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Resilience: The Other 21st Century Skills

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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 resiliency.  The first post focused on Grit:  The Other 21st Century Skills.  Some would categorize Grit and Resiliency as the same skill, but it is my belief they are involve two different, but interconnected, skill sets.  While grit focuses on persistence, resilience is about bouncing back in the face of challenges and/or failure.


Some of characteristics or dispositions of Resilience include:

  • Bouncing Back
  • Managing Emotions
  • Awareness of Strengths and Assets
  • Passion-Driven Focus
  • Resourcefulness
  • Sense of Personal Agency
  • Ability to Reach Out to Others
  • Problem-Solving Skills


Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone. (The Road to Resilience)

Resiliency is not one specific thing, but a combination of skills and positive attributes that people gain from their life experiences and relationships. These attributes help them solve problems, cope with challenges and bounce back from disappointments.

Personal resiliency is about our assets – the resources, attributes and skills that help us recover from negative events or feelings, cope with challenges and adversity, and look after ourselves when things aren’t going well. (Kids Can Cope: Parenting at Home and at School)

Resilience research clearly reveals the following key points:

  • All individuals have the power to transform and change
  • Teachers and schools have the power to transform lives
  • It’s how teachers do what they do that counts
  • Teachers’ beliefs in innate capacity start the change process

A common finding in resilience research is the power of a teacher–often unbeknown to him or her–to tip the scale from risk to resilience. Werner and Smith (1989) found that, “Among the most frequently encountered positive role models in the lives of the children . . . outside of the family circle, was a favorite teacher.” The approaches, or “strategies,” used by these turnaround teachers provide a set of best practices or benchmarks to guide our work in classrooms and schools. Repeatedly, these mentors are described as providing, in their own personal styles and ways, the protective factors.

  • Caring Relationships which includes loving support, respect, compassion.  The bottom line is that learners are provided with a sense of “You Matter”  (see Angela Maiers initiative YouMatter)
  • High Expectations which includes belief in the learners’ innate resilience and self-righting capacities; challenge-with-support messages (“I know your can do this”); guidance without coercion; and a strengths-focus
  • Opportunities for Participation and Contribution which is facilitated by giving learners opportunities for being responsible for self and others; for reflection and critical thinking, for mastery learning and creative expression

(From Risk to Resiliency from Bonnie Bernard)

Research by Werner, Bernard and others indicate that one fo the major contributing factors towards resiliency is a positive relationship with an adult.  Optimally it should be a parent.  But if the parent is not available for any reason, it can be a teacher or coach.

Ways that educators can connect with learners include:

  • Finding one on one time with learners – during group work time, walking to lunch or specials, during recess, etc.
  • Listen deeply and attentively to what the learners have to say.
  • Insure that each and every learner knows “You Matter”
  • Enjoy being with the students.  If you don’t care deeply about them, then I believe there is problem.  I have said and will continue to say to my pre-service teachers, if you don’t love them find another profession.

Given the skills that promote resiliency, it is also the educator’s responsibility to:

  • Build a sense of community in the classroom;
  • Give students the opportunity to ask for help;
  • Give learners the opportunity to assist one another during difficult and challenging learning activities;
  • Honor, encourage, and reinforce the expression of feelings;
  • Encourage and reinforce learners’ own innate resiliency;
  • Promote and teach learners how to be assertive;
  • Ask learners to be accountable for their behavior – both positive and negative;
  • Normalize failure – teach learners how to reflect on their failures as opportunities for growth;
  • Help learners recognize and change negative, self-defeating self-talk;
  • Teach and help learners cope with stress.

If you, as an educator, take one idea from this post, let it be that working to maintain a positive and significant relationship with learners is the most important way to contribute to their resiliency.

Parting message to educators:

The key point from resilience research is that successful development and transformative power exists not in programs per se but at the deeper level of relationships, beliefs and expectations, and willingness to share power.

Relax, have fun, and trust the process! Working from your own innate resilience and well-being engages the innate resilience and well-being of our students. Thus, teaching becomes much more effortless and enjoyable. Moreover, resiliency research as well as research on nurturing teachers and successful schools gives us all the proof needed to lighten up, let go of our tight control, be patient, and trust the process.

Remember, you matter! Resilience research clearly tells us when you care, believe in, and “invite back” our nation’s most precious resource – our children and youth – you are not only enabling their healthy development and successful learning. You are, indeed, creating inside-out social change–building the compassionate and creative citizenry that will be critical to the 21st century. (From Risk to Resiliency from Bonnie Bernard)

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 30, 2013 at 2:36 am

Education 3.0: eBook of Blog Posts

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What follows is an ebook compilation of blog posts I wrote about Education 3.0:

Process to create eBook from blog posts and then embed it into a blog post:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 16, 2013 at 5:18 pm

The Other 21st Century Skills

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Many have attempted to identify the skills important for a learner today in this era of the 21st century (I know it is an overused phrase).  I have an affinity towards the skills identified by Tony Wagner:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
  • Agility and adaptability
  • Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  • Effective oral and written communication
  • Accessing and analyzing information
  • Curiosity and imagination

Today I viewed a slideshow created by Gallup entitled, The Economics of Human Development: The Path to Winning Again in Education.

Here are some slides from this presentation.


This presentation sparked my thinking about what other skills and attributes would serve the learners (of all ages) in this era of learning.  Some other ones that I believe important based on what I hear at conferences, read via blogs and other social networks include:

  • Grit
  • Resilience
  • Hope and Optimism
  • Vision
  • Self-Regulation
  • Empathy and Global Stewardship



How to Foster Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance: An Educator’s Guide

Students can develop psychological resources that promote grit, tenacity, and perseverance. Our research pointed to three facets—all of which have been shown to be malleable and teachable in certain contexts:

Academic mindsets. These constitute how students frame themselves as learners, their learning environment, and their relationships to the learning environment. They include beliefs, attitudes, dispositions, values, and ways of perceiving oneself. A core mindset that supports perseverance is called the “growth mindset”—knowing “My ability and competence grow with my effort.”

Effortful control. Students are constantly faced with tasks that are important for long-term goals but that in the short-term do not feel desirable or intrinsically motivating. Successful students marshal willpower and regulate their attention during such tasks and in the face of distractions.

Strategies and tactics. Students are also more likely to persevere when they can draw on specific strategies and tactics to deal with challenges and setbacks. They need actionable skills for taking responsibility and initiative, and for being productive under conditions of uncertainty—for example, defining tasks, planning, monitoring, changing course of action, and dealing with specific obstacles.

Resources for Educators:



Resilience is directly related to grit.  While grit is having the perseverance to continue on one’s journey, resilience is the ability is bounce back in the face of set-backs, obstacles, and failures.

Schools are an excellent place to foster healthy development in youngsters whether teaching the “Three Rs” or AP chemistry. Each adult can support resiliency development by

Resources for Educators:

Hope and Optimism

2013-05-22_1220For educators who want to help their students build these skills of hope, here are five research-based guidelines. From How to Help Students Develop Hope:

  1. Identify and prioritize their top goals, from macro to micro. Start by having students create a “big picture” list of what’s important to them—such as their academics, friends, family, sports, or career—and then have them reflect on which areas are most important to them and how satisfied they are with each.
  2. Breakdown the goals—especially long-term ones—into steps. Research has suggested that students with low hope frequently think goals have to be accomplished all-at-once, possibly because they haven’t had the parental guidance on how to achieve goals in steps. Teaching them how to see their goals as a series of steps will also give students reasons to celebrate their successes along the way—a great way to keep motivation high!
  3. Teach students that there’s more than one way to reach a goal. Studies show that one of the greatest challenges for students with low hope is their inability to move past obstacles. They often lack key problem-solving skills, causing them to abandon the quest for their goals.
  4. Tell stories of success.  Scientists have found that hopeful students draw on memories of other successes when they face an obstacle; however, students with low hope often don’t have these kinds of memories. That’s why it’s vital for teachers to read books or share stories of other people—especially kids—who have overcome adversity to reach their goals.
  5. Keep it light and positive. It’s important to teach students to enjoy the process of attaining their goals, even to laugh at themselves when they face obstacles and make mistakes. Above all, no self-pity! Research has found that students who use positive self-talk, rather than beating themselves up for mistakes, are more likely to reach their goals.

Resources for Educators:

Vision for the Future


The impossible has been obtained in this globe mainly due to the objectives and experienced concepts and objectives of so-called mavericks. Having a desire, be it to fight social injustices or to journey through space, has allowed humans to create the globe a better place to live in and to discover the secret that is life and beyond. Motivating learners to have little or big objectives, picturing and success stories is a great addiction to teach (Helping Students Achieve Dreams Through the Vision Board).

Resources for Teachers:



Globalization and technological advancements require that students learn to be more autonomous, flexible, and critical in their thinking. To reflect societal changes, educational reform has focused on the learning environment, developing more problem-based, collaborative, and student-centered classrooms to better represent the complex learning situations students may face in a real-life work environment. Part of this ongoing reform involves teaching students appropriate learning strategies and self-regulatory skills to help them adapt to these future situations and become life-long learners (Zimmerman & Schunk, 2003).  For today’s educator, knowledge of self-regulation, its development, and strategies to optimize self-regulation in all learners is pivotal for student success.  Self-regulation is a complex process involving numerous motivational, affective, cognitive, physiological and behavioral factors that individuals proactively direct and manage in order to attain self-set goals (Zeidner, Boekaerts, & Pintrich, 2000). It is a broad construct incorporating behaviors and strategies utilized by individuals across their lifespan to modulate or control their own emotional and behavioral responses. Students who self-regulate believe that they are responsible for their own learning and are more adept at dictating what, where, and how their learning occurs (Bandura, 2006). These students often persist longer through academic tasks and display higher levels of motivation and achievement (Schunk & Ertmer, 2000; Zimmerman & Schunk, 2001) (BC’s Self-Regulation Story: Engaging the First Wave Classrooms and Schools).

