Thursday, March 5, 2015

Essential Components of a 21st Century Classroom

What are the essential components of a 21st Century Classroom?  That is a presentation I was recently asked to put together for an interview - and I though I would share it for week 9 of the #youredustory blog challenge.

The slide deck is shown below - and my script was just a template...but I think you will understand my ideas.  I will put in a "DING" when you should change slides - like when we used to have books on record that would read to us as kids (now I guess I may be dating myself).

Here goes...

What do I believe a 21st century classroom or school looks like?  (DING!)

To me the goal of education in our century is to embrace technology beyond the simple use of tools, and work toward personalizing education for our students.  Never before have we had the tools at our disposal to make personalized learning a possibility for our students, so we must work toward that goal.  When I first saw this task I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to put this presentation together - and I got to work right away.  (DING!)

I didn't turn to Google for the answer like I may have done 3 years ago.  (DING!)

Instead, I turned to my PLC - my peers and colleges on Twitter, Google+ and Voxer.  Of course I have an idea of what I think a 21st century classroom looks like - but I am no longer in the classroom - so who am I to decide for our classroom teachers what their classroom should look and work like day to day?  (DING!)

My first step was to put together a Google Doc and share it publicly (with editing rights) to ~100 or so of my PLC via Google+ and Twitter.  I only left the doc open for 4 hours - and in that time I had 24 people offer their opinion and help with my question.  (DING!)

These were real educators from real schools -  they gave me information than I could not have found on Google with days of research.  I had principals, teachers, tech tosas, a director of technology, innovation leaders and even one of our own librarians sending me input on the 21st century classroom.  So I want you all to know that everything I say here today is not just me - because I do not come alone - I have many people willing to help with the push of some buttons!  (DING!)

You see, to me, the first and most important quality of a 21st century classroom is collaboration.  My first response to this task was to collaborate with people I know, people who have been in this longer than me, have seen things work or fail, people who are willing to share their knowledge and experience - just as I would have if someone emailed, tweeted or called me.  So when I need help to move our district forward I will always gain as much information as possible...and social media allows me to do that in a better and more efficient way.  (DING!)

I want to introduce you to Logan LaPlante - a 14 year old from Lake Tahoe who has started a new type of schooling - hackschooling.  (DING!)


I think we have many Logans in our district that are looking for ways to be creative and change their education.  I don’t want technology to be something that gets in the way of the enthusiasm of these students.  So what do we need in our district to create a classroom for Logan...  (DING!)

The 21st century classroom needs a teacher who is comfortable using technology - but also will allow their students to use the tools and devices they are familiar with, but the teacher may not know.  A 21st century classroom needs a teacher that is a lead learner - not a lead explainer.  (DING!)

Like the slide says - using technology successfully in the classroom is a Mindset, not a skill set.  Technology is constantly changing and teachers need to guide and teach their students but also be willing to learn alongside or even from them.  (DING!)

Of course any 21st century classroom will need to have the 4 c’s.  Even if you take the Common Core out of it, I believe the 4 C’s will play a critical role in the future of our students.  I have already talked about how important I feel collaboration is - so lets talk about critical thinking.  As we change our classrooms from 20th to 21st century classrooms, students will learn in new ways - through inquiry, projects, building, making and play.  Learning in this way does not allow a student to “Google” the answer or look in the back of the book.  They have to understand the problem and find a solution.  Students will be forced to think critically each day in a 21st century classroom!  (DING!)

Communication is a key for the classroom of tomorrow - students will need to be able to explain their thinking and describe how they came up with their solution to a problem. This is not to impress the teacher or to get a passing grade - they need to communicate to others within their classroom and across the world in order to share their knowledge with other students. This may come in a 140 character tweet or a 1400 word blog post - either way, our 21st century student will need to communicate.  (DING!)

And finally comes the creativity.  I tend to look at creativity as innovation.  Can a student take an issue and find a new way to solve the problem?  We no longer want to create a student that can find the right answer and bubble an answer sheet - we want students who can find multiple ways to answer a problem and give you the pros and cons of each.  (DING!)

So you may be saying to yourself that I have described a lot about a 21st century classroom - but I have not mentioned what devices or equipment I expect to see in one.  That is on purpose.  I strongly believe the device does not matter.  (DING!)

We can put an iPad or a Chromebook in the hands of a student - and most of them would rather have their cell phone.  (DING!)

We can take a class to a state of the art computer lab to research and write about Martin Luther King - but many would just assume we increase the bandwidth so they can use their tablet.  The device doesn’t matter - we need to build a robust network and allow teachers and students to find their best way to learn, create and explore.  (DING!)

The first iPad was released in April 2010.  (DING!)

The first chromebook shipped in June 2011 but didn’t make it to our district until 1 year ago...and now we have almost 4500!  (DING!)

I can’t predict the next iPad or Chromebook - but I can guess that when our kindergarten students walk across the stage at graduation they will think that the phone in our pocket looks and feels like a brick and they won’t know how we used to use those things!  Technology changes way too fast - all we can do is plan for what we think we need 5 years from now and adjust that target when needed!  (DING!)

The last thing a successful 21st century classroom needs is for the district to offer quality professional development to all of our staff.  That includes teachers, classified, admin and district office personnel.  We can no longer buy something and put it in the classroom and walk away.  There is study after study about how that does not work - and we don’t need to read any research...we can look at our own district.  Without proper training, any money spent on technology is wasted.  The edtech side of our technology team is a great start to what we need for our staff - but we need to allow them to create and train our users with best practices that have proven to be effective.  Anything we plan for and buy will not be effective without proper PD.  (DING!)

I want to leave you with this short video clip of a 4th grade girl…  (DING!)


Lets not be the district that is stuck at the top and is scared to go down the jump.  Like she said at the end - It’s just the suspense at the top for the first time that freaks you out.  Lets not be freaked out by technology - lets make the jump and move this district forward!  (DING!)

Here is the Slide Deck that goes with the narrative above: