ISTE | Q & A

Fashioning a Framework for Maker Education

Q & A with educator and ISTE presenter Jackie Gerstein.

Maker education shouldn't be treated as a flavor of the month. 

So says Jaclyn Gerstein, an educator, author, blogger and education technology enthusiast who lives in Santa Fe, NM. She teaches gifted education to second through sixth graders at Sweeney and Salazar Elementary Schools in Santa Fe. She also teaches education technology to graduate and doctoral students through Walden University and Boise State University online.

Gerstein will be presenting at two sessions during the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference: “A Framework for Maker Education: Frontloading and Reflecting on Maker Experiences,” on Sunday, June 25; and “Design Thinking and Universal Design for Learning for Makerspaces, STEM and STEAM” on Monday, June 26.

In her ISTE bio, she says, “I don’t do teaching for a living. I live teaching as my doing … and technology has amplified my passion for doing so.” Gerstein spoke with THE Journal to discuss her ideas about maker spaces and why they’re part of the next educational revolution.

THE Journal: We’ve heard a lot about the maker movement. What do you mean by “a framework for maker education”?

Jackie Gerstein: In education technology, there’s the flavor of the month, and people jump on these bandwagons. I’ve been doing maker education for years; I come from the field of experiential education.


Jackie Gerstein

While I’m a big proponent of maker education, I’m afraid it’s going to be a flavor of the month, in education and education technology. Learning — that’s my background. You need to provide a context. Just doing an activity then moving on is not enough.

We need to be frontloading or framing the experience, and think about what you really want your students to really think about and focus on. Do you want them to focus on certain standards, develop team building, have tolerance for frustration?
You want to plant those seeds into students’ heads.

Afterward, reflection becomes a huge piece. Have them take pictures, give them some questions they have to blog about. We don’t learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on the experience.

Have them tinker and play with these things. It’s getting them into the engineering process. Try it and reflect on it. Teachers like doing hands-on activities. Have a pre- and post-activity. That really situates it, gives it context. We don’t want to leave learning to chance.

THE Journal: How do you tie making things from 3D printers and creating robots  back to the fundamentals of what kids should be learning?

Gerstein: I have a website called which talks a lot about this. 3D printers — that’s the seductive end. And the high-tech robots. But they’re out of reach of a lot of schools, Salazar and Sweeney for instance. They’re Title I schools. There’s no way they’re going to have 3D printers.

If done correctly, you can connect [making things] to STEM, to STEAM. They are hands-on. It’s not, “Let’s get out a book and read the chapter.”

You can learn everything about STEM and STEAM skills from making something, dealing with frustration, with open-ended projects and programs. Tests aren’t a life skill. So why are we teaching [students] to take tests? It’s ridiculous.

I gave a present to my students. Last week, I gave them Gameboys. I had them take them apart. I got a lot of them from EBay pretty cheap. I don’t know what they’re going to create, but that’s OK. If they work hard, they are going to be creative. In most professions, you’re hopefully going to learn how to deal with frustrations.

THE Journal: What is the purpose of maker education?

Gerstein: To prepare people for the real world now, and the real world of the future. The world’s different. Robots are taking over jobs, and people are worried. It’s the same thing when the jobs in factories got replaced by robots. It becomes a different world. But I think it can be a good thing: Who wants to put widgets in holes all day long, when we can have robots doing it? It’s such a waste of human potential. We can figure out how to make robots better. I like that we’re becoming robot-oriented, because humans can do different things, more fulfilling things.

THE Journal: Are we experiencing a revolution or renewed interest in maker education?

Gerstein: Both. There’s the Maker Faire coming up in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s just incredible. I call it a perfect storm for maker education. It’s part of the DIY movement.

We’re just at this perfect storm. People have this innate desire to make, create. If they want to learn something, they go to YouTube. There’s a renewed interest in maker education, because of the times we’re living in. We are on the cusp of a revolution.

THE Journal: Tell me some of your educational background and how that ties with your experience with the maker movement.

Gerstein: I was a really bored, dissatisfied kid at school. I didn’t like the “sit and get” model.

In college, I was really into experiential education — to learn history, you go to a cemetery and look at the lineage there. Go to a creek and find a little critter that you can look at under a microscope. Outdoor education and environmental education are multi-sensory and involve your whole body.

If you sit still in a classroom with your ears up, and don’t use our whole bodies, that’s not how everybody learns best. I wanted to create a classroom you wish you had had. I like that my students say, “Do I have to leave now?” rather than kids running out the door at the end of school.

Learning is fun. To be stuck in the same model made me frustrated as a kid.
For today’s students, get them engaged in the beginning.

I might do a lesson on circuit works; then I can give them the articles, websites, so they have the motivation. If you develop the passion, you’re going to become a lifelong learner.

THE Journal: Are there other types of tools, programs, platforms or products that you use in the classroom?

Gerstein: My thing with ed tech is to use it as a tool — the kids work on kid blogs for blogging. I give them things that they can create: pictocharts, infographics. I’ll show them a really cool kids’ video and try to integrate it in ways that naturally are part of the learning process.

I won’t tell them things. I’ll say, “Go get your Chromebook, look it up and tell me.”
I don’t make them use pencils and pens unless they have to, or they want to.

They’ll create new video games and they have to storyboard it. They get up on the whiteboard and explain their story to the other students.

From inception to implementation, they’ll use tech to create video games, and look at all the skills they’re learning. Every kid in my class likes video games. But we’re also building their language arts skills. Instead of just having the famous five paragraphs essay, they’re learning language arts skills a different way. They’re using collaborative Google Slides. Each student gets a slide, and they can put anything they want in there that is a reflection.

I have them use Voki — they’re talking avatars. We use Adobe Spark. It’s really easy to make videos with that. They’re using Chromebooks to take pictures, then they upload them to Google Photos.

THE Journal: What are you looking forward to at ISTE, besides your own presentations?

Gerstein: I like the bigger picture. I like to connect. On a personal note, all these people I know from social media, I get to meet in person and it rocks. I have friends now from Canada and Australia that I met on social media, and because we know each other from the conference.

I do teach ed tech – I work at the school three days a week, then I’m at home grading my online students. Still I miss some stuff. To hear from other professionals, how they might be using tools in the classroom — that’s invaluable.

I do get frustrated at sessions like “60 Tools in 60 Minutes.” Those sessions are always packed. I want to ask, “A week later, how many are actually using in them in the classroom?”

It’s both big picture and small picture. It’s exciting for me. I jumped on ed tech as soon as YouTube videos came out. There’s an expression in ed tech: Tech won’t ever replace teachers, but teachers who don’t use ed tech will be replaced.

THE Journal will be exhibiting at ISTE, June 25-28, in booth 754.