Resources for Educators:

Empathy and Global Stewardship


The general hope is that teaching empathy might lead to greater social harmony, altruistic action, social justice, and interpersonal and intercultural understanding. If we’re to reverse the increasing disregard for human suffering in this country and around the world, with the growing gap between rich and poor, empathy education — if it could be successful and massive — could make a major difference.  The problem is never too much empathy. The problem is not enough. Empathy education needs to move beyond volunteerism and toward social transformation. One has to have the kind of empathy that really understands you don’t just give people handouts; what you do is transform the system so the people themselves can be transformed. While empathy is not itself sufficient, it is necessary for greater social justice to come about (Teaching Empathy to the ‘Me’ Generation).

Resources for Educators:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 22, 2013 at 10:06 pm

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

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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. (

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. (

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.

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

Learners Should Be Developing Their Own Essential Questions

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Having essential questions drive curriculum and learning has become core to many educators’ instructional practices.  Grant Wiggins, in his work on Understanding By Design, describes an essential question as:

A meaning of “essential” involves important questions that recur throughout one’s life. Such questions are broad in scope and timeless by nature. They are perpetually arguable – What is justice?  Is art a matter of taste or principles? How far should we tamper with our own biology and chemistry?  Is science compatible with religion? Is an author’s view privileged in determining the meaning of a text? We may arrive at or be helped to grasp understandings for these questions, but we soon learn that answers to them are invariably provisional. In other words, we are liable to change our minds in response to reflection and experience concerning such questions as we go through life, and that such changes of mind are not only expected but beneficial. A good education is grounded in such life-long questions, even if we sometimes lose sight of them while focusing on content mastery. The big-idea questions signal that education is not just about learning “the answer” but about learning how to learn. (

Although essential questions are powerful advance organizers and curriculum drivers, the problem is that the essential questions are typically developed by the educator not the learners.  The educator may find these questions interesting and engaging, but that does not insure that students will find them as such.

Jamie McKenzie describes what actually happens in most schools and classrooms in terms of questioning.

There have always been plenty of questions in schools, but most of them have come from the teacher, often at the rate of one question every 2-3 seconds. Unfortunately, these rapid fire questions are not the questions we need to encourage because they tend to be recall questions rather than questions requiring higher level thought. 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. Sadly, most studies of classroom exchanges in the past few decades report that student questions have been an endangered species for quite some time. (Goodlad, Sizer, Hyman, etc.) (

Steve Denning in a Forbes article, Learning To Ask The Right Question, stated:

In education, there is often more emphasis on teaching than learning. The current test-driven system, which views teaching as imparting the right answers to the students, often does a poor job of equipping students to find the right question. If as I suggest the true goal of education is inspiring students with a lifelong capacity and passion for learning, it is at least as important that students be able to ask the right question as it is to know the right answer.

McKenzie (in 1997!) further discusses how the art of learner questioning by is especially relevant in this age of information abundance:

As long as schools are primarily about teaching rather than learning, there is little need for expanded information capabilities. Considering the reality that schools and publishers have spent decades compressing and compacting human knowledge into efficient packages and delivery systems like textbooks and lectures, they may not be prepared for this New Information Landscape which calls for independent thinking, exploration, invention and intuitive navigation. (

Questioning comes naturally to children and seems to become a lost art and skill as people age.

Paul Harris, a developmental psychologist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, argues that questions occupy a more central role than we realize in childhood cognitive development. Young children, he says, learn a great deal about the world simply by asking questions and listening to others.  When Harris thinks of children asking questions, he sees them performing a series of complex mental maneuvers. “The child has to first realize that they don’t know something…and that other people are information-bearing agents,” Harris said. “Then the child has to be able to, somehow or other, realize that language is a tool for shifting stuff from that person to them.”

Adults tend to rush through those steps, perhaps because they seem like second nature. But figuring out what makes a good question—or rather, what kind of question will get us the information we want—isn’t such a simple thing, even for grownups. It requires stopping to think about what we’re trying to find out, what the person we’re talking to might know, and what words we should use to coax them into helping us. Being good at asking questions is the art of identifying those gaps, sorting them, and figuring out how to fill them. Considered that way, it is a strange skill: “the ability to organize your thinking around something you know nothing about,” said Rothstein.

That can get harder as we get older, in large part because we grow more confident that we understand the world around us, and lose the capacity to see past our own beliefs. Business consultant and former Hewlett-Packard chief technology officer Phil McKinney in his book “Beyond the Obvious,” argues that crafting good questions is precisely what allows people to make imaginative leaps. “The challenge is that, as adults, we lose our curiosity over time. We get into ruts, we become experts in our fields or endeavors,” (

I believe most educators would agree that learning to compose a good question is a skill students should possess.  There is evidence that the art of asking a good questioning is a skill that most adults do not possess and that schools are not doing a good job teaching.  There are some classroom activities educators can do to teach questioning techniques.

Jamie McKenzie, Ed.D. and Hilarie Bryce Davis, Ed.D. propose in Classroom Strategies to Engender Student Questioning some of the following activities to have students generate their own questions.

