User Generated Education

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Posts Tagged ‘web 2.0

Maker Education Meets the Writers’ Workshop

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There is a current breath-of-fresh air movement (in my opinion) in some education circles that is known as Maker Education or the DIY Movement.  I wrote recent post on this topic, STEAM and Maker Education: Inclusive, Engaging, Self-Differentiating.

The hands-on, interdisciplinary, student-interest driven nature of Maker Education has always been a focus in my classroom environments.  Because of the current interest in Maker Education, I wanted to revisit and share a semester long Maker-Enhanced Writers’ Workshop project I did with a group of gifted elementary students a few years ago.

script rehearsal

Students began by developing their characters and plot – I am used selected sections from the free downloadable Young Novelist Workbook to guide them in this process.

Character Development

Each learner developed a character using the Young Novelists Workbook to guide the character development.  Their characters were further developed through drawing them,

IMG_1468 2. . . making masks of them,

IMG_1150. . . and creating 3d characters out of junk materials, hot glued together. DSC00664

An option for Character Development using a web tool is Scholastic’s Creature Creator –

Plot Development

Students were asked to group themselves by similarity of their characters.  They had to clearly be able to articulate the commonality among their characters. [Interestingly, many of them really attempted to group themselves by similar characters rather than working with their friends, which I expected.] Groups contained two to four writers.

The groups spent several weeks of the Writers’ Workshop developing their story plot using the activities from Young Novelist Workbook I, as the teacher, acted as the sounding board and feedback giver.  Representatives from the different working groups would come to me to pitch their stories and would return to their groups to report on the feedback I provided.

3D Setting

In conjunction with their plot development, students created a 3D storyboard setting with “natural” objects. They then “wired” them with PicoCricket to have programmable movement, lights, and sounds.



PicoCricket is no longer available, but learners can do similar electronic upgrades to their setting using Makey Makey, Arduino, or Hummingbird Kits.

An online version of the story’s setting can be created using or Minecraft.


Students made eBooks using their story line and plot from in the Young Novelist Workbook, scanned sketches and images of the characters, and the pictures of the 3D setting.

tikatok image(Note: We used Tikatok. They changed their user agreement and we lost all of the books.)

Options for student eBooks include: Storyjumper, Mixbook, and Big Universe (plus others).

Theme Song

A theme song was written and recorded for their stories.  It was introduced as having them develop a song for their stories like a TV theme song. They used Songsmith UJAM is another option for students to record their own story theme songs.

Here is an example from three 5th graders’ book the Three Islanders:

Readers’ Theater

Reader’s theater scripts were written in a scripting format using a Word program.  Students practiced reading their scripts and then created a podcast using a web tool such as or  See ReadWriteThink’s Readers Theatre about the logistics of creating one.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 28, 2013 at 12:50 am

Emerging Technologies and Their Application to Middle School Classrooms

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Guest Post by Jennifer Fargo

The following is a paper written by one of my graduate students at American InterContinental University.  Jennifer Fargo is a middle school teacher.  Due to her passion for educational technology, I am encouraging her to start blogging and join social networks like Twitter.  Because this is such a good paper I am (1) posting it as a guest post on my blog, and (2) hoping this will motivate Jennifer to begin her own blog.

Emerging technologies have the potential to transform learning in the middle school classroom across the curriculum.  When properly applied in a student-centered classroom, mobile apps, tablet computing, game-based learning, personal learning environments, and natural user interfaces can improve instruction and learning, especially for students who need better motivation in school.


Some older, more traditional educational researchers like professor emeritus of Stanford University Larry Cuban do not see evidence that technology in the classroom improves instruction.  He would rather invest in teacher training than in devices in the classroom (Hu, 2011).  What these educators do not realize is that the very nature of student interaction with their world has changed drastically and permanently.  The information shift is as drastic as the move from handwritten texts to books from the printing press (Rankin, 2010).  Information and knowledge are no longer held by the few in select repositories waiting to be disseminated to the masses by a master teacher.  Information, both accurate and inaccurate, is free and available for use instantly over the Internet.

Just as the students’ relationship to information has changed, the relationship of the teacher to the student must change.  With the advent of the printing press, education changed.  Mass access to information in printed books changed the roll of the teacher from facilitating individualized hand-written texts and informational storage for a few wealthy students to standardized classification of data and facts for masses of students who could read (Rankin, 2010).  In this digital age, the role of the teacher is no longer to disseminate facts and data to students because students cannot get that information easily anywhere else.  Because students can easily retrieve information, the role of the teacher becomes as a guide to the learner to take readily available information to evaluate and use it, to see the interconnectedness of information and provide context.  Students construct their own understanding of the world and they do so using technology. The average middle school student has direct access to this information on a daily basis and interacts with others around the world using interactive video games, social media, and mobile technology.  Technologies that students use daily at home can become the tools that educators use to guide students in constructing knowledge in the 21st century and beyond.

Emerging Technologies: The Next Five Years

The New Media Consortium, or NMC, is a professional organization of educators dedicated to the study and application of technology in the classroom.  The NMC’s mission is to promote a “…collective understanding of emerging technologies and their applications for teaching, learning, and creative inquiry” (Johnson, Adams, & Cummins, 2012, preface). The NMC’s annual Horizon Project describes in detail six emerging technologies and their probable impact over the next five years in several learning environments.  The K-12 edition describes the possible applications of these technologies in elementary and secondary classrooms.  Several seem particularly applicable to a learner-centered, middle school classroom.

Mobile Apps

As mobile devices have become more accessible to middle school students, so has their potential to be resources in the classroom.  Mobile devices are small, portable computing devices that usually contain WI-FI, Bluetooth technology, and GPS capabilities.  They can be cell phones, smartphones, portable game consoles, tablets, or small computers.  These computing devices can use apps for various functions.  The mobile device most often talked about for possible classroom use is the cell phone or smartphone.  As of 2010, 75% of 12-17 year olds own a cell phone according to a Pew Research Center study (cited in Koebler, 2011).  With so many students daily engaged in the use of mobile devices, the creation of apps for sale and use on these devices aimed at this demographic has skyrocketed (Johnson et al., 2012).  These apps can be used in the classroom with appropriate supervision and have many benefits.  Mobile devices like cell phones are always capable of connecting to the Internet using 3G or 4G wireless networks.  Mobile apps can be used both inside and outside of the classroom making them easy conduits for communication between students and teachers as well as facilitating collaborative learning with peers.  This connectivity and portability also has the potential to create global connections through instruction making the world the classroom (Mangukiya, 2012).  All of these benefits are facilitated by technology already familiar to students in daily life.

Because most students already own a cell phone or other mobile device, some educators are suggesting a program for instruction where students bring their own devices for use at school, called BYOD programs.  Some of the obstacles to a BYOD program include not all students having the same device, some students not being able to afford the necessary devices, and devices as possible distractions when not in use for instruction (Nielsen, 2011).  Some of these obstacles are overcome by the tenacity of teachers who see how engaged students become when using them and the innovation of the new booming mobile app industry.  With these changes some schools are adopting a BYOD program as a cost effective way to integrate this prevalent technology into the classroom.

