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Today’s students need educators
to re-envision the role of
technology in the classroom.

A DRAMATIC SHIFT is sweeping through our schools. The signs are

all around us. Third graders texting on their cell phones. Kindergarteners
who can navigate an iPod Touch better than we can. Middle schoolers who
already have an Internet following on their blog or YouTube channel.
These are not the same 21st century learners we came to know over the
first decade of the new millennium. For these students, simply watching
videos or images during class, playing an Internet multiplication game,
or even taking turns at an interactive whiteboard is no longer enough.
These new 21st century learners are highly relational and demand quick
access to new knowledge. More than that, they are capable of engaging in
learning at a whole new level. With the world literally at their fingertips, Artwork by
Reagan C., Karlee S.,
today’s students need teachers and administrators to re-envision the role
and Gregory D.,
of technology in the classroom. students at McKeel
Elementary Academy.

8 Principal ■ January/February 2012

tetRa/GloW ImaGeS Principal n January/February 2012 9

Technology integration Remixed and multimedia presentations to add

The new 21st century learners must
master more than the core curriculum
A new mindset shock and awe to his or her lessons and
capture the attention of the 21st cen-
to succeed in secondary and postsec- tury child. A new mindset of teaching
ondary institutions, as well as in the
workplace. The Partnership for 21st
of teaching through technology must emerge, which
depends on a vital shift in teacher/
Century Skills, a national organization
advocating for 21st century readiness through student roles.
In this configuration, the teacher
for every student, explains the out- acts as a learning catalyst, orchestrat-
comes of this transformation as fusing
the traditional three R’s with four C’s:
technology must ing and facilitating activities that
spark defining moments for students.
critical thinking, creativity, communica- The most effective activities take two
tion, and collaboration.
As students develop the four C’s, we
emerge, which forms— discovery and creation—
though they often symbiotically work
have discovered that effective applica-
tion of these vital skills in a technology- depends on a together. The student then becomes
the focal point of the classroom, acting
infused life and workplace requires as explorer (e.g., mathematician,
acquiring them in a technology-infused
learning environment. This environ-
vital shift in scientist, sociologist) and designer
(e.g., author, artist, composer).
ment calls for two elements: We must This is a liberating shift. As teachers
increasingly put technology into the
hands of students and must trust them
teacher/student spend less time creating presentations
and more time crafting powerful learn-
with more progressive technology use.
It is no longer sufficient for students roles. ing activities, they will find that mate-
rial is covered with more depth and
to have less access to technological tools retention the first time around, saving
than the teacher, nor is it enough for them time and energy in the long run.
any one suite of software to serve as Moreover, by allowing students to be
the zenith for technology mastery. For teamwork, and innovation. The four explorers and designers, educators
student performance to approximate C’s are at the heart of the International show that they believe in their stu-
student potential, students need access Society for Technology in Education’s dents’ abilities and validate each
to a constantly evolving array of techno- National Educational Technology Stan- student’s contribution to the class.
logical tools and activities that demand dards (NETS) for Students, providing a Discovery and Exploration. In
problem-solving, decision-making, substantial framework for defining the technology-infused discovery activities,
focus of technology objectives for K-12 Internet research, virtual manipula-
students. For example, in implement- tives, and multimedia resources allow
ing these standards we have found that students to explore unanswered
Principal even our youngest 21st century learners questions. For example, instead of
ONLINE are capable of independently creating beginning a lesson on geometric trans-
Access the following Web Resources by visit- digital storybooks, artwork, presenta- formations by listening to a lecture or
ing Principal magazine online: www.naesp. tions, and movies. looking at examples on the board, a
org/JanFeb12 fourth grader might use the free geo-
Shift in Roles metric transformation activities in Utah
Discover resources and tutorials for
Technology Integration and Student-Created
Following the joyous moment when State University’s National Library of
Digital Media through the author’s blog. educators realize their students are Virtual Manipulatives (
capable, independent technology users to answer a probing question such as
Learn more about implementing the who can create inspiring digital master- “What is a geometric reflection?” Mid-
International Society for Technology in
pieces, the next reaction is often a more dle schoolers might take it a step fur-
Education’s National Educational
Technology Standards (NETS) for solemn, “How do we fit it all in?” In ther to discover and develop steps for
Students, Teachers, and Administrators. fact, the answer to this question is vital graphing a reflection on a coordinate
to a successful technology integration plane. Exploring as a real mathemati-
Listen to Sugata Mitra share more about his transformation. cian would, students try to understand,
research through his TED Talk titled “The
In the former mindset of teaching analyze, and evaluate their experience
Child-Driven Education.”
with technology, the teacher was the to answer the posed question.
Gain technology integration tips on the focal point of the classroom, creating Discovery activities give students
Edutopia website. (often time-consuming) interactive real-world, problem-solving experience

