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.
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.
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.
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.
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 piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.