George Lucas Educational Foundation

What Does a 21st Century Classroom Look Like: Technology Integration

What Does a 21st Century Classroom Look Like: Technology Integration

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As a follow up to my post on 10 Signs of a 21st Century Classroom, I would like to share some ideas that we have at my school for achieving these goals. Some are actively implemented by a significant number of our faculty, while others are still just an idea being trialed by one or two teachers. I am starting with technology integration (a subject on which much has already been written). I am by no means saying that these are the best or only ideas out there.

Flipped Classrooms

So much has been shared regarding this idea already that I don’t want to spend too much time rehashing. Our experience with flipping classrooms has seen the most impact with on-level students. Advanced students seem to perform just as well regardless of how the material is presented. Flipping is occurring primarily in chemistry, history, and algebra classes, but more teachers were exposed to the concept during a Tech Tuesday presentation. For more information see Edutopia’s Flipped Classroom Topic.

Digital Citizenship

Just because students have been using technology their entire lives is no guarantee that they know how to use them properly. A new freshman skills course is introducing students to concepts such as privacy, cyber bullying, and copyright infringement.

Student Response Systems

Receiving instantaneous feedback from students has several advantages. Teachers can see immediately where gaps exist in student knowledge. Students have the opportunity to state their opinions anonymously. Warmups and exit tickets can be collected paperlessly. While in the past, this sort of feedback required dedicated devices (“clickers”), a number of free resources exist to allow any student device to send and collect data. We primarily use Socrative and Google Forms.

Science Probeware

I absolutely love teaching science. We always seem to get the best toys. A number of companies are producing sensors that can provide measurements of any number of features: pH, ultraviolet radiation, nitrate levels in water, gamma radiation, wind speed, etc. This can allow students to perform a more quantitative analysis of conditions during a laboratory exercise and develop better models to explain phenomena.

Participatory Research

One of the great blessings of the internet is not merely to read what others have written, but to contribute to the vast body of knowledge that exists. Our environmental science class has the ability to record local weather and conditions in a nearby stream. This data can be used not only by our own students, but made available to other groups online. Our students also participate in citizen science through such sites as Zooniverse, where they can assist in actual research while learning about supernovae, ocean ecosystems, or the lives of soldiers during WWI.

Student Created Media

Addressing another important pillar in the 21st Century, technology provides opportunities for students to express their creativity. Often, in the past, a research project had only one feasible product: a paper. While certainly possible before the advent of technology in classrooms, it is much more likely now to see students presenting a video or computer animation as a final project.

Virtual Field Trips

It is very difficult to schedule field trips. Bus drivers must be found, fees must be collected, and instructors of other courses must be convinced that the trip has educational value equal to the class time missed. Services such as Skype and Google Hangouts can bring in experts from anywhere in the world without the hassle of travel or vetting by administration. Recent improvements to online map services (i.e. street level imagery) can allow students a view into the wider world outside their own community.


1. The question might be raised: “Why is technology necessary? My methods have worked for years. Why fix what isn't broken?” It is a mistake to think that even if certain methods worked in the past, they will continue to be successful. The world does not stand still. The needs and requirements of learners are constantly changing and we must change with them.

2. We are a BYOD school. I have not listed this as a way to integrate technology because merely having the technology present means nothing. It must be used. We do have certain restrictions on what students may use as their primary device. As a private school, we have more ability to ask students to purchase specific products.

3. A very real concern involves helping students to remain on task while using their devices. We have experimented with teacher software that allows oversight and control of student equipment, but with our BYOD policy, it has proven to be difficult. Here, the old ways appear to be the best ways. Teachers are encouraged to circulate through the classroom and communicate clear expectations.

4. To make this list, the use of technology had to achieve a new objective or achieve an objective in a significantly different way (taking notes on a computer doesn't count). It’s not worth doing something if it’s not doing something different.

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Hi Patrick,
I like how straightforward and clear your ideas are - although I acknowledge that going from 'idea' to 'reality' is not always so simple. I wanted to ask you: how did you encourage buy-in from the teachers in your school to adopt these new ideas? Did you identify some leaders who then modelled practice? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Patrick Goertz's picture
Patrick Goertz
Science Teacher, STEM Coordinator

Good question, Keith. It was not easy and we of course have some teachers who still prefer to do things the traditional way.

We have several strategies for achieving teacher buy-in. As you point out, having teachers model best practice is a key component. Luckily, almost every department has one techie who can show off their ideas and help others to achieve goals. We also use "Tech Tuesday" presentations (see my earlier post on the subject) to introduce new concepts. In addition, as STEM coordinator I try to pass on interesting techniques to department heads when I think that it might be applicable to their team.

ESLTchrVa's picture


You made some excellent points! Students these days are surrounded by technology therefore they seem to learn more effectively if it is integrated in our teachings. Of course, there will always be teachers who are not as comfortable with using more technology in the classroom. I have come upon many teachers who are that way, but I would never say they are not successful teachers. I would say if they integrated more technology into their lessons they would be able to reach their students even more.

