User Generated Education

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Posts Tagged ‘social networking

Student Reflections from a Social Networked Learning Course

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Last year, I developed a course for the Educational Technology Masters Program at Boise State University entitled the Social Networked Learner.  Most of the students in this graduate course are classroom teachers.  This course explored collaborative and emergent pedagogies, tools, and theory related to the use of social networks in learning environments. Participants gain hands-on experience with a variety social networking tools, create their own personal learning networks, and have an opportunity to develop a MOOC-inspired course for their learners. I described it in detail in Educators as Social Networked Learners.

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

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

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

The themes that emerged were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some students valued the use Twitter for professional development.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think Hannah provided the most significant comment I read:

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

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


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Education 3.0: Altering Round Peg in Round Hole Education

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 9, 2013 at 11:47 pm

The Internet & Social Networking for Enhancing Social-Emotional Learning: Presentation Materials

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Here are some resources that support The Internet & Social Networking for Enhancing Social-Emotional Learning presentation.

Introductory Video

Slide Deck

Technology Enhanced Social-Emotional Activities


The Internet and Social Networking for Social Emotional Learning: eBook


Mightbell of SEL Resources


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 4, 2013 at 1:38 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.

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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

Learners as Entrepreneurs

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A theme of current progressive education reform is that of enabling and assisting learners in developing an entrepreneurial spirit.  Yong Zhao in his book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, proposes that learner entrepreneurship should be integrated into school curriculum due to the following:

  1. Massive changes brought about by population growth, technology, and globalization not only demand but also create opportunities for “mass entrepreneurship” and thus require everyone to be globally minded, creative, and entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship is no longer limited to starting or owning a business, but is expanded to social entrepreneurship, policy entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship.
  2. Traditional schooling aims to prepare employees rather than creative entrepreneurs. As a result the more successful traditional schooling is (often measured by test scores in a few subjects), the more it stifles creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit.
  3. To cultivate creative and entrepreneurial talents is much more than adding an entrepreneurship course or program to the curriculum. It requires a paradigm shift—from employee-oriented education to entrepreneur-oriented education, from prescribing children’s education to supporting their learning, and from reducing human diversity to a few employable skills to enhancing individual talents.
  4. The elements of entrepreneur-oriented education have been proposed and practiced by various education leaders and institutions for a long time but they have largely remained on the fringe. What we need to do is to move them to the mainstream for all children.

John Seely Brown’s DLM 2012 keynote focused on entrepreneurial learners and that in this networked age, there are endless possibilities for entrepreneurship:

Brown says that in past centuries, the infrastructure has largely been stable, but that the 21st century is driven by continual, exponential advances in computation, with no stability in sight. We’re moving, he says, from a world of stocks (i.e. fixed assets) to the world of flow. In a world of stocks, we look to protect and deliver authoritative knowledge assets and to transfer old knowledge to other people. But in the world of exponential change, it’s not a question of looking at fixed assets. It’s more a question of how we participate in knowledge flows and of how, from that participation, we can pick up new ideas and create new knowledge.  In the past, our identity was defined by what we wore, what we owned and what we controlled. Young people today, Brown says, see their identity as what they create, what they share and, most importantly, what others build upon.

Benefits and Entrepreneurship

Through entrepreneurship education, young people learn organizational skills, including time management, leadership development and interpersonal skills, all of which are highly transferable skills sought by employers. According to a report by the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Corporation, other positive outcomes include:

  • improved academic performance, school attendance; and educational attainment
  • increased problem-solving and decision-making abilities
  • improved interpersonal relationships, teamwork, money management, and public speaking skills
  • job readiness
  • enhanced social psychological development (self-esteem, ego development, self-efficacy), and
  • perceived improved health status (

Example Initiatives

In a business academy in Oakland, California, a group of teenagers took the initiative to fight truancy and design a new school. In the process, they won a national student leadership competition.

Stephen Ritz’s Bronx classroom features the first indoor edible wall in NYC DOE which routinely generates enough produce to feed 450 students healthy meals and trains the youngest nationally certified workforce in America. His students, traveling from Boston to Rockefeller Center to the Hamptons, earn living wage en route to graduation.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 27, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Social Networked Learning Course Reflections

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During Fall, 2012, I developed and taught a graduate course entitled, Social Networked Learning, for the Boise State University’s Educational Technology Program.  Most of the students were in-service K-12 educators. I provided an overview of the learning activities for this course in two previous blog posts.

Sample student projects from this course can be viewed at

This was a new course in educational technology.  As is true for many of us using educational technology in the classroom, we are experimenting with how technology can enhance the learning experiences of our students.  Sometimes we have failures, often times we have successes.  Yet, in this age of evidenced-based education, educators, administrators, and other decision-makers are depending on and using the data gleamed from large studies often completed by companies with vested interests, e.g. Gates Foundation, book publishers, and testing companies.

Educators can easily conduct action research about the practices they are using in their own classrooms especially given the ease of creating online surveys and data collection methods.  Yet, it seems that it is rarely done.

So if educators want to influence what occurs in not only their own classrooms, but in the classrooms of their co-teachers, then they need to invest the time and energy to demonstrate best practices.  In a related blog, I discuss Every Educator Has a Story . . . Just Tell It.

In order for students to reflect on the course activities and for me, as the instructor, to get feedback about what elements of the course were valuable for the students, I asked students to engage in two end-of-course activities: a survey of open-closed ended questions developed specific for the course and final blog reflection about the course.

End-of-Course Survey

19 of the 22 students in the course completed the survey.  Some of the results of the survey follow.

First, they were asked to rate the course projects using a type of Likert Scale.


Next, they were asked a series of open ended questions.

Question: We used a lot of social networks – Twitter, Facebook, Moodle, shared documents for your small group projects, Diigo. Which types of social networks did you find most useful in your learning process?  Sample student responses:

  • Twitter was a social network that I really “grew up” with during this course. At the beginning of the course I was a “newbie” but now I am very confident with it and use it A LOT (and TweetDeck) to find materials and talk to other people!
  • Facebook and Twitter were the most beneficial social networks that I used in this course. The connections made here are those that can be maintained long after the course is completed, and I have already discussed keeping in touch with one of my group members after completing the program for continued professional development.
  • I find Diigo to be the best of these platforms. The way you can bookmark, comment, and share all at once saves time and is extremely useful. I also gained an appreciate for Facebook and Twitter as educational resources. I will likely use Twitter in my future learning.

Question: What was the most valuable aspect of the course? What made it valuable? Sample student responses:

  • The most valuable aspect of the course was to be able to explore new social networking tools and further investigate those I have used previously but to also be able to apply their use to my current work situation. The ability to immediately use what we have learned in this course has made it a very valuable learning experience.
  • Curation was the most valuable part of this course. I have bookmarked for a while now, but I had never envisioned how much more powerful I could make bookmarking by creating a curated library. By teaching my students how to curate, I believe they will develop many essential skills. This includes the ability to organize information, determine the accuracy of a source, developing resource libraries and summarizing. All of these skills are essential literacy skills that could be developed in any subject area.
  • The most valuable aspect of this course was definitely the PLN and postivie digital footprint lessons. I have long ignored social media and this course has given me a great appreciation of the benefits of these tools. Moreover, the positive footprint lesson taught me how to keep my information and name safe.
  • The most valuable aspect for me was learning how to use social networking for professional development. Before teachers will try using it in the classroom as a tool, they need to first realize that it can be a tool for them also.

Question: How have your grown professionally? Sample student responses:

  • I have gained an even greater appreciation for professional learning communities. I have always believed in sharing and working together as professionals. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and a good team compliments one another and works together to compensate for each person’s weaknesses. However, I had never considered that my professional learning community could extend beyond my school and district. I was excited to take part in online webinars that made me more effective as an educator.
  • This course is by far the one that has helped me the most professionally and it’s the one I didn’t really expect to get much out of. I kind of thought I “got” social networking but I had no idea. I have grown my PLE/PLN in ways I had never envisioned before. I’m consistent in my “brand” and intention and I am out there much more than I was before. I have certainly grown myself and my network. This will be a class that I remember, value, and will look back on as being immensely helpful and practical.
  • I have grown in acquiring a deeper understanding of the importance of my digital footprint and PLN. Before this course I had become a member of many different social networking sites, both personally and professionally, but my contribution to many of them in a professional context was minimal. I have learned the benefits of really becoming an active contributor to these social networking sites to expand my professional contacts and learning network.
  • I am finding out that I am not alone and that with all these amazing resources out there for me, the sky is the limit on what I really can do in my classroom.

Question: How your own teaching practice or thoughts about teaching have been impacted by what you have learned or accomplished in this course? Sample student responses:

  • I love having a great conversation with students. What I have found is there are a certain number of students who really struggle with participation in front of a class. I think that social networking can provide an opportunity for those students to come out of their shells and teach us all. I also feel like I have changed how I view the reflective process for my students. I have determined that it is important for me to allow students to evaluate and reflect on their own work and the work of others.
  • I see how helping students build a PLN will help them become lifelong learners. If I can help spark an interest in a topic during the course and teach students how to keep finding resources, their learning experience will not end when the semester is over.
  • This has deepened my resolve about connectivist activities in the classroom.  I can now talk about how the journey often times can teach as much as the destination.
  • I learned that there are so many tools out there that our students are already using that we could start using in the classroom that would get more participation and excitement about the class.

Highlights of Student Final Blog Reflection

The final course assignment was for students to reflect on the course activities using the survey questions to guide them, if needed.  Some commentary from their blog posts . . .

I’ve enjoyed the various social networking tools that we’ve used and the information about digital footprints.  It’s been a great course and I’ve loved every minute of it.  Social media and networking have such powerful sharing and community building platforms already in place.  It’s silly that mainstream education has not fully harnessed their power yet, however I see improvement and the road heading that way. Fabio

I’ve learned about PLN’s and the need to connect with like-minded people.  I recognize the importance of learning from others, no matter where they are.  Reaching out and seeking knowledge in its many forms can enrich my profession and my personal interests  Sharing.  That’s what I have taken away from this class.  In other classes, I have produced many artifacts.  I have made screencasts and animations, video lessons and lesson plans, webquests and presentations.  I enjoyed making most of these and gained something from each of them.  The difference I now see between those types of assignments and the work in Social Network Learning is that one is about “me” and the other is about “us.”  This class was about connection and building ideas in a coordinated, personalized and interactive way.  It forced me to come out from the shadows (a bit anyway) and to share my ideas and works with the world.  That’s a great thing. Jon  My Life as a Reformed Lurker: A Final Reflection

I find it interesting that the class I expected to learn the least in is the one that has enriched me the most. Such has been my journey this semester in EdTech 543 Social Network Learning. We’ve all got the first two words down – it’s that last one: learning. This course has opened my eyes to the powerful learning tool that social media and social networking can be.  My digital life is deeper, richer, and more meaningful – and it’s only just begun! Gretel

As with most things in life, we truly seem to be limited mostly by our imagination and drive to accomplish that which we set out to.  While it seems terribly cliche to say so, frequently all that is required to take a commonly used, pedestrian tool and convert that into a powerful educational tools is a touch of creative thinking… generally outside the box! Ben

One of the most valuable aspects of this class was the time and effort put into getting our hands dirty in the various social networking resources.  Not only did we learn about them but we also had to be a participant and really dive into them.  I am not really good and comfortable with some of them yet but the experiences I gained in this class will help me as I try to do better.   Being made to get me hands dirty really helped.  I probably would not have done as much in the various tools if it was not required for a grade and for that I am grateful. I started out in this class thinking that I knew a lot about social networking.  That was a big mistake.  I learned so much.  Not only about social networking but about how I can present myself professionally online and in these different networks.  I learned that I can use these tools not just as resources in my classroom but as professional development that will help me stay in the hunt with all the technological choices out there.  I am much more professional and aware of what I put out in the online networking land as it pertains to me and my reputation and the perception that others have of me as a person and as a professional. It has been an eye opening, wonderful learning experience and I am grateful for the opportunity to do it.  I will be able to take this and be a better teacher and social networker because of it. Christina

One surprise for me was the power of Twitter.  I had no idea it was being used to share learning.  I thought it was a celebrity craze and a way to demoralize society.  My hesitation in joining the Twitter world was quickly replaced with enthusiasm.  I found several organizations and groups to follow.  Twitter was a way for me to learn!  I admit that I don’t tweet often but I definitely lurk.   Overall, I feel that I have learned to be a better social citizen.  I have experienced how to manage and incorporate social network learning.  I have created new ways to organize and share information.  And most importantly, I appreciate the relationships that I built and the communities that I have become a part of  Andi

I really had my eyes opened in this class. I learned that Facebook could be very beneficial as I was able to social network with others who had the same interests and ideas. I could collaborate and keep up-to-date with technology or other things that I could use in the classroom. I learned that Twitter is an amazing site in which you can join groups and also add invaluable ideas and information to and from theworld. Pinterest is more than just a crafty idea place. It can be very educational and has great resources for the classroom.  I found that PLNs were the most eye-opening experience in this course. I didn’t realize how many I already had that I was unaware of. I now need to refine what I have and turn them into valuable resources. Debi


Given that the students were mostly K-12 educators, who are majoring in and integrating educational technology into the classroom, I was a bit surprised that, as a group, they didn’t know about and use social networking as part of their educational practices.  For the most part, their experiences in the course were positive and demonstrated that a course of social networked learning can be valuable for educators.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 2, 2013 at 1:22 am

Social Networking and the Quest to Lessen (Lesson?) Existential Anxiety

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I have lived most of my life in a state of existential anxiety . . .

Existential anxiety arises when people deeply contemplate their existence. This contemplation leads to thoughts and feelings of freedom and responsibility, which burden the individual to find a purpose in life–and to live genuinely according to this purpose.


Starting in middle school, I developed this intense desire to have a significant impact on changing the world.  I want the world to be a more fair, equitable, and enjoyable place for all, in part, due to actions I have taken.  I have worked with at risk youth, with adjudicated youth, with kids and adults in a psychiatric hospital, with pre-service and in-service teachers.  I always try to plant a seed of significance – that they have the personal power to change themselves and the world.  My passion for doing so has not diminished but a few years ago I entered into a state of existential depression, believing what I was doing didn’t matter.  Ironically, even though I “preach” a message of personal power to change the world, I had/have doubts that I could do so.

Then came social media.  I often express that social media gives everyone the opportunity to have a voice and an audience to listen to that voices.  As for myself, I blog, tweet, and Facebook hoping to create some sense of significance.

Several events converged during the past few weeks to intensify my perpetual state of existential angst:

  • The Sandy Hook Massacre and the related #26Acts of Kindness
  • Revisiting Viktor Frankl’s ideas through a video shared on Twitter
  • My blog reached over 200,000 views and closing in on 10,000 followers of Twitter.

