to the PBL or Maker Education curriculum being implemented, s/he can clearly address each of the following questions:

Add to this mix student voice and choice (see next section), then relevancy can be almost assured.

Does the educator incorporate student voice and interests in curricular conception and development?

If the educator develops the guiding questions, the methods of exploration and inquiry, and the expected outcomes, then it is the teacher’s project not the students’.  The students still may be interested in the lesson, but the ownership is still that of the teacher.

Effective PBL and Maker Education are often driven by guiding or essential questions.  If the educator is serious about students voice, then s/he will involve students in generating these questions.  As I discussed in Learners Should Be Developing Their Own Essential Questions:

The most important questions of all are those asked by students as they try to make sense out of data and information. These are the questions which enable students to make up their own minds. Powerful questions – smart questions, if you will – are the foundation for information power, engaged learning and information literacy. ( (http://fno.org/oct97/question.html)

. . . and if students are helping to generate the guiding questions for the PBL or Maker Education curricular unit, then it follows that their interests, passions, and wonderings will also be incorporated

As both PBL and Maker-Education are process-oriented instructional strategies, these questions should be re-visited throughout the process by the students to see if they need to be changes, revised, or re-generated.

In its implementation, do the students have permission and freedom to go in a direction that interests them?

PBL and Maker Education entails the educator becoming a tour guide of learning possibilities; showing the students the learning opportunities and then getting out of the way.  This translates into letting go of expected products or outcomes; letting the learning process naturally go in the directions that students take them; expecting and embracing failure as learning opportunities; and listening to and validating student suggestions.

In its implementation, does the teacher fade into the background with students coming into the foreground of thinking, doing, and discussing?

Another one of my beliefs about good education is that the students should be doing more talking, doing, and thinking than the teacher during instructional time.  This literally means the educator becomes the guide on the side and the observer from the back.  Students naturally emerge as co-learners and peer tutors as the PBL and Maker Education learning activities evolve when they given the permission and freedom to do so.

Are there the venues, space, time, strategies for reflection so students can construct their own meanings and understandings?

PBL and Maker Education, when done “right”, become discovery-based learning leading to students constructing their own understandings and meaning.  It is a constructivist approach to learning.

Discovery learning is an inquiry-based, constructivist learning theory that takes place in problem solving situations where the learner draws on his or her own past experience and existing knowledge to discover facts and relationships and new truths to be learned. Students interact with the world by exploring and manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and controversies, or performing experiments. As a result, students may be more more likely to remember concepts and knowledge discovered on their own. (http://www.learning-theories.com/discovery-learning-bruner.html)

Incorporating reflection into the instructional process with the goal of articulating learning insights helps insure that learning is not left up to change.   Moon points out the conditions for reflection include time and space, a good facilitator, a supportive curricular, and an emotionally supportive environment (https://sites.google.com/site/reflection4learning/why-reflect).  It needs to be intentionally built into the curriculum and as with all aspects of instruction, student voice is the primary voice during the reflection process.  To read more on the reflection process, visit Where is reflection in the learning process?

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 22, 2013 at 3:18 am

It’s All About Connection

leave a comment »

A good amount of education-related social media in the past few months has focused in being a connected educator.  The context of these discussions is about the educator being connected to other educators via social networks and developing their personal learning networks.

But the primary, most important aspect of a connected educator is one who connects deeply and authentically with each and every student in his/her class.  As Rita Pierson notes in her powerful Ted Talk, Every Child Needs a Champion:

Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.  Teachers should leave legacies of relationships that can’t disappear.

Sir Ken Robinson also discusses the importance of the student-teacher relationship in Why We Need to Reform Education Now.

To improve our schools, we have to humanize them and make education personal to every student and teacher in the system. Education is always about relationships. Great teachers are not just instructors and test administrators. They are mentors, coaches, motivators, and lifelong sources of inspiration to their students.

All young people have unique talents and interests. In his moving poem, Malcolm London argues that education has to connect with the real lives of young people and not stifle their hopes and dreams.

