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Posts Tagged ‘student-centric learrning

A Brain Science Hyperdoc Activity

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Judy Willis, a neuroscientist turned teacher, in How to Teach Students About the Brain writes:

If we want to empower students, we must show them how they can control their own cognitive and emotional health and their own learning. Teaching students how the brain operates is a huge step. Teaching students the mechanism behind how the brain operates and teaching them approaches they can use to work that mechanism more effectively helps students believe they can create a more intelligent, creative, and powerful brain. It also shows them that striving for emotional awareness and physical health is part of keeping an optimally functioning brain. Thus, instruction in brain function will lead to healthier learners as well as wiser ones.

I teach a unit on the brain each year. This year I am teaching a 9th grade freshman seminar and decided to do a brain science unit with them. For this unit , I created a brain science hyperdoc for them. A hyperdoc is:

A HyperDoc is a digital document—such as a Google Doc—where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one central hub. Within a single document, students are provided with hyperlinks to all of the resources they need to complete that learning cycle (https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/hyperdocs/).

The Brain Science Hyperdoc

Here is a completed brain science hyperdoc so you can see what was required and how one student completed it.

Making Models of the Brain

One of the hands-on activities was to work in a small group to create a model of the brain lobes + cerebellum out of playdoh, and then add post-it note “flags” for each part that indicates its name, function, and how to promote its health.

Creating Neuron Models

As a treat and to reinforce the parts of the neuron, students used candy to make a neuron, label its parts on a paper below, and then show as a group how one neuron would communicate with the next neuron and then to the next and so on.

Creative Writing Activity

One of the final projects of their brain science activities was to pick two activities from the list of creative writing activities about the brain found at https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/writing.html. One of my students went all out to create a newspaper called The Brainiac News which follows. Using her own initiative, she started a Google Site to post a series of tongue-in-cheek stories. So impressive!

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 13, 2019 at 8:24 pm

Design a Cardboard Chair Challenge

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In Learning in the Making: How to Plan, Execute, and Assess Powerful Makerspace Lessons, I discuss a Framework for Implementing Maker Experiences as depicted in the following diagram.

I recently asked my 9th grade students to do a cardboard chair challenge. What follows is how the students went through this framework.

Framing or Frontloading the Experience

Framing or frontloading a maker education experience increases the chances that transferable skills and knowledge result, is framing or frontloading the activities as part of introducing them.

This activity was framed as a continuation of the team building and group communication activities in which the students participated the previous week. They were told that they needed to practice the effective communication skills they identified during the previous activities.

The Experience

The experience is, obviously, the doing or making part of the framework. Below is a cardboard chair challenge guide I found from Creativity Lab and which was shared with students via Google Classroom.

Materials

Designs Created in Tinkercad

In their small groups, they created their chair designs using Tinkercad.

Chair Construction

In their teams, students built their cardboard chairs using the Zip Snip Cutting Tool and the Makedo screws to connect the cardboard pieces (worked wonderfully I want to add).

Reflecting on the Experience

To reflect on their maker experiences, student work groups were given a set of cards (see below) to, first, pick cards from the deck to verbally answer, and to, second, choose three of the cards to answer in a blog post.

Example Verbal Responses to the Reflection Questions

Reflection Card Blog Post Examples

The Conceptualization: Researching

Finally, students were asked to create a infographics

Example Student Infographics


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

September 18, 2019 at 11:51 pm

Starting Off the School Year: It’s About the Learners

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I always start off the school year focusing on connections – my connections to the students, their connections to me and the other in the class. Too many classes, all grade levels, begin the school year with getting down to academic business – starting to cover content, discussing expectations regarding academic requirements, giving tests, and other academic information provided by the teacher to the students in a mostly one-way communication.  The human or social element is often disregarded.

I want students to learn about one another in a personal way.  I want to learn about my students so my instructional strategies can be more personalized and tailored to their needs and interests.  Beginning class with a focus on connections rather than content gives learners the following messages:

  • You are the focus of the class not me.
  • You are important as a learner in this class.
  • You will be expected to engage in the learning activities during class time.  You will be an active learner.
  • You will be expected to do collaborative learning during the class time.
  • I, as the class facilitator, will be just that – a facilitator.  I will introduce the learning activities, but you will be responsible for the actual learning.
  • I will get to know you as a learner and try to help you find learning activities that are of interest to you. (From my post: Beginning the School Year: It’s About Connections Not Content)

Two things that I believe needs to occur at the beginning of the schools year:

  1. Get to know the learners – as individuals with unique backgrounds, interests, strengths, weaknesses.
  2. Establish a learning community where all learners are seen as having value in our classroom.

This past week was the first week of school and the first week that I am teaching these students in a 9th Grade Freshman Seminar. After the first day introductions with fun games such as Warp Speed and Jenga Q & A (descriptions of these can be found at https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/beginning-the-school-year-with-connections-2018/ . The rest of the week was spent on the learners working on the activities from the following Hyperdoc.



By far, the most valuable activity for me is the Student Interest Survey as it provides me with so much information about each student in such an easy format. With 25 students in the class, it would have taken me months to learn all I did using the following Google Form.

The results of the survey, which follow, provide me with so much valuable information. I discovered their passions, aspirations, dreams, and even some fears. For example, I found out their career aspirations: pathologist, mechanical engineer, police officer, orthopedic doctor, electrical engineer, doctor. veterinarian, architect, actress, civil engineer, professional racer for anything with a motor, teacher, interior designer, photographer, nurse, writer, artist, dancer, music producer, singer psychologist, forensic scientist, neurosurgeon. This information will assist me in planning activities based on their interests.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 17, 2019 at 10:41 pm

Shoe Design Project

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As the final project of the school year, I asked a group of my gifted 4th through 6th graders to design and prototype a new type of shoe. In a recent post from Idea U, Why Everyone Should Prototype (Not Just Designers), Chris Nyffeler, IDEO Executive Design Director, discussed the purpose and value of prototyping:

When we say prototype, that’s anything that gets the idea in your head into an artifact people can experience and offer feedback on.

You use prototyping to process the ideas themselves and to help you think through the idea better.

It’s not that you process your idea and then communicate it through a prototype. You actually use prototyping to process the ideas themselves and to help you think through the idea better.

Keep early prototypes quick and scrappy. By starting with tools that are familiar to you and easy to use, you can quickly create something tangible that will allow you to gather feedback and learn what’s working and what’s not.

Videos for Inspiration

After being told about their task – to design a new type of shoe with new and unique features, learners were shown the following videos for inspiration:

Writing a Description of Shoe Characteristics

Learners were asked to begin their design process by writing about each of the following:

  • Age Group?
  • Gender?
  • Kind of Shoe (e.g., athletic, fashion)?
  • Special Features?

What follows are some examples of their descriptions:

Creating a Shoe Design Sketch

Learners were asked to begin prototyping their shoe designs by sketching them.

  • Front, Side, and Bottom Views in Color
  • Special Features
  • Materials Used (they were asked to do online research on the different types of materials that can be used for shoe construction.)

Creating a Logo

It was the learners’ idea to create a logo for their shoes. One of them knew about an online logo creator at https://www.freelogodesign.org/ which they all used. Here is one of them that impressed me. He worked a long time fine tuning it.

Shoe Logo Design Using https://www.freelogodesign.org/

Creating a 3D Model

Option 1 – A 3D Model Out of Cardstock

This part of the activity was taken from Summer Fun: How to Make a Paper Shoe https://kidzeramag.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/summer-fun-how-to-make-a-paper-shoe/ – the template and instructional video follow:

Learners began creating their design with the cardboard template adapted the template to better match their sketches. We ran out of time to complete this part due to the school year ending.

Option 2 – 3D Model Using Google Sketchup

Some learners attempted to create their 3D designs using Google Sketchup – https://app.sketchup.com/app?hl=en. This is the free version so there was limited functions but the learners enjoyed experimenting with it.

Reflecting with the Creative Product Assessment Rubric

As part of their gifted program, learners complete quarterly assessments. For the final quarter, they use the Creative Product Assessment Rubric.

Adapted from Creative Product Analysis Matrix, Besemer, 1984

An Example

Product Name: Ixploz, v.1
Product Description: Athletic Shoe
Problem or Need Statement: To make an athletic shoe that is comfortable and relaxing.

In grade 6, O. reviewed his product, Ixploz, an athletic shoe, using the Creative Product Assessment Rubric. The CPAR assesses novelty, resolution, and style as factors of creativity. This product scored 3/5 for novelty, 3.8/5 for resolution and 3.6/5 for style. Averaging the factors, it scored 3.5/5 overall, accumulating 52/75 possible points.

Strengths Noted: It looks nice and it is comfortable
Questions: If made in real life, would it be successful?

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 23, 2019 at 7:04 pm

I Have a Dream: Authentic Learning

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I wrote a post earlier this year entitled, Authentic Learning Experiences. Some of the characteristics of authentic learning I identified are summarized in this graphic:

The Task

Learners, 4th through 6th graders in my gifted education language arts class, were given the task of composing and then recording their own I Have a Dream speeches.

Writing Their Speeches

This authentic learning experience began by watching Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. Interestingly and sadly, there were a few students who had never seen it.

They then wrote and published their I Have a Dream speeches on Kidblog. These were projected as each learner read her speech. Their peers offered feedback about both the content and the mechanics of grammar and spelling with changes made accordingly. Here are some of the edited examples:

Recording Their Speeches

An authentic learning experience offers learners choice and voice. In this case, students were offered a choice of recording their speeches as part of a video in front of a green screen or by just making an audio recording. Half chose the green screen and the other half chose the audio recording. The videos were recorded using my iphone, the audio recordings via Quicktime on a Mac. Their recordings were uploaded to iMovie. All students were asked to add photos to their recordings. They added images found at Unsplash, over 850,000 free (do-whatever-you-want) high-resolution photos by the world’s most generous community of photographers (my favorite online tool for finding and using images). Learners took turns editing their speeches and their final video follows. Note their different styles and as mentioned earlier, reinforces student voice and choice.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 5, 2019 at 6:34 pm

All Lessons Should Be Interdisciplinary

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I am not a fan of worksheets. In fact, I hate most of them. They don’t teach real world skills. How often does someone do worksheets outside of school? How often when they become adults? They also tend to focus on a single content area concept like specific math problems or questions about a particular text.

I used to teach face-to-face elementary education classes to pre-service teachers. There is evidence that teachers teach the way they were taught. I know that almost everyone has been subjected to worksheets as part of their K-12 (even college) education. It follows, then, that theses new teachers will use worksheets as part of their teaching strategies. I can’t blame them especially if they are not intentionally taught and do not practice other instructional strategies as part of their education.

My instruction with them included a focus on interdisciplinary/cross-curricular, thematic, experiential, and project-based learning. I did very little sage on the stage with them during our classes as I wanted them to directly experience these strategies. They did lots of group discussion, case study analysis, and hands-on activities. I often said to them, “You really don’t have enough time in a day to adequately address all of the individual content areas. It is in both your and your students interest to layer your curriculum with a variety of content area concepts, ideas, and skills that can only occur with more project-based and interdisciplinary lessons. Worksheets won’t do this.”

Multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary learning is a “whole” or “comprehensive” method that covers an idea, topic, or text by integrating multiple knowledge domains. It is a very powerful method of teaching that crosses the boundaries of a discipline or curriculum in order to enhance the scope and depth of learning. Each discipline sheds light on the topic like the facets of a gem.

Imagine being able to teach character development, basic math, and basic science concepts via a classic text. How about basic geography, writing skills, and point of view from that same text? Is it possible to also teach about comprehension, sequence, literal vs. non-literal, imagination, plot, theme, compare and contrast, opinion pieces, vocabulary, friendship, bullying, and critical thinking? The answer is yes, and the genre is legends, myths, and fables (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/a-cornucopia-of-multidisciplinary-teaching-vincent-mastro).

Benefits of Interdisciplinary Learning:

  • Obviously, it addresses multiple content areas resulting in increased cognitive development as deeper learning occurs.
  • It mimics real life learning rather than isolated educational experiences. It is authentic. When we learn something in the real world, it is interdisciplinary. For example, when learning how to bake or cook something new, one often does research for the best recipes and cooking strategies, reading of recipes and directions, and using math in the actual cooking or baking.
  • It helps students increase their critical thinking and problem solving skills. Due to the nature of interdisciplinary learning which often includes the characteristics of deep and project-based learning, students are asked to make their own connections and conclusions about their learning.
  • It is student-centric. The focus is on the student rather than on the teacher and on lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy that often occurs when students are given drill and grill learning activities.
  • It tends to be highly engaging for students. They engage because interdisciplinary activities often have at least one content area that is of great interest to the student. It highlights their strengths.
  • It opens doors for students to develop interest in content areas in which they have not been typically interested as they see connections between their desirable content areas and other ones.

benefits of interdisciplinary learning

Some of my blog posts about my interdisciplinary lessons:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 13, 2019 at 12:43 am

Facilitating Learner Voice and Presence in the Classroom Using Experiential Activities

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This is the companion piece to Facilitating Learner Voice and Presence in the Classroom Using Mobile Devices.  The first post described how mobile devices were used during the initial classes of this undergraduate course (mostly 18-20 year old students).  This post focuses on the hands-on, experiential activities I used.  The introduction is the same, but the activities, obviously, are different.

I work towards a learner-centric classroom based on the following principles:

  1. Give learners multiple opportunities to be heard and seen through multiple modalities – verbal, written, visual.
  2. Get to know each learner as an individual – this is in line with my belief of the educator as an ethnographer.  Really see every learner in the room.
  3. Insure that the learners see one another as much as (or better yet more than) the content and the teacher.
  4. Provide ongoing opportunities to connect with the learners and for them to connect with each other.
  5. Use strategies, tools, and materials that the learners use outside of the school
  6. Make sure learners know that they are significant, important, that they matter- see Angela Maiers You Matter.
  7. Use learning activities that are engaging and authentic with the knowledge that the learners are giving their time (and sometimes money) to be in the learning environment.  (I feel an obligation not to “steal” my learners time with activities that are boring, useless – painful for them.)

As such, my first classes are always focused on having the students get to know one another and building a sense of community.  The only content-related activity during the first class is going over the syllabus which occurs during hour 3 or 4 of the class – not the first activity.

Group Norm Development – Class Contracts

Students were given the following task . . .

. . . and then asked to create a metaphor or symbol for their group norms.

I Am Poems

Students created poems using the following template:

http://score.rims.k12.ca.us/score_lessons/symbols_freedom/pages/i_am_poem.html

I gave students the option of using magnetic poetry (collected with several eBay purchases) to complete the assignment.

(This is a Spanish Version of Magnetic Poetry)

. . .  and here are some students’ poems.

Self-Collages

Students created collages of images that represented their physical, intellectual, emotional, and social selves.

Student Reflections About the Class Activities

Students are posting their class reflections via Facebook.  Here are some of their comments about the class activities:

In class this week we got into groups to work on class values and what we want to expect from this class. The groups we were put into we were with people we barely knew, it was very exciting. I enjoyed getting to know the 3 girls I was grouped with and I believe I got to know the talents the girls have.

I was unaware of how much we use communication. The way we think about things make all the difference in the world, reminds me of “The glass is half full or half empty”. I loved the fact that we spent most of the class time learning about the others in the class. Learning about others helps us communicate better as well as making the class more comfortable!

Jackie had us create a collage that showed our physical, social, emotional, and intellectual selves, I was unable to finish the collage however because of a health problem I had during class. I learned that the people I attend class with have had hard lives, and are giving their all to change them into better ones. The hands on learning experience that the class offers helped me understand how things from my mind go onto paper.

I was very happy that my group was able to just be open and I was able to see the personalities of people come out. I love making new friends so I was very excited about this.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm

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