I cannot say anything good is going to come from the Sandy Hook massacre – it has not meaning.  It just reinforces the need to live and love fully and totally for today as we cannot be assured of a tomorrow.  Some folks seemed to take this thought to heart and joined Ann Curry’s movement to participate in #26acts of kindness.  In order to honor the victims and to attempt to do something, anything to make change, I did my #26acts and blogged about them in Living a Life of Kindness: #26acts to challenge others to do so.

This week marked the 200,000 view of my blog and I am closing in on 10,000 followers on Twitter.


Yesterday I posted a Facebook status that stated, “Am thinking that I should be a poster child for existential angst – have spent my life in an ongoing search for meaning and significance.”  One of my friends, Janet Nay Zadina responded,  “I am so happy that I have work that is meaningful to me. You, also, have that. Your posting of Acts of Kindness has significantly affected me and many others.”

Maybe I do have a voice.  I still don’t know if I am making a difference, but hope my blog entries and tweets spark something for those viewing them. I have more hope I am making a difference than I had prior to social networking.

As I noted, viewing Viktor Frankl’s talk was also one of the events that had impact on me this week.  I started thinking that maybe a purpose I have in life is to encourage educators to assist their students in finding their own meaning and significance.

As Viktor Frankl noted in his talk, young people have a need for finding meaning in life.  In our role of as educators, Dr. Frankl made several comments that have application to working with students:

If we take (hu)mans as are they really are, we make them worse, but if we overestimate/overrate them, we promote them to what they really can be.

If you don’t recognize young (hu)mans’ will to meaning, search for meaning, you make them worse, you make them dull, you make them frustrated.  Let’s presuppose a spark for meaning.  Then you will elicit it from them and you will make them become what they are capable of becoming.

I believe that a responsibility of all educators is to provide their students with the knowledge, skills, resources, and time to find their own meaning.  Social media and networking amplifies and enhances their potential to do so.  In these days of social media and networking, kids, on their own, are changing the world:

Can you imagine how a world would look if the educational curriculum promoted kid-driven initiatives like these?

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Information Abundance and Its Implications for Education

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As I read through the social media networks, the concept of information overload is continually being discussed.

Information overload is a term popularized by Alvin Toffler in his bestselling 1970 book Future Shock. It refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much information. Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.  

As the world moves into a new era of globalization, an increasing number of people are connecting to the Internet to conduct their own researchand are given the ability to produce as well as consume the data accessed on an increasing number of websites. Users are now classified as active users  because more people in society are participating in the Digital and Information Age.  This flow has created a new life where we are now in danger of becoming dependent on this method of access to information.  Therefore we see an information overload from the access to so much information, almost instantaneously, without knowing the validity of the content and the risk of misinformation.

I have re-framed information overload from being discussed as a cautionary consequence of the technology age to us living in a time of information abundance.  I think we are living in one of the most exciting times in the history of humankind. We are living in a world of information abundance, surplus, and access.  The result is synergy whereby the human mind plus our current technologies far exceed the sum of these individual parts.  By this I mean we have technologies to access any type of information and to create products that match the pictures and voices in our minds; and we can use technology to get the assistance and feedback from folks around the globe.

I am not alone in my enthusiasm for this age of information at our fingertips. In a study conducted from Northwestern University, Overwhelmed by instant access to news and information? Most Americans like it,  researchers concluded “There’s definitely some frustration with the quality of some of the information available, but these frustrations were accompanied by enthusiasm and excitement on a more general level about overall media choices.”

Weinberger, author of Too Big to Know, believes we have entered a new golden age, one in which technology has finally caught up with humans’ endless curiosity, and one that has the potential to revolutionize a wide swath of occupations and research fields.”

Implications for Education

As educators, we have this gift of information abundance. It should be leveraged and strategically used for our own and our students’ learning. When educators do not acknowledge, incorporate, and integrate the many types and uses of our real world technologies, they are failing their students.

  • Educators are no longer the gatekeepers to information.  Prior to Web 1.0 and Web 2.o, students were often dependent on educators to be the experts to tell them about and share resources about the content-related topic.  Now the Internet has videos, resources, and research from experts and practitioners who often know more about the content than does the educator.  Now more than even, the educator needs to:
  • The Internet needs to be open and available to students.  Many students already have access to information where and when they want it but often not in the school setting.  Many are learning more after school hours than during school hours.  By limiting students to textbooks and information as selected by districts, principals, textbook and testing companies, a type of censorship occurs.  Students have the opportunity, through the Internet, to hear, see, and read about varying perspectives on so many topics.  Depriving them of the opportunity to do so limits their education.
  • Information and media literacy needs to integrated across the curriculum and grade levels. 

Our rapid transformation into a technology driven, information society has dramatically altered the k-16 teaching and learning landscape.  And, as a result, the sustainability of our current economic foundation, strengthening our national security, even maintaining the very essence of our democratic way of life depends more and more on producing learners who not only know how to think, but know how to problem solve within a diversified information and communication technology universe.


  • Global-oriented and multicultural education also needs to be integrated across the curriculum and grade levels.

From science and culture to sports and politics, ideas and capital are crossing borders and spanning the world. The globalization of business, the advances in technology, and the acceleration of migration increasingly require the ability to work on a global scale. As a result of this new connectivity, our high school graduates will need to be far more knowledgeable about world regions and global issues, and able to communicate across cultures and languages. Our students must emerge from schools college-ready and globally competent, prepared to compete, connect, and cooperate with their generation around the world (The Global Classroom).