To do so, teachers need to become a type of ethnographer of their students, which I discuss in more detail in Teaching as a Human – Humane Process.

As teachers know, every class they teach is different, every student in each of these classes is different and unique.  Good teaching entails seeing (really seeing) every student in the classroom, getting to know each of them as the individuals they really are and deserve to be. (Disclaimer:  I know this is difficult, if not impossible, for educator who work with hundreds of students at any given time.)

The teacher as an ethnography gets to know individual students as individuals, being able to assess what the student needs when.  Teaching as a human-humane process translates to knowing when to push, when to pull back, when to ignore, when to encourage, when to praise, when to critique, when to challenge, when to nurture, when to cheer, when to show love.

Being fair with students is not about providing all students with equal treatment at all times.  This actually leads to unfair treatment of students as they are individuals and are not like widgets – equal in all respects.  It also acknowledges and honors that individual students differ from day to day, sometimes minute to minute as they continue to learn, grasp concepts, change moods, change relationships, and to grow.  This translates into continually assessing individual learner needs and offering them what you think they need to grow and learn at any given moment.

The result are those light bulb moments, when a learner “gets it” – understands something that s/he has struggled to understand, when his or her self-efficacy rises, when a learner realizes s/he is smarter than previously believed – it is these moments that are the most meaningful for me as an educator.

2013-05-06_1819

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 7, 2013 at 12:45 am

What Are You Doing to Inspire Your Learners’ Moonshot Thinking?

leave a comment »

Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people. — Seth Godin

From the video:

We are a species of moonshot thinking – People can set their minds to magical, seemingly impossible ideas and bring them to reality through innovation, science, and technology.  This sets others on fire.

Human progress has been a series of amazing, audacious things, Our ambitions are a glass ceiling in what we can accomplish. When you find your passion you are unstoppable. You can make amazing things happen. It has been true through history. I believe in the human spirit.

If we become afraid to take these risks, we stop inspiring people, we stop achieving things. The biggest nightmare scenario is that we won’t have what it takes to solve the really big challenges.

Moonshot thinking is actually an “invention” of Google’s Solve for X project. It’s general ideas and concepts, though, have application to being an educator and encouraging learners to engage in moonshot thinking.  Here are some of the general concepts and principles that have application across disciplines.

Moonshots live in the gray area between audacious projects and pure science fiction; they are 10x improvement, not 10%. That’s partly what makes them so exciting.

Moonshots can come from anywhere—people of all ages and places, companies, academia, inspired experts, enthusiastic newcomers, and often from accidental discoveries. (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/whats-your-x-amplifying-technology.html)

Our society has many ways of telling us to play it safe: We say “walk before you run,” “slow and steady wins the race,” “under-promise and over-deliver.” In repeating these mantras we’re not training ourselves to think big. I’m a father to four kids, so it bothers me that even though our children think big naturally, our society systematically trains them out of thinking that way.

Not all moonshots have to be about technology. Gandhi’s Salt March or the struggle for civil rights in the United States are examples of social moonshots.

Why focus on moonshot thinking? Isn’t it enough to work harder to collectively solve problems to make the progress we need?  Actually, no, not really. Because we might be solving the wrong problems.  These moonshots aren’t just for the few experts in some moonshot inner circle.

What if we could replace all that effort on the wrong problem with the bravery to change the very question itself? (Also see Learners Should Be Developing Their Own Essential Questions). Often, if you step back and apply enough audacity and creativity, the new perspective you get makes doing the impossible, possible

These moonshots aren’t just for the few experts in some moonshot inner circle. All of us can come up with solutions for society’s most intractable issues. We can train ourselves to make moonshot thinking not an occasional thing but a habit of mind. No one really knew how to build an airplane when they decided to build the first airplane — but they kept going and achieved it. We can ask the same hard, slightly crazy questions of our own and declare our own moonshots as individuals and as groups. (http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/02/moonshots-matter-heres-how-to-make-them-happen/)

Being Epic

In my presentations, I always state that learning should be filled with epic wins.  The idea of moonshot thinking is directly related to epic learning, doing, and being.