  • Begin a New Unit with Students Developing Questions: Try starting a new unit by asking your class to think of questions that could be asked about the topic.
  • Create a Taxonomy of Questions: When students begin to label the different kinds of questions, they learn to select different kinds of questions to perform different kinds of thinking. No matter what the level of schooling, some kind of label can work effectively.
  • Ask Students to Create Questions as Homework (this would work with the Flipped Classroom): Put your classroom questioning typology to work with your homework assignments. If students read an assignment, let them form questions for the next day’s discussion. Ask them to:
    • write three comparison questions about the story they are reading;
    • identify the question the author was trying to answer;
    • find a question which has no answer, or two thousand answers or an infinite number of answers;
    • ask a question that is the child of a bigger question that they can then ask the rest of the class to identify.

Although, I am not big on formulaic learning, the folks at the Right Question Institute proposed process for students to learn to formulate their own questions.  This can be a good start to having students learn to compose questions. The QFT has six key steps:

Step 1: Teachers Design a Question Focus. The Question Focus, or QFocus, is a prompt that can be presented in the form of a statement or a visual or aural aid to focus and attract student attention and quickly stimulate the formation of questions. The QFocus is different from many traditional prompts because it is not a teacher’s question. It serves, instead, as the focus for student questions so students can, on their own, identify and explore a wide range of themes and ideas.

Step 2: Students Produce Questions. Students use a set of rules that provide a clear protocol for producing questions without assistance from the teacher. The four rules are: ask as many questions as you can; do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer any of the questions; write down every question exactly as it was stated; and change any statements into questions.

Step 3: Students Improve Their Questions
. Students then improve their questions by analyzing the differences between open- and closed-ended questions and by practicing changing one type to the other.

Step 4: Students Prioritize Their Questions. The teacher, with the lesson plan in mind, offers criteria or guidelines for the selection of priority questions.

Step 5: Students and Teachers Decide on Next Steps. At this stage, students and teachers work together to decide how to use the questions.

Step 6: Students Reflect on What They Have Learned. The teacher reviews the steps and provides students with an opportunity to review what they have learned by producing, improving, and prioritizing their questions. Making the QFT completely transparent helps students see what they have done and how it contributed to their thinking and learning. They can internalize the process and then apply it in many other settings.

A case study of this process in action can be found at Educators Want Students To Ask The Questions and the following Prezi does a great job describing the need for student-generated questions and the QFT process:

Wielded with purpose and care, a question can become a sophisticated and potent tool to expand minds, inspire new ideas, and give us surprising power at moments when we might not believe we have any.

Leon Neyfakh

Isn’t this a skill we want our learners to develop?

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 24, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Schools are doing Education 1.0; talking about doing Education 2.0; when they should be planning Education 3.0

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Schools are doing Education 1.0; talking about doing Education 2.0; when they should be planning and implementing Education 3.0.

This post seeks to compare the developments of the Internet-Web to those of education.  The Internet has become an integral thread of the tapestries of most societies throughout the globe.  The web influences people’s way of thinking, doing and being; and people influence the development and content of the web.  The Internet of today has become a huge picture window and portal into human perceptions, thinking, and behavior.  Logically, then, it would seem that schools would follow suit in mimicking what is happening via the Internet to assist children and youth to function, learn, work, and play in a healthy, interactive, and pro-social manner in their societies-at-large.

Education 1.0

Most schools are still living within and functioning through an Education 1.0 model.  Although many would deny this, they are focusing on an essentialist-based curriculum with related ways of teaching and testing.

The foundation of essentialist curriculum is based on traditional disciplines such as math, natural science, history, foreign language, and literature. Essentialists argue that classrooms should be teacher-oriented. The teachers or administrators decide what is most important for the students to learn with little regard to the student interests. The teachers also focus on achievement test scores as a means of evaluating progress. Students in this system would sit in rows and be taught in masses. The students would learn passively by sitting in their desks and listening to the teacher.  (

This description (1) rings true with a lot of schools in this age of standardization, accountability, NCLB, Race-to-the-Top, Common Core Curriculum Standards, and (2) has a lot of similarity to Web 1.0 . . .

Web 1.0 was an early stage of the conceptual evolution of the World Wide Web, centered around a top-down approach to the use of the web and its user interface. Content creators were few in Web 1.0 with the vast majority of users simply acting as consumers of content.  Web 1.0 webpage’s information is closed to external editing. Thus, information is not dynamic, being updated only by the webmaster.Technologically, Web 1.0 concentrated on presenting, not creating so that user-generated content was not available. (

Web 1.0 came out of our existing mindsets of how information is transferred, and very much reflected the 100+ year history of industrialism, with experts/businesses dispensing identical knowledge/products to mass consumers.

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

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


Education 2.0

Steve Hardigan noted the following in 2007:

Web 2.0 has really been the flowering of new relationships between individuals and businesses, and reflects new ways of thinking that the technology has facilitated or created. It’s about engaged conversations that take place directly, and don’t rely on top-down management, but peer feedback and mentoring. It’s an incredibly effective restructuring of how learning takes place, and somehow we have to figure out how to bring this experience into our learning institutions–or they will become obsolete. (


Similar to Web 2.0, Education 2.0 includes more interaction between the teacher and student; student to student; and student to content/expert.  Some school administrators and educators seem to have taken some steps and moved into a more connected, creative Education 2.0 through using cooperative learning, global learning projects, Skype in the classroom, and shared wikis, blogs and other social networking in the classroom.  But in 2013, this should be the norm not the exception.

