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Posts Tagged ‘technology integration

STEAM and Maker Education: Inclusive, Engaging, Self-Differentiating

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The maker movement has the opportunity to transform education by inviting students to be something other than consumers of education. They can become makers and creators of their own educational lives, moving from being directed to do something to becoming self-directed and independent learners. Increasingly, they can take advantage of new tools for creative expression and for exploring the real world around them. They can be active participants in constructing a new kind of education for the 21st-century, which will promote the creativity and critical thinking we say we value in people like Steve Jobs. Learning by Making: American kids should be building rockets and robots, not taking standardized tests

When a kid builds a model rocket, or a kite, or a birdhouse, she not only picks up math, physics, and chemistry along the way, she also develops her creativity, resourcefulness, planning abilities, curiosity, and engagement with the world around her. But since these things can’t be measured on a standardized test, schools no longer focus on them. As our public educational institutions continue down this grim road, they’ll lose value as places of learning. That may seem like a shame, but to the members of the growing DIY schooling movement, it’s an irresistible opportunity to roll up their sleeves. School for Hackers: The do-it-yourself movement revives learning by doing.

For the past two weekends, I facilitated a three part/three day maker education workshop, From Puppets to Robots, at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum.  It was a small group ranging from a pair of 7 year girl twins to a few 8th grade boys.  All of the parents and kids expressed extreme satisfaction – see the photos below for some evidence of their involvement.

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Some of the reasons I believe the maker workshops were successful include (list still in progress):

  1. Maker activities are multi-sensory, hands-on, and concrete.
  2. The learning activities were scaffolded.  Participants were provided with basic skills during initial activities which led to success in the following, more advanced activities.
  3. The participants were taught and given examples of the processes involved.
  4. The focus was on the process not the product – the how-to’s were demonstrated rather than the end product.
  5. Asking a lot of questions and asking for help were normalized.
  6. Failure was looked at as “just information.”
  7. Peer tutoring and explanations were encouraged.

I have always been a hands-on, experiential educator, but I made a few observations about STEAM and Maker Education during the workshops over the past few weekends.  Maker Education, as I observed, has the following characteristics:

  • Participation is driven by intrinsic motivation
  • Maker education lends itself to 100% engagement by 100% participants almost 100% of the time.
  • Maker education is self-differentiating.
  • Age levels and gender are blurred; does not affect participation, engagement, and interest.
  • Maker education activities are multidisciplinary and authentic.
  • Maker education reinforces and teaches resilience.

Participation is driven by intrinsic motivation.

Maker education participants (of all ages) are driven by intrinsic motivation.  Using one’s own creativity and talents, the opportunity for self expression, and creating a product of one’s own are inherently motivating.  Extrinsic motivators such bribing through grades, rewards, and/or praise are not needed to coax individuals into participation in maker, DIY, STEAM activities.

Maker education lends itself to 100% engagement by 100% participants almost 100% of the time.

Due to similar factors as described above, I observed that all of the young people were engaged most of the time.  With maker activities being centered on interest-driven learning, a flow state of participation often results.  “Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does” ( Time blurs as participants engaged in creativity, innovation, and problem-solving.  Only a few times did any of the kids ask about the time, and this occurred towards the end of three hour sessions.

Maker education is self-differentiating.

The nature of the maker workshop activities permitted the participants to differentiate the activities for themselves.  Some of the kids picked up the processes being demonstrated as well as had visions about what they wanted to create faster than some of the other kids.  They were given the materials, permission, and encouragement to move forward independently.  Other kids needed a little bit more instruction and scaffolding.  The two facilitators then could provide them with the extra instruction.  Peer assistance and instruction also came naturally in this exploratory environment of experimentation, testing, revising, producing.

Age levels and gender are blurred.  Age and gender does not affect participation, engagement, and interest.