Epic doesn’t rely upon a prefabricated blueprint (although it soaks up as much learning as it can from whatever blueprints are out there). Epic understands that it has to go someplace new, feeling its way through uncharted territory by the light of its own intuition.

Epic is an artist, bringing all of its values to work, pushing the extremes of personality, slapping a soulprint on the world.

Epic is about bringing it.

Epic is about showing unique value.

Epic is about provoking and illuminating and being insanely useful and reaching people emotionally and shifting the paradigm a lot or a little.

Epic is scary. It moves you outside your comfort zone. Instead of following a leader, you are the leader, and the only thing to follow is the voice at your core, your actions and mistakes and triumphs and feedback. http://justinemusk.com/2013/04/19/6-observations-about-writing-epic-shit/

Marsha Ratzel, a National Board-certified teacher in the Blue Valley School District in Kansas, discusses the results of transforming her classroom into an epic learning journey.

My students are willing to take on hard tasks and don’t always want the easy way out. I just told one of my kids the other day: we are the kind of people who do the hard stuff now, and if we wanted it easy we would have looked it up in a book. Instead we have developed confidence in each other, and we want to discover the answers for ourselves. My students “get” that learning is a process. And while they may encounter moments where something doesn’t turn out the way they expected, they know how to change that into something positive. If students have a better idea than the one I present, they ask me to change things up. We co-create and co-learn with each other.

I feel that I’m a totally different teacher. This style of coaching learners allows me to find the Zone. You know — that place where you just “do” teaching. It’s probably not something I can explain very well if you haven’t experienced it. But maybe it’s happened to you in some situation where you took on a challenge — a sport, a hobby, even having a child. When you start out, just like in mountain biking, it’s all a technical undertaking. Small problems are magnified. Now, instead of being confounded by a narrow trail, rocks and too much sand, I have developed a natural sense of just how to take those trails. More importantly, my students know how to avoid spinouts as well. They’ve learned along with me.

Once you’ve tasted this kind of teaching — seen students learn so much more in your classes than they ever have learned before — then the fun of it, the reward of it, is so great that you strive to get back into this kind of flow every time you walk into the classroom. It changes the way you do lesson design. You look for the same content, but you’re imagining different approaches that make it student centered. Now it’s less about the teacher talking or showing how and more of the kiddos doing.

In the Classroom

Living is this time and age, we all have the potential, voice, and tools to create a world based our own ideas, dreams, and passions . . .  to be audacious and epic.

How do educators convey this message, promote this way of thinking, and teach learning how to learn skills to facilitate this way of being?  What follows are the beginnings of some questions I developed to initiate and encourage a dialogue (internally and/or with colleagues) about moonshot thinking and being epic.

  • Can you, as the educator, approach teaching open-ended, not with the end in mind, but open to all kinds of possibilities and outcomes?
  • How is innovation and disruption described and discussed with your learners?
  • What examples do you show learners about innovators and innovation?
  • Do you assist your learners in finding, seeking, exploring, and developing their passions?
  • Do you permit, encourage, and celebrate authentic efforts even when they fail?
  • How do you facilitate epic learning and wins in the classroom?
  • Finally (maybe most important) – what amazing and audacious ideas do you, as the educator, have to change the lives of your learners and education?  What actions have you taken to try out those ideas?

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 21, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Ice Breaker: What Do You Wonder About?

with 2 comments

The Four Quadrant Poster is the newest activity added to Technology-Enhanced Social Emotional Activities.  I love using this activity as an icebreaker for students to get to know one another and to provide me, as the educator, with a lot of information about student interests, passions, and thoughts.

Goals:

  • To provide a forum for learners to explore and identify their learning interests, strengths, and personal wonderment.
  • To help learners get to know one another.
  • To provide educators with diagnostic information about each of their learners.

Materials:

  • Hands-on: One 8″ x 8″ piece of cardboard or plywood per learner, lots of paint and paint brushes; paper and markers
  • Technology-Based: Google Presentation doc shared so each learner can each have a slide; Internet access to find images and/or mobile devices so learners can take images.