Education 3.0

Education 3.0 is based on the belief that content is freely and readily available. It is self-directed, interest-based learning where problem-solving, innovation and creativity drive education.

Education 3.0 is characterized by rich, cross-institutional, cross-cultural educational opportunities within which the learners themselves play a key role as creators of knowledge artifacts that are shared, and where social networking and social benefits outside the immediate scope of activity play a strong role. The distinction between artifacts, people and process becomes blurred, as do distinctions of space and time. Institutional arrangements, including policies and strategies, change to meet the challenges of opportunities presented. There is an emphasis on learning and teaching processes with a focus on institutional changes that accompany the breakdown of boundaries (between teachers and students, higher education institutions, and disciplines) (


Education 3.0 is a constructivist, heutagogical approach to teaching and learning.  The teachers, learners, networks, connections, media, resources, tools create a a unique entity that has the potential to meet individual learners’, educators’, and even societal needs.

Derek W. Keats and J. Philipp Schmidt further describe the individual components of Education 3.0:


  • Wide diffusion of of e-learning
  • Growing interest in alternatives to teacher-centred approaches such as constructivism (Dewey, 1998), resource based learning, etc.
  • Local, regional, and international collaboration to create repositories of educational content
  • Awareness for the need of recognition of prior learning
  • Increasing use of the Internet to find information and just in time learning


  • Increasing use of information technologies in daily life and for social purposes
  • Increasing social use of online virtual spaces
  • A new definition of self and society that includes computer mediated social structures, and people outside of one’s immediate physical environment


  • The widespread adoption of personal computers and the Internet (especially e-mail and the World Wide Web)
  • The emergence of Web 2.0, including blogs, podcasts, social interaction tools, etc.
  • E-Learning platforms or learning management systems that incorporate features of Web 2.0
  • Free and open source software


The one “organized” proactive movement that I know of that is promoting a model of Education 3.0 is Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design:

Connected learning taps the opportunities provided by digital media to more easily link home, school, community and peer contexts of learning; support peer and intergenerational connections based on shared interests; and create more connections with non-dominant youth, drawing from capacities of diverse communities.


All of the pieces of an Education 3.0 are literally freely available for the taking, why aren’t those involved in the planning and implementing of schools integrating these ideas, tools and strategies into their systems?  The time for planning for Education 3.0 was actual yesterday, but doing it now is okay, too.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 22, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Storytelling Is Not Lecturing; Lecturing is Not Storytelling

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I sit in the lecture hall with 10,000 others waiting for my new teacher to speak. I look at my cell phone and silently groan that this in going to be a long hour; as long an hour as an hour can be as is typically the case when I listen to a lecture.   She begins, “Let me tell you about Uncle Willie.”  I take a deep breath of relief and settle in to hear her story.

I came at the age of three to Grandma and my Uncle Willie in this little town in Arkansas. Uncle Willie was paralyzed on the right side. My grandmother and Uncle Willie owned a little store in town, and they needed me and my brother to work in the store. So Momma taught me to read and write, and my Uncle Willie taught me to do my times tables. He used to grab me by my clothes and hold me in front of a potbelly stove, and with a slur attendant to his condition, he’d say, “Now, Sister, I want you to do your foursies, your sevensies, your ninesies.” I learned my times tables so exquisitely even now, 60 years later, if I’m awakened after an evening of copious libation and told, “Do your twelvsies,” I’ve got my twelvsies.

I was so sure that if I didn’t learn, my Uncle Willie would grab me, open the potbelly stove, throw me in, and close the door. Of course, I found that he was so tenderhearted he wouldn’t kill a fly. One day my Uncle Willie died, and I went to Little Rock where I was met by one of America’s great rainbows in the clouds, the black lady who led the children into the high school in the late fifties in Little Rock.

She met me and said, “There is somebody who is dying to meet you.” She introduced me to this handsome black man in a three-piece suit.

When I met him, he said, “I don’t want to shake your hand. I want to hug you.”

He then said, “You know, Maya, the State of Arkansas has lost a great man in losing Willie. In the 1920s, I was the only child of a blind mother. Your Uncle Willie gave me a job in his store, paid me 10 cents a week, and taught me to do my times tables.”

I asked him, “How would he do it?”

He said, “He used to grab me like this…”

Then I knew he was talking about Uncle Willie.

He said, “Because of him, I am who I am today, the mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, first black mayor in the South.”

I look back at Uncle Willie, that crippled, black man in the South where lynching was the disorder of the day, I have no idea the range of his influence. But I know that when it looked for me like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put “a rainbow in the clouds” in the form of Uncle Willie.

I tell you my stories not to brag but to tell you about all of rainbows in my clouds.  You are the rainbows in somebody’s cloud.

. . . Maya Angelou tells the 10,000 educators who sat at her feet at the recent ASCD conference.  I exaggerated at the beginning about the expected boredom.  This would have been the case if the speaker started to lecture to me.  I knew Dr, Angelou would tell us stories and read us poetry.  She is a master of storytelling, poetry, speaking, and teaching; and the energy in the room was palatable as she spoke to us.

I am a strong advocate against the use of lecturing for teaching which I discuss in detail in Who Would Choose a Lecture as Their Primary Mode of Learning? This does not mean I am against an educator standing in front of a group of learners to give procedural directions or to tell a story to teach a concept.  I have been challenged by colleagues because I really like TED talks but many of the best TED talks tell a story.  One of the most popular Ted talks of all time was Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight who told the story of her stroke and insights about the brain due to her her stroke.

So what is it that makes stories such powerful teaching?

Stories are different. Stories have everything that facts wish they had but never will: color, action, characters, sights, smells, sounds, emotions–stuff that we can easily relate to. We can imagine ourselves doing, or not doing, or having already done, what the story describes. Stories put facts into a meaningful, and therefore memorable, context.  (

Brain Activity: Lecture versus Storytelling

It’s in fact quite simple. If we listen to a powerpoint presentation with boring bullet points, a certain part in the brain gets activated. Scientists call this Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that’s it, nothing else happens.

When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.  (

What follows is a graph of a student’s brain activity during a given week.  The student’s brain activity, the electrodermal activity, is nearly flat-lined during classes.  Note that the activity is higher during sleep than during class.


So what happens to the brain when being told a story?

We think in narratives all day long, no matter if it is about buying groceries, whether we think about work or our spouse at home. We make up (short) stories in our heads for every action and conversation. In fact, Jeremy Hsu found [that] “personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations.”

Now, whenever we hear a story, we want to relate it to one of our exiting experiences.  That’s why metaphors work so well with us. While we are busy searching for a similar experience in our brains, we activate, a part called insula, which helps us relate to that same experience of pain, joy, or disgust. (

So my advice for teachers is that next time you feel the need to convey information via a lecture, create or find a story that illustrates those concepts and tell learners that story.  All will benefit.

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.

Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact. — Robert McKee


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 20, 2013 at 2:16 am

If We Expect Educators to . . .

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Educators are given a lot of suggestions about how to improve their classroom practices, but as we know, change needs to begin with oneself.  I’ve heard a lot of such suggestions at recent education conferences – SXSWedu, ASCD, and DML2013 – but the missing piece is that these changes need to begin with the educators, themselves, with expectations, tools, strategies, time (for collaboration and reflection) to do so.  What follows are my ideas related to how it can begin with the teacher – please add to the list if you have any others.


If we expect educators to help learners formulate good questions, we need to permit and encourage them to ask their own hard questions about their own practices, content area knowledge, and pedagogical beliefs.

If we expect educators to integrate technology into their classrooms, we need to give them the brainstorming time, strategies, tools, and training to play, tinker, and engage with technology.

If we want educators to come up with some really great ways to improve their classrooms, we need to give them innovation days with great food, beverages, and comfy bean bag chairs. (Mrs. Walf)

If we want educators to use cooperative learning strategies with their students, we need to give them the strategies and time to work with their colleagues.

If we expect educators to move beyond textbook lesson plans, we need to encourage and show them how to open-source their best lessons online, allowing peer to peer and bottom up sharing of best practices. (Kevin Miklasz)

If we expect educators to assist students in becoming self directed learners, we need to give them autonomy to create and direct their own learning journeys.

If we expect educators to embrace the growth mindset and encourage learners to be free to openly make mistakes and learn from them, we need to create schools that reflect a growth mindset in their culture, expectations, and requirements. (Joan Young)

If we want educators to develop their own professional learning communities, we need to tear down the walled gardens of the school to enable them to connect with other educators.

If we want educators to encourage creativity and innovation, we need to remove the literal and metaphorical classroom, testing, curriculum, standards-driven walls.

If we want teachers to be lifelong learners, we need to start this process with the expectancy they will be so when they are themselves young students.

If we want educators to create magic in their classrooms, we need to give them the encouragement and permission to develop and use their own unique magic wands and pixie dust.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 17, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Hacking the Classroom: Beyond Design Thinking

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Design Thinking is trending is some educational circles.  Edutopia recently ran a design thinking for educators workshop and I attended two great workshops at SXSWedu 2013 on Design Thinking:

Design Thinking is a great skill for students to acquire as part of their education.  But it is one process like the problem-solving model or the scientific method.   As a step-by-step process, it becomes type of box.  Sometimes we need to go beyond that box; step outside of the box.  This post provides an overview of design thinking, the problems with design thinking, and suggestions to hacking the world to go beyond design thinking.

Design Thinking

Design thinking is an approach to learning that includes considering real-world problems, research, analysis, conceiving original ideas, lots of experimentation, and sometimes building things by hand ( The following graphic was developed by Design Thinking for Educators to explain the process of design thinking:


As a further explanation of this process, here is an exercise by the d.School about how to re-design a wallet using the design process.

View this document on Scribd

Here is another take on the design thinking process as applied to learning within a community setting:

“What does it take to create education in this age of imagination?” was the theme of the following Ted talk.   Imagination, play, and social interaction become important to the learning process.

To further learn about design thinking, visit:

Problems with Design Thinking

Bruce Nussenbaum, in a Fast Company article, Design Thinking Is A Failed Experiment. So What’s Next?, discussed the benefits of design thinking but also noted it has become a type of flavor of the month for corporations.