The traditional education model is to group kids by manufacture date, in other words in their cohort groups by age and date of birth.  As stated above, the maker workshop I facilitated over the past few weekends was open to kids from age 7 to 13.  The group ended up with 7 year old twin girls and a few 13 year old boys with a mix of ages and genders in the middle. Interestingly, the kids, themselves, made no comments about this diverse group.  It didn’t seem to phase them at all.

Because the nature of maker workshop activities being self-differentiating, the age and gender did not make a difference.  All ages and both genders were able to complete the tasks presented to them.  Because there were no expectations regarding the quality or types products, they all were successful in producing some form of the projects.  In fact, the younger girls came up with some robot construction strategies that were “copied” and co-opted by some of the older boys.

The benefits of diverse groups in maker education (and other educational settings, too) cannot be understated.  Diversity of groups often leads to broader perspectives, deeper problem solving, and richer products.  Diversity is enhanced through multi-age, mixed gender groups.  As David Kelley, founder of IDEO consultants and Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, notes, “Diversity is the number one thing that correlates to better innovation” (

Maker education activities are multidisciplinary and authentic.

Maker education activities make for a beautiful integration of STEAM.  For example, while the kids participated in the From Puppets to Robots, I noted the following disciplines being addressed:

  • Science:  Participants explored physics through movement, fulcrums, weight loads, light.
  • Technology:  Participants deepened their understanding of robotics through online simulations related to what they were building in real life.
  • Engineering: Several of the workshop projects required the participants to use engineering skills – building a robotic arm that could pick up objects, building a 3D self-standing robot prototype.
  • Arts:  Visual arts were used as participants created their shadow puppets and storyboarded their shadow puppets shoes; as they drew out their 2D robot prototypes and then built their robot prototypes.  Language arts became important when the participants wrote their shadow puppet stories and when they were continually asked to orally describe their projects to the rest of the group.
  • Mathematics:  Math concepts were needed to measure, cut, and build all of their prototypes.

Maker education reinforces and teaches resilience.

I wrote about resilience in Resilience: The Other 21st Century Skills. . .

Resiliency is not one specific thing, but a combination of skills and positive attributes that people gain from their life experiences and relationships. These attributes help them solve problems, cope with challenges and bounce back from disappointments. Personal resiliency is about our assets – the resources, attributes and skills that help us recover from negative events or feelings, cope with challenges and adversity, and look after ourselves when things aren’t going well. (Kids Can Cope: Parenting at Home and at School)

I realized the power of maker education to build resilience during one of the workshop sessions.  Eight year-old Dylan was building his robot prototype.  He constructed the robot’s leg and selected a heavy can for the body.  The legs couldn’t hold up the heavy body.  Dylan became teary-eyed insisting that this what he wanted.  Both his mother and I stressed that part of prototyping is using failure as information about what is possible/not possible, what needs to change.  We assisted him in choosing new materials for the robot body.  He ended up building a robot prototype that worked!  His mother told me “on the side” that Dylan has difficulty dealing with frustration when things don’t work out as he planned.  Hopefully, that day he received a small lesson on tenacity and resilience.

Obviously, I am a strong advocate of Maker Education.  For me, it is a natural way of teaching and learning.  I understand that this is a different model, way of thinking for many educators.  It is a risk to make changes in the classroom, but I believe that educators want what’s best for their students.  I “preach” to my pre- and in-service teachers to try one small change.  In this case, I would ask, “What are you already doing well in your classroom that could be further enhanced with some maker activities?” and then reinforce, “Just try it.  What is the worse thing that could happen? It fails and you move on.  What is the best thing that could happen? It adds to the students’ learning experience resulting in increased engagement and deeper understanding of the concepts.”