Procedures:

  • Explain to learners that they will be creating a four quadrant poster that includes images or symbols that represent the following:
    • Quadrant One – The thing you do best
    • Quadrant Two – Best learning experience ever
    • Quadrant Three – The most fun thing you’ve ever done
    • Quadrant Four – One thing you wonder about
  • The following slide can be used as a template.

2013-02-09_1242

  • For the hands-on version, provide learners with poster board or plywood and paints/brushes.
  • Here are some examples:

IMG_1316

Fifth grader Marc believes he is best at writing, finds art to be his best learning experience, being with girls to be the most fun and also wonders about girls :)

IMG_1314

Second grader, Jeff believes he is best at computers and finds computers to be his best learning experience. Playing with friends is his most fun thing and he wonders about sunsets.

  • Once done, tell learners that they will then present their posters to their peers.  To prepare for this sharing phase, distribute blank paper and markers.  Help learners divide paper into blocks equal to the number of students in the class and to put names of their peers as labels for the blocks; one peer’s name per block.  Explain that as their peers share, they are to sketch into the blocks the one quadrant that they find most interesting.   See example:

IMG_1318

  • Note/Reflection: The act of orally sharing one’s poster can be a powerful experience.  It was time for one of the fifth grade boys, John, to share his poster.  He was a blend-in-the-woodwork type of kid – not popular, not ridiculed, just kind of ignored.  He got to his fourth quadrant.  He had painted a picture of a man with a jet propelled backpack.  He stated that he wondered when humans will fly on their own.  Several of the boys at the same time spontaneously yelled out, “cool”.  The look of pleasure on John’s face when they did so was priceless.)

Technology-Based Option

  • For a technology-based option, set up a Google Presentation so that there is a slide for each learner.  Ask learners to locate or take photos to represent each quadrant.  They can use their mobile devices to take photos or find copyright available images online.  Here is an example:

  • Learners can use a Google Spreadsheet to record information about each peer’s Four Quadrant poster.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 10, 2013 at 3:50 am

Dream-Driven Education

with 3 comments

2013-02-03_1137

Seth Godin in Stop Stealing Dreams states:

Have we created a trillion-dollar, multimillion-student, sixteen-year schooling cycle to take our best and our brightest and snuff out their dreams—sometimes when they’re so nascent that they haven’t even been articulated? Is the product of our massive schooling industry an endless legion of assistants? The century of dream-snuffing has to end. The real shortage we face is dreams, and the wherewithal and the will to make them come true. We’re facing a significant emergency, one that’s not just economic but cultural as well. The time to act is right now, and the person to do it is you.

We can teach them not to care; that’s pretty easy. But given the massive technological and economic changes we’re living through, do we have the opportunity to teach productive and effective caring? Can we teach kids to care enough about their dreams that they’ll care enough to develop the judgment, skill, and attitude to make them come true? (http://www.squidoo.com/stop-stealing-dreams)

I propose that educators take a proactive stance to move from a system that may steal kids’ dreams to one that promotes the actualization of learner dreams. I have a dream today and everyday that education can become a conduit through which learners are provided with the time, knowledge, strategies, and tools to make their own dreams come true.   We are living in an era that education can be passion-based and dream-driven.  In this context, the role of the educator becomes that of dream-facilitator.

The dreams we need are self-reliant dreams. We need dreams based not on what is but on what might be. We need students who can learn how to learn, who can discover how to push themselves and are generous enough and honest enough to engage with the outside world to make those dreams happen. (http://www.squidoo.com/stop-stealing-dreams)

One of the first tasks of the educator as a dream-facilitator is to discover and help his/her learners discover their dreams, passions, and interests.  Some guiding questions to help learners identify and articulate their dreams include:

  • Given no restrictions, what would you like to do in your spare time?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and be or do anything you want, what would it be?
  • In one year from now, 10 years from now, what would you like to be doing that would make you happy?
  • What would your life be like if it were perfect?

Learners can be provided with a choice with how they answer theses questions: verbal or written responses, video or audio recording, or a drawing.  An extension of this activity might be asking learners to create a vision board (see Vision Boards for Kids and Visions & Values for Kids).  Technology could be used for this process by giving students the opportunity to create a Glog or an Animoto of images that symbolizes their dreams.

Support systems or personal learning networks could then be established based on grouping learners with similar dreams.  The group would act as cheerleaders, support-providers, progress-checkers, and resource providers for one another.   One of the group’s learning activities could focus on expanding their personal learning networks to include folks with similar dreams who they locate via social networks like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other social networks.

Dreams will only come try if actions are taken to achieve them.  As such, the educator should facilitate a method for learners to reflect on progress towards their dreams.

  • What did you do today, this week to achieve your dreams?
  • What obstacles are you having or foresee having in progress towards your dream?  How can you overcome your obstacles?
  • What resources did you locate that can help you fulfill your dreams?

Blogging or micro-blogging (e.g. Twitter) could be used for this reflective process.

My parting shot to my pre-service teachers as they enter the world of teaching is to always remember why they became teachers in the first place.  I encourage them to ask themselves each day of teaching, “What did I do today to leave a positive legacy for and with my learners?” I propose that all educators should regularly ask themselves this question.  I believe that by facilitating dream-driven education, they will have a positive response to this question.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 4, 2013 at 2:05 am

Social Media a Cause: Learning Activity

leave a comment »

Education-quotes-The-function-of-education-is-to-teach-one-to-think-intensively-and-to-think-critically.-Intelligence-plus-character-that-is-the-goal-of-true-education.

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

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

Kids are bored and disengaged during school time.

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

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

iz_wynjg80s5-htsrgreoghttp://thegallupblog.gallup.com/2013/01/the-school-cliff-student-engagement.html

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

However defined, boredom is a temporary form of dis-engaging from school; it is important for schools to understand both the extent of students’ boredom and the reasons why students are bored. HSSSE asked two direct questions about boredom: “Have you ever been bored in class in high school?” and “If you have been bored in class, why?” Two out of three respondents (66%) in 2009 are bored at least every day in class in high school; nearly half of the students (49%) are bored every day and approximately one out of every six students (17%) are bored in every class. Those students who claimed they were ever bored (98%), the material being taught was an issue: more than four out of five noted a reason for their boredom as “Material wasn’t interesting” (81%) and about two out of five students claimed that the lack of relevance of the material (42%) caused their boredom. www.indiana.edu/~ceep/hssse/images/HSSSE_2010_Report.pdf

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

Young people are engaged in social activism outside of school time.

But young people are engaged and find meaningful learning outside of school time through their social networks.

For all we hear about “kids these days” and their irresponsible use of social media−posting questionable pictures of themselves or letting Twitter corrode their ability to hold a thought for more than a nanosecond−it turns out that most are using it to express a genuine passion for changing the world around them. And they’re succeeding. And these trends extend well beyond the U.S. In other countries shows similar interests in contributing to larger causes. China’s young adults for instance, lead the world in online political discussions and offline they donate the most money to charities. India’s younger generation ranks the first in the world when it comes to staying informed, and they’re the most optimistic about the impact their activism has on the world around them.  It seems that our youngest generation of adults are the ones leading the charge when it comes to effectively making a difference. http://news.yahoo.com/kids-social-media-created-generation-activists-083812969.html

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

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

TakePart-future-of-social-activism-c5

http://columnfivemedia.com/work-items/takepart-infographic-2012-social-activism/

Are Millennials Using Technology for Good?

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

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

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

“The idea is to invite them to try on this role,” he adds. “It’s having courage and compassion, taking risks, showing perseverance, crossing lines of difference, mobilizing and working with others.” (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/01/young-peacemakers/?hp)

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

Goal

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

Procedures

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

2013-01-21_1543

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

Extension

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

Example

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

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

  • Created a website, HSAAPAAT, to promote their cause

2013-02-25_1453

  • Made a video

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 21, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Providing Opportunities for Learners to Tell Their Stories

with 2 comments

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

A Film by High School Student, Sam Fathallah

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

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

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

We must think about how technology, content, and knowledge of learning and teaching can be creatively combined to enhance education and ignite students’ passion, imagination, and desire to constantly learn about — and make sense of — the world around them. http://chronicle.com/article/How-to-Connect-Technology-and/24884/

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is an example learner talk:

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

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

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

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 20, 2013 at 1:58 am

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

leave a comment »

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

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

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

http://legoexternal.23video.com/

To summarize, the key areas of the change nature of play as identified by Lego are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This pretty much sums it up . . .

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

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 12, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Addressing Sandy Hook (and other tragedies) in the Classroom

with 5 comments

For several years I was the director of a program that went into the local public schools to lead grief and loss counseling groups.  There were about 10 facilitators running about 33 groups in elementary, middle, and high schools.  The kids in the groups had experienced some form of loss.  For example, I ran a group for middle school students who were in a bus crash on the way home from a ski trip.  Two of their friends and one chaperone were killed in the crash.  Another group I led was composed of elementary students who lost a parent due to some form of violence.

Through running these groups I learned the following:

  • Many young people do want to talk about the death of their loved ones and death in general.  Adults, often through their own discomfort and with best intentions, shut them down believing it is better not to have these types of discussions.
  • Young people feel as many adults do in these situations: angry, sad, scared, powerless.  As with adults, they sometimes need assistance identifying and expressing these feelings.
  • As with adults, young people want to do something to overcome feelings of powerless.

As a teacher educator and former classroom teacher, I believe that world events should be addressed in the classroom.  Students know what has happened, and as with us, as educators, these events often weigh heavily on them. Learning activities can help students cope with their thoughts and emotions . . . and as Angela Maiers states in There Is No Lesson Plan For Tragedy – Teachers YOU Know What To Do:

The people who will have the biggest influence on how our country will heal and who will bear the biggest responsibility for making it whole again are sitting right in front of you.

The activities to address events such as Sandy Hook depend on the age of the students (not for younger kids), the climate of the school, the make-up and temperament of the particular class, and parental attitudes (parent permission forms may be in order).  They should also be offered to students whereby any student or even the entire class can choose to pass from doing the activity.  Students who choose to pass can be given alternative work to do.

Here are some possible activities:

  • Sharing Circle: Have a morning circle or group to offer students the opportunity to discuss how they feel about the event. Feelings cards can be used to help students identify feelings (they work with all ages).  This is not a forum to discussed the details of what happened.  The news does enough of this.  The focus is on feelings.
  • Sympathy Cards:  Have students create, individually or as a group, sympathy cards for the families who were affected. (Sympathy cards for Sandy Hook can be sent to Sandy Hook elementary School, 12 Dickenson Drive, Sandy Hook, CR 06482-1218.  The school colors are green and white.)
  • Have students individually or in small groups create memorial posters.

525863_4832179039493_382257347_n      17801_213697482099068_1302113630_n

  • Show and discuss some of the initiatives that have been established to help the community affected.  For example for Sandy Hook, see Help for victims of Sandy Hook.  See if students want to help in any way.
  • Create a website in memory of those lost, creating pages for each person lost.
  • For older and more students – have a debate or a Socratic Seminar about gun control using statistics, a review of laws, and other data to inform the debate or seminar.
  • Peer Counseling:  Have students develop a plan to help another student who is in distressed.  Teach, demonstrate, and practice peer counseling skills.

Doing these activities can be a scary and risky proposition.  I understand that.  If an educator chooses to do these type of activities, s/he needs to stay grounded and calm, and have the ability to cope and deal with what may come up from the students.

A student may react strongly from a given activity.  I believe this student had all those feelings stored up already and that this may be an opportunity to provide some needed help.  A school counselor or psychologist can help in this situation.

If education is about preparing students to be active and contributing citizens, then world events shouldn’t be shut out and ignored.  As horrible as they are, they become teachable moments for students to feel that they count and can make a difference.  Activities such as the ones described can help students heal and give students the opportunity to help heal the world.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 16, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 17,059 other followers

%d bloggers like this: