The 21st century classroom is all about learning through rich tasks that are open enough to allow for the 6 C’s (i.e., collaborative inquiry to solve real and relevant problems, creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, citizenship, and character education). Technology is a great tool that we can use to engage students through rich tasks.
A teacher once told me the saying, “You do not teach pencil. The same way you do not teach technology.” As I reflect on this saying, I definitely see a connection. We may need to teach a text form or model the proper formation of letters, the same way we may need to teach a student to take a picture with an iPad or how to create a new page using the app Book Creator. However, we do not teach pencil or technology. Our generation, as Prensky coins the term “Digital Immigrants”, can certainly learn a lot about using technology, however it’s the younger generations that have been born into it and their knowledge base and desire to use technology will most certainly be superior to ours. I believe our students are leaders in using technology; we have a lot to learn from and with our “Digital Natives”.
There is no doubt that using technology as a tool is probably the single most effective way to engage our students K-12 and they need it! Remember to integrate instructional technology into classrooms in ways that are meaningful and engaging for our students. When planning lessons with integrated technology, I view learning tasks through the TPACK framework and SAMR model.
TPACK in 2 Minutes
SAMR in 120 Seconds
I love using apps such as iMovie for library book reviews, Puppet Pals for character education presentations, Book Creator for narrative and report writing, and eduCreations or Explain Everything for communication. I’ve also worked with many teachers who have used technology as a tool to improve oral mathematical communication skills using, blogs, wikis, and twitter. Students would use the technology to help them record their thinking, then students would upload their work to a classroom blog or wiki so that their peers, parents, and the global community can comment on their learning, ideas, and opinions. When students read responses, especially from other students around the world, we’ve created an opportunity for students that without technology would not be possible.
VoiceThread is another online tool that’s great! It allows users to have an ongoing conversation. I’ve used this to create a discussion around important issues. In social studies or a history classroom, you could use this tool and ask students framing questions from the curriculum. For example, “Is history always positive? How do we determine the nature of its impact?” The possibilities are endless.
Putting technology in the hands of students gives them voice and choice in how they would like to engage in their learning. This could be during the process of learning new content or when creating a final product. Not every student needs their own laptop or iPad. We want students to be working together, solving real and relevant problems, this creates opportunities for them to collaborate with each other. Our board has a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy and many students do bring their own device. This has more easily allowed for the teaching of digital citizenship and created more access for students. However, not every student needs to bring a device to work in a small group; it’s one device per group.
Using technology as a tool, in the 21st century classroom, is crucial. Anytime we can integrate technology we should be! This will ensure that our students have voice and choice in their learning, preparing our students to be 21st century life-long learners long after they leave our buildings.