  • Students developing their own Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) should be viewed as a major instructional strategy.

A student personal learning network is, therefore, a rich and ever-growing series of connections with people, resources, and communities around the world…connections that allow us to grow in knowledge, skill, ability and perspective. What if we spent more time thinking about the networks that students are building as they go through their schooling years? What if we made the building of such a network a central part of the curriculum, inviting students to keep a log or journal of their growing network, and how this network is empowering them to learn, how it is expanding their knowledge and perspective? How are they building a meaningful network? Students can interview people around the world, tutor and be tutored, take part in formal and informal learning communities, take part in Twitter chats and Hangouts, learn from and engage in the blogosphere, experience the power of working on a meaningful project in a distributed/virtual team, participate in a massive open online course (or design and teach one), share resources through social bookmarking and other technologies, host and take part in webinars, and build new online and blended learning communities around topics of personal value, need, and interest. Over time, the students may not only build a personal learning network, but also venture into starting their own personal teaching networks, being agents of change and positive influence in the digital world and beyond (Helping Students Develop Personal Learning Networks).

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Educators as Social Networked Learners

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This fall, I am getting the opportunity to design and teach a graduate course for Boise State University’s Education Technology Program entitled, Social Networked Learning.  The majority of students in the program are K-12 in-service teachers who are seeking ways to enhance their teaching with integrated and emerging technologies.  I am so excited about what students are producing for this course and in terms of meeting this goal that I wanted to share information about the course, a sampling of course activities, and example student work.

Course Description

This course explores collaborative and emergent pedagogies, tools, and theory related to the use of social networks in learning environments. Participants gain hands-on experience with a variety social networking tools, create their own personal learning networks, and have an opportunity to develop a MOOC-inspired course for their learners.

The ideas, content, and exercises presented in this course are driven by two basic tenets:

  1. We are living, learning, and educating in an information-rich (Shirky), connected (Siemens), creative (Florida), participatory (Jenkins) culture.
  2. This culture is seeing growth, development, and evolution of information and technology as never seen before in the history of  humankind.  As such, educators need to become learners along with being teachers.  Educators, in this age of teaching and learning, have a responsibility to connect with, learn from and with, and share resources and information with their students and other educators both locally and globally.

Drawing from these tenets and borrowing from Howard Rheingold’s syllabus on Social Media Literacies, I believe the course can be further described by the following:

Today’s personal, social, political, economic worlds are all affected by digital media and networked publics. Viral videos, free search engines, indelible and searchable digital footprints, laptops in lecture halls and smartphones at the dinner table, massive online university courses — it’s hard to find an aspect of daily life around the world that is not being transformed by the tweets, blogs, wikis, apps, movements, memes, likes and plusses, tags, text messages, and comments two billion Internet users and six billion mobile phone subscribers emit. New individual and collaborative skills are emerging. This course introduces students to both the literature about and direct experience about how to leverage social media for teaching and learning, skills and tools necessary for critical consumption of information, best practices of individual digital participation and collective participatory culture, the use of collaborative media, and the application of network know-how for professional development and networking teaching and learning.  (

Learning Goals 

  1. Use a Personal Learning Network, and explain its value in educational settings.
  2. Understand the value of web-based social networks within educational settings.
  3. Identify learning theories and researched-based practices that support current approaches to effective use of social network technologies for learning.
  4. Analyze strengths and weaknesses of various social networks and information management technologies for a variety of learning goals.
  5. Contribute to professional-based social learning networks using a variety of media and communication mechanisms.
  6. Identify factors with successful social networks, and create a social learning network-driven course for learners addressing these factors.

Course Modules

  • The Theories Driving Social Networking: Communities of Practice, Connectivism, Personal Learning Networks
  • Social Media for Professional Development & Reputation Management
  • Building Your Personal Learning Network
  • Social Networking As An Instructional Strategy
  • Creating a MOOC-Inspired Online Community of Learners

Course Assignments

  • Set Up Course Social Networking Areas and Sites
  • Communities of Practice, Connectivism, Personal Learning Networks: Resource Identification
  • Communities of Practice, Connectivism, Personal Learning Networks: Creative Understandings
  • Social Media for Professional Development & Reputation Management
  • Real Time and Live Professional Development
  • Positive Digital Footprint and Reputation Management Plan
  • Curation: Criteria for Quality Curation
  • Curation: Curated Topic
  • Building Your Personal Learning Network
  • PLE Diagram
  • Social Media Policies and Your Own Online Communities
  • Synthesis and Application of Social Networking Tools and Ideas
  • Creating a MOOC-Inspired Online Community of Learners
  • Peer Review and Reflection

Module One: Communities of Practice, Connectivism, Personal Learning Networks


During this module, you will be exploring communities of practice, connectivism, and personal learning networks. Understanding these concepts, philosophies, and ways of thinking provide a foundation for social networking.  It can help you use social networks strategically and with intention.  It helps inform your actions so you can use networks for engaged, participatory learning.

Create one or a combination of the following to demonstrate your understanding of these concepts:  a slide show or Glog of images, an audio cast of sounds, a video of sights, a series of handrawn and scanned pictures, a mindmap of images, a mathematical formula, a periodic chart of concepts, or another form of nonlinguistical symbols.  Note that it is not about words but about images and symbols.   Your product should contain the major elements discussed in this module: CoPs, Connectivism, and Personal Learning Networks.  Include a reference page of at least 10 (ten) CoP, Connectivism, and PLN resources you used to inform your work. Creating a “product” to represent your understanding of the concepts addresses (1) that we have become producers as well as consumers in this age of social networking and web 2.0; and (2) according to neuroscientist, John Medina, visuals are very powerful means for learning and understanding.

Student Examples

Communities of Practice are demonstrated by multiple instruments playing a major scale. All the musicians share the same passion (the scale). At first the musicians are out of sync but as they continue to work together and learn more the music begins to come together. By the end they are all playing together (Wenger, n.d.). I felt this was a good representation of how learning can be facilitated through Communities of Practice.

Personal Learning Networks are demonstrated through the use of drum beats. It starts with just one beat and slowly more and more beats are layered on top making the music (the learning) grow. The use of all drums represents the similar interest shared by people in a PLN and the variations in the beats represent how each person brings a unique perspective to the learning environment (Kharbach, 2012).

Connectivism is demonstrated by different instruments slowly being layered on top of each other. As the music becomes stronger it’s representing how learning can grow by connecting with others around the world through web 2.0 (“Connectivism”, n.d.). It also shows how learning with others is more effective than learning alone. (Creative Expression: CoPs, PLNs, and Connectivisim)


Module Two: Social Media for Professional Development & Reputation Management


Educators really can’t afford to NOT be on Twitter.  Our educational landscape is changing very rapidly.  Our students are using this technology every day, and as educators we must continually be growing and finding new ways to learn and to reach our students.  Is Twitter perfect?  By no means.  But used correctly, Twitter can really become a catalyst in transforming your classroom, your school, and your teaching.  (

If you haven’t done so, set up a Twitter client (e.g. Tweetdeck).  Find at least five hashtags that reflect your interests and set up columns for them on your Twitter client.  Tweet out your chosen hashtags using #EdTechSNPost a screenshot on our class Facebook page of your Twitter client with the at least five hashtagged columns (not including #EdTechSN). Include a summary of what hashtags you follow; three new things, resources, ideas you learned by following them; and your thoughts about about using Twitter as a form of just-in-time professional development.

Student Examples

A few student reflections about setting up and using Twitter for Professional Development:

Module Three: Positive Digital Footprint and Reputation Management Plan


Your task for this assignment is to develop a specific plan for you as a professional to establish a positive professional online presence while at the same time developing steps to insure that your reputation remains “safe” and positive.  Include at least 10 individual strategies.  Use references to support your ideas/strategies.  Post your ideas on a site that permits comments and feedback – you can create a video and upload on Youtube, a Voicethread, a Flickr slide series, a Facebook Page, a wikipage, or a Google doc (making sure you enable comments).

Student Examples


Module Four: Curation


“Curation comes up when search stops working,” says author and NYU Professor Clay Shirky. But it’s more than a human-powered filter. “Curation comes up when people realize that it isn’t just about information seeking, it’s also about synchronizing a community.” Why Content Curation Is Here to Stay

Review the readings and resources about curation. Based on your readings, develop a checklist of at least 15 criteria that will serve as a tool for assessing the the quality and value of a curated topic related to your specialized content area and/or grade level.  This is a group assignment – to be completed with the group you formed in the last module.  Decide as a group which collaborative online tool you want to use to complete this list of criteria, e.g., Wiki, Google Doc, Primary Pad, etc. Reflect on the process of creating the checklist and working as a group in the comments section of their Facebook checklist post.

Using a tool specific for curation (e.g, Pinterest, Scoopit, Educlipper, Livebinders, Learnrist, MightyBell), curate a topic of your choice, applicable to your content areas and/or grade level.. This is an individual project. Include at least 25 resources. Use your group’s checklist to self-assess its value.  Post your results in the comments section where you posted your the link to your Curated Topic. Use your group’s checklist to assess the curated topics of your group members.  Please note what was especially noteworthy and also what needs further development/tweaking.

Student Example

Curating is hard work. To come up with this list of 25 acceptable resources involved a lot of filtering, sifting, and otherwise weeding out. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. That somebody is me – and lots of educational technology professionals like me who take pride in their work. We do the hard stuff so you don’t have to. The end result is a resource I feel is substantial, helpful, and contributes to the greater good of knowledge. Gretel P.

Module Five:  Your PLE Diagram and Reflection


Create a PLE diagram of your online communities.  Represent at least 10 different online communities in your graphic and explictly show connections between the communities. You can be as creative as you’d like with this depiction.  You can hand draw and take an image, or use any type technology.  There are a number of mindmapping tools that can help you –  Post a link and screenshot of your PLE so you classmates could view it on Facebook and Tweet your diagram out using the #EdTechSN hastag.  Complete a reflection that addresses the following questions:  What did you learn about yourself when looking at your PLE? Visit your classmates’ PLE posts.  How does your PLE compare to other peers in class? Write a self-reflection and a comparative analysis that discusses similarities and diffierences between yours and your classmates’ diagrams.