Design Thinking broke design out of its specialized, narrow, and limited base and connected it to more important issues and a wider universe of profit and non-profit organizations. The contributions of Design Thinking to the field of design and to society at large are immense. By formalizing the tacit values and behaviors of design, Design Thinking was able to move designers and the power of design from a focus on artifact and aesthetics within a narrow consumerist marketplace to the much wider social space of systems and society. We face huge forces of disruption, the rise and fall of generations, the spread of social media technologies, the urbanization of the planet, the rise and fall of nations, global warming, and overpopulation.  Design Thinking made design system-conscious at a key moment in time.

There were many successes, but far too many more failures in this endeavor. Why? Companies absorbed the process of Design Thinking all to well, turning it into a linear, gated, by-the-book methodology that delivered, at best, incremental change and innovation.  CEOs in particular, took to the process side of Design Thinking, implementing it like Six Sigma and other efficiency-based processes (

I fear a similar outcome for design thinking within educational settings.   As I stated in the introduction, design thinking, being a type of problem-solving model, is it’s own type of box.  It attempts to solve problems via a specific process in order to come up with a new solution or product.  John Media, in If Design’s No Longer the Killer Differentiator, What Is?, emphasizes the limited perspective that design thinking can create:

Designers create solutions. But artists create questions — the deep probing of purpose and meaning that sometimes takes us backward and sideways to reveal which way “forward” actually is. The questions that artists make are often enigmatic, answering a why with another why. Because of this, understanding art is difficult: I like to say that if you’re having difficulty “getting” art, then it’s doing its job.

Paul Pangaro, a technology executive, who combines technical depth, marketing and business acumen, and passion for designing products that serve the cognitive and social needs of human beings, further critiques design thinking in his video, The Limitations of Design Thinking.

If we stop with design thinking we won’t solve those problems that those in design thinking say they want to solve.    Paul Pangaro

Hacking the World

All of this leads to the question of what types of learning in today’s classroom would help students acquire knowledge, skills, passions, and attitudes for living, working, and playing in today’s world.  Design thinking is one process for creative problem solving, but to really survive and thrive in a world of such constant and rapid change, kids need to go beyond design thinking and be able to hack their world.  Not only is it important to be able to use a creative process to solve problems, it is equally important to be able to identify problems to solve. As humans living within systems that are safe and comfortable for them using the tools and strategies that are familiar to them, it becomes difficult for many to step outside of that comfort zone to critically analyze these systems to identify problems and to discover better ways of living for themselves and for others.

Hacking is a way to do so.  Hacking can be defined as:

Hacking is research. Have you ever tried something again and again in different ways to get it to do what you wanted? Have you ever opened up a machine or a device to see how it works, research what the components are, and then make adjustments to see what now worked differently? That’s hacking. You are hacking whenever you deeply examine how something really works in order to creatively manipulate it into doing what you want.

The real reason to be a hacker is because it’s really powerful. You can do some very cool things when you have strong hacking skills. Any deep knowledge gives you great power. If you know how something works to the point that you can take control of it, you have serious power in your hands. Most of all, you have the power to protect yourself and those you care about (Hacker High School).

In an NPR article, At This Camp, Kids Learn To Question Authority (And Hack It), Michael Garrison Stuber, whose daughter participated in the camp, stated:

“Why would I do this?” he asks, while laughing. “Fundamentally the world is about systems. And we work within systems all the time, but sometimes systems are broken, and we need to be able to subvert them. And that is a life skill I absolutely want her to be able to have.”

In developing hacking as a skill, an attitude, and/or as an approach to construct and de-construct the world, it is more than just hacking in terms of computer science.  In order to hack the world, we need to tear it apart, deconstruct it and analyze its components parts and how they operate in relation to one another within various systems.  This is a mental, social, emotional, and whenever possible, a physical process.

The following icebreakers are designed for web design, but they could also be used to establish a climate of thinking outside of preexisting mindsets which, in turn, becomes a goal of hacking: to develop alternative mindsets.


To get a broader perspective on helping young people become white hat hackers (folks who enjoy thinking of innovative new ways to make, break and use anything to create a better world), see:

Although I am currently looking towards hacking as a way to facilitate creative thinking and positive (world) change, it also has the potential to become a more standardized process as is the issue with design thinking.  Hacking, but its very nature, should force learners and learning to the limits, but attempts to scale any movement can inadvertently and unintentional create the type of standardized, procedural system it is trying to avoid.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 11, 2013 at 12:24 am

Using the Internet and Social Media to Enhance Social-Emotional Learning

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The news media is filled with horror stories about young people and the Internet, but what is often overlooked and not reported are the benefits that technology, the Internet, and Social media have in building and enhancing social-emotional skills.

Young people are doing what they have always done as part of their journey into adulthood, including socializing with peers, investigating the world, trying on identities and establishing independence, but now they are just doing so using the Internet and social media (Seeing Social Media More as Portal Than as Pitfall).

In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media issued a clinical report, “The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents and Families.” It began by emphasizing the benefits of social media for children and adolescents, including enhanced communication skills and opportunities for social connections.  (Seeing Social Media More as Portal Than as Pitfall)

Young people are using the Internet and research is showing that there can be benefits for social skills development and social emotional learning.