Resources to Learn More About Maker Education:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

July 23, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Chapter in Handbook of Mobile Learning: Team and Community Building Using Mobile Devices

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The Handbook of Mobile Learning has just been published through Routledge: Taylor and Francis – see  I am excited to have a chapter in this edited book, Team and Community Building Using Mobile Devices.  Here is the introduction to my chapter:

People in the 21st Century are using their own mobile devices – iPads, netbooks, laptops, and smart phones – to be consumers and producers of digital content, and to be active participants in online communities.  They are connecting with one another through mobile technologies in unprecedented ways. Computers, Wi-Fi networks, and smart phones allow young people 24/7 access to technology and to one another.   They are familiar and comfortable with social networking and using a variety of apps via their devices.  Nielson (2010), in a survey of teen mobile device use, reported that 94% percent of teen users identified themselves as advanced data users, turning to their mobile devices for messaging, Internet, multimedia, gaming, and other activities like downloads.

When educators leverage these types of informal learning by giving agency to the students to use their mobile technologies and by providing the structure and skills for their use within more formal educational settings, motivation and learning are increased.  Using mobile devices in educational settings as learning and community building tools can promote interpersonal communication, encourage young people to positively express their individuality and build their student-to-student, and student-to-educator relationships. The strategic and intentional use of cell phones, social networking sites, laptops, blogs, and digital cameras can build diversity and cultural sensitivity, teamwork and problem solving, self-reflection and self-exploration, and communication and self-expression.

This chapter introduces the use of mobile devices as a means to build community and teamwork within a variety of classroom settings: face-to-face, blended, and virtually.  This discussion has four components: research that supports the use of student-owned mobile devices for building community in the classroom, evidence to support the importance of promoting community in the classroom, team-building activities using mobile devices, and the results of a end-of-course student survey about using mobile devices for community building,

. . . and an excerpt:


People of all ages, almost from all parts of the world, are using their mobile devices to communicate, connect, and share personal experiences.  They are building their own informal learning and social communities via their mobile devices and social networking sites.  This section discusses the research about mobile device use patterns.  It becomes the foundation not only for providing a rationale for the use of mobile devices in the classroom, but also serves as a guide for the types of technologies and activities that are best suited for mobile-driven community building activities.

Mobile Phone Ownership and Use Patterns Among United States Teens

A Pew Research report entitled, Teens and Mobile Phones, released April, 2010, noted that as of September 2009, 75% of American teens ages 12-17 own cell phone.  This number has steadily increased from 45% of teens in November 2004. Cell phones have become ubiquitous in the lives of teens today, with ownership cutting across demographic groups and geographical locations.

As expected, texting was the top activity of cell phone using teens with taking and sharing pictures, playing music, and recording and exchanging videos also being popular uses.

Worldwide Use of Cell Phones

Mobile device use has become a world-wide phenomenon allowing informal learning and social networking to cross over geographical divides.  Pew Research (2011) released a report entitled, Texting, Social Networking Popular Worldwide.  The three key findings from this report that support mobile-driven community-building activities are:

  1. Cell phones are owned and used throughout the world.
  2. Cell phones are being used for texting, taking photos, and using the Internet. Cell phones are owned by large majorities of people in most major countries around the world.  They are used for much more than just phone calls. In particular, text messaging is a global phenomenon – across the 21 countries surveyed, a median of 75% of cell phone owners say they text.
  3. Young people worldwide are likely to use their cell phones for social networking (Pew Research, 2011).

The usage is similar to that seen with United States teens.  Text messaging is prevalent in 19 of 21 countries with a majority of mobile phone owners regularly sending text messages.  Many also use their mobile phones to take pictures and record video (Pew Research, 2011).

Mobile device use crosses across socio-economic boundaries and geographic locations.  People are using them for texting, photo-sharing, and other forms of social networking.  In other words, people are already using mobile devices to build their own informal learning and sharing communities, so it becomes a natural progression and extension to bring this type of learning into the educational environment.

Finally, here is a slidedeck that I use when presenting on this topic:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm

A Little More on the Flipped Classroom

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Crossed posted at

Students having funThe Flipped Classroom has jumped onto the education radar in recent years as a way to potentially alter pedagogical and instructional practices by utilizing emerging technologies. In its simplest form, the flipped classroom is a model of learning where students watch content-related videos on their own time, freeing up classroom time for questions and discussion, group work, experiments, and hands-on and other experiential activities.