Student Diagram Examples

Student Reflections: Completing the PLE Diagram

This experience has allowed me to look at the communities in a new light. Before, I simply used them for their entertainment value. An escape from work and learning. Little did I know that they would become the basis for my new way of learning. Each day I am amazed by what I find.  Andi

This class, or more importantly this assignment, has made me realize just how much I have not been truly using the Internet and all its tools and resources to its ability.  It is like when you bite into a candy thinking that there is yummy goodness in the middle only to find out that the middle is actually hollow and the candy just had a thick shell.  But it also has allowed me to immerse myself into resources, tools, and communities that I might never thought of using/joining and broadening my network for the better.  Christina

This idea of growing our network, of growing ourselves, aligns well with the connectivist framework I have been researching lately. Like George Siemens said, “The learning is the network” (2004). Gretel

I had a wonderful experience creating my PLN and it gave me a map to use when socializing and gaining information to help me with my teaching degree. It is now much easy to “see” where I should be going and “who” I should be networking with. I am excited to see where this will lead me and what the future holds. Debi

 I have learned that I have ideas that may be beneficial for other educators and students and often felt like I had no avenue through which to share them besides in direct communication with the students and teachers at the school/colleges where I teach. By creating this PLE diagram, I have been able to see how many avenues I do have to make more of a contribution to the educational community at large, going beyond the schools I am directly affiliated with. Jaime

Joining new professional networks to include on the diagrams stretched me outside of my comfort zone. Activities that instigate discomfort can be amongst the very best opportunities to learn. angi

PLE Diagram Blog Entries

Module 6: Social Networked Learning in Your Classroom


Social media is fast becoming as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. Many schools and districts around the country have taken steps to create social media policies and guidelines for their students and staff. In my work with several districts to draft these documents, I have seen many approaches that work well, and some that don’t. That said, there is no silver bullet for administrators; every school, district, and state has a different set of circumstances. (How to Create Social Media Guidelines for Your School)

Either (1) develop social media policies for your learning environment, or (2) establish a plan to have your learning community develop social media policies for your school or organization.  Include steps to get input and ideas from students, parents, teachers, staff, community members.

Student Reflections About Creating a Social Media Policy

While many teachers still choose to keep their head in the sand, the fact is that Social Media is in our schools.  Moreover, that’s where it should be.  There is no doubt that dealing with social media in a school setting is tricky business.  Fears about students safety, cyber-bullying, reputation management, distraction in school and the like are real issues that should be addressed by school communities.  More and more, this is being handled by the development of a Social Media Policy for the school or school district.  This is an important part of creating a culture where students learn to use social media,, something they are already doing in the personal lives, in the space they spend so much of their time.  By taking the approach of creating a policy that cultivates an understanding of the proper use of social media, schools not only protect themselves and their students, they also help students learn to better use such technology.  Jon F.

I’m disappointed, though not surprised, to see how many districts and schools ban external social media sites completely. Sure, it may protect and cushion students, but it also creates a long-term problem of not helping students learn to navigate a world they are already using daily. Schools do students a huge disservice and only compound the problem by feeding school-life-home disconnect. Students will still use social media outside of school but are given virtually no practice to use it wisely and well – and certainly not for learning.  I drafted a social media policy for our school and will present it to the Technology Committee for preliminary review and hopefully adoption. I believe it’s important to have this in place in addition to an Acceptable Use Policy, because 1) it states our belief that social media has a valuable place in our school; 2) it educates students, parents, and teachers on appropriate online behavior within social media sites; and 3) it helps ensure that everyone is accountable and safe.  Gretel P.

Examples of Established Social Media Policies


You are going to establish your own online social learning platform for your teaching environment.  You can use any platform. Edmodo is highly recommended, but NINGs, Mightbell, Facebook for Schools, Moodle, Wikis, and PB Works are options, too.  Please complete the following for this assignment:

    1. Establish accounts.
    2. Describe your learning audience.
    3. Establish procedures for learners to join the platform.
    4. Establish some general acceptable use guidelines for your social learning platform.
    5. Describe some potential uses of this social learning network or online community for your content area and grade level.

Student Examples

The final project for the course is for the established groups to develop a MOOC inspired course using the theories, strategies, and tools developed throughout the courses.  This project will be discussed in a separate blog post.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 18, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Learning on the Edge

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One of the first exercises I ask the pre-service and in-service teachers in my Psychology of Learning course to do is define learning.  This is not a look-up-in-the-dictionary type of activity.  They are asked to do so using their own thoughts, images, body movements, and chants/music.  It is a difficult exercise.

Actually, I find it quite baffling that educators don’t more often explore the question, “What is learning?”  Isn’t learning the ultimate goal, vision, mission of education?  If so, why is the implementation of learning, often known as curriculum, done so without a clear, clean, shared knowledge about what learning is?