Tablet Computing

Tablets, like cell phones, are mobile computing devices.  However, tablets have larger screens with sharper displays for using more powerful and educationally specific apps.  In fact, tablets can run apps similar to software for computers making them a cheaper and more portable option for school based one-to-one programs.  Tablet touch screens make them easy to use, and the portability of the mobile device makes them easy to share in a school environment.  Tablets can also connect to the Internet to expand instruction.

In addition, tablets can be used as digital reading devices.  Tablets provide a much more interactive experience than a traditional textbook (Watters, 2012).  With options like a built-in dictionary, digital annotation, or read-aloud capabilities, reading with a tablet is more active than reading a traditional textbook.  Although not all books and textbooks are available digitally, publishers are expanding their digital libraries.

Game-Based Learning

Video games are pervasive in the United States, especially among adolescents.  According to Robert Torres (2011) of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 97% of Americans between the ages of 8 and 18 play video games.  For middle school students, video games are a way of life.  Torres (2011) posited that video games are so important to students because they offer a sense of relevance and context, are active, provide social interaction, and offer emotional engagement.  With student-centered instruction, teachers seek to incorporate these elements into instruction as well to fully engage the student and allow each to construct knowledge by ensuring relevant, active, and collaborative learning.  Game-based learning can facilitate such instruction in a format that highly motivates students to learn.

Game-based learning can be approached in many ways.  It can be as simple as a single player app for a mobile device or as complicated as a global multi-player virtual world accessed through the Internet.  Many games require collaboration with peers and facilitate problem- solving skills with real-world applications.

Personal Learning Environments

Personal learning environments, or PLE’s, are a digital method of individualizing instruction.  Each PLE is unique to each student.  For educators who believe that a learner-centered approach is the best way to reach every student, PLE’s provide a platform for success.  For some educators, this kind of transformational technology signals a change in teaching.  “By marrying the principles of personalized learning with the tools of technology, some educators believe that they have a chance to create the kind of customized learning environment that can finally break schools out of the industrial-age model of education to bring about true 21st century school reform” (Demski, 2012).  PLE’s can be in the form of wiki pages, personal blogs, e-portfolios of work, or websites that teachers or students can create themselves.  PLE’s facilitate learner-centered instruction, which can be closely monitored by the instructor but is controlled by the student through a digital space.  PLE’s can also promote collaboration when they are shared with others.  For example, a wiki page or other shared document can facilitate group work.  The wiki or document would be dedicated to that assignment and accessed by all members.  PLE’s require a device to connect students to their constructed environment, which can be a computer, tablet, or mobile device.

Natural User Interfaces

Many educators believe that a more immersive teaching style leads to more fully engaged students and therefore better learning.  Natural user interfaces provide a teaching tool that engages all the senses and promotes active learning in the classroom, meeting the instructional needs of all types of learners (Center for Digital Education, 2012).  Natural user interfaces change the way that students interact with technology devices.  The traditional keyboard and mouse are replaced by sensors that detect voice commands, gestures, and touches by the user to manipulate the given technology device.  “Natural user interfaces allow users to engage in virtual activities with movements similar to what they would use in the real world, manipulating content intuitively” (Johnson et al., 2012, p. 32).  Although already used with special needs students who have difficulty manipulating traditional interfaces, natural user interfaces have not translated generally to the regular classroom.  Examples of natural user interfaces are the touch screen and surfaces, used on smartphones, tablets, and interactive whiteboards; gesture-based sensors, used with devices like the Xbox Kinect and Wii; and voice activated technology, used with the iPhone’s Siri virtual assistant and Nuance’s Dragon speech recognition software.

Applications Across the Curriculum

All of the technologies discussed have applications in a middle school classroom.  However, it is not the technological tool that is important, but the instructional approach.  According to Dr. Brenner, a school superintendent from Long Island, New York, “It’s not about a cool application…We are talking about changing the way we do business in the classroom” (cited in Hu, 2012).  Technologies in the classroom are tools to engage students and are no substitute for quality teachers or instructional approaches.  However, a change in instructional techniques must change as our students change.  If properly used by excellent teachers, these technologies offer new ways to motivate and fully engage middle school students for life-long learning applied across the curriculum.

Some of these emerging technologies are appropriate for any content area.  For example, any teacher can use a wiki to create a PLE for their class or for specific assignments.  Students can then post work to the wiki while collaborating with the instructor and peers.  Additionally, an instructor can use iTunes U to gather materials all in one digital location and distribute them to students.  Students can access audio, video, or other materials for a class with a mobile app (Mangukiya, 2012).  Another example of a mobile app that any teacher can use is called Poll Everywhere.  This app allows teachers to poll up to 40 students using the texting-enabled cell phones for instant formative assessment (Koebler, 2011).

Another goal for many schools across the curriculum is to become paperless.  Using tablets, students can use cloud computing to store and turn in work to create a paperless learning environment.  Cloud computing also allows students to continue working at home with an Internet connection without lost papers or forgotten work.  Digital textbooks also help schools become paperless and can be augmented by digital portfolios (Hu, 2011).  In addition, students can take more interactive, annotated notes in class using mobile apps while interactive whiteboards facilitate classwork to be posted online as pdf’s.  Although some applications of these technologies can be for almost any teacher, some benefits of these technologies are content specific.

Language Arts

These emerging technologies can be directly applied to language arts.  Most universally applicable is e-books.  E-book readers, like the Kindle or the iBooks mobile app for iPod, iPhone, and iPad, allow literary texts to become interactive.  Interactive features improve reading skills like digital dictionaries for unknown vocabulary words, connections to supplementary online content to increase comprehension, digital annotation to increase depth of reading, and read-aloud capabilities for auditory learners.  E-books also motivate reluctant readers (Watters, 2012).  This is especially difficult with struggling readers in middle school.  Students can even create and e-publish their own e-book for iBooks using Apple’s Pages word processing software.  Although not every title is available digitally, digital publishing is becoming more common as mobile reading apps become more prevalent.

Literature also comes alive with mobile apps.  For example, an app for iPad and computers is Shakespeare in Bits.  This app provides an animated and interactive text of some of Shakespeare’s plays.  Students can click on archaic vocabulary for definitions and watch animated performances of each scene for context.  In addition to reading, writing skills can also be improved by the proper integration of emerging technologies.  Practical, authentic writing experiences where work is shared with peers promotes improvement with middle school writers.  PLE’s like journal writing in blogs or creating e-portfolios of written work can facilitate such writing experiences (Johnson et al., 2012).