A lot of discussions have occurred, presentations have been made, and blog posts have been written about the flipped classroom: how to implement it; its potential to change educational outcomes and/or why it may not; it’s “fad” status; how it favors students of privilege; and so on. A broad range of ideas regarding the flipped classroom can be viewed through our list of selected articles (see below) from the Teach 100 ranking of educational blogs.

If the flipped classroom is to become more than the educational flavor of the month, the following things should be considered:

  • The flipped classroom takes advantage of modern technologies. Technology, including content-focused video, is providing educators with the opportunity to change and enhance their instructional practices.
  • Administrators, curriculum developers, instructional designers, and educators should examine, reflect upon, and discuss how technology has and is changing the nature of teaching, learning, work, and play. This, in turn, should lead to evolutionary and revolutionary changes in the way instruction is provided, and in which learning occurs and is demonstrated in the classroom setting.
  • The flipped classroom gives teachers and students opportunities for their face-to-face time to be engaging, enriching, and exciting. The content that, in the past, was provided via lecture during class time can now be reviewed by students on their own time and at their own pace. Watching video lectures doesn’t necessarily have to take place at home; it can also be done during class time, study periods, or during after school programs.
  • The terminology related to the flipped classroom needs to fade as educators begin to transform their classrooms to be student-focused and cognitively sound (based on what we know about the brain and learning), with differentiated curricula based on student interests, learning preferences, and ability levels. Technological advancements can enable these processes to occur, and should eventually be looked on as just good pedagogy.

If you’re looking to learn more about the flipped classroom approach, check out these selected articles from Teach 100 bloggers:

For the complete daily ranking of the best educational blogs on the web, visit the Teach 100. To learn more about the Teach 100, or to work with, email

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 3, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Photojournalism Activity: Community Service or a Social Cause Event

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Recently, I had an amazing experience attending a local One Billion Rising event.  I enjoy taking photos and video of special events like this one.  I spent the afternoon following the event creating an Animoto mash-up of the photos and video taken while I was at the event.

The process of putting together the video mash-up provided a great opportunity for me to deeply reflect on the event.  I saw and experienced things I did not get to during the event.  This experience made me think this would be a great learning activity.


  • To create, as a means of reflection, a video mash-up of photos and video taken during a community service project or a social cause event.
  • To learn some skills related to ethical photojournalism.


  • Ask learners to identify a community service event or an event that is promoting a social cause that they would like to attend.  Examples include serving meals at a holiday event, a dance fund raiser for a charity, collecting food for local shelter, neighborhood clean-up, or a community rally like One Billion Rising.  Many news shows feature weekend events that include these type of events.  For younger kids, this could became an activity for parental engagement.  Parents and/or parent volunteers can help with the travel and logistics.  A Google spreadsheet could be set up to list these.
  • Prior to the events, review with learners how to take photos and videos at public events. As learners will be acting in the role of photojournalists, go over the National Press Photographers Association Code of Ethics.


  • Practice sessions can be set up where learners take photo and/or video of their peers during learning activities.
  • After the event:  Decide which video mash-up tool will be used for creating their videos.  My preference is Animoto as it permits the upload and use of photos, video, and text.  Here is a Animoto video tutorial:
  • To further reflect on their experiences and video, learners can answer some of the following questions via a blog post or a Voicethread where the video has been uploaded.
    • What about your community involvement has been an eye-opening experience?
    • Describe a person you’ve encountered in the community who made a strong impression on you, positive or negative.
    • How has the environment and social conditions affected the people at your site?
    • Has the experience affected your worldview? How?
    • Have your career options been expanded by your service experience?
    • Why does the organization you are working for exist?
    • Did anything about your community involvement surprise you? If so, what?
    • What did you do that seemed to be effective or ineffective in the community?
    • How does your understanding of the community change as a result of your participation in this project?
    • How can you continue your involvement with this group or social issue?
    • How can you educate others or raise awareness about this group or social issue?
    • Talk about any disappointments or successes of the project. What did you learn from it?
    • What sorts of things make you feel uncomfortable when you are working in the community? Why?