I also liked how you touched on dual citizenship for the students. Yes, students are quite handy with any technology we "throw" at them. Yet, look at how many cases we see on the news of kids and teens being cyber stalked or worse. I fear we are not doing enough to educate our youth about protecting their identity when they use technology.

tchr7175's picture

Hi Patrick,

I really appreciated reading about how your school is integrating technology in such interesting ways. I have done some integration using and designing some presentations for our interactive whiteboard and integrating bits and pieces here and there. I'm anxious to find out more about flipped classrooms, student response systems being student provided w/devices and apps, virtual field trips, and participatory research. My experience is rather mediocre at best, however I am excited to expand my knowledge base and try some new stuff as I move forward and become more informed, more comfortable, more confident, and more competent.

Lpetway's picture

Hi Patrick,

I really found your post to be very informative in regards to technology integration in the classroom. In my experience of teaching students with intellectual and at risk disabilities, I used technology in my classroom everyday. It helped me not only build a rapport with my students but also helped me develop and keep positive engagement with my students. I firmly believe that technology integration increased my students learning ability.

Patrick Goertz's picture
Patrick Goertz
Science Teacher, STEM Coordinator


Regarding flipped classrooms, so much has already been written by those with far more experience than me that it is best to start with those resources you see online. Essentially, it boils down to moving lecture and note taking outside of class leaving time for more application and collaboration within the classroom.

Socrative is my student response system of choice. It doesn't require an app, just an internet capable device whether phone, tablet, or laptop. One of the great things is allowing students to post their answers without fear of anyone knowing who they are. Of course, this does mean some monitoring of answers may be required before displaying them to the class. There's a pretty good tutorial on their site.

Really the best way to learn is to get your hands dirty and just try something new. You can use one of your classes as guinea pigs or, if you want to be more experienced before bringing the students in, ask some colleagues if they will help you to test out various ideas by playing the role of a class.

Patrick Goertz's picture
Patrick Goertz
Science Teacher, STEM Coordinator


Thanks for sharing. Assistive classroom technology is an exciting field right now. The recent TCEA conference in Austin had a whole room devoted to new products and techniques to help students with disabilities to achieve their objectives.

taja_tt's picture
TAJA TT® a paradigm changing teaching system

THANK YOU PATRICK for not rehashing too much, it's good to get out of the rehash and into the initial creation itself no? That's where the life of teaching is, the art of it, the power........To create, sth original, and not a rehash, rather a vibrant alive, creative and innovative and inSPIRING learning environment. Problem is this rehashing, mashing in edu and edu research and in the classroom. It's all too often just karaoke with credentials. It's dry, dead, resulting in less youth wanting to be teachers.

So, instead of one teacher "covering" "rehashing" lessons and techniques the old one-teacher way, (which is leading to the necessity for tech to save teaching from itself, from it's rehashed lifeless boredom,) let's change the paradigm completely: two teachers in one classroom, the TT(r) way. Which is not just any way!!

It's either this, or just keep trudging along until most teachers are replaced by teaching robots who will transmit information and data-heavy curricula more effectively than one teacher ever has or will. You see, kids minds, all of our minds, have changed so much in the high-tech age, the way we absorb, process and express information is such that the old one-teacher one-classroom way of teaching absolutely does not fit. Enter stage left: Edu Tech!

We're on the road to the obsoletion of most teachers in the classroom, unless there is a paradigm change IN the teaching system, not the tech, not the techniques, not the students, but in the teaching. The classroom environment is calling for a vibrant, lively inspiring transformation via a teaching paradigm change that invigorates and impassions the teacher and captures the modern students attention, empowering both teachers and students. That's TAJA.

wishing you Peace, Harmony and Prosperity

taja_tt's picture
TAJA TT® a paradigm changing teaching system

i just wonder, how do teachers feel who are ushering out the human teacher and ushering in the robot teacher? I'm not criticizing, just curious about the level of awareness. ipads and little robots that children engage in teach-to-learn methods, online edu sharing platforms, small examples of bigger things to come. Do teachers even know it is happening, And if yes, does that alarm them? The irony! the more teachers use technology the closer human teachers are to being obsolete! What will be for future human teacher? As robots increase obviously humans will decrease in the classroom, so what will be left for human teachers to do? And are they preparing themselves for those days? Are they developing their uniquely human traits that no robot can imitate or co-opt? Are they preparing themselves to be an exemplary and relevant human teacher so as to be one of the few that remain within the school after the robots come? Gosh, I wonder if any of them are awake?

btw, for those teachers interested in preserving and evolving the human teacher profession as well as powerfully develop that art, check out T2 on my website in my profile

those interested in the future of robots in the classroom check out T3 on the same website.

wishing teachers an early and gentler awakening to the future of robots in the classroom

peace, harmony and prosperity

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