What do we mean by the “21st century classroom?” There are a variety of answers to this question, but few get at the transformation in teaching and learning that can be brought about by the shifts that are happening in our world today.
The “21st century classroom” opens a lot of possibilities for teaching and learning. Teachers have an abundance of technology to pull from. Teachers can employ educational social networks such as Edmodo as well as extending the classroom into Twitter, blogs, and google document sharing.. In doing this, teachers can speak to students in a language they might better understand, the language of technology. Students are surrounded by technology and savvy teachers can use this to benefit student learning.
Edmodo and be used to ask and answer questions any time about assignments, or anything else pertaining to school. Edmodo can be used as a central hub for homework assignments, dates for tests, or even a resource base to help students collect and share useful resources for papers and other assignments. Parents can also view assignments over Edmodo, and I’m certain many parents would like to be able to check in on their child’s schoolwork, especially when it is as transparent as Edmodo. More importantly, it can be used to draw parents into the classroom and engage them with their children’s learning. Edmodo lends itself to flexibility; there are so many useful ways to employ an educational social network.
Though not geared as strictly towards education as Edmodo, Twitter and blogs can also be valuable resources for teachers and students. Teachers can learn a lot (I know I did) from participating in Twitter Chats. There are so many ideas and experiences being bounced around in these chats even a passive bystander can learn a lot from lurking in the chats. While that may be beneficial, to get the most out of a Twitter Chat, teachers should add their own input. Twitter can also be a useful tool for students. I think it could be great as a way to help draw students into the lesson. Many students use Twitter and this can be a benefit in class, if implemented properly. If students create new accounts just for school, they can utilize Twitter, even using their phones, to answer warm up questions or interact with students over Twitter. The novelty of using phones and Twitter helps to draw students in before even answering a question. Students can also share class projects and assignments and receive feedback from people outside of the classroom or school. This adds another element to classroom management, but it can certainly be beneficial to learning.
Blogs can be another way to draw students into learning. Blogs can be a great way to post up work and get feedback from peers. It is also a novel way to turn in assignments. Rather than a pen and paper assignment, students can electronically submit work with could be an incentive to motivate students. Additionally, blogs can be used to carry on long term assignments such as diaries or letters between historical people or personas. Though it might seem scary to have your work out in cyberspace, if the work is centered on the class and the students are involved and commenting on each other’s blogs, it can create a fun environment to stimulate learning.
Google Docs also has a great use in the classroom, if even for giving feedback. It might seem daunting at first to become fluent in Google Docs, but it gives a sense of mastery for students when they do accomplish fluency. From there, students can post work and receive feedback from all their peers and the teacher. Feedback and revision is so important in the writing process and Google Docs is an easy way to make feedback accessible. Students can write an assignment and then people in a group (the whole class might get a little messy) can provide feedback on the same copy of the work. This can help students get to higher levels of feedback because they can piggyback off what others have said. Finally, the teacher can come in and give feedback and all of the feedback is in a central location. This is a great tool to help students in the writing process and is more beneficial than feedback on multiple hard copies.
I have only just scratched the surface of what is feasible with technology in a “21st century classroom” but the fact remains that technology can be extremely useful in the learning process. While I have only covered the mundane (though I think these may be most applicable in my classroom, the opportunities to teach and learn with technology is virtually limitless. Teachers can simply use the simple methods I have outlined or they can be as creative as they would like, just as long as the students are safe and being held to a high quality of work.
How do we apply technology tools in ways so that we can more easily achieve meaningful teaching and learning in the 21st century? Our focus on technology in education rarely gets beyond the dimension of technical skill. Education professionals must have additional skills to be able to evaluate emerging and ever-evolving technology tools and determine how they will meet the needs of the 21st century learner.
There is certainly potential to create strong lessons that include technology, but it is also easy to use technology merely as a crutch and substitute paper worksheets with online worksheets. The key to navigating the technological opportunities is to think of SAMR and DOK questions. SAMR is a guideline that forces teachers to think about how their use of technology in a lesson will benefit students. From Substitution to Augmentation to Modification to Replacement, teachers can place their lessons on a spectrum of technology use. Substitution can be something like answering a warm up question using Twitter. Augmentation might include entail sharing ideas over Edmodo. Modification could take that one step further in which ideas are shared on a blog where students or other enthusiasts can comment. Modification could include contacting an expert in the field of stud which could be a great way for students to learn more about the subject. The lower levels of SAMR are not necessarily bad, but the higher levels really add an element of richness to lessons. From sharing and getting feedback from people around the globe to contacting an expert in the field, technology can be used to create really powerful lessons from which the students take a lot from.
In a similar vein as SAMR, DOK can also be used to guide lessons. Depth of knowledge (DOK) is a way for teachers to make sure they are asking questions that are beneficial to all learners. Lower level questions can be used to check for recall of material, but teachers should focus on questions that make the students think and apply critical thinking skills. I think this is really important in history, where everything is about making connections and forming one’s own opinion based on the facts. Critical thinking is important, and DOK questioning should reflect that.