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 16, 2013 at 2:18 am

The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture Presentation Materials

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Here are some of the materials and resources I am using for my Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture presentations:

Available via a Google Presentation:

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

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

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


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 28, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Zoom: Communicating Perspective (QR Code Activity)

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Zoom: Communicating Perspective is a new mobile learning activity added to those found at Mobile and Technology-Enhanced Experiential Activities. This website describes mobile learning and technology-based activities that facilitate a sense of community in a variety of educational and training settings. They rely mostly on texting, emailing, and photo-taking activities.  Free, group sharing internet sites are also used which require access to the Internet via a smartphone or computer.  Sites such as Flickr Photo Sharing, Google Docs, and Web 2.0 tools supplement some of the activities.

Zoom: Communicating Perspective (QR Code Activity)


  • To build communication and problem solving skills.
  • To understand and develop perspective taking.
  • To build visual literacy skills.


  • One mobile device with QR Code reader per one or two learners
  • A copy of “Zoom” by Istvan Banyai (could be done without but it honors and compensates the author)


  • This game is based on the intriguing, wordless, picture book “Zoom” by Istvan Banyai which consists of sequential “pictures within pictures”.  The Zoom narrative moves from a rooster to a ship to a city street to a desert island and outer space.  Zoom has been published in 18 countries.
  • Hand out one QR Code/Image (see below or the original post via the link above for a downloadable PDF) per person/per pair (make sure a continuous sequence is used).
  • After QR codes are distributed and images are accessed, tell participants may only look at their own pictures and must keep their pictures hidden from others.
  • Encourage participants to study their picture, since it contains important information to help solve this challenge. The advantage of using mobile devices is that learners can zoom in on details of the image.  It is the facilitator’s choice whether or not to tell learners this.
  • The challenge is for the group to sequence the pictures in the correct order without looking at one another’s pictures.  They are to use only verbal communications to describe the images they have.
  • When the group believes they have all the pictures in order, they can indicate so and the pictures on the mobile devices can be viewed by everyone.  Share the book or the following video so they can see the level of correctness in their order.
  • A follow-up discussion can include characteristics of effective communication, how perspective affects how we see and communicate, using visuals to communicate.


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm

New Website: Technology-Enhanced Social Emotional Activities

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Schools that create socially and emotionally sound learning and working environments, and that help students and staff develop greater social and emotional competence, in turn help ensure positive short- and long-term academic and personal outcomes for students, and higher levels of teaching and work satisfaction for staff.

The Technology-Enhanced Social Emotional Learning Activities website ( has been designed to describe technology activities that facilitate social emotional learning.  They can be used within formal and informal educational settings.  Even though the focus of the activities are on building and enhancing social emotional learning, many can be connected with content standards related to language arts, visual arts, oral communication, media literacy, and ISTE’s National Education Standards for Students.  Also, age levels are not recommended.  Most of the activities can be adapted for any age level.

List of Activities:

Creative Commons License
Technology Enhanced Social Emotional Learning Activities by Jackie Gerstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 11, 2013 at 1:45 am

Developing a Social-Networked Mini Unit

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

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

Assignment Description

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

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

Example Group Projects


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

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

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

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


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




Peer Reviews of the Social Networked Curricular Units

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

Final Course Reflections

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

From Christina:

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

From Fabio:

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

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 29, 2012 at 12:16 am

Leveraging the Devices, Tools, and Learning Strategies of Our Students

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I developed a mission statement as an educator several decades ago.  It is simply, “To provide students with the knowledge, skills, and passion to become lifelong learners.”  I have never swayed from that mission, but as I say in my Twitter profile, “I don’t do education for a living, I live education as my doing . . .  and technology has amplified my passion for doing so.” Technology makes possible 24/7, interested-driven learning.  I teach online so I get the opportunity to learn everyday all day long due to the Internet and social networks.  Students of all ages and settings should also be given the skills, tools, and time to engage in this type of self-directed, passion-based learning.