Another highly motivating reading and writing experience is facilitated by game-based learning platforms emphasizing literacy, including a writing component and critical problem solving in collaboration with peers, called Quest Atlantis and Atlantis Remixed, or ARX.  According to the website’s homepage, ARX uses 3D, multi-user, virtual environments to immerse students in educational tasks.  ARX combines elements of video games with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation.  Students take on the persona of an investigator, exploring different virtual environments.  When enough information is gathered, each student writes an assignment based on his or her research within the game.  The games are also customizable for different subjects and instructional objectives, promoting writing across the curriculum. This encourages students to write for different purposes and for different audiences, one of the common core standards for middle school language arts students.  Their work is shared with peers around the world, motivating each student to write their best work.  Even reluctant writers are motivated to craft their writing with thoughtfulness and clarity and reluctant readers build reading skills because they enjoy the video game elements.


Middle school science students can benefit from science based personal learning environments.  One such PLE is called Scitable.  Scitable is a free science library and personal learning tool focusing on genetics and cell biology.  Students can join in scientific discussions, talk to experts in the field, and ask questions about science careers (Johnson et al., 2012).  Teachers and students create their own virtual learning environment for scientific inquiry on the website.

In addition, schools in Virginia have begun replacing science textbooks with iPad interactive textbooks (Hu, 2011).  The interactive textbooks can provide students with the means of manipulating data into charts, graphs, or other visuals; connecting to the Internet for more information about specific subjects based on student interest; connect students to practicing scientists, experts in their fields of study; and conduct virtual dissections or experiments.  Along the same lines, interactive mobile apps for tablets or smartphones allow science students to learn by manipulating information or doing virtual labs.  These kinds of apps permit students to learn the periodic table by viewing and rotating images in 3D or dissect frogs virtually (Johnson et al., 2012).  Middle school students are independent enough in their thinking to accept more control over their scientific experimentation, with appropriate supervision, that tablet technology provides.


Middle school students in mathematics classes begin to study more complex mathematical constructions like percentages, ratios, and equations.  Integrating technology into mathematics instruction can facilitate not only an understanding of the procedures of the math they are learning but also how to apply and synthesize it in the world around them.  Mobile devices can help students visualize content.  Students can graph equations using their smartphones.  They can not only play math games using tablet technology but also view or create for themselves animations of complex math problems.  In fact, California recently launched an iPad only algebra course in conjunction with Houghton Mifflin Harcort (Hu, 2011).

Gesture-based learning can also prompt students to apply mathematical concepts in new ways.  According to the Center for Digital Education (2012), Johnny Kissco, a math teacher from Texas uses the Xbox Kinect in his classroom.  “When I used Kinect in my algebra class, students began asking questions that went far beyond the curriculum requirements. This was a huge success, as it got students thinking about applying the content in a real-world context” (p. 1).  Although most people use mathematics in daily life, middle school students are constantly asking about the practical application of the math they are learning.  Students who use these devices to learn mathematics no longer wonder how they will use the assigned content; they see the practical applications through the instruction itself.

Arts and Physical Education

Many mobile apps for tablets encourage students to create their artistic visions digitally.  Other mobile apps allow art students to view masterworks of art from museums around the world, such as the free apps from the Van Gogh museum and the Louvre.  Students can interact with visuals and content about the artist.  Music students can create their own digital music using apps like GarageBand for iPad.  Such interactive apps can engage many reluctant music makers (Mangukiya, 2012).  These creations can then be published and shared.  Gesture-based learning can provide new learning experiences in physical education.  Learning the rules or motions involved in a sport can be accomplished digitally where progress can be tracked through formative assessments collected by the device.


Middle school students are motivated and encouraged to use higher level thinking skills when instruction includes these emerging technologies.  In the hands of an excellent teacher in a student-centered classroom, these technologies can transform instruction providing authentic, real-world learning experiences to the benefit of students of all learning styles and intelligences.  This is the future of education.


Center for Digital Education. (2012). Learning through motion. Retrieved through Microsoft website:

Demski, J. (2012, January 4). This time it’s personal. Transforming Education Through Technology Journal. Retrieved from

Hu, W. (2011, January 4). Math that moves: Schools embrace the iPad. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Johnson, L., Adams, S., and Cummins, M. (2012). NMC Horizon Report: 2012 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

Mangukiya, P. (2012, February 3). How mobile apps are changing classrooms and education. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Nielsen, L. (2011, November 9). 7 myths about BYOD debunked. Transforming Education Through Technology Journal. Retrieved from

Rankin, B. (2010, August 24). Dr. Bill Rankin: Next-wave mobility and the three ages of information [Video file]. Retrieved from

Torres, R. (2011, November 9). TEDxGotham 2011–Robert Torres [Video file]. Retrieved from!

Watters, A. (2012, February 1). The truth about tablets: Educators are getting iPads and e-readers into students’ hands–but it is not easy. School Library Journal. Retrieved from  ipads-and-ereaders-into-students-hands-but-its-not-easy/

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Mobile Learning Presentation for the 4T Virtual Conference

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I presented Experiential Mobile Learning at the 4T (Teachers Teaching Teachers About Technology) Virtual Conference.  I am all about sharing, so here is a version, an agenda, of what I presented.

Introduction: Epic Learning Activities

With a background in experiential education and as an advocate of John Dewey, I believe that learning experiences should be, borrowing from the game world, epic.

The following video is viewed with participants asked to describe the characteristics of the learning activities shown in the video.  Participant reactions are posted in the webinar backchannel.

Questions to assess the “epicness” of learning activities:

  • Was there an experiential component?
  • Was it engaging?
  • Was it an authentic, relevant learning experience?
  • Did it facilitate critical, reflective thinking?
  • Did the learning activity change behavior or thinking?

Participants join and access to discuss their own Epic Learning activities.

Overview of Session

The session is divided into three components:

  1. Research of the importance of building community and social interactive into the learning process.
  2. Mobile device use patterns by young people.
  3. Sample experiential mobile learning activities – active participation.

The Research and Its Implications for Mobile Learning

Information about the importance of building community in the classroom is shared from the following resources.

Research about mobile use patterns is shared from the following resources.

Participants share implications of the research on own teaching strategies via

Sample Mobile Learning Activities

I Am Poems

Participants are encouraged to respond on each other’s photos/poems . . .

QR Video Sorting Activities

Additional References are provided:

Presentation Slides

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Higher Education

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The Flipped Classroom, as most know, has become quite the buzz in education.  Its use in higher education has been given a lot of press recently.  The purpose of this post is to:

  1. Provide background for this model of learning with a focus on its use in higher education.
  2. Identify some problems with its use and implementation that if not addressed, could become just a fading fad.
  3. Propose a model for implementation based on an experiential cycle of learning model.

Background About the Flipped Classroom

This first section provides information from various articles that describe the flipped classroom, and how it is being discussed and used in educational settings.

In its simplest terms, the flipped classroom is about viewing and/or listening to lectures during one’s own time which frees up face-to-face class time for experiential exercises, group discussion, and question and answer sessions.

It’s called “the flipped classroom.” While there is no one model, the core idea is to flip the common instructional approach.  With teacher-created videos and interactive lessons, instruction that used to occur in class is now accessed at home, in advance of class. Class becomes the place to work through problems, advance concepts, and engage in collaborative learning. Most importantly, all aspects of instruction can be rethought to best maximize the scarcest learning resource—time. Flipped classroom teachers almost universally agree that it’s not the instructional videos on their own, but how they are integrated into an overall approach, that makes the difference (The Flipped Classroom by Bill Tucker).

Several trends have converged that are influencing how classes should be taught within higher education settings.

The first is technological innovation, which has made it easier to distribute lectures by the world’s leading instructors. Some faculty members wonder whether it still makes sense to deliver a lecture when students can see the same material covered more authoritatively and engagingly—and at their own pace and on their own schedule.

At the same time, policy makers, scholars, advocacy groups, and others who seek to improve higher education want to see more evidence that students are truly learning in college.  Cognitive scientists determined that people’s short-term memory is very limited – it can only process so much at once. A lot of the information presented in a typical lecture comes at students too fast and is quickly forgotten. (How ‘Flipping’ the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture).

Physics education researchers determined that the traditional lecture-based physics course where students sit and passively absorb information is not an effective way for students to learn. A lot of students can repeat the laws of physics and even solve complex problems, but many are doing it through rote memorization. Most students who complete a standard physics class never understand what the laws of physics mean, or how to apply them to real-world situations. (

Sal Khan, of the Khan Academy, states:

There was nothing practical that anyone could do about this broken “learning” model until recently. But we can now deliver on-demand content to any student for nearly zero incremental cost. The video content can be paused and repeated as needed.  Students can focus on exactly what they need to know. They don’t have to be embarrassed to fill in remedial gaps. They don’t need to take notes. Crucially, the lectures can be given by superb communicators, with a deep, intuitive understanding of the material.

Ten years from today, students will be learning at their own pace.  The classroom will be a place for active interaction, not passive listening and daydreaming. The role of the teacher will be that of a mentor or coach as opposed to a lecturer, test writer, and grader. The institutions that will remain relevant will be those that leverage this paradigm, not fight it.

There are a number of higher education initiatives that are seeking to go beyond the lecture and flip the classroom.

Charles Prober, MD, senior associate dean for medical education at the School of Medicine, teamed with Chip Heath, PhD, a professor of organizational behavior, to design and use the Flipped Classroom with a core biochemistry course.

This year, our core biochemistry course at Stanford Medical School was redesigned following this model; rather than a standard lecture-based format, the instructors provided short online presentations. Class time was used for interactive discussions of clinical vignettes highlighting the biochemical bases of various diseases. The proportion of student course reviews that were positive increased substantially from the previous year. And the percentage of students who attended class shot up from about 30% to 80% — even though class attendance was optional (Lecture Halls without Lectures — A Proposal for Medical Education by Charles G. Prober).

Eric Mazur, a Harvard Physics teacher, has gained popularity due to changing his teaching methods.   The following are excerpts from the Harvard Magazine article, Twilight of the Lecture.

To Mazur’s consternation, the simple test of conceptual understanding showed that his students had not grasped the basic ideas of his physics course.  “In a traditional physics course, two months after taking the final exam, people are back to where they were before taking the course,” Mazur notes. “It’s shocking.”

Sitting passively and taking notes is just not a way of learning. Yet lectures are 99 percent of how we teach!

Active learners take new information and apply it, rather than merely taking note of it. Firsthand use of new material develops personal ownership. When subject matter connects directly with students’ experiences, projects, and goals, they care more about the material they seek to master.

Taking active learning seriously means revamping the entire teaching/learning enterprise—even turning it inside out or upside down. For example, active learning overthrows the “transfer of information” model of instruction, which casts the student as a dry sponge who passively absorbs facts and ideas from a teacher. This model has ruled higher education for 600 years, since the days of the medieval Schoolmen who, in their lectio mode, stood before a room reading a book aloud to the assembly—no questions permitted. The modern version is the lecture.

“I think the answer to this challenge is to rethink the nature of the college course, to consider it as a different kind of animal these days,” he continues. “A course can be a communication across time about a discrete topic, with a different temporal existence than the old doing-the-homework-for-the-lecture routine. Students now tap into a course through different media; they may download materials via its website, and even access a faculty member’s research and bio. It’s a different kind of communication between faculty and students. Websites and laptops have been around for years now, but we haven’t fully thought through how to integrate them with teaching so as to conceive of courses differently.”

Personal Experiences

I began my teaching career in the field of experiential education – the focus, obviously, is on learning by doing.  My first job in higher education was as an instructor of Outdoor Education at Unity College in Maine.  I knew from past experiences as an experiential, outdoor educator for at-risk youth, and from my desire to create classrooms that I wished I had as a student, that lectures would not be part of my classroom strategies.  Theoretical content learning would occur as homework during the students’ time. Face-to-face classroom time would be spent putting the theory into practice.  In the twenty-plus years I have been in higher education, students were given course content to review and study at home.  Since I never valued the textbook as the best means for delivering that content (they are edited books based on one or two authors’ perspectives), I started by providing them with compendiums of theme/content-related articles, later lists of web links to articles, and currently adding video lectures to those lists.  Students are not required to read nor view all of the suggested web resources. The list offers a menu of learning possibilities.  Class time, as I’ve said, is then used to put the theory into practice.  These experiences include group problem-solving and team building games, simulations, case study reviews, and group discussions.

Use and Implementation Problems with the Flipped Classroom

Two noteworthy problems exist when thinking about using the flipped classroom in higher education settings.

  1. If video lectures drive the instruction, it is just a repackaging of a more traditional model of didactic learning.  It is not a new paradigm nor pedagogy of learning.
  2. Educators need to be re-educated as to what to do with the class time that previously was used for their lectures.

Repackaging Old Paradigms

As Cathy Davidson noted in Why Flip The Classroom When We Can Make It Do Cartwheels?

In some ways, the flipped model is an improvement. Research shows that tailored tutoring is more effective than lectures for understanding, mastery, and retention. But the flipped classroom doesn’t come close to preparing students for the challenges of today’s world and workforce. As progressive educational activist Alfie Kohn notes, great teaching isn’t just about content but motivation and empowerment. Real learning gives you the mental habits, practice, and confidence to know that, in a crisis, you can count on yourself to learn something new.

The flipped classroom isn’t likely to change the world. Energized, connected, engaged, global, informed, dedicated, activist learning just might.  Transformative, connected knowledge isn’t a thing–it’s an action, an accomplishment, a connection that spins your world upside down, then sets you squarely on your feet, eager to whirl again. It’s a paradigm shift.

Harvard Professor Chris Dede stated in his Global Education 2011 keynote in response to a question directed about the flipped classroom . . .

I think that the flipped classroom is an interesting idea if you want to do learning that is largely based on presentation. You use presentation outside of the classroom. Then you do your understanding of the presentation and further steps from the presentation inside the classroom. I think it is a step forward. It is still, in my mind, the old person.  It’s still starting with presentational learning and then trying to sprinkle some learning-by-doing on top of it.  I am interested more in moving beyond the flipped classroom to learning by doing at the center than a kind of the intermediate step that still centers on largely on tacit assimilation.

What am I supposed to do with class time that was once used for lectures?

In The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture, I discussed that a problem with flipping the classroom is that educators, who are used to and trained in using class time for lectures, do not know how to transition from a lecture-based classroom to one that includes more student-centered activities.  The message being given to teachers is that when students review the lectures on their own time, the teachers now have time to do whatever they want during class time. A major roadblock or barrier to the implementation of this model is that many educators do not know what to do within the classroom, with that “whatever they want to do” time.  For educators, who are used to and use the didactic model, a framework is needed to assist them with the implementation of the Flipped Classroom.

This problem is especially relevant in higher education where faculty are hired based on their content expertise not their expertise in being facilitators of learning.

There are many reasons professors who lecture don’t want to give it up. Tradition may be the mightiest force. A lot of them are not excited about the idea that they might have to move out of their comfort zone.

Professors stick with traditional approaches because they don’t know much about alternatives. Few get training or coaching on how to teach. It’s kind of ironic that professors don’t have any type of training in any way, shape or form. It’s the only teaching degree that you don’t need to go through any actual training in teaching to do. (

The Experiential Flipped Classroom Model: Foundation

This section describes a model of flipped classroom learning that addresses the concerns just discussed.  It incorporates the use of videos and other online content in the flipped classroom fashion described by current proponents but also includes methods, strategies, and activities for the face-to-face and/or synchronous class time.

Basic Tenets

The tenets that drive The Experiential Flipped Classroom Model are:

  • The learners need to be personally connected to the topic.  Student engagement is the key to learning.  This is more likely to occur through engaging experiential activities.
  • Informal learning today is connected, instantaneous, and personalized.  Students should have similar experiences in their more formal learning environments.
  • Almost all content-related knowledge can be found online through videos, podcasts, and online interactives, and is more often better conveyed through these media than by classroom teachers.
  • Learning institutions are no longer the gatekeepers to information.  Anyone with connections to the internet has access to high level, credible content.
  • Lectures in any form, face-to-face, videos, transcribed, or podcasts, should support learning not drive it nor be central to it.
  • And from Doug Holton, “Lectures do still have a place and can be more effective if given in the right contexts, such as after (not before) students have explored something on their own (via a lab experience, simulation, game, field experience, analyzing cases, etc.) and developed their own questions and a ‘need to know.'” (
  • A menu of learning acquisition and demonstration options should be provided throughout the learning cycle.
  • The educator becomes a facilitator and tour guide of learning possibilities – offering these possibilities to the learners and then getting out of the way.

Foundational Learning Theories

Along with the tenets above, the Experiential Flipped Classroom Model has it roots in several theories.  Older models of experiential learning can be updated to include technology tools and build off of the tenets proposed for the flipped classroom model.

Experiential Learning Cycle

The Experiential Learning Cycle models emphasize that the nature of experience is of fundamental importance and concern in education and training.  It is the teacher’s responsibility to structure and organize a series of experiences which positively influence each individual’s potential future experiences.  In other words, “good experiences” motivate, encourage, and enable students to go on to have more valuable learning experiences. Experiential Learning Cycles can be seen as providing a semi-structured approach.  There is relative freedom to go ahead in activity and “experience”, but the educator also commits to structuring other stages, usually involving some form of planning or reflection, so that “raw experience” is package with facilitated cognitive (usually) thinking about the experience.  (

Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

David A. Kolb (with Roger Fry) created his famous experiential learning circle that involves (1) concrete experience followed by (2) observation and experience followed by (3) forming abstract concepts followed by (4) testing in new situations. (

For more information, see

The 4Mat System

4MAT® System is a teaching model which combines the fundamental principles of several long-standing theories of personal development with current research on human brain function and learning. 4MAT is a process for delivering instruction in a way that appeals to all types of learners and engages, informs, allows for practice and creative use of material learned within each lesson. A very important component of this method is the need for teachers/instructors to understand and present their material conceptually, presenting the big picture, and the meaning and relevance of material to be learned.  The instructional events of the 4MAT system can be divided into four categories: orientation, presentation, practice, and extension/evaluation.

See for more information about the 4MAT model.

The Experiential Flipped Classroom Model

What follows is an explanation of the Flipped Classroom Model, a model where the video lectures, screencasts, and vodcasts fall within a larger framework of learning activities.

Experiential Engagement: The Experience

The cycle often begins with an experiential exercise.  This is an authentic, often hands-on, learning activity that fully engages the student.   It is a concrete experience that calls for attention by most, if not all, the senses.  According to McCarthy, learning activities are designed that are immersive.  Learners “experience the now.”  They become hooked through and motivated by personal connection to the experience, and a desire to create meaning for and about that experience (ala constructivist learning).

These are teacher generated and facilitated.  They work best during classroom time.  These are those “what to do with the time that used to be filled with lectures” class activities.

The options for experiential engagement are limitless.   Again, the goal is to offer an engaging and authentic learning activity that introduces learners to the course topic, that creates a desire for them to want to learn more. Options include:

Facilitating experiential activities may be tricky, at first, for those who have never led them.  Experiential activities are often used for organizational development and corporate training.  As such, those new to their use can get ideas for the how-to facilitation through business related websites:

There are also some options for online courses:

Concept Exploration: The What

During this phase, learners are exposed to and learn concepts touched upon during Experiential Engagement.  They explore what the experts have to say about the topic.  Information is presented via video lecture, content-rich websites and simulations, and/or online text/readings.  In the case of the flipped classroom as it is being currently discussed, this is the time in the learning cycle when the learners view content-rich videos.  This is where and when videos are used to help students learn the abstract concepts related to the topic being covered. The role of the teacher, during this phase, is to offer the learners choices of video and related online content.

Some video archives and related online resources that may be of value in higher education include:

Teachers can also record their own lectures for student viewing.  Some tools to do so include:

(Note:  Describing the specific technologies that one can use to record one’s own lectures is not the intent of this post.  I recommend doing further research to decide which tools would be most appropriate.)

Free online courses by major universities also offer some materials that can be used to assist students in developing an understanding content-related knowledge:

Part of this phase can include an online chat for asking and addressing questions about the content presented via the videos, podcasts, websites.  Through online “chat” areas, learners can ask questions and post thoughts and opinions.   Responses can  then be provided by co-learners and educators.

  • TitanPad
  • TodaysMeet
  • Google Docs
  • Elluminate, Adobe Connect or Blackboard Collaborate Rooms with chat functions
  • Obviously, in a face-to-face setting, students can bring their questions into the real time environment where questions and answer periods become part of the in class activities.

Meaning Making: The So What

Learners reflect on their understanding of what was discovered during the previous phases.  It is a phase of deep reflection on what was experienced during the first phase and what was learned via the experts during the second phase. Learners develop skills for reflective practice through discussing, reviewing, analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing key learning through their experiential activities and exploration of expert commentaries.

I discussed the importance of reflection in a blog post, Where is reflection in the learning process?

Learners do not just receive information only at the time it is given; they absorb information in many different ways, often after the fact, through reflection. The most powerful learning often happens when students self-monitor, or reflect.

Students may not always be aware of what they are learning and experiencing. Teachers must raise students’ consciousness about underlying concepts and about their own reactions to these concepts. ETE Team

During this phase, the educator can demonstrate reflection strategies and offer choices for student reflections, but the focus should be on the learner constructing his or her understanding of the topic.  Learners can articulate and construct their understanding of the content or topic being covered through a variety of technology tools:

Within the standard school system where testing is the expectation, this would be the phase when students are tested about their understanding of the content.  If this is the case, it is recommended that the tests target higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy – evaluation, applying, synthesizing.

Demonstration and Application: The Now What

During this phase, learners get to demonstrate what they learned and apply the material in a way that makes sense to them.

When students have multiple choices in ways to demonstrate their knowledge, the evidence of their learning is more accurate. We wanted the students to actually become the experts through the learning process. This assessment isn’t just a fancy term for a presentation at the end of a unit. To actually engage in an authentic celebration is to witness a true display of student understanding. (

This goes beyond reflection and personal understanding in that learners have to create something that is individualized and extends beyond the lesson with applicability to the learners’ everyday lives. Opportunities should be provided for students to, at the very least, make concrete plans how they will use the course content in other aspects of their lives.

This is in line with the highest level of learning within Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy of Learning – Creating – whereby the learner creates a new product or point of view. In essence, they become the storytellers of their learning (See Narratives in the 21st Century: Narratives in Search of Contexts).  A list of technology-enhanced ideas/options for the celebration of learning can be found at:

Here is a slideshow of former students’ Demonstration and Application projects and presentations.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Examples included:

  • A ten commandments of teaching strategies.
  • A calendar where each month had reminders of application ideas.
  • A Minecraft video of what was learned and how it is being applied in his life.
  • A Medicine Wheel by a Zuni student about how the course concepts applied to the Native American culture.

Flipped Classroom Full Picture: An Example Lesson

An example on how this model was used in a blended undergraduate course can be found at Flipped Classroom Full Picture: An Example Lesson.


The Flipped Classroom offers a great use of technology – especially if it gets lecture out of the classrooms and into the hands and control of the learners.  As it is being discussed, it is part of a larger picture of teaching and learning.  The Flipped Classroom videos have a place in the models and cycles of learning proposed by educational psychologists and  instructional designers.  Providing educators with a full framework of how the Flipped Classroom can be used in their educational settings will increase its validity for educators and their administrators.

5th-6th Grade Civil Rights Project: Technology-Based Activating Event

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The learning expedition for the 5th and 6th grade this year is civil rights.  The teachers in the three classes started this expedition by having the students study literature and view media (Little Rock Nine) related to civil rights.  During these initial activating events, students identified vocabulary related to civil rights.  The teachers requested that their students create covers for their binders during their technology class.  They asked for Word Clouds of their vocabulary words and a related quote to be included within this cover.

Content Standards Addressed (Idaho)


  • Demonstrate increasingly sophisticated operation of technology components.
  • Locate information from electronic resources.
  • Use formatting capabilities of technology for communicating and illustrating.
  • Publish and present information using technology tools.

Language Arts:

  • Use words and concepts necessary for comprehending math, science, social studies, literature and other Grade 6 content area text.
  • Read grade-level-appropriate text.
  • Apply context to identify the meaning of unfamiliar words and identify the intended meaning of words with multiple meanings.


A Google Presentation was set up with sharing permission set for anyone to edit (plans to change to view only once their pages are complete). This permitted all the students in the class to work within the document without the need of an email to log in.  This would not only result in student binder covers, but also in an embeddable presentation of all student work for that class.   A template was developed that included a block for the Word Cloud image and text box for the quote.  The individual student names were included on the slides so the student could find and work on his or her individual slide.

Students came to their technology class with lists of their civil rights words.  Two types of Word Clouds were introduced to the students:  ABCya Word Cloud and Tagxedo.  I introduced Tagxedo during the first group but didn’t realize that Tagxedo needed Microsoft Silverlight to operate.  Due to the block on the system, any additional software needs to be downloaded by the network administrator.  ABCya Word Cloud became the back up tool.  But the third group (another day), got the opportunity to test out Tagxedo.  The students loved producing the word cloud into a shape of their choice.


To find a relevant quote, the students were directed to go to Thinkexist: more than 300,000 quotations by over 20,000 Authors. When students located their quotes, these were copy and pasted into their slide.


So with this few hour exercise, the students learned how to

  • engage in language arts content standards through a technology interface
  • convey their vocabulary words in a visual format
  • creatively play with words
  • download an image
  • insert an image
  • search for and locate a relevant quote
  • copy and paste the quote from a website into a Google doc
  • work collaboratively on an online document

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 24, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Integrating Technology This Week: Resources Discovered, Re-Discovered, or Created

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One of my hobbies and frankly, passions, is finding free, exciting, and engaging resources to enhance the curriculum at my K-8 school.  Here are my finds for this week:

Language Arts

Got Brainy – Got Brainy features user-generated visual-based vocabulary definitions.   These include Brainypics (photo/image definitions) and Brainyflix (video definitions).  Students can create and submit their own Brainpics/Brainflix for their own vocabulary words.  If there is enough school-wide interest in this project, we can create our own site of student visual definitions.

International Children’s Digital Library has a digital library of outstanding children’s books from around the world.  The search engine for these online books include categories based on age level, genre, types of characters (kids, imaginary, animals), length, and picture-chapter books.

Tools for Educators offers free word search generators, word search makers, worksheets and programs for preschool, kindergarten teachers, elementary school teachers and language teachers to make word search puzzles to print, games for lessons, lesson plans and K-6 printable materials for classes.

Zooburst is a digital storytelling tool that lets anyone easily create his or her own 3D pop-up books.  I tried it and what I liked is that I can upload my own images into the 3D book.  I think the students are going to love it.


PBS Kids: Sid the Science Guy is a science web site appropriate for our K-2 students.  It includes three discovery zones: the Super Fab Lab at Sid’s school, the playground and Sid’s family kitchen.

National Geographic Creature Features allows kids to search through photographs and videos of all kinds of animals. The photographs are stunning.  This was used with 1st and 2nd graders this past week, all easily staying occupied for their 45 minute technology course.

Golems is a 3D recreational physics simulator.  Some of the older students, Junior High, have expressed an interest in 3D rendering.  I plan to offer this as a choice project later in the year as the Junior High students will be asked to identify technology projects they would like to produce.

Production Tools

Google Apps in the Classroom is a Google site I created that contains an aggregate of Google Presentations on Google Docs, Calendars, Sites, and Maps/Earth.  We have Google Apps for Education for our school.  These resources will, hopefully, get more teachers to utilize these resources.

Stupeflix Studio is a video creator similar to Animoto.  Pictures, video, titles, and music are mixed together to create a video.  They are planning a version for educators.  Animoto has become a very popular tool for the teachers and students at our school.  It will be nice to offer them another option for video mash-ups.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 10, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Technology Integration for the Students: The First Month

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Technology integration continues at the K-8 Charter School.  To refresh your memory, I took a position as a part-time technology instructor at this school starting in September.  The previous technology instructors were volunteer parents whose primary focus was on keyboarding skills and using the Microsoft suite.  Part of my self-imposed role is assisting teachers in integrating technology into their learning activities and supporting classroom learning during the students’ technology time.  A subgoal is to demonstrate how technology integration can be achieved with computers and internet connection and no other costs.

Here is the summary, an overview of technology integration for the different age groups that occurred during September.

Junior High – 7th and 8th Graders

PBWorks for African Learning Expedition

The learning expedition for the Junior High this year is studying Africa, past to present. Students have been assigned a specific African country to research, to become an “expert” about that country.  A PBWorks was set up for students to post their research.  At this point, the students are posting general facts they are finding about their countries.  These facts will be used to create Glogs, Animoto videos, and Dipity Timelines.

Glogs About Their Countries

This past week during their technology class, the students were introduced to Glogster.  They spent most of their time learning how it works.  A few began creating their Glogs about their African countries.

Part of their instruction included how to use Google Image advanced search to find images for their Glogs using strict filtering and usage rights “labeled as reuse with modification”.

Shelfari for Book Discussions

The Junior High language arts teachers asked all of the students to set up Shelfari accounts.  This was initiated by one of the teachers after she saw me demonstrate it during my interview last Spring.  What follows is part of the permission letter she sent home to parents for permission or students to sign up for Shelfari:

As students discover wonderful books, they will share their reviews and recommendations with each other.  Over the summer a few Anser students piloted an online site for discussing books.  Students found to be a fun and interactive way to share their excitement about books.  On Shelfari, students can create a virtual bookshelf, rate the books they have read, write and read book reviews, discuss books with readers from around the planet, create a reading wish list, and much, much more.  Our class will also have a private group where we can safely discuss books we are reading together.  Only group members can see our discussions and reply to our questions.

Participating students will have a profile (bookshelf and friend list) on the site.  In order to create a Shelfari account, students need parental permission.  Shelfari registration requires an email account; however, for the safety of the student, I recommend that you use a parent email to register.

A Group Shelf of books was established for the class.

They are asked to participate in monthly discussions on Shelfari where they post their own questions and respond to questions posted by other students:

Middle and Upper Childhood – 3rd, 4th, 5th, & 6th Graders

Where I’m From PicLits

One of the beginning of the year projects for the 5th and 6th graders was composing lengthy poems. Where I’m From.  The teachers asked how technology could assist with the expression of these poems in an artistic and visual format.  PicLits was the tool I believed could best support this project.

The students’ PicLits were all posted on a single page:

Word Clouds for the River Expedition

I showed the teachers Wordle at the beginning of the year and it immediately sparked the interest of the teachers for the students in these grades.  They have requested the creation of word clouds during technology time to support classroom activities.  I started with Wordle but wanted a tool that can easily  saved as images to the desktop.  Wordle does not have this characteristic.  After exploring other options, I decided to use ABCya Word Cloud. The Upper Childhood students practiced using it by inserting autobiographical words.  The Middle Childhood students created word clouds based on their river expedition.  They included words that they associate with rivers.  They will create another similar one after they finish their river study.  The two word clouds will serve as a pre-post assessment of terminology gained from their river learning expedition.

Thinkquest for Networking and Posting Work

I learn about many of the technology tools I use through Twitter and blogs.  Thinkquest was demonstrated to me a few years ago at ISTE’s National Education Computing Conference.  I love this site and so do my students.  I used it when I was a gifted teacher a few years ago.  The students at my “new” school are having the same excited reaction.

I don’t understand why I never hear it mentioned in any of my social networks.  It is a safe place where students can create an online identify, communicate with other students from their own school and from schools from around the world, post questions and polls, and participate in online projects (way too many benefits to describe in this blog entry).

Internet Safety with Professor Garfiled

Along with the production tools the students are learning, they have been studying Internet Safety with Professor Garfield. We watch the video together and then the students work through the Try and Apply components at their own computers.

Kindergarten and Early Childhood – 1st & 2nd Graders

Given the variance in the literacy levels of this age group, especially the 1st and 2nd grade group, the challenge has become how to differentiate to meet the needs of all children in the class.  I believe that technology provides a great venue for differentiation and it has proved to be the case for this age group.

ABCya Educational Games

ABCya provides educational games for grades Kindergarten through Fifth with an assortment of games for each grade.  From their website:

ABCya! is the leader in free educational kids computer games and activities for elementary students to learn educational computer games and activities were created or approved by certified teachers. ABCya! educational games are free and are modeled from primary grade lessons and enhanced to provide an interactive way for children to learn. ABCya! games and activities incorporate content areas such as math and reading while introducing basic computer skills. Many of the kindergarten and first grade games are equipped with sound to enhance understanding. on the web.

This site provides options for self-differentiation as students pick their games based on their grade level and interests.

Literacy Development

For the first half of the Early Childhood classes, I focus on literacy development.  Kidblogs were established for those students who have basic writing skills. The kids, at first, weren’t that thrilled about writing the blogs.  But once they realized they could comment on each other’s blogs, their excitement rose dramatically.  One student asked if it was like Facebook for kids.  Even at age 7, they understand and are attracted to social networking.

While the students are writing their blogs, the other students, emerging readers and writers, listen to and interact with online books such as Pinky Dinky Do.

Online Drawing Tools

The kids love to draw and paint with online tools.  Along with the ABCya games, students have been given the opportunity to draw during the second half of their technology classes.  Tux Paint was downloaded on all of the computers in the technology lab. (Note: even the Junior High students like it!).

Up Next – Technology Integration by the Teachers: The First Month

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 4, 2010 at 3:14 am

Comic and Animation Technologies in the Classroom

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I have several lists of online project-product creators for my K-8 technology students.  I cover a new tool every week or so.  But being kids, they like to explore the other tools from these lists.  The ones that overwhelmingly get noticed and the ones the students get most excited about are the comics and animation creators.  There were several tweets over the weekend that inspired me add to my knowledge, tools, and personal excitement for using comics and animations in the classrooms.  I have aggregated and compiled the following resources for my students.

Here is what covered S. Hendy in her slideshow plus some additions of my own:

Online Comic Creators


The following amazing animation, shared via Twitter, was completely made using the open source 3D software, Blender:

contains minor violence but the story is excellent (and sad)

Animation Creation Tools

Using Comics and Animation in the Classroom

My ultimate goal for using technology in education is having students love learning and creating.  The tools are the means to do so.  As such, they can be connected to a number of content-based assignments:


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 3, 2010 at 7:10 pm

A Technology-Enhanced Celebration of Learning

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As part of my Pedagogy of Learning and Psychology of Learning courses for pre- and in-service educators, I included a final project for the course was a Celebration of Learning.  They were asked to synthesize and reflect on their course learning using their own creativity, passions, and personal interests.  The description of this project was:

To demonstrate overall knowledge and integration of the material studied in class and from the texts, students are to do one of the following and demonstrate/report results to their classmates:

  • write a report
  • do a photo essay
  • compile a scrapbook
  • build a model
  • put on a live demonstration
  • do a statistical chart
  • keep a journal
  • record interviews
  • design a mural
  • develop a simulation
  • set up an experiment
  • do a mind-map
  • engage in a debate
  • produce a videotape
  • develop a musical
  • choreograph a dance
  • create a rap or song
  • one of your own own design

You will present your project to the class on the last day. You have up to 15 minutes for your presentation.  The grading criteria for this project includes:

  • Neatness and Professionalism- clean, professionally presented, easy to view, free of grammatical and spelling errors
  • Integration of Course Theory and Content – demonstrates an integration and understanding of class content and your research findings.
  • Quality of Content – the content demonstrates mastery and insights into the subject matter.
  • Creativity and Insight – Materials demonstrate creativity and insight about self and course material.

When students have multiple choices in ways to demonstrate their knowledge, the evidence of their learning is more accurate. We wanted the students to actually become the experts through the learning process. This assessment isn’t just a fancy term for a presentation at the end of a unit. To actually engage in an authentic celebration is to witness a true display of student understanding. Learning Celebrations are Authentic Assessments of Student Understanding

Multiple Means of Expression Giving students a choice of how they want to demonstrate what they learned supports the Universal Design for Learning Principle II: Provide students with multiple means of expression:

What if a student can best show you what they learned through art form? Does it make sense to eliminate this option all together? As educators, it is essential to be attuned to the fact that there is not one form of expression that is optimal for all students. Catering to the natural diversity of expression when designing a course can serve to broaden the impact of your teaching: some ways to do this are through text, verbal presentations, design, film video, multimedia, 3D Models, music/art, recordings, or graphic organizers. Technology plays a big role in facilitating these implementations. The CAST website has a full definition. (

Technology-Enhanced Celebration of Learning

The concept of celebration of learning, honoring students’ learning preferences, and reinforcing the classroom learning can be enhanced in this age of technology.  Technology provides additional ways and opportunities  to differentiate instruction based on content, interest, and ability.  Choice menus give learners the opportunity to self-select activities that are best suited to their interests and ability.  The result is engaged and motivated learners with resultant products that when shared in the classroom have often made me cry due to the personalized and passionate characteristics of these products.

Options that can be offered that are technology-enhanced include:

Create a Series of Word Clouds

Write and Illustrate an eBook

Draw or Paint a Picture

Make Comic Strip

Do an Animation

Create a Data Visualization

Create an Infographic

Create a  “Media” Presentation (must include at two different types of media – photo, images, audio)

Keep a Blog

Make a Game

Make a Timeline

Make a Google Earth Trip

Make an Online Quiz

Compose a Musical Composition

Make an Audio-Media Message

Make a Book Trailer

Create a Stop Motion Animation

Build a Project in a 3D Virtual Environment

Student Examples This past term, two students in my undergraduate course on Interpersonal Relations selected technology-enhanced projects. TJ loves Minecraft, so his final project included a review of the course concepts using his Minecraft Skills.

Another student, Nicole, created a series of Wordles for each topic covered during the course.

In addition, one student loved the Wordles were created in class so much, she did her own handmade versions for her project.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

September 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm

And the Technology Integration Begins!

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This was my first full week at the K-8 Charter School as the new technology instructor.  Technology has been used minimally by the teachers at the school during the ten plus year history of the charter school.  As stated in an earlier blog, Integrating Technology: Technology Tools to Develop a Collaborative, Participatory School Community Learning Space, the principal got excited about the potential of technology integration across the curriculum during and after my interview, wants it, but also knows it needs to be a process driven my the teachers.

I explained to the teachers that I want to support classroom learning expeditions when the learners come to me for their computer class.  I also told them that I am willing to show them technology-based tools they can use to enhance their classroom activities. I know many of the Web 2.0 tools and their potential for instructional applications (as a wear as a badge of honor for my addiction to social networking, online webinars and conferences, and hanging out in places like Second Life).  Based on conversations with the school principal and my own experiences/intuition, I understand that that technology integration needs to made as an offering to the teachers.  They need to decide if and how these tools can be incorporated and integrated into their own classrooms.

So this first week was one of preparation as the students start after Labor Day (first weekend of September for the United States) . . . and to my pleasant surprise, several “incidents” of technology integration occurred.

During this pre-school week, I assisted teachers with technology integration . . .

  • The principal asked to me to use Wordle for a warm-up for a staff training session.  The teachers were instructed to throw out terms that represent how they felt when learning something new. I created a Wordle from their responses.  Several teachers told me later that they plan to use Wordle during the first week of school.
  • T., the Community-Based Curriculum Director, discussed with me the use of Movie Maker to showcase the students’ service projects.  In the past, the parents and kids took photos and then T. used Movie Maker to showcase them.  I showed her Animoto.  She practiced using photos from the pre-school family picnic that occurred this past week.  The next day she excitedly approached me, stating that she now plans to offer students the choice of using Animoto as a means of reflecting on their service learning, that she can then  mash-up the students’ Animoto videos for her end of semester service learning presentation.

  • J., a Junior High teacher, worked with me to set up a PBWorks site for the Junior High Africa Expedition.  Students will work in small groups to study countries and post their findings on the their PBWorks page.

  • I showed Shelfari during my interview.  J. and several of her junior high students set up shelves last spring and actively participated over the summer.  I worked D., another Junior High teacher, to show her Shelfari as she and J. are planning to use it for their JH reading project.

  • M, a middle childhood educator (3rd-4th), and I set up a Weebly page for her classroom and created/inserted a PollDaddy survey to assess her students’ learning style preferences.

  • A., a Kindergarten teacher, asked me to help set up a classroom page for parent information.; and L., the special education coordinator, wants a parent site for homework so she could add IEP-based accommodations.  I wanted to get other opinions about this so I went to my trusted network on Twitter.  The recommendations for this included using Google Calendar for the homework with accommodations and Google Sites for the classroom pages. I asked via Twitter for some example classroom pages using Google Sites and here is a list of what I received:

This was a good first week!  Lesson learned: Technology integration needs to be approached as differentiated instruction for the teachers. They are the users in this case and need to generate their own education.  They should be presented with a choice menu and then given the support to develop the tools and technologies that address their abilities, interests, and teaching styles.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

September 4, 2010 at 2:34 am

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