Engaging in various forms of social media is a routine activity that research has shown to benefit children and adolescents by enhancing communication, social connection, and even technical skills. Social media sites such as Facebook offer multiple daily opportunities for connecting with friends, classmates, and people with shared interests. (The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families)

Social media, at times, offers opportunities for the development of social emotional skills in ways that face-to-face may not.

Social media sites allow teens to accomplish online many of the tasks that are important to them offline: staying connected with friends and family, making new friends, sharing pictures, and exchanging ideas. Social media participation also can offer adolescents deeper benefits that extend into their view of self, community, and the world, including:

  1. opportunities for community engagement through raising money for charity and volunteering for local events, including political and philanthropic events;

  2. enhancement of individual and collective creativity through development and sharing of artistic and musical endeavors;

  3. growth of ideas from the creation of blogs, podcasts, videos, and gaming sites;

  4. expansion of one’s online connections through shared interests to include others from more diverse backgrounds (such communication is an important step for all adolescents and affords the opportunity for respect, tolerance, and increased discourse about personal and global issues); and

  5. fostering of one’s individual identity and unique social skills. (The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families)

The Internet and Social Media have the potential to leverage the playing field for those with special needs, not just academically but also social-emotionally.  Kyle , who has been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome, discusses how the social media benefited him in Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter help some with special needs and developmental disorders to better communicate:

“Two to three years ago and I wasn’t able to talk to people face to face. Like, this right now, I wouldn’t have been able to explain anything. I would have been all shy and weird looking, sort of.”  As a teenager, Kyle was introduced to the social network website MySpace, and then later, Facebook, and he credits both with helping him to be able to have friends and conversations today.”It’s basically just the fact that you don’t have to have a person staring back at you with what you’re saying. I try to share a lot of inspirational quotes,” he explains. “This one says ‘the best relationships tend to begin unexpectedly.’ I can vouch for that.”

The adults, who care and work with young people, have a unique opportunity to join and support them as they navigate through this journey.  What this translates into is using the Internet and social with intention and helping young people to also do so.  As Anne Collier notes in Literacy for a digital age: Transliteracy or what?,  social literacy is important in this age of Internet communication.

If we all grew up with social-emotional learning, we’d have greater academic success and social skills and a lot less bullying in schools and workplaces. And if we applied those emotion management and empathy skills to online spaces as much as offline ones, we’d probably witness a lot less cyberbullying and other forms of online aggression (not to mention “traditional” bullying). We’d also probably have much less of a problem with dis-inhibition, the lack of visual cues that display our reactions to one another that can make us forget that those are fellow human beings with feelings behind the text messages, comments, avatars, etc. through which we communicate in digital spaces.

A lot of talk, press, and focus in this era of learning is on common core standards and 21st century skills and literacies.  What is often neglected is the importance of building social emotional skills within the classroom.

The challenge of raising knowledgeable, responsible, and caring children is recognized by nearly everyone. Few realize, however, that each element of this challenge can be enhanced by thoughtful, sustained, and systematic attention to children’s social and emotional learning (SEL). Indeed, experience and research show that promoting social and emotional development in children is “the missing piece” in efforts to reach the array of goals associated wit h improving schooling in the United States. (The Need for Social Emotional Learning)

It’s not enough to simply fill students’ brains with facts. A successful education demands that their character be developed as well. That’s where social and emotional learning comes in. SEL is the process of helping students develop the skills to manage their emotions, resolve conflict nonviolently, and make responsible decisions.  Research shows that promoting social and emotional skills leads to reduced violence and aggression among children, higher academic achievement, and an improved ability to function in schools and in the workplace. Students who demonstrate respect for others and practice positive interactions, and whose respectful attitudes and productive communication skills are acknowledged and rewarded, are more likely to continue to demonstrate such behavior. Students who feel secure and respected can better apply themselves to learning. (Why Champion Social and Emotional Learning?)

I have written a series of blog posts that address social-emotional learning, how it can be influenced by technology, and how the Internet and Social media can be used to facilitate effective and positive social-emotional skills:

Additional posts relevant and related to the topic of technology and social emotional learning have been written by my colleague, Anne Collier:

I created a website of activities that use technology to enhance social-emotional learning.  Here is a list with brief descriptions of these activities:


Collier, A.  (2012). Literacy for a digital age: Transliteracy or what?  Retrieved from

Edwards, E. (2013).  Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter help some with special needs and developmental disorders to better communicate. Retrieved from

Edutopia Staff. (2008). Why Champion Social and Emotional Learning?: Because It Helps Students Build Character. Retrieved from

Elias, M. J., Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Frey,K. S., Greenberg, M. T.. Haynes, N. M., Kessler, R.,  Schwab-Stone, M. E., & Shriver, T.P. (1997).  The Need for Social Emotional Learning. ASCD. Retrieved from

Gerstein, J. Technology Enhanced Social-Emotional Activities.

Klass, P. (2012) Seeing Social Media More as Portal Than as Pitfall.

Shurgin O’Keeffe, G, and Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011).  The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families.

Creative Commons License
Using the Internet and Social Media to Enhance Social-Emotional Learning by Jackie Gerstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 25, 2013 at 1:21 am


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