Higher education and high school teachers have stubbornly kept lectures as the primary mode of instruction.  Most students in these venues report boredom as a result.  I discuss this more in Who Would Choose a Lecture as Their Primary Mode of Learning.  An opposing state of being passionate is being bored, a contradiction to my mission statement . . .  and I believe that most educators would report that do not wish to elicit a state of boredom in their students.  This is why I am confused that in these amazing times of the abundance of information, mobile devices, and free technologies, educators are not leveraging them in the classroom.

Where, when, how, and even what we are learning is changing. Teachers need to consider how to engage learners with content by connecting to their current interests as well as their technological habits and dependencies.

Reports continue to be disseminated about how young people are using technology.  These devices, tools, and strategies can be integrated into existing lessons to enhance the learning activities and create more engagement, excitement, and possibly some passion among the students.

What follows are the results of some recent research and surveys about how young people are using technology along with suggestions how educators can

Pew Research’s Photos and Videos as Social Currency Online

A nationally representative phone survey of 1,005 adults (ages 18+) was taken August 2-5, 2012. The sample contained 799 internet users, who were asked questions about their online activities.  Based on the results of the survey, recommendations are made how these online activities can be leveraged in the classroom.

Have Students Show Their Learning Visually with Photos and/or Videos


Taking photos and videos are commonplace for many young people.  Students can demonstrate their learning through some form of visual media.  Using visual media in the classroom is congruent with brain research about the power of vision in learning (as per neuroscientist, John Medina) and supports research that visuals enhance learning.


Have Students Curate


As instructors, we are all information curators.  How do you collect and share currently relevant content with your students?  How do your students research and share information that they find with the rest of class? What tools do you use to manage or facilitate presentation of resources? Is it public? Can students access it at other times? In groups?  Modern web tools make it easy for both students and instructors to contribute online discoveries to class conversations.  Using free online content curation software, we can easily integrate new content in a variety of ways.

. . . and as Bill Ferriter notes:

While there are a ton of essential skills that today’s students need in order to succeed in tomorrow’s world, learning to efficiently manage — and to evaluate the reliability of — the information that they stumble across online HAS to land somewhere near the top of the “Muy Importante” list.


Have Students Connect to Other Students, Teachers, and Experts Via Their Social Networks


By utilizing a technological channel that is popular with users, professors are increasing participation among students and seeing the results. Due to the real-time format of these outlets, students can contact peers, faculty and other authorities anywhere in the world, and usually elicit a prompt response. Despite its reputation, social media platforms allow professors to approach curricula in ways that are more creative and engaging to students. The College Bound Network has said of social learning, “Despite what you may have thought, technology doesn’t hinder learning—it fuels it.”


Have Students Use Their Own Devices During Class Time

Two reports/infographics support this strategy:

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There are limitless ways to use student devices during class time.   I recommend to educators to take what they are already doing well in the classroom and brainstorm how these learning activities can be enhanced using their mobile devices.

We have come to a time when we need to accept the fact that the concept of 21st century skills is no longer a progressive phase to latch onto but a reality that we need to instill into our school systems. When students bring their own devices it literally transforms the conversations that take place in the classroom.

For several semesters, I taught an undergraduate course on interpersonal relations.  It was at a vocational-driven local college with most of the students being between the ages of 17 to 22 (some high school students) and a handful of students in their thirties and forties.  I took learning activities I had developed and taught in the past and enhanced them with technology.  Reflections about these activities can be read at:

For more resources, see my curated of articles and resources related to Mobile Devices with Bring Your Own Devices

Pockets of institutions, administrators, and educators are successfully integrating the tools and strategies discussed above into their setting.  More blog posts, case studies, journal articles, and news pieces about these initiatives can give permission and suggestions to those who are willing but scared or a bit reluctant.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 24, 2012 at 12:44 am

Information Abundance and Its Implications for Education

with 7 comments


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

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