10 Principal n January/February 2012

n Fifth graders collaborate to launch stories in the contest and yours is the
a Web Safety Wiki to teach other best! Be a writer when you grow up.
students worldwide about digital You will be world wide!”
citizenship (wildcatwebsafety. One comment like that can trans- form a student’s outlook on his or her
education. As an International Story
The projects created are excellent Contest runner-up at age 9, this creative
tools for formative and summative young girl now plans to be a writer
assessment. Yet more than that, through when she grows up.
creation activities, students design prod- Worldwide, students and teachers are
ucts that make them active partners in discovering the benefits of global col-
constructing learning experiences in laboration and the power of authentic
the classroom and beyond. In demon- audiences. For example, students at Lin-
strating their skills and knowledge, they coln Middle School in Santa Monica,
become more confident in their own California, share a collection of student-
abilities and their own voices. created math screencasts at Mathtrain.
TV, which has received more than
Authentic Audiences 350,000 views. The ThinkQuest Project
One of the greatest benefits of 21st Library (
century technology infusion is also hosts more than 8,000 student-created
one of the key mandates for successful websites designed by ThinkQuest com-
technology integration. Traditionally, petitors.
students have composed their work for Through effective use of technology,
an audience of one—the teacher. By every new 21st century learner can have
McKeel Elementary Academy students produce using technological resources to estab- the opportunity to learn from and pub-
work for authentic audiences.
lish authentic audiences for student lish to an eager global audience.
work, we tell students that their work is
and ownership over their learning, as worth seeing, worth reading, and worth A Device for every Child?
well as allow them to bring their obser- doing. With potential fingertip access to such
vations into the subsequent lesson, Authentic audiences come in many incredible student opportunities on the
discussion, or creation activity as prior forms—class presentations, school news line, principals and teachers have a great
knowledge. shows, school websites, film festivals, responsibility to innovatively harness the
Creation and Design. Likewise, cre- literary publications, online publishing power of technological resources.
ation activities provide students the through blogs or other web 2.0 tools, Ideally, to maximize these opportuni-
ability to develop creativity and prob- contests and competitions, and Skyping ties, every student needs direct access to
lem-solving skills by displaying their with other classes around the world. technology on a daily basis. This means
mastery in profound and meaningful Two years ago, several students at moving away from the days of visiting
ways. Teachers at McKeel Elementary McKeel entered a Winter Story Com- the computer lab toward a one-to-one
Academy in Lakeland, Florida, inte- petition sponsored by E2BN, using initiative in the classroom. Unfortu-
grate the use of technology for student- its Myths and Legends Story Creator nately, with variable school budgets and
created digital media into all areas of ( Having access to a technology resources, this often seems
curriculum: dynamic digital storytelling tool and like a daunting task.
the promise of an international audi- Easing the resource strain, afford-
n Kindergarteners create image-based ence of students, McKeel students able netbooks and handheld devices
movies on recycling and insects; were motivated to write, enhance, and have become worthy supplements, or
n First graders develop PowerPoint edit their stories—and it paid off. One even replacements, for more expensive
presentations for “My Time to Teach” fourth grader won the text-only com- desktops or laptops. Combine that with
projects to share with the class; petition; another was recognized as the bounty of free educational web 2.0
n Fourth graders prepare for their runner-up in the illustrated division. sites and apps, as well as an increasing
statewide standardized writing assess- Students from around the world number of websites with fees that offer
ment by developing elaborate digital who read these stories shared their free access to educators and students
storybooks on free web 2.0 sites such feedback and congratulations through (e.g., and www.
as Storybird ( the site’s online commenting system., and it becomes much
or StoryJumper (www.storyjumper. Among others, the runner-up student easier to provide classrooms with rich
com); and received this comment: “I read all the technological resources. Principal n January/February 2012 11

What if...

all the computers were broken?

By David Wells

t the first meeting of a The Partnership for 21st Century a static understanding. This teacher
districtwide committee on Skills addresses using technology as wants to make a real connection
integrating 21st century a tool for research, organization, with students in Hawaii, so she uses a
teaching and learning in analysis, and communication, not free video-conferencing technology
our schools, I asked the committee as the main goal of 21st century such as Skype to host live meetings
members if they thought we could learning. It is critical that we embrace between the two groups of students.
provide a 21st century education the true definition of 21st century Both sets of students benefit from
if all of our computers and devices learning to ensure that teaching the video-conferencing session and
suddenly broke. We thought about and learning is transformed. are able to learn songs and dances
it for a moment and quickly agreed in addition to basic facts about their
that you don’t need computers Cases in Point two school communities.
to provide 21st century learning So what does 21st century learning A sixth-grade teacher wants his
because the essential concepts hinge look like? How do we make sure students to examine character devel-
on teaching rather than technology our work is about student learning opment and plot in a science fiction
alone. and not the dazzle of technological novel. As an extension of traditional
resources? While these questions can class discussions of the novel, the
A Tool, Not a Solution be difficult to answer, the response teacher has his students write “fan
Our school district, like most others lies in sound student-centered fiction” that extends the original
across the nation, has invested pedagogy. Consider the following novel. Sensing his students’ pride in
heavily in providing students with examples that include, but are not their work, the teacher embarks on
technological resources. However, centered on, the use of technology. a podcast project where students
21st century learning requires more A fourth-grade teacher in create their own audio retelling of
than buying a set of computers, Vermont seeks to build her students’ their writing, complete with a music
interactive whiteboards, and tablet understanding of global awareness. soundtrack and homemade sound
computing devices. Technological While she could use a social studies effects. Using the free software pro-
devices provide tremendous benefits textbook and encyclopedia to teach gram Audacity, the students create a
to students, but they are not the her students about diverse cultures, high-quality piece of authentic work
backbone of 21st century learning. religions, and lifestyles, it would be that can be shared with the school

12 Principal n January/February 2012 Seth Joel/Getty Images


community. Taking the project one Moreover, though we should cer- mastered by students. Additionally, the
step further, the students’ podcast tainly strive for the ideal one-to-one vision should account for the evolution
is shared with a class in another computing environment, Sugata Mitra, of the program to sufficiently adapt to
state and the two groups of stu- professor of educational technology at the emergent needs of learners.
dents meet via Skype to discuss Newcastle University, offers an alterna- Once you have crafted a common
and critique the work. tive. Mitra shared on his blog (sugatam. vision, this team can perform a needs
A third-grade teacher seeks that “groups of children assessment. Do you need to reallocate
to increase her students’ reading can learn to use computers and the or obtain more hardware resources
comprehension skills. She already Internet to answer almost any question for classrooms? Do your teachers need
has taken a “readers’ workshop” ... All they need is free access and the training in transforming 21st century
approach to studying pieces of lit- liberty to work in unsupervised groups.” technology integration? Do you need to
erature, but is still concerned that In his research, in addition to astonish- explore the array of web 2.0 resources
some students hold back in class ing information on retention rates, to determine which are best suited for
discussion sessions. In an effort to Mitra found the most effective group your educational environment? One
enhance her students’ participa- size to be four to five children and rec- need that is often overlooked is the sup-
tion, she uses Moodle, an online ommends a 1:4 ratio of computers to port of a designated person, perhaps
learning tool, to host class discus- students. a technology integration specialist or
sions of novels. By posting strate- This could mean a 75 percent savings coach, to assist teachers as they imple-
gic questions, this teacher is able in initial costs, especially if combined ment technology uses in their class-
to encourage all of her students to with technology centers and rotations rooms. The team can then analyze this
participate in a genuine study of in the classroom for independent work. information to create a unique plan
the novel. Not only does she see As an added bonus, this collaborative to address the needs identified in the
formerly reluctant students join structure is particularly conducive to assessment.
the conversations, but she also is transforming technology use from skill With the vision and plan in place,
able to focus the discussion of her drills to teaching through discovery and enlist a handful of innovative educa-
more advanced students in a way creation activities. tors to pilot the use of new technology
that was not always possible in a and methodology in their classrooms.
face-to-face class discussion. A Vision for the Future Encourage these early adopters to cre-
All of these examples are pri- Developing a progressive technology- ate a personal learning network (PLN)
marily based on good teaching. infused campus is not about money; it’s through online communities, such as
A teacher builds her students’ about mindset. To successfully imple- Classroom 2.0 (,
global awareness, another teacher ment such a program, a school must be The Educator’s PLN (edupln.ning.
engages his students in a project- led by a proactive leader who: com), or Twitter’s #EdChat discussions,
based study of literature, and a to share and develop their skills and
third teacher builds on her stu- n Makes the needs of the new 21st resources.
dents’ communication skills. Any century learner a priority; In order to propagate the vision to all
of these examples could have n Deliberately empowers teachers to staff, parents, and students, have these
been realized without the use of innovatively craft digital learning educators share their experiences and
technology, yet it played a key experiences that promote discovery expertise through school events as well
role in all three scenarios. and creation; and as staff and in-service meetings. Most
Twenty-first century learning n Establishes a shared vision and importantly, proudly broadcast the most
can be realized even if all of our unique plan for their students and valuable results of these innovators by
computers were broken, but we teachers. showcasing student gains, discoveries,
are fortunate to have these incred- and creations.
ible tools at our disposal. Our task So how can you start today? First, The new 21st century learners are
is to use these tools to deliver the assemble a team of administrators, tech- sitting in your classrooms, ready to
education our students deserve. nology specialists, educators, parents, explore, design, and create. If you pro-
and students who can collaborate to vide the resources and transform their
David Wells create a shared vision for 21st century mindsets, powerful and effective tech-
Principal learning. The vision should establish nology integration will follow.
Westford Elementary School not only ideals for technology-infusion
Westford, Vermont in the classroom, but also a set of NETS- Nancye Blair is the educational
based progressive technology objectives technology specialist at McKeel
that outline what and when technology Elementary Academy in Lakeland,
skills will be introduced, developed, and Florida. Principal n January/February 2012 13