I believe, as Grant Wiggins does:

Though we often lose sight of this basic fact, the point of learning is not just to know things but to be a different person – more mature, more wise, more self-disciplined, more effective, and more productive in the broadest sense. Knowledge is an indicator of educational success, not the aim.

  • If curriculum is a tour through what is known, how is knowledge ever advanced?
  • If a primary goal of education is high-level performance in the world going forward, how can marching through old knowledge out of context optimally prepare us to perform?

Everything you know about curriculum may be wrong. Really.

Recently, I attended Unplug’d, a type of think tank to explore education reform.  Its unofficial subtitle was learning on the edge as it occurred at a retreat center called Northern Edge Algonquin.  My thoughts and discussions at this gathering sparked ideas about the characteristics of learning on the edge. I believe that some of these include:

  • The Map is Not the Territory
  • There is Recognition, Acknowledgment, and Embracing of Unknowns
  • It Requires Jumping Into the Deep End
  • It is a Messy Experience Shared by Everyone in the Learning Community

The Map is Not the Territory

Jorge Luis Borges is said to have remarked that the only accurate representation of reality would be reality itself; by extension, the only accurate map of the Earth would be the exact shape and size of the Earth itself. Since we cannot construct such a map, we accept a certain level of inaccuracy from our maps.  As Borges implied, we must expect some inaccuracies of this kind. But even beyond this simple separation of reality and representation, our society functions in relative naïveté about the accuracy of maps. (

A similar illusion has evolved in education.  There is a belief that the curriculum maps, lesson plans, and teaching scripts are the territory, that all there needs to be known can be taught with these “maps”.

Learning on the edge recognizes that just like geographic maps, curriculum and lesson plans are inaccurate and incomplete maps of what can be learned and known.  Learning on the edge may be guided by curricular maps but there is an expectation of digressions, exploration of alternatives, and at times, throwing out the map altogether.  Learning on the edge comes with an awareness that the map may or may not be an accurate representation of reality.  It recognizes that each educator’s and student’s journey is unique, personalized, and self-determined.  Another illusion of institutionalized education is that a student’s learning can be determined.  Even with standardized curriculum, each students takes from it what s/he needs and desires.

What follows are the visual notes that Giulia Forsthye drew to depict the discussion our Unplug’d group had about the Map is Not the Territory.

Image by Giulia Forsthye.  Its inspiration came from

There is Recognition, Acknowledgment, and Embracing of Unknowns

Terra incognita or terra ignota (Latin “unknown land,”) is a term used in cartography for regions that have not been mapped or documented. The term was reintroduced in the fifteenth century from the rediscovery of Ptolemy’s work during the Age of Discovery.

Terra incognitia also means a new or unexplored field of knowledge. Learning on the edge has a built-in assumption that there are unknowns beyond the edge, there are things yet to be discovered by all members of the learning community, students and teachers alike.  It becomes a journey of explorations, of new insights and discoveries, of seeing things never seen before.

It Requires Jumping Into the Deep End

Learning on the edge is not about dipping toes in the water or wading in slowly from the shallows.  It requires a full commitment to jump in and get fully immersed.  The shock, at first, may take breath away, (Jumping in cold waters always does). This is especially true for those educators and learners who are used to journeying along the roads most traveled, who function and live by the tried and tested curriculum, lesson plans, and instructional and learning strategies.  But educators and students, who seek to learn on the edge, understand that there is only so much you can learn in one place, that terminal objectives and class outcomes are just that terminal. (Terminal: Of, at, relating to, or forming a limit, boundary, extremity, or end.

There’s only so much you can learn in one place
The more that I wait, the more time that I waste
Are you ready to jump
Get ready to jump
Don’t ever look back
Yes, I’m ready to jump
Just take my hand
get ready to jump

(Yep, Madonna’s Jump)

The act of jumping is a kinesthetic experience.  Similarly, learning on the edge and often in the deep end becomes a full body experience. Learning experiences are heard, seen, felt.  Changes in thinking, doing, knowing, being occur due to these experiences.

It is a Messy Experience Shared by Everyone in the Learning Community

Learning on the edge is a messy affair.  Thoughts and ideas get muddied.  Frustrations occur as there are few correct answers.  More questions and puzzlements arise.  Old paradigms are shaken up.

It is a shared experience of all members of the learning community – all students and all educators.  All members struggle, all are changed due to the experience.

Good learning is not a matter of finding a happy medium where both parties are transformed as little as possible. Rather, both parties must be maximally transformed—in a sense deformed. There is violence in learning. We cannot learn something without eating it, yet we cannot really learn it either without being chewed up.”
— Peter Elbow, Embracing Contraries, Oxford University Press, 1986.

I want my students to learn, I want to be a facilitator of learning.  I do not have the goal of transmitting facts and knowledge so my students, at best, acquire a surface understanding. So maybe what I describe is not learning on the edge but learning as it should be. It is not easy to facilitate in traditional institutions but it is possible . . . and the rewards of seeing and hearing student testimonies of their significant learning are priceless.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 19, 2012 at 